As we saw at the end of the last post, post-rescue Laura is intently following Julian around. In this instance, she observes him in the Danger Room with Beast, as they try to get a handle on his power levels after Emma unlocked them last time to let him return to the Institute in time.
Our series hits Part III, easily the longest segment, covering the "Mercury Rising" storyarc that ran from New X-Men #33-36. Laura and Julian take a break from saving each other (though they end up doing that too) to save someone else, and Julian tries to get her to go cold-turkey on killing bad guys. And Emma finally directs her righteous bitchiness at an wholly appropriate target.
Oh, and Laura has clearly been sitting in on Marvel's creator summits, enabling her to predict the future.
Because their past chats have all gone so well, Emma chooses now to have another talk with X-23.
The gap between intentions and methods: a staple of Emma Frost.
Silly Cessily; the only place more dangerous for mutants than the Xavier Institute is the world outside the Xavier Institute.
They head off to a cafe in town, and Mercury monologues for a bit about her powers and how that affects her (she doesn't need to eat or anything like that, but still orders food to look and feel normal), before returning to the subject at hand.
Recalling what I said earlier, X-23's former masters, the Facility, arrive on the scene and blow the place up good. The agent heading this up is Kimura, an invulnerable chick that X-23 can't hurt, and, in a bit of misdirection, reveals that she's actually after Mercury, not X-23. She makes off with Mercury, and Laura heads back to the X-Mansion.
Meanwhile, Hellion is looking around for the two of them.
I like to think that there's a mom 'n pop building supply operation in Salem Centre that does nothing but supply materials to fix the Xavier Insitute's daily property damage.
So the two of them are on the trail of the Facility; X-23 doesn't know where they're currently operating from, so she opts to chase down her old contacts from when she was working for them to get it from them.
Ouch. The dudes run away, spraying machine gun fire everywhere, and try to drive away.
What, no killing people? That's all she's good at!
This arc really brings out a dynamic between the two I really like; I mentioned this in the comments to one of the previous posts, but Julian, when he first appeared, was the Malfoy of the Xavier Institute. Even after he became more sympathetic, he was still supposed to be an "edgy bad boy", which meant in context that he was a bit of an asshole and enjoyed roughing people up. Here he winds up in a situation way outside schoolyard stuff; Laura's not malicious and doesn't really want to get involved in this anymore, but her fighting style and operating tactics are those of an assassin. Moments like this catalyze that Julian really wants to be a superhero.
As you can probably take from X-23's reaction there, she's not a big fan of this, as we see next issue (plus: schoolgirl outfit!).
They go to meet with the Owl (in a rare instance of the X-Men crossing over with the rest of the MU, something that in this period wasn't happening much apart from Wolverine; though Laura's his clone, so maybe she gets the same exemption); this being during the Kingpin's sojourn to Europe and before the rise of the Hood, Owl is running the show in New York.
Laura, you dare suggest that the mighty Owl will quietly shuffle to the background when the Kingpin returns? Or be killed? I think not. Why, in New Avengers #33...oh.
But it only seemed like he was dead. I'll have you know that two years after this was published, Ed Brubaker wrote "Return of the King" in Daredevil (is still writing, I suppose), where this scene happened, which totally proves you owe the Owl an apology.
See. That was nothing like what Laura said would happen.
The Facility, meanwhile, has been trying to laser off some of Mercury's mercury to use it to create a monster mutant-killer; they succeed. Then their security goes off...
The final issue picks up right where they left off.
They do (with some help from the rest of the team, the AXM team, and the Sentinels, who track them to the Facility's base.
Laura actually takes his advice at this point, with humans, even punching someone in the face without using her claws at one point. And so this arc ends with Julian more weirded out by the realities of her life, and Laura more influenced by his insistence on proper heroics (something that, incidentally, she backslides massively on in X-Force; thanks, Scott).
Also, since this series has had a lot of Emma being kind of awful to Laura, I've included the bit where she tries to make up for it. In a neat little moment that creates a bit more ambiguity around Julian's method of disposal shown above, Kimura reappears at the issue's end, ready to plug a few rounds into Laura's head.
Like I said, don't fuck with Frost.
Next time: Some really radical changes in art style. Petty teen drama nearly gets someone sliced-and-diced. Lady Deathstrike gets on Laura's bad side.