Saturday, September 18, 2010

X-23 #1 - A New Series of Awesome


X-23 has always had a special place in my heart and not just because she's a Wolverine clone with boobs. Ever since she first appeared on a freakin' kids show called X-men Evolution, she's made a name for herself as being a bold new character that's fascinating to read and much easier on the eyes than Wolverine (even if she is technically jail bait). Her story has been a lot more refined from that of a kids show in the comics. The premise is the same. She's the 23rd cloning attempt of Wolverine and unlike the other 22, she worked. But like the real Wolverine, she couldn't be controlled.

X-23 is no stranger to solo series. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost wrote her story before they earned their stripes in X-Force. It's far more violent than the WB censors ever would have allowed. She ended up killing her own mother for crying out loud. Even HBO would have some issues with that shit. There's also the whole story in NYX about her being a teenage prostitute, but given the sultry history of characters like Emma Frost that's not too shocking. HBO would probably have far fewer problems with that than the whole her being a killer and offing her mother. They would probably still make it more Arliss than True Blood though.

But in wake of the events of Second Coming and X-Force, she's undergone a major shift. Before she was falling into old habits, becoming a killer again. Even if it was for the X-men, this is the kind of life she was running from. Wolverine, who Marvel still can't seem to decide if he's her father or a nosy big brother, made the decision to cut her loose. She's not supposed to be an active member of any team now. There's only so much you can do to a teenage girl before she goes off completely. Just look at Lindsey Lohan. Now she's no longer with X-Force and is being left to her own devices. That may or may not be a good idea, but whatever the outcome this is where Marjorie Liu's new X-23 mini-series kicks off!

It doesn't start very promising for X-23 though. A few pages in and she's already having nightmares that resemble a bad LSD trip. It seems to hint at the recent storyline concerning Wolverine's Road to Hell. It's rough enough for a guy who's been harder to kill than Fidel Castro and smoked ten times as many cigars. For a teenage girl, it's like walking in the middle of your high school's homecoming game naked with a huge wart on your ass while everyone simultaneously laughs and uploads it to youtube. If some alone time was supposed to calm her down, it's clearly not working.


When she wakes up she looks more miserable than a hung over drunk who woke up next to a donkey and a transvestite hooker. She's still on Utopia at this point, showing that it hasn't been too long since Wolverine cut her loose from X-Force and her other various slashing duties. She's supposed to try being a kid again, but she clearly doesn't know where to start. She takes a peak at what some of the other mutants her age are doing. They're basically singing song and eating pizza around a bonfire. Throw in some booze or Guitar Hero and you've got yourself a typical teenage gathering. But that doesn't do it for Laura. Even the sight of her on-again off-again boy toy with no hands, Hellion, doesn't draw her in. It shows just how lost and fucked up she is, making her a pretty solid reflection of Wolverine minus the teenage hormones.


So she doesn't fit in with kids her own age and she eventually finds herself turning to Storm for advice. She's probably the best person to turn to in the X-men comics. She's like their version of Oprah or Dr. Phil, minus the free cars and shameless book promotions of course. She's one of the few besides Wolverine she can relate to. Storm was an outsider as well, except she was a thief and not a killer. That makes it a bit easier for her, but the message is still the same. X-23 is still kid and she needs to realize how precious that shit is because as you get older, you do find life doesn't get any easier. In fact it gets a lot shittier (my words, not Storm's).


It's not clear how much Storm's words resonate. Laura is still carrying enough baggage to load three jumbo jets and a fleet of Hummers (the car not the porno term). Then Wolverine shows up and she does what most teenage girls would do in the face of their father (or older brother if that's the angle Marvel is trying to play). They summon their inner drama queen and leave. See? She's already getting the hang of being a teenage girl!

Wolverine and Storm end up having a quick chat. It's one of the few meaningful chats they've had since Marvel foolishly married Storm off to Black Panther (at a time when Quesada was poo pooing marriage in comics with Peter/MJ no less). It's a great moment because Storm finally puts some perspective on the whole Wolverine/X-23 relationship by saying he's the closest thing to a father that she's got. Not a big brother. A father. That's how it should be. Given the circumstances of X-23's birth, it makes more sense than him just being a much older brother. Maybe I'm a bit too jaded from watching hours of porn, but when one man's DNA splices with that of a woman (Sarah Kinney for all those who read the Kyle and Yost mini) doesn't that count as parentage? Clone or no clone, Wolverine was more a doner minus the fun of getting paid to jerk off. This is the first time he's really been described as Laura's father and for this Marjorie Liu deserves a freakin' trophy made out of Iron Man 2 bootlegs.


Oddly enough, she and Logan aren't the only one who feel Laura has been deprived. Even Emma freakin' Frost shares that sentiment and this is the woman who was such a huge bitch to Laura when she first joined, she actually had the balls to throw a vision of her dead mother at her (see New X-men). In terms of sheer douche-baggery, that's par for the course for Emma Frost. And anyone who read Uncanny X-men #527 would not be surprised. But here, she takes a different approach.

For once, Emma actually admits that she was wrong. Fans should take this in because it's like finding a mermaid giving a blowjob to a unicorn. She recalls how she lost her students years ago by putting them in harm's way. Cyclops did the same with X-23, but he doesn't apologize for it. He says he would do it again. It makes him the big douche bag this time around, but since Emma is wearing that sexy lingerie of hers he's much more inclined to listen when it comes to reminding Laura that she's a kid.


Not everybody is entirely sympathetic to Laura's plight though. When she finally does catch up with her so-called friends from the New Mutants the next day, they're about as soft as understanding as Pat Robertson is in a natural history museum. Even though she has a nice moment with Hellion (the first in years mind you), that doesn't stop others like Surge from cock-blocking her and reminding her that she was part of a kill squad. She and a few others come off as quite the assholes. Who can blame them? Teenagers are not known for their understanding when it comes to secrets. They freak out when they discover their parents have been stashing weed. Being part of a kill squad would be right up there.


It gets pretty nasty, almost like she's on her own Comedy Central Roast. Then Cyclops steps in and shows that while he sounded like a douche-bag earlier, he's at least willing to make up for it. That or Emma said he'll never get to touch her tits again if he didn't do something. He offers a heartfelt apology to Laura and she seems to care about as much as Ted Nugent at an Animal Right's protest. But since this is Cyclops we're talking about here, he didn't come in without a plan. Say what you will about him, he does know how to strategize even when it comes to teenage girls. How else could he have gotten into both Jean Grey and Emma Frost's panties so well?


Cyclops's plan for her involves helping out at a halfway house for former mutants and their families in the city. For once, she's going to have to learn to do the right thing without maiming people Dexter style. It would be like taking Peyton Manning and putting him on a soccer field and expecting him to beat David Beckem. Even so, it's a far cry from being part of a kill squad. If he really wanted to make her feel like a teenage girl, he would send her to a Twilight movie. Then again, that would probably be too violent given how Team Edward and Team Jacob are right up there with Bastion when it comes to hostility.


It seems like a reasonable enough task, but Cyclops and the rest of the X-men for that matter don't know about these visions she's having. It's hard to tell how real this one is or if she's just dreaming again. Either way, something is haunting Laura worse than a Cameron Diaz stalker. It has the potential to really fuck up the whole trying-to-be-a-kid thing. It doesn't reveal much, but it does offer the promise that this series will involve more than just teenage drama. If we want that there are plenty of shitty TV shows on ABC Family that do that anyhow.


The first issue of X-23 is much like that of her other minis. It shows X-23 being set up in a rough set of circumstances, setting the stage for that Wolverine style luck to catch up with her. This one was a big more dramatic than the Kyle and Yost minis or even the NYX minies. Laura is still very much recovering from what happened in Second Coming and these visions she's having hint at a much darker conflict looming over her. It was still nice to see her interacting with some of the other characters she's been close to like Hellion. It was even nicer to see her talk to Storm and Cyclops. The conflict and struggles of X-23 are captured perfectly and it really shows that this is her book and this is her story.

As compelling as X-23's story is, there is some room for criticism. There wasn't a whole lot of action in this first issue and that's to be expected. None of the other first issues of X-23's minis had much action either. SO in this sense Liu is continuing the style set up in the past. That can be a good and bad thing depending on whether or not she was trying to set this series apart. There was also some nice carry-over from Second Coming. You really do get the sense that this is stemming right from those pages. However, the ominous visions seem a bit random and the transition isn't clear in some areas. Since it's the first issue, that's probably something that will get fleshed out later on. But still, a few more details couldn't have hurt.

So what score can I give this comic? Well first off let me say I'm horribly bias in this review because I'm a huge fan of X-23. I still try to be objective though. I try to consider the context and style of this series. Now for other series, I may have a bigger problem with the lack of action. However, since I read all the other X-23 minis and I know the story that leads up to this it's more difficult to knock it down a few pegs form that. This issue wasn't meant to be an epic fight against Bastion or some other superpowered enemy. It was meant to set the stage for X-23's development in this series. In that context it worked perfectly. Marjorie Liu did a fantastic job handling her and X-23 fans like myself should have no reason to complain. For handling such a great character so well at a time when more characters are being butchered than honored, X-23 #1 gets a 5 out of 5. In terms of getting off to a strong start, this series definitely is well on it's way! It embodies everything that is awesome about X-23 and should give fans of hers plenty to smile about from here on out. Nuff said!

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