Sunday, October 24, 2010

X-23 #2 - Selling Your Soul For Awesome

The whole Wolverine Goes To Hell arc that Marvel used to launch the new Wolverine series has been spanning many different titles the same way Pamela Anderson fucks many different genres of rock star. There's the 80s romp with Brett Michaels, who could count as Wolverine. There's the 90s scandalous sex tape with Tommy Lee, who could count as Marvel's new uber-douche Daken. There's also the 2000s and the less than exciting fling with Kid Rock. But is it fair to associated X-23 with a hard-living, heavy drinking, badass who can't resist using his God-given talent to live big? Actually, it's perfectly fair! Kid Rock is essentially Wolverine without the music and linking X-23 with this less egregious footnote in pop culture history is more than appropriate.

Now if nobody cares for Pamela Anderson references (I'm assuming the gay crowd doesn't approve), I'll try and be a bit less esoteric. Compared to the other Wolverine books, X-23 sets itself apart by not coming off as a slave to Wolverine's story. Yes, it's tied to the whole Wolverine Goes to Hell arc. But it doesn't feel that way. If you were unfortunate or unmedicated enough to read Daken's new series, you saw that this arc essentially dominated the plot. Daken was subordinate to Wolverine's story, which given his sexual fetishes might be perfectly in character. X-23, on the other hand, was subordinate to nobody and with her new series it didn't feel like some fluff piece meant to glorify Wolverine. It felt like a real story and X-23 was the star, not Wolverine. X-23 #2 continues that story while still tying into the Demon Wolverine story. Going back to Pamela Anderson, it's still unclear if this will be another fling or if this is something that's going to produce a new boner-inducing spread of awesome (that was another reference to sex tapes by the way).

The issue starts off in the past, setting aside the Wolverine Goes to Hell arc for something simpler. Simple in this case means Wolverine and Laura spending time together at a carnival. Quality time for them means shooting stuffed bears in the head with a bebe gun. It's not what you think. It's a carnival game. Granted, it's a fucked up carnival game, but that's about as normal as characters like these two can manage.

This makes for an important and long overdue scene. Wolverine and Laura finally talk about them being family. Now X-23 has been in the comics since 2005 when Chris Claremont was still writing Uncanny. In all that time X-23 has had her story told and she's been part of the X-men. At no point has Logan or Laura sat down and talked about what the hell they are. Is she his daughter? Is she his sister? Or just a clone? This is like that giant pink elephant in the middle of a room ass fucking a giant pink donkey yet somehow no one notices. Fucking fanfiction writers have been addressing this for years now. And they're just getting to it?! I know better late than never is a fond saying, but late still sucks ass. It helps that Marjorie Liu does a damn good job, finally having Logan talk about how he wants to adopt Laura as his daughter. It still seems like this should have happened sooner though.

As touching as this moment is, we get a much nastier moment once the scene fast forwards to the present time. In the previous issue Cyclops sent Laura into the city of San Francisco to work at a shelter for former mutants. It seemed like a good way to connect to other people her age and be more of a kid. Then it went to hell...literally.

It's part of the visions Laura has been having since the first issue. The whole being bred to kill sort of fucks you up and now trying to get away from it doesn't exactly come naturally. Now it's not entirely clear what happens here. This demon drones on about how she's about to be reborn and how she's the perfect killer. It's a bit more vivid than the dreams she had before. However, this time when she wakes up she finds out the shelter sort of burst into flames and everyone around her is suffering. That makes for a rude awakening if ever there was one.

This incident of a homeless shelter burning down makes for a great fluff piece that the local news can run to get ratings, but it doesn't do Laura much good. Despite being able to heal from being dumped into a river of molten lead, she goes to the hospital. Redundant that may be, she's still pretty fucked up and gets some treatment. Storm also pays a visit, who is doing more in this series to be the weather goddess we all know and love than any other (it also helps they don't mention a douche-bag named Black Panther). She's always quick to reach disturbed teenagers in just the right way, sort of like Dr. Phil only hot and with boobs. However, Laura's still having fucked up visions. Even when Cyclops arrives, she's in her own little slice of hell that is sort of appropriate given the context of this story.

Then Wolverine shows up, which is kind of confusing because isn't he supposed to be in Hell? Does this take place in any discernible time-line that goes along with the other two Wolverine titles? Did someone take too much LSD when planning this shit out? Well it's not quite that confusing. It only starts out that way, sort of like the first half-hour of Inception. There's already a strange vibe that this Wolverine is not a normal Wolverine. For one, he doesn't call Cyclops a prick. That should be a red flag.

It only gets worse. Wolverine talks to her the same way a pedophile talks to kids once he gets them in a windowless van. It almost gets too disturbing to read, although I'm sure NAMBLA members would be jerking off to it at one point. Then Wolverine shows his true forms. This isn't the normal Logan. This is the demon Wolverine who has been spreading chaos in the books the same way Courtney Love spreads VD. He taunts Laura about being a killer. She lashes out, but that is about as effective as donating money to a North Korean charity.

Then Hellion shows up, who has been X-23's on-again/off-again teen crush. Demon Wolverine plays this one in a very slick way. He makes it seem as though Laura has gone berserk again. Hellion being the naive young douche-bag he is believes the guy and uses his telekinesis to restrain her. This turns out sucking for him because Demon Wolverine does what demons do best, which is fuck people over and he stabs Hellion right in front of Laura.

This leads to Laura making a fateful choice. She can either let Hellion die or offer her soul to the demon Wolverine to ensure he survives. Now normally when a teenager is faced with difficult decisions like that, they'll gladly exchange their first love for a shitty car or a fake ID. Laura outdoes over half of the teenage population and goes with her teenage hormones, selling her soul to bring Julian back to life. It means she'll end up being a Demon X-23. I think it goes without saying that when you put a demon in the weapon of mass destruction that is a teenage girl's body, you're essentially making yourself prone to no fewer than five unilateral invasions by the United States.

So now Laura's dreams turn into shit that's real. She's literally in Hell now and this time that's not a metaphor for algebra class in high school. Her body is still in the real world, but her soul is in Hell and like Wolverine she has to fight back. It sets the stage for X-23 to go on her own road to hell and in this case hell really doth have no fury like that of a pissed off teenage girl. While Wolverine may be shit out of luck in his book, X-23 has raging hormones on her side. In that sense Hell and every demon within it is officially screwed.

The stage is set! It's X-23 vs. Hell now and the potential for a demon X-23 running around in the real world opens the door to all sorts of possibilities. While a demonic teenage girl may not be easy to discern from your typical hormonal beast, it should still make for some bloody and hellish action. Marjorie Liu once again shows that she has a great grasp of X-23's character. The family moment at the beginning only made the bloody hellish scenes at the end more profound. It may only be the second issue, but it feels like this is a series that has been unfolding for much longer. I don't know if that's because of that crack I smoked earlier or if the story is just that awesome, but I'll take it!

Now this issue isn't perfect. The content is top notch, but the organization is a little spotty. It's not entirely clear where the first scene in the past takes place. It's only labeled as "Then" by the book. Is it before Second Coming? Before Wolverine #1? Before Uncanny X-Force? That's not clear. It's also not clear what happened at the homeless shelter that caused so much damage. It implied Laura was the cause, but it also implied that there was some gas leak. But seriously, when is a gas leak ever the cause of anything in a comic book? That's like an episode of House ending in a diagnosis of Lupus or Transverse Mialitus. It's never Lupus or Transverse Mialitus.

Confusion aside, the quality of the book is undeniable. Marjorie Liu is setting herself up nicely as the X-23 writer and is well on her way to defining her character for generations to come. There's a lot to love about this series so far. You don't have to be reading the other Wolverine titles to enjoy it. You just have to have an appreciation for messed up teenage girls and stories involving demons. That's why I give X-23 #2 a 4.5 out of 5. This is an awesome book with an awesome character and an awesome writer. It's awesome all around! There is no excuse not to find some awesome in this book. Nuff said!

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