Sunday, February 27, 2011
X-23 #6 - Mind Melding Awesome
There's a lot you can do with a story that involves a teenage girl, boobs, a Cajun deviant, and clones. Some of it involves pornos that aren't legal in at least two dozen states. Another example is Marjorie Liu's X-23 series. It's awesome without getting slapped with an NC-17 rating if you can believe that. X-23 has been a compelling character in her own right since she showed up in X-men Evolution in the dark days of 2003, a time when when George W. Bush was president and you could get a home loan if you could walk and chew gum at the same time. Oh how the times have changed, but X-23's impact keeps getting stronger. She is in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and she does kick ass and sound awesome doing it.
Marjorie Liu has done something that hasn't really been done with Laura Kinney yet. She's set her out on the open road rather than have her recklessly seek other people for answers. She's been doing that since Craig Kyle and Chris Yost wrote her intro story. She's always been following others rather than taking responsibility. This plays heavily into her being a teenager, who are about as known for responsibility as they are modesty. Liu's first arc had Laura walking away from the X-men to make sense of her life. The next arc involves her doing what so many teenage girls end up doing that doesn't involve wearing mini-skirts to college parties. She gets caught up with the wrong people, doesn't listen to reason, and finds herself in a boat-load of trouble.
That trouble in this arc has boobs. Those boobs belong to Miss Sinister, or Claudine to those who don't keep up with the comics or are too lazy to use Wikipedia. Despite Gambit's attempts to sway those irrational teenage inclinations for Laura, she follows Miss Sinister into a secret underground laboratory that the Sinister with a penis set up. This lab contained a hoard of clones that Sinister created back in the day. While some collect stamps or watch internet porn. Sinister made clones. Every guy needs a hobby. Claudine acts as though she's just caring for the children. Then Laura and Gambit get suspicious and attack her. This ends up bringing out the Mr. in Miss Sinister. The boobs are gone, but it's still pretty bad ass.
It's been a while since boobless Sinister showed up, but he hasn't lost his touch. Even when Gambit instinctively attacks, Sinister takes him down and smiles while he does it. It's not unlike those charming episodes of Dexter when he looks so happy maiming people in a way that even Showtime has to censor. Since this comic isn't on Showtime, it's a bit more tame while still being awesome.
Now keep in mind that X-23 hasn't met Sinister, but since she's a clone she has all the reason she needs to cut Sinister so he'll never enjoy having boobs again. Sinister keeps on smiling when he grabs Laura by the throat and essentially snaps her neck. It's not much of a fight. Granted, Sinister is pretty tough. But Gambit and X-23 are no slouches. Hell, X-23 was in X-Force. She goes up against psycho-killers the same way regular teenagers take weekly quizzes in math class. As gritty a scene it may be, it's over way too quickly.
Once Sinister has had his fun, the plot thickens a bit. It would have been easy to spend the nest 18 pages with Gambit and X-23 trying to carve Sinister up like a Turducken in John Madden's house on Thanksgiving. That's not how Marjorie Liu writes it. In the last issue Miss Sinister tried to set herself apart from her testicular counterpart by coming off as the victim. Sinister took over her body and she was just dealing with the consequences. Well now it seems that the struggle for control over a body with boobs and a body with balls has been going on for quite some time. Sinister made his presence known, but it's still Claudine's body. So before Sinister can have any more fun, she wrestles control back from him. She also gets her boobs back, which is extremely important in the grand scheme of things.
When boob-heavy Sinister is back in control, she takes a page right out of her predecessor's playbook. She takes the unconscious X-23 and straps her to a terrifying dentist chair (as if going to the dentist wasn't terrifying enough). When she wakes up, she makes another emotional plea. Granted she has about as much empathy as a hungry lion, but she does make her case and it's not an unreasonable one. The body she's in isn't fully hers. Sinister (the one with the penis) has been trying to take control. Before she became boob-heavy Sinister, she was another one of non-boob Sinister's experiments. He strapped her to the same chair that X-23 is in and she went with it. Now she's regretting it and wants to use X-23 to avoid her mistake. This confuses me because that's something you would expect of a teenage girl, not a fully grown women. I guess Marjorie Liu is sending a message here. Even adults can be as pig-headed as irrational, uncontrolled, and unfeeling teenagers.
Her plan is as standard as you can get when dealing with comic book mad geneticists. She wants to transfer her mind to X-23's. So she goes from an adult woman with a personality disorder to a teenage girl. Again, not seeing much of an upgrade here. Why anyone would want to inhabit the body of a Wolverine clone with all the melodrama of a teenage girl is beyond me. Given her attire, I can only assume that Miss Sinister is deeply masochistic.
It's a sick if not standard plot. There seems to be some ambiguous lesbo innuendo as well when Claudine admires X-23's body. I'm pretty sure that's how many lesbian pornos start out. I'm not sure if that's Marjorie Liu's intent, but I can't imagine too many male readers complaining (assuming they have a free hand). There's talk about whether or not clones have souls, but I think the whole lesbian angle is more compelling. That's just my opinion.
While Sinister and X-23 are discussing souls and mad science, Allison takes action. Oh yeah, remember that girl? The one X-23 tried to save, but failed to do so? Then she found out that Allison was a clone? Still not ringing any bells? Or is it just too confusing? Well all the reader needs to know is that Allison is an ally to X-23 and she proves it by finding Gambit, who is lying unconscious in a cage. If Rogue were in this book she would be squealing "Jackpot!" Allison, despite showing loyalty to Claudine, decides to help the girl who actually went out of her way to save her life and frees Gambit.
I was expecting Gambit to make a pass at Allison, who is not too hard on the eyes, but that is never shown. It's a shame too because what's a story with Gambit if he doesn't hit on an underaged girl? But the action goes right back to boob-heavy Sinister's science experiment. As is so often the case with cloning efforts, something goes horribly wrong. Nobody's head explodes or anything. Nobody even gets turned into a half-fly sadly. Instead, the boobless Sinister pulls a fast one. Rather than Claudine going into X-23's body, it's Sinister who makes the trip. Claudine is still trapped in her, which again is like being trapped in the Playboy Mansion. But Claudine is still deeply pissed now that she can't relieve her teen years. Again, I'm not seeing the downside.
While Miss Sinister throws her own sinister version of a hissy fit, X-23 is busy doing what Claudine could not. She fights off Sinister's influence. Now this may seem a bit unbelievable, but then I remember X-23 is a teenage girl and a Wolverine clone. Even Sinister has his limits, brilliant and sadistic he may be. It still happens a bit easily though. It feels as though there could have been more details to this struggle. It's over pretty quickly and when X-23 fights off Sinister, the whole underground lab does what every set in Mythbusters seems to do. It blows up.
Miss Sinister (in a completely non-sexual way) is screwed. This is when Alice shows up as well, once again choosing X-23 over the ridiculously dressed Claudine. Not sure what sort of logic goes into that, but I guess it's easier to trust a stranger that saves the life of your clone rather than some crazy bitch who likes to dress like a hooker. Claudine doesn't take kindly to betrayal and hits Alice upside the head to knock her out. This pisses off X-23 and understandably so. NOW do we get the big fight between Miss Sinister and X-23? Well if by big you mean it's over in one page with a simple stab to the gut then yes. If your standards are a bit higher, then no. Again, it's over really quickly. Much like premature ejaculation, it's underwhelming and for a story that has been so deep the past few issues that's a bit of a downgrade.
Once boob-heavy Sinister is down for the count, X-23 meets up with Gambit. He finally caught up, albeit unfashionably late. It turns out he's been busy off-panel. He's the one who initiated the self-destruct sequence to the lab. Seriously, why do so many guys in comics set their places to self-destruct? Isn't that setting yourself up for failure? Either way, X-23 is reluctant to go. She wants to get Alice, the girl who got her into this mess in the first place. However, Claudine slips away with her. Even while wounded she finds a way to screw people over and not in a sexual way (presumably). X-23 wants to go after her, but Gambit convinces her to let go. She didn't listen to him for the past two issues. Well this time she does listen and right in time for a self-destruct scene. I suppose that's the only way to motivate some teenage girls. Put them in a building that's about to explode and they finally do the right thing.
They escape form the lab just in time for it to blow up. Gambit also reveals he got the other kids out off panel. Again, it's one of those details that's been glossed over. It could have been a nice scene, but it was over too quickly. I'm not sure if it's because of space considerations, but it does make the book feel a bit more incomplete than the previous two.
In the end Laura learns a harsh lesson. She can't save everybody. It's another example of teenage arrogance. Teenagers haven't developed the parts of their brains that kick them in the ass when they need to. They're not invincible. The whole "you can do anything if you believe it hard enough" amounts to jar of raccoon shit in the real world. X-23 tried to save a girl and she couldn't. Gambit may be an immature douche, but he's an adult douche and even he understands that. Laura has to understand that as well or else she'll end up every bit as messed up as Wolverine and who wants that?
At the very least, her failed attempt to save Alice yielded some clues to the next story. In the last issue Miss Sinister revealed the name Malcom Colcord, which may or may not be the adult version of Malcom in the Middle since he's the one looking to resurrect Weapon X. X-23 isn't going to have that. 23 failed attempts is bad enough. So Marjorie Liu already has her next story set up. But before the comic ends, there's one last scene with boob-heavy Sinister. As expected, she survived the explosion. Alice survived as well. But the real shocker comes in the form of a distinct red diamond on her forehead. Even though only two women survived, the Sinister with a penis survived as well. Add to that Alice is naked (how that happened isn't revealed) and you've got a damn good ending.
Since the X-23 series began, Marjorie Liu established a unique style for the book. This series is character driven. X-23 stands front and center. This series isn't about her adventures or the asses she kicks. It's about her life. Getting her away from the X-men was a bold way to give her an identity. This arc has shown that this identity is a work-in-progress and like many girls her age, Laura will stumble along the way and make some bone-headed mistakes. It's not as action heavy as X-Force, but there's still plenty of depth. It's the kind of depth that makes a series awesome in it's own right and the end of this arc really locks in a foundation for this book's style.
As much as I enjoy the whole character element, this issue lacked something the previous issues had and that was pacing. Every scene in this issue just ends too quickly. Nothing is drawn out. The little things are glossed over. It felt as though Liu was trying to do more in this issue than she had space for. Perhaps this is something that should have been stretched out over two issues. Overall, the end does feel a bit rushed. It doesn't take too much away from the quality of the book. It's still awesome, but compared to the issues that came before it there are more shortcomings than strengths.
I've given every issue of the X-23 series high marks. Marjorie Liu has earned every one of them and thus made this series one of my favorites. I can't give this issue the perfect score I gave other issues, but I can't give it too low a score either because it did finish the arc and tell a pretty compelling story in the process. So overall I give this story a 4 out of 5. It was rushed, but that was the only issue it really had. The rest is awesome and gives no reasons for fans to not pick up the next issue. Nuff said!