Saturday, March 12, 2011
X-23 #7 - Consoling Awesome
Well here we go. My first full review of a Marvel comic after Nick Lowe shot my faith in Marvel with a 12-gauge shotgun at point blank range. My worldview now is more jaded than a paranoid schizophrenic off his meds and high on meth. So expect this review to be a lot more cynical, critical, and disjointed. I have to be a little drunk to write this shit now because it takes a while for me to get over red herrings, fraud, and rip-off characters. Luckily, X-23 #7 came out this week. This has been one of the most consistent and well-written series to come out of Second Coming. I've enjoyed every issue so far and Marjorie Liu has ingratiated herself to me more than a struggling actress to a famous director's nut-sack. However, in my current state my usual cheers are going to be tapered. My love of X-23 and Marvel will be balanced by a burning hatred of recent news concerning the X-books. That and news concerning the Ultimate series has made me more tense than Lindsey Lohan's asshole during a cavity search.
However, I'll try to be objective when judging this book. X-23 has been a solid series, but it's still a product of the fraud that was Second Coming. So it reeks of the taint left by Hope Summers and the red herrings that have made her Germany's Nazi holocaust to Marvel's wall of shame. So while reading this issue, I did feel a twinge of disgust. I had to put a clothes-pin over my nose while reading it in order to get through it. The stench isn't as bad as other X-books, but it's still there and it's impossible to completely forget without a full frontal lobotmy.
X-23 #7 comes on the heels of the last arc that had Gambit trying to mentor X-23. He didn't do a very good job in the sense that he couldn't stop her from getting caught up in a plot involving Miss Sinister, body swaps, and slave clone children. It's part of the whole teenage girl aspect to X-23's character in that she's in that phase of her life where her frontal lobe hasn't fully connected with the impulsive section of her brain. It's not the same kind of impulsiveness that drives Wolverine. It's the kind of arrogant thick-headedness that you find in any teenager. Reading the last arc reminded me to go back in time and punch my teenage self in the gut a few times. It also set the stage for the next arc.
The new arc has X-23 following the trail of Malcom Concord, the man Miss Sinister revealed to be reforming Weapon X. Like a clueless dog going to the vet, she sets her sights on recreating the first two seasons of Dexter on this man's ass. To get there she has to go to Madripoor, a fictional land in the Marvel universe that makes Las Vegas look like a Mormon polygamy compound. I'm pretty sure that in a place like Madripoor, bestiality is not only legal but it allows civil unions between gay men and crocodiles. This issue starts off with a brief flash forward, which is a bit disorienting and a tad boring. Or that could just be my jaded side talking. In the actual present X-23 is in Singapore with Gambit, who says he can get them to Madripoor through a friend. I can only assume this is a guy who just managed to keep his daughter from sleeping with Gambit and sparing her no fewer than four STDs.
They meet up with Gambit's friend and set sale in the South Pacific, home to sharks, pirates, typhoons the size of Texas. X-23 is probably right at home. They meet up with the guy, Amar. This also happens to be the name of the guy I pay to shave my ass hairs and wipe with old copies of Ultimate comics so I'm wondering if this is where Marvel got the name. He asks Gambit about X-23. He calls her a friend. Amar doesn't believe it because like Tommy Lee in a strip club, Gambit fucks anything that has a pulse and a few things that don't. For once he says it's not like that, but I have a hard time believing he's not looking at Laura's ass in those skin tight pants she wears. He says she needs to heal and so does he. If he can keep it in his pants just this once I may just take him seriously.
Amar is still skeptical that X-23 can handle herself in an area where pirates consider skinning teenage girls an Olympic sport. She does a quick demonstration of her skills with Gambit's bow staff to show that she's tougher than your average pirate. It's a nice reminder from Marjorie Liu that X-23 may be a teenage girl, but she has the benefit of a lifetime of Weapon X training. She can basically kill a man with her pinkie toe while performing open heart surgery with her eyes closed. She's more than equipped.
So Gambit and X-23 venture onto an island in the dead of night that's bound to be swarming with gambling, violence, and sodomy. In other words they're basically walking into an episode of Oz. They arrive just in time to see a man named Indi (also happens to be the guy who shaves my balls and uses issues of Generation Hope to wipe them off) facing a pirate form of justice. Apparently he committed a sin akin to being in a gay orgy with Satan. He went to the police. Now he's going to pay the price while Gambit and X-23 have a front row seat.
Did I mention that Indi is also an informant? And in order to get to Madripoor, Gambit and X-23 have to save his sorry ass? If any part of that surprised you, I recommend you put down the Toby Keith music and focus on getting your GED again. The punishment for a traitor is pretty simple. They're going to feed him to the sharks and masturbate to the bloodshed that ensues. They try to justify it by saying he was a friend who abused their trust. It's really just a weak excuse to be a douche-bag. And just like the Sinister affair, X-23 doesn't listen to Gambit. She jumps right into the conflict and starts slashing. Again, it's part Wolverine and part being a teenage girl who doesn't look both ways before crossing the street in the middle of rush hour. It still makes for a kick-ass fighting scene that is wonderfully drawn.
All the swash-buckling and sodomy won't save the pirates now. X-23 doesn't waste time with the greenhorns either. She goes right for the lead guy who was looking to turn Indi into chum. She takes him out pretty easily, shoving him right into the shark tank and feeding him to the shark herself. It's a less than dramatic scene, but it still looks awesome. The guy didn't really have much time to make the reader feel for him so him being devoured really doesn't have much of an impact. It's just a nice way to show X-23 being a badass and look hot doing it. For this, I can't fault Marjorie Liu. It's part of why a book like this sells in the first place.
It gets messy topside because Gambit, for all his charm, isn't equipped to take down an entire hoard of ruthless pirates. So as soon as X-23 emerges with the blood of their leader still on her hands, he gets a touch of humility in the form of a blow to the head. It's cheaper than a session with a therapist if you don't mind the potential brain damage. Seeing as how X-23 sort of left Gambit hanging, it was bound to happen. This is X-23's book so you expect her to play the hero just as you expect Pamela Anderson to play the dumb blond in every role she's ever had.
This leads X-23 to her second act of badassery, this time with animal abuse. If you're a card-carrying member of PETA, prepare to send Marvel angry letters because X-23 doesn't just dive in and rescue Gambit. She fights off a shark that tries to eat her. Then she takes Gambit, digs her claws into the belly of said shark, and rides it to the surface. You could be a Green Beret who personally killed forty terrorists with a paper clip and butter knife. You'll never be that badass. It makes for a nice scene, even if it is a bit drawn out. It's easy to forget that the sharks aren't the bad guys here. It's the pirates up top and that seems to be lost on X-23 and the story for that matter.
When they emerge they finally remember why they did this job. They were supposed to save Indi. Well like a high school slut who slept through sex ed, they're late. Indi is dead. He bled out from his earlier wounds and their mission failed. This marks the second time that X-23's impulsive nature cost them. The sad thing is she's still as mature as half the teenage girls I went to high school with. The pirates still try to attack, but X-23 cuts one of them down and the attack stops. Then they leave.
Wait what? That's it? These ruthless pirates who just watched this teenage girl feed their leader to a shark let these two go? What the fuck kind pirates are these guys? Did they graduate from the pirate equivalent of Arizona State? Pirate or not, if thugs have any kind of pride they would at least try to rough these intruders up. They don't even call them assholes! Either these are the weakest clan of pirates in the entire history of sailing or the issue just ran out of ink. I don't know much about pirates, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been that easy to walk away. The IRS is more ruthless than that and they have the common courtesy to harass you if you fuck with them.
I don't want to make too big a deal of that, but those are details that Marjorie Liu is usually pretty good at resolving. There is some effort to explain it seems. While riding back in a speedboat to tell Remy's friend that they let their informant get butchered, Gambit asks X-23 about what she did. She killed the lead pirate. Her justification was that this guy was going to kill Indi's family. Even if they couldn't save Indi, they could save them. It shows some signs that she's thinking before she slashes, something even Wolverine doesn't do on a regular basis. She saw something that was wrong and she tried to right it. This time she didn't kill everybody in her way. She considered those other pirates to be wounded dogs. It would have been unfair to kill them. Right, because pirates are breeding grounds for pussies. I still don't buy it. But at least there's some effort at clarity.
It ends the issue on a pretty weak note. All Laura and Remy end up doing is drifting in the boat. Just a guy and a teenage girl on a boat sounds wrong on many levels. That's how a lot of horror movies and pornos begin. Seems like they forgot why they were doing this. They're trying to get to Madripoor. Did they forget that just like they did Idie? Again, this is one of those little things that Marjoire Liu usually handles well.
X-23 #7 is still a good issue. Don't get me wrong. This is definitely a comic worth buying if you're an X-fan. It's set apart from the bullshit being played out in Uncanny and Generation Jean rip-off. It's a more personal journey and like the previous issue, it showed X-23 growing. In this issue she demonstrated that she can be more than just a blunt instrument like Wolverine. She can actually focus during a battle, make a sound moral judgment, and even show mercy when she needs to. She's a killer, but she has a heart. That's a hallmark of any hero.
However, I'm still a jaded fan who can't help but be extra critical. Some parts of the battle scene were drawn out while others were shortened. Pretty much all of the fight scenes involved X-23 fighting underwater or rescuing Gambit. There wasn't much action with the pirates themselves. Then there's the whole notion of these pirates letting them go after their leader is killed and just drifting on a boat in the middle of the night. It's one too many WTF moments for an X-23 comic by Marjorie Liu. It sticks me more than usual because I'm still pissed at Nick Lowe spilling the beans about Jean rip-off. Marvel threw red herrings and deception at it's readers and I personally don't take kindly to that shit. So I'm going to be a bit of an ass when I critique a Marvel product. Just as people tend to be an ass when they cross paths with someone who screwed them over.
X-23 #7 is a good book, but not a great book this time. This is probably the weakest issue of X-23 under Marjorie Liu to date. That's why I give it a jaded score of 3 out of 5. I'm still on board with this series. The next major arc involves X-23 finally clashing with Daken, the Wolverine inspired character who unlike X-23 is a complete douche-bag. It's a fight that I hope X-23 wins. If Marjorie Liu handles this next arc well, all will be forgiven. Nuff said!