Sunday, April 3, 2011
X-23 #8 - Clash of Awesome
It's finally here! No, the Iphone 5 hasn't been announced and Marvel hasn't agreed to do day-and-date digital release to their catalog yet. And no, this isn't a late April Fools Day joke. The event that is being billed as damaged teenage girl versus sexually confused douche-bag is here! That's right, X-23 and Daken are finally set to claw the everloving shit out of each other and not in the way that gives Daken a boner for once.
This has been a match-up that's been more hyped than a Patriots/Colts game. Marjorie Liu writes X-23 and Daniel Way writes Daken. Both have been building towards an eventual grudge match between the two messed up offspring of Wolverine. One has boobs. One of them loves the occasional dip into Hershey river. Now I haven't followed Daken all that closely. I never grew very fond of him as I tend not to grow fond of anyone who is such a colossal douche-bag that they would fuck their own shadow if it had a hole. But he is a part of Wolverine's story and so I have tried to keep up. Even as X-23 ventured off into her own series under Marjorie Liu, it's been a given that these two adamantium loving Wolverine mini-mes would clash. Well Marvel seems to understand that this is the kind of bloody grudge-match that gets fans more giddy than a baby in a topless bar. And it begins with X-23 #8.
I've been a big fan of this series from the beginning. Marjorie Liu has brought new life to X-23 and taken her places that have been great for her character, even if some of those places involve Sinister with boobs. During the lead-up to this story, X-23 found out from the boobilicious Sinister that a man named Malcom Concord was trying to kick start that beat up old monster truck known as Weapon X. With help from Gambit that doesn't involve wearing shoe-string thong panties for once, she's tracked him to Madripoor. This is an environment so hostile that shotgun shells are used as currency and beating the shit out of a rival gang is a required part of your tax form. And wouldn't you know it? Daken has set up shop there. A place like this is like a mix of Disneyland and the Playboy Mansion. Since the previous issue dealt with X-23 getting to Madripoor, this issue begins with her going on the hunt.
With Gambit struggling to keep up, she starts stalking Daken like a deranged Star Trek fan living inside William Shatner's dumpster. Along the way she fights off some guy who wants to use her in a gang-bang. For all she knows, it's a gang-bang that Daken just got finished warming up in. She gets pretty close without Daken noticing. That or he's just too much of a douche to feel threatened. Then right behind her one of Madripoor's many random crimes unfolds. Some faceless guy gets abducted. Why this would surprise X-23 is strange, but she deems it important enough to halt her hunt and help out. I suppose there needs to be some balance in Madripoor in the time between cock fights and donkey shows.
It turns out this isn't just random heroics. Once she gives them the adamantium special, she tells them that they reek of a certain scent and it isn't from spending the night with Amy Winehouse. She finds out they're working for Malcom Concord. It seems Concord is giving Daken a run for his money in the douche-bag department because he's using Madripoor's "leave law and order at the door with your dignity" policy to his advantage. He's been kidnapping children and not in the same way the Disney channel does it. As much as she wants to give Daken a few new holes that he can't use to pleasure himself, she hasn't forgotten Concord. So Gambit finally contributes by saying he knows someone he can help. It's very reasonable to assume that it's someone he's boned.
Sure enough, the help comes in the form of a beautiful woman who embraces him the same way Twilight fans embrace locks of Robert Pattinson's pubic hair. She's Tyger Tyger, a hot chick who dresses like Psylocke and kicks almost as much ass. As it turns out, she has a lot of influence in Madripoor. A beautiful woman that can make men think with the wrong head goes a long ways in a place where needless brutality is an Olympic sport. She's in a perfect position to help X-23 find Daken, who she believes knows where Malcom Concord is. It's a stroke of Madripoor luck and it doesn't even require a bribe.
So the next day, they put on a bit of a show. Tyger asked X-23 how her acting skills are so when they actually visit Tyger in her office where she plays the part of the Madripoor godmother whose ring you have to kiss to set up a brothel there's a sense of mystery. They act as though they didn't meet the previous night. They basically enter as if they're just fishing for information. They ask the same question about the abductions, Daken, and Malcom Concord. Tyger writes them off as if they're lobbyist for the UN asking to cut back on the opium exports without having the decency to offer a bribe. It gets heated and Tyger makes a nice dick joke about X-23 being Wolverine's clone. Because what comic can't be made more awesome with a dick joke? Since there's no bribe coming her way, she kicks them out of her office and X-23 leaves her usual threat.
If it's an acting job it may win a Golden Globe, but not an Oscar. Yet it's enough to convince Daken, whose brain rarely gets the blood it requires since he's so busy screwing other people over both literally and figuratively. As soon as Gambit and X-23 leave, Daken shows up. He had been hiding in a secret compartment the whole time and after hearing X-23's little rant, he's acutally intrigued enough to stop enriching brothel owners.
Now this scene is a bit complicated because remember, Tyger asked X-23 about her acting skills earlier. There's the sense that the whole meeting in Tyger's office was just a show. Daken doesn't know that, but the reader knows that. It's a scene that can get confusing real easily, but if you don't read the damn comic backwards it is easy to follow. It's a rare show of dramatic irony, something that only those who didn't skip English class in 12th grade can appreciate. In a comic book, that's pretty damn awesome.
X-23 and Gambit return to the lawless streets of Madripoor, waiting for their little ruse to bear fruit. X-23 takes a moment to enjoy the exotic cuisine, admitting in the process that her sense of taste was fucked up by Weapon X and fast food while living with the X-men. It doesn't take long for Daken to finally show his face in all his douche-baggy glory. They joke a little about X-23 being a clone and whether or not that technically makes her Daken's mother. As disturbing a concept that may be, once X-23 flashes her claws shit gets real.
It finally begins! The battle against X-23 and Daken is on! It's conflicted teenage clone vs. egotistical metrosexual douche! You couldn't get a more fitting fight if you pitted Mike Tyson against Hulk Hogan.
Daken shows early on that he fights dirty and not in a way I can make a gay joke about. He's not above using special weapons to give him an edge. His glowing claw thingy is akin to a brass knuckle laced with barb wire. As soon as the Madripoor rent-a-cops show up, X-23 takes the fight out of the streets so they can maim each other without being disturbed. X-23 is basically proving that she's the clone of Wolverine and using more than just her claws. It's a powerful moment when she pins him to the ground and tells him to look her in the eye. Usually this is the part where Daken would get a boner, but this isn't that kind of fight. He throws her right off him and start ripping into each other like a sadomasochist in a knife store. It leads to a two page spread of pure awesome. We knew this fight was coming and this comic doesn't try to finish it in a single page. You may find yourself staring at the spread with such awe that your eyes fall out. No worries. That's nothing a little crazy glue and duct tape can't fix!
It gets bloody and heated. It's the kind of violence you would expect in any comic that involves Wolverine or his offspring. They fight their way up a flight of stairs and to a roof. They only catch their breath for a small panel and then they go at it again. X-23 tries to throw him off a building, but Daken makes sure she comes along for the ride. It makes for another great spread that shows just how evenly matched these two characters are. One is guided by teenage angst. The other is guided by egotistical douchiness. It's a classic example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object!
This is the kind if fight you don't want to see end. Sadly, this comic runs out of ink just after X-23 and Daken get a mouthful of pavement. A fall that would usually leave two people more crippled than Russian cage fighters is nothing more than a scratch to these two. They rise up and get ready to go at it again. That's where the comic cuts out. The fight is set to continue in Daken #8. It's simply too big to finish in one comic. Normally I hate waiting almost as much as I hate waking up hung over in someone else's back yard with magic marker all over my face and a dog licking my balls. However, for a battle this intense I'm more than willing to wait! This isn't something that can or should be resolved in one comic. More is needed to truly show the caliber of awesome that such a clash is capable of.
Now with all the anticipation of the Daken/X-23 fight being built up, it would have been easy for this comic to stumble. It could have turned out bland, filled with nothing but mindless slashing and no real progression. It could have turned out as a boring setup issue, having little action and only setting readers up for a cliff-hanger at the end with no real action to get excited about. But it didn't happen. The first issue of the Daken/X-23 clash struck a perfect balance between setting up the fight and carrying it out. Marjorie Liu set the stage and then blew it up in a way that floods the brain with every kind of awesome chemicals. If books like this came in pill form, the DEA would have raided Marvel's office by now and declared it a drug bust.
There are very few ways in which this book is flawed. Some may be a bit confused by the scenes with Tyger Tyger. The whole notion of X-23 and Gambit acting like they never met Tyger before she leads them to Daken may fly over the heads of some readers. It's not so convoluted that you have to re-read it multiple times. Just reading the section twice should clarify what's going on. The case can be made that some scenes act as filler, but if you were to remove those scenes the book would be a bit less coherent. At times it feels as though more pages could have been dedicated to the main fight, but even if that's true there is still a great balance within the pages and it is still plenty awesome.
I've been eagerly awaiting this comic so much that I almost went bald tearing my hair out with impatience. I'm glad it finally arrived and delivered everything I hoped it would. It's a great feeling when a book lives up to and exceed your expectations. Marjorie Liu has made that a habit with her run on X-23. That's why I give X-23 #8 a perfect 5 out of 5. You couldn't have started a major event like this any better. The fight between X-23 and Daken deserves to be epic. It's not quite on the scale of Wolverine and Sabretooth just yet, but it could very well get there! Even if it doesn't, this first issue has put the clash between X-23 and Daken on the same epic scale. That alone is a hell of an accomplishment! Nuff said.