Sunday, May 15, 2011
Daken #9 - Ending With A Bang (and Burnt Bodies)
Who doesn't love a good sibling rivalry? I still remember fondly the days when my brother and I would peel the labels off my dad's vodka bottles, mix in some paint thinner, and see who could drink more without throwing up. Good times. The ongoing clash between Daken and X-23 is somewhat like that, with only half as much stabbing. X-23 followed Daken to the mean streets of Madripoor where in between cock-fighting and buying illegal fireworks/artillery, they clashed in a plot that involved Malcolm Concord and a new Weapon X program. Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu have done a great job, stretching this blood soaked family feud over four issues. Some of it is mindless torture porn. Some of it digs deeper into the divide between X-23 and Daken, two characters linked to Wolverine yet who couldn't be more different. One is an unrepentant douche-bag and the other is a confused teenage girl. You couldn't get more volatile without selling weapons grade plutonium to the cast of the Jersey Shore.
Throughout the story, Daken has kept X-23 guessing. At times he's working with Concord and at times he's screwing him over (in a way that doesn't involve his penis). First he helped Concord abduct X-23 so he could cut into her with a hacksaw and play Dr. House. Then Daken helped free X-23 because he suspects Concord is screwing him over (again, in a way that doesn't involve a penis). So he leads her to Concord's facilities where they both hope to get some answers. What they find is a bit more complicated and by complicated I mean fucked up in a way that Charlie Sheen would even admire. They end up facing an army of horribly mutated monsters that look like the tentacle monsters that weren't sexy enough for anime porn.
Daken #9 is the last issue in the crossover and picks up right after this grim discovery. Since Daken and X-23 are both the exceedingly complicated offspring of Wolverine, their reaction is simple. They tear into these monsters the same way I tear into a pizza dipped in vodka. We get some narration from Daken's perspective and unlike the previous issue, he actually sounds more complex than the unrepentant douche-bag he is at heart. It's a nice change in the midst of all the mindless violence. I'll give readers a moment to drool over the pictures and fantasize about doing the same to that bitch in high school who wouldn't go out with you, but would happily fuck your friends.
It's a very basic kind of action. Daken and X-23 spend several pages just ripping into these monsters and spilling more blood than the last four Saw movies combined. It never becomes too mindless though. At one point X-23 shoves Daken out of the way because he's wounded. Then after she finishes off the rest of the creatures, she says something that changes the whole bloodstorm element of the fight. The creatures they were fighting weren't just rejects from Resident Evil games. They were people. Or more accurately, they were children who had the misfortune of being experimented on by assholes who couldn't give less a fuck if you shoved it up their ass. That bothers X-23, but it doesn't bother Daken. It's a moment that shows the strong divide between these two characters, despite all the many strong connections they share.
This divide is profound. X-23 points out that the creatures have the same look in their eye as she does when she whiffs the trigger scent. She basically loses control and all sense of purpose. That's not unlike what Daken does, who is perfectly fine with letting lose and ignoring all emotional repercussions. It's not clear if he's even listening. He may be fantasizing about boning Arnold Schwarzenegger now that he's separated from that wife of his. But he doesn't respond to X-23 and focuses on finding Concord.
The story gets much less philosophical as they slaughter more people on their way to Concord. Along the way, Daken does some more musing. It shows he may have acutally heard a thing or two when X-23 was pointing out the killers they were at heart. Yet she treats it differently. He indulges in it. She just goes through the motions. He goes so far to ask what it really means. All while cutting some random guy's heads off and painting the wall with his brains.
This inner conflict is something that I haven't seen int he Daken comics so far. I know I make a lot of jokes about him being a total douche and he is much of the time. But he does show some depth here and it's depth that stems from his connection to X-23. She is one way while he's the other, yet they're still killers. That strikes at the very heart of these characters. It provides insight to the readers that they couldn't get if Liu and Way drew it on the back of a Las Vegas showgirl.
Once they killing stops and the blood stops spattering everywhere, they reach Concord. He tries the typical villain ploys, threatening to detonate a bomb if they don't stop. X-23 and Daken come from a very atypical lineage with atypical attitudes. So that does Concord absolutely dick. Even after he says there's a bomb, they look about as concerned as a gay who just banged the last three Maxim cover-girls at once. It seems odd, but think of it this way. Would Wolverine be all that afraid of getting blown up? Hell no! So why should X-23 and Daken?
The sheer stupidity of Concord's plan continues to unravel. Seriously, did he really think he could deal with these two and come out in once piece? Now you would think they're still adverse to being blown up and you'd be more wrong than the guy who claimed he could predict the stock market by reading the messages in a bowl of Lucky Charms. He even tells them to remove a wire in the bomb. They don't even bother. Instead, Daken does something unexpected that once again doesn't involve his penis. He asks X-23 a question.
Just as X-23 took a moment to be philosophical on him, he offers his take. He asks Laura why she limits herself. It's not an unfair questions. X-23 does hold back. She could be every bit as deadly as Daken if not deadlier. She has his skills. She demonstrated that throughout this crossover. Yet she doesn't. She actually has a heart. That baffles him.
She doesn't get a chance to answer Daken's question. While they were discussing this profound question on life, the bomb blows up. They react to it the same way we might react to another drug charge from Darrel Strawberry. They let the bomb blow up because it saves them the trouble of tearing about Concords crazy psuedo-Weapon X piece by piece. Sure it renders them to skeletons for a moment, but that's barely a flesh wound for them. They just couldn't be Wolverine's offspring if they couldn't take an all out explosion without flinching.
So Concords plan blows up thanks to his own pitiful planning and/or outright stupidity. In a scene that Freddy Kruger would jerk off to, Daken and X-23 emerge as scarred hunks of meat that just came hot off the grill at a MacDonalds. Yet even in this state, they continue their debate. X-23 doesn't answer Daken's question. She ends up asking another. She turns it around and asks why Daken limits himself. In her mind, his desire to hold back his emotions in exchange for power thus limits his power. It's as if it's more dangerous to him because it may threaten his ego or he may not be able to handle it. Again, the differences and similarities between these two are striking. They tore into each other earlier in the story. Now they're tearing into each other with questions and it really isn't clear who is right or who is wrong.
A word of caution though, if you read this issue while stoned your mind may be so blown you may not move for four hours. So make sure you're wearing clean underwear or have a piss bottle handy.
The fight isn't necessarily settled and why should it be? These two just survived an explosion. I'm pretty sure they'd rather save their homicidal rage for something more worth-while. They meet up with Tyger and Gambit, who have been sidelined for the past few issues because both are too pussy to take a simple explosion. Now Tyger has a chance to subdue Daken, who did screw her over (possibly with his penis as well) earlier in the story. But for reasons that aren't entirely clear, she lets him go. In an issue full of so many philosophical musings, this one stumped me no matter how much pot I smoked.
With Daken gone and Concord reduced to barbeque, Gambit and X-23 leave. However, Gambit still shares one last kiss with Tyger. She comments on how she wants to 'taste' him. I'm pretty sure that's the least subtle porno metaphor Marvel has EVER done. But they end up leaving before too many uglies are bumped. X-23 and Gambit set sail again. X-23 didn't kill Daken, but she did take on Concord and she proved to Daken that while she's a killer she still controls her fate. That's more important to her than being a massive douche-bag. When a teenage girl can be that honest with herself, then you know something profound has happened.
So it seems like a good ending for X-23. But what about Daken? This is his book after all. Well after he grows his skin back, rests a bit, and bangs a few hookers (male or female) he's back to his old pretty self. But as soon as he's healthy again, he pays a visit to someone unexpected. It's Concord. Apparently, he did survive the explosion and it wasn't just because he's douche factor matched Daken's. Those experiments he was conducting weren't for Weapon X. He was trying to develop an artificial healing agent. This actually makes him a lot less of a douche because with a healing agent, you could technically do a damn bit of good in the world. And if it means screwing over a jerk off like Daken, that's practically a bonus!
Unfortunately, all those other burn victims and cancer patients will be disappointed. The healing agent doesn't exactly work. Concord doesn't heal the same way Daken and X-23 do. He only heals half-way. By that I mean he still looks like a guy with burnt bacon for skin. That's no way to live. He asks Daken to kill him, but Daken being the asshole he is lets him suffer. It just wouldn't be douchy enough to show mercy. Now the guy could have used the healing agent to create more monsters, but you can't deny his plan had some potential. It once again shows that Daken is as unrepentant as it comes when it comes to being a complete and total tool. Yet he never lets it get in the way of enjoying life. It's a fitting ending because in a way he's like X-23 in that he does seek his own destiny, even if that destiny is being an asshole.
So the Collision arc has ended. The long-awaited showdown of X-23 vs Daken has come and gone. Is the story as awesome as it sounds? Well let me sober up for a minute and break it down. Marjorie Liu and Daniel Way could have easily spent several issues with X-23 and Daken beating the piss, shit, and entrails out of one another. That would have been quite a sight, but let's face it. That sort of bloodshed is more a lit match than a bon-fire you can roast marshmallows on. Making a story out of that carnage is difficult and there was more than just bloodshed. There was a strong plot surrounding Weapon X, Malcolm Concord, and the differences between X-23 and Daken. It was a wonderfully balanced story that showed the conflict between these two. It's not like a Wolverine Sabretooth rivalry. It's a rivalry of two conflicting personalities with the same burdens.
Now the case could be made that the conflict between X-23 and Daken wasn't physical enough. They spent only one issue beating each other up and the rest they were either working together or working to screw each other over. The arc did sputter a bit in the middle and became choppy at times. However, the end did effectively tie everything together. It didn't just resolve the story surrounding Concord. It established the conflict between Daken and X-23. It wasn't going to be resolved with one fight. It was a lot more complicated and the door was left open for that fight to resume. It's a great new element for both characters and one that makes this mini-crossover a true success.
This final issue is definitely the most fun I've ever had reading a comic with the title Daken on it. Between this title and the X-23 titles, it works perfectly to close out a great story. You can't find too much wrong with it unless you're as big a douche as Daken and start nit-picking. That's why I give Daken #9 and the Collision arc as a whole a 5 out of 5. There's a lot to love about this story and these characters. A confused teenage girl and an unrepentant douche whose last name isn't Trump has so much to offer! If you're a fan of either titles, you'll want to frame this arc. It's definitely worth it's weight in adamantium. Nuff said!