Sunday, September 11, 2011
X-23 #14 - Fantastic Awesome
The X-books have been a lot like going to a bar late at night and meeting a nice bartender that refuses to cut you off even after your blood-alcohol level is high enough to make a breathalyzer explode. There's Uncanny X-Force, Fear Itself, Uncanny X-men, X-men Legacy, and a hoard of other not so sub-par but still plenty awesome materials with which to satiate your appetite for X-men caliber awesome. It's an embarrassment of riches so great that if it were a woman then Donald Trump would divorce his wife and marry it. I can't recall a time when there were so many great X-books to follow. The current library of mutant-related works is dominated by big events, major shake-ups, and Emma Frost's tits. Yet in between that orgy of awesome, there's a fun little romp going on in a book called X-23.
Now I love watching the world blow up as much as the next drunken comic book fan, but Marjorie Liu's X-23 series has offered a different kind of awesome. It exchanges an ear-splitting explosion of action for a gentle whisper that tells you all the dirty things that will get you excited and force numerous changes of panties. It's a personal story, one where X-23 doesn't have to save the world or confront Apocalypse, Sinister, and Simon Cowell on a massive stage. She's not taking part in Schism or Fear Itself. She's on her own journey and so far it's been pretty damn awesome.
In the last issue of X-23, her journey took her to New York City. She was searching for a young man named Alex Cimini. For some reason, she didn't butcher this kid when she was ordered to do so back in the day where slicing the jugulars of her enemies were the equivalent of playing house for her. Some girls get dolls as kids. She gets guns, bullets, bombs, and murder targets. Beats the shit out of ballet I guess. But in her search for this kid, who happened to be a physics student, she had what can only be described as semi-breakdown that involved visions of a mysterious symbol. I have those same visions when I smoke too much weed, but this one ended up destroying a building. I guess that proves that physics students in the Marvel Universe can only earn a degree by having one of their experiments go horribly wrong. When shit started blowing up, X-23 was confronted by Spider-Man and the FF. Since she's in New York City and she's pursuing something that seems to blow up buildings, they take an interest in her and that's where X-23 #14 picks up. So loosen your panties, ladies! It's another Marvel crossover that involves a screwed up teenage girl! It's like a John Huges movie with more blood and a better soundtrack.
X-23 #14 begins with news of the destruction in New York reaching the blatant NBC ripoffs that broadcast the latest crisis in the Marvel universe. Seriously, if Marvel is going to create a fake news organization in their books, they should at least consult the fine folks at Fox News to make sure they do it right. The everloving Thing is stuck babysitting while the rest of the team meets up with their new friend. Valerie and Franklyn Richards, two kids who spend their spare time making Einstein look like their prison bitch, use their genius level intellect mixed with their fondness for Spongebob cartoons to determine that what happened in New York was an attack and someone has a target on their ass that says "please insert napalm tipped dildo here."
Thing had never been one to shy away from someone that attracts explosions so he catches up with the rest of the FF. Spider-Man tries to make X-23 feel welcome by offering her a sandwich. Unless that sandwich had spicy mustard and pastrami then she's still inclined to gut someone. X-23 is basically an observer now, trying to let the people with big IQs and better impulse control figure out what happened. It's a pretty basic lesson in Marvel physics. A massive amount of energy was detected before the blast. The source was the very lab that X-23 had visited in search of Alex Cimini. There aren't too many other details, but I'm sure that's because Stephen Hawkings threatened to sue Marvel on behalf of all physics if they tried to explain it.
With X-23 being at the scene and no other source known for attracting explosions, some are a bit dubious of X-23's presence. Thing is one of them. He rightly points out that people with adamantium claws tend to attract trouble. X-23 doesn't take kindly to a rock man basically accusing her of blowing up buildings. She shows that she's still Wolverine's clone by showing she has the balls to take on Thing and not whine about it. She's a teenage girl, but she's also a hardass. Sometimes readers need to be reminded.
It's a nice scene because it shows that this isn't as friendly a team-up as it seems. X-23 is not like Wolverine in that she's worked with (and/or slept with) a large chunk of the Marvel universe. She's still somewhat new. Not a lot of other heroes know her and so they're suspicious of her. It's something that other writers may easily overlook so I applaud Marjorie Liu for using more brain cells then the average Marvel writer. It demonstrates that X-23 will have to earn the trust of these people if this is to be a true team-up.
While she's making friends, Gambit and Cecilia Reyes are back investigating what the explosion prevent X-23 from doing. In the last issue, Gambit was MIA because Cecilia was treating a wound in his groin. No, that's not a porno joke. That's the real excuse. I can only assume that this is some subtle way of making dick jokes to the readers. Whatever they did, there will need to be some gruesome adultfanfiction written about it because they're back on the case. They find Alex Cimini and he basically claims ignorance. He doesn't know X-23, but she knows him. There's no real clue that he's anything more than your typical college student, worried about grades, student debt, and how often he can get laid. He comes off as somewhat of ancillary plot. It feels a bit rushed, which is jarring since previous X-23 books have been so good about avoiding that. Where does Alex Cimini fit into this shit? If he does, it's not even hinted at. Gambit just says a few extra words to tempt Cecilia into boning him and that's about it.
Back with the FF, the smart people are still trying to make sense of what the dumb people can't seem to figure out. Along the way, X-23 meets up with Valerie Richards. She comes off about as polite as a drunk Mel Gibson by pointing out that X-23 is a killer. She then gets introduced to all the FF's smart little friends/freaks. It's painfully apparent that X-23 is more out-of-place than a playboy model in a quantum physics lecture at MIT.
The other kids try to be nice to X-23, but keep in mind that this girl inherited her social skills from Wolverine. That means that while she can kill fifty armed men without breaking a sweat, when it comes to making friend she's Forest Gump retarded. It gets awkward fast. Then for reasons that really aren't clear, that same reddish light that made things go boom in the previous issue flares up again. Again, it's centered around X-23 and pretty much ensures that her Facebook friend request won't be accepted by any of these kids. Some teenage girls whine when they screw up their first impression by farting or having a zit on their forehead. X-23 turned into a fucking glow stick. The Paris Hilton's of the world have no excuse to whine anymore. Ever.
When X-23 wakes up, she's in a lab. Which for her is like a sorority girl waking up in Ted Bundy's basement. She is not pleased with it and Valerie Richards is as insensitive about it as Bill O'Riley is to hippies. X-23 is a messed up teenage girl, but Valerie Richards is younger and despite being a genius she's still fairly immature. That means that her social skills aren't much better than X-23's. Even if she did just cause another mysterious energy outburst, she would rather wake up in a janitor's closet with her panties over her head than a lab.
What follows next is a lot of talking. At this point, the issue is starting to drag because most of it has consisted of talking to this point. Even Laura's little explosion wasn't much of a burst. Michael Bay probably does that sort of shit with his movies using a blind fold, his pinkie finger, a microwave, and bottle of imported Russian aftershave. There's not much to really describe from these conversations. Once again, they avoid too much techno-babble by just saying that they detected some weird energy and X-23 was the source. Again, it's basic and a little random. I'm still wondering how the fuck some college physics student could have triggered this.
There are some specifics offered. The energy isn't left too vague. As they talk about it, Spider-Man suspects it's the uni-power. Most Marvel folks will need to dig deep into their memories (also known as Wikipedia) to remember that this is sort of like Phoenix Force-lite. It possesses people and does all sort of crazy shit like emit bright light and allow for power displays that only Kim Jong Ill claims to experience. It would be another random moment, but then Valerie once again has to demonstrates that being a genius doesn't make you any less an asshole. She does a little tweaking with the energy despite her father's urging to cut that shit out. As expected, something goes horribly wrong and another explosion happens. This time it does more than cause an Earthquake.
When the light fades, X-23 finds herself in some crazy alien world with Spider-Man and the Invisible Woman. Wait what? How do you go from tracking down a physics student, causing Earthquakes, mysterious symbols, to alien worlds? As fucked up as the Marvel universe is, I'm still scratching my head here. All I can be sure of is that the Invisible Woman will ban her daughter from doing cold fusion experiments for a week when she gets back. She, Spider-Man, and X-23 finally can stop talking and get to blowing shit up. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until the next issue to see it.
Now I know I've often praised this series for being more down-to-Earth and not relying on space aliens or magic monsters to tell a halfway decent story. Most of this issue reflected that sentiment if you ignore the whole flashing lights emanating from X-23's cleavage. It's only the end where shit takes a turn for a more typical Marvel conflict that involves an army of monstrous creatures, an alien world, and super smart kids that haven't learned to waste enough time on internet porn. Now does this take away from that gritty element that has made the past few issues of X-23 so awesome? In the words of Thor, I say thee nay. X-23 is a more grounded series, but it's easy to forget that it started off with X-23 facing a demon-possessed Wolverine. It's been a while since X-23 faced something like that and it serves as a decent balance which doubles as a kick in the balls to the reader that this is still a Marvel comic.
However, there are some reasons to be concerned. The final page took X-23, Sue Storm, and Spider-Man on quite a tangent. If readers were computers, they would probably get a "does not compute" message. The story went from a search for Alex Cimini to some sort of inter-stellar acid trip. It's a nice change of pace from previous issues, but at the same time it has the potential to crash head first into the wall of absurdity that so many Marvel books can't seem to avoid. This makes the book feel somewhat chaotic after it dragged in a few areas. So while the book was decent, it felt incomplete by the end. It clearly fits into the larger puzzle Marjorie Liu crafted with recent arcs, but it's just not clear how. And by not clear I mean your brain may leak out of your ears trying to make sense of it.
I still love the X-23 series. It's a book where you can take a break from angry gods, killer aliens, and married men who make pacts with the devil. However, this issue dabs some of those elements into the story. It works in some ways, but not others. It still moves the story forward and doesn't fly over the readers' head in too crazy a manner, but it lacks the coherence and heart that has made so many recent issues of X-23 a case study in awesome. While I'm confident in Marjorie Liu's ability to make the next issue awesome, I'm left to give X-23 #14 a 4 out of 5. It's a great series, but until we know why an army of alien monsters suddenly entered the picture then we X-fans will have to hold our wad for a bit. Gives me time to stock up on clean underwear! Nuff said.