Saturday, November 19, 2011

X-23 #17 - Teen Drama Awesome

I usually don't need an excuse to drown my sorrows in booze, but when I have a damn good one I milk that excuse for all it's worth. If I sound like I'm hung over, then congradulations. You just won the award for understatement of the century. Right now I feel like Superman and the Hulk are having a tap-dancing contest inside my skull. That's the kind of hangover you get after you find out a quality comic book series like X-23 has been cancelled. That's right. It was made official earlier this week. This series, which happens to be the only series Marvel has going that features a female lead, is ending at issue 22. Way to strike a blow for feminism, Marvel!

There's no way around it. This news sucks. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I'm a big fan of X-23 under Marjorie Liu. It's a different kind of X-men comic with it's own unique blend of awesome. It isn't all about women in skin-tight outfits fighting killer robots. It's a coming of age story for a teenage girl who happens to be Wolverine's daughter/clone. It's a story that won't have the same theatrics as Schism or Fear Itself, but it'll develop a character that deserves developing. Now it's ending and I'm left saddened, hung over, and maybe a little emotional. Excuse me while I question my masculinity.

But hung over or not, I'll still review this series! It's not over yet so the women of the world can enjoy a Marvel comic with a female lead for just a bit longer. Marjorie Liu has a story to tell to the testicle-driven world of comics and she sure as hell is going to tell it. She's coming off an arc where X-23 made some new friends with the FF and some new enemies with interdimensional tyrants. It was one of those out-there type stories that was confusing at times, but an entertaining spectacle not unlike watching your uncle with a spastic colon light his own farts. Now X-23 has new allies that happen to have a lot of awesome connections and a new appreciation for cosmic forces. Where could she possibly go after shit like that?

X-23 #17 begins by using a similar tactic that the previous arc used. It revists a plot that was touched on early in the series. This one involves our old friend Julian Keller, aka the tempramental teenage boy that wants to bone Laura. Now I can appreciate having such a death with, but he's undergone some changes since that early arc. First he lost his hands and now has to slam the ham with telekinesis-driven prosthetics. Then in Wolverine and the X-men #1 he was shown to be part of the newly found Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. Apparently, he's not all that friendly with his new surroundings. He's a reclusive dick cheese and Wolverine doesn't like that. So he decides to sit down with him and have a chat because the institute is fucked up enough without hostile teenage boys. Wait a minute...that makes it no better than my old high school! WTF?

Since Wolverine doesn't appear to be making any progress with this kid, he brings in the only force capable of reaching the stubborn mind of a teenage boy...a teenage girl. Suddenly, Hellion realizes that living like a pig and acting like an ass makes a guy stink in the eyes of a girl that may or may not be willing to bone him. Wolverine seems confident that X-23 can get Hellion to open up, if for no other reason than to inch his way closer into her panties. But this isn't just a case of Wolverine pimping his clone/daughter to one of his messed up students. Anyone who followed X-23 in the early arcs knows that X-23 and Hellion have a history. By history I mean they seem to want to bone each other, but shit keeps getting in the way. X-23 fought Hellverine to save Hellion (does that count as irony), but she didn't even say goodbye to him before she left. So there are some unresolved feelings here that are finally getting explored.

They finally start talking and Hellion stops talking as if his penis is seven feet long. He essentially tells X-23 about why he's been so pissed off lately. Never mind that he had his hands blown off. He had to to seriously hurt people (see the post-Second Coming arc of X-men Legacy) when no one else was willing to. He admits he does some lousy shit and he's a bit of an asshole, but he sees himself as a necessary asshole. He's also not so self-absorbed that he think he would last long outside the institute or Utopia by himself. Everyone thinks he's a danger and even he seems to believe it now. But if anyone can understand what it's like to be dangerous, it's X-23. It makes you sense that if there's anyone who would shack up with him in a way that isn't out of pity, it's X-23.

Unfortunately, X-23 doesn't offer much input on her own. In fact, she doesn't offer much of anything. Once Hellion finishes venting, she turns around to leave. So she goes through the trouble of coming back to the institute to see the boy she never said goodbye to that wants to bone her and then she just leaves? That's two WTFs. I honestly don't see the point of her showing up if she's not going to say anything. However, that doesn't excuse what Hellion does in response. Granted, he has somewhat of a right to be upset, but when he grabs in in a very Ike Turner sort of way he crosses the line from sympathetic asshat to just plain asshat. His only saving grace is that Gambit shows up to tell X-23 that she has a call from the FF. He also makes it a point to tell Hellion that if he touches X-23 or any other woman like that again, he'll need an electron microscope to find what's left of his penis.

Now some those who have been following the X-23/Hellion soap opera may be taken aback by this. Hellion is an ass, but he seems to cross a line here by getting rough with X-23. Never mind that X-23 could probably kill in ten times before his body hit the ground. This is a low for him that really comes out of nowhere in the context of this relationship. Earlier in this series, he went out of his way to save her. Now he's getting outright hostile with her. I get that he's been fucked up since then, but that's no excuse and it just doesn't seem to fit.

X-23 leaves Hellion to ponder his collapsed scrotum while Sue Richards of the FF ropes her into babysitting Franklyn and Valerie. Now you would think hiring a teenage Wolverine clone with a long list of issues sounds like shitty parenting, but seeing as how X-23 earned the FF's trust in the past arc and Sue exhausted all their options they give her the benefit of the doubt. So she and Reed don't come off as complete assholes. Gambit drives X-23 to the FF building on his way to a date. I have no idea where the date came from, but it's Gambit. For some reason women can't resist the urge to throw their panties at him.

When she arrives, it's very simple in the Marvel sort of way. Reed and Sue give X-23 the standard rundown and lecture his kids on not causing any trouble. Of course for them, trouble can involve a science experiment that blows up several time zones so it's not as typical as it seems. Knowing X-23 has handled inter-dimensional tyrants, you would assume she could handle herself. But when you really think about it in a less than sober mind, she's probably more safe taking on the inter-dimensional tyrant.

Babysitting the Richards children sounds as twisted as you would expect. By some accounts X-23 is a cool babysitter and not because she wears skin-tight clothes. She lets Franklyn and Valeria use their patented time window so they can see into the past. It's their version of picking a movie to watch. Then Franklyn says he wants to go into the past and pet the dinosaur, but to do so would require the energy of a half-megaton nuclear bomb. This is where X-23 draws the line. That doesn't make her less cool. It just makes her sane.

As was the case with my old babysitter, X-23 gets a call from her brooding boy toy. Unlike my old babysitter, she doesn't run up the phone bill by having phone sex with him. It's Hellion and he's trying to apologize for being a total dick-cheese. He also happens to be standing outside the FF building because he's the kind of guy that would follow a girl he got rough with, further adding to his douche-bag factor. X-23 resists the urge to fall into every babysitting trap ever made. She's still not saying much to Hellion other than he didn't hurt her and she doesn't want him to come up. You get the sense that she has more to say, but like Wolverine words are not her foray. Cutting shit up with her claws is.

Well luckily or unluckily, her chat with Hellion gets cut short because the Richards kids insist on being mischievous once more. They just can't resist tampering with the FF's technology. This goes about as well as you would expect. And if you expected that the tampering would cause the time window to rupture and free an angry dragon, then congratulations. You're both correct and you clearly got into my stash. At this point X-23 has to cease being a babysitter and start playing guardian. She also gets a chance to work off any anger she may feel towards Hellion without cutting off more of his limbs.

We get a nice shot of Reed and Sue, who appear to be having a nice time on their date. For once, they don't have to be in the thick of the shit storm when monsters from other dimensions emerge. For once, they can leave it to the babysitter that used to be a former living weapon. Needless to say, the dragon quickly makes a mess of things. It grabs both Franklyn and Valeria and X-23 grabs onto it's tail for a ride. There's a lesson about babysitting superhero kids in here somewhere. Or maybe it's just a lesson about dragons being douche-bags. Either way, it makes much more sense than the whole cosmic storyline from the previous arc and it's that much more enjoyable.

So I guess it's safe to say that this issue was a return to basics. When you can't tell a convoluted story about cosmic forces and inter-dimensional tyrants, just go with killer dragons and babysitting mishaps that could fit into any 80s teen movie. It's a simple contrast that's not too down to Earth by Marvel standards. And once again, Marjorie Liu demonstrates remarkable coherence in having the previous arc fuel the events of this arc, even if it is just the FF looking for a babysitter. That ended up being more relevant than X-23's unresolved drama with Hellion. Although between Hellion and the dragon, I would still say X-23 is better off dealing with the dragon.

That leads me to the main crux of this issue and it has nothing to do with dragons. The relationship between X-23 and Hellion has been poorly developed, but the chemistry was certainly apparent. Marjorie Liu had a great opportunity to really develop it, whether it brought them together or tore them apart. She opened up some old wounds with Hellion, but it seemed somewhat inconsistent with his recent developments. If you read Wolverine and the X-men #1 where Hellion showed up and then read this issue, you would have a hard time identifying them as the same character. In addition, Hellion came off as a wife-beater in training. Against someone like X-23, that's tantamount to waving your dick in the face of a hungry grizzly. Even he has to understand that it doesn't work and it paints the relationship between the two characters in a very unsavory way, which in my drunken opinion doesn't fit as it currently stands. But it looks like that problem is going to be worked out somewhere between babysitting and dragon slaying in the next issue.

Issues involving relationships are always somewhat messy. It's like being a maid at Gary Busey's house. You'll run into some fucked up things. But everything else around it was nicely developed. Using the FF again and setting X-23 up to face the horrors that the Richards children can unleash was done in a charming manner. Fans of the Hellion/X-23 relationship will definitely want to stick around to see what happens with them in the next issue. Fans of seeing X-23 beat the shit out of snarling monsters will want to see it as well. See! Everybody's happy! Congress can learn a lesson from comics, amongst other things. That's why I give X-23 #17 a 4.5 out of 5. It's not missing too many pieces. But it has a dragon in it so that's more than enough to deem it awesome. Nuff said!


  1. :******(

    I'm terribly sad that X-23 has been cancelled. Being female, this series is the only series where I don't feel like an outsider in the patriarchal comic geek world.

    However I squeeee because also being a female, my cognitive sexuality gets aroused by a X-23/ Julian storyline. They have beautiful tension, him being one of the big deal students and her being the misfit. Being a fan of their relationship, I can openly criticize Hellion. I can trace back where his characterization got so messed up and that was when Laura left the students to be in X-Force. Since then I have only liked his appearance in Second Coming and AoX. I can understand where his state of mind is coming from. At such a young age, he lost most of his classmates during decimation, then the girl he's fascinated with leaves the main team to go on killing sprees, then he has to battle to save the remaining mutant population and loses his hands, then he gets scolded by the leader of the mutant race for remaining violent mode after the battle… no one at Marvel has acknowledged damage X-Men life has done for Julian and the other older students, but Idie, she causes such an ideological rift to separate the mutants to either side of the states. I don't like that he went front arrogant spoiled asshole to brooding whiny asshole, and I cannot stand emoness, nor grabbing a women's arm. He is such a mopey loser now and X-23 has so many people that like and respect her.

    I want Julian to be the confident sexy asshole again and for him and X to get it on. Hopefully I will get my wish by the end of this series. :( I'm still devastated though. I don't want to believe that I will soon have to say goodbye to an awesome series. I want to find Marjorie Liu and make her a cake. I can't recall for the life of what Julian was talking about with Laura. I remember him being violent in Legacy but who did he kill?

    p.s. he needs to be drawn like this from now on, not with emo hair.

  2. I can appreciate your dismay, being a female reader and seeing Marvel cancel their only remaining female solo series. X-23 has been great from a quality standpoint, but unfortunately Marvel prefers sales. At least Liu is addressing the Hellion/X-23 relationship. I don't get quite as excited about it as you seem to, but I definitely see that tension you're talking about. I hope it goes somewhere with this arc. Not just because X-23 needs the love, but because Hellion has been a real asshat lately. Someone like X-23 could really help balance him out. Thanks for your comment!