Thursday, September 1, 2016

All-New Wolverine Annual #1: Nuff Said!

I give teenagers and teenage clones a lot of shit on this blog. In my defense, they earn most of it. Comics use clones the same way most people use light beer. It's a shitty substitute that barely works and tastes like expired milk mixed with horse semen. X-23 is and has been the lone exception for many years. She proves that it is possible for a character to be a clone, be awesome, and carry on an equally awesome legacy. She's the exact opposite of Hope fucking Summers.

Now, she has a clone as well in Gabby and she looks to be the second exception. She's cute. She's lovable. She also has an adorable pet wolverine named Jonathan. Add a talking cricket to the story and you've got yourself a Disney movie classic right there. Tom Taylor has helped make All-New Wolverine one of the most enjoyable books outside a Pixar movie. Now, with All-New Wolverine Annual #1, he looks to supplement that cute, adorable awesome with Spider-Gwen. Like Jack and Coke, it's one of those combinations that seems destined for awesome.


It all begins so innocently. Gabby is lounging around in bunny pajamas. She's putting a mask on Jonathan the Wolverine. It's every bit as adorable as it sounds. If you're pre-pubescent girl, you'd break all the glass in a 20-foot radius with your squeeing. It's just that cute.

Then, there's a blinding flash in the other room. Sometimes that means there's time travelers attacking. Sometimes that means aliens are attacking. It's usually a toss-up. This time, however, it's something a bit less common, at least by Marvel standards. Something hit X-23 before she could stab it and it had the strange effect of swapping her mind with someone else. That someone else doesn't realize they can't fly and jumps out a window, crashing into a car in the process.

It's a lot funnier than it sounds. Gabby is understandably confused, but cut her some slack. She's a kid and a clone. She hasn't even met another version of herself from a dystopian future. By X-men standards, that's the equivalent of not having pubic hair yet.


So who did X-23 swap minds with? Would Marvel dare having her swap minds with Deadpool, Squirrel Girl, or any 13-year-old teenage boy who just discovered internet porn? Actually, they find someone that's just as awesome as all three of those things. The lucky mind in this case belongs to Spider-Gwen, who exists in a world where Peter Parker is the asshat he tries desperately not to be in the comics. For those pitiful souls who don't read Spider-Gwen comics, it's as fun as it sounds.

Unfortunately for Gwen, the mind-swap happens in the middle of a concert. X-23 is now in the body of a young cute blond with spider-powers. I suppose there are worse bodies to end up in. At least she doesn't end up in Blob's body. So she ends up ditching the concert, but she's not Axel Rose so she doesn't cause a riot. She meets up with Gwen's father, who is basically this world's version of Aunt May, minus the sex appeal. To her credit, X-23 manages to avoid confusing the shit out of him. As a parent, a daughter saying she's in someone else's body usually means losing your cell phone and spending every morning with a high school guidance counselor for the rest of the year. The horror.


There's plenty of confusion to go around and X-23 isn't in a position to find them. She doesn't even know that this world's Captain America is a black woman. Then, a UFO lands in the backyard. In Spider-Gwen's universe, that's about as shocking Iceman being straight. Except this UFO doesn't have aliens looking to turn cute blondes into weapons. It contains Reed Richards, who also happens to be a black guy in this world. I'll give all the closeted racists a moment to go complain about it on message boards.

Still with me? Good and thanks for not being racist. Reed, despite having to be more cautious when he buys Skittles, is every bit as smart in this world as he is in X-23's world. That means he detected the anomaly that swapped their bodies. He's even smart enough to be tactful in not revealing to Gwen's father that her daughter's body is now possessed by a girl with a nasty habit of stabbing shit. He also lets her take a trip back to X-23's universe, courtesy of his sweet-ass UFO. Even racists have to agree that's pretty nice of him.


Meanwhile, Spider-Gwen is still pretty damn confused about being in the body of another teenage girl, who also happens to live in an apartment with a pet wolverine and a clone of herself. Then again, this is the same girl who hallucinates seeing Spider-Ham so maybe her confusion is relative. That hallucination even adapts, becoming Wolver-Hampton. I know hallucinations are supposed to be unhealthy, but this is oddly logical.

Every bit of this is as cartoonish as it sounds. The undertone here is almost on par with a Looney Toons rerun. It's fun and goofy, but not much more than that. The non-stoner crowd may not appreciate scenes with Gabby in her bunny pajamas or Wolver-Hampton staring down Jonathan the Wolverine, but then again the non-stoner crowd tends to be boring as fuck to begin with.


There isn't much chance for more cartoonish fun between a body-displaced Spider-Gwen and Gabby in her bunny pajamas. An equally body-displaced X-23 shows up and they start investigating this shit in a way that's only somewhat more elaborate than a Scooby Doo rerun. It basically amounts to X-23 being in her room, someone shooting her through the window from a building across the street, and then letting the body-swapping antics follow suit. That means whoever did this thought it was a good idea to shoot X-23 from a distance and hope she wouldn't heal. That also means they're only slightly dumber than a typical Scooby Doo villain.


X-23 and Spider-Gwen trace the attack. Along the way, we get more funny body-swapping, namely X-23 finding out that having spider strength can be a real pain in the ass and a boon to door repairmen. Spider-Gwen also learns how to use X-23's tracking senses to follow the trail of the asshole that shot her. She also learns a thing or two about X-23's durability and why wouldn't sharing that with a reckless teenager be a good idea?

It's all wonderfully pragmatic, but it also feels like a missed opportunity. There are so many fart jokes that can come from a girl who suddenly gains heightened senses, but Tom Taylor doesn't go that low. This isn't a Family Guy rerun. It's a serious crossover between X-23 and Spider-Gwen, one that involves bunny pajamas, pet wolverines, and pig hallucinations. So yeah, it's that serious.


Thanks to Spider-Gwen using X-23's enhanced senses and filtering out the farts, they uncover a secret underground lab in the fucking Bronx. Not going to lie. The idea that there are secret underground labs in the Bronx isn't all that shocking. In fact, I'd be more surprised if there weren't hidden labs in the Bronx. It would explain some of the crazy shit the homeless guys describe.

They enter the lab and, as one might expect of most places in the Bronx, they get attacked. It makes for some chaotic, but appropriate moment. X-23 learns how a spider sense works and forgets that she's not the one with the healing factor anymore. They also encounter the crazy asshole behind this hidden Bronx lab. It's the Red Hornet and how do I know he's crazy? Two cute girls stumble into his lab and he's pissed off about it. There has to be some kind of craziness involved there.


A brief, but intense battle ensues. Red Hornet attacks these cute girls with tools far more effective than most psycho-killers in a slasher movie. It gives X-23 and Spider-Gwen a second crack at using their body-swapped powers. This time, they're slightly better at it. They're not exactly experts. Hugh Jackman and Toby McGuire's legacies are safe in that respect. At the very least, it makes the fight more balanced. If Red Hornet attacked X-23 in her own body, the fight would be over pretty damn quickly. She has a pet wolverine for crying out loud. How do you measure up against that?


The fight is well-organized, at least at first. It only goes to shit when Spider-Gwen tries to pop X-23's claws and fucks up in a way that's not nearly as hilarious as it sounds. It turns out, she thinks these claws are the size of tooth-picks or something like that because she holds her hands close to head when she pops them. When she does, she ends up stabbing herself right in the fucking head. It's brutal. It's gruesome. It's not that funny, but it's still kind of funny in a way that makes most sane people feel dirty.

Then again, it does end the fight, albeit indirectly. It turns out that seeing a girl stab herself with claws is too disturbing for the Red Hornet. That's when we find out that this Red Hornet isn't a man. It's a young woman with an overly weak stomach. That's right. This battle ends because the asshole in question has a weak stomach. That's like Rocky Balboa forfeiting a boxing match against Apollo Creed because he stubbed his pinkie toe.


What happens next ditches the humor and decides to resort to "fuck it" tactics to complete the story. Apparently, this woman is the original Hornet's daughter and as it just so happens, he's one of the many, many people Logan killed before he took his final adamantium bath. Naturally, she's pissed about this, but her weak stomach and functioning brain won't let her kill X-23 for revenge. So she wants to just "send her away" instead. That's like fighting Hydra by sending them a letter telling them to fuck off.

It's as shallow and crude as it sounds. It really takes away from the intensity of the earlier battle. The whole mind-swapped shit was just an elaborate mistake because some girl tried to find another way to get rid of Wolverine's influence. Seriously though, Logan is dead and X-23 is stuck dating a time-displaced Angel. I think she's being punished enough. There's really nothing that appealing about Red Hornet's methods or backstory. It's just an elaborate clusterfuck that ends up making her too sick to see through.


In finding out she fucked up, she doesn't bother fighting anymore. She doesn't even bother getting pissed at X-23 for being the clone daughter of the man who killed her father. She just shrugs her shoulders, activates the same machine she used before, and reverses the body-swap. Apparently, it was just that easy to fix and it's every bit as unsatisfying. There's no real drama too it. There's no real tension to it. This girl just saw Spider-Gwen stab herself accidentally in X-23's body and that's enough to make her feel bad about this shit.

Now I admit that when I'm high, I tend to be a little more forgiving. Hell, with the right weed, someone could break my arm and I'd mistake it for a hug. So for Red Hornet to just shrug this shit off and undo everything so quickly just feels rushed. It's as though she's just trying to unsend an embarrassing email that doesn't even have any topless pictures of her. For a crossover story with X-23 and Spider-Gwen, the stakes are pretty damn low and the effects are pretty damn shallow.


Once all is said and done, X-23 shrugs it off as well. She doesn't even get mad at Red Hornet. To be fair, being body-swapped is probably the least torturous thing she's endured lately. Remember, she's dating O5 Angel and on a team with O5 Beast. She knows torture. Red Hornet leaves her behind as one of the most forgettable villains she didn't stab to death. She then ends up back in her apartment with Gabby and Jonathan the Wolverine. So all in all, it's a pretty slow night by X-23's standards.


So...is it awesome?

Well, it has all the ingredients to be a special kind of awesome. X-23? Check. Gabby? Check. Jonathan the actual wolverine? Check. Spider-Gwen? Check. A black Reed Richards that'll piss off racist fans on message boards? Check. There are so many ways to make this shit work. It definitely has its moments. It's classic superhero slapstick, but not at its best. The lack of action, the lack of stabbing, and the lack of a satisfying resolution just doesn't come close to the high bar that Tom Taylor sets for this book.

That said, Gabby is still adorable. Jonathan the Wolverine looks great in his new mask. Spider-Gwen is still 10 times more fun than Peter Parker, no matter what body she's in. Also, X-23 can now say she's honored Logan's memory in another way by surviving a body-swapping story. That's an accomplishment in some respects, but that's basically the most this story accomplishes. For all the other awesome shit this series has inspired, it's a let-down. Even so, a let-down in a Wolverine comic is a billion times more fun than the best comic about the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed it. Only thing i went against is a real small nitpick. The flashback shows logan in brown killing hornet. He was wearing his Astonishing yellow and blue during Enemy of The state where he killed Hornet lol.

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