Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chronic Review: X-23 # 8!

X-23 # 8
Marvel Comics
Script:      Marjorie Liu
Pencils:    Ryan Stegman
22 pages for $2.99

Collision part one: X-23 vs. Don Daken!  It's a literal blood feud between two mostly unhinged killers bearing a whole mess of Wolverine DNA.  In the immortal words of Apollo Creed:  Ding. Ding.

I don't really get into stuff like that.  I'm the type to skip over the slugfest pages as quickly as possible so I can get back to the good stuff, which for me is character psychology.  I don't have a philosophical problem with these kinds of grudge matches, though, particularly when the motivations feel natural.

In this case, Laura bumps into Daken while chasing down the roots of a new Weapon X program, this time spawned by obligatory bad guy Malcolm Colcord.  She's recruited Gambit to help her track down Colcord, and the trail has led them to Madripoor and Daken Akihiro.

I don't know how Remy ended up stumbling onto X-23 and her Weapon X vendetta or why he decided to go along with it, because I just got here.  But the interplay between the two is pretty solid.  I haven't seen Gambit in quite some time, but I find Liu's version about 70% less irritating than what I remember.  You've still got your USRDA of "Petite" and all that rot, because it's tough to avoid.

In this issue, Gambit is operating as Laura's "big brother", more mentor than rogue playboy.  X-23 spots Daken on a crowded street and impetuously dives off the roof she's standing on to pursue.  She breaks both ankles, and they heal instantly of course.  So Gambit has to decide if he wants to take the stairs and lose her, or jump also without the benefit of an accelerated healing factor.  He jumps.  And that tells you most of what you need to know about where Remy is at in his personal development.  This is not a lone wolf skirt-chaser, (although Tyger Tyger is certainly interested in him) he's a baby-sitter who cares enough to risk some snapped ankles.  I like that.

Laura herself is interesting if you're into the classic American monomyth.  She's the classic gunslinger of few words, who's been done wrong and looking to make sure that nobody else gets the same kind of hand she's been dealt.  She speaks in an oddly distant, robotic way.  Which makes sense given her background in Weapon X, where the emphasis is not on cuddling and social skills.

If you're tired of the grit and grimmy, I recommend you avoid X-23.  This is about killers, and flesh trade, and vengeance.  (the cover does contain a parental advisory)  If Laura doesn't like what you're doing, you're liking to wear one of her claws in your throat, which is really uncomfortable.

I don't have a problem with any of that, provided the script is handled with some subtlety and grace, and about more than the spilling of ichor.  Marjorie Liu's X-23 certainly qualifies as more than bloodshed.  It's not redefining comics by any stretch, but as superhero comics go, this one is pretty good.  I was pleasantly surprised by Ryan Stegman's pencils, too,  he's an unknown commodity to me.  If I had to classify it, (and I don't know why I feel the need to do that) it looks like something from the old Top Cow school, which is a good thing in my book.

And X-23 Vs. Daken?  It's not just a tease, it goes down in this issue.  If that's the draw for you, I can't imagine you feel cheated, even though you'll have to pick up Daken # 8 to see the finish.

- Ryan

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