X-23 #1 came out this past week and thanks to its super cartoony cover, I had very low expectations about the content (Yes, sometimes I *do* judge a book by its cover). However, I was pleasantly surprised by the writing of Marjorie Liu and found myself actually rooting for the murderous female clone of Wolverine. I have never been interested in the character before because comics are already inundated with traumatized assassin women. I find no appeal in their lack of personality thanks to whatever secret brainwashing cult/government agency did to them. Given the choice between Elektra, Spider-Woman or Psylocke, I’ll take Black Widow thank you very much.
That said, after reading her first issue, I am now into X-23. Did she suddenly become interesting? Is she exhibiting personality traits? Well, not exactly. X-23 is still the same morose automaton walking around in a numb haze (when she’s not in a killing frenzy). However, Marjorie Liu has quite cleverly embraced X-23’s banality and made it engaging. She does this by contrasting X-23 with the more established, well-rounded personality of Storm.
However, I did not realize that the woman in the garden was Storm. Apologies to Will Conrad, but due to the washed out coloring and the Disney Princess outfit, I thought the woman was Emma Frost. The photograph with the woman and Nightcrawler was strange because I didn’t recognize the tiara and thought maybe it was supposed to be Amanda Sefton. I had to reread the page a couple of times to realize it was Storm.
In the page above, X-23 happens upon Storm talking aloud to recently departed teammate Nightcrawler. Liu’s keen dialogue between the two characters does a great job at outlining their similarities and differences. Suddenly, I was seeing both characters with new eyes. Storm has always been a compassionate character, and she does have a motherly way about her. It felt like X-23 was surprised that Storm was talking to her and perhaps she was stunned by her regal composure and congeniality. Regardless, she stuck around to talk to Storm and even began to play chess with her. I was intrigued. When Wolverine arrives and scares Laura away, I was angry at Logan because I felt that Storm had been gently unearthing the girl beneath the assassin. And then I realized that Liu had masterfully played me. She took a character that I adore and used her character continuity to reveal what I thought to be a stock character and showed her in a new light. Not too shabby.
The X-Men used to operate in a school and yet they haven’t taught a real class in ages. Everything these days is geared to being a paramilitary faction. I miss the “learn how to use your powers and work with humans” angle of the X-Men, so reading the above page and seeing Storm akin to a school counselor was awesome. This is the kind of storytelling that I want out of my main X-Men titles and it’s taking place in a Wolverine spin-off title.
I get the feeling that Storm doesn’t quite grasp the entirety of Laura’s situation, but I like that she’s trying to relate to the girl. Liu does bring up some good correlations between the character’s pasts. Storm’s storytelling is a great contrast to Laura’s staccato responses and speaks volumes to the difference in their different modes of expression. Perhaps because Storm has been so many things (child thief, tribal goddess, powerless leader, African queen) in her lifetime, she can more easily believe that Laura can have a different life as well.
Wolverine is so infuriating! Storm was finally getting somewhere with the girl and big bad daddy has to ruin it all. Now it’s no more Laura and back to being X-23, as she walks away. To see the two pages following this (in which Storm and Wolverine discuss X-23’s involvement in X-Force) and more awesome interaction between Emma Frost and Cyclops (as they also argue about X-23’s future) tune in to this week’s White Queen Wednesday with Ken Kneisel!