X-23 #14A comic review article by: Sara McDonald
X-23 was never a character I expected to like. Despite going through a phase in my youth where I had enough Wolverine paraphernalia in my room to scare off a German exchange student (true story), Wolverine isn't at the top of my list of all time favorite superheroes. I'm also not a huge fan of gimmick characters for the most part, so Wolverine + girl parts = new character was not an equation I thought would produce anything I wanted to read. However, as both a reader of comics and someone with girl parts of my own, I usually try to give books with female leads and/or female writers a chance. From the very beginning, Marjorie Liu's X-23 comics surprised me, presenting a character who was so much more than a new twist on Wolverine, and with X-23 #14, Liu continues to give X-23 room to grow beyond her roots.
Fresh off a trip to Madripoor that stirred up more than a little trouble for her, including a run-in with Daken (her nephew? brother? half-son?) and a brush with her old "trigger scent" from her days as an assassin, Laura is searching for answers to who she is and where she came from. She's returned to New York in search of a boy who she once spared in hopes she can get answers as to why she did it, and maybe learn more about what she really is. In the meantime, superhero drama is happening, and she finds herself at the Baxter Building, home of newly-minted Future Foundation.
The inclusion of the FF in X-23 brings a new dynamic into the book. Laura doesn't have the baggage with the FF that she has with the X-Men. At the FF, a clawed mutant killer clone is not the weirdest person in the room. They're a group she can interact with in a way she's not usually able to with other people -- in a building full of outcasts, she's almost normal. Laura's interaction and connection with Valeria Richards is especially meaningful, given the less-than-normal beginnings Valeria has as well. Valeria isn't a "normal" little girl any more than Laura has ever been, and there's the possibility for a connection there that Liu has smartly chosen to portray. Children who build androids with "ears [that] are going to shoot lasers" and a tail that will "detach to form a projectile light bomb" aren't going to question the teenager who was created in a lab to be a living weapon.
While he had a bit of a smaller role in this comic than he's had in some of the rest of the series, I also enjoyed what Liu is doing here with Gambit. Gambit is a character I make no apologies for liking (full disclosure: Rogue and Gambit on the '90s X-Men: The Animated Series made quite an impression on my elementary school mind), and I'm happy to see him used as something other than a throwaway character in X-23. While at first glance a friendship between X-23 and Gambit might seem unlikely, it ultimately makes sense, as Gambit understands a desire for redemption as well as anybody. Liu portrays Gambit as someone who has owned up to what he's done and who he can be, a point made clear as he says to Cecilia Reyes, "When you were wit' the X-Men. You heard people call me a womanizer, a thief. You heard 'bout all the trouble 'I caused. Folks I betrayed. All true. 'Cept maybe the womanizing." Like Laura, Gambit is a person who's done some bad things, but wants to be something other than his past, and he's been well served in his role as mentor. His genuine concern for Laura is apparent as he searches for her after the earthquake, and I hope to see more of their friendship in future issues.
The comic ends with a surprise final page that left me wondering what was happening -- but excited to read more and find out. X-23 and the FF is yet another pairing that seems surprising from the onset but plays out perfectly once they're in Liu's hands, and I was left eager to see what their next step will be. X-23 has consistently been a book that has made me impatient for next month and the next issue, and #14 didn't disappoint.
Sara started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.