The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It is another worthy entry into my ongoing Jack’s Comic Gems playlist. This time, I offer one of the most dramatic and heartbreaking comics I’ve read in the past decade, X-23 Innocence Lost. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: Wolverine comics
Certain characters will always be defined by tragedy. This is especially true of superheroes. What happened to Bruce Wayne’s parents was a tragedy. What happened to Peter Parker’s uncle was a tragedy. The impact of that tragedy is what helped send them down the path of being a superhero. It’s a common narrative and it’s powerful on so many levels.
On the other end of that spectrum, though, are characters defined by their choices. They weren’t being mind controlled. They weren’t replaced by clones or blackmailed by a villain. They do what they do out of choice. When you’re Superman, that helps make you an iconic hero and a paragon by which all others are measured. However, when you’re someone like Wolverine, those same choices only complicate his standing as a hero.
To say that Wolverine has made some questionable choices over his long and colorful history would be like saying Deadpool has a quirky sense of humor. Whether he’s Logan or James Howlett, he’s not some tragic figure of circumstance. He makes choices, they screw him over, and then he makes things worse by stabbing things.
There are many stories that demonstrate Wolverine’s questionable decision-making process. “Wolverine Annual #1” is just the latest and writer, Jody Houser, once again demonstrates why Wolverine’s journey to being the best there is at what he does tends to get so messy. On top of that, it’s his own damn fault.
It helps that annual comics are among my favorite types of comics. They’re just simple one-shots that tell a single, self-contained story. For a character like Wolverine, these stories don’t always follow the traditional superhero narrative.
The first act effectively establishes Wolverine in the present time. At this point in his journey, he’s a full-fledged hero. He’s a member of the X-Men. He has close ties to the Avengers. He also occasionally teams-up with Spider-Man and resists the urge to stab him. By most measures, his status as one of Marvel’s top tier heroes is secure.
It’s in the same context that Houser digs a little deeper into Wolverine’s colorful past. Like so many other parts that got bloody, this is one he deeply regrets. As he often tries to do, with varying degrees of success, he confronts it. Things only get messier from there, but in the best possible way.
Houser doesn’t just build a story around Wolverine’s propensity to make bad choices. She also demonstrates what happens when the people around him make as many bad choices as him. It’s not just him that screws up. Sometimes, good people make bad choices and they drift away from being good people.
Throughout his history, Wolverine has always been in danger of becoming that person. His status as a major superhero shows that he avoided it. Not everyone was as lucky and that’s where Celia Stroud comes in.
On the surface, her story has all the traits of the many other women who got romantically involved with Wolverine and suffered because of it. They got together. Things got heated. They decide to leave where they are and build a new life. Then, things get messy. Usually, that means things get bloody and stab-happy as well, but that’s not entirely the case in “Wolverine Annual #1.”
Granted, there is plenty of stabbing and plenty of bloodshed. However, how it plays out is very different from the typical Wolverine-fueled tragedy. He still makes questionable choices, but it’s Celia Stroud’s choices that gives this story such a unique impact. Houser sets up Wolverine to face a similar backlash to his choices, but this time, his choices aren’t the most questionable.
It’s still tragic in a sense, but not in the way most Wolverine fans have come to expect from his stories. Celia Stroud comes off as the kind of character who seems destined to be corrupted by Wolverine. She’s romantically involved with him and history shows that rarely ends well.
Then, her questionable choices are revealed. For once, Wolverine’s judgment isn’t the worst. While there are other forces involved, her choices are still the thing that gives “Wolverine Annual #1” its impact.
I won’t spoil the details. I’ll just say that “Wolverine Annual #1” puts Wolverine in an unfamiliar position. Once again, he tries to confront his past. Once again, it doesn’t give him the closure he seeks. However, it’s not entirely his fault. If anything, he’s the only one who takes responsibility for his choices. For someone with his sordid history, that’s saying something.
When I read the first half of “Wolverine Annual #1,” I thought I knew how things were going to play out. I was pleasantly surprised by how Houser switched things up. It wasn’t overly shocking. It wasn’t one of those cases where a story went out of its way to subvert expectations, as has become so popular in recent years. It just told a different kind of Wolverine story and still found a way to make it work.
Wolverine is never going to be the kind of character who conducts himself like a paragon of virtue. It’s just not his style. He’s also never going to stop making bad choices. It’s just the nature of his personality. That’s a big part of what makes his story and his legacy so compelling.
“Wolverine Annual #1” adds another chapter to that story. It also makes the case that other people in Wolverine’s life are just as capable of making bad choices and getting stabbed with adamantium claws isn’t the only possible consequence.
Every week brings a new glut of comics and the world is a better place because of it. As someone who spends a sizable chunk of his time discussing unpleasant topics, it helps balance a lot of things out. I know the world is a messed up place. I survived high school and I watch the news. I understand the value of all things good, pure, and awesome.
When it comes to delivering on all three regularly, Laura “X-23” Kinney is more dependable than most. Ever since her debut on the “X-Men Evolution” cartoon in the early 2000s, she has found a way to endear herself to X-Men fans of all types. Her status as Logan’s most iconic offspring was further cemented in “Logan” and the past several years of comics have run with it.
Laura is now much more than just Wolverine’s clone/daughter. She has forged her own path and created her own identity. She’s not just Wolverine as a teenage girl, but her world is every bit as brutal. She has had to claw, stab, and snarl her way through hordes of terrible people who still think it’s a good idea to create a living weapon with the same volatile temper as Wolverine.
Along that journey, Laura’s story has had many turning points, some more tragic than others. “X-23 #12” marks another turning point that leaves Laura in a difficult, but intriguing spot. It’s not as tragic as other events in her life, but it definitely leaves her with a wounded heart that those who have followed her story in recent years will feel.
Writer, Mariko Tamaki, has been building towards this moment for the past several issues. When this series began, Laura was definitely on the same page as her fellow clone/sister, Gabby “Honey Badger” Kinney. I’ve done plenty to praise Gabby in the past and since her debut in the pages of “All-New Wolverine,” she has been an objective good in Laura’s life.
Part of that good stems from them being on the same page for much of their struggles. They’re both byproducts of secretive organizations trying to use Wolverine’s DNA to make living weapons. It already cost Gabby multiple sisters and nearly broke Laura. They have many reasons to keep fighting these organizations.
“X-23 #12” establishes that these organizations are still out there and they’re still doing crazy things with Wolverine’s DNA. In this instance, they actually use it to make turkeys with a healing factor. I swear I’m not making that up and it’s as amazing as it sounds. However, the inherent strangeness of healing turkeys is only secondary, if you can believe that.
This whole issue is less about Gabby’s love of adorable animals and more about how they’re no longer on the same page. It’s something Laura has spent the past couple issues struggling with and it finally culminates in “X-23 #12.”
It’s not as bloody or destructive as some turning points are for anyone associated with Wolverine. Yes, a train does explode, but that’s pedestrian by Wolverine standards. The real volatility is in how Laura and Gabby’s path diverge.
Tamaki plays up the family dynamic to the utmost. These aren’t just X-Men who act like a family. They are family and families often fight. In this case, it’s not a matter of a simple disagreement or a costly mistake. This fight reveals that Laura and Gabby see the world in a very different way.
Some of it has to do with age. Laura has seen more tragedy and carnage than Gabby. She’s older and more hardened to the world of all things Wolverine. She has been fighting these battles long enough to know that there are times when she can’t avoid tragedy. Innocence will be lost. Pain, suffering, and injustice will win out.
Laura has had enough Wolverine experience to know when she’s in one of these situations. The past few issues have put her in more than one. Gabby, as adorable as she is, hasn’t experienced the same hardships to know when a battle is truly lost. She still tries to save everyone. She even tries to do it with an adorable smile and a pet wolverine.
It makes for a difficult situation because it’s easy to root for both of them. It’s easy to understand why Laura makes the difficult decisions that she does. She knows when a situation can only be resolved with claws. It often leads to tragedy, which is very much a Wolverine tradition. It’s just as easy to root for Gabby when she tries to salvage all the good from an impossibly bad situation.
It’s the kind of family conflict in which neither side is wrong or right. “X-23 #12” simply marks the point where they can’t side with one another anymore. For a family that has endured so much, it’s a sad, but understandable development.
The story of Laura, Gabby, and Wolverine is full of both drama and violence. “X-23 #12” certainly has plenty of that. The presence of mutant turkeys certainly makes it unique, but it’s the drama that really shines here. Tamaki has been building towards this moment for several issues and even though the outcome wasn’t surprising, it still carries plenty of dramatic weight.
The respective lives of Laura and Gabby are fundamentally different after “X-23 #12.” They still have plenty of battles to fight, but they’re no longer in it together. They’re still family, but they’re going their separate paths. Like Logan has often done throughout his history, they strike out on their own and try to do their own thing. Sometimes it works. More often than not, it leads them into more trouble.
That’s the essence of Wolverine and the larger Wolverine family. They keep fighting their own battles, making tough calls along the way, and often putting themselves at odds with those closest to them. Laura made one of those calls and even if it was the right one, it’s not an approach Gabby can be a part of.
“X-23 #12” is a bittersweet end to Tamaki’s run on this series and the artwork by Deigo Olortegui helps make these powerful moments colorful. The future of the X-Men comics are already subject to some major upheavals. If nothing else, “X-23 #12” ensures that Wolverine’s family will still have plenty of drama to explore.
Every week, a new crop of comics enters this world to make the world a better place and/or help tide fans over until the release of “Avengers Endgame.” Whether you’re a fan of superheroes, melodrama, or just pretty artwork from artists not afraid to draw gaudy costumes, there’s something for everyone.
Every Wednesday, I take it upon myself to select one comic that I feel offers something extra beyond the price tag. Historically, few characters offer a wider range of appeals than Laura “X-23” Kinney.
Some know her as the daughter of Wolverine. Some know her as the breakout star of the “Logan” movie who helped make Dafne Keen a star. Regardless of how you know her or the medium in which she comes, she often brings a diverse story of violence, brutality, melodrama, and heartbreak. This week’s pick, “X-23 #11,” delivers on all of this, and then some.
Since writer Mariko Tamaki took over the series, Laura has gotten back to basics in terms of her mission. While she served admirably as Wolverine for a while, her priorities often change when she finds out some mad scientist wannabe is trying to make living weapons again. Considering how often this results in a blood bath, such efforts should count as an elaborate suicide attempt.
It’s a bigger deal to Laura than most. Like Logan, these programs have brought her nothing but pain. Unlike Logan, though, she doesn’t have the benefit of having holes in her memory. She remembers all the horrible crap that these programs did to her, which included the murder of her mother. She has more incentive than most to take these programs down as quickly and brutally as her father would have.
This is the primary goal in “X-23 #11,” but there’s a lot more at work than just someone with adamantium claws tearing through a weapons facility. In X-men comics, that’s basically a typical Monday. What makes this typical part of Laura’s mission harder than usual is the growing divide between her and her clone sister, Gabby “Honey Badger” Kinney.
That divide began several issues earlier. Like a pissed off Wolverine chasing the last can of beer, things have been getting anxious between the two. Since her debut in All-New Wolverine, Gabby has been a wonderful ray of sunshine mixed with omega-level cuteness for Laura. I’ve documented the breadth of that cuteness before, but it has never worked against Laura until now.
Laura knows it’s happening. She even senses that there’s some simmering resentment in Gabby, so much so that it affects her tastes in music. This isn’t just sisters bickering over what to binge-watch on a Friday night, though. “X-23 #11” establishes a fundemental divide between Laura and Gabby that may very well send the two sisters in a very different direction.
Tamaki has been setting up that divergence for several issues, but now there’s no putting it off any longer. It started with a debate over what to do when a shady company called Harvest made an army of X-23 clones that had been augmented/hijacked by cybernetics. While it made for some pretty brutal battles, it also highlighted the difference in Laura’s approach to dealing with other living weapons compared to Gabby’s.
Gabby, being the glowing ball of lovable cuteness that she is, wants to save these weapons. She sees them like other sisters. Even when it they come off as brain dead, like the cyborg X-23 army they battled, her first instinct is to save them and not destroy them. Laura, having seen too many clones cause too much suffering, favors a more direct solution that involves adamantium claws.
What makes the drama in those issues, as well as “X-23 #11,” so compelling is that it’s easy to see both points of view. Gabby knows that she wouldn’t even be alive if Laura hadn’t shown compassion when dealing with the clones that these living weapons programs produce. She also wasn’t subject to the same tragedies as Laura so she still has that wide-eyed optimism about helping other clones.
Laura, being older and a lot more damaged from her experiences, knows that the real world tends to crush optimism the same way Logan crushes beer cans. She has suffered and lost a great deal in dealing with these living weapon programs. She understands that not every clone can be saved. She knew that was the case with the cyborg clones that she and Gabby battled, but also knew Gabby was not going to agree with her.
Now, as the aftermath of that conflict sets in through “X-23 #11,” they both face some difficult, heart-breaking choices. For once, few of those choices can be made while stabbing heavily armed henchmen. There is some of that in this story and Diego Olortegui’s artwork does plenty to make that a visual spectacle. However, it’s the family drama that really sets this issue apart.
If you’ve been following the evolution of Laura and Gabby’s relationship since her debut, then the events of “X-23 #11” are genuinely heartbreaking. These two have steadily become a real family in their brief time together. Now, they’re being torn apart by bitter disagreements and painful choices.
Both Laura and Gabby experience the heartache. Even if you haven’t been following their respective stories, it’s easy to appreciate the bitter divide between two sisters. It happens in the real world and without mutant powers. Sometimes, things between siblings go bad and they drift apart. Seeing that happen with Laura and Gabby is nothing short of tragic.
It’s bittersweet, but it also helps set the stage for the future of both characters. “X-23 #11” is one of those comics that doesn’t avoid a difficult moment between two characters who no longer see eye-to-eye on an important issue. Even within family, these moments happen. This one was inevitable, but Tamaki and Olortegui made sure this one hit hard in all the right ways.
With Logan back from the dead, it promises a very divided Wolverine family, to say the least. For a family that has been subject to cloning experiments, constant torture, and even a trip to Hell, it’s a tough situation, but one that tends to make them all more badass in the long run.