Tag Archives: X-23

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: X-23 #11

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.

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Filed under comic book reviews, Jack's Quick Pick Comic, superhero comics, X-men

The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for X-Men Red #11.

Jean Grey Exercises the Power of Emotional Intelligence in ‘X-men Red #11’

 

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December 17, 2018 · 8:47 pm

The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for X-23 #6. Enjoy!

Class, Clones, and Killer Robots in Marvel Comics’ ‘X-23 #6’

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November 8, 2018 · 5:02 pm

The following is a review for “X-men Red #9” that I wrote for PopMatters. Enjoy!

Marvel’s ‘X-men Red #9’ Gets into Psychic Wargames and Battling Ideas

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October 26, 2018 · 11:46 pm

Gabby Kinney: A Case-Study In Cuteness

Gabby.jp

What makes a character cute?

That’s a not an empty question. It’s one that movie studios, TV networks, toy makers, and novelists attempt to answer every day. I’m not just talking about the ones affiliated with Disney, either. While the House of Mouse is legendary for crafting a winning formula for the creation of all things cute and lovable, it’s worth breaking down the components.

Understanding them isn’t just important for creating likable characters. It can be pretty damn lucrative too. Just look at the merchandise sales for “Frozen.” Cute, adorable characters sell. They sell a lot. Plenty has been written about the cuteness of characters created by Disney, Fox, and a multitude of Japanese anime. However, I’d like to single out one particularly adorable character.

As it just so happens, this character is from the world of superhero comics. Specifically, she’s from the X-men comics. If you’ve followed this website for any length of time, this shouldn’t surprise you in the slightest. I promise this isn’t just another love letter to the X-men like the many I’ve crafted before. This is an exploration of a character who forged a unique path to cuteness.

Her name is Gabrielle “Gabby” Kinney, also known as Honey Badger. You probably haven’t heard of her because, in the context of Marvel’s vast history, she’s very new. She has only been around for about three years. In that time, though, she’s done plenty to make her mark on the world.

Think of the cutest characters you’ve ever known. Whether it’s a talking animal, a princess, or a boy band, take a moment to contemplate all the traits that make them cute. From their looks, their personality, their story, and everything in between, think about qualities that make them so adorable.

Without hesitation, I can say Gabby has all those qualities, as well as a few you didn’t know could be so adorable in the first place.

That may sound like a bold claim, but it’s true. After reading every issue of All-New Wolverine, I genuinely believe that she has raised the bar for cuteness for any character, both within superhero comics and in the real world. To appreciate why her story is so remarkable, it’s necessary to know some key details about her backstory.

This should give you a few telling hints.

On paper, she doesn’t come off as the kind of character who can be overly cute. She’s a clone of Laura “X-23” Kinney, who herself is a partial clone of Wolverine. Given the number of clone-based character in comics, including a few who are notably infamous, she doesn’t have a lot going for her at first.

That changes quickly after she’s introduced. She’s actually one of three clones from Laura, but she ends up being the one who makes the greatest impression and not just because she doesn’t go evil, which tends to happen a lot with clones in comics.

From the beginning, Gabby sets herself apart as being the more upbeat, bubbly clone of the bunch. She’s not overly angry or vindictive. She isn’t even that bothered by the fact that she’s a clone. It helps that she’s just a kid, but it also helps that this has never been hidden from her. She knows what she is and doesn’t whine about it. That, alone, makes her more mature than the majority of adult heroes, even the non-clone ones.

She even has a sense of humor about it. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. She doesn’t get too uptight in tense situations, either. That even includes dangerous situations that involve dragons, zombie animals, and alien parasitic bugs. Gabby sees the world through a rose-colored lens, regardless of how ugly it is, and this is the key to what makes her so adorable.

Whether she’s helping Laura battle Sentinels or caring for a pet wolverine, Gabby always finds a reason to smile. She’ll always look for the lighter side of a complicated situation and help others see it. That sort of thing is becoming increasingly precious in today’s overly-cynical world, but it’s especially powerful in the world of superhero comics.

The very premise of any world involving superheroes requires that the world contain the kinds of chaos that can’t be contained with extra police and stiffer fines. In Gabby’s case, she inhabits a world full of evil organizations like Hydra, shape-shifting aliens like the Skrulls, and actual devil-like creatures that go out of their way to ruin marriages between iconic characters.

The fact that Gabby can lighten the mood under those circumstances helps amplify her lovability. Make no mistake. She is disturbingly lovable. I say that as someone who was extremely sick of clone character at the time All-New Wolverine debuted in June 2015. However, the writer of All-New Wolverine, Tom Taylor, went the extra mile with Gabby.

It’s not just in the light-hearted jokes that she makes. It’s not just the fact that she’s a cute kid full of youthful innocence, despite having been cloned in a lab by assholes who wanted to make her a living weapon. Any character can just say goofy things and ignore the horrible crap going on around them. Where Gabby really shines is how she affects those around her.

From the moment she meets Laura to her first hilarious team-up with Deadpool, Gabby has a positive influence on pretty much everyone she meets. She doesn’t get scared or overwhelmed by any given situation, even those involving parasitic aliens. She never lets these situations destroy her child-like innocence.

That, in and of itself, sets her apart in a major way. In so many other stories involving cute characters, their innocence is treated like fine china. It’s easy to crack, easy to taint, and irreparable when damaged. More often than not, a big part of a plot surrounding cute characters is how they become corrupted.

Tom Taylor basically turns that narrative upside down. Rather than build the story around how Gabby loses her innocence, he essentially surrounds her innocence in an adamantium shell that’s every bit as unbreakable as Wolverine’s claws.

This is critical to what makes Gabby uniquely cute, but it’s also important to the presence she brings to the X-men comics and the larger Marvel universe. Instead of having everyone try to protect her innocence, she basically has to shove her cuteness in their face and remind them that she doesn’t need protecting. In fact, they need her more than she needs them.

She gives them a reason to laugh and smile after Hydra has taken over the United States. She gives them a reason to feel good after the Red Skull comes back to life yet again to bring old-fashioned fascism to the world. She goes out of her way to be a positive presence on everyone she encounters. However, it’s her impact on Laura where her cuteness becomes genuinely endearing.

To appreciate why that matters, it’s worth recalling just how dark and brutal Laura’s story has been thus far. That story has closely followed that of her predecessor, Logan. She was born in a lab, subject to dehumanizing treatment, and turned into a living weapon. Unlike Gabby, she didn’t escape it until she’d committed soul-scarring atrocities, one of which included the death of her mother.

Since her introduction in the memorable, yet underrated “X-men Evolution” cartoon of the early 2000s, Laura has personified a worst-case-scenario for a cloned character. Her life, her story, and her personality are driven by loss, anger, and sorrow. Then, Gabby comes along and suddenly, there’s a light in her life.

Gabby is like a breath of fresh air to someone who has only been breathing smog for all their life. She’s like a hot shower after spending 4 hours shoveling snow in a blizzard. She provides an overdue balance to long-suffering characters like Laura that it’s more than just refreshing. It’s cathartic.

Gabby helps give Laura and her story something that benefits them both. She creates an outlet from the endless string of tragedies that plague the Marvel universe and the real world. She dares Laura and those following her story to not let all that ugliness destroy all that is good and pure. A cloud of darkness doesn’t have to cover the entire sky. There’s always room for a ray of light.

Gabby is that ray of light. Cute, adorable characters tend to shine brighter than most. That’s what gives them such a powerful presence. Whether it’s in a Disney movie or a superhero comic, they illuminate the darkness and make the characters around them do more than just lament. The fact that Gabby does all of this and cares for a pet Wolverine makes her a special kind of cute.

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Filed under Deadpool, human nature, media issues, superhero comics, superhero movies, video games, X-men

The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters on X-23 #1. Enjoy!

It’s Back to Brutal Basics for Laura in ‘X-23 #1’

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July 12, 2018 · 6:03 pm

Five Female Superheros That Deserve Their Own Movie

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It’s been a damn good week for female superheroes. Whether you’re a man, woman, or something in between, it’s hard to deny the historic significance of this past weekend. “Wonder Woman” is officially a hit. The glass ceiling for superhero movies is shattered. We can all finally lay the failures of “Catwoman” and “Elektra” to rest.

It’s sad that it took over a decade to make another female superhero movie that succeeded, but good things are worth waiting for. Anyone still waiting for a decent Fantastic Four movie should take comfort in that.

For Wonder Woman, at least, the wait is over. She has proven that female superheroes can succeed. They can carry their own movie. The fact that Wonder Woman had to prove this in the first place is kind of asinine, but that’s a trivial detail at this point. “Wonder Woman” succeeded and that doesn’t just break the myth that female superheros can’t succeed on their own. It opens the door for other female superheroes to shine.

Image result for Wonder Woman success

As I write this, there is only one other female superhero besides Wonder Woman who is set to star in her own movie. That character is Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers, whose movie is set for release in 2019. With Brie Larson having been cast, the movie is already in the works. Wonder Woman’s success can only help.

Unlike Wonder Woman, though, Captain Marvel does not have the kind of iconic status as Wonder Woman. In fact, she only recently gained a surge in popularity when writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, launched “Captain Marvel: In Pursuit Of Flight.” This series, which any Wonder Woman fan would love, effectively revamped a character who had only ever been a secondary character in the Avengers.

Since that run, Captain Marvel has become the closest character Marvel has to Wonder Woman. As such, it makes perfect sense for her to get a solo movie, if only to keep up with DC.

Image result for Captain Marvel

However, as excited as I am to see more female superheroes get their own movie, there aren’t many others to look forward to. Earlier this year, Avengers director, Joss Whedon, announced that he was pursuing a “Batgirl” movie. As exciting as it sounds, though, this movie is tentative at best. With no release date or cast, this movie could languish in development hell, as Whedon’s own Wonder Woman movie did in 2007.

With “Wonder Woman,” the floodgates have been opened. There’s a new avenue for pursuing big bucks with superhero movies and, seeing as how Hollywood values money over all else, we’re likely to see plenty more female superhero movies in the future.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer my own wishlist of sorts. Wonder Woman is a great female hero and a pop culture icon in the highest degree, but she is far from alone. There’s a wealth of great female heroes in the world of comics who would thrive in their own movie. Below is my personal list of female superheroes who I feel should get their own movie.


#1: Laura “X-23” Kinny

Image result for Dafne Keen X-23

This one is, by far, the most obvious and logical. After the success of “Logan,” in which X-23 was the breakout star, there’s already a lot of buzz around this possibility. Both Dafne Keen, the actress who played her, and director James Mangold have expressed interest in pursuing an X-23 solo movie.

Given the performance we saw in “Logan,” it would be foolish not to capitalize on X-23’s breakout success. Hugh Jackman gave X-men fans 17 wonderful years as Wolverine. X-23 is in a perfect position to carry on the mantel. She already did so in the comics, adopting both the title and the costume of Wolverine. Why not do the same in the movies?


#2: Thor (Jane Foster)

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This one might be the most controversial. Back in 2014, Marvel made a decision that still has some comic fans whining to this day. They made Thor unworthy of wielding his hammer, Mjolnir. Since the world still needed a Thor, Jane Foster stepped in and took up the mantle, which she’s wielded effectively ever since.

Controversial or not, there’s no denying the strength of the story that followed. Jane Foster had always been a supporting character for Thor. Putting her as the main lead was a bold, but powerful move. Jane isn’t just some glorified arm-candy for any Chris Hemsworth look-alike, though. She’s very much her own character.

In the comics, Jane was dying of cancer before she picked up the hammer. By becoming Thor, she’s trying to make the most of whatever time she has left. That’s a powerful struggle and a meaningful story, especially to anyone who has lost someone to cancer. Plus, being played by Natalie Portman can only help her cause.


#3: Black Canary

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When most people think of DC’s most iconic female heroes, they almost immediately think of Wonder Woman and rightfully so. She is, and likely always will be, the standard by which all female superheroes are measured.

That said, some female heroes make it a point to set themselves apart. That’s what Black Canary does. Dinah Lance is not a demigod warrior like Wonder Woman. She’s not a brooding vigilante like Batman either. She has her own set of superhuman abilities. She’s a tough fighter who’s gone toe-to-toe with some of the most capable fighters in the DC universe. She also looks damn sexy in fishnets.

In addition, Black Canary has a track record of sorts as a supporting character in “Arrow.” Being a successful character in TV doesn’t always translate well into movies, as Baywatch recently learned, but someone with Black Canary’s skill and sex appeal can certainly make that transition.


#4: Starfire

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Admit it. You knew I was going to put her on this list. It was just a matter of how I’d be able to justify giving a solo movie to a female hero that is so comfortable with nudity. I went out of my way to praise Starfire as a sex-positive superhero, one whose open sexuality is both fun and heroic in its own unique way.

Now, I know this one would be a real stretch. However, the success of the “Deadpool” movie has given me hope that there is a future for R-rated, sex-positive superhero movies. It may take a while, given the recent trend in outrage over any female character that dares to be sexy. Remember, people made a big deal about Wonder Woman’s armpits for crying out loud.

At some point, though, there will be a market for a female hero that just doesn’t give a flying fuck about nudity. At some point, fans are going to get sick of being shamed for wanting to see a sexy female hero in a bikini. When that day comes, Starfire will be the perfect female superhero for a generation in need of a sex-positive icon.


#5: She-Hulk

Image result for She-Hulk

To date, there have been two lackluster Hulk movies. In both cases, the story was fairly the same. You’ve got a man dealing with serious anger issues, struggling to function in a world that just keeps finding ways to piss him off. Most people are familiar with that story. Those same people, however, are less familiar with She-Hulk’s story.

Jennifer “She-Hulk” Walters is not just a female version of the Hulk. If anything, she’s a very different kind of Hulk. She’s Bruce Banner’s cousin who became the Hulk due to a blood transfusion. Unlike Bruce, she doesn’t need to get angry to become big, strong, and green. She’s pretty much stuck in her Hulk form.

That means she’s more in control of her faculties, so much so that she manages to continue her work as a lawyer. That’s right. This Hulk has a day job and it doesn’t involve smashing. Now most lawyer-driven movies since “My Cousin Vinny” have had limited entertainment value. Add a big, strong, sexy green female hero to the mix and suddenly, there’s a lot more value to go around.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes