Review: X-23 #13 by Marjorie Liu and Phil Noto

X-23 #13
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Phil Noto

Here we are with X-23 #13, almost a year into the series. Hard to believe it’s been a year already. In today’s day and age of trade friendly planning, #13 might mean a talent change up, but thankfully Marjorie Liu is here to stay. While Laura Kinney was ceated by Craig Kyle, and Kyle and Christopher Yost used her to wonderful effect in New X-Men and X-Force, I freely admit I never really clicked with Laura as one of my favorite Marvel characters until she received her ongoing series under Liu. Liu was able to really bring the vulnerability of the character into play and find more avenues to relatability, and she did it by building off and working with everything that had come before.

It’s a testament to her writing ability she was able to do this. And not only did she make Laura a stronger, independent character, she extended this to her supporting cast – no small feat, considering her supporting cast has it’s own storied history in the X-Universe.

If you haven’t kept up, Laura felt lost after the events of X-Force and Second Coming. Even with Wolverine wanting to adopt her, and a suprising friend in Gambit, she feels she must strike out on her own to reconcile with herself and discover who she is. As if that’s not enough, a mysterious symbol haunts her.

Recently Laura and Gambit found themselves in Paris, tracking down some very personal effects. Wolverine and Jubilee (one of Logan’s oldest partners in crime) join them, in what is one of the most satisfying moments in Wolverine’s history, and a long time coming for fans of Logan, Laura, or the oft-maligned Jubilee.

Of all the X-Titles, I daresay this is one of my favorites, and I urge you to pick it up if you haven’t. It’s elegantly simple in it’s execution while staying true to Liu’s complex designs.

When we last left off, Laura was tipped off to the name of an aborted assassination target from her past life, and she and Gambit head to New York City to track him down. New York City was a pivotal chapter in Laura’s old life (see NYX), and Liu doesn’t hesitate to explore this while Laura is confronted with her past as a prostitute and assassin. Touches like this are what make her characters people, and not two-dimensional characters in a comic book. There’s a careful attention to continuity and relationships, be it Kiden Nixon or the reluctant X-Doctor Cecila Reyes.

Striking out on her own, Laura finds her target, but the mysterious sigil (calling way back to X-23 #1-2) reappears, and Laura is ambushed…and then blindsided again by a major NYC catastrophe. Ever the heroine, she joins the rescue efforts, and is soon joined by…The Amazing Spider-Man. But this Marvel NYC, and Liu has proven she knows how to keep one chaotic universe as one simple continuity under her fingers, so she doesn’t stop there. Spidey is attired in his Future Foundation uniform, as he’s on duty with the Future Foundation, formerly known as the Fantastic Four.

Back when I reviewed the very first issue, someone commented to me that Liu’s X-23 read like fan fiction. I hope it does. I subscribe to the idea that all comic books are fan fiction. It’s just got an official seal from the publisher. And on top of that, it makes official print, and these creators are allowed to play with the characters because they are talented. So yes, X-23 is a female clone of Wolverine, arguably the most popular X-Man. That’s almost fan fiction cliche, but Kyle and Yost didn’t blink. Yes, Laura is now running around New York City with Spider-Man, The Thing, Reed Richards, and the Invisible Woman. It would be sloppy of Liu as a Marvel writer not to use such an obvious Marvel Universe connection.

Liu’s script is story heavy and action packed. I always look forward to her comics because I never feel like I dropped $3.99 and blew through the issue in five minutes. This issue in particular, despite the recap above, is very accessible and now would be a great time to hop on the X-23 wagon. Gambit and Cecilia Reyes in particular are handled well, as is Spider-Man. Outside of Whedon and Millar, I can’t think of another writer who can handle ensembles so distinctly.

X-23 proves itself to be one of the go-to Marvel titles for talent, as even if Liu wasn’t around, Phil Noto is on hand for the artistry this time around. Prior to this we were treated to the amazing Will Conrad, fantastic Ryan Stegman, and sensational Sana Takeda. Noto continues the quality lineage with his distinct, clean and bold linework. Like Paul Smith, no line is wasted. While he’s known for his figures, New York City really shines as an environment, and it’s some of Noto’s best perspective and panel layout I’ve seen.

The coloring has always been an X-23 high point for me as well, and Noto doesn’t let me down there. From issue #1, John Rauch set the coloring standard of a much brighter and dream-like art direction, which really helped pull Laura away from Wolverine’s own gritty, darker books, and the violently black and shrouded world of X-Force. I feel it really helps define the title as hers, and Noto’s colors are crisp and bright.

In fact, with the slightly stylized characters, bright and clean pallette, and verbose but light dialogue, I sometimes felt like I was back with Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s Power Girl.

X-23 is one of the better Marvel titles coming out these days if you’re looking for something to follow monthly and stay self-contained. It’s also coming from one of Marvel’s most underappreciated writers, if not their most talented. Marjorie Liu had a hell of a lot to prove when she was given the reins to X-23, and she did it. She even did it while balancing some major X-Universe shake-ups and co-writing (and in my opinion, carrying) Daken’s solo series.

I am forever thankful that she took Laura Kinney and made her into more than another person on the X-Roster to me, and even more thankful she kept what drew me to the character in the first place from her original creators. Laura was actually the first character introduced in the past twelve years I actually gave a damn about, and Liu was no small part of that.

I’m praising her a lot, I’m aware. But the simple fact is this book would not be what it is without her, or Will Conrad, Sana Takeda, or Ryan Stegman, all amazing artists the book as been gifted with, I can safely say this is one of the best Marvel books on the shelves, and if you haven’t been reading it, I just hope you haven’t been sinking your money into Avengers or anything with hammers.

Simply put, X-23, The Amazing Spider-Man (Slott), and Daredevil (Waid) are the three reasons I get excited on Wednesdays now. X-23 has the distinction of being able to inspire that in me for nearly a year.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,