Tuesday, 27 September 2016

X-23, Volume 1: The Killing Dream Review (Marjorie Liu, Will Conrad)

Laura Kinney is X-23, so-called as she’s the 23rd DNA sample from Weapon X/Wolverine and survived the lab that was trying to make her into another Weapon X. She’s Wolverine’s clone/daughter with all of his powers from a healing factor to the snikting claws!

In The Killing Dream, Laura deals with mental scarring as she confronts her traumatic past as well as a shape-shifting demon(?!) and then later teams up with the ragin’ Cajun himself Gambit to take on Mister Sinister – who’s trapped in a woman’s body?!?! 

Yeah… so this is a “Volume 1” but it feels like stepping into the middle of a long-running story. Her mutant teammates are upset at her for her actions (whatever they were) in some preceding story (whatever that was) that were apparently bad. Pfft, hard to care about that noise! 

Then she’s being haunted by a demon who wants her to join the dark side or something?! No clue who the demon is, whether this is a new thing for this book or something that’s been going on for a while, but it’s just a confusing and bizarre storyline. Ditto the “Mistress” Sinister stuff – how, when, why, wha…?! 

The stories aren’t so great and are mostly pure baffle-pants but Marjorie Liu writes Laura well as a conflicted, traumatised young woman struggling with inner turmoil to find peace with who she is and what she’s gone through. It’s a convincing portrayal and there are flashbacks to her time in the lab as a kid so new readers can catch up on her appalling history (that poor puppy!) and see where she’s coming from. I did wonder though how she has self-harm scarring on her arms when she has a healing factor…?

Will Conrad’s art is very good, particularly when it comes to the visions of Hell which are very striking and well-realised. The Mistress Sinister corset/hot pants outfit though is just plain ridiculous and definitely not the best way to broadening your female audience!

The Punisher-esque angle is an interesting one that I’d like to see more of – I think it’s a good fit for Laura as a way of exorcising her demons while also playing into her redemption story. And the biggest surprise was that Gambit came off quite well in this one! No idea what he’s doing following Laura though – I guess he’s feeling frisky, eh, chere? 

Marjorie Liu’s X-23 gets off to a shaky start but, even if she’s not established a strong storyline yet, she seems to have a firm handle on the character and that’s something. The Killing Dream is an uneven book but not a bad one and worth checking out for anyone interested in the character.

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