Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top 10 X-23 Stories!

Today is X-23's 10th anniversary/birthday since joining the pages of Marvel Comics in NYX v1 issue 3!
Ten years ago today is when that comic first hit store shelves and officially joined the 616 Marvel Universe.  So to go with this momentous occasion, let's do a run down of her top 10 stories within the pages of Marvel Comics!

Earlier this year, I'd asked for fans to write in and suggest what their favorite X-23 stories were.  Across several platforms there was a wide array of responses but sadly not enough to tally up the results for a pure fan chosen list(too many ties mixed with not enough voted).

That being said, let's run down the list and see how it turned out!

10. Academy X: New X-Men
Coming in at number 10 was a wide array of stories that ranged from Childhood's End, Crusade, and Mercury Falling, among more.  It seems many fans loved the stories and range of emotions that X-23 went through while with these young X-Men.  Some examples of stand out moments include how X-23 saved Dust, the interactions with Mercury, and the growing on and off chemistry with Hellion.  These stories covered a wide range of topics of a teenage X-23 dealing with many topics that include analogies to school shootings(Childhood's End & Crusade), dealing with emotions, being respectful of other's beliefs, supporting friends that have been through what amounts to a metaphor for rape(Mercury Falling), her first school crush, and more.  There's also many complaints that some of these stories get as being too violent and seeming to  have a gleeful penchant to harm its characters outright with torture and abuse that borderlined on the extreme.  It reflected a headmistress that often tried to throw X-23 to the wolves and kick her out of the school or trick her into leaving, but in the end grew to accept Laura and even stand up for her.  One of the many shining moments in this run was Emma Frost's character growth, even trying to help protect Laura from Kimura and the Facility.  X-23's run through these stories gave many amazing scenes and epic battles fans would dream of before they even had the chance to.  We were given X-23 vs the future sentinel Nimrod in a story with Forge that's a 90s throwback of fun.  X-23 fans also got Laura facing off against Lady Deathstrike in a manner that's still influencing Lady Deathstrike stories to this day.  An epic battle that sometimes raises the simple question of would a rematch ever happen.  A satisfying moment that's long since even been immortalized as a collectible statue.  With how masterfully written and intertwined many of these stories are, it's hard to separate them as any single arc and instead feel best as encapsulated as Laura's full and nonstop semester at the Xavier Institute.

09. Women of Marvel Oneshot (X-23 v2 issue 1)
This was the first X-23 story written under the pen of Marjorie M. Liu.  It depicted Laura right after she'd been kicked off of X-Force and her starting to try and find herself or where she belonged.  It played up aspects of how Laura perceived herself and gave us insight into her head and emotions of the time.  We get elements of her frustration with Wolverine, and her feeling cast aside by a father figure that's kinder to other girls that aren't of his own blood.  We get to see and hear her feelings towards her NYX friends she's long missed.  A moment that proves especially powerful as it's during her coping with having killed Kiden during a future timeline.  It added a character to Laura's narrative that's an element with much potential to be expanded on or explored still, and gave us Laura's strategic awareness even while under duress.  It's a long symbolic ride that with each read brings more out that may have been missed before.  With story elements and characterization across the board that feels self-contained yet also contributes to the overall character growth it's not surprising they gave Liu a stab at an ongoing title with the character.  The artwork between the internal mindscape and Laura's currently perceived dark reality contrasts well with giving an eerie but also poignant contrast of Laura's perceptions and emotions with what she's been through up to that point.

08. Judgement (X-Men: To Serve and Protect issue 2)
This short story that's in the pages of the X-Men: To Serve & Protect miniseries is often overlooked but has indeed picked up its share of fans still.  With artwork reminiscent of an almost what if Tim Burton handled X-23 alongside presenting a question of fan debate like "what would Ghost Rider's penance stare do to X-23?" it's no wonder it still managed to make the list.  The artwork carries the story amazingly, and the writing manages to be simple and elegant yet also poignant and defining.  A short subtle interaction and narrative that carries weight across the character's actions and gives new readers a brief glimpse into her character that wets the appetite and can make them curious enough for more.

07. Not Forgotten (X-Force v3 issues 17-20)
Many consider this to be a powerful story arc for X-23.  It truly shows how dangerous she is and the lengths at which the Facility and even Kimura will go.  The artwork carries it with a cinematic quality outright as the story plays out.  While elements of the story are quite brutal and violent, it's one of the rare instances where the reader gets to see X-23 cut loose outright.  With one arm she takes on her captors and those that would use her. She uses Triggerscent to her own strategic means, channeling the control factor the Facility tried to implement on her against them.  I've personally praised this story before so many times I'm not even sure what more I could say about it that I haven't already.  To put it simply, this is the story where we see X-23 roar louder than any tiger or lion ever could.  It has a somber almost sad resolution with an overhanging plot thread that's yet to be resolved, but for a brief moment, this was the story where she was able to fully vent every frustration she could against the Facility and their machinations against her.  This would be the last time we see the Facility in the comics, and from the devastation X-23 caused, it's no wonder why.  While the story uses mild cliches and formulaic story devices, it does so under such heavy action and emotional turns that it's easy to eat it up without a second thought.  It's an emotional and action packed thrill ride that can leave any reader wide-eyed and in awe throughout.

06. Girls Night Out part 2 (X-23 v3 issue 21)
This issue is often hailed for what it pulled off.  This is X-23's silent issue.  Not a single word is spoken and the entire story was carried by character actions, body language, and symbolism.  It reflected a matured X-23 that had choices to make about where she was going next and what she wanted to do.  Picking up on her lone wolf aspects, it elaborated on Laura trying to understand the core of herself.  It showed Laura going back to nature on what could be considered a spirit quest of sorts.  This is something that contrasts well with her heavily science and cold sterile background, bringing forth amazing results and insight into the character's overall protectorate essence.  Phil Noto's artwork carries the issue throughout with an almost gritty emphasis without actually ever being grisly violent and helps give an amazing push on running with the pack while still standing as uniquely yourself.  It's an issue that can be read many times over and still come back with something new gleamed from within its pages as was common with much of the comic run written by Liu.

05. Songs of the Orphan Child part 4 (X-23 v3 issue 7)
This issue marked the prelude to Collision but is entirely self-contained.  The story was simply X-23 and Gambit trying to get to Madripoor and the adventure that ensued along the way.  It's Remy and Laura against pirates, but shows the strategic side of X-23.  Laura doesn't kill a single person in this issue even though she's literally thrown to the sharks.  It's an issue rich with symbolism and metaphors almost too many to list.  Every read through grants something new and interesting to ponder.  The artwork by Sana Takeda is phenomenal and helps carry the overall emotions conveyed with it's soft hues that compliment the narrative and symbolism within.  Another in the many simply astounding issues written by Marjorie Liu.

04. Misadventures in Babysitting (X-23 v3 issue 17-19)
The most normal thing X-23 has ever done.  Babysitting.  Okay it was for the Richards family and Valeria & Franklin are handfuls that even Jocasta of Avengers Academy or Emma Frost of the Xavier Institute would fear.  This story throws a simple normal teen moment on its head.  It shows us first hand how Laura has gotten over Hellion and why(simply put, he's a vain selfish self-obsessed arrogant bully), alongside giving us clear moments of exactly how scary she can be even without triggerscent involved.  Leaving much of the extreme violence off panel even helps illicit a frightening degree of questions like how tiny were the pieces she cut the Collector into that it incapacitated him that much and for that long.  The artwork carries the soft glowy hues that Sana Takeda became known for throughout the X-23 v3 run.  So when Laura went complete anger under this artwork and let her mama bear elements roar in a quiet stare of seeing red to protect the kids, it became some of the scariest panels ever drawn of X-23 outright.  Sana Takeda's artwork is some of the most brilliant art of X-23 and it's this subtle contrast of calmness and subtle emotional conveyance to ferocious force of nature that can really make you see why.  The verbal sparring between Gambit and Hellion at the start, alongside Gambit's commentary at the end while at the diner to pick X-23 up becomes icing on the cake that's already overflowing with greatness and jaw dropping moments.  The story is a throw back to classic Marvel, but with a modern twist.

03. Old Ghosts (X-Force v3 issues 7-10)
X-Force v3 is known for it's action and cinematic influences throughout.  The entire run plays out like a movie serial unto itself.  This one in particular had a rather powerful moment that caused fans to really care for Laura and her plight.  While during this mission they had to face clones Mr. Sinister had made of the Marauders.  The team treated them as mindless canon fodder rejects that had no right to live.  An element that caused X-23 to pause due to her own origin and reminded herself of all the subhuman treatment she's faced from Dr. Zander Rice because she was a "clone."  This story reflects how we treat others can have effects on those around us that may identify with what's being said from experiences in their own lives.  X-23 is not some simple clone or mindless attack dog, yet that's how she'd always been treated while growing up.  So seeing her own team treating others like this caused an interesting backslide moment as she risked sacrificing herself needlessly to complete the mission objective of destroying the Legacy Virus.  This allowed a powerful scene between her and another teammate that was trying to save her from herself.  It's a scene of such emotional impact that it easily lingers on in the minds of fans for years to come.  Granting it the number 3 slot on this list even.

02. Target X (X-23: Target X issues 1-6)
This being X-23's second origin miniseries but the one that more focused on who she is at heart subtly guaranteed that it would make this list.  It ranked pretty high because it's a universally loved story, problematic cliches and all (light bulb scene, it's both glorious and the biggest hindrance in the story).  It's got a Tarantino cinematic presence with how it's presented, but also yields a touching family dynamic and emotional story that plays on the heart strings with scenes that bring smiles.  The cinematic nature to the story helps evoke powerful imagery that stays with the reader and gives a comic superhero story without really being a superhero story.  It's more about character drive, family, growth, and protecting those you love.  It contains thought provoking elements that really help set the question of what is X-23.  Is she a child or is she a weapon?  How much of what she's done is really her fault?  It presents the quandary in a fashion that's symbolic on many levels with the characters chosen for the sides conveyed.  We have Matt Murdock, a blind man on one side who sees deeper than Steve Rogers, the patriotic Captain America who is on the other side at first.  There's so much within these pages that it's hard to know even where to start, and even if one tried to review it, you could still come back and find more within its pages you didn't see before.

01. Touching Darkness (X-23 v3 issues 10-12)
This one outright received the most fan praise, granting it the #1 slot across the board.  Universally, fans reacted to it as an endearing and heartwarming story.  This set sail the X-23 and Jubilee ship outright and gave readers a taste of high octane adventure, a simple yet character defining shopping moment with subtle situational humor, and helped push forward the more familial nature of the X-Men.  It also helped further develop the mystery woman seen previously during Collision.  What really makes it shine though are the subtle character defining moments.  The blossoming friendship between Laura and Jubilee comes across naturally, and yields amazing results in helping Laura find her voice.  The usages of real psychology within the pages also carries the point.  The shopping moment may seem simple and frivolous but it's an important element as finding one's style is another form of personal growth that helps a person define themselves.  It helps Laura start to find her voice and who she wants to be.  The moment is well handled as it isn't a forced gender stereotype but plays to each character's strengths and weaknesses.  We get to see a side of Gambit that's interesting and rare in comics as he tries to help Laura and is concerned for her.  He goes so far as to give her a birthday cupcake at the start that helps set the tone of the overall downtime as trying to give Laura a taste of normalcy with a birthday after a long tumultuous ordeal during Collision.  The artwork from Sana Takeda drives the issue and helps encapsulate the overall emotion well while also yielding a heart wrenching scene later as they deal with a mission about Triggerscent that leads to a powerful moment while Laura is under the influence of it.  The artwork plays beautifully to give an eeriness that helps the overall impact of the story.  Laura has friends, she has family.  They will not give up on her no matter what.  It's another crowning jewel in the Marjorie Liu run with the character.   It contains so much within so few pages that it still boggles the mind on why this comic didn't last for at least double what it did.

Did your favorite make the cut?  What moments stand out to you about X-23?

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