May 23, 2008 at 4:01 pm (Comics Issue #427) (, )

Guys, guys I am like. I do not even know how excited I am! It was the X-Force preview that did me in this time. Check it out on ComicsContinuum.com (or wherever you check this kind of stuff out). I can wait.

Wait, no I can’t.

See, when Yost & Kyle (or whoever did that Newsarama interview) said they wanted Warpath and Wolverine to have a father-son relationship, I was upset, because I kind of wanted that for X-23–she’s long been one of my favorite characters, and I really wanted to see her interact a little with Wolverine on a family level, since…they kind of are, at least genetically. So when it looked like they were leaving out X-23 my hopes for the title (and her!) plummeted.

And then I read this preview. And my fears were washed away, because–in those six pages, I swear I am so an X-23 fangirl again, omg, and and and I can’t wait until I’m in a place where I can buy comics regularly!

See, in my view of X-23 the central conflict to her is between X-23–and Laura. What I mean is, it’s between how she’s been raised to be a weapon, how being a weapon is in her very nature, versus her desire (or people pushing her to be) a normal person. To be Laura Kinney. And she’s been trying to do it, she has, what with her making tentative friends with Mercury and her crushing on Hellion, but X-Force really felt like a step back for her, in terms of that conflict–like she was embracing her inhuman side, rather than straining for her humanity. I thought it was kind of like her giving up on trying to be normal, that it was too hard so she fell back on something familiar–being a weapon and a killer. I hoped to see a little of Wolverine struggle with that, because she’s a living reminder of his own past, so how does he deal with trying to push her in the direction to becoming more like him–savage, a fighter and a killer, but not one without conscience, compassion, and emotion.

I’m projecting a lot onto these six pages and I hope it lives up to my hype (AND I HOPE I CAN READ IT SOME DAY A;DLFJAD PLEASE) but anyway. So, that was my view. The X-23 I had seen so far in the preview for X-Force didn’t seem to be holding up to it–well, holding up to the “she’s a weapon again whoo” side, but not really…the complexity I wanted to see, between her and Wolverine. I wondered why he didn’t fight harder for her to not be on X-Force, even if she was one of the best candidates (I mean, if he’s the best, she’s gotta be second best only to him.). So I was a little disappointed but hoping for something better. This preview? Was that something better.

First, the dispassionate voice, the way she talks about her past like it was acceptable. YES, so very yes, because she doesn’t really know any other kind of life than the one they gave her–yes, she had that time with Kinney’s family (in Target X) and then with the New X-Men (in New X-Men), but…those are just experience, they’re not really upbringing, and at both she was still targeted by the Facility and forced to face the fact that she was so good at killing people, other people were killing to kill people to get her back so she could…go kill more people. So that wasn’t honestly a chance for her to experience being with real people because she always had to be looking over her shoulder (note that going to Sarah Kinney’s remaining family is a sign of her wanting a real life, I thought. Even though she knew it was dangerous for them, she wanted that sense of…normality. Of humanity.).

Anyway, back on track. So the voice–yes, yes, very yes. The way she views Cyclops as just another Facility (albeit a better one? One that doesn’t brutalize her? I’m not sure she really understands the sticky morality and ethical issues behind a man like him asking her to do this for him). And the way she can’t understand why everyone is so focused on Rahne; it’s not in her mission parameters! Emotion clouds judgment! The mission is in danger! And she’s never really been taught that there are more important things than the mission, sometimes. It really speaks volumes about her real disconnect from normal reactions, thoughts, and feelings. It really draws the line between her and Wolverine! I’ve heard people complain about her being too like Wolverine. BULLSHIT. That exchange proves she isn’t some carbon copy–Wolverine would not react like that. He’d beat himself up about letting Rahne get captured and nearly killed, and then he go kill the bastards that did it. But he would have the guilt, he would get that the mission is now more personal, he would have that sense of “hurt one of mine and I will hurt YOU” because he has the ability to feel compassion, to feel that anger, to make those connections with other people, and to use it in conjunction with completing a mission. X-23 doesn’t, or if she does, she doesn’t get what she’s feeling and how to take her emotion and tie it back into her mission.

And then her exchange for Wolverine! It’s obvious Wolverine doesn’t quite get her either–I think he’s trying to explain his emotional state (because that’s not how she was raised to think of him as; note that she calls him Weapon X), but he’s doing with the assumption she has the same context as he does for regretting the loss of hope and innocence, assuming that she understands what those words mean and why they are precious. But she doesn’t. And I think–I think the reason he gets angry at her is because he remembers being like her, once upon a time, and it scares the shit out of him because he’s facing what he fears he was/may become/may be forced to be, and he doesn’t know how to deal with that. He doesn’t know how to teach her, how to help her; his own friends have aided him in finding his way back to himself and his humanity, but he doesn’t know how they have done it, he doesn’t know how to do that for X-23. And this is combined with his sense of guilt over Rahne’s injuries, I think. He feels responsible. X-23’s words struck a cord about how Rahne should’ve known better than to get captured. And the combination of all that is why he lashes out. He doesn’t know what else to do! Doesn’t know how to make her understand, how to teach her the value of hope and innocence. Doesn’t know how to face what is essentially a reflection of his darker past. His tirade about how Rahne is worth more than himself or X-23? Yeah. It reveals a lot about him–about how he feels that he has done so much wrong that he can never atone. X-23 is like an embodiment of that; she was created because he’s such a good killing machine, a little bit of him raised to become that soulless killer that he fears he has been, will become, really is. I think if he was little more in right mind he may not have lost his temper and included X-23, though. He did defend her when Captain America came calling, back in Target X, right? I think he must have hope that she has a chance. Though maybe he lost it, when she joined X-Force without a fuss despite him offering her a way out (back to trying to be Laura Kinney)…

I notice he does continue to refer to her as X-23, despite knowing her name. I think he has a hard time ascribing her with an identity of her own, really. I mean, he could use Talon (though I don’t really like that as her codename; what is a talon but the weapon of a raptor? Wolverine may be the name of a savage beast, but at least it’s a whole animal, autonomous, capable of its own thoughts and desires and goals. Unlike a talon.) or maybe even Laura. But no, he uses her old Facility designation. She seems to think of him by his Weapon X designation…uh, Weapon X. I think the day they can use each other’s real names (or personally chosen codenames, at least) will be a breakthrough in their relationship. We’ll see.

This dichotomy between Wolverine and X-23 is exactly why I like her, why I know she’s not just Wolverine’s teenage twin sister. Because whenever Wolvering gets brainwashed or whatever into a killing machine–it’s like he’s a rubber band. Logan is his relaxed circle shape, his normal, true human self. Whenever his mind is altered, that rubber band stretches, stretches, stretches–but he can always snap back. He has something to snap back to, and friends who are willing to jar him out of his stretched shape long enough for him to become himself again. X-23…X-23 is like a rubber band that’s been cut. She’s been stretched, stretched, stretched, pulled right out of shape–but when she has a chance to snap back–what does she snap back to? The process of her rubber band going slack and becoming herself is also the process of figuring out just what herself is, of figuring out what shape she ought to be. I always thought putting her with the New X-Men was cool to watch but really boneheaded of Cyclops. X-23 doesn’t need to know what regular teenage life is–she needs to know what morality is, what sexuality is, what age of consent means, why the mission is not always the most important thing–she needs to learn what love is, what hate is, what emotions are and why sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad–she needs to have a societal, emotional context for interacting with people as something other than a target, handler, or colleague in killing. The New X-Men can’t give her that, but an older X-Man can. Not even necessarily Wolverine (though I suspect he’d be best; his circumstances are closest to her own, after all), but someone who’s been there, who knows enough about morality and sexuality and emotions and the lines that blur between them all, who has enough experience to make up for the fact that her life has been nothing but grey places. If you’ve read the webcomic Digger, I see X-23 as like the Shadowchild. She needs a Digger. She doesn’t have one yet.

Uh, back to the preview analysis. I’m on the third page now (what, only the third?) but I’m nearly done. The way X-23 slouches when Warpath walks Wolverine off. Like she knows she’s done something wrong, but can’t figure out what (how much do I love that Wolverine’s legs flail in the air when Warpath hauls him off the ground and away from X-23? Shorty!).

I’m glad to see that Kyle & Yost included her self-harm. Because it’s canon, and really–I’ve always wondered what it meant. Obviously nothing good about her mental state…but for now, it’s a great way of expressing how much difficulty she has dealing with the dichotomy of X-23 vs. Laura. The cutting plus the repetition of “I do not understand” is beautiful. It gets across her despair and confusion and uncertainty and sense that I’m doing something wrong, but what? so well. She’s trying to atone, without know what she’s atoning for.

There’s hope for her, I know there is. She knows there’s something for her to learn. But will she reach for it or shy away? It’s tough to rewire your entire view of the world for something as nebulous as emotion, as hope and faith, when you have been raised to believe both are the antithesis to your only purpose in the world. Even harder when just holding on the old ways of thinking is so much easier than trying to consciously change yourself.

And all of this? Is why X-23 is one of my favorite characters ever.


1 Comment

  1. Mel said,

    I 100% agree with everything you just said. You just put into english words everything that makes me (myself) love X-23, and Yost, and Marvel in general. Logan is the embodiment of what everything the X-Men are and what the healing power of common goal, family and love can do. Laura is the Wolverine-in-progress. And the fact that she’s a girl I think also adds to her character depth and the enourmous fanbase she has because it brings the female fans into the picture of the universality of the X-Men message that Wolverine might put them off to. Kudos!

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