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Mar 23

X-23 #7-10: “X-Assassin”

Posted on Saturday, March 23, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

X-23 is always going to lend itself to stories about identity.  You’ve got Laura herself, the emotionally scarred hero grown and raised in the lab, and then you’ve got her clone Gabby, who’s literally a younger version of the same character, but diverted at an earlier stage and inappropriately gleeful.  The nature versus nurture thing is kind of built in, and it comes up a lot.

And here’s another one.  Mariko Tamaki and Diego Olortegui’s “X-Assassin” sees our heroes capture a mysterious assassin who turns out to be another clone, except a mute, seemingly soulless one.

That’s not a bad idea, as far as another spin on the theme goes.  Genetically, Laura and Gabby are identical, but with seemingly different personalities.  Here’s another version, but with no personality at all.  The main interest here lies in how Laura and Gabby respond to that. Laura either sees this clone as just a soulless weapon, or at least prefers not to contemplate the alternative.  Gabby, in contrast, immediately accepts her as another “sister”, and sets about trying to bring out her personality – in which she makes slender progress over the course of the four issues, before the assassin clone naturally does her heroic sacrifice in the final issue.

Diego Olortegui’s art works well for the story; he gets Gabby and Laura’s personalities across, and the cyborg has a suitably glassy-eyed vibe to her, even when she is starting to interact with the others.  There are some great layouts for the key action sequences, too.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Art Adams, and there’s a nice sense of controlled chaos in the scenes that need to be crowded.

Where this story kind of loses me is with the actual bad guy.  We’re back to Dr Chandler, the evil scientist from Taylor’s All-New Wolverine run, who had a hand in making Gabby.  (This story also tries to credit him with being involved in Laura’s creation, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t in the original story, but I guess you can make him a former Facility scientist too.)  Having run into trouble with the previous plan of making fully-formed clones of Laura, he’s decided that the best plan is disposable, damaged clones that aren’t as independent or powerful, and are designed to conk out after a while, but make up for it with a combination of cyborg implants and weight of numbers.

Chandler is a straightforward moustache-twirling bad guy of a standard type for X-23 villains: the amoral scientist who doesn’t particularly care about the implications of making living people as tools.  And sure, outright commodifying them makes sense as an extension of that.  But Chandler himself isn’t all that interesting, because he’s so one dimensional.  That’s not a problem when he’s there for other characters to react to – a certain facelessness is no bad thing where evil corporations are concerned – but he’s a bit too pantomime to be very compelling in his own right.

And for much of the time, this story does seem to be setting him up as something for Laura and Gabby to react to.  The thing is that Laura’s reaction is the more intriguing one, yet it doesn’t really go anywhere.  Most of the focus is on Gabby, but Gabby does the fairly obvious thing: she tries to bond with the clone and treat it as a human being.  That’s conventional heroic behaviour, and so it’s what you’d expect from her.  The clone herself, by the nature of the plot, only gets to display flashes of personality, which again boil down to rebelling against her creator and sacrificing herself to destroy him – but again, what do you expect?  I suppose part of the idea is that all versions of Laura, however compromised, will eventually turn on their creators.  Except if that’s the idea, it’s undermined by the fact that there’s a horde of them in this story, and most of them don’t turn at all.

Laura’s response is more interesting: she treats the clone more as a practical problem and doesn’t want to think of the clone as a version of her.  Even though we’ve seen her willingly accept her other clones as people, she seems to draw the line at this one – or perhaps just won’t allow herself to think too closely about someone who’s as different from her as Gabby is, but in the other direction towards dysfunctionality.

But this thread doesn’t really come to anything very satisfying.  It’s not like Laura comes round to talking about the clone as a person – that’s all rendered largely academic for her.  And she was determined to go after the bad guys already.  So it becomes an interesting notion that’s placed on the table, but isn’t particularly followed up.  Instead, it’s the more predictable elements that wind up providing the climax.

This is fine.  It just feels like it missed an opportunity to do more.

Bring on the comments

  1. Thom H. says:

    Sad to see this post not get any comments. Maybe everyone else is feeling the reboot fatigue now that Hickman’s X-Men projects have been announced? I know I am.

    I was starting to get into the new Uncanny, which feels totally undercut by the newest new direction. I assume that book is going by the wayside once Hickman comes aboard — along with a raft of secondary titles, as well.

    Anyway, now this review has a comment so mission accomplished! 🙂

  2. Voord 99 says:

    It is odd. Maybe you’re right — maybe this was the reboot that broke the commenter’s back.

    I find the Hickman news interesting but not necessarily enticing. In some ways, it’s a a tediously obvious move. Bendis: The Sequel —take someone who’s been your big name, but hasn’t done the X-Men yet.

    But Hickman has so far been a somewhat un-X-Men sort of writer in everything I’ve read by him: he likes his big concepts and isn’t terribly into the soap opera. He was considered successful with the FF, which is traditionally a “soap” sort of book, but it’s also a “big ideas” sort of book (which, personally, I think is more important to it).

    On the other hand, I think there’s a definite case that the X-books need could use an approach that doesn’t depend on nostalgia for the character relationships of the past as the main thing that’s supposed to give the story interest for the reader.

  3. Chris V says:

    I am quite interested in Hickman taking over on X-Men.
    Unlike Brian Bendis, I love pretty well everything that Hickman has done in comics. I find Bendis to be terribly over-rated, and that he’s almost totally lost on team books.

    I look at what Hickman did on Fantastic Four and Avengers, and I think Hickman could give us the best interpretation of X-Men since Grant Morrison.
    Morrison’s run on X-Men involved a lot more science fiction elements, something that Hickman excelled at with FF and Avengers.

    Morrison likes the post-modernist conceit of heavily referencing and reinterpreting classic earlier works on different characters, however.

    We saw a lot of commentary and referencing to earlier X-Men stories from Morrison’s run.
    I don’t think we’ll need to have to see that with a Hickman run, which as Voord says, could signal this “revamp” taking a new approach to what seems to be a tired and worn-out franchise.

  4. Jerry Ray says:

    I find Hickman’s stuff to be about as interesting as reading a really complicated flowchart, with just as much warmth and personality. His Avengers and FF runs didn’t have a whole lot of resemblance to the Avengers or the FF to me, and the ideas are so big and sprawling that I honestly have a hard time relating or caring.

    Plus, we’re still in the early stages of setting up a new X-Men status quo. Are they seriously going to do a 10-issue “event” lead-in, then spin off into an alternate reality for a few dozen issues, and by the time all that wraps up, have Hickman come in and do something completely different?

    Sounds like Hickman’s in for two twice-monthly limited series with the possibility of more after that. (I guess 12 issues each, running concurrently for 6 months?) And “Powers of X” is pronounced “Powers of 10”? That’s oh-so-punchable right off the bat, isn’t it?

    I dunno, put me down as pessimistic, yet still somehow shocked by the degree to which nobody is actually steering the ship at Marvel.

  5. Rybread says:

    @Jerry Ray

    You’ve perfectly articulated exactly my issue with much of Hickman’s output – yes, he is masterful at creating intricate, sprawling storylines driven by big ideas, but they have as much heart as a excel sheet.

    And it’s discouraging that we’re still in the midst of Rosenberg’s “gathering of the team” arc and now we know that’s about as far as it will get before a new creative team comes in and changes course. And the idea of Scott’s hit list (for lack of a better term) was mildly interesting. But alas, we know that storyline will never be seen through to completion now,

  6. Voord 99 says:

    Are they seriously going to do a 10-issue “event” lead-in, then spin off into an alternate reality for a few dozen issues, and by the time all that wraps up, have Hickman come in and do something completely different?

    Yes, they really are.

    And I’m afraid it’s less surprising than not doing so would have been. This is the “reboot fatigue” that Thom H. mentioned. There have always been shifts in the status quo, and there have to be. But the pace at which they have been happening has accelerated markedly, to the point where I think it’s become a problem.

    One of the possible upsides of Hickman is that there is a record of him being interested in playing out stories over the long term *and* actually being allowed to do it. If that’s what he’s planning to do here, there’s a chance that the X-books as a whole will actually be allowed to maintain stability for a little while. Of course, all that’s been announced (AFAIK) are two miniseries*, and it’s not at all clear that Hickman has any intention of sticking around.

    *Well, they sound like miniseries, and I can’t be bothered hunting through Marvel’s press releases to see if that’s official or not.

  7. Chris V says:

    It seems like Marvel simply wanted to do something to keep the mainstream X-Men book going while they did their little alternate universe big event special.
    I don’t think Marvel ever had any real interest in sticking with Rosenberg’s run. It seems like a busy exercise.

    I don’t know. I have been enjoying Rosenberg’s run, but the whole “doom and gloom”, mutants are already nearly extinct, “humans hate us more than ever” shtick gets so wearying.
    If Hickman moves the book somewhere closer to what Morrison was doing, I can’t say I’ll miss another rerun of “how much worse can it get for the X-Men?”.

  8. Thom H. says:

    I didn’t realize Hickman’s books were being released as mini-series. Interesting. Regardless, this is how Marvel is officially marketing them:

    “We are excited to have Jon back with the Marvel family, and we could not have asked for a better creative team to help usher the X-Men into a whole new era,” said Marvel Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski. “While we can’t reveal too much about the story just yet. These new stories will redefine the X-Men and their place in the Marvel Universe. This is a historic moment both new and passionate fans won’t want to miss.”

    So, minis or not, Hickman’s series are being used to relaunch the franchise. I can’t imagine Marvel would want to have Roserberg’s Uncanny running alongside that.

    I assume Rosenberg will be allowed to tie up all the loose ends he’s created (e.g., New Mutants infected with the technorganic virus) before that book ends. Maybe that was the point of the relaunched Uncanny all along?

  9. Voord 99 says:

    To clarify: I don’t know that they’re miniseries.

    I’m just going on the assumption that you wouldn’t name them “House of X” and “Power of X” if you didn’t want retailers and readers to think of them as miniseries, but would announce that Hickman was going to be writing books with “X-Men” in the name.

    That House of X and Power of X are supposed to relaunch the line is clear, as you say. What these sound like are two interlocking big event miniseries, and then the plan is to relaunch with the predictable oversaturation of ongoings at the end.

    The whole issue of what is and what isn’t an ongoing versus a miniseries does admittedly get a bit theological in the era of rapid reboots, new ongoing series started with the expectation of cancellation after 6 issues, and so on.

  10. Chris V says:

    It seems like Marvel is in panic mode, because the sales figures just aren’t going where they hope.

    It’s hard to accept a “new era” for characters, when they seem to have a new direction every six to twelve months.
    I’m unsure that Marvel actually understands the definition of an “era”.

  11. Jerry Ray says:

    Some new info out today confirms that they’re miniseries. Some old stuff from the original announcement said “minis with an option to continue” but it was a little buried.

  12. Ben says:

    I mean in regards to this X-23 arc itself, it was just aggressively forgettable. I agree totally with the review. I’m not sure it was really interesting enough to comment on.

    In regards to the current and upcoming direction of the X-Books…

    The whole thing is just exhausting and disappointing.

  13. mark coale says:

    It will likely be interesting, but I’d rather see Hickman doing other stuff there than the x-books.

  14. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    It’s the x-line, so I hope there’ll be five other books other then the Hickman titles where I’ll find some decent characterization, dialogue and emotions.

    (To be fair, Thor’s last stand against the Beyonders is brilliant and there were two or three nice bits with Sunspot and Cannonball, but that’s about it for me in the characterization, dialogue and emotion categories in the Hickman Avengers run).

  15. Moo says:

    “It’s somewhat reminiscent of Art Adams”

    Ahhh… great memories. Is he still doing stuff for Marvel?

  16. SanityOrMadness says:


    I think he’s doing some covers here & there. (He did X-Men Blue covers for a bit)

  17. Chris V says:

    As far as Hickman and characterization, I would agree that it could be lacking from the Avengers.
    However, I’d say there were a number of very good uses of characterization and emotion during his FF run.

    I remember the story about Thing in the future being immortal, and what a desolate feeling that story gave me.
    It made me want to cry.
    It was a really powerful story.

    That was just the most obvious example from his FF.

    So, it’s not that Hickman can’t write captivating characterization.

  18. Al says:

    Adams is still doing a bunch of covers for Marvel; he did the War of Realms wraparound cover this week, for instance.

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