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Hugh Likes Comics: X-23

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X-23 #1
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Drawn by Juann Cabal
Colored by Nolan Woodard
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics

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The Skinny: Laura and Gabby are back in a new comic with an old name.

I fell in love with Tom Taylor’s take on Laura Kinney, and was sad when All-New Wolverine ended, only to be rebranded with the character’s original hero name, X-23. I picked up the first issue with a bit of apprehension, but Mariko Tamaki’s story is still character-focused and full of heart, and it is going in some very interesting directions.
Laura is the clone of Logan, the original Wolverine. She was created to be a weapon. Recently, she met her sister Gabby, a younger clone of herself created for the same purpose. Now they’re out in the world, hunting down the rogue operations like the ones that created them. But their operations may put them into conflict with Laura’s old acquaintances, and fellow clones, the Stepford Cuckoos.
Stories about clones are stories about what it means to be human. They are also often, in the case of movies like “Blade Runner,” about people forced to deal with things that they are not prepared for, children in adult bodies. Tamaki has this down pat, picking Laura and Gabby up where Taylor left them and putting them in a situation they can’t cut their way out of. She very elegantly shows her understanding of the two leads personalities and puts her own spin on them. Taylor’s Gabby was light, silly, a spot of comic relief with the barest hint of the shadow a comic like “Wolverine” calls for. Tamaki carries all that over, but also zeroes in on the concept of Gabby as a child, and Laura as a young woman, barely out of her teens, thrust into the role of caregiver. It leads to some really nice moments that deepen both characters.
Juann Cabal, who worked on All-New Wolverine, does a great job on pencils, and Woodard’s coloring is excellent. Particularly the way he colors Gabby, with little cartoonish spots of color to highlight her changing moods. I also liked the conceit that the art hanging in the X-Mansion is all based on classic X-Men covers. It added some fun little background details for long-time fans.
X-23 #1is on sale now at your Local Comics Shop or available digitally from Comixology. It’s a great place to jump on if you missed All-New Wolverine, and a welcome return for fans of Laura and Gabby.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Wolverine

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Wolverine

Written by Chris Claremont
Drawn by Frank Miller
Published by Marvel Comics

Love him or hate him, Wolverine is one of the most popular and exposed characters in Marvel’s stable of heroes.  And with the publisher set to kill him for a while, I thought it was time to take a look at the limited series that really cemented his character.
It’s easy to see why this comic was so groundbreaking.  Right off the bat, it establishes Wolverine as a much darker, more badass character than his taciturn, volatile persona on the X-Men.  This is Wolverine in his element, and that means hunting bears and fighting hordes of ninja.  After spending some time in the deep woods of Canada, Logan discovers that his letters to his girlfriend, Japanese dignitary Mariko Yashida have been returned unopened, and that she has left the US.  Wolverine follows her to back to Japan.  There, he discovers that her father, a presumed deceased crime lord, has returned, and that Mariko has been married to one of his lieutenants.
After being rolled by Yashida in a fight which would have killed him if not for his mutant powers, Logan is rescued by Yukio, a hedonistic assassin who is playing games of her own.
“Wolverine” is Claremont writing at the peak of his craft.  Unrestrained by the team dynamic and superhero tropes of the ongoing X-Men comic, he really digs down into Wolverine’s character.  This isn’t just four-color antics, but a rich, pulpy story about honor, appearances, and the nuances of a world shaded in gray.  And being drawn by a Frank Miller just coming into his own as an artist elevates the comic to a classic.
Delivering a gritty comic is harder than taking a cape and rolling in the mud for a little bit.  It’s something that has to be carefully structured.  The pieces all need to support each other in a way that the reader both can believe and doesn’t expect.  “Wolverine” delivers by revealing a deeper, darker world in the periphery of one the reader already knows.  It shows a midnight underworld hidden behind an upstanding daylight face.  And it does it beautifully.  Miller’s Japan is a labyrinth of towering yet indistinct skyscrapers, with scores of ninja hiding in every alley.  It echoes and reinforces the script beautifully.  Miller echoes seminal Japanese artist Goseki Kojima in this story of corruption hiding within the Yashida clan’s adherence to tradition, and one warrior willing to abandon all pretexts to expose the truth.
In graphic story telling, especially when a writer and an artist are both masters of their craft, the finished product can seem at odds with itself.  The words can be sharp and engaging.  The art can be beautiful, but they need to work together to properly tell a story like this.  Here, Claremont and Miller’s efforts are a synthesis that is greater than the whole of its parts.
The Wolverine is available from Amazon, Comixology, or your local comic shop.