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Amadan

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Inherent Vice
Thomas Pynchon, Ron McLarty
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Five
Ellen Datlow, Laird Barron, Conrad Williams, Ramsey Campbell
Locus Solus (Alma Classics)
Raymond Roussel
Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)
Mira Grant, Paula Christensen, Michael Goldstrom
X-23 - Volume 1: The Killing Dream - Marjorie M. Liu, Will Conrad, David López This volume apparently is relatively late in the history of X-23, but it has a helpful summary of her history in the back, narrated by Wolverine, so now I know more or less what her story is.

The summary reminded me why I stopped reading X-Men way back when - every other issue introduces some new global conspiracy and a new recurring villain, and since villains never, ever die permanently in comics, 50 years later you have like a bazillion nemeses each of which is "The X-Men's greatest enemy!"

Anyway, basically this volume tells about X-23, the kill-happy little Wolverine clone in skin-tight low-rider leather pants, deciding she doesn't fit in with the X-Men and their New Mutant proteges, so she decides to strike out on her own to find herself or some such happy Kerouac bullshit.

Naturally, she stumbles into a secret underground desert laboratory which is actually controlled by one of the X-Men's "greatest enemies." You know, one of those greatest enemies who's supposedly dead but isn't.

Gambit is along for the ride, and there is lots of angst and bloodshed and a tiny bit of soul-searching as X-23, the born assassin raised to feel no empathy or morals walks around like a robotic killing machine with occasional flashes of conscience.

The story was typical late-series continuity sprawl, but you didn't really have to recognize all the players to follow it. X-23 is sometimes drawn as an ordinary teenage girl (with claws) but usually in skin-tight stripperware.

It's the skintight rubber corsets and shit that annoyed me the most about this volume. Every. Single. Female. Character. Yes, yes, I know, it's not like this is new. Chicks have always been scantily clad, pneumatic, and immune to gravity in comic books. But it was so over-the-top here. Why would a female clone of a super-macho supervillain mastermind walk around in short-shorts, half-corset, high-heeled boots and a cowboy hat? I mean, really? Has the entire Marvel Universe become Stripperworld?

From "X023: The Killing Dream" photo X-23MsSinister_zps36e95306.jpeg

Even the fourteen-year-old boys who are being pandered to here should be able to tell that they're being pandered to.

So, the other thing I found a little bit dismaying was the buckets of blood. Now, I'm not one of those nannies who is a fan of the 50s era Comics Code Authority. But for the longest time, it was an ironclad rule in comics that Superheroes Do Not Kill. When a hero did actually kill someone, it was a Very Big Deal. That loosened up a bit starting in the 80s, but I think it was appropriate that you had this very clear moral line, with consequences. Wolverine was massively popular in part because he actually broke that code, regularly, and yet, you rarely saw him actually killing someone (and usually Marvel would punt and say that those mooks he carved up weren't really dead after all).

In contrast, X-23 goes through this book cutting down bad guys right and left. Blood and guts everywhere. And she has a few conversations with Gambit about it, but ultimately they're both kind of "Meh, some folks need killing."

This is a stark contrast with X-Men comics of old. Given that even the mainstream X-Men seem to have less qualms about deadly force, I guess I'm just a bit unsettled that the comics kids are reading today show superheroes who are basically okay with bloodbaths.

That's it, you can punch my Old Fogey card, I am officially complaining about Kids Today and the Decline of the Media.

But while I'm grinding this axe, apparently X-23's origin includes a "cutting" phase ('cause she was angsty) and some time being pimped out on the street. Okay, that's just gratuitous angst-porn.

So, X-23 seems like a character who could be interesting, if not terribly original (she is a clone, after all), this lost kid who was created to be an unfeeling assassin and has to figure out how to hold onto her humanity. But at least as executed in this volume, it's mostly sulk, brood, and slash. Very meh 2.5 stars.