Stew’s Reviews: X-23 – Chaos Theory
As I write this, my cat is chewing on the HDMI cable to the television.
I mean… I don’t LET him. I stomp and yell at him, and he stops for a second and looks at me, but he just goes right back to it once I stop glaring at him. It’s a really weird behavior, as he is almost three years old, I had hoped he’d have grown out of this by now, but nope. He chews on EVERYTHING. Like a damn puppy. You should see my older shoes; he has obliterated them. Chewed the earpiece on the frame of my glasses. We’ve replaced several HDMI and other cables in our house. Chester is just an incessant chewer. He loves my shoes so much that on more days that not, he has pulled one or two of them up the stairs from our main floor to at least the landing between floors. We’ve never seen him do it—the shoes are just there when we wake up in the morning—but they ain’t walking on their own. And they are all sad and gnawed upon.
What? What’s that? Comic books? No, that doesn’t feel right. I’m pretty sure this is where I come to discuss my cats.
TITLE: X-23: Chaos Theory
Writer and Artist: Marjorie Liu, San Takeda, and Phil Noto
Protagonists: X-23, Jubilee, Wolverine, Gambit, the Future Foundation
Antagonists: A demon. And some smells.
All right, fine. We can talk comic books. But only for one reason…
You may have missed the INCREDIBLY SUBTLE foreshadowing last week, and in case you did, I’ll state the obvious right away for you: It’s a Jubilee comic review! WOW has there been a delay here. The last comic I reviewed with my favorite irrationally beloved character was… volume 13? Can that be right? And I didn’t even mention her much there. I am a bad person and am full of regret.
I had actually mentioned this comic way back in volume 7 or so when I noted that I had but one X-23 trade that I owned, and it was strictly because Jubilee featured in it, so… callback! This volume starts off with a story that sees an increasingly suicidal and depressed Laura despondent over her life as a killer while in Gambit’s care. She has resorted to self-harm as a coping mechanism and runs away in fear when Gambit asks why she has blood on her hand. When Remy finds her, she has a moment of blind rage that sees her lash out at him. Later that night, she intends to run off while he is asleep, but this is right as Wolverine comes to visit… with Jubilee in tow.
From there, the first arc of this trade is all about the friendship that forms between Jubilee and Laura. One was a relatively normal girl, albeit a superhero, who became a monster against her will; the other was born a monster against her will and is trying to become a relatively normal girl, albeit a superhero. X-23 doesn’t initially care much for Jubilee, but they bond in fairly short order and form a tight connection. They also have brief brawl (because this IS comic books) after X is subjected to a trigger scent that sends her into a rage, but the arc ends with their having forged a strong partnership of trust and admiration.
Before I had read this comic, I had seen a lot online (fanart and the like) regarding the Jubilee/X-23 relationship, and I thought it was a bit more detailed and lengthy than it really is—there’s a just a few issues with Jubilation—but Liu does a terrific job making them feel inseparable. Jubilee here is back to her rambunctious, endlessly optimistic self, and it’s exactly what Laura needs to balance her angst and moodiness. I would like to see more books bring these two together. Ever since Jubilee has had Shogo in her life, I’m not sure these two have crossed paths. A shame.
It’s not ALL about Jubilee, though (for some reason), as the second story in the span that makes up this trade sees Laura working with the Future Foundation (the Fantastic Four – Human Torch + Spider-Man + white costumes) to fight some… inter dimensional demon? With the help of the Captain Universe enigma force? And X-23 becomes Captain Universe? I don’t know… it’s not really the best. And it feels really out-of-place following the character and angst driven story that comes before it. These two stories just don’t belong in such close proximity. It’s also a relatively confusing story with a lot of people popping up and nothing making sense (for example, Sue Storm, Spider-Man, and X-23 are all magically transported to another dimension where they are quickly killed, then they talk to the Enigma Force for a bit instead of being dead, and then they wake up back in the Baxter Building in the middle of a fight). It’s not great, it feels entirely rushed and thrown together, and… like I said, it’s just out of place.
The Future Foundation arc also features a new artist, as Sana Takeda gives way to Phil Noto. Takeda’s art is marvelous; very anime inspired with painting-esque colorization. It combines soft, smooth features with devastating bloody and visceral action sets. Tremendous work. Noto, meanwhile is not bad by any stretch, but he’s a very basic comic book artist. Relatively nondescript in almost every way, but that’s not a detriment. He has some good attention to detail, and—as I noted—there’s nothing about his work that I would quantify as a flaw, but he feels like a drop-off from Takeda’s breath-taking work. I would honestly be praising his work if not for Takeda preceding him.
Talking Point: You might think this is going to be about Jubilee, and perhaps it should be. Perhaps they ALL SHOULD BE. But not today. What are some of your favorite Captain Universe iterations and stories?
Tale of two stories, this. This first arc, based around Laura and Jubilee with the gorgeous Sana Takeda artwork is a beautiful, character-driven delight juxtaposing two characters in similar situations but with different outlooks. The second is a bit out of place and feels like a forced crossover. The Jubilee team-up is more good than the Future Foundation is bad, though, so… I’ll round up. Honestly? Probably not an arc to read in a vacuum unless you are a big fan of the guest stars, but a decent book regardless.