I hadn’t realized when I started reading “X-23” that it was tying, in part, to Jason Aaron’s new “Wolverine” series. Here’s the great thing about “X-23,” though: You don’t need to have that knowledge in advance. The change in Wolverine’s status quo is a major plot point of this opening storyline for “X-23,” but it wasn’t until this afternoon that I discovered that it wasn’t an idea that Liu was running with entirely on her own.
Then again, in general, that’s how Liu treats writing “X-23.” It’s very carefully positioned as taking place in the now of the “X-Men” line of books, with sly references to the various events that have happened recently, but at the same time there’s absolutely nothing you need to know in advance. This is ultimately how continuity should be handled; it exists, but it’s not in your face or forcing you to read other books in order to figure out what the heck is going on.
As for the story, Liu’s done an excellent job of making Laura an interesting protagonist, and showing her past relationship with Wolverine as a father/daughter pairing that has some real emotion and substance to it. There’s a lot of care and thought put into these characters and how they interact, and this is quite possibly the first time I’ve found X-23 to be an interesting character in general. As her situation goes from bad to worse, there’s simultaneously an undercurrent of both hope and despair woven into the storyline, and that’s no easy feat. After yanking the new set-up from #1 out from under our feet, you feel like anything can happen in “X-23” and I like it.
Will Conrad’s art reminds me, strangely, of a softer and gentler version of Steve Dillon’s work on books like “Preacher.” Conrad draws a lot of head shots in this issue, and in such an expressive and interesting way that it helps move the plot forward by giving us a glimpse into everyone’s emotional makeup. When the big confrontation finally shows up around the two-thirds mark, Conrad’s art has made it feel that much more tense and inevitable.
“X-23” reminds me, above all else, that there’s no such thing as a bad character. All it takes is the right creative team to tackle them and make them interesting. I’ll freely admit I never thought an “X-23” ongoing series would look interesting, but Liu and Conrad have ably proven me wrong. This is an instance that I don’t mind being proven wrong.