X-23: Innocence Lost – review

Posted: February 12, 2017 in comics
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This is a review that I should have written a long time ago as this is the book that got me back into reading ‘Marvel’ after many years reading Image, Top Cow and 2000ad publications.  Maybe it was the idea of a strong female character that has flaws and a dark side that appealed to me much. The character of X-23 was slightly reminiscent of the lead females in the Top Cow publications Witchblade and Aphrodite IX which I had been reading at the time. Whatever it was that drew me to the story, I am so happy I gave it a read as none of the magic has diminished over the years.
The story tells the beginnings of the character X-23 and shows how she was raised to be a killing machine, a monster for the government. It’s a far darker story then I was previously used to from Marvel as it touches on some important mental issues while focusing on the darker more sinister side of human nature. The story’s portrayal of some of these issues is far more realistic then the usual superhero fluff, with some of them making the reader truly think and question what’s happening. It’s quite a bleak story with very little in the way of brightness at the end of the 6 issue tunnel. If anything, it gets progressively darker as it progresses to its unforgettably powerful climax.  Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost have created a stunningly well written story that packs so much into the six issues that it’s very hard to fault.  The pacing of the story is carried across with an almost film-like quality to its flow. It balances the deep character driven story with some truly stunning action set pieces in an astonishingly well written way.
The characters are as equally well crafted, each with a purpose driving them forward in the story. This allows for some true emotion to run through the pages that never feels forced or out of place. I’d argue that our lead character of the story isn’t as one would expect X-23. Instead it’s more about Dr Sarah Kinney and her observations and feelings towards her daughter. The story is told from her point of view, from the point of view of a mother watching her daughter being crafted into a monster. The narration feels much like it is directed at X-23 with Kinney explaining the reasons for what’s been done to her and how truly sorry she is.  Seeing the story through Kinney’s eyes adds so much emotion and power to what’s going on, it’s hard not to get caught up into her pain and suffering.
X-23/Laura Kinney is such a brilliant character. This being her first solo series it was made to turn her into a strong relatable individual and in that it succeeds. Prior to this she made her first appearance in the ‘X-men Evolutions’ animated series, with her first comic debut in issue 3 of the series ‘NYX’. She made such an impression in these two small appearances that it was only natural for Marvel to try her out in her own series.  One of the things I truly love about her is how she’s been crafted from a mental stand point. She murders people because she’s told to but she at heart knows it wrong. Since she was born, she has been manipulated into this monstrosity and there is little she can do to escape it. It’s a side of human psychology that isn’t often touched on in this amount of detail in mainstream comics. The people in the labs see her as this monster they can use when at heart she is a troubled teenage girl struggling with real issues and some quite deep depression. She feels so fleshed out and three-dimensional that she could easily be based on a real person.
Before reading this, I had never read a comic where I had felt that almost all of the characters could be real people. If you got away with the claws, X-23 could easily be a person that would perfectly integrate into today’s society and youth culture.
The amount of emotion shown in each comic panel is amazing especially when the emotion is shown through X-23’s eyes. In reality people say that the eyes are the window to the soul and to a certain extent I’d agree. The eyes of a person can tell you so much about how they are really feeling and what they are thinking. This comic achieves this level of power through Billy Tan’s remarkable illustrations. Never have I seen so much power in the eyes of a comic character. This is what helps elevate the character above the usual two-dimensional entities comics are usually filled with.  The art is impeccable with very little that can be faulted. Everything from the page layouts to the character designs is near perfect.
If I had one minor niggle it would be that I’ve never been keen on X-23’s feet claws. I’ve always found them a bit out of place and silly looking. This is just my own personal opinion and I feel like they work to an extent. It’s by no means a major negative to anything to do with the story; I would have just preferred the character to just have the elegant twin claws on each hand.
After rereading this six issue series I am reminded of why it re-kickstarted my true love for Marvel comics. It’s a phenomenal masterpiece of storytelling and is as close to perfection as you can get in both story and art.  For me this is the comic that all others aspire to be like. I would even go as far to say that this is my favourite comic title of all time. It is no surprise that I would recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good story and an amazingly good time. Check it out, You won’t regret it.

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