Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Marjorie Liu, Volume 11: Weaponized

One last volume to go after this. I badly need a change of X-Men series to read and talk about in reviews because this one just doesn't do it for me anymore. It has gotten so inexcusably mediocre and stale that it's taking everything from me not to just drop this and call it a day. I'll persevere though because I did vow to complete every title imposed on my reading list. That's all there is to it now, really; I'm compelled by a sense of obligation that is surprisingly stronger than my steadily growing dislike towards this title.

Marjorie Liu's sophomore contribution to the dwindling series of The Astonishing X-Men was somewhat better than her debut, but only slightly more so. With the exception of last arc's wedding issue concerning Northstar and his civilian boyfriend Kyle, it was a rather shitty story about the Marauders and an X-Man I Barely Know named Karma (real name Shan). Afterwards, we were offered an expansion to the mystery as to why Karma started acting murderous in the first place here in this collected eleventh volume entitled Weaponized composed of issues #52-56. After yet another guest writer (Greg Pak's ninth volume installment which was yet another trite of a story) has failed to deliver a satisfying albeit short-lived run, The Astonishing X-Men tried to rekindle something fresh and exciting again by employing the writings of a female comic book writer this time, accompanied by a brand new cast of X-Men. For this roster, we have Wolverine as the constant, and the rest are Gambit, Iceman, Cecilia, Warbird and Karma. I am not at all familiar with the last three X-Men though I must say Warbird (as conservative and against gay coupling as she revealed to be in the last arc) has grown on me only because she's an alien warrior who interacts with humans in a humorous titled way I have not encountered since angel Castiel from the CW's decade-long ongoing show Supernatural.

Seriously, Warbird is ADORBS! And I don't even know how she got here but I hope she stays

That being said, Weaponized will never be a strong contender, but it was thankfully not the worst from the entire TAXM roster either. Marjorie Liu as a writer has been competent enough because there are scenes in her two stories so far that do resonate for me every now and then but I always get the sense that her narrative could have been polished better. I feel as if she can do better than what she produced here and I might just read more of her stuff from other titles. This storyline was particularly terrible; it was just so cliché and uninteresting altogether. I do think that it was a great thing to use a character as focal point for the story's conflict. In this case, it's Karma whose issues about her family tragedy had caught up to her via the appearance of her long-lost half-sister Susan Hatchi. Said woman served as the villain of the entire plot and her motivations and methods of tormenting Karma as well as her friends were just too generic. A victimize child who managed to work her way to the top and gather enough money and resources to get her hands on a technologically advanced biological weaponry (nano-worms) which she proceeded to infect the X-Men with so they will do whatever she tasked them to do, lest they face a gruesome death. 

It wasn't anything original. The predictability played out in the next five issues, whilst I was trying yet failing to convince myself that perhaps the ending would be a complete surprise. Well, it wasn't. Sure, I was slightly sad that Susan died right at the point where Shan (Karma) was ready to forgive her and they can start anew. But I was distracted by the generic way she was disposed of that easily; murdered by their asshole father via gunshot. It was so disappointing. Susan Hatchi could have been more fleshed out next time around, as well as her relationship with her X-Man sister Shan but nah, Liu just killed her off right after giving us her supposedly intriguing backstory, because hey, she's a bad guy, and no one cares anyway in the long run, right?

WELL, MAKE ME CARE! That's the point of reading a story. I'm supposed to like these characters and root for them, and be moved by their sorrow and suffering and rejoice their triumphs and I simply don't! Where the fuck are Scott and Emma? And Kitty and Colossus? I've grown attached to these people because I've known them longer and Whedon made me give a squiggly fuck about their circumstances but so far Liu hasn't done me the same courtesy...YET. I'm still hoping her last volume and arc will do that. I have no idea why Gambit or this Cecilia character have to be there. Bobby Drake isn't even funny in this. Northstar and Kyle continue to be a couple but their conversations don't really reveal anything new about their usual shit, and Warbird I feel could be very captivating if she gets more scenes and lines. I'm fine with Karma but I'd like to get to know her less for now because Weaponized was so annoyingly bland that she could just shut up the entire way in the next volume after this and I won't even notice or complain. Unless Liu plans to do more for her characterization, though I'm not holding my breath.

But I don't want to just bitch and whine in this review so I will end it in a hopeful note. This collection also included the forty-five paged annual which had three stories in it; two of them were quirky ones about the present concerning Kyle and Northstar's relationship (or more like their first weeks of marriage) alongside the X-Men who always have to take Northstar away for some dangerous mission, and the Alpha Flight issue where Northstar "proclaimed homosexuality" in public (I will never ever stop finding this phrase amusing). It was a nice issue that made me feel better enough to give this volume at least a solid 7. Good effort, Liu, but do better next time.


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