I said in my Venom 13 review this series wouldn’t be reviewed until issue 14 unless I had a lot to say. Well, I have a lot to say about this issue. Warning, there will be spoilers in this review, but I can’t comment properly without them.
So far, the pacing in this mini-event has been relentless. In the first issue alone, Venom, Ghost Rider, Red Hulk and X-23 found themselves in Vegas for different reasons. Hell itself started spreading throughout the earth with a casino as its center point. X-23 fights clones of herself covered in the Venom symbiote, Red Hulk and Venom stop fighting each other to protect civilians, and Ghost Rider hunts Blackheart, who is in a power struggle with Mephisto. They all meet up in Blackheart’s main room and then their antithesis’s show up. The next two issues show them fighting their antithesis’s – X-666 and Ichor die (X-23’s antitheses and Ghost Rider’s antitheses.) All four heroes are killed, hell continues to spread throughout the earth after being halted in issue 13, and that’s where this issue begins.
Right away, you’ll notice that this issue won’t have much plot progression. It instead begins with each of the heroes finding a personal paradise. After 12 pages of this, it starts to go wrong for all of them. They soon realize that they’ve all died and that they’re in Mephisto’s personal chamber. They all agree to serve him at a later date in order to return to Earth and defeat Blackheart.
So far this crossover has been awesome, but this issue was … I’m not sure. Red Hulk’s paradise was good since he regained his General rank and started a military squad with all the Hulks. Ghost Rider’s seemed good, but I know very little about the character so I can’t say for sure. Venom’s was brilliant as he merges with the venom symbiote, with his personality dominant, and is declared the new Spider-Man. X-23’s on the other hand has problems.
First of all, her “paradise” seemed to begin the moment she started falling into lava while the other three had long-term paradises. It’s true that she rarely thinks far ahead, but it gives the impression that the writer really doesn’t understand the character. Wolverine catches her, she kills Blackheart, and they find a Weapon X lab together. X-23 tells Wolverine she discovered that she has a soul. That’s all well and good, but that’s all we hear about that. This would have been a better “paradise” if that was focused on rather than what happens next.
She declares that the lab must be destroyed, with a giant grin on her face. The genetic twins then proceed to slash at things together. That’s your plan, to slash at things? Didn’t X-23 bring explosives earlier? Wouldn’t Wolverine have done the same? It doesn’t help that X-23 is visually delighting in this mindless destruction. I’m not saying that X-23 never smiles, but this just feels off.
Wolverine then cuts into a vat full of the trigger scent, causing X-23 to attack him. This is where the real problems begin. X-23 refers to the trigger scent as “the pheromone.” By definition, that statement is false. A pheromone is a chemical developed inside a living thing that doesn’t necessarily have a scent; the trigger scent is an artificially created smell. X-23 is supposed to speak perfect English, and she knows that little factoid about the scent that is a major part of her back-story. In the past, she’s always referred to it as the “trigger scent,” and when explaining what it is to others, she calls it a chemical trigger. Calling it a pheromone is not only factually inaccurate, but out of character.
She is also fully conscious when she’s attacking Wolverine, when the trigger scent has always caused her to black out in the past. When she “wakes up,” everything is dead. That would have been more dramatically effective considering that’s also how her mother died. Sure, this is nitpicking compared to “the pheromone,” but when the rest is as bad as it was, this is just icing on the cake.
Another complaint is that X-23’s eyes are brown again. This isn’t huge for me, but it’s a pet peeve among many X-23 fans – her eyes are supposed to be green.
Beyond that, there’s very little plot progression in this issue. I understand that it’s a filler issue that’s meant to bring some drama into the mini-event, but still. Every one of those three page paradises could have been done in two with tighter writing. But as an X-23 fan, the problems with X-23’s paradise really killed the issue for me.
The artwork is decent in this issue, apart from X-23’s eye colour. While simple and light on detail, it’s enough to keep your attention. Characters look proportionally right, and the fire looks good. Issues 13-13.2 had better art, especially Sana Tanaka’s art in 13.2, but this still carries the issue.
This isn’t a bad issue, but fans of X-23 might want to avoid this one. It’s not vital to the event as very little story progression takes place and it’s hard to justify the $2.99. Because of that and the errors and poor writing on X-23’s part, it’s very hard to recommend this issue. Heck, it angered me. Check out the rest of this crossover though, it’s been great so far. Everything you need to know is on the recap page.
Other comics I read this week include Uncanny X-Force 22, Wolverine and the X-Men 6, New Mutants 36, Secret Avengers 23, Avengers Academy 26, Fantastic Four 603, X-Men Legacy 262 and Magneto: Not a Hero 4 (of 4)
Uncanny X-Force 22 was great. It felt more focused than the last few issues and started tying this storyline together. The art still isn’t that good, but otherwise this is worth reading.
Wolverine and the X-Men 6 was awesome. The situation with the brood is getting intense, while the comic still retains its light-hearted nature. Wolverine and Kid Omega gambling in space was more fun than you’d expect. This is definitely worth checking out.
New Mutants 36 was pretty good, but not as good as the last issue. The team re-visits the place where Cypher died. Saying anything else would spoil the issue.
Secret Avengers 23 was decent. It’s more about Ant Man than anyone else, even though Venom joins the team in this issue.
Avengers Academy 26 was good. Not much action happens; this is more of an aftermath issue, but it’s very well handled. Again, people who are checking this series out for X-23 should know that she’ll hardly be in the series until issue 29 in May.
Fantastic Four 603 was epic. Galactus vs. the Celestials in a giant cosmic battle! The FF kids return to their parents side, and everything from the start of Hickman’s Fantastic Four continues to tie together. It’s definitely worth checking out, but it will be easier to understand if you start from Fantastic Four 570 – it’s well worth it.
X-Men Legacy 262 was also great. Rogue’s team, along with Wolverine, fights the extremely powerful mutant Exodus to save Cyclops’s life. The last page reveal only proves Exodus’s point that children shouldn’t be fighting. Great issue overall.
Magneto: Not a Hero 4 was also good. The fight between Magneto and his clone Joseph was a little disappointing, but the end result was still satisfying.