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Mike Choi has built a name for himself at Top Cow, working on Witchblade alongside Ron Marz on a lengthy run that reinvigorated Sara Pezzini for the publisher. At the end of last year, Choi traded Sara for another young woman that isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty—Laura Kinney, better known as X-23.

With two issues of Marvel’s second X-23 mini-series, X-23: Target X, on the stands, BF caught up with Choi to get his take on the character and find out how far she’s willing to go to carve out her place (no pun intended) in the Marvel Universe. Choi also spilled the beans on his next assignment and whether or not he wants to be known as a babe artist.

One piece of advice: if you can’t stand the word ‘titties’, don’t read on…

BROKEN FRONTIER: X-23: Target X picks up right where the original X-23 limited series left off. Where do we find Laura Kinney at the beginning of the story?

MIKE CHOI: You answered your own question before you asked it. You could almost read X-23: Innocence Lost and then go right into Target X, and aside from the jarring deterioration of the art, the story should proceed seamlessly, like in the Back to the Future movies. She’s exactly where you left her.

I’m sorry I’m not going into specifics, but I really don’t want to give away anything about the first series if you haven‘t read it. It’s so good, and in fact, I recommend you read it before you read Target X. I really wasn’t too keen on doing the project when I first got it, because I didn’t want to do a story about a Wolverine clone I knew nothing about, plus I‘m not too fond of stories about teenagers. But after reading the first trade I couldn’t wait to continue her story.

The character is so bad-ass. She’s so bad-ass, she makes me say “bad-ass.” Now I love teenager stories. But I’ll still never watch Buffy.

BF: How do you feel your rendition of X-23 stacks up to Billy Tan’s of first mini-series?

MC: Billy’s kicks so much ass. And I think his stuff is so much more edgy… he’s a vegetarian—they’re so much more repressed than us carnivores, and they have to let it out in their art.

BF: How far does Target X reach in terms of X-23 carving out her territory in the Marvel Universe?

MC: Not a lot, but significantly. We’ve seen her meet Cap and Daredevil, and we’re going to see this story touch some other “branches” of the Marvel Universe. The first series didn’t really have the opportunity to do that, as it was so much X-23’s book. This book expands a little, to really establish her as part of the Marvel Universe, and not just the X-Universe.

BF: At the end of the series, where will Laura find herself? As an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with?

MC: Hopefully, she’s becoming a force to be reckoned with in the New X-Men title. However, I’m hoping that this book really establishes WHY she’s so kick-ass. I think this book is more R-rated than New X-Men, so we definitely see how far she’s willing to go to “get the job done”.

I think, along with Innocence Lost, it does a good job in demonstrating the correlation between her origin and who her character is in current continuity, much like Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s Born series did for the Punisher.

BF: You’re working with Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, who created the character and write her in New X-Men. Did they set out any specific parameters on how you should handle Laura in the book?

MC: Make her cool. Hopefully we’ve done that with moderate success. They have such a distinct idea of who this character is and what her back story is, that in all honesty, we go into the art with the hope of just not disappointing Craig and Chris. They really are such great storytellers, that I personally think that if we convey what they write in the script successfully, with all the emotion and nuances as well as the panel descriptions intact, the book as a reading experience can’t not be good.

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BF: The mini-series will also feature a confrontation between X-23 and Wolverine. What makes Wolverine want to hunt his cloned daughter down in the first place?

MC: Because he wanted a boy. Just kidding. Who says HE hunts HER down?

BF: With Wolverine, Daredevil, Captain America and even the Kingpin all set to appear, you get to draw a who’s-who of Marvel characters. How does it feel to be given the opportunity to delve head-first in the big Marvel sandbox?

MC: Awesome. It’s definitely one of my dreams come true. I’ve read and loved the books that these characters have been involved in, like Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X, Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil, which is one of my favorite runs on any ongoing title I have ever read, and Brubaker, Epting and Perkins’ Captain America. I’m not trying to compete with them, hell no. I just don’t want to, in a very surreal way, let those characters down. It’s truly an honor to be hopefully adding to these characters’ continuity in some way.

But why does the Marvel sandbox smell like pee-pee?

BF: Speaking of the Kingpin, why has he taken such a great interest in Laura?

MC: Because he’s a sick, sick man. Just kidding. We see the answer to that in issue #3. The art in the Kingpin storyline is the one I am most proud of so far, and it is 100% due to the colors of my very-talented partner in crime, Sonia Oback.

BF: You’ve marked your turf in the comics industry with two heroine titles in X-23: Target X and, previously, Witchblade. Are you particularly looking for a stint on a project starring a male lead to expand your skill set?

MC: Absolutely. Given the uproar over how young I made Captain America look in issue #2, I honestly think I do need a little more practice drawing adult male characters. I’m kidding a bit about the uproar, but that’s the one comment that fans and other professionals (ahem… Brubaker) bring up regarding issue #2, and it honestly didn’t even register until it was brought up to me. Now I look at issue #2 and think, yeah, he does look a bit young! But it doesn’t make me any less proud of what we’ve put into the book, if not the skills necessarily, then definitely the effort.

While I do hope that we are getting better with each issue, I sincerely hope that no one feels like we’re learning on their dime, because that’s something that wouldn’t be fair to myself, Sonia, Craig and Chris, Marvel and Top Cow, and most importantly the people who plonked down $2.99 to read it.

BF: Another reason why doing a book with some more testosterone in it is to avoid becoming known as a ‘babe artist’. Would you have any problem with that?

MC: Honestly, yes I would to some degree. It’s kind of a stigma that you can’t wash off, no matter how much you scrub. I’m sure a lot of people are very appropriately proud of being a babe artist, and I would love to be someone who can draw attractive women, but I want to be a great storyteller first and foremost, and that‘s what I continually work on and am most proud of in my work.

While I can’t speak for them, I think Adam Hughes and Frank Cho are often known as babe artists, and they may revel in it, but I think it does a HUGE disservice to the fact that they are two of the greatest storytellers in the industry today.

Adam Hughes is a modern Gil Elvgrin with storytelling abilities that rival Rockwell‘s, which sounds like such a huge hyperbole, but honestly, if there’s going to be a Rockwell of our time (and why shouldn’t there be), it would undoubtedly be him. And Frank Cho’s work on Mighty Avengers kicks as much ass as the next Top-10 artist, but with everyone, male and female, still exuding the trademark Cho sex-appeal.

But if they’re perfectly happy being known as babe-artists, then more power to them, because they are definitely today’s best when it comes down to drawing some sexy women. If I’m ever put in the same category as they’re in, it’d only be an honor achieved by selling my soul, Johnny Blaze-style:

“Would you like to save the life of a loved one?”

“No, I want to be able draw some fine-ass titties!”

But if people were to think that the only thing I could draw were babes, then yes, I would probably want to change that.

BF: What have you got coming up in 2007 post X-23?

MC: Tomb Raider. HA! That’s hilarious.

BF: You tell me!

X-23: Target X #3 goes on sale February 7. For more on Mike Choi, visit his website at: www.km3studios.com.

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