Welcome back to another installment of Mutantversity! Mutantversity is your home for all things X-Men. In Mutantversity, I, your loyal X-Men tutor, will look at all the things happening in the mutant universe. A few months ago, Marvel relaunched everything with brand new teams and brand new titles. My goal is to streamline most of this for you and take a deeper look at the history and the future of the franchise with a focus on the new comics. In this edition of Mutantversity, I’m looking at the most well developed X-Men character in a very long time. Laura Kinney, a.k.a X-23 a.k.a Wolverine takes center stage in this week’s column.
Similar to DC’s Harley Quinn, Laura Kinney did not make her debut within the pages of a comic book. She debuted on X-Men: Evolution, a series that aired on the then called WB. It was part of their cartoon block that included Pokemon and Yu! Gi! Oh!. Unlike the first X-Men animated series, this was aimed a much younger audience and so it aged down most of the characters and set most of the drama at a high school. The story followed most of the history fans of the X-Men will recognize. Old rivalries still exist, big name characters from the film franchise show up and as the show goes on, it get more serious in tone. In the third season, in the episode “X-23” Laura makes her debut. In this episode, she’s raised by HYDRA and makes her presence known by attacking the X-Mansion. Eventually she challenges Wolverine to a fight but he backs off and leaves it as a stalemate, not wanting to do anything harmful to her.
Because her character was so interesting and fans took to her, she was brought into the comics universe and her origin was created and cemented. After the success in creating Wolverine, the Weapon X program kept going. Laura earned her name because she was the 23rd attempt and first successful one in recreating that experiment. Her biological mother, Dr. Sarah Kinney, was one of the lead scientists on the project but after damaging part of the material, she is the one who is forced to carry Laura. As Laura gets older, her mutant gene is forcibly triggered and she begins her life as a living weapon. She becomes beholden to the trigger scent, a chemical that forces Laura into a frenzy that she can’t get out of. It’s at this point that she becomes an assassin for hire with Kimura as her handler. Kimura tortures her and treats her like less than human. She keeps her constantly dormant or in a rage and it harms Laura immensely. After her mother helps her escape, and destroys the rest of the subjects, Laura ends up with the X-Men and that’s where her journey really starts.
After escaping from captivity, Laura begins to build a life for herself with the X-Men. She’s instantly taken with Wolverine and becomes close to him and they begin a sort of father/daughter relationship that comes to define both of them in a very special way. Laura’s early days with these characters is rough. She’s still very much a loose cannon and relies on violence to solve her issues. She doesn’t relate to other people well but she finds friendship with some of the younger X-Men. She finds herself a part of some of the bigger teams and fights alongside people like Storm, Cyclops and Emma Frost at different times in her history. X-23 is a integral part of the X-Men universe but she’s still mostly a supporting character outside of her own series.
Many of her stories revolve around her wanting to be better than what she was bred to be. She wants to learn to be more human and relate to people more. She doesn’t want to grow up to be Logan but instead, be better than him. She wants to break the cycle of violence and so, in many of her solo adventures, we see her struggle with that. When she teams up with Wolverine, this kind of thing comes up again. In the “Avengers Arena” story line of “Avengers Academy” she is one of the students abducted by Arcade and takes part in the violence that he wants to happen on this island. She’s tested and pushed to her violent side once again and when this arc ends, she leaves.Continued below
After all this, she ends up with the time displaced X-Men in “All New X-Men” and this sort of sets up what comes for her next. Laura is amnesiac when they find her but when she wakes up, they are back, jolted by being in a former Weapon X facility. She befriends this new group but the younger Jean doesn’t entirely trust her because she sees (in her head) what happened during “Avengers Academy.” Laura is a part of the big storylines that “All New X-Men” comprises but her most vital relationship built here is the one with Angel. She and Angel begin dating and it brings out a different side of Laura that we haven’t seen before. She has found someone that isn’t some kind of Wolverine character to connect with. Like her, he wants to avoid what almost feels like an inevitable future. He doesn’t want to become Archangel and hurt those he loves the way that she doesn’t want to turn into a rage monster like Wolverine. They bond over this and fall in love. She has him to rely on in the aftermath of “The Black Vortex” and in the aftermath of the death of Wolverine. Which leads us to…
Wolverine is dead, long live the Wolverine.
In the wake of Logan’s death, Laura has taken up the mantle of Wolverine and it’s one of the best things Marvel has ever done. While bringing Old Man Logan into the fold is kind of a cop out, “All-New Wolverine” has become the crown jewel of the X-Men lineup. There is no other book in this lineup that even comes close to what “All-New Wolverine” does on a monthly basis. While not the center of the X-Men universe, this series does everything that an X-Men book should do. It features personal drama, history, comedy and lots and lots of fighting. However, writer Tom Taylor has gone far and above every other X-Men book and has added personal growth, which is something that this universe kind of gets stuck in. Marvel is afraid to put other X-Men characters in the spotlight and age out some of the others but with “All-New Wolverine” we get a taste of what that would actually look like.
“All-New Wolverine” is a series made up of Laura’s solo adventures. The first arc starts off big and reveals a group of clones of Laura were made and Laura sets out to help them and stop the experiments. At the end of it, two were remaining, Bellona and Gabby and each one kind of represents Laura in very different ways. Bellona is the one who might be too far gone to change while Gabby is still a kid and full of the kind of positivity that Laura never had growing up. Gabby and Laura end up living together and in this relationship, Laura has a family and someone she can pass on lessons to.
In “All-New Wolverine,” Tom Taylor writes Wolverine in a very different way than anyone has written the character. This Wolverine doesn’t want to kill and actively avoids doing that. it’s a very large part of the wisdom she imparts to Gabby and in the “Enemy of the State II” story arc, this is focused on in a big way as Kimura returns. Death has a real impact in this series which seems to be lost in comics as a whole today, particular at Marvel and DC. Death is marketed and is never permanent. Even in the films, we see background characters get beaten in ways that absolutely lead to death but it doesn’t feel like it matters. In “All-New Wolverine” death is real and death is permanent. Death and killing effects Wolverine and she’s not here to be stabby for the sake of being stabby. She’s learned and evolved and done it in enough time, unlike her “father” and predecessor Logan. When Wolverine kills Kimura, there is something genuinely felt by this by everyone who sees it, but especially in Laura. Killing has become a thing she’s actively avoided and in this freedom she’s now gained by being rid of Kimura, she had to rely on that violence she’s tried so hard to leave behind.Continued below
She’s done enough killing for three lifetimes and to prep for this week’s column I’ve actually had to read the comments on many articles. This run is called soft by some critics and it’s amazing to me that so many are this scared by actual character development. If you’ve read anything involving Laura and Logan, you’d know that not even he wanted her to grow up to be the way that he is. Logan realized too late how garbage a person he became and wanted more for Laura. His legacy is her becoming a real hero who cares about people and has forged relationships that aren’t being held on by a thread. She has a sister in Gabby and a boyfriend in Angel. She has friends across the superhero community and people aren’t scared of her. “All-New Wolverine” has featured actual evolution, which is something the X-Men franchise is supposedly all about. It’s allowed a character who went from barely saying more than three words in a sentence to go to this full fledged hero. If this tarnishes the Wolverine mantle then I hope she tarnishes it more.
“All-New Wolverine” is all the things an X-Men comic book should be. Gabby and Laura’s relationship has become a big focus in recent issues but it doesn’t tread the same path that the Laura/Logan relationship did. It’s more of a sisterhood and mentorship instead of Gabby simply tagging along and being exposed to things she shouldn’t be. There is a lot of action and there are plenty of connections to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the X-Men universe. It isn’t the focus of the X-Men universe and that’s both a blessing and a curse. I wish Laura played the part Logan did for visibility purposes but in many ways, this lack of centering makes the book better as it gets to be flexible.
This is the Wolverine series that the world has been waiting for.