X-23 could have been cast aside in the beginning, but thankfully the right people saw her potential and developed her into an icon. Laura Kinney first appeared in the X-MEN: EVOLUTION animated series. While the idea of a teenage, female clone of Wolverine was interesting, she only appeared twice. However, Marvel took hold of the character and made her come into her own in the comics. She has been a member of various X-Men teams.

As Wolverine, she succeeded her “father” (or genetic brother in the comics) and adopted the Wolverine moniker. She also appeared on the big screen in LOGAN. Yet X-23 is far more than a teen successor. With creator Craig Kyle, writer Chris Yost, and artists Billy Tan, Mike Choi, and Sonia Oback guiding her, X-23 became a symbol of the horrors of rape and the chance of redemption in the two-part origin story that introduced her to the Marvel Universe.

X-23: INNOCENCE LOST

The story of Laura Kinney begins before her conception. The Weapon X program that made Wolverine is unable to successfully clone him until new scientist Sarah Kinney proposes a procedure. They should double the X chromosome to create a female clone. Scientist Zander Rice objects, but the project is approved. Rice still gets one demand — Sarah must be the surrogate that carries the clone to term. This is the first example of rape in the story — Sarah Kinney is forced to bear a child. It gives a sad standard for the birth of X-23; she is a child born out of forced conception. It also establishes Rice and the Weapon X program in their roles as the ‘rapists’ of the story. Rice forced a child onto an unwilling woman, and the program enabled him to do so.

READ: We put together the Essential WOLVERINE reading list!

Rice is especially adept at his role. Wolverine killed his father, and Rice sees X-23 as a surrogate. He refuses to allow any motherly connection between Sarah and Laura, he forcefully instructs everyone to treat Laura as a weapon, and he has her undergo radiation poisoning to kickstart her mutant genes. His actions not only rob Laura of humanity but also serve to keep her under his control. This behavior, sadly, is much like that of a rapist’s to their victim. He also uses Laura to act out his revenge against Wolverine. This is most apparent when X-23’s claws are coated in adamantium. Rice does the procedure himself, and instead of a less invasive method, he removes Laura’s claws, coats them with the metal and reinserts them — all without anesthetic.

X-23 ORIGINS
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

X-23 on the Wrong Side of Murder

Rice’s actions allow Weapon X to send X-23 out on missions. Sarah attempts to give what little human influence she can, even as X-23 racks up kills. The theme of objectification comes into play, as the two “rapists” see Laura as an object. For the program, X-23 serves a purpose as purely a weapon designed to bring them cash flow. Rice views X-23 this way, but she is also his punching bag and tool for personal gain.

He has her murder the head of the project so he can take over. Even Sarah objectifies Laura. To her, Laura represents an evolution from the cold personality she adopted from her abusive childhood. She even uses Laura to save her niece, without bothering to explain the connection.

READ: How similar are Wolverines Logan and Laura?

This is both the strength and weakness of INNOCENCE LOST. The themes of rape and objectification powerfully present themselves here. However, they come at the expense of X-23 herself. Laura is largely a blank slate when she isn’t killing. She invokes sympathy from the reader, but the viewpoint of the story isn’t her’s. Sarah’s perspective shapes the story. It’s her horror and revulsion that fuel our own emotions. Laura is almost a MacGuffin meant to move the story along. She is objectified by most of the characters, with only her martial arts sensei treating her simply as a child (and he is killed fairly quickly). She does show character traits, (most notably her habit of cutting herself) but they feel rushed and no longer mentioned again.

X-23 ORIGINS
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

INNOCENCE LOST is a flawed story using heavy themes. It creates a sympathetic character that brings up themes of rape and objectification. However, it tells the story through the viewpoint of others that doesn’t deepen X-23’s character beyond sympathy.

X-23: TARGET X

The second part of X-23’s story takes place one year after the events of INNOCENCE LOST. Laura has escaped the program but lost her mother in the process. Worse, S.H.I.E.L.D has captured her, and Captain America and Matt Murdock are interrogating her. Cap’s dealt with Laura’s handiwork before and wants Murdock to verify her story. Laura recounts the events that brought her to this point — finding her aunt and cousin in San Francisco and dodging the efforts of the Weapon X program. TARGET X, therefore, fixes the major flaw of INNOCENCE LOST by giving Laura an active voice. We feel her efforts to be more normal, and how her life up to this point proves a stumbling block. Yet her most profound moments come when she bonds with her cousin Megan.

READ: See another X-Heroine stand for herself and her heritage

Megan doesn’t remember Laura rescuing her in INNOCENCE LOST, but has had nightmares ever since. She’s an outcast at school, which makes it easy for her to bond with Laura. Megan is also able to accept Laura’s past with a realistic mix of horror and sympathy. It’s a human reaction, and Megan treating her with equal measures pity and friendship makes Laura seem more of a person. At least until Weapon X comes calling, and the family is forced to flee. Laura then separates to find her new mission — finally meeting Dad.

An Emotional Meeting

This is the most crucial part of the book, and it’s heart-wrenching. Logan and Laura have a no holds barred fight, with Laura using her training to slow Wolverine’s healing power, and then prepares to end it for both of them. Then Logan speaks.

X-23 ORIGINS
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The emotion here is almost beyond words. Laura was convinced she was nothing more than a weapon, that the best thing she could do was end herself and the person most like her. Instead, that very person tells her that she can still decide who she is. It’s the moment in the interrogation where Captain America realizes how much she’s been used. He also realizes how much an organization like S.H.I.E.L.D can turn her back into a weapon.

READ: See what we thought of Laura’s first appearance as the new Wolverine!

TARGET X is the part of the origin that does a better job developing X-23. It makes her perspective the main focus, allowing her to develop as a character. The creative team handles Laura’s transformation from mute killing machine to (relative) normalcy. Her interactions with both Megan and Wolverine allows her a more rounded persona. Her newfound humanity allows her to expel her personal demons. The book still contains flaws though. The retroactively added character Kimura just seems like a lame attempt to give Laura an archenemy. Kimura is annoying, but can’t match the intensity of Rice from INNOCENCE. The book also has a moment of objectifying Laura when she dresses from her cousin’s closet. It’s hard to believe any adult would let a fifteen-year-old walk around in this outfit.

x-23 ORIGIN
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

A Flawed, but Powerful Origin for X-23

Regardless of their flaws, these two books still stand as a strong origin for a character that’s on her way to becoming one of Marvel’s best. Yet it also stands as a story to inspire those who endured abuse, emotional torment, or those forced into roles they never wanted. There is always a chance as long as there is someone that cares, and as long as you never give up.

So keep fighting Laura. The world needs you to.

One Comment

  1. D. E. Wyatt

    May 10, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    You should probably cover her first appearance in NYX, as that’s a substantial part of her origin, while also pushing the rape metaphor from merely subtext to just shy of outright text.

    Reply

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