Chances are, your upbringing did not include training to become a weaponized killing machine. There is a very small likelihood that your childhood consisted of being trained and tortured by crazed scientists. All that aside, not growing up like X-23 does not mean you can’t find a personal connection to her story. Laura Kinney is a champion for those who have suffered. Her story is much more than all of the horrors that were done to her, just as our lives are much more than the hardships we endure.

The thing that truly makes Laura special is her ability to rise above all the darkness she experienced and find strength in it. She is a character that beautifully demonstrates how tragedy can be a part of you without having it define you. It is a lesson that all survivors can benefit from, no matter their circumstances.

Tragic Origins

For those who are unfamiliar with X-23, a brief rundown is in order. Laura Kinney is a Marvel character that has been gaining well-deserved attention over the last few years. Born in a Weapon X facility to sadistic scientists, X-23 is a genetic clone of Wolverine. In an effort to make her the perfect weapon, scientists worked to strip all of her humanity away from her. Rigorous training, torture, and chemical agents went into this process. When they deemed her ready for the field, they sold her to the highest bidder as a contract assassin.

Image from X-23 INNOCENCE LOST, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The amount of horrors inflicted upon Laura is too great to mention. The origin story of X-23 is a comment on the human capacity for evil when we deem something else is inhuman. What happened to her is truly the stuff of nightmares. She had every right and every excuse to become the monster the scientists raised her to be. For a good portion of her story, she is that monster. She kills whoever she is instructed to without hesitation. It is all she knows. The facility is all she knows.

This is shown particularly well in X-23: INNOCENCE LOST #4 when Laura is left to die on a far away mission by a rogue scientist. She survives, but instead of capitalizing upon her newfound freedom, she finds her way back to the facility and returns to her abusers. Laura knows no life apart from the one at the facility. To her, there is nowhere else to go.

READ: Want more X-23? Take a look at our piece on Laura’s origins!

A Significant Choice

However, as X-23 grows, so does her resilience. The first and most powerful instance comes when she receives a secret assignment. She is tasked with killing a man, his wife, and their two-year-old son. Laura executes the adults without hesitation, but when she finds the toddler hiding in the closet, she stops herself. There is no readable emotion on her face when she retracts her claws and chooses to spare his life, but the act speaks volumes. This is the first time Laura makes a choice.

Image from X-23 INNOCENCE LOST #5, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This leads to more decisions of her own autonomy, including the one in X-23: INNOCENCE LOST #5 where she exposes the truth of the murders and thus disobeys a direct order. These instances of choice are so important to her growth. They are the first threads of humanity in her, the first tendrils of her spirit that fight back against everything she’s ever known.

The Darkest Moment

We see X-23’s humanity fully when the ultimate tragedy strikes. After finally gathering the courage to break Laura out of the facility, Laura’s biological mother waits for Laura to meet her outside. However, a chemical scent made to override Laura’s brain and force her to kill is activated just as they are reunited. Against her will, Laura kills her biological mother.

Image from X-23 TARGET #1, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Her grief is unequivocally human. She sheds the tears of a young girl over her mother’s corpse. This moment seems to express that no matter what has been done to you, no matter how much suffering you endure, your humanity will never truly disappear.

READ: Interested in following more of Laura’s adventures? Check out the latest review of ALL-NEW WOLVERINE!

Against All Odds

This is a lesson that endures throughout X-23’s time in comics. Perhaps the most beautiful instance of her prevailing humanity comes during a fight with a demon that has trapped her in a terrifying dream world. Something speaks to Laura when all seems lost. This strange voice, this entity, shows Laura everything that has happened to her over the course of her life. It takes her through the grueling slideshow of the torture she endured and the subsequent killings. When Laura confronts this voice, it explains to her that she must be reminded of these things. These horrors are part of her, but they do not define her.

Image from X-23 #3, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Laura digs deep within her to find this truth, and when she harnesses it, she manages to destroy the demon tormenting her in a brilliant flash of light. The visual is stunning, but the message is even more powerful. By facing our trauma and challenging the thought that what we have been through is somehow our fault, we can harness our true power. Laura begins to understand this fundamental concept of healing after she defeats the demon and says:

“I am not alone. I am not empty. There is a light inside of me. I caught a glimpse of it. I held it. And I will find it again.”

READ: Curious how other comics are tackling trauma? Take a look at our thoughts on SURVIVORS’ CLUB!

The Meaningful Implications

I find this message particularly beautiful because of how human and universal it is. We all have light inside of us. No matter what we’ve been through, that light endures. X-23 is a character who overcame impossible odds to be a good person.

After escaping from the facility, she joined the X-Men and learned how to defend those who could not defend themselves. From then on, she has continued to be a force of good. Her journey through comics has been one of immense personal growth and maturity. Laura may have started as a weapon, but over time she blossomed into a beautiful person with a full spectrum of emotions, close relationships, and complex wants and needs.

Despite the tragedy of her upbringing, she found something inside her that was all her own that she uses to fight back the darkness. I believe she inspires all of us to do the same. Every time she overcomes an obstacle, she reminds us that there is no limit to what you can become if you trust yourself. And no matter how dark the world around you becomes, there is light inside you that no one can snuff out.

One Comment

  1. D. E. Wyatt

    June 2, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Great stuff! Tho it’s a shame you didn’t touch on Target X and NYX. Especially the latter, considering underaged sex trafficking is still such a major problem, and Laura could be an avenue for addressing an uncomfortable subject (even Marvel prefers to tiptoe around that part of her past).


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