Everyone knows the story of Wolverine, it’s one of the most retconned and most backtracked stories in all of comic lore. He’s a mutant, a former mercenary, a hero, an Avenger, an X-Man, and he takes s***t from no one (unless they happen to be a girl with red hair). He is one of Marvel’s most loved, and at the same time one of its most hated figures. And why wouldn’t he be? His story is relatable, its one of redemption, a man out of touch with his past who is still putting the pieces of his shattered life together in an attempt to be content with the life he currently lives. But this article isn’t about James Howlett, this is about the story a of girl who, like Wolverine, is still trying to find her place in the world. A girl who shelters almost as much guilt as her “father”. This is about X-23 AKA Laura Kinney, and why she is my favorite female character of all time.
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint when I started following the life of Laura. I was never a fan of X-Men Evolution as a kid, so I missed her debut into the Marvel universe, and I wasn’t reading comics when her origins were explained.
Although if I had to pick a moment when I became more interested in her, it would have to be when I read through Joe Quesada’s limited series “NYX”.
For those who don’t know, NYX followed a young mutant named Kiden Nixon and her friends as they struggled to survive on the streets of New York while coming to terms with each of their unique situations. It was in the series where Laura made her first actual comic appearance…as a prostitute (admittedly not the most dignified way to introduce a female character, but hey Frank Miller’s made a career out of it). I was already enamored with her thanks to scattered issues of X-Force and New X-Men that I read with her in them, but NYX was where I became even more invested.
Who is she?
Laura’s origin, like her genetic father’s, is not a happy one. Born in a lab, Laura was created to be a genetic clone of Wolverine (her codename coming from her being the 23rd attempt at cloning him).
Created to be a weapon, Laura was treated like an animal by the project’s head, Zander Rice. Rice’s father was killed during Wolverine’s escape from Weapon X and in true douche form he takes his anger out on Laura, subjecting her to radiation poisoning in order to activate her X-Gene, and extracting her claws and coating them adamantium before inserting them back into her hands and feet.
Even with the physical and mental torture she was subjected to under Rice’s thrall, Laura did receive compassion during her training. Aside from her mother there was also her martial art sensei who also treated with her kindness, but even this sense of hope was ripped away from her when Rice tested the “trigger scent’ on him, which caused Laura to go int a blind rage and kill him.
After watching Laura go on kill mission after kill mission, and no longer being able to tolerate Rice’s treatment of her, Sarah Kinney (Laura’s mother) helped her escape the facility at the cost of her own life. Laura’s escape eventually led her to encountering Wolverine, which would set in motion her joining of the X-Men.
Her friends and family
Despite feeling alone due to her blood soaked past, Laura has had a host of friend’s and family at her side. It is from them that Laura drives her strength and is one of the reasons I like her. Her interactions with the many people around her in her attempts to be noble are an integral part of X-23’s character.
We know of her mother, but she also has an aunt and cousin who she briefly lived with before old ghosts came haunting. Living with her actual family did lead to some humorous moments, such as when she explains how to carry out a successful kill mission in French, as well as Laura getting her first taste of normalcy.
Obviously one of her more lasting relationships is the one she shares with Wolverine. Their initial meeting was a bit rocky (she almost kills him!), but they eventually form a bond and Logan becomes one of the stables in Laura’s life and as a result she can be quite protective of him at times and vice versa.
She has also had an encounter with her “brother” Daken which helped expand his own character some (you know before he…died) and also formed strong bonds with both Gambit and Jubilee. She also made more friend’s when she joined the Avengers Academy, before having to leave them due to Avengers Arena.
Another milestone in Laura’s life was when she joined the New X-Men.
Despite all of these influences in her life, Laura’s past still manages to catch up with her and her ability to kill becomes more and more flaunted.
She has a strong sense of justice, but still has trouble understanding emotions. She does what needs to be done but still has trouble processing things since she’s so young. Just like Logan she is a loner, but she also yearns for acceptance, and she also tends too hard on herself when she makes mistakes.
The story of X-23 is one of identity and redemption of a girl trying to find her place after being taught only to kill. She has plenty of people who love her, but has a hard time loving herself. She doesn’t like to hurt others, but kills when those she loves are in danger. She’s simple but complex at the same time, she yearns for closeness but distances herself out of fear.
She’s an assassin, a warrior, a mutant, an adventurer, a student, a friend, a sister, a daughter, but more importantly she’s human. Her journey is far from over but I will be there to read every step of the way. From her scent induced madness, to her awkward conversations about love. From her adventures in babysitting, to fighting for survival. From blood stained beginnings to whatever end may come, Laura Kinney will forever be my favorite female character.