While the Marvel Studios continues to introduce Avengers-related characters to their mostly linear shared universe, Fox has taken a different approach to the properties they own. Though things started out straightforward enough when the first X-Men film debuted in 2000, soft reboots, spin-offs, and a whole lot of time travel have left the franchise’s timeline a bit hard to follow. Still, it’s allowed the series to explore a variety of time periods while also examining characters at different points in their lives.
The culmination of that style will be next month’s Logan. While Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine in every X-Men film to date, his character’s self-titled movie looks to be the most isolated one yet. Taking place decades into the future, the story sees an Earth mostly devoid of mutants. Along with Professor X, Logan will team up with an unusual new partner: Laura Kinney. Better known in the comics as X-23, she represents a recent but key component of Wolverine’s lore. Here are 15 Things You Need To Know About X-23.
15. She’s A Clone of Wolverine
It’s unclear how much of X-23’s backstory will be changed for Logan, but in the comics she’s got a frighteningly dark past. Under the supervision of Drs. Martin Sutter, Sarah Kinney, and Xander Rice, an offshoot of the Weapon X program is created in an effort to clone Wolverine. Thanks to a damaged copy of his DNA, 22 attempts fail before Kinney is able to convince her colleagues to attempt a female clone. Forced to carry the creation to term, Dr. Kinney gives birth to X-23, the first successful clone of Wolverine.
Unfortunately, Rice has a vendetta, as his father was killed by the original Wolverine. He constantly abuses X-23, even exposing her to radiation in order to activate her mutant gene. The results are senses and a healing factor just like Logan’s, plus bone claws. The only variation is that X-23 has two on each hand and one in each foot. Rice coats them with adamantium, completing X-23’s transformation and beginning her life of hell.
14. X-23 Was Created For TV
X-23 is actually one of the surprisingly common examples of a comic book character who began life on television. Created for the high school-set X-Men: Evolution cartoon, X-23 premiered in the third season of the show back in 2003. Created by comic scribes Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle, she was the focus of two episodes of the series in an attempt to create a younger version of Wolverine. As the series was about teen versions of the core X-Men, while Wolverine remained an older teacher, X-23 was meant to focus Wolverine’s tragic backstory through a child.
The results were surprisingly dark for the Saturday morning show, as X-23 was shown to be a brainwashed killer with little control of her actions. Haunted by her past, Wolverine attempts to help the young girl. Unfortunately, the tragedy of her upbringing would follow the character for years, even as she made her transition to comics.
13. She Was Trained To Be An Assassin
Along with being a clone of Wolverine, one of the key components of X-23’s backstory is that she was trained from birth to be an assassin. Like with Wolverine, the program that created X-23 wanted to use her as a weapon. This looks to remain intact for Logan, as X-23 clearly has skills and bloodlust. In the comics, Rice oversaw her training as an elite warrior, designed to accomplish missions a more conspicuous adult wouldn’t be able to manage.
This upbringing filled X-23’s childhood with rage, violence, and murder– things that have continued to haunt her. While Logan is defined by his tragic past and the things he can’t remember, X-23 is even worse off, since most of the atrocities she was forced to commit happened before she was even a teenager. As part of the shadowy group known as The Facility, X-23 was used as a living weapon to take out targets deemed worthy of death. This enslavement and betrayal would sadly just be the start of X-23’s brutal youth.
12. X-23 Has Her Own Berserker Mode
Fans of Wolverine are well-aware of his Berserker Mode, and the various trailers for Logan make it seem as if the unhinged state will make its way into the film. Once again, X-23’s version is far more tragic. Rather than a state of untethered rage that’s almost self-induced and used to mow down villains, X-23 was designed to have a “‘trigger scent.” When placed on a target, the scent turns X-23 into a remorseless and unstoppable hunter who won’t rest until she’s killed her prey.
The scent has haunted her for years and is one of the ways she’s often been enthralled by those who wish to use her. Though it has since been healed, it caused her a lot of heartache and destruction along the way. During an attempt to free her surrogate daughter, Dr. Kinney was tagged with the trigger scent by Rice. X-23 was helpless to its call and killed the only person who ever loved her. As she died in X-23’s arms, Sarah gave her child the name Laura and information on how to contact Wolverine and Professor X.
11. Laura Was Introduced to the Comics In NYX
A year after her television debut, Laura was introduced to the comics. Rather than in an X-Men book, however, she made her first appearance in an obscure title called NYX. Focused on a group of trouble mutant teens, the book was long-gestating at Marvel as part of their adult-centered MAX line. Eventually, it ended up as a limited series written by current Marvel CCO Joe Quesada and illustrated by Joshua Middleton.
Focusing on a time-freezing mutant named Kiden, the series introduced a slew of new characters all with tragic backstories. Many of them were parentless, struggling to get by in District X of New York City. Throughout the series, they deal with gangs and pimps, providing an alternate look at life as a newly mutated teen. While most of the other characters only reappeared in the book’s follow-up, written by future X-23 scribe Marjorie Liu, the book proved to be the start of X-23’s rise in comics.
10. She Used to be a Prostitute
One of the key elements to Laura’s lore that was introduced in NYX was that she was forced to work as a prostitute under the vicious pimp Zebra Daddy. The rogue serves as one of the chief foes in NYX as he gets a hold of Laura shortly after she escapes from The Facility. Catering to clients with violent tendencies, Laura is made to do terrible things as her living hell continues. She begins cutting herself over and over, even after the wounds heal.
Once Laura meets Kiden and her friends, she finally gains some sense of agency and confidence and is able to extricate herself from Zebra Daddy. He continues to hunt her, however, leading to a showdown between his forces and X-23’s friends. In the end, Laura kills her former pimp in one of her first acts of freedom, protecting her friends in the process. This is one element of X-23’s backstory that will likely be skipped over for Logan, but it’s a core part of who she is in the comics.
9. X-23 Was a Member of X-Force
After writing two miniseries about Laura, Yost and Kyle moved on to other X-Men stories and brought X-23 with them. Once her backstory was fleshed out, the character had the confidence and clarity to finally seek out her genetic father and Professor X. She spent time as an X-Man, studying at the Xavier Mansion with fellow mutants. She even survived M-Day with her powers intact and tussled with the Green Goliath during World War Hulk.
After a series of threats moved Cyclops further toward his future darkness, he decided to revive X-Force as a black ops team. Designed to stop attacks before they occur, the group is ruthless. Cyclops first picks Laura to join the team given her skills, much to the dismay of Wolverine. As a member of X-Force, Laura leans back into her darkest tendencies, continually worrying Logan about her mental state.
Eventually, the time in X-Force leads her back to her past ways, and she even encounters Kiden once more. Sadly, Kiden is being used to trap X-Force in the future and actually begs for death. While Laura ultimately doesn’t pull the trigger, the event shakes her and marks a depressing send-off for her underused friend.
8. She Was Captain Universe At One Point
Over the years, many Marvel characters have possessed the power of Captain Universe, and Laura has joined their ranks a few times. The first Captain Universe appeared in 1979’s Micronauts #8 before becoming a recurring element in Marvel Comics. It’s eventually revealed that the Uni-Power is a cosmic force that’s somewhat alive and attaches itself to various individuals in order to accomplish its heroic goals.
During a period following X-23’s first missions with the X-Men, the power seeks out Laura, and other heroes like the Hulk and Daredevil, in order to confront a threat to its existence. While X-23 is empowered, she teams with S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to stop A.I.M. from getting their hands on the Uni-Power. Eventually, she succeeds in stopping them and the power left her. But it wasn’t their last encounter, as the Uni-Power would continue to play into Laura’s ongoing darkness.
7. Laura Used To Have Some Hellish Nightmares
In 2010, Marjorie Liu began writing a series of X-23 stories that would continue to flesh out the character and focus on her dark past and present struggles. Beginning with The Killing Dream, Liu crafted a story that saw Laura having vivid dreams of Hell and the devil, all mixed up with ideas about Wolverine and her past. She leaves her friends and the X-Force, deciding to strike out on her own and discover the source of her dreams and the mysterious symbol that ends up on her hand.
The search soon leads her to Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Both Spidey and Sue Storm have been having similar dreams of the symbol and soon realize it’s connected to the Uni-Power, as they were all once possessed by it. The journey leads them to an alien planet where they face the Whirldemon King. While attempting to save the life of Valeria Richards, Laura is once again empowered by the Uni-Power and becomes Captain Universe to stop the threat.
Though her nightmarish dreams make for some striking visuals that feed into the darkness of Laura Kinney, the connection to the fantastical Captain Universe means this exact story will likely never make its way into the movies.
6. X-23 Was Partners with Gambit
In between Laura leaving X-Force and bonding with the Uni-Power, she spends a considerable time with Gambit. In place of Wolverine, he acts as something of a mentor and surrogate father to Laura in a series of stories that would be wonderful to see on screen. As the only one who seemingly trusts Laura to strike out on her own, Gambit and X-23 form a bond and go on a number of missions together.
Their first adventure deals with a clone of Mr. Sinister dubbed Miss Sinister. After defeating her, they wind up in Madripoor and have a number of run-ins with Wolverine’s son Daken and Tyger Tiger, the deposed crime boss of the island who’s been ousted by Daken.
A mission to hunt down someone who’s purchased the trigger scent, along with Laura’s and Daken’s DNA, brings Wolverine and Jubilee into the mix. All of these missions eventually lead to Laura investigating the symbol on her hand, while Jubilee and Gambit go off on a series of wonderful adventures together as well.
5. She Was In A Marvel Version of The Hunger Games
Two under-the-radar series in recent years that would be perfect for film or television are Avengers Academy and Avengers Arena. Academy involved a number of at-risk teens with superpowers brought under the tutelage of Hank Pym, Quicksilver, and Tigra in an effort to keep them from turning to crime. Eventually, the comic became a home for a number of teen heroes, including X-23. Arena, meanwhile, pushed things even darker by rounding up a number of the characters from the Academy and other teen hero groups and putting them in a televised death battle lorded over by Arcade.
Along with members of the Runaways and a few new characters, X-23 and some of her Academy pals were forced into the game where they had to debate whether they would actually kill innocents to survive. Running 18 issues by Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker, the kids’ time in Murderworld would be yet another dark spot in their past. Some would go on to infiltrate the Masters of Evil in Avengers Undercover, but for Laura, it was just one more example of being used and forced to be a killer.
4. X-23 Helped the All-New X-Men Fight A Mutant Hate Group
While the other survivors of Murderworld go about their secret mission, Laura somehow winds up without her memory and captured by the mutant-hating religious zealots known as the Purifiers. Rescued by Kitty Pryde and the past versions of the original X-Men, Laura eventually has her memories brought back by the young Jean Grey. Following some awkward interactions, X-23 decides to team up with the group to go after the Purifiers.
Unfortunately, the group poses quite a threat, especially as led by William Stryker, Jr. Eventually, the X-Men and X-23 are triumphant, and Laura joins the team. Together, they have a number of adventures, including a trip with the Guardians of the Galaxy involving a trial for Jean Grey due to her future self’s destruction as the Phoenix.
Considering how young Dafne Keen is in Logan, hopefully she’ll be just the right age to play the older Laura if/when Marvel and Fox finally get the band back together so we can see X-23 team up with the Guardians.
3. Laura Now Dates the Time-Displaced Angel
Despite the young Cyclops having a thing for Laura, X-23 is far more interested in Angel. After Beast plucks the five original X-Men from the past in an effort to lead Scott Summer back to the light, the young X-Men actually join forces with Cyclops’ group at the old Weapon X facility. While the place is a morbid location for Laura, she still manages to strike up a relationship with the teen version of Warren Worthington III.
When the All-New X-Men and the Guardians get involved in the events of the Black Vortex, Angel submits himself to the power of the cosmic mirror and is reborn with fiery wings. He states his reasoning for doing so is that he loves Laura and doesn’t want to be corrupted by Archangel in the future the way his present self has been. Following Secret Wars, Angel retains his cosmic wings and he and Laura are still dating.
There are some issues in their relationship, however, as Angel is constantly trying to protect the highly-capable and invulnerable Laura, worrying about her reckless nature. While Angel will be quite a bit older in the timeline of Logan, perhaps the X-Men movies will eventually pull a similar trick and bring the stars of Apocalypse into the future so Angel and Laura can be together.
2. She Has Clones of Her Own
When it comes to a story involving Wolverine, or really any Marvel character, there’s always bound to be more clones. In Laura’s current arc, she discovers a plot involving a hired assassin in Paris. Upon stopping the killer, she learns that it’s actually a clone of her. The story leads her to a group who have cloned Laura multiple times– the clones had escaped and the group is seeking to get them back. Laura agrees to help, but the organization is much more nefarious than she realizes. She eventually encounters some of the only surviving members of her clone group, who have all aged slightly differently and bear self-inflicted, defining scars.
Though they all battle at first, they eventually join forces against their creators as Laura seeks to free her new sisters. Given how current the story is, we won’t spoil it too much. Suffice it to say that it’s a great way of exploring Laura’s past and how much she’s grown and changed as a person.
1. X-23 Is The All-New Wolverine
Following the death of Wolverine and the universe rewriting of Secret Wars, Laura is no longer X-23. Instead, she’s taken up the mantle of her father and become the All-New Wolverine. Rocking a slight variation on Logan’s classic blue and yellow costume, Laura has shed much of her past anger and trepidation. She’s now confident and even cocky as she takes on threats and relishes her invulnerability.
She’s still dating Angel and occasionally teams up with the All-New X-Men. There’s also the story of her clone sisters. It’s all relatively new, following the rest of Secret Wars, but it’s provided a great look at a character who’s spent over a decade being defined by pain and misery. While all of those things are still inside her, she’s been able to grow and mature, finding comfort in the new status quo. Laura was always a means to delve into a darker side of Wolverine, and now she’s continuing his legacy by showing the light that’s present in the character as well.
What are your favorite things about X-23? What parts of her backstory are you hoping to see in Logan? Let us know in the comments.
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