It looks like Laura Kinney's time as Marvel's Wolverine is coming to an end, with Logan replacing X-23 once again. In 2014, Marvel Comics made a shocking decision; they killed Wolverine. Nobody was under any illusion that the death would last, though, and he finally returned in last year's Marvel Legacy #1. The resurrection faced Marvel with a difficult decision.
The last couple of years have seen Laura, a.k.a. X-23, step up in Logan's memory. She's taken the Wolverine identity for herself, and Tom Taylor's All-New Wolverine comic has been a successful one. But with the "real" Wolverine back on the scene, what should Marvel do with Laura?
The answer, it seems, is that Laura is going back to the X-23 moniker. In July, Mariko Tamaki will be taking over as writer of a relaunched X-23 series. The book will continue on from All-New Wolverine, and artist Juann Cabal will stay with Laura. It's a logical approach, given Laura is best known as X-23 - but it also seems to be a flawed one.
The Origin of X-23
X-23 was originally created by Craig Kyle for the X-Men: Evolution TV series, and was an instant hit. There, she was envisioned as a clone of Wolverine, created to be the ultimate assassin. Marvel fell in love with the idea, and quickly had her brought into the mainstream X-Men comics. Unfortunately, they made one simple change - and Kyle wasn't a fan. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he complained that Marvel immediately sexualized the character:
"She was then immediately aged up to 16, and then in Uncanny [X-Men] she was 22 and had a boob job. Those issues are a dark place. I was really hoping we would have a young character, a child, a pre-teen who wasn't going to be in the dating, the sexuality aspects of the storylines for a long time to come."
James Mangold worked closely with Kyle when designing his version of the character for Logan, and he created a version that was far closer to the original design.
Meanwhile, it's important to note that the designation "X-23" is not a codename. Rather, it's essentially a "slave name," given to Laura by her creators as part of their attempt to dehumanize her. Laura's character arc has been one in which she pursues her humanity, attempting to realize that she is no mere weapon; she is a real person, a girl in her own right, and she has a spirit and a soul. That's been a major theme in Taylor's All-New Wolverine, which has seen Laura actually build a strange kind of family; "adopting" her own clone, who now calls herself the Honey Badger, and even taking in a pet wolverine.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards
That, then, is why this is a backwards step for the character. When Laura took up the name "Wolverine," she was signifying that she was more than just a clone; she was rejecting the X-23 identity, instead accepting herself as Wolverine's "daughter," inheritor of his mantle. This wasn't just a change in codename; it meant something to the character, and was a key part of her journey. To go back to the "X-23" title, then, is literally to undo a core part of the character arc that fans have loved.
Marvel has commissioned costume designs from Mark Choi, and they've clearly asked him to create a costume that evokes Laura'sX-Force uniform. Everything about this design is nostalgia-driven, attempting to remind fans of the X-Force run. The costumes have been sexualized as much as possible, with Laura showing as much skin as she can. He's shared subsequent sketches that show less skin, but still features '90s-style "boob windows." It's a shame, given how popular some of Laura's recent costumes have been.
Marvel's "Fresh Start" feels increasingly nostalgia-driven, and in this case they're attempting to bring Laura back to a status quo that they believe fans loved. Marvel don't seem to have understood that characters change and grow with the passage of time, and that Laura's stint as the All-New Wolverine actually meant something.
The "X-23" title was symbolic, and abandoning it mattered; for Laura to return to it is to reject a core part of her character journey. For Marvel to then compound this by returning to an older uniform style just underlines the problem with this nostalgia-driven approach.