This year, Logan introduced a promising new face to 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, while also bringing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Professor Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) time as mutant heroes to a close. An inspired take on several iconic stories, including Old Man Logan and the mutant-depowering “M-Day,” the gritty genre-bent film bid a bittersweet farewell to X-Men leader and general badass killing machine Wolverine. On the sweeter (but no less wild) side of things, Mr. Howlett’s final bow also signaled the arrival of his young clone “daughter,” Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen) a.k.a. X-23.
As one era ends, another begins. Laura rapidly became a fan favorite and Keen’s performance was one of the highlights of an overall stellar film. Not long after Logan turned into a critical darling and box office hit, director James Mangold teased that he’d love to write a standalone for the young heroine. Mangold recently announced that he and X-23 creator Craig Kyle are developing a script for her first standalone.
With a serious dearth of Wolverine on the big screen, though, the question remains whether or not Laura should carry on her father’s legacy, as she did in the comic books, and become the new Wolverine.
Dafne Keen’s portrayal of a feral tween version of Logan was undoubtedly one of the film’s best elements. She channeled the frenzied intensity of X-23, and could easily do so for a leading role. However, unless Fox casts someone older, Keen isn’t even a teenager yet and isn’t quite ready for the full depth and brutality that comes with the Wolverine role – unless they go with her no-kill motto from the later comics. True, Laura has experienced greater horrors in her short years than most people do in a lifetime, but thrusting the mantle on her at this point seems premature.
X-23 was actually created for the short-lived X-Men: Evolution animated series (2003). Becoming an instant standout on the show, her comic book debut was inevitable. Her first four-color appearance arrived a year later in the homeless mutant series NYX (2004). The limited run details her time spent homeless in New York (and a much more “adult” version of X-23). She wouldn’t don the traditional Wolvy-style uniform for another decade, becoming All-New Wolverine in 2015. Between her origin and her torch-bearing turn, Laura went on scores of adventures, found, lost, and then found love again, and explored life as a lone wolf and a member of the X-Men.
Clearly, Mangold understands the importance of not thrusting Laura (or Keen) into such a prominent position off the bat. When discussing his vision for the spinoff, he noted an interest in creating a “very honest film about young people growing up.” If his plan makes through the scripting process, it would allow Laura to uncover key truths about herself, as well as her genetic duplicate “father.” Once she’s absorbed the full measure of what being X-23, much less Wolverine, means, she could potentially expand her role into a legacy character.
If Fox does make X-23 into the next Wolverine, however, it must be a smooth progression. By 2029, when Logan is set, the man who became her reluctant surrogate father is much closer in age and tone to Old Man Logan than classic Wolverine. His days as a powerful X-Men brawler and costumed hero are long behind him, although he can still throw down with the best of them. The plot already gave Laura a powerful if glamorized window into his past – the X-Men comics, he claims, are nothing more than “ice cream for bedwetters.” Gabriela Lopez (Elizabeth Rodriguez), the nurse who connects Laura and Logan, also recognizes him from the comics. Whether heavily embellished or not, they're a great place for X-23 to research the larger-than-life character.
Once she does understand herself and Wolverine better, she may be inspired to become a superhero. Laura may even choose to follow in his footsteps and restart the X-Men, with the help of her mutant clone cohorts like Richter, Joey, and Bobby. In order for Laura to appropriately inhabit his title, though, she needs to discover his history organically, and, as in comic book lore, choose to honor his legacy of her own volition.
For X-23's first solo feature, Mangold, Kyle, and Fox have a number of possible routes to choose. At present, they’re in an ideal position to pass on the Wolverine mantle in a fairly graceful manner (i.e. Logan is gone and Jackman isn't likely returning to the role). Once X-23 has grown into her claws, discovers a life outside Transigen, and is no longer on the run (as much), the hunted can easily become a hunter of mutantkind's foes. Fox will also be in a better position to feel out the possibilities for the character and Keen’s iteration, depending on how her solo film shakes out.
Some fans are already deadset against a legacy Wolverine (or simply a female version), while others are simply more interested in digging into Laura’s persona for her own sake. The X-23 spinoff could also tackle issues like whether to include elements from the surrounding X-verse (and how to do so) or other mutant clone characters from Logan. From a marketing standpoint, it may come down to whether X-23 has enough clout beyond the comic book world to stand on her own or whether it would be easier – especially given Jackman’s defining take on the character – to wrap Laura in familiar garb.
Should X-23 become the next Wolverine? If it works for both the character and the X-Men universe, absolutely. Of course, maybe the market isn’t interested in yet another Wolverine film just yet. Let us know in the comments whether you think Laura should fulfil her comic book role and take over for Wolverine.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for further details about the potential Logan-based "X-23" spin-off.
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