Laura Kinney isn’t like most teenage girls, even those that live in the Marvel Universe. Laura, better known as X-23, is a genetic clone of the mutant hero Wolverine, and like him, she’s armed with razor sharp adamantium claws and a healing factor that lets her recover quickly from virtually any injury. The character, who’s first appearance wasn’t in a comic book, was created by Craig Kyle and made her debut in a 2003 episode of the animated television series “X-Men: Evolution.” One year later, she crossed over to the printed page in “NYX” #3, a series that found the character befriending a group of homeless mutants teenagers who had helped her escape the clutches of a vicious pimp. Since then, she’s appeared in the series “New X-Men,” been the star of two self-titled mini-series that illuminated her past as an assassin for the organization that created her, and most recently starred in a major storyline that brought her to the next level in the pages of “X-Force,” as well as having a reoccurring role in “Uncanny X-Men.”
As a member of both X-Force and the X-Men, X-23 calls the X-Men’s island of Utopia, which floats off the coast of San Francisco, home. However, come March, she’ll return to the mean streets of New York City in the “X-23” one-shot by writer Marjorie Liu [“NYX: No Way Home,” “Dark Wolverine”] and artist Alina Ursov [“Young Avengers Presents,” “X-Force”]. CBR News spoke with Liu about the special, which is part of Marvel Comics 2010 year long “Women of Marvel” celebration.
X-23 is similar to Daken, a character you co-write every month in “Dark Wolverine,” in that both had very traumatic childhoods and both were raised to be assassins. However, Laura seems to have compassion for other people, while Daken mainly sees them as tools to be exploited. Why do you think this is ? Is it simply because of her time spent with the X-Men, or are there other defining events in the character’s life that you think were equally important in shaping her?
Unlike Daken, Laura was raised in a lab, brainwashed, under constant supervision (receiving some kindness from her surrogate mother), and then later abused sexually – after which she eventually found her way to the X-Men. Logan, I’m sure, was the first male role model in her life who treated her decently, and with affection. All this, and she’s still a teen.
I don’t think Daken suffered nearly as much as Laura, but he was also brainwashed to a certain degree – and for much longer than Laura. He’s 65 now, right? That’s a long time to be set in your ways. A long time to hate and feel sorry for yourself.
Actually, I don’t have a good answer for you. I don’t think it’s just being with the X-Men that has given her that streak of compassion – she showed a willingness to help others when she was with Kiden [Nixon, one of the mutant teens from NYX]. It may be, simply enough, that their personalities are different. Or maybe the key difference rests in their ages. Or the kind of brainwashing they endured. The abused don’t always become abusers. Some rise above their circumstances, and become better for them. Others, not so much.
Based on her childhood and the traumas she’s endured, do you think Laura’s personality is sort of fixed, or is she still evolving as she learns and experiences more things?
Despite the fact that she’s powerful, dangerous, and ruthless, Laura is, still, just a kid. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say “just a kid,” but she’s a young teen girl who has been through hell. Raised in lab, then pimped out as a whore, now used as a killing machine for the X-Men. She’s spent her entire life being used – mostly by men in authority – and she’s just beginning to realize what that means, and what a mental trap she’s found herself in: this odd circle of power and powerlessness that she keeps returning to.
So no, she’s not fixed in her personality – not by a long shot. But she’s got a long road to travel before she can stand fully on her own. She knows,intellectually, that she can, but actually living that independent life is not as easy as it sounds. Not when she’s been conditioned, from birth, to rely on certain power structures.
What is X-23’s physical and emotional state when the “X-23” one-shot begins?
Laura’s emotional state, at the beginning, is…introspective. Physically, she’s fine – but isn’t she always? It’s her mind and heart that need bolstering.
Can you share with us anything regarding the plot and theme of the one-shot?
Power and powerlessness, the cages we put ourselves in without realizing it, the strength it takes to stand up for ourselves when people are hurting us – not physically, but mentally. Friendship, love, hope – I tried to cover all the bases for Laura!
As for the plot, it’s rather simple: Laura and Logan come to New York to help an old friend of his (Jubilee, as a matter of fact), and Laura picks up Kiden’s scent. She follows it, finds them – and someone else finds her. Someone very powerful, who wants to control her life. Something, unfortunately, that she’s all too familiar with.
This will be the first time X-23 has encountered Kiden and the other kids from “NYX” since the original series. Is there anything you can tell us about the dynamic between Laura and her friends when they reunite in this special?
Kiden and the other kids of NYX first met Laura when she was at her very lowest. She was being used as a whore, and her mind had truly shut down. Her body was just a thing for men to use. She didn’t even think about it or fight her treatment.
But Kiden’s friendship brought her, for all intents and purposes, back to life. It made her wake up. And the thing about Kiden and the others was that they didn’t want anything from her. Not one thing, except to help and keep her safe. That would have been something Laura had never encountered.
They were the first people to show her true friendship, and that’s not something she can ever forget. So there are a lot of hard emotions for Laura when she encounters Kiden and the others – and, as with the first time she met them, their presence will make her rethink the circumstances of her life.
What sort of obstacles and adversaries will Laura encounters in this story?
The greatest enemy one ever faces is one’s own self. With Laura, this is taken to a much deeper level, with higher stakes. She must take that first step in becoming her own person, or else risk losing her identity altogether.
What do you feel the book’s artist, Alina Ursov, brings to the comic?
Alina is fabulous. I can’t say enough good things. Her art is fluid, delicate, with just the right mix of strength and beauty. Truly, it’s a joy working with her. She was the artist who was originally intended to draw this one-shot, and I’m thrilled that’s still the case.
Is X-23 a character you’d like to revisit again someday? Do you have any ideas on where you’d like to take her next?
I loved writing her, so sure! I suppose I’d like to carry on exploring some of the themes and issues raised in this one-shot.