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Face It, True Believer: X-23 Is the New Wolverine

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Face It, True Believer: X-23 Is the New Wolverine

“So… in your profile picture you were wearing an X-Men shirt,” he says with a warm smile. “I love X-Men!” My first date nerves are instantly assuaged by a topic I feel like I discuss confidently. “Me too! Who’s your favorite X-Men character?”

“Wolverine, obviously.” “Oh cool!,” I gush. “Yeah, Laura Kinney is so complex and layered –” “What? Huh? Who?” “Laura! Wolverine…” I trail off. “You meant Logan, right?” “Of course.” He grunts defensively. “Who is Laura?”

“X-23. She’s the new Wolverine.”

“That’s stupid.”

Of course I loved Logan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not excited about Laura Kinney as Wolverine. In Marvel’s current “All-New Wolverine” series, written by Tom Taylor and illustrated by David López and Nicole Virella, she’s smart, tough, resourceful, funny and has already shown a lot of complex character growth with regard to dealing with her dark past. In Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley’s “All-New X-Men,” Laura has been badass, and though she’s basically physically indestructible, she’s increasingly emotionally open. Her relationship with Warren (Worthington, aka Angel) is a complex portrayal of the struggle to be intimate with someone who had a traumatic upbringing.

Because Laura is so much younger than we’ve ever seen Logan, her dire origin story is still rippling just under the surface, and her character growth is just beginning. When she arrived in “All-New X-Men,” she had just escaped torture and didn’t even recognize Kitty Pryde. She allowed her body to heal, and more slowly, she healed her mind as well. One of my favorite things about Laura is that she is open about the darkness inside of her; she makes definite efforts towards mental health and personal growth in an incredibly strong and inspiring way.

In “All-New X-Men,” she polished her ability to work in a team and to trust other kids — and if you remember the hyperactive 16-year-old Bobby Drake from a few years ago, that must have been trying. In “All-New Wolverine,” Laura bonds with a young clone of herself (Gabby), taking her in as a little sister-slash-sidekick. There have been several fun crossovers with Squirrel Girl, Dr. Strange, Wasp, Old Man Logan and S.H.I.E.L.D. as she gets to know herself better while cooperating with other heroes in whom she sees part of herself reflected. Laura confronts the classic Wolverine-esque dilemma of whether to kill a bad guy so they can’t hurt anyone else, and lands on the side of compassion, already displaying a level of self-awareness that took Logan decades to perfect. In short, “All-New Wolverine” blends humor and wackiness with dark twisted emotions, amidst high-concept science-fiction plots — exactly what fans want in any well-written X-Men book.

x-23-wolverine

And yet, it seems to be a recurring situation that I encounter men who are defensive and angry that their favorite macho, masculine character has passed his mantle to a girl. James Howlett’s Logan is an awesome character, and totally deserving of all the admiration he has accrued. However, on the surface level, in some depictions, he can be “a guy’s guy,” or more accurately, “a bub’s bub.” The concept of “toxic masculinity” describes stereotypes of the male gender as violent, sexually aggressive and unemotional. The prevalence of toxic masculinity can be harmful to all genders, because it teaches men to suffer alone in silence. Behind his thick, hairy, barrel chest, Logan hides his feelings, drowned in whiskey and beer, and embodies many of the archetypes of toxic masculinity. Laura has many of the same qualities, so if you really miss your grumpy loner with a heart of gold, look no further! And while Logan has always been a favorite of fans regardless of their gender, he does appeal specifically to cisgendered men, at least superficially.

It’s common for an established hero to pass their mantle to a younger character, such as Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, Thor and Thor, or Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson. Now, this prototypical male favorite hero’s yellow and blue costume is worn by a strong woman. (Well, probably not the exact same costume; I’m sure a tailor made a few alterations.) The majority of fans seemed relatively okay with it when Thor took over for… Thor, so why would some males grow defensive and angry regarding Wolverine? Is it because they loved Logan so much that the idea of his costume worn by anyone (in books that they’re clearly not reading) is reprehensible? Or is it because Logan was a pillar of testosterone and Laura’s a girl? I wonder if the transition makes some men feel betrayed or like they’ve lost some of their standing.

I know that not all men are beholden to archaic constructs of gender norms. I have a lot of awesome male friends who are progressive and cool, and I have a lot of friends who are Wolverine fans who love Laura. However, there is still a portion of the population that upon hearing of Logan’s replacement react with a simple, guarded, “That’s dumb.” I don’t find this pettiness necessarily offensive; rather, I pity these guys for letting their outdated views on gender stop them from reading a really fun superhero book.

I think Logan would be impressed by and proud of Laura’s success thus far as Wolverine. It’s unfortunate his tenure had to come to an end — for now — but hey, SNIKT happens. Logan was an X-Man, and that implies he supported the progress of equality. Logan, who once was headmaster of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, supported and welcomed mutants of all backgrounds, so long as they had the desire to learn and do good, so I’m pretty sure he would say there’s always room for more heroes. Just as a new mutant’s abilities in no way take power away from other mutants, one character’s development and time in the spotlight in no way diminishes the importance of another.

Tags:
wolverine, x-23
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