Liu Examines the Dark Past of "X-23"

Only a few heroes in the Marvel Universe can say their body count is significantly greater than their age. Laura Kinney, the titular character in Marvel Comics' "X-23" series by writer Marjorie Liu, is one of those few. Kinney, a genetic clone of the X-Man known as Wolverine, began killing at an early age. That's because the organization that created her used horrific physical and emotional abuse to transform the young X-23 into their own personal assassin. Fortunately when Laura became a teenager she was able to escape from her creators and find a home with the X-Men and a father figure in the form of Wolverine.

That lasted until X-Men team leader Cyclops decided he needed his own secret team of killers and drafted Laura and Wolverine for his incarnation of X-Force. Eventually the team was exposed and dissolved, and when it was, Laura realized she was still playing out the role her creators had decided for her. As a result she left the X-Men to discover who she was and what she wanted to become.

X-23's journey of self discovery has been a painful one. Especially in the series current arc, "Touching Darkness," where she's been confronted by evidence of the kills she performed as a young child. Consoling and helping Laura in the arc are her traveling companion, Gambit, and guest stars Wolverine and Jubilee. Will they be able to help X-23 come to terms with the dark truths of her past? Or will the horrors be too much for her? For the answers to these questions and more, CBR News spoke with Liu about her plans for Laura and the title's future.

CBR News: Marjorie, in "X-23" #10, the initial installment of "Touching Darkness," Wolverine and Gambit had an interesting discussion about Laura. It seems like they both care for her, but they perceive Laura and what's best for her differently. Can you speak on that?

Marjorie Liu: Gambit perceives Laura as a damaged, abused, young girl who is trying her hardest to make a better life -- and that speaks to him, because he was a damaged, abused boy who tried to make a better life, and made some terrible mistakes along the way.

Wolverine, to some degree, still sees her as a weapon -- perhaps, even, a reflection of himself. She's supposed to be him, except not -- and she was made by the same people who tried to turn him into a weapon. With her, they succeeded -- for the most part. And I think it's just weird for Wolverine. He doesn't know how to handle her, emotionally. I don't think he even realizes that he's created this distance between them, but Gambit sees it. To him, Laura has never been a soldier. Just a kid.

Wolverine doesn't see the kid first -- he sees the weapon.

It seems like when Wolverine came to visit X-23 he brought Jubilee because he wanted Laura to have some interactions with a happy-go-lucky, relatively normal girl who's desperately trying to maintain her sense of self after recently being transformed into a vampire. Did he want Jubilee to get something out of the meeting as well?

Jubilee's in an odd position, in that she's not supposed to be alone -- not yet, anyway -- because no one really trusts her not to vamp out and hurt someone. Also, she needs Wolverine's blood in order to maintain some degree of her humanity. That's the situation -- for now -- which offers the promise of some fantastic stories. It also means that Jubilee accompanying Wolverine was more or less a given (at least in my mind).

But Jubilee does prove to be a good influence on X-23, who doesn't have many - if any -- female friends her age. Jubilee, despite her vampirism, is fairly normal and (relentlessly) cheerful, and that's a breath of fresh air for someone like X-23.

X-23, on the other hand, is just as good for Jubilee, who also feels isolated and alone, and uncertain about her future. She just hides it better, that's all. Meeting X-23 gives her a new perspective about her situation. She sees that they both feel vulnerable, and are outsiders in ways that even other mutants can't understand -- and that creates a bond between them.

In #11, in stores now, Jubilee drinks X-23's blood and picks up a memory of one of Laura's early kills. In the memory, Laura appears to be in the grips of the Trigger Scent, a chemical that her creators used to send her into a mindless killing frenzy. She slaughters a man and woman that were guarding a child and then appears to stop. I have to wonder, though, did we see all the important details of that memory? Were the men and women that Laura slaughtered protecting the child? Or holding him prisoner?

Good question. The answer is no, we didn't see all the important details.

In that same issue, the Trigger Scent is discovered to be for sale on the Paris black market. When X-23, Gambit, Wolverine and Jubilee head out to stop the sale Laura makes Jubilee vow to use her vampiric strength to kill her if she gets taken over by the scent. Then at the end of the issue Laura runs headlong into a situation that she had to know would put her in danger of being taken over by the Trigger Scent. Was this a conscious suicide attempt? Or was she more motivated by the familiar scent she smelled before she rushed headlong into the situation?

No, this was not a suicide attempt. She was motivated by a scent first, and followed before she thought through the possible consequences. She's like Wolverine, that way. Leaping headfirst into a situation, reacting from the gut.

The familiar scent that X-23 was chasing belonged to the person who was trying to sell a new version of the Trigger Scent that could turn anyone who smells it into a killer. When this person speaks to Laura via a loudspeaker she clearly recognizes the voice, and it's revealed that the voice belongs to a woman. Can you hint or tease any more about this character's identity? Is she an established character? Or is this a new creation with a previously unrevealed connection to Laura's past?

I don't know how much to say about this character, except that the end of this arc will not resolve her mystery. This is someone who will continue to haunt Laura, over time. Never fear, though -- there will be a resolution.

We imagine the hunt for this mysterious female mastermind will comprise quite a bit of the action in the remaining chapters of "Touching Darkness?" Can you hint at what else we will see in this arc? Based on #11's cliffhanger it seems like you'll be kicking off July's #12 with a fight between Jubilee and a Trigger Scent possessed X-23?

Dealing with the results of this woman's machinations will fill up this last issue of the "Touching Darkness' arc, as well as showing just what a terrible weapon this trigger scent could be -- if it ever fell into the wrong hands, which it has.

We'll also see the beginning of X-23's emotional healing, with regard to her issues of self-harm. She won't be cured, because that would just be unrealistic, but if she ever does fall into the kind of despair that makes her want to use a claw on herself, she might handle that urge a bit differently -- with the knowledge that she has friends to lean on.

Speaking of #12 how does it feel to reach the one year mark with this series?

Honestly, that totally blew past me without realizing it. I just wrote #17, now I'm working on #14, and I learned a couple days ago that X-23 has been approved for another year -- so I'll be writing the book through 2012. When I think about it, though, it feels good, but it also seems as though it happened so fast. I blinked, and here I am. I hardly know how it happened.

In August's "X-23" #13 you move the action from Paris to New York. It sounds like this story will be very important to Laura's peace of mind because it has her trying to find someone who survived an encounter with her when she was as assassin. Is that accurate?

It will definitely be important to her peace of mind, her need to make amends and face the demons of her past -- but it's also part of a larger puzzle.

The solicits for #13 also mention that Laura is going to encounter the Future Foundation. You wrote the FF before when you were co-writing Daken's solo title. What's it like returning to the characters in their present incarnation? What made you want to explore the dynamic between them and Laura? And is this issue primarily about Laura and the FF, or will Gambit be part of it as well?

I adore the Fantastic Four, and it has been lovely -- though bittersweet -- returning to them in their present incarnation. They're dealing with grief, a new outlook, and X-23 will remind them of Daken, who reminds them of Johnny -- and so it won't be completely smooth sailing between her and one of the characters. Gambit will make an appearance early on, and you'll see him here and there throughout -- but really, this is about Laura. This four-issue arc is going to set her on a new path that will bring her into the larger Marvel universe.

Will Laura's New York adventure bring her face-to-face with other Marvel heroes? Can we expect appearances by her friends from Marvel's "NYX" series?

"NYX" will be making a return -- eventually -- but it keeps getting delayed! They will be mentioned, however, in #13 -- and that's because X-23 and Gambit seek out a fellow mutant, Cecelia Reyes, to help deal with a particular issue. Cecelia has been in contact with the NYX kids, and X-23 picks up their scents.

August is also roughly the halfway point for "Schism," the latest X-Men event. Laura technically isn't part of the X-Men anymore, but some of their members are still very important to her. Will "Schism" tie into or have an impact on "X-23?"

See #17. The "Schism" event won't be a huge part of X-23's story, but it will be addressed.

We've talked quite a bit about story. Let's wrap things up by talking about the visuals of "X-23." Laura is a character who is very intense in her actions and her feelings. So far Sana Takeda, the artist on your "Touching Darkness" arc, seems to be capturing that perfectly. What can people expect from her visuals on #12?

I just saw Sana's pages for #12, and they are extraordinary. Honest to goodness, people will be blown away. It's dark, visceral, each scene so expressive -- even poetic. I love working with her so much.

With #13, you're collaborating with Phil Noto. What do you like best about his interpretation of Laura?

My God, Phil Noto. I can't even tell you. His storytelling is exquisite. There are some scenes in #13 that give me chills, and he is an absolute joy to write for. I can't believe how lucky I am.

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