Liu Unsheathes Daken and X-23's Claws

In life, it's not the physical wounds that leave the biggest scars - it's the emotional ones. This is a truism the X-Man known as Wolverine has learned over his long life. Gifted with a mutant healing ability, the Marvel Comics hero doesn't have any lasting physical trauma, but the emotional traumas he's endured over the years have left him with with too many scars to count.

Tragically, both Wolverine's son Daken Akihito and his female clone Laura Kinney AKA X-23 are also coming to learn this very lesson, on inherited from the X-Man, along with his claws, healing ability and penchant for misfortune. Wolverine's archenemy Romulus murdered Daken's mother and hid Daken's existence from his father whom he then raised to hate while training him in the arts of manipulation and assassination. As a young girl, X-23 was also trained as an assassin and forced to commit several murders for the organization that created her. Later, after escaping the organization, she fell into clutches of a vicious pimp who emotionally and sexually exploited her.

Both Daken and X-23 have dealt with the tragedies that have befallen them in different ways. Daken has hidden his scars beneath the armor of his massive ego and has dedicated himself to obtaining ultimate power. He set out to take over the secret organization of the man who raised him, Romulus, but recently Wolverine toppled Romulus from power and made sure Daken could never take his place. For her part, X-23 eventually joined the X-Men and became an important part of the clandestine kill-squad known as X-Force. These duties kept her busy and her mind off what happened to her, but Wolverine recently forced her on to a path of self discovery when he told her that she could not longer be part of the black-ops crew and should instead spend time to discover herself.

The two characters are ready for the proverbial first days of the rest of their lives, days that begin this week in "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #1 by writers Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli and next week in "X-23" by Liu and artist Will Conrad. We spoke with Liu about both titles.

CBR News: Marjorie, by writing X-23 and co-writing Daken's adventures, you've become one of the major architects of a developing "Wolverine" line of books. Was that the plan and what has it been like?

Marjorie Liu: I hadn't thought about it like that, and to be honest, I still don't - I'm just trying to tell a good story. It just so happens that I'm telling it in a very specific corner of the Marvel Universe, and both books are connected to my favorite comic book hero ever. Ha!

As for why Wolverine is a favorite of mine, that's hard to explain. It's like trying to describe why Clint Eastwood's loner characters in those old westerns are so iconic. They don't talk much, but when they do, it matters. They don't do much, but when they finally act, it's explosive. These are men who get things done. They get their hands dirty to help people. They don't take abuse from anyone, and they don't let others get abused in their presence. That's really, really cool.

I think, in some way, there are elements of that in Daken and Laura. They're nothing like Wolverine - or rather, those traits of him that are most iconic are subverted and the readers sees what could have been. Those two are Wolverine's "what if?"

Let's begin by talking about "X-23." How much story time passes between the end of the recent "Second Coming" event, where Wolverine told her that she would no longer be part of X-Force, and "X-23" #1? Where is Laura physically and emotionally when the series begins?

Not a huge amount of time at all. She's messed up, honestly. She doesn't know where her place is anymore. While she was part of X-Force, her life was defined by "the mission." There was a job to do, and she did it. She was a good soldier.

But - what people love in war, they fear in peace. Or if they don't fear it, they don't understand it. And that's Laura's situation. She was great to have around when times were bad, but now that the world is settling down, well, what do you do with her? How do you treat her? Do you pat her on the back and say, "Okay, go be a kid now?" That's ridiculous. Except, that is what some of the X-Men try to do. Others who have had traumatic childhoods know better. She's not just a kid. She'll never be just a kid. She's a child soldier. That's a very unique psychology.

Of course, one can argue that all the kids on Utopia are child soldiers - but not like her. It's like comparing the students of an upscale military academy to the children of Sierra Leone who are forced into armies and then subjected to fear, brutality, and psychological manipulation to achieve absolute obedience. Those kids are dehumanized. The entire world is dehumanized, for them.

And now Laura is out of that army. How do you recover from that? How do you recover, when even your friends are afraid of you?

In terms of plot and theme, what is the opening arc of "X-23" about? I understand there's some connection to the current story arc in Jason Aaron and Renato Guedes' recently launched "Wolverine" series, which has the title character's soul trapped in hell while sinister forces inhabit his body, but I assume there's more to "X-23" than simply tying in with that.

It's about Laura coming to terms with this new life she's got. She doesn't see it as a second chance, because that implies that the first part of her life was a failure, and she doesn't feel that way. It was just life, and now she had to figure out a different way to live. She needs to learn who she is outside of the army, away from all these adults who used her. But - to tie in with the Hellverine arc - we've got the Devil tempting her back into that old life of death and war, which does hold a certain comforting appeal. Laura needs to make a choice. Does she go back to what she knows - or does she have the courage to go forward into the unknown?

Who are some of the major supporting players readers will see throughout the opening arc of "X-23?"

Laura's relationship with Hellion will be explored, but she also finds a caring figure in Storm - and in one other well-known X-Man who will play a very important role in her life (and in the second story arc, which starts with issue #4).

How important is setting to the overall opening story? Where does the opening story take place?

It takes place on Utopia and in the personal hell of Laura's mind, which will feel like another world entirely.

You mentioned in past interviews that much of this series is going to be Laura, on her own, exploring the world. Are there any locales you're dying to take her to?, say, some of Wolverine's favorite stomping grounds like Madripoor or the Savage Land?

I would love to take her to Madripoor. You'll definitely see her in China (I have this vision of her tromping all over the Great Wall, which I can't seem to shake), and she'll be heading back to New York City. Really, she can go anywhere she wants. And she will.

Now let's talk a little bit about "Daken: Dark Wolverine." Emotionally, where is Daken in issue #1 and how does that influence the plot of the first story arc?

He's been shaken up over the past several months. He thought his future was set in stone - in some ways, he took it for granted that he would be handed the reins of the immense power that Romulus had accumulated over millennia. When that didn't happen, it was a slap in the face. It shook him to the core. After that, readers saw him - well, basically depressed. [Daken was] moping around, trying to think of quick-fixes (as we saw in the Punisher crossover), really contemplating his life and what he wants from it.

What he wants is still the same: power. Except, now, he doesn't want the hand-me-downs of what Romulus attained. He's done with that. He wants his own empire, something built from his own hands, with his own mettle and intelligence. Because then he'll know it's his.

You'll see him setting his master plan in place in the first story arc. Really, the entire year will be about establishing him as one of the most powerful people in the Marvel Universe. And we're not talking super-powers, either - we mean real power.

It seems like Daken and Laura have a lot in common and a lot of issues with each other. They met once before in the Utopia crossover. With you writing "X-23" and co-writing "Daken: Dark Wolverine," is there any chance we could see them run in to each other again in the near future?

Yes. Absolutely, yes. Readers have been clamoring to see Daken and X-23 go head-to-head, and we gave a taste of that in the recently released "Wolverine: Road to Hell." We wanted to hint at what the crossover will be about - but even that doesn't give a real sense of the rich, intense storyline that we're planning. These two have very different views of the world, but at the same time, they are very much of the man they're made from: Wolverine. Working with and against each other may bring out parts of their personalities that they don't expect.

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