SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “All-New Wolverine” #17, on sale now.
Every superhero has their weakness. Martian Manhunter fears fire, Green Lantern’s had trouble with the color yellow, and — of course — Superman has a variety of kryptonite designed to ruin his life. Laura Kinney, the superhero known as the all-new Wolverine, has a similar weakness, one that has haunted her almost since she made her debut — her trigger scent, a weaponized smell that transforms her into a mindless killer.
The trigger scent debuted in continuity shortly after Wolverine — originally designated X-23 — made her own debut in the comics. X-23 first appeared in December 2003’s “NYX” #3, and the trigger scent first appeared in 2005’s “X-23” origin limited series. That series, which detailed X-23’s creation at the hands of a shady organization known as the Facility. The top-secret program wanted to create their own Wolverine, and did so using a damaged DNA sample of the X-Man. Geneticist Doctor Sarah Kinney was able to salvage the DNA except for the Y chromosome, thus yielding a female “twin” clone of Logan. The 23rd attempt to successfully turn this sample into an embryo worked, thus the name X-23.
But the Facility didn’t want to create a being capable of total independence. Instead, they wanted a weapon. The Facility’s Dr. Zander Rice turned X-23 into a weapon, coating her claws with adamantium (similar to Wolverine). In order to totally control her, Dr. Rice also developed the trigger scent and made it so that it would cause Laura to go into an uncontrollable berserker rage any time she smelt it. X-23 became a killer for the Facility thanks to the trigger scent, and remained their tool until the doctor that gave her life (Sarah Kinney) helped her escape. While X-23 got to exact her revenge on Dr. Rice, the evil scientist dosed X-23 with the trigger scent before his death. The enraged and mindless X-23 killed Sarah, who — with her dying breath — gave X-23 the name “Laura.”
Unfortunately, the scent wasn’t lost with the death of Dr. Zander Rice. Instead, it fell into the hands of Laura’s Facility handler Kimura, a sadistic killer determined to exert control over X-23 and turn her back into a weapon. Years later when X-23 was a member of X-Force, Kimura returned with the trigger scent in her arsenal. Kimura kidnapped her former agent and brought her back to the Facility. To escape, Laura dosed herself with the trigger scent and rampaged her way out of captivity.
The trigger scent didn’t remain just a Facility tool for long. Eventually it became a sought after item in the criminal underworld, as seen in X-23’s 2011 solo ongoing series. The hero ran afoul of criminals in Paris that were trying to sell the trigger scent.
The scent returned again in 2013’s “Avengers Arena” series, where it was revealed that the assassin Arcade had re-engineered the scent for use against his captive, X-23. Arcade used the trigger scent on her, making X turn on all of the other teens that Arcade had captured and placed on his Murderworld island. Fortunately for Laura, fellow captive Cullen Bloodstone used his powers to turn into a giant monster and stop her rampage.
The trigger scent has played a major role in “All-New Wolverine’s” current storyline, “Enemy of the State II.” At the top of this arc, Wolverine was unwillingly exposed to the scent and slaughtered a small town. This understandably got her on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar in a bad way, and Wolverine (along with her clone/protege/sidekick Gabby) traveled to the crime island Madripoor seeking answers. They didn’t find answers. Instead, they found Laura’s oldest enemy Kimura — and even more trigger scent.
Last month’s issue saw Laura fall under Kimura’s control again, as she dosed Wolverine with trigger scent and unleashed her on the Madripoor crime lord Tyger Tiger. Fortunately for Wolverine, Gabby and Gambit arrived on the scene just in time to take her out before she could kill anyone. “All-New Wolverine” #17 by Tom Taylor and Djibril Morisette-Phan picks up where the previous issue left off, with Wolverine and her allies holed up in Tyger Tiger’s protected bunker.
Laura is surprised to learn that she didn’t kill anyone while under the scent’s influence. That was partly due to Gabby and Gambit’s intervention, but also possibly due to the fact that Laura may be able to resist the scent’s influence. But Wolverine’s friends didn’t just show up to save her; they also showed up to rid her of the trigger scent’s influence permanently. Not only are Gabby and Gambit present, but so are Laura’s boyfriend Angel and the X-Men’s resident super psychic, Jean Grey.
The small unit then kicks off their plan to cure Laura. Everyone leaves the secure room except for Wolverine and Gabby; Jean Grey waits outside, but lets Wolverine know that she’ll be working in her head. Gabby pulls out a vial of trigger scent and then reassures Wolverine as she drops the scent onto herself: “You can’t hurt me, Laura. I can’t feel pain. I heal. And I love you.”
The scent triggers Wolverine, and she unsheathes her claws and goes into killer mode. Gabby dodges and tries to fight Laura, but Laura’s claws easily cut off Gabby’s lone bone claw. While Gabby and Wolverine tussle, Jean enters Wolverine’s triggered mind in order to understand what happens to the hero psychically when she’s triggered.
Jean finds a mental image of Laura as a child with her mother, Sarah, reading “Pinocchio” — the story of a wooden puppet that comes to life and cuts his strings in order to become a real boy.
Jean realizes that the good part of Laura hides away when she smells the scent, hiding in one of the few good memories she has from her childhood. Jean urges this child Laura, which represents her good side, to not hide anymore. “It’s safe now. What you’re hiding from, what they did to you, they can’t hurt you anymore. You can take control again,” Jean pleads.
The astral projection of Laura lashes out, stabbing her claws in Jean Grey’s psychic image. That coincides in the real world, as Laura finally stabs Gabby. But even with her claws cutting inside of her, Gabby still speaks to the good side of Laura that she knows is buried deep in her triggered psyche:
Surprisingly, it all works. When the rest of the heroes open up the door, they find Gabby fully healed (although a little bloody) and Laura sitting calmly on her hospital bed. “It’s okay,” Laura says.
It looks like after being plagued by the trigger scent for almost her entire life — and nearly her entire publication history — Laura Kinney has finally broken free of the trigger scent’s control. Now she just has one more thing from her past to overcome: Kimura. Unfortunately for Laura and her team, the issue ends with Kimura’s forces knocking on their door.
“All-New Wolverine” #18 slashes its way into stores on March 8.
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