When Hugh Jackman returns for his final turn as Wolverine in next year’s “Logan,” he won’t be slicing through super villains all by his lonesome. He’ll have a young girl fighting by his side — a young girl unlike any we’ve seen in the X-Men films up to this point, and a young girl that many X-Men fans have been eagerly waiting to see slice her way onto the big screen. Dafne Keen will play Laura Kinney in “Logan,” meaning that millions of moviegoers are about to meet X-23.
Unlike the rest of the X-Men’s A-List who all debuted between 1963 and 1991, X-23 is a recent addition to the mutant mythos that has shot up in prominence thanks to her own unique characteristics and the way she’s resonated with new generations of readers. If you’ve never heard of Laura Kinney before, that’s most likely because she hasn’t made the leap into a mainstream movie just yet — but that’s changing next year. For lapsed X-Men readers, those completely new to this other clawed character and everyone in between, here’s primer on X-23’s first action-packed dozen years in the Marvel Universe.
6. X-Men: Evolution
Here’s a fun fact about X-23: she wasn’t created for the comics! Laura actually debuted in an episode of the early ’00s animated series “X-Men: Evolution.” She first appeared in the season three episode “X23,” an installment written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost from a story by Yost. Remember those guys’ names, as they’ll become the major architects of Laura’s formative years in the comics, too.
The August 2003 episode of “Evolution” introduced X-23 as a HYDRA clone of Wolverine created by Dr. Deborah Risman. The episode pit her against the X-Men and Wolverine. The character returned a few weeks later in season four’s “Target X,” also written by Kyle and Yost. This time around, Laura was on a revenge mission against Madame Hydra — and X-23 teamed up with Wolverine to get that revenge.
Laura and Logan make a good team as their powers are complimentary. Of course that makes sense, as X-23 is a clone of Wolverine. Just like Logan, Laura possesses a healing factor strong enough to reattach severed limbs. She also has his heightened senses and superhuman physical abilities like speed, agility and reflexes. And like Wolverine, she has bone claws — except her three claws are spread out two on each hand and one on each foot. The big difference between the two, though, are their skeletons; Logan’s is totally coated in the unbreakable metal adamantium while only Laura’s claws are. Her bones are breakable, although her healing factor tends to make that not a big deal.
5. Welcome To The Marvel Universe
Mere months after making her animated debut, Laura Kinney — like DC’s Harley Quinn before her — jumped from the cartoons to the comics. Writer Joe Quesada and artist Joshua Middleton introduced Kinney in “NYX” #3, published in December 2003. Her origin was left a mystery and Laura herself was depicted as a mute teenage prostitute working in Manhattan’s Mutant Town. Her initial dark storyarc concluded when she made allies with the primary cast of “NYX” and left District X in “NYX” #5.
Following her introductory arc in “NYX,” Chris Claremont and Alan Davis worked her into the flagship “Uncanny X-Men” title in late 2004. “Uncanny X-Men” #450 picked up with Laura, now working as a waitress in a mutant theme bar called Wannabee’s. And when she wasn’t serving mutants while wearing a replica of one of Wolverine’s old costumes, she was out on the streets protecting mutants from angry mobs of humans. The X-Men ran into Laura while investigating a murder, but the scared teen didn’t react well to having her mind probed by the X-Man Rachel Grey. Laura put up a fight and stabbed Wolverine in the stomach.
Tensions cooled between Laura and the X-Men. In 2005’s “X-Men” #165, Laura helped the team save victims of a car accident and then moved into the school — presumably leaving Wannabee’s down one very in-character Wolverine waiter. Right after moving into the X-Mansion, Laura went on a mission with the team to the Savage Land and helped prevent a race of evolved dinosaurs from using Storm’s power to wreck the world’s weather.
Even after all this time, the comics had only alluded to comic-book-Laura’s origin story. Her origin was fully revealed in the 2005 “X-23” limited series, a.k.a. the first of many series Laura would headline. The story, titled “Innocence Lost,” was written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost (remember them?) and established Laura as a survivor of experiments conducted by the Facility. The top-secret program attemped to replicate the Weapon X process that created Wolverine, starting with a damaged DNA sample of the X-Man. Mutant 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.
Sarah Kinney was forced to carry the baby, giving birth to X-23. At the age of seven, the manipulative and vengeful Dr. Zander Rice (the son of a guy Wolverine killed years ago) began the adamantium bonding process by exposing X-23 to radiation years too early and causing her mutations to emerge prematurely. Once her claws popped out, Rice coated them in adamantium using no anesthetic. Rice also developed a “trigger scent” that would cause Laura to go into an uncontrollable berserker rage upon exposure to it. X-23 became a killer for the Facility until her mother Sarah helped her escape. Unfortunately, as X-23 ended Rice’s life, he exposed her to the trigger scent. The enraged and mindless X-23 killed Sarah, who — with her dying breath — gave X-23 the name “Laura” and told her about the X-Men and Wolverine.
Laura’s backstory continued in another Yost and Kyle limited series, 2007’s “X-23: Target X.” Following the death of her mother, the newly-named Laura arrived in San Francisco and lived with her aunt and cousin. But Laura’s abusive handler from the Facility, the cunning Kimura, tracked her down. Laura defeated Kimura by blowing her up, blowing up her cover in the process. It’s in this series that Laura and Logan first met; apparently Sarah had written him earlier. Laura didn’t join up with the X-Men at this time. She instead took a detour through working the streets of Mutant Town and later Wannabee’s before joining the X-Men.
4. Team Player
Laura officially enrolled as a student in January 2006’s “New X-Men” #20. She matriculated well, rooming with Dust and even forming a crush on the bad boy Hellion. Following the devastating events of M-Day, when millions of mutants were robbed of their powers thanks to a spell cast by the Scarlet Witch, Laura was hand selected by Emma Frost for a team of X-Men in training. She helped her team fight against Reverend William Stryker, the Purifiers, Nimrod, the Facility’s mutant-hunting Predator X beasts and even her old handler Kimura.
But Laura’s education and time spent in training was cut short when a extreme circumstances drafted her to the big leagues. The birth of the very first mutant baby following M-Day ratcheted up tensions between Earth’s warring mutant factions. Cyclops, sensing a need to protect the baby at all costs, created a black ops team of X-Men codenamed X-Force. Laura was assigned to X-Force along with other ferocious mutants; Wolverine served as their field commander.
After 2008’s “Messiah Complex” storyline concluded, Cyclops decided to keep the team going — and he recruited Laura first. This didn’t set well with Wolverine, who was trying to keep her as far away from the kind of kill missions that the Facility sent her on as possible. When Laura asserted herself and declared her intent to serve on the team, Wolverine signed on to lead it. The team, the leads of Kyle and Yost’s “X-Force” ongoing, took preemptive measures against a number of villains, including the Purifiers, the Sentinel mastermind Bastion, and the Marauders.
But Laura’s past would come back to haunt her one more time; Kimura kidnapped her former soldier and brought her back to the Facility. To escape, Laura dosed herself with the trigger scent and rampaged her way out of captivity. Around this time, Laura was relieved of her X-Force duties by Wolverine. Laura was finally ready to start living her own life and not take any orders.
3. X-23: Solo
X-23 still lived at the X-Mansion, side by side with her old classmates — although they didn’t know what to make of her following her foray into black ops. Following the X-Men’s move to an island off the coast of San Francisco called Utopia, Laura took a leave of absence and traveled with the Cajun X-Man Gambit.
The pair ended up in Madripoor, a crime-ridden island nation run by super villains, where they ran afoul of Malcolm Colcord — a madman attempting to revive the Weapon X program. This is also where Laura met a kindred spirit, of sorts: Wolverine’s tough-as-nails son, Daken. While the two didn’t see eye to eye at first, Daken eventually came around to her and helped Laura fight Colcord and the beginnings of the new Weapon X.
X-23 then fought criminals in Paris that were trying to sell the trigger scent, and following that Laura made a ton of Marvel connections; she met Spider-Man, babysat for the Fantastic Four and learned some lessons from Black Widow. Her run-in with the Russian Avenger ended with Widow offering Laura a real change of pace: membership at the Avengers Academy. This invitation came just as the X-Men were tearing themselves apart with factions led by Cyclops and Wolverine. Instead of joining either of them, Laura set out to become…an Avenger.
2. Assembled With The Avengers
In January 2012’s “Avengers Academy” #23, X-23 transferred to the Los Angeles Avengers Compound where she enrolled in Earth’s mightiest Academy alongside other students. The Avengers Academy had initially been put together to prevent potential supervillains from going down a dark path; considering her origin, Laura actually fit in quite well at the academy. Her time with the young X-Men and X-Force had also left her incredibly capable; she bested the academy’s hand-to-hand combat instructor Tigra right away. Laura’s addition to the already formed student body inspired everything from camaraderie to jealousy in her new classmates.
But Laura’s time at the academy would be short-lived — and it wouldn’t have a happy ending. X-23 was with the kid Avengers when the sadistic assassin known as Arcade snatched them up and stranded them on a desert island he’d christened Murderworld. Launching in early 2013, the “Avengers Arena” series saw the group of young characters forced to fight each other to the death in order to win Arcade’s “game” and survive. Arcade even used trigger scent on her, making X turn on all of the teens that were previously her allies. Fortunately, fellow player Cullen Bloodstones used his powers to turn into a giant monster and stop her rampage. Laura managed to hold on, surviving to the end when the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. mounted a successful rescue.
1. All-New Era
Mysteriously, Laura ended up in Miami in “All-New X-Men” #19. Similar to her debut a decade earlier in “NYX,” Laura was once again broken, mute and amnesiac. But the X-Man Kitty Pryde and her students — a team of time-displaced X-Men from decades in the past — rescued her from the Purifiers (them, again!) and nursed her back to health. As Laura’s memories returned, she reluctantly joined the team and was with them during a number of outer space adventures. She even got to team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, specifically enjoying the company of the warriors Drax and Gamora. X-23 even began a whirlwind romance with her teammate, the time-displaced teenage version of Angel.
But this period of time would be marked by tragedy; Laura’s mentor and genetic predecessor Wolverine died after being encased in unbreakable adamantium. Laura mourned by dying the front strands of her hair blue and yellow, the colors of Wolverine’s costume.
Laura came out the other end of her mourning process changed; she stepped up and filled the void left by Logan’s death by becoming the new Wolverine. She even followed in Logan’s footsteps by starring in multiple comics at once; Laura’s latest series, “All-New Wolverine,” documents her solo adventures while she’s still a member of the “All-New X-Men” team book. And while her relationship with Angel has been hurt by his attempts to restrain her and curb her propensity for self harm, they reached a new understanding when it was revealed that Angel himself was also grappling with a dark side within himself.
On the solo front, Laura’s life became complicated when she encountered an assassin — one with her face. She learned that Alcemax Genetics had generated more clones of her and turned them into assassins. Laura took responsibility for her “sisters,” doing everything in her power to fix their decaying genetics; she even sought help from Strange and used some Ant-Man shrinking tech to fight their disease. After those trials, the lone surviving sister, Gabby, moved into Laura’s modest apartment (along with an actual wolverine named Jonathan). Together, they destroyed Alchemax Genetics and put an end to the cloning.
Laura’s newfound surrogate family of Gabby and Jonathan was tested during this year’s “Civil War II.” An Inhuman with the gift of precognition had a vision of Old Man Logan (an elderly Logan from an alternate reality’s distant future) killing Gabby — which, via a series of misunderstandings, he actually ended up doing. Luckily Gabby was the one “sister” that also received Laura’s healing factor, allowing her to pull through. With that, Gabby and Laura bowed out of “Civil War II.”
Now Laura Kinney’s on the run one more time as the sequel to the popular Wolverine story “Enemy of the State” unfolds in her monthly ongoing, “All-New Wolverine.” And on top of that, Laura’s poised to have a big year in 2017 with her big screen debut in “Logan.” Even after an eventful decade, it looks like the biggest X-23 events are still ahead.
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