It’s been a very long while since I’ve read an X-comic (Judd Winick’s Exiles doesn’t count). I chalk this up to two reasons: firstly, the sheer number of mutants one needed to keep track of in the 90s and beyond, and secondly, the fact that Wolverine was getting a tad too popular for my tastes. Ironic then, that the first X-comic I should buy, since forever, would be a Wolvie-related title – X-23.
X-23 aka Laura Kinney, is a clone of Wolverine who has been through life-changing experiences many times over and is only now starting to get a grip on who she is. Despite being around for 6 years – since her debut as an animated character on the X-Men: Evolution series – Laura hasn’t had much of a defined character, as various writers couldn’t seem to decide if she was a child, a woman or a living weapon. Now finally with her own ongoing title written by the masterful Marjorie Liu, perhaps this is finally Laura’s time to claw out a new identity.
Pun totally intended.
In September this year, Marvel launched three all-new titles – a Wolverine ongoing, Daken: Dark Wolverine and X-23. In a sense, this was a literal family of books for Wolverine – X-23 being the daughter Logan never had, and Daken being the son he wished he didn’t have.
The events of the book start off in the wake of the Second Coming mega-arc, with X-23 being dropped from the X-Force roster and having to deal with the fallout of her role in the black ops team.
Since the debut of X-23 ties in with Wolverine writer Jason Aaron’s “Wolverine Goes to Hell” storyline, it is no surprise that this connection is made right from the very beginning as X-23 encounters the demon that would later possess her “father”. Although she dismisses it as just another of the apocalyptic nightmares she’s been having lately, she is immediately thrown into a living nightmare of her own – rejected and feared by her peers in the X-Men, notably New X-Men leader Surge.
Laura doesn’t find much support among the senior X-Men either, although Storm seems to have shown a significant amount of empathy in contrast to the rather shallow pity that Logan and Emma Frost exhibit. Cyclops is well… just Cyclops. X-23 is therefore left to fend for herself, although Storm does encourage Gambit to look out for her. However, Laura has bigger things to concern herself with, as the demon within Wolverine’s body is now wooing her for his own diabolical agenda.
Marjorie Liu is no stranger to the X-Men, her first Marvel work being the novel X-Men: Dark Mirror. Her characterisations of Gambit, Storm and Cyclops are spot on, and very welcome. Liu is also a prolific writer of romance and urban fantasy novels, and therefore intimately familiar with characters who toe the line trying to overcome their darker natures. Both these traits make her the perfect person to give Laura Kinney, X-23 the depth her character deserves.
From what we’ve seen thus far, X-23 exhibits aspects of two of Liu’s own protagonists, the inner strength and purity of Dela Reese from the Dirk and Steele series, as well as the hardened darkness of Maxine Kiss, from the Hunter Kiss series. It stands to reason that X-23 is in the deft hands of a writer experienced in developing such complex characters.
Liu’s work is complemented by the very distinctive artwork of Will Conrad. Conrad gives X-23 a child-like quality that has been lacking from his predecessor. Laura comes across as a young teenager, which makes her even more chilling when she is in combat-mode. Fortunately, this isn’t often, so we see more of a lonely, lost girl rather than a kid wielding blades. The only gripes I have about Conrad’s art are that his Logan (and I’m referring to Wolverine out of his costume here) and his Storm just don’t resemble their more familiar appearances, making it rather jarring whenever they appear.
I’m definitely looking forward to more from this creative team, and I hope that, thanks to them, X-23 reaches the same heights of popularity as her famous “father”.