Sunday, March 14, 2010

An Ode to Laura "X-23" Kinney

Every so often a character comes along that pushes all the right buttons and does all the right things to become awesome. It's rare in this day and age when there are literally thousands of established characters that can kick ass and be awesome that it's hard for a new character to really assert themselves. There have been many attempts to make good characters, but they often get lost in the shadows of much bigger foes. One that has avoided such a fate and become awesome on a whole new level is a very special X-girl named Laura "X-23" Kinney.

Her story is unusual. As evidenced in her bio she emerged not from the comics, but from the X-men Evolution cartoon series. Created by Craig Kyle while he was a writer for the show with Chris Yost, X-23 she entered the world of the X-men in a single episode entitled fittingly enough as "X-23." Her appearance caused such a splash that she later appeared in another episode called "Target X." From there, she entered the comics through Uncanny X-men and later got her own mini in 2005. She has since become a major player in the ongoing series X-Force where she shows off her ability to kick ass and be the meanest teenage girl in the Marvel Universe.

On the surface the idea seems corny. Take Wolverine, make him a teenage girl with only two claws instead of three, make it so she was raised in a lab and have her erupt with anger against the people that created her. It really doesn't seem all that radical. But what makes X-23 special is how she was developed. She could have easily become yet another Wolverine knock-off, but thanks to the development Craig Kyle and Chris Yost have done for her, she's established herself as her own character and one with her own brand of awesome.

In X-men Evolution, she was created by Hydra (a familiar Marvel foe) as an assassin. This same template was adopted when her comic origins were established in her first mini, Innocence Lost, only with a few important twists. For one, she wasn't born purely in a test tube. She was birthed by the woman who created her, a woman named Sarah Kinney. She was a scientist at a Weapon X offshoot to make a clone of Wolverine and in doing so, she became X-23's mother. This really humanized her because Sarah would later go on to be a huge factor in X-23's life. She would be that fragile sliver of humanity that X-23 would hold onto even as she was conditioned to be a machine and an assassin. This didn't stop her form pulling off all sorts of badass killing. She cut a bloody trail while she was an operative and was every bit as effective as Wolverine. While she remained stoic through the whole ordeal, Sarah Kinney was deeply effected.

The most powerful moment in all of X-23's comic origins is the moment that comes at the end of Innocence Lost. In this, Sarah tries to free her from Weapon X so they could run away and be a family. But in a cruel twist of fate, she is tricked into killing her own mother. This act brings out a level of emotion that is so powerful for the characters and fittingly enough, that's also when she gets her name, Laura, that she goes by now.

It is this origin story that really helps set the stage for X-23 to become every bit as awesome as Wolverine. Her origin is similar, but not so similar that it's cliched. In it she was raised completely in a lab, she had a mother, and was controlled thoroughly for much of her youth. At the same time the vital elements that make Wolverine such a compelling character hold true. The way in which she was forced to kill her mother parallels how Logan has been forced to kill those he loves as well, namely Mariko Yashida.

What really sets her apart is what happens after she gets away. In the follow up mini "Target X" she is taken in by relatives of her mother only to be hunted down by elements of Weapon X. For a while she tried to live the life of a young teenage girl. But the way she carries herself is so outside the norm that it reflects just how distant she is from a normal life. Just as Wolverine, it's impossible for her to have a normal life. She is a figher and a killer and she can't escape that. That's why she has to leave her family and seek out Logan, who is essentially the only real family she has who really understands her. In a fitting moment he helps her find a life with the X-men and she's been kicking ass for them ever since. In a way she's embraced the killer instinct she was born with as part of X-Force and shows that while she does have Wolverine's tendencies, she is still a teenage girl with all the fragility and conflict that comes along with it.

Now X-23 is going to have yet another chance to show off her special brand of awesome in a one-shot simply titled X-23. Written by Marjorie Liu, she's going to reunite with NYX in a single story with Logan and Jubilee making an appearance.

CBR: X-23 Preview

X-23 has come a long way, but she's established herself as someone who can go toe-to-toe with her predecessor, Wolverine, in terms of awesomeness. She is one of the few who has broken into X-men within the last five years and really made an impact. Her appeal is undeniable and her depth as a character is uncanny (no pun intended). So for the teenage girl with the spirit of a Wolverine, I celebrate her greatness. May her future be bright in both the comics and other mediums.

And who knows? Perhaps she'll make an appearance in X-men Supreme as well.

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