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The early life of Laura Kinney

The character of Laura Kinney, also called X-23, has become a bit more mainstream given her appearance in the new Logan movie, as wonderfully portrayed by Dafne Keen.  But Logan wasn't her first appearance.  She started life in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon, and was later bridged into mainstream Marvel comics.

In my attempt to read all X-Men comics from 2007's "Messiah CompleX" crossover in a rough chronological order, I'm about to reach the X-23 ongoing series by Marjorie Liu.  But before I read that, I wanted to read (and in some cases re-read some early stories about this awesome character, including her origins.

I'll be discussing three stories:
  • The first X-23 miniseries, subtitled "Innocence Lost," from 2005, six issues long.  Written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, with art by Billy Tan.
  • The second X-23 miniseries, subtitled "Target X," from 2007, six issues long. Also written by Kyle and Yost, with art by Mike Choi.
  • The miniseries "NYX," which was seven issues long and from 2003. Written by Joe Quesada and Zeb Wells, with art by Joe Middleton.
  • The "Captain Universe: X-23" one-shot issue story from 2006.  Written by Joe Faerber and art by Francis Portela. 
X-23 Complete Collection Volume 1, from which I'm reading most of this. Image from Amazon.ca

These books tell the story of the early life of X-23, from her creation as a clone of Wolverine and an assassin for The Facility, to her time in New York as a teen prostitute.  A theme of backstory is being taken advantage of by terrible, monstrous men.

Story:

People related to the old Weapon X program that created Wolverine wanted to create him again, but none of the clones were viable. Sarah Kinney, a new scientist on the team, thought the problem lay within the Y-chromosome, so tried making a clone without one, doubling the X-chromosome instead. The result was X-23. The project lead, Zander Rice, whose father Wolverine killed during his escape years earlier, was offended that Kinney's idea worked, and seemed to make it a mission to treat her and the clone with contempt and malice.  She was trained in combat, and once her healing factor and clawed developed (forcibly), her claws were coated in unbreakable Adamantium.

X-23 was conditioned to respond to a trigger scent: if inhaled, she would go feral and kill anyone on whom the scent was sprayed.  Rice and X-23's handler Kimura, a cruel woman with unbreakable skin, used the scent to ensure she'd kill her targets. She usually killed just fine without the trigger, but occasionally it was used to ensure success, or manipulate her into killing someone she cared about.  Rice used it to make her kill her sensei and eventually Sarah, who always treated her as a daughter (eventually giving her the name Laura Kinney).

Once escaped from The Facility, she spent some time with her aunt and cousin, until she was taken in by Captain America.  Concerned she would be used as a weapon by the government, she was released to go find Wolverine, but at some point in the middle ended up on the streets of New York City, being used as a teen prostitute by a horrible pimp called Zebra Daddy.  When Laura left him, the pimp left a swath of destruction in his wake as he tried to retrieve her.   With the help of some friends, she ended Zebra's life and went off in search of the X-Men.

Here we see her first manipulation for positive ends, in a quick one-shot story of her becoming the host of the Uni-Power, a cosmic force that both good and evil powers wanted to use to their ends.  The Uni-Power possessed her briefly, using her abilities to destroy the servers of Science villain group AIM, whose new-found knowledge put the Uni-Power at risk.

At some point in between New York and the Uni-Power incident, she ended up finding Wolverine and the X-Men, though I've not read those stories.  She'all soon be a student at the Xavier Institute, which I'll cover in another post.

Themes:

As I said earlier, at this point, Laura 's history is defined by the cruelty of the men controlling her life, and the occasional person showing her some kindness and empathy.  The fact that this kindness almost always proved harmful to those nice people reinforces how villainous people like Rice, Kimura, and Zebra Daddy could be.  Perhaps even more importantly, the fact that she managed to escape and have a good life for herself speaks to Laura Kinney's own strength in the face of a life stacked against her.

The "X-23 Complete Collections" are a great way to read these stories (except NYX, which has its own Complete Collection, along with its sequel, which I did not read as Laura isn't in it). They're fairly new books, so they should be easy to find at book stores or online.

The NYX Complete Collection, which collects both NYX miniseries.  I only read the first series though, which I bought on Comixology.
Before reading more X-23 solo books, I'm going to read the relaunch of New Mutants and New X-Men, which focus on the teens at the Xavier school in around 2003-2006.  Laura will eventually join this title, but I'll start that story from the beginning.

The first collection of "New X-Men: Academy X", which I'll be reading soon.

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