Get to Know a Hero: X-23

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

With Logan on the horizon (89 days. What? I’m not counting, you’re counting) some of you may be wondering: who is the little girl Xavier is trying to convince the eponymous ex-hero to take in?

Though Logan appears to be loosely based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan series, she isn’t, as is the case in the comic, Hawkeye’s daughter (Old Man Logan is, in additional to many other things, a Logan/Hawkeye road trip that goes even worse than you can possibly imagine). The film is, instead, borrowing from more recent X-cannon and giving us a young Laura Kinney, also know as X-23.

Name: Laura Kinney

Aliases: X-23, Captain Universe, Laura X, Talon, Wolverine

Affiliations: X-Men, X-Force, New X-Men, Xavier Institute (student and faculty)

Abilities: healing factor, immunity to poison/drugs, enhanced immune system, enhanced agility/reflexes/endurance, superhuman senses (especially smell), slowed aging/extended lifespan, martial arts master, assassin

Weaknesses: damage to/loss of vital organ, extreme/rapid blood loss, must keep hands/feet straight for claws to extend, bleeding and skin injury when claws extended

Creator: Craig Kyle

First Appearance(s):

TV: X-Men: Evolution (2000-2004)

Comics: NYX #3 (2004)

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

Bio:

The shady figures in charge of the Weapon-X program tried for years to recreate their “success” in fusing adamantium to Wolverine’s skeleton and failed repeatedly; none of their test subjects survived the metal basting stage of the operation. Deciding there must be something specific about Logan’s DNA which allowed him to survive the procedure, Martin Sutter, head of the Weapon-X project, hired mutant geneticist Doctor Sarah Kinney to create a Wolverine clone. She was unable to produce exactly what Sutter wanted because the “Y” chromosome of the original Weapon-X sample was damaged and therefore, useless. Kinney decided the solution was to double up on the undamaged “X” chromosome and create a female clone. Sutter refused his permission. Kinney did it anyway.

SCIENCE BREAK!

(aka: I spent time thinking about this so you get to read my rambling)

Is X-23 actually Wolverine’s clone? Yes, in fact she is.

Typically, clones are exact genetic copies of the original (think the Jango Fett clones in Star Wars. All male because Jango is a dude and they are exact genetic replicas). How, then, can the female Laura a clone of the male Logan?

Doctor Kinney cloned Logan’s “X” chromosome and then replicated it, creating two, identical “X”s, both from a single source and gave both “X”s to her creation. Laura’s DNA is 100% Logan derived, unadulterated by foreign DNA, which makes her, genetically, Wolverine’s female clone.

Now, if it was possible to do something like this in reality without any replication errors, which it isn’t yet and probably never should be, you still wouldn’t want to. Why? As GeekDad Doctor Gerry Tolbert pointed out in our discussion on the subject (yeah, not only did I think about this, I brought it to committee), any errors occurring naturally on the replicated “X” would be doubled which is really very bad – that’s why humans have so many redundant systems. There is also, Gerry reminded me, DNA specific to the “Y” chromosome in a male individual that serves to make him viable. That information would be missing from an “XY” individual’s “X” and would need to be inserted into the clone’s DNA to allow her to survive. Keep in mind, every time you replicate something, there’s a decent chance of error and even small errors in DNA can lead to serious, or even fatal, expression in the actual person.

The scenario is, however, barring error and provided with the necessary equipment, minus the statistical likelihood of natural variation and mutation, potentially possible.

END SCIENCE BREAK!

While Sutter was pleased with Kinney’s ultimate success and allowed her to continue her work despite the insubordination, Sutter’s heir apparent was royally cheesed off and, as punishment, forced Doctor Kinney to carry the X-23 embryo as the surrogate.

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

X-23 was raised at The Facility (original, I know) and trained as an assassin. Doctor Kinney tried to help her maintain some semblance of humanity but was apparently a better geneticist than she was a parent. When X-23 was 7, Sutter’s successor, Zander Rice, exposed her to massive doses of radiation to accelerate the expression of her mutant gene and then yanked out her claws (two in each hand and one in each foot) and coated them in adamantium before reimplanting the blades. He also created a “trigger scent” he used to turn X-23 into a raging berserker (with her keen sense of smell, it made more sense than programing a trigger word, I suppose). When X-23 was 10, Rice sent her on her first field mission: assassinating a presidential candidate. Thereafter, her services were sold, against her will, to the highest bidder which, you can imagine, messed the kid up pretty thoroughly. Rice ultimately decided to avenge himself upon Wolverine, who had murdered his father, by abandoning X-23 on a particularly dangerous mission. Because avenging oneself upon a genetic progenitor who has no idea he’s been replicated is the best he could up with. Apparently.

X-23 survived the mission and made her way back to The Facility (I feel like “The Facility” should pop up in those giant, white, block letters they used to place-locate in Civil War). Rice used her to kill Sutter and then revealed his master plan to Sarah Kinney, because villains always need someone to know what they’re about to do: he showered Kinney a room full of clone-pods, each containing a copy of X-23. Then, he fired her, which seems pretty civil considering. Kinney did a runner with X-23, telling her “daughter” her last mission was to destroy the pods and kill Rice. Rice, however, had exposed Sarah to the X-23 trigger scent (why didn’t it trigger immediately, you ask? No clue) and X-23 Hulked or Wolverined or whatever out and killed Kinney who, as she died, named X-23 Laura (perhaps giving her a name from the beginning instead of calling her X-23 would have prevented the whole mess to begin with, but then again, I’ve never raised a mutant clone, what do I know?).

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

Two years later, Laura showed up in New York, where she survived by living as a prostitute (I’m choosing not to do an age calculation here because I can’t even). This, along with her previous history, combined to damage her mind and psyche: unable to speak, unable to free herself from the pimp who was abusing her, Laura cut herself with her own claws whenever she was in a threatening situation (possibly to keep herself from harming others or for some more personal, painful reason). Meeting other mutants served to trigger her memory and she escaped from the pimp and even helped save a fellow-mutant from a mob. The pimp came after her; she and her friends killed him. Laura worked next in a mutant-themed night club where she saved a mob-bosses daughter with lethal force, unintentionally implicating Wolverine and bringing his X-Teammaes a’ investigatin’. When Laura first encountered Wolverine, she attacked; he was able to chill her out though, after making sure the X-Men had mobster’s daughter safe, she ran. She reappeared later to help the team save the victims of a car accident and, soon thereafter, enrolled in Xavier’s school.

Once there, Laura became extremely protective of Wolverine, even attacking his teammates when they went after him in training sessions. She also watched him constantly on the security cameras, which was creepy and super-stalkery though, considering the way she was treated as a child, it’s not surprising she felt the need to make sure her “father” was safe at all times. It also gave her a chance to team-up with Spider-Man when he appeared as a random energy spike in the system, so, there’s that.

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

Laura was reset a bit after that mini-series ended, though the next arc still saw her accidentally framing Wolverine of the murders of several unsavory men and she still ended up at the Xavier Institute. Understandably lacking in social skills, Laura looked to Wolverine as her mentor/parent figure and entree into the human/mutant world (cue the same incredulous eyebrow raise as Bucky dad-ing up to take care of Kobik in the new Thunderbolts; both guy managed to do a pretty decent job considering). In that continuity, just as Laura was settling in to the Institute and making friends, she was approached by the Uni-Power, who needed her healing ability; it asked to merge. She eventually did so and was briefly known as Captain Universe.

Laura was one of the only mutants who didn’t lose her mutant powers on M-Day (Scarlet Witch had a psychotic break and, as part of it, stripped the majority of mutants of their powers). After M-Day, Emma Frost made several attempts to eliminate Laura from the team and banish her from the X-Mansion, believing her to be dangerous to the world’s few remaining mutants. Laura persevered and was eventually accepted by her peers who convinced Frost to let Laura stay.

Laura took up the mantle of Wolverine after Logan’s death (don’t side-eye me, that was like, 2+ years ago).

She and Hellion are currently searching for the location of The Facility, presumably so she can get revenge on Rice and makes sure no one else is ever forced to endure what she has.

Sources:

http://marvel.com/universe/House_of_M

Marvel.com/universe/X-23

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NYX_(comics)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-23