In a few short weeks, audiences will witness Hugh Jackman's final performance as Wolverine, the adamantium infused mutant of the Weapon-X program. As Logan (2017) seemingly marks the end of an era for the popular #XMen character, it may also offer a glimpse into the future of Wolverine's legacy. As seen in the trailers, Fox is introducing a character officially billed only as "Laura," being portrayed by Dafne Keen. From the synopsis, we know that Laura is a child with a similar background to Logan. We also know that Laura has drawn great interest from an organization called Transigen and that Logan must serve as her protector. Even with little revealed about the mysterious Laura in the trailer, most fans of mutant-kind expect her reveal as Laura Kinney, AKA #X23.
But who exactly is X-23?
X-23 is a master assassin trained in multiple fighting styles. Like Wolverine, X-23's mutation offers her advanced senses and strength and is subject to the effects of the trigger scent. She also has two adamantium claws between her knuckles and a third adamantium claw that extends from each foot. She does not have adamantium coating her entire skeleton.
X-23 was originally created for the animated series X-Men: Evolution (by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost) as a female clone of #Wolverine. A positive reception to the character's debut in 2003 led to her comic debut in 2004, being included in a 7 issue, limited comic series titled NYX. It was not until 2010 that she received her first solo comic run that began with the basis for this article, X-23's origin story, Innocence Lost.
X-23's origin is driven by Weapon-X head scientist Dr. Zander Rice and geneticist Dr. Sarah Kinney. Rice's father, Dale Rice, was head scientist of the original Weapon X program but was killed when Wolverine escaped from the facility. Zander now occupies his father's position, frantically trying to replicate the procedure done to Wolverine. After many failed attempts, Dr. Kinney is hired to work alongside Dr. Rice. To his dismay, Rice's work now relied on Dr. Kinney achieving the feat for which she was hired, to clone the original Weapon X (Wolverine).
After suffering damages to the Y-chromosome (the male chromosome) that would set the research back years, Dr. Kinney suggests they use only the X-chromosome (the female chromosome) to complete the cloning process. Though the idea was rejected, Kinney continued developing the female genome until it resulted in a viable sample. Again to Dr. Rice's dismay, Kinney was given approval for the female clone, which results in Rice forcing Kinney to carry the clone as its surrogate.
Raised as a Weapon
Confined to a metal room, X-23 is subjected to harsh conditions to mold her into the perfect weapon. Sarah struggled mightily with this, providing as much of a motherly relationship as she could without being seen as too emotionally involved. To everyone else, X-23 was a money making science project, but for Sarah, X-23 was her daughter. Unbeknownst to Dr. Kinney, Dr. Rice was working to condition X-23 using a trigger scent which reverted her mind to a beast-like state until the target that presented the scent was eliminated.
While struggling with the emotions over his father's death, Dr. Rice subjects a 7-year old X-23 to a painful dosage of radiation to activate her mutations and begins surgically bonding adamantium to her skeleton. After refusing to offer X-23 anesthesia, he began by removing each of X-23's claws individually from her body, sharpening them, bonding them with adamantium, then reattaching them to her body. Soon after the procedure, with the use of the trigger scent, X-23 is forced to kill her sensei.
At about 10 years old, X-23 is given her first true mission, of which she succeeds, resulting in the murders of over a dozen people. With that success, X-23 was given missions set forth by the highest bidders from the crime world. Dr. Rice unsuccessfully attempts to leave X-23 for dead while developing his own collection of Weapon X clones to sell. Rice eventually becomes head of the Weapon X program, while also having the original head and surrogate father, Dr. Martin Sutter, killed by X-23.
Child or Weapon
X-23 suffers from psychological and emotional instability due to her harsh upbringing. She struggles with her identity of being a child and a weapon, resorting to cutting herself to cope. There are moments in which her humanity seeps through, such as when she kills her sensei and when she defies the order to kill Dr. Sutter's family, allowing his son to survive.
Sarah discovers that Zander gave the order for Dr. Sutter's murder and gives X-23 a final mission before preparing to escape with her, to kill Dr. Rice and destroy the clone embryos. X-23 succeeds on both fronts, but her escape ends in tragedy. During their final meeting, Dr. Rice rubs trigger scent on Dr. Kinney, resulting in X-23 killing her mother. As she lie crying over her dead mother that Sarah gives X-23 her birth name, Laura. Years later, a teenage X-23 finds Wolverine and learns of her mother's apology about her childhood in a letter Sarah sent to Wolverine years ago.
Fox will clearly present audiences with a slightly different take on the character. With an R-rating, here's to hoping that the movie doesn't stray to far from her origin.