The first trailer for Logan dropped this morning, giving us confirmation of the long-standing rumor that comic book hero Laura Kinney—a.k.a. X-23—will be in the movie. If that name doesn’t ring a bell for you, we’re here to help: it’s because little Laura could end up being the key to the future of Wolverine on the big screen.
To put it simply, Laura is a female clone of Wolverine, first introduced in the comics in early 2004. She was actually first created for two episodes of the animated series X-Men: Evolution’s third season by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, before Marvel decided to bring the character over to their comics. Her first comics series, NYX, showcased the teen X-23 in action with no details on her mysterious past, which wouldn’t be fully unveiled until she got her own self-titled miniseries in 2006 and 2011, X-23: Target X and X-23: Innocence Lost.
In the comics, ever since Wolverine escaped the Weapon X project, there were attempts to recreate the successes that lead to his adamantium-encased bone, but they all failed. Martin Sutter, the head of the original Weapon X program, recruited a mutant geneticist named Sarah Kinney to lead a new version of the project—one that, instead of simply trying to bond adamantium to a live test subject, would instead simply clone Weapon X’s biggest successes.
Kinney faced a problem, though. The project’s last sample of Logan’s DNA was heavily damaged, and attempts to make a male clone failed 22 times. Kinney suggested to Sutter that a female clone be created out of what was left of Wolverine’s material—eventually he agreed, leading to the birth of X-23. (Long story short, when Sutter refused at first, Kinney defied him and made a female clone anyway, which led Sutter’s sadistic protege Zander Rice to force Kinney to be impregnated with the clone as “punishment” for defying Sutter. Ick).
Rice exposed the young clone to a series of horrifying experiments to hone her into a ruthless assassin—forcefully removing her claws (X-23 has two on her hands, instead of Logan’s three, but has a third that can protrude from her feet) to bond them with adamantium, and then brutally putting them back in her . Rice also exposed her to radiation to trigger her mutant powers and accelerate her growth, even controling her with a chemical “trigger scent” that would drive her into a blind rage.
After Rice used X-23 to murder Sutter and take control of the project, Kinney helped the clone escape and kill Rice—only for Rice to use the trigger scent on her, causing X-23 to accidentally kill her own mother. Although she was free, she was alone, but Kinney gave X-23 one final thing before she died: the name “Laura.”
Laura went on the run, at first trying to find members of her mother’s family, before ultimately deciding to go after the man responsible for her hellish life: Wolverine himself. Their first encounter ended with SHIELD arresting Laura for her past killings, but she was eventually let go, and spent the next few years watching Wolverine from a distance while just trying to live a normal life, reconciling her murderous past—and occasionally helping Wolverine on secret missions. It wouldn’t be until after the Scarlet Witch rendered most of mutant-kind powerless in 2006 that Laura would step up to the plate as an official member of the X-Men, and then later on as a member of Wolverine’s reformed X-Force, the X-Men’s more violent, covert ops team.
Over the years since her first debut, Laura’s character has been softened, as she’s begun to explore the human side her mother desperately tried to give her as a child. Like Wolverine, she struggled with her violent nature, forming a strong bond with the man who was, essentially, her father, and eventually rose into prominence as one of the most important members of the X-team. Then Logan died—like, actually, finally died—in 2014, leaving her without another of the most important people in her life.
After doing some soul-searching Laura decided to take on the mantle of Wolverine herself—the moment that makes her younger self’s appearance in Logan so vital. Since Marvel soft-rebooted its comic universe last year, Laura’s been the star of All-New Wolverine, wearing her own version of the classic Wolverine costume, and dealing with all new threats (and even other secret clones of herself). Even though there’s actually a Logan running around in the Marvel Comics universe—a time-displaced older incarnation from the famous Old Man Logan storyline, which Logan the movie is also inspired by—she is now, in the eyes of her fellow mutants and heroes no longer X-23, but Wolverine.
That’s arguably the reason why she’s now being introduced into Fox’s live-action mutant universe: it’s long been stated that Logan will be Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine, a role he’s played for over a decade now. With the arrival of X-23 in Logan, it seems like a very good chance that, just as happened in the comics, Fox is shaping up for Laura Kinney to take on the Wolverine movie franchise once Logan’s journey comes to an end.