Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I like X-23, and that I’m excited for the All-New Wolverine series that’s starting next week … so long as it’s not delayed like all the X-men team books. In anticipation, I read X-23’s entire comic history last month in estimated chronological order. In celebration of Laura Kinney’s new solo series, let’s talk about most of her appearances in that estimated chronological order. For the sake of this post’s length, I won’t talk about her one-tie appearances, cameos, one-shots or non-speaking rolls. That means no Black Widow 11, no Captain Universe, no X-Men: Secret Invasion, no Curse of the Mutants and no A-Force 5.
Innocence lost: This is probably one of the greatest origin mini-series’ in the comic industry. It’s a very dark and often horrific story, written in the perspective of Laura’s mother. At the same time, it ends with a sense of optimism and hope that, despite everything Laura’s been through, she’ll eventually recover.
Target X: Target X is very good follow up to Innocence Lost, to the point where you might as well say they’re the same story. X-23 and Wolverine meet for the very first time in the final issue, so of course they have a great fight scene. Also, Mike Choi’s art is fantastic.
NYX: This is X-23’s actual first appearance in the comics. This one took a while to grow on me, but it’s not bad. Although it’s clear that Craig Kyle and Chris Yost didn’t like X-23 being a prostitute, it does fit into her origin story’s narrative and it does fit her characterization at the time. Beyond that, it’s a story about a bunch of homeless mutants struggling to survive. If that interests you, NYX is worth checking out.
Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men: This is a bit controversial among X-23 fans, and it also tends to confuse people who don’t actually know much about X-23. Believe it or not, her “grr” personality here can be explained. It was written before Innocence Lost, and Claremont probably knew nothing about how Laura would be characterized later. It’s also possible to train yourself to ignore most of her “grr” moments and weird dialogue, and that helps improve things a bit. That said, her characterization here is way off compared to pretty much every other appearance she’s ever had. Other than that, these issues aren’t that bad. Chris Claremont’s 2000’s Uncanny X-Men run is a mixed bag, but he did some great stuff with Rachel Gray Summers.
Marvel Team-Up: Technically this isn’t in-universe, but X-23’s first meeting with Spider-Man is kind of hilarious. Her characterization here is consistent with Claremont’s though. I haven’t yet read the full story arc so I can’t comment on this series as a whole. The League of Losers story arc is a fun alternate future where most of the main heroes are killed, and X-23 joins the survivors and save the world.
New X-Men: This is X-23’s first appearance on an X-Men team book that actually matters, and this series is definitely worth reading for so many reasons. Of all the X-Men titles at the time this one dealt with Decimation more than the rest. The students all have great characterization, the story is a good balance between dark and fun, and it also marks the return of Magik. X-23 has some great feats in this series, both with fighting skills and strategy.
Messiah Complex: This was the first X-Men event that I ever read and I still love it. It involved pretty much every major player in the X-men universe at the time. It’s a chaotic crossover with a lot of awesome moments, a fast pace and it’s a good story. It’s also a major turning point in the Decimation story arc, with the birth of the first mutant since M-Day, Hope Summers. As an X-23 story, she gets a couple of the awesome moments, like diving out of a plane straight at a Sentinel and the famous fight where she kills Lady Deathstrike. They even made a statue out of that fight. X-Men fans in general should read this event, and it’s a necessity for X-23 fans.
X-Force: Here, Craig Kyle and Chris Yost continue X-23’s development through an all-mutant death squad. It’s a dark series that gives most of its members an even amount of spotlight and character moments. X-23 shows off her tactical smarts and fighting skills a lot, but at the same time, she regresses back toward her assassin personality. This series sort-of continues Kyle and Yost’s New X-Men run by also including Elixir on the team, and cameoing Dust, Surge and Hellion. This is definitely a good series to read if you like the mutant black ops squad idea.
Utopia: This crossover is where the X-men gain a new home off the coast of San Francisco. X-23 isn’t in this event a lot, but her characterization is fine. What’s noteworthy is that, while he clearly didn’t know about her, this is where Daken and X-23 first meet and fought. Their fight is only given a couple panels here and there, so there’s no real way to gage how the fight goes. The event itself is decent but nothing special.
Messiah War: This is the second event in the Messiah trilogy, and part of the X-Force series. In a lot of ways this feels like a throwback to 90’s comics, with Stryfe and Apocalypse as the villains, and Cable and Bishop driving the story more than anyone else. Deadpool is hilarious here. Like the rest of X-Force, X-23 has some great moments, but at least for this event pretty much everyone takes a back seat compared to Cable, Hope, Archangel and the villains.
Necrosha: This story arc caps off all the major plotlines in the X-Force run in an event that a couple other X-Men titles tied into. The main event is basically a whole bunch of Mutants being resurrected on Genosha, just so their souls can be sacrificed to turn Selene, an immortal X-Men villain, into a goddess. It’s heavy on action and brings several X-Force characters the closure they needed. I wouldn’t call it great, but it’s fun. On the downside, the art is dark and it’s often hard to see what’s going on – that’s the event’s only major flaw. X-23 has some good moments, but the real character focus is on Wolvesbane and Warpath.
Second Coming: This caps off the Messiah trilogy with an event that brings mutants closer to extinction than any other point in the X-Men’s history. It’s not quite as good as Messiah Complex, in fact some people dislike it, but I find this to be the most emotionally intense chapter in the trilogy. Hope has a lot of great moments in here, and so do Cyclops and Cable. Besides Greg Land (ugh) the art in this crossover is very good. X-23 has several important moments in this crossover, most notably a kill that reveals X-Force to the rest of the X-Men.
X-23 volume 3: Her solo series, written by Marjorie Liu, is what brought me into comics in the first place. X-23 7 in particular is the first single issue I ever bought. My second was Kieron Gillen’s .1 issue of Uncanny X-Men, but that’s beside the point. This series isn’t without its problems, whether it’s the occasionally mediocre art, some dreadful covers, a couple story arcs that don’t feel right in hindsight and the controversial issue 19. That said, I still really enjoy this series. Liu did a great job at developing Laura in ways that she never had a chance to before. In 21 issues she learned to value herself, learned mercy, learned to make true friends (with Gambit and Jubilee) and learned to make her own decisions. Personally I don’t have a problem with how Liu handled Hellion, but I can see why other X-23 fans do. At the very least, the first 12 issues are a must read for any X-23 fans out there, and issue 20 contrasts great with NYX to sum up all the ways Laura develops over the course of the series.
Avengers Academy: I would recommend the Avengers Academy series as a whole to pretty much anyone. I did a retrospective of the series a while back and if you’re interested, here’s a link. To sum up my thoughts, it’s a great series about at-risk kids with superpowers who learn to be superheroes. It’s often incredible how well Christos Gage can balance dozens of characters, even within a single issue, and give them all character moments. X-23 appropriately joins the book in issue 23 and while there are a few odd lines and regressive moments, Christos Gage does a good job at continuing her character development. He also gives her some impressive strength feats, like tackling Rockslide during the Football game in issue 48. Here’s my retrospective for the series as a whole if you’re interested.
Avengers Arena: Somehow I knew I’d talk about this series again someday. Well, here it goes. I don’t hate Avengers Arena, but I completely understand why others do. It’s Marvel’s version of Battle Royale, filled with mostly pre-existing teenaged characters. Even though only 7 of the kids die (4 of them new characters), it’s a brutal series as a whole. X-23’s characterization is good, but she doesn’t really develop because of the situation at hand.
All-New X-Men: A lot of people complain about Laura’s dialogue in this series but I’m ok with it. Sure, her first few issues sounded awkward and unnatural, but Brian Michael Bendis did improve her dialogue over time. By the time All-New X-Men reaches the Ultimate Universe adventure, he’s got her dialogue down pretty good. Also he does more to develop her as a character than anyone since her solo series. Again, her relationship with Angel began abruptly, but the post-Black Vortex issues sold me on it. All-New X-Men as a series is actually very good. Sure, some people hated the slow build and the O5’s characterization, but not only do I kind of like it, but the series reads better as a whole than it does waiting for each individual issue to release. Anyone who likes the X-Men should at least give this series a chance. Since The Trial of Jean Grey is more of an X-men story than it is a Guardians of the Galaxy story, I consider it a part of All-New X-Men more than I consider it a crossover.
The Black Vortex: Oh boy, the Black Vortex. Where do I start? The first half of this event is actually really good, with a lot of mythology built around this ancient artifact of power and a rather epic story. Guardians of the Galaxy 25 (the half-way point) is particularly good. GOTG 25 also happens to be Brian Michael Bendis’s last issue in the event, and the rest of Black Vortex falls apart from there. All the events potential is squandered when the second half is a bunch of chase scenes, big battles that don’t really show any progress, and a whole bunch of characters (including X-23) being frozen in amber. This effectively sidelines them for the rest of the event. I usually like Sam Humphries as a writer, but he clearly can’t handle such a large cast. No matter how many characters are involved, a good writer can find something for everyone to do in an event. Even Second Coming does this, and it involved every single mutant still alive at that point save for a few villains. Also when Humphries does write X-23, her dialogue is bizarre. At least she`s given a few moments and some good dialogue in Bendis`s issues. That and Captain Marvel`s solo issue is still good.
Wolverines: And finally, we finish with a quick look at Marvel`s first ever ongoing weekly series. Wolverines 13, featuring Deadpool, is clearly the best issue in this series. It`s dramatic, funny and contains a lot of good action all at once. It also directly alludes to Laura taking on Wolverine`s mantle at the end. The rest of Wolverines is never quite good, but it`s usually at least fun. The team dynamic never gets boring when almost everyone hates each other, the main exceptions being Shogun and Deathstrike, and X-23 and Daken. Laura`s characterization is great for the most part – probably the best since her solo series. However, Wolverines 20 pretty much ruined the entire series by turning every single character into complete idiots and leaving us with such an obvious cliffhanger that it`s probably ultimately meaningless. Thanks to issue 20 alone, I wouldn`t recommend this series – except for issue 13. Track down Wolverines 13 or buy it digitally if you can`t. As for the associated Logan Legacy and Weapon X Program minis, Logan Legacy 2-6 are worth reading for the character one-shots that are actually very good. The Weapon X Program mini on the other hand … ignore it, because it only leads directly to Wolverines.
If you’re interested in learning more about Laura Kinney, I wrote a character spotlight for GothamRogue’s blog here. I hope you enjoyed reading this post. As of today, only 4 days until All-New Wolverine 1 releases.