Mar 12, 2017

The History of X-23: Proving Why Laura Is Better than Logan, 2

The History of X-23: Proving Why Laura Is Better than Logan
Part 2: Everybody Loves Laura
Ben Smith

Previously in Back Issue Ben, Wolverine finally convinced Laura to join the X-Men. It took a while, but the young mutants finally embraced her and accepted her as one of their own. However, Emma Frost still believed she was too dangerous to have around, that she attracted danger and put everyone around her at risk. Unfortunately, Emma was proven right when Kimura and the Facility kidnap Laura’s friend and teammate Cessily.

These storylines take place in New X-Men (2004) #20-46, written by Chris Yost and Craig Kyle, with art primarily by Paco Medina, Skottie Young, and Humberto Ramos.

In the days following Cessily’s abduction, Julian and Laura work together following leads to try and find out where the Facility has taken her. After questioning one potential informant, Laura ruthlessly murders him at gunpoint, much to Julian’s chagrin.

More questioning leads to more dead informants (and an obligatory shot of Laura dressed in a schoolgirl uniform) and more of Julian chastising her for killing. (Previously in the series, someone tells Laura that Jean Grey was against X-Men killing, and Laura’s response was “and where is Jean Grey now?”)

The two of them meet with the Owl (who at the time had taken the Kingpin’s place as the head of crime in New York) and are able to torture the location out of him. (One of the fun things about reading old comics is coming across moments in continuity like that, stuff like the Owl being the kingpin of crime in New York. Further down that tangent, people are always worried about modern continuity being impenetrable, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that would spark the younger me to go “how did THAT happen?”)

Acting on the Owl’s info, Julian and Laura successfully locate Mercury. They engage the Facility and Kimura, but are sorely outnumbered. Fortunately, the varsity X-Men squad arrives to back them up, and they are able to successfully rescue Mercury.

Julian has Kimura at his mercy using his telekinetic powers, and Laura tries to convince him to kill her (because he should) but of course he does not.

Laura apologizes to Emma, admitting that she should have left the school like she had told her to.

Later, Laura finds Cessily to make sure she’s okay. After experiencing the horrors of the Facility, Cessily has a greater understanding of the life Laura had to live before finally escaping. (One of the primary reasons Laura is better than Logan: her back story is way more traumatizing than his. She’s been through so much more, and she’s still way less mean than he is. Women are stronger, guys. The older you get the more you realize that. Unless you’re an asshole.)

Kimura isn’t quite done being a petty vindictive jerk though, and has Laura in her gunsights through the window. Surprisingly, Emma ambushes her, freezes her with her telepathy, and asks her “Do you ever wonder why you take such pleasure from abusing a little girl who cannot hurt you?” The answer of course, is because she’s a bully.

Emma, being the deliciously sadistic person she is, decides to pay Kimura back by telepathically removing the only good memories she has from her entire crappy life, which are of her beloved grandmother. (I don’t think even I would do that to someone I hate. No wait, of course I would.)

Now that's cold-blooded!

Emma clearly appreciates how hard Laura worked to save Mercury, and is now on team Laura with the rest of us.

After that the series gets embroiled in mini-event after another, beginning with the return of Magik, Illyana Rasputin.

At one point, the demon Belasco tells Laura she’s not even a real person, which will have some lasting effects on Laura as her story continues. (Do clones have a soul?)

She does get a little bit of revenge on Belasco later. (In case you don’t recognize the art, it’s by future superstar Skottie Young. Editor Duy cannot stand Young’s art and he is objectively wrong about it.)

In the next few issues, Laura struggles with the still strange new feelings she has for Julian after she sees another girl kiss him, and has to restrain herself from murdering him. (For the record, I hate the Julian “relationship,” and it gets a little creepy in her upcoming ongoing solo series. Thankfully, spoilers, it goes away.)

It was at this point the Messiah Complex crossover event began. The first new mutant birth occurs since Decimation, and various mutant factions with their different intentions and ideologies all converge upon the child.

Lady Deathstrike, makes the unfortunate (for her) decision to seriously wound Julian during one altercation.

Later, Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike meet on the battlefield. But Wolverine has other things to do, and leaves her for Laura to play with instead.

What follows is one of the clearest cases of Kyle and Yost making a character they created look great (I call this the “Roger Stern writing Captain Marvel” effect) but it doesn’t make this scene any less badass.

“You call yourself Deathstrike. Show me.”

Oh my goodness I love her so much.

Lady Deathstrike thinks she has the upper hand, taunting Laura and believing she has broken her spirit because she’s not even fighting back. But Laura was simply listening and observing, waiting for her chance to strike. “Now you will see me fight.”

Laura easily annihilates Lady Deathstrike, one of the top villains from Wolverine’s rogues gallery, and it was awesome.

(I’m fairly certain this was my first encounter with X-23 as a character. Before this, I probably had assumed she was just another annoyingly derivative offshoot. However, this scene was so badass, it certainly set me on the path to enlightenment. The most important enlightenment possible in life. The enlightenment that comes when you bask in the glory that is X-23.)

Laura’s story would continue on from there in X-Force (highly recommended) and then the X-23 ongoing series (also highly recommended) as well as Avengers Arena (also also recommended) with her eventually taking over the mantle of Wolverine from Logan after he died (All-New Wolverine, the best book Marvel publishes right now and the most recommended).

But I’m sure I’ll probably get to that eventually.

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