4:18pm PT by Graeme McMillan
Comic-Con: The Complicated Past of Marvel's 'All-New' Wolverine, Laura Kinney
While the appearance of a new Wolverine series in Marvel's All-New, All-Different Marvel might not have been a surprise to anyone familiar with the idea that, once a superhero dies, it's only a matter of time before their resurrection. What was likely more surprising, however, was that this Wolverine was a woman. So, if Wolverine isn't coming back from the dead (yet, at least), then who is the new Wolverine?
Laura Kinney, the Woman Who Would Be Wolverine, has an unusual history both inside and outside of her fictional history. Originally created for the Kids WB animated series X-Men: Evolution in 2003, the character proved popular enough that Marvel brought her into its mainline comic book universe with the fourth issue of the following year's NYX series, albeit with a significantly different backstory.
Both versions of the character started life as X-23, a clone created using DNA of the original Wolverine in an attempt to build the ultimate assassin; in the animated Evolution, X-23 escaped and sought out Wolverine, whom she blamed for her situation. Instead of fighting her, however, he convinces her that he empathizes with her experience and they part as something close to family. A later appearance ends in her apparent death, although it's strongly suggested that she is, in fact, still alive.
The comic book incarnation of the character suffers a far more tragic fate. Following a childhood as an assassin, she is at first captured, and soon thereafter released, by the authorities, including Captain America and Daredevil. With no one to look after her, she is eventually forced into life as a prostitute catering to masochistic patrons before she eventually kills her pimp and runs away. It's only after this point that she enrolls in the Xavier Institute and, eventually, joins the X-Men.
Understandably, the comic book version of X-23 is somewhat emotionally damaged — a characteristic that defined her for a number of writers. In addition to headlining her own series for a time, she would also make appearances in series such as X-Force and Avengers Arena, often being shown as emotionally withdrawn and violent. More recent appearances, including the weekly Wolverines series and team book All-New X-Men, have attempted to move her beyond that portrayal and into someone more socialized, perhaps in preparation for her new starring role.
That Kinney is taking over the role of Wolverine should, perhaps, come as no surprise at all. Not only has the character been shown to be close to the original Wolverine — he has been known to refer to her as his sister or adoptive daughter at various times — but Marvel's previous attempt at replacing a high-profile male hero (Thor, to be specific) with a female counterpart has met with a great deal of success, as has the launch of the similarly gender-switching Spider-Gwen series.
Whether fans will similarly take to the new Wolverine remains to be seen when the series launches in October. If they don't, Marvel already has a back-up plan in place; launching that same month is Old Man Logan, a series featuring a parallel-universe version of the original Wolverine, aged past his prime. Given comic book logic, it should take almost nothing to restore him to youth, and his original crime-fighting alter ego, should the need arise. Comic book companies, like supervillains, have realized the value of forward planning after all these years.