X-23 has sort of a unique timeline when it comes to appearing in the Marvel Universe. Her first appearance was on the X-Men: Evolution animated series back in 2003 followed up by her print debut in NYX about a year later. Next came her origin story “Innocence Lost” along with appearances in New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and X-Force. From the cartoon we know she is a clone of Wolverine and we get to see her powers on display in all of their gory glory in NYX but I think where she comes from is the best place to start talking about this rather gritty female character.
As an aside I should probably mention that female superheroes have never been on my list of favorites. It’s not a sexist thing as I like heroines in the fantasy/sci-fi realm. I just have never found a female superhero that seemed to fit properly with her companions and surrounding. I personally discovered X-23 while reading everything connected with Wolverine Goes To Hell and found my first favorite female superhero. I should probably also mention my favorite comic books are not superhero based to begin with and I am fairly picky about reading books about male superheroes. A good example is that I still can’t bring myself to care about all the death weighing on Scott’s conscience due to X-Force and eventually the Schism story arc. So overall the abscence of female super heroes on my favorites list is most likely an artifact of there being very few on the list at all. Thanks for coming with me on that little introspective journey. I shall now reward you by actually writing about X-23 and the Innocence Lost story arc.
Written by Craig Kyle, who created X-23, with art by Billy Tan this 144 page trade tells the tale of a secrect organization attempting to recreate the Weapon X gene that produced Wolverine so as to have the perfect assasin for hire. The main antagonist is one Zander Rice whose father, Dale Rice, was killed during Wolverine’s escape from the Weapon X project. When the reproduction of the gene proves impossible Sarah Kennedy suggests that she create an XX version of the gene as the Y chromosone seems to be the problem. Her idea is shot down but she continues on her own, against orders, and creates a viable clone without the Y chromosone. Volunteering to be the surrogate for this clone Sarah becomes the mother of X-23.
I will be honest the training portions of this book were hard to get through. From irridating the child in order to speed up the onset of her mutant abilities to the sheer psychological horrors described it was hard to stomach. As hard as those parts were to read through their necessity can’t be denied as they explain her attitude and overall outlook as seen in other story arcs. I won’t go in to details because I am trying my best to not write a complete and total spoiler here but suffice it to say this book deals with some issues that might be a little harsh for some folks, but does it in a way that doesn’t detract from the storyline.
Through all of this, we really get to know X-23 and see who she is on the inside. While technically being a clone of Wolverine she is so much more than a female Wolverine and her genesis may well be even more traumatic that that of her father. The emotion that Craig Kyle puts in to this story is well complimented by Billy Tan’s art who captures it all without being overdone or using cliched techniques to prop it up. Watching the emotional progression of X-23 from ruthless killer to her questioning orders and allowing herself emotion is gut wrenching and amazing at the same time. With some of the best parts of the story being Sarah’s love for her daughter even though her daughter doesn’t know who she is. Toss in the rebellion of both X-23’s sensei and mother, the ultimate betrayal by Zander, and X-23’s eventual escape and you end up with so much more than just a genesis story. When you turn the last page you will have finished a well told story that doesn’t leave you feeling like something was missed. I think that may be the biggest selling point for me. Without closing off her story Kyle wraps up this arc neatly without making it feel contrived. He handles the intrigue very well and doesn’t drop any balls on tieing up the loose ends.
In conclusion this is a pretty amazing story and one that I highly reccomend while at the same time giving fair warning to those with weaker constitutions. X-23 has come a long way since this genesis story and is grounded in X-Men lore nowadays but you still need to read this book. It is worth your time and every cent you’ll pay for it.
~ Romeo Sid Vicious ~