Welcome again, ladies and gentlemen, to the newest installment of I Love a Woman who can Kick My Ass. Today is the first article that follows the actual main focus for this series, pointing out and — to be honest — gushing about the badass exploits of women in comics and other fiction. To that end, I’d like to start with my all-time favorite comics character, Laura Kinney known to most as X-23.
For those not in the know, X-23 is a female clone of Wolverine. Though when I say clone, I don’t mean that it in the normal comic book way. X-23 was created using cloning techniques closer to what has actually been tried and shown to exist in the real world. The scientists involved took portions of Logan’s DNA and using a surrogate mother, bonded it with one of her eggs. Nine months later, the woman, who happened to be the lead scientist Dr. Sarah Kinney, gave birth to a daughter she named X-23. Wait, what? What kind of name is that, you ask? Well you didn’t really think someone would clone Wolverine for no reason, did you?
X-23 was created by the Facility to act as an assassin-for-hire to the highest bidder. Her education included everything you would expect in a fictional hyper-competent assassin; martial arts, firearms training, anatomy, battle tactics, psychological warfare, SERE training (survive, evade, resist, escape), languages, and more. You name the topic and if it relates to murder, espionage, survival, or warfare then Laura has an extensive knowledge of the subject. The flipside of it all is that this is a terrible set of subjects to teach a child, and coupled with the tortures she endured both physically and psychologically at the hands of the Facility in their quest to make Laura into the perfect killer, it’s a miracle that she didn’t end up as a supervillain instead of a superhero.
By the age of eleven, Laura was one of the most sought-after assassins in the world. Let’s step back for a moment and really let that sink in. Even the best soldiers of our current age can only claim to have begun their careers at 17 or more likely 18 (the U.S. Military will allow a 17 year old to enlist, with parental permission, to attend basic training and then be put in reserve status until their 18th birthday) a full 6 years after Laura was already considered to be alongside peers such as Taskmaster, Elektra, Bullseye, Domino, and Deadpool. That’s flippin’ amazing! Disregarding the mental trauma of her upbringing for a moment, X-23 was considered to be as good as these legends in the assassin/mercenary community before she had even gone through puberty.
Not long after a mission in which one of Laura’s primary tormenters within the Facility, one Dr. Zander Rice, has X-23 murder the director of the project that Sarah Kinney decides to try and free her daughter. She comes up with a plan for the two of them to escape together and gives Laura her final set of orders: to destroy the Facility and kill Dr. Rice. Laura succeeds in her final mission and meets with her mother outside of the Facility, but it’s Zander who has the last laugh. During Laura’s time at the Facility one of the control measures that they implemented was something called “Trigger Scent”, the scientists psychologically conditioned her to go into a berserk state whenever she smelled this specific scent. Dr. Rice had purposefully splashed Sarah with the trigger scent, and when Laura encountered her on the way to their escape she flew into a berserk rage and killed her mother.
Thus ended the first X-23 comic series, Innocence Lost. The next one, Target X, picks up where this left off with Laura waking up in the snow beside Sarah’s body while the remaining agents from the Facility close in along with Laura’s primary handler, a woman named Kimura. Kimura had been experimented on by the Facility in order to give her superhuman strength and invulnerability, specifically for the purpose of being impervious to X-23 and act as her handler. Unfortunately, Kimura was also the one person within the Facility who trumped Dr. Rice in regards to cruelty inflicted upon the girl. Laura is barely given any time at all to grieve before she has to flee from her captors.
I’m not going to divulge any more of the story than that, but I will point out that this is a recurring theme for X-23’s stories. No matter where she goes, some aspect of her past is likely to catch up with her. Sometimes this is physical, as Laura battles against Kimura, other remnants of the Facility or outside forces attempting to use her. More often though, it’s a mental battle as she tries to live her life and rise above the horrors inflicted upon her in the past.
It is this last part, above anything else, that makes X-23 A.K.A. Laura Kinney a badass. I can go on for hours on end and write pages worth of material about every little awesome thing she has done, from managing to wound the Hulk during the “World War Hulk” story arc to being one of the few mutants in world who can claim to have been infected with and survived the Legacy Virus (granted, she had outside help on that one, but it’s still a significant achievement nonetheless). But the important thing is that no matter what happens, no matter how many times her past catches up to her, she has consistently fought back against it and triumphed. The Facility tried to make an assassin, a weapon, a monster. Laura Kinney instead chose to be a person and a hero.
Finally, to round this article out, I bring the next bit in my quest to read about the Lost Batgirls. My local retailer put in the orders for all the old Batgirl related stuff that he could, but of course I have to start at the beginning to get the full effect so I picked up No Man’s Land Volume 1. As I read through the book, it quickly became apparent to me that the person wearing the Batgirl costume was neither of the two Batgirls I was looking for. It was never revealed in the pages of the book as to who actually was wearing the costume, but with the Batman knowledge I picked up since I began this search it quickly became obvious to me that it was likely the Huntress. The costume itself, I have to say it actually kind of silly. It’s obvious that they were going for a “darker and edgier” look when they thought it up. I’m not sure why, as Batman and other Bat-books are already pretty dark as it is. Still, I’ll have to wait and see how things come together when Cassandra actually dons the costume.
One last thing that I feel must be said, if I ever got in trouble in a dark alley and Jean Paul Valley came to save me in that ridiculous looking Azrael costume of his from this arc I would be forced to ask him to leave me to whatever trouble I got myself into. We all saw some really silly looking costumes over the years, honestly, all that white along with the long, flowing, locks of blond hair…no. Just no.