More than most comic initiatives, the Dawn of X feels coordinated to a T. The creators happily take to Twitter and joke about the X-Slack and the constant collaboration that’s pushing the whole line forward in a cohesive manner. But while overarching plot points and character locations may be shared, the way one character in particular is presented feels disjointed. This week, featured in both X-Men #5 and Fallen Angels #6, Laura Kinney’s Wolverine received muddled treatment as each book framed her in an entirely different light.
While the fanbase’s reception of many X-stories in the years before HOX/POX reestablished the Marvel’s mutants was somewhat mixed, there was pretty much universal acclaim for Tom Taylor’s and David López’s All New Wolverine. The series focused on Laura Kinney, also known as X-23, as she tried to forge her own path and honor Logan’s esteemed position in the X-Men after his supposed death. Not only did Laura want to act in a way that would make her former mentor and genetic donor (she is his clone after all) proud, she cemented herself as an inheritor of the Wolverine legacy, someone who boldly wanted to carry on the kind of messy, heroic actions he undertook.
Unfortunately, her characterization since Krakoa’s establishment hasn’t been as thoughtful or consistent. More often than not, she has been appearing in the Psylocke-led Fallen Angels. The series has it’s problems, which I’ll get into a bit more below, but its characterization of Laura is especially problematic. For the most part, she has been treated as a somewhat disposable side character, someone who is only there to help Pyslocke fulfill her mission instead of an individual with her own moral conflicts brewing inside her. The beginning of the series hinted at the incompatibility between her hunter/hunted mentality and the feelings of tranquility that embodied Krakoa’s opening days, a spark of another personal arc that could have pushed the character to new places, but instead of diving into those feelings the series simply threw her into standard action situations to service Psylocke’s own confusing story.
Even though she’s inherited the Wolverine name — and reiterates her decision to be called Wolverine in the most recent X-Men issue — Fallen Angels has seen Laura backpedal away from years worth of character growth. Early in the series, she makes a comment about wanting a life “without Logan’s shadow,” a position that concretely contradicts everything she had been building in previous years. Celebrating someone’s legacy, and hoping to carry that mantle in your own way, does not mean you are living in someone’s shadow. Laura has her own life, her own friends and her own weird sense of loner depression; it’s just a shame that Fallen Angels didn’t want to talk about any of it.
This week, however, she was lucky enough to appear in a different series that at least acknowledged the character development she went through under Taylor and López’s guidance. X-Men #5, written by head of X Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Powers of X penciler RB Silva, sent Laura on a mission inside the mysterious, technological black-spot known as The Vault with Darwin and Synch.
In signature X-Men fashion, Cyclops assembled the strikeforce himself and explained to each of them why he believes their unique abilities made them a good fit for a mission inside an unknown environment. During his explanations, he mentioned Laura’s old title, X-23, before diving into an explanation of how her powers are similar to Wolverine’s. It’s at this moment that Laura — who until that point had been silently observing the room while her colleagues spoke — first spoke, informing Cyclops that she also goes by Wolverine, an act that momentarily silences the usually smooth leader.
Not only does this sequence highlight the fact that Laura is strong-willed enough to correct Krakoa’s Captain Commander, in front of Professor Xavier no less, but she’s clearly proud of her own personal growth. After everything she’s done and everyone she’s fought, she deserves the Wolverine mantle and wants to proudly flaunt it for all Krakoans to see.
She may be a fighter who strives to exude an “older than I really am” attitude, but the truth of the matter is this Wolverine is still a young adult. Yes, she’s incredibly tough and brave, but there are moments where her age shows, and little bits of fear and doubt slowly come through. In X-Men #5, right after Laura and her squadmates learn about the temporal nature of their mission — basically, they may get stuck in a technological matrix for hundreds of years with no way for the X-Men to help them — she momentarily breaks. Gone is her tough-woman persona and instead she bemoans to Logan that they really should be sending WOLVERINE along on the trip instead of her. It’s a nice moment because not only does it organically showcase Laura’s vulnerable side, but it also highlights how Logan wishes he could take the burden for both of them instead of making Laura endure any pain and confusion. Now, the end of the issue ends on a massive cliffhanger as to her current condition and safety, but it’s clear that she will become an important character in the near future with unique knowledge of mutantkind’s new technological-based foes, the Children of the Vault.
Now, I don’t want to demean the creators’ hard work, but even outside of Laura’s stoic, bland representation, Fallen Angels has been the weakest Dawn of X title since the line’s onset. Full of messy characterization — Cable received similarly murky handling — and a central plotline that came to a rushed, nonsensical finish, the mini-series couldn’t have come to a conclusion any sooner. Out of all the pieces Fallen Angels juggled, the complicated, self-serving relationship between Psylocke and Mr. Sinister is likely the most interesting development, and one that hangs in the background as the issue comes to a close. Fortunately, the two of them will be sharing panels in Zeb Wells and Stephen Segovia’s upcoming Hellions series, and I’m hopeful that with a more fascinating storyline binding them together they’ll both have bright futures on Krakoa.
While the future of the HiX-Men moment of the week column is somewhat in the air due to the Beat’s transition, I want to say thank you to all of you for reading up to this point and supporting the column thus far! I’ve always loved the X-Men but now feels like a truly special time to be paying attention to this nutty franchise and I’m so honored to get to share in the nerdy love with you all. Please bug me on Twitter about all things HiX-Menny to keep the fun times rolling!