Wolverine is Dead, Long Live Wolverine: The Case for Laura Kinney
There have been two Hawkeyes for years. Now there are two Spider-Men, and soon there will be two Captains America. There’s officially only one Thor, but there’s also this guy named Odinson who readers still like to call Thor, while referring to the real Thor as Lady Thor or similar. But there’s only one Wolverine, and her name is Laura Kinney.
No disrespect to James “Logan” Howlett, the original Wolverine. He was a great character, but he lived a long life and then died. His elderly counterpart from another world is hanging around, but that guy has no interest in being Wolverine. So that leaves us with a new Wolverine, with countless stories ahead and lots of room to grow. Which is why I hope Logan never comes back. I don’t say that with animosity. I grew up with Logan as Wolverine, but his story is over, and I genuinely think that’s for the best.
Let’s talk about the story of Logan. In real time, his career as a superhero was forty years long. He debuted in 1974 and died in 2014. And while you can’t exactly call it intentional, he had a character arc that stretched over that entire time. There were fits and starts, certainly, as different writers took him in different directions, but the Wolverine who died on the eve of 2015 was not the same man as one who joined the X-Men in 1975.
The original Logan, before he had even that name, was an angry young man. The idea that he was the oldest X-Man only came later. When he joined the team, he was a punk. He refused to take orders. He threatened his teammates. He lacked the hero’s code of never killing, twenty years before deadly superheroes became commonplace. He was brash and cocky and generally seemed unpleasant to be around.
As time went on, and the mythology of Claremont’s X-Men deepened, Wolverine became more complex and interesting. As it became clear that he was much older than anyone suspected, what had seemed like youthful cynicism became the world-weariness of the old soldier. His relationship with Mariko Yashida allowed him to display a softer side of his personality. And perhaps even more importantly, his mentoring of Kitty Pryde (the first in a series of young female Wolverine protégés) spotlighted his potential as a teacher, a caregiver, and even a father figure.
In 1988 he got a solo ongoing comic of his own, which gave Logan more room to branch out and become a superhero independent of the X-Men. He’d already been old friends with Carol Danvers, and was later revealed to have known Steve Rogers since World War II. As a character who had been around, in continuity, for more than a century, he became increasingly enmeshed in the complex fabric of Marvel Universe history.
So it made sense, when Brian Michael Bendis rebuilt the Avengers in 2005, for Wolverine to be a member. It might have seemed far-fetched that he’d have time to be on that team and the X-Men, and have solo adventures, but worrying about that kind of thing has never been the best way to enjoy superhero comics. The important thing was that, after 30 years, Wolverine was a respectable superhero. He was on the team that people look up to, instead of just the “hated and feared” team (although he stayed with them too).
By 2011’s X-Men: Schism, written by Jason Aaron, the roles of Wolverine and Cyclops had basically reversed since the early X-Men days. Now it was Scott Summers who had become the militant aggressor, and Logan whose priority was keeping the younger mutants out of harm’s way. This led to him becoming headmaster of the Jean Grey School for Mutants. For a while he balanced that role with membership in the “any means necessary” Uncanny X-Force, but after the AvX crossover caused a mutant population boom, he devoted himself to his students full time.
Things got complicated when he lost his healing factor, but essentially that’s the Wolverine of his last few years: Headmaster, role model, and devoted caregiver to young mutants. And it’s that Logan — the weary Logan who was tired of fighting, the well-respected Logan who was an Avenger, the caring Logan who bought Jubilee a house, and gave Quentin Quire endless chances, and offered advice to Kamala Khan — who died in The Death of Wolverine.
Looking back across those forty years, what we see is one long redemption arc. Wolverine began as a (seemingly) young and intensely violent antihero with a questionable past, and over time he became an older man who was only interested in using his capacity for violence as a means of protecting those who needed it. It’s a meta-narrative that runs through countless storylines by a vast collection of creators. It’s not just a story – it’s a life. And it ends, as all lives must, with a death.
But the Marvel Universe needs a Wolverine. And that’s where Laura Kinney comes in.
Also known as X-23, Kinney is a clone of Logan. She’s female because the genetic sample was damaged and only the X chromosome was usable, so the scientists doubled it. I have no idea if that makessense, but it’s good enough for superhero science.
Unlike Logan, whose dark past was revealed slowly over decades, Laura’s is right there pretty much from the beginning. She was created to be an assassin, she was briefly manipulated into sex work, and she’s killed many people, including her own mother. (Yes, she had a mother despite being a clone. It’s complicated.)
But Laura always showed a great capacity to do the right thing, and after belonging off and on to various X-teams, as well as the Avengers Academy, she eventually found her place with the young time-displaced mutants of All-New X-Men. So when Logan died (and after some aftermath miniseries and a line-wide crossover, because comics), Laura was perfectly positioned to take up the mantle.
So now we’re a few months out from that. The first storyline of her new solo book, All-New Wolverine, has just ended, and it’s basically perfect.
David Lopez continues to be one of the best superhero artists working, and he understands how to make Laura Kinney physically resemble her bearish forebear like few other artists ever have. Tom Taylor weaves a classic Wolverine story, in which a shadowy militaristic organization treats people so horribly that all the reader wants is to see them sliced up by Wolverine’s claws. And then Wolverine shows just enough restraint in her slicing that she remains unquestionably a hero, even as she provides the reader with catharsis. By the end of the story she’s even been set up with a teenage female sidekick, in classic Wolverine fashion.
In short, All-New Wolverine is better than any Logan-centered book has been in years. And Laura has so much growing to do as a character; so much personality that’s still to be explored. While Logan’s arc reached its end; hers feels like it’s just beginning.
And look, I know how these things work. At some point there’s going to be a movie coming out (even if it’s not by Marvel Studios), or there’s going to be some company-wide event that needs a big twist, and somebody at Marvel is going to say “It’s time to bring Logan back as Wolverine.”
But I want to go on record now, saying please, Marvel, don’t do that. I love Logan; I grew up with Logan, but Logan’s story is over. He died a heroic death, his daughter took over the job, and she’s great at it. We don’t need more Wolverine stories about Logan. We need more Wolverine stories about Laura Kinney. We need decades of them. Keep Old Man Logan around, if you must, for those who need a Logan in some form, but let the one from the main timeline stay dead. Let him have his rest, because his legacy is in very good hands.