Today is a big day for X-men fans. As such, that means it’s a big day for me. I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear on this blog that I’m a big comic book fan and a big X-men fan. Hell, I dedicated an entire post to explaining why Storm is a better role model for girls than Wonder Woman. If that’s not enough to get my point across, then you’re just being difficult.
Today, the X-men fan in me is giddier than a school girl in a house full of puppies because this is the day the “Logan” movie comes out. This is not just another superhero movie for me, nor is it just another attempt by Fox to keep the X-men movie rights from returning to Marvel, although that certainly is part of it. This movie represents the end of an era for X-men and the potential beginning of another.
This movie was destined to be bittersweet because Hugh Jackman made clear that this movie would be his last time playing Wolverine. For X-men fans of the past 17 years, this is a big fucking deal. Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine what dick jokes are to Deadpool. They’re so intrinsically tied to one another. They make each other inherently better.
The fact that anyone can play the same character for 17 years in a major action movie that requires a ridiculous workout regiment says just as much about Hugh Jackman as it does about Wolverine. In that same time, we’ve had three actors play Spider-Man, two actors play Batman, and two actors play Superman. There has always been one Wolverine. Jackman sets that high bar. The cast of Justice League should take notice.
As an X-men fan, I will be sad to see Jackman hang up his claws after this. Wolverine will never be the same without him, but he’s better as a character because of him. For that, I will be eternally thankful to Mr. Jackman for his passion and dedication.
However, there’s another reason to be excited about this movie and it has little to do with Hugh Jackman or his sex appeal. I know. That’s a bold claim. I know many of the ladies out there would passionately disagree, but that reason is every bit as important as Jackman’s sexiness.
For this particular movie, as well as the future of the X-men in general, Wolverine isn’t the alpha and omega of all things X-men. It’s not just because the cast for X-men is so large and diverse. In this movie, Logan literally can’t be that guy anymore. His body, his spirit, and his resolve are breaking down. Even with metal bones and a healing factor, he just can’t do what he does anymore, nor does he even want to.
That’s where Laura “X-23” Kinny comes in. Who is X-23 and why should you care? Well, make no mistake. X-23 is a major reason to see this movie. She’s also a major reason to read the X-men comics because she is very much a part of the legacy that Wolverine has created.
X-23, who is played by Dafne Keen this movie, is one of the most important characters to enter the X-men comics in the past 20 years. She debuted in 2004 in season 3 of the X-men cartoon, X-men Evolution. For a kids show that aired on Saturday mornings, her story is pretty damn harsh.
On paper, she’s a clone of Wolverine. That’s not a new concept. Comic books are full of clone characters and stories about clones. Some of them are decent. Some are infamously terrible. However, X-23 took it many steps further.
Like Wolverine, she’s prone to outbursts of violent rage. She prefers solving her problems by stabbing them and she’ll spit, swear, and snarl in ways that would make any man’s balls feel a little bit smaller. She’s not a tomboy. She’s the kind of girl who beats the shit out of tomboys and looks badass doing it.
However, her story goes even deeper than that. X-23 never carried herself as a clone. She always carried herself as a part of Wolverine’s family. At first, she hated it. In fact, in her debut episode of X-men Evolution, she tried to kill him. Her reasons are best summed up by one succinct quote.
“This is your fault, everything I am is because of you!“
What exactly is she and why does she blame Wolverine? Well, one of the most defining traits, aside from his convoluted romantic history, about Wolverine is his mysterious past. It’s mysterious because a good chunk of it has been wiped from his memory. This mystery is a big part of what drove the first two Wolverine movies.
With X-23, however, she has no such luxury. She remembers everything and not just because she’s just a teenager. She remembers all the ways her creators tortured her. At least Logan got to live a life before he became a living weapon. X-23 was created from birth to be that same weapon. Every waking hour of her childhood was dedicated to turning her into a heartless killing machine.
Now I know I joke about how traumatic high school is for some teenagers, but what X-23 went through defies even the worst high school experiences, including gym class. She has been so systematically conditioned, trained, and abused to become more a thing than a person that it pisses her off and rightfully so.
In both X-men Evolution, and her comic book origin story “X-23: Innocence Lost,” she turns on her creators. By that, I mean she fucking maims every one of them. However, she still sees Logan as the reason she exists. It’s his DNA that made her. At first, she sees him as a source of pain. Eventually, though, she comes to see him as her salvation.
This is what is so meaningful and relevant about X-23 and her story. She was literally created to be more weapon than human. She was not supposed to have family, emotions, or attachments of any kind. Despite this, and all the torture that came with it, she still sought those connections out.
She even achieved it, thanks to her own efforts, as well as Logan. She came to see him as a father rather than an enemy. Logan, despite his predilection for beer and married women, embraced the opportunity to be a father to this girl. He brought out the best in X-23 and she brought out the best in him.
As a character, X-23 is both compelling and relevant. With Hugh Jackman leaving the X-men movies, who else can carry on his legacy? Deadpool can do a lot, even with his pants on, but even the sex appeal of Ryan Reynolds has its limits.
The X-men comics have already taken that step. After Wolverine died in a final battle against his creators, X-23 decided to honor her father’s legacy by taking on his mantle. On top of that, the yellow spandex looks better on her.
There’s one more reason why X-23 is so important to the future of the X-men, superhero movies, and female characters as a whole. At the moment, every comic company and movie producer not on a cocaine binge is trying to create better female characters. In many respects, they have plenty to work with.
DC and the Justice League have Wonder Woman, who is a already a female icon. Marvel has Captain Marvel, who they are working tirelessly to make into a female icon. The X-men also have Storm, a female character whose grace and badassery transcend race, gender, or whatever else hippies bitch about. However, X-23 represents something that’s different and vital.
It’s not just that these iconic female characters are all adults who have established themselves in competent roles. These characters try to embody the best of what women can be. X-23 follows a different struggle. She fights to overcome the dehumanization she endured as a child and become her own person. It’s a constant struggle, one that leads to some pretty brutal moments, but one that’s wholly relevant in 2017.
While “Logan” may be Hugh Jackman’s swan song to an iconic character, it’s also a celebration of the emergence of X-23. At a time when women have plenty of reasons to dread, X-23 represents the will and strength to confront those challenges, stab them, look damn good while doing it.
All his life, and through Hugh Jackman’s charisma, Wolverine claimed to be the best he was at what he did. Now, thanks to X-23, he can rest easy knowing that his legacy is secure.