Meet X-23: A Primer on the 'Logan' Secret Weapon

Laura (Dafne Keen) and Logan (Hugh Jackman) in <em>Logan</em>. (Photo: Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox)
Laura (Dafne Keen) and Logan (Hugh Jackman) in Logan. (Photo: Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox)

For a movie anchored by one of the most popular X-Men ever, Logan — Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine swan song — is hijacked by the littlest mutant of ’em all: Laura, aka X-23. Played by newcomer Dafne Keen, the pint-sized dynamo has been a fan favorite during her relatively short tenure in the comics, but Laura is an unknown quantity to mainstream moviegoers. With Logan opening in theaters this weekend, we thought we’d offer a brief introduction to the character of X-23 and how she might fit into the X-Men cinematic universe going forward.

(Note: We tried to keep the plot spoilers to a minimum — nothing that hasn’t been revealed in the trailers or TV spots — but proceed at your own risk.)

Laura springs into action in <em>Logan</em>. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
Laura springs into action in Logan. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

X-23 is a mutant millennial
The character of Laura Kinney/X-23 has been around for only 13 years. It was created in 2004 for the X-Men: Evolution cartoon series before segueing into the comics. Below is a clip of her Evolution origin as well as a similar “found footage” sequence from Logan.

Wolverine is one of her two dads
In the film, as in the cartoon and comics, Laura is the clone-daughter Wolverine never knew he had. She was created in the laboratory as a weapon under the supervision of resident evil scientist Dr. Zander Rice (played in film by Richard E. Grant). Rice has a special enmity for mutants; his father was part of the original Weapon X program that resulted in the creation of Wolverine and was killed by the rogue mutant when he escaped the facility (as seen onscreen in X-Men: Apocalypse.) Unbeknownst to Logan, Rice has merged a sample of the hero’s DNA with a human embryo that was brought to term via a surrogate. (In the comics, it’s Dr. Sarah Kinney, a researcher on the team experimenting with the mutant genetics; in the film, it’s an unnamed Mexican woman.) Because there were 22 futile tries before a successful birth, Laura is given the code name X-23.

She’s a chip off the old block
In addition to some anger and social-adjustment issues, Laura has retractable claws and a quick-healing factor. In both comics and film, she has two claws per hand (unlike Wolvie’s trifecta), as well as a single retractable claw in each foot. All her claws have been sheathed in the virtually indestructible metal adamantium, like her pop’s; however, unlike him, she escaped from the lab before her entire skeleton could be coated.

X-23. (Image: Marvel Comics)
X-23. (Image: Marvel Comics)

She inherited the family business
Following 2014’s “Death of Wolverine” storyline in the comics, X-23 assumes her father’s alter ego, becoming, per the title of her solo comic, the All-New Wolverine. With Jackman insisting that this is his last go-round as the hirsute hero on the big screen, could Laura follow suit and eventually front a Logan sequel or future X-Men installment? And, more importantly, would she wear her riff on Wolvie’s classic yellow costume?

Laura as Wolverine. (Image: Marvel Comics)
Laura as Wolverine. (Image: Marvel Comics)

She has been part of a different X-team
In the comics, Laura has logged time with a few different Marvel teams, including the X-Men and Avengers Academy (a training program for Earth’s future mightiest), but her top group affiliation is with X-Force, a black-ops offshoot of the main mutant lineup that handles thorny situations with extreme prejudice. There’s an X-Force movie in the works that would feature mainstays like Deadpool (with Ryan Reynolds reprising his role after the planned solo sequel) and the time-hopping Cable (who will also be appearing in Deadpool 2.) Considering that Logan takes place in 2029, it doesn’t seem likely that Laura will reprise her role on the X-Force roster.

Laura (center, top) shredding it up with X-Force. (Image: Marvel Comics)
Laura (center, top) shredding it up with X-Force. (Image: Marvel Comics)

What about those “new mutants”?
In Logan, Laura is one of a handful of young, genetically engineered mutants whose powers are derived from the DNA of deceased X-folks. Throughout the film, they are referred to as “the new mutants.” Marvel fans know that there is also a team called the New Mutants, a junior X-Men league of adolescent heroes (after several lineup changes over the years, the team eventually was replaced by X-Force). X-23 was never a member of the New Mutants in the comics, but with 20th Century Fox planning a New Mutants movie as part of the studio’s X-Men Universe, there’s a chance she could be part of the cinematic squad.

Laura (right) and her fellow new mutants on the run in <em>Logan</em>. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
Laura (right) and her fellow new mutants on the run in Logan. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

Aside from X-23, the most prominent of the younger generation in Logan is an earth-shaking boy called Rictor, who is based on a member of the comic-book team.

Rictor. (Image: Marvel Comics)
Rictor. (Image: Marvel Comics)

The New Mutants film starts shooting this spring, but there are few public details about which characters will be included. But after seeing Logan, you might agree with director James Mangold that little Laura deserves another showcase, be it in New Mutants or some other X-flick.

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