Laura Kinney; Credit: Marvel Entertainment.

The Challenge of Legacy Characters: Laura Kinney Is Wolverine

Wolverine is back-ish! Because comics are comics, we must, of course, commemorate this event in what is sure to be slightly underwhelming. Though, still with occasional stand out contributions, crossover cash grab. Specifically, if you want the entire story, check out the “post-credit scenes” in Captain America #697, Amazing Spider-Man #794, Mighty Thor #703, Marvel Two-In-One #3, Black Panther #170, Avengers #680, Incredible Hulk #714, X-Men: Red #2, and Invincible Iron Man #598. Then once you’re through, you need to pick up The Hunt for Wolverine one-shot.

Logan returns. With an infinity stone. Credit: Marvel Entertainment.

Then you need to pick up four mini-series and read them concurrently (Weapon Lost, Adamantium Agenda, Claws of a Killer, Mystery in Madripoor)  and then, finally, pick up the last one shot Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends. If that sounds like work I have good news and bad news. The good news is there’s another Wolverine.

Her name is Laura Kinney and she’s currently lead of the All-New Wolverine. She’s kind of fantastic. If you ever wanted a bunch of Wolverine Family Feels this is the book for you. The bad news is she won’t be Wolverine for much longer! If Marvel has anything to say about it (and oh boy, do they ever). That said, the return of Logan does raise an important question about the place of Laura, and legacy characters like her in the Marvel Universe.

If you’re the current Marvel editorial team, the answer to that question is to give Laura back her old title of X-23. And, on top of that, bring Logan back to the Wolverine mantle, adamantium claws swinging. But this poses a problem.

What to Do With Laura Kinney

For almost three years Logan was considered dead. This gave Laura the chance to step into the Wolverine mantle. This has been a huge development. Laura is a child soldier on her way to hero-dom. She’s reconnected with her humanity, throwing off the destiny that was handed to her. She fights every step of the way not to be the killer she was raised as.

The new X-23 comic will be Laura’s new ongoing home. Credit: Marvel Entertainment.

Taking up the mantle of Wolverine was, in this case, a way for her to come into her own as a person instead of a weapon. X-23 was a name given to designate her as a tool and a clone, and having her return to the X=23 moniker reads as a regression of the character. And for what? Returning the title to Logan, a character whose character development could use a kick to the shins anyways?

Legacy In Marvel vs. DC

The short answer is that Marvel is not built for legacy. It’s not malice that has them struggling to make use of their teen characters, it’s their DNA. Marvel only knows how to do heroes in their own right, people who stand on their own with unique names and stories. Young Avengers is a great example that disguises itself as legacy only to reveal the unique characters underneath. The only other way Marvel has been able to do legacy is through the literal taking up of someone else’s, as with Ms. Marvel, Spiderman, and Hawkeye.

This isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it’s fantastic. It creates challenges that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It forces many teen characters into the role of “hero” instead of “teenaged hero.” The downside is if someone less than adored takes on a mantle, it can be a long arduous struggle to keep them there. Then when the original inevitably comes back to reclaim their title, it leaves the legacy character with nowhere to go unless they have the popularity to keep the title.

Sidekicks

To top it all off there are no sidekicks. DC has the market on sidekicks cornered. They have the cheerful and fun Super-Sons, Nightwing, even variation on the Teen Titans, whether you think their current iteration is good or bad. DC has mastered the art of the sidekick, which creates a sweet buffer zone for characters who we hate to leave behind, but haven’t figured out where they belong.

The original Teen Titans. Credit: DC Entertainment.

The advantage to this system is that there’s a clear and distinct lineage. You are a sidekick until you graduate and a new person takes your old job. Or until your mentor dies and you take his mantle. It may not always be ideal. It results in Tim Drake being forever sixteen. Names are sometimes less than well thought out.

But it does set a kind of precedent. If Laura had been a DC character, she’d have been the third sidekick to Wolverine, and after being shunted from his title, would go on a personal quest, maybe chat with Superman, and decide on her new name and mission. Her sidekick graduation would stick, even if her Wolverine title didn’t.

Batman is the most lauded for this. He no less than five unique Robins, but the Flash Family famously had Barry kick it for Wally to take over. The Green Lanterns just seem to keep multiplying (when DC isn’t killing them needlessly). Even Aqualad is tempest and Donna Troy is…you know what let’s not get into Donna.

What It Means For Wolverine

It’s not a hard and fast rule, and neither company inherently bests the other in terms of legacy characters. Miss Marvel and Nightwing are pretty iconic in their own right. But this history seems to be relevant in the discussion that already exists about what should happen to Laura. Laura is a Marvel hero, not a side-kick. X-23 wasn’t a sidekick title. But it still functions as a regression the same way putting Nightwing back in Robin hotpants would.

As such she is very much Wolverine in a way that makes it hard to move her over. She’s a clone of him, trained to be a weapon like him, turned hero like him. And yet Laura didn’t really get to be Wolverine. Old Man Logan and Jimmy Hudson were filling the Wolverine shaped holes on other teams in the Marvel universe leaving Laura confined mostly to her own book. If they can’t grow her into a new title, she deserves the chance to be Wolverine the right way.

And really, at the end of the day, if we can have a bunch of Spider-Man’s and two Hawkeyes, why can’t we have two Wolverines?

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