On September 27th, after 154 Wednesdays without him, the classic Wolverine emerged from his adamantium cocoon to begin life anew. This development brought forth a cacophonous symphony of meh across Twitter threads, message boards, and subreddits throughout the internet. Personally, the return filled me with dread about the direction of the X-Line and not just what it means for the other big X-Men return, but for what it means for Laura Kinney, the All-New Wolverine.
Laura took on the pointy ears and yellow jumpsuit of the Wolverine in November of 2015 in the second X-Book to come out of the All-New, All-Different relaunch. It should have been the banner for a new era of Wolverine, but Laura’s term as Wolverine never got the attention it deserved. It took over a year from Logan’s death to Laura dawning the blue and yellow. In that time, she joined an ensemble cast of potential Wolverine replacements for a weekly series that didn’t do anything interesting with its’ characters. All that book did was muddy what seemed to be an obvious progression from Logan to Laura. For a moment, Sabretooth seemed to be the anointed replacement Wolverine, even joining the Avengers for six comics and a graphic novel. The Marvel Universe was then transferred to Battleworld where various versions of Logan stood at the forefront. It took too long for the legacy of Logan to pass to Laura, but surely, she would get the same respect Logan did in the role.
As we know, that wasn’t quite the case. While Laura got the book with Wolverine in the title, she got little else. She stayed in All-New X-Men with her old team, and granted Dennis Hopeless added a lot of depth to her relationship with Angel, but nothing else changed. In Uncanny X-Men, Sabretooth took the Wolverine role in spirit if not in name. By the time the first arc in Laura’s book finished, the 90’s ideal of Wolverine was running around in X-Men ’92 and Logan was the Wolverine of X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever. But Laura’s biggest challenge came from Logan himself.
Old Man Logan, an older, gruffer, cowboy version of the character from an acclaimed arc completely overshadowed Laura. His solo was one of the most hyped and marketed books in Secret Wars. He was the Wolverine of Extraordinary X-Men (the line’s flagship book) and the Wolverine most of the Marvel Universe interacted with. Beyond a short arc in the unread Ghost Rider book, no one utilized Laura’s new role as Wolverine. That shadow grew larger with the recent ResurrXion relaunch where Old Man Logan appeared as a regular cast member in four books while Laura was replaced on her old team with Jimmy Hudson, Logan’s son from the Ultimate Universe.
It is a shame that Laura’s excellent tenure as Wolverine will largely go forgotten. No one is saying that she will lose the title, not yet, but the writing is on the wall. While Marvel Legacy is said to allow past and present versions of these mantles co-exist, that doesn’t seem sustainable long-term. Just look at what happened to Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson after Steve Rodgers came back. They co-existed for a year where the classic character overshadowed the legacy before returning to their old ways. And that is the biggest shame because Laura has nothing to return to.
If Tom Taylor’s run on All-New Wolverine has done one-thing it is making sure that readers understand that Laura can never be X-23 again. She has spent 24 issues telling readers that she has grown past a being a letter and a number. She is a character experiencing what few superheroes ever dream of, legitimate character growth. Laura is a big sister now, she isn’t a cold, emotionless assassin. To turn back that development would be a huge insult to the most consistently great X-Book of the last few years.
I hope I am wrong about all of this, I really do. I’m not even against Logan coming back in principle, I just don’t want his return to come at the expense of Laura’s development. Laura’s stint as Wolverine has been the biggest wasted opportunity in this recent batch of legacy characters. What could have been a dynamic, new element in the X-Line was replaced with the same old character with more wrinkles. Laura should be the one appearing in three-team books, a solo, and a miniseries with Deadpool, but that’s not what we got. Instead, we got less than even the illusion of change, we got a reskinned version of more of the same while we waited for the original to show back up. Marvel did wrong by Laura Kinney and we can only hope other legacy characters don’t suffer her fate.