How does a woefully ill-equipped teenage girl cope with the loss of a loved one?
Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #2Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Tim Seeley, Ariela Kristantina
Publication Date: 2014-12
Teenagers aren’t known for reacting rationally to tragedy. In fact, they’re not known for reacting rationally to much of anything. It’s almost expected that teenagers aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with major loss. Their brains are like an old computer trying to upgrade from Windows 98 to Windows 8. It’s a messy, glitchy transition to say the least. That’s why few are surprised when a teenager loses a loved one and they deal with it by shaving their head and joining a death metal band. It’s sometimes easy to forget that many adults don’t react much better, but at least teenagers have an excuse. However, a select few choose not to exercise that excuse.
Since her debut in X-men Evolution, X-23 has had plenty of excuses to be a volatile, irrational, unstable teenage girl. In many ways she is a perfect storm of teenage angst. She’s a clone of Wolverine, which by default gives her a temper and an attitude. She was conditioned (and at times tortured) to becoming a killer, just like Wolverine. And even after she escaped all this horror, she still has to deal with the rigors of being a teenage girl. As messed up as Wolverine was, he never had deal with the raging hormones, teen angst, and melodrama unique to teenage girls.
X-23 has essentially had the opposite of a head start in life and that life has already had its share of tragedy. Being tricked into killing her own mother certainly qualifies as such. Now she has to deal with the death of Wolverine, who was very much like a father to her. So this means X-23 is exceedingly handicapped in dealing with tragedy, but that’s exactly what she has to deal with in Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #2.
In wake of Wolverine’s death, a number of his allies and enemies (mostly enemies) have been captured by masked figure looking to finish what Dr. Abraham Cornelius started, minus the stab wounds. In doing so the story takes a step back from what began, turning this whole issue into one big flashback that never actually continues that story. It’s not organized or concise in terms of the big picture, but it succeeds in focusing on the story surrounding X-23 and her having to cope with the death of Wolverine.
She’s not going to surprise anybody by demonstrating her poor coping skills and not just because those skills involve letting herself get stabbed in the Danger Room. Her teammates in at the New Xavier School and her teacher, Kitty Pryde, try to reach out to her. However, she doesn’t have that big emotional moment that’s so prevalent in every episode of Intervention. X-23’s teammates can’t draw on the benefit of the whole affair being staged. They can only get frustrated when X-23 claims to feel nothing. This sounds like the kind of double-speak that every teenager masters at some point during high school, usually before mid-terms. But with X-23, it actually comes off as genuine.
Being emotionally numb is a big part of what X-23 went through. It’s part of what makes her more than just a Wolverine rip-off character and gives her a unique persona. She was conditioned to not feel any emotions as a means of making her a more effective killer. Throughout her story, she’s been emotionally flat most of the time whereas Wolverine’s emotions fluctuates between being angry and needing a beer. She dealt with her mother dying. Now she has to deal with Wolverine dying and it makes sense that her first reaction would be the one she was trained to feel.
However, this doesn’t prevent later emotions from being more in line with that of a teenage girl. She claims to feel nothing, but she feels annoyed to the point where she ditches her team for a while and hangs out at the kind of seedy nightclub where teenage girls often go to end up on a Nightline Special. Throwing herself into party full of distractions is not a reaction that she needs to be conditioned for. It’s another reaction that feels genuine, if not somewhat predictable.
These emotions lead her into the crossfire of a conflict that has nothing to do with Wolverine or the ongoing story with his former frenemies. It’s a conflict ripped from a side-mission in a Grand Theft Auto game in that she teams up with a hero named Windshear to take down a gang that calls themselves “Happy Clams.” It sounds like a bad seafood restaurant, but it’s actually a gang run by on obese female version of the Kingpin who likes to exploit angst-riddled teens to do her criminal dirty work. It sounds like one of those ventures that the mob has been running since the 50s, but it leads to a powerful moment that gives X-23 a more productive emotional reaction.
It’s not just that she’s dealing with someone who is exploiting teenagers just like her. Windshear, who reveals he is dying, talks about leaving behind a legacy. Like Wolverine, he did questionable things in his past. But he wants to do more than just make up for them. He wants to do something that’ll actually make his upcoming death feel meaningful.
This is something Wolverine, and X-23 by default, never had to worry about until recently. It’s one of those deeper perspectives that most teenagers don’t allow themselves to see until years of therapy and an overuse of prescription drugs. While we don’t get to the details of how X-23 helps Windshear take down the Happy Clams without laughing at their name, we’re given enough hints to assume that they took care of business in ways that would make Wolverine proud.
In the end, it’s really not necessary to see X-23 fight people like the Happy Clam. The insight Windshear gave her, as wordy as it might have been, did more for her than any overpaid therapist could. It allows X-23 to return to the New Xavier School and actually admit she feels sadness at losing Wolverine. But she also feels pride for what he did to leave behind a legacy. Now she’s part of that legacy. It still doesn’t contribute to the story surrounding Wolverine’s old rogues, but it does tell a compelling story about a teenage girl with inherently poor coping skills finding a way to cope in as healthy way as she can. That alone is more uncanny than any mutant power.