A (very long) rant under the cut. Basically, the Laura Kinney tracked tag has been bothering me after issue #19. Here is my response.
Ok. So in the past few months there has been a lot of grumbling from fans about issue #19. I get it. Having a ship sunk blows. It’s happened to me before, it happens all the time in comics. And I get that Julian/Laura fans are upset with the way it played out. To be honest, I see both sides. I see why Liu did what she did, and I see why fans of that ship are upset. I get it.
But good lord, the fact that Liu has become enemy number one to so many people is frustrating and, I think, misguided. And I take issue with people having a problem with Laura and her characterization.
Number one— the Julian problem. I think we can safely say that Julian’s characterization post-New X-Men has been a mess. For whatever reason, since Julian lost his hands everyone has decided that any previous character development should be thrown out the window. You get no argument from me— it sucks that everyone has decided that Julian should go back to being a bully. And worse yet, a very angry and unfriendly one. His characterization in Wolverine and the X-Men is one of the few things that I think Aaron has dropped the ball on with that series.
But, anyway, somewhere along the line Julian has been written as an angry asshole. It seems to be the consensus that he should be written that way. However, this is not something that Liu put forth. She didn’t cut off his arms, she didn’t make him an angry dick, she didn’t make him a bully. Mike Carey is the one you should have beef with, not Liu. This is the Julian the folks at Marvel are giving us. It may not be the Julian we want, the kid we saw grow up in New X-Men, but it’s what we’ve got.
So I think if you’re mad at Liu for what Julian has unfortunately become in the X-verse? It’s a little silly— it’s not her fault that everyone has decided that Julian should be a douche.
And now we move onto Laura. Because I’ve seen people think that A) Laura acted out of character or B) somehow Laura choosing not to be with Julian is a setback to her character development.
To the former, I have to call false. Was what Laura said hurtful to Julian? Sure. It sucks being broken up with. It sucks when you have someone you care deeply for that says they don’t feel the same way. But, the very matter-of-fact way that she told him? That just is Laura. Liu has done a million things to help make Laura a fully realized character, but she has kept the very logical way that Laura speaks and communicates to people. Laura didn’t pussyfoot around it, she didn’t lead Julian on (even from the first scene I think Laura is clearly trying to distance herself from Julian. It just that, you know, there were dragons and shit to deal with. Also there were children to save which was foremost on Laura’s mind). So… how exactly was this out of character? It’s not like she said “Julian you are awful and I could never like you ever.” No. She told him very clearly, and in her normal Laura like manner that she didn’t feel the same way she did.
As for a character development step back? I really have a problem with the logic here. Because, one of the most intrinsic elements to Laura (and one that I have talked and talked and talked about) is her selflessness. Laura always puts others and their happiness before her own. As far as being ~out in the field and fighting? It makes Laura a heroic person. She is always putting the people she wants to save way ahead of herself and her own well-being. But for her personal life? Laura should be able to choose who and what makes her happy. I think the point Liu was making here was that Laura is a selfless person to the core, but she deserves to be happy. She deserves to be with whoever makes her happy. In this instance, Julian’s ~feelings should have little impact on Laura. Is he someone that makes her happy now? No? Then Laura should be free to, I don’t know, not be with him? I think that’s pretty simple. And I think it actually shows growth, not a set back. The fact that for once Laura is putting her feelings before someone else is huge, guys.
As for people that think that Kyle/Yost should go back to writing Laura. I…. disagree. Wholeheartedly. When Liu started writing X-23 Laura was a laundry list of issues. Essentially it was just like, here is this character with a shit ton of issues and unresolved problems! Enjoy! And it was Liu’s job to, I don’t know, make Laura a person and not just… her problems. Which isn’t to say that I think Kyle/Yost completely dropped the ball on Laura. Not at all, the Laura arc in the last few issues of X-Force was one of my very favorite arcs for her. I also like in Target X how stubborn and protective Laura is. But, overall, so much of X-Force felt like Laura was ~the troubled girl. Even prior to X-Force, it felt like Kyle/Yost spent most of their time trying to figure out just how much shit they could put Laura through. By the time X-Force was over, Laura had been a kid assassin, a prostitute, a clone, a cutter, put through intense torture, and she had been forced to go back to being a killer.
So from that, Liu had to try and address these issues and also make Laura a person. With thoughts and feelings and her own mind. Not just the character that writers seem to get off on making her life worse. She addressed the building blocks that Kyle/Yost put forth (Laura is selfless! She speaks in a particular way! She’s resilient!) and she made Laura a person. While the series might be called X-23? It really should be called Laura Kinney, because the entire point of the series was about moving Laura away from her past and allowing her to grow and be a person.
Are there things that could have been included? Sure. And maybe there are things that we would like to see (I, personally, would have loved to have seen Cess show up) that were on the docket but Liu didn’t have a chance to get to. We’ll never know. But as far as what the series is? Liu has done a bang up job, I’m sorry. She’s brought Laura from a particularly dark place (which, Laura’s life is really just dark place after dark place, but still. X-Force was fucking rough), and she’s made her grow. Laura knows herself, what she wants, who she wants to be with. And that’s really what I want as a Laura fan. I want her to be happy. I want her to know what makes her happy, and to be able to go for it. If she would have been happy with Julian, fine. But the fact that Liu says she isn’t happy with him? It shows the same development for her. If he doesn’t make her happy, she shouldn’t stay. Bar none.
In some ways I think this stems from people caring about the ship of Julian/Laura more than… Laura herself. Which is irksome. If you really cared about Laura? I think you’d realize just how much this run has been positive for her and her character development.
As an aside, I saw something in the Avengers Academy tracked tag a few days ago that implied that Laura was dumping Julian to be with Mettle which… Wow. No. Laura very clearly stated in the issue that she had no feelings for Julian. Nowhere did she say that she had feelings for someone else. As for the implication in Avengers Academy? I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill there. So much of this ~future business is still unknown. And even if it does happen in the future, I think it’s pretty clear that this dark future is not the one that is going to unfold.
And, fuck, if Laura wants to get with Mettle eventually what is so wrong with that, exactly? Mettle is one of the sweetest guys. I ship Mettle/Hazmat and would prefer that to happen, but if Laura/Mettle does happen and they’re both happy then wonderful. They’re both great kids. And, honestly, Laura deserves to be with a nice guy like Ken over being with the douche that Julian has become. If Julian goes back to being the way he was before? Great. I think I could ship it again. But as it stands? No. Sorry.
So. To wrap up, I think Liu’s run has been great and overwhelmingly positive for Laura as a character. I think Julian’s characterization blows and as it stands should not be with Laura. On that note, if Laura is does not want to be with someone, she shouldn’t be with them. Also, final note? Criticizing Liu’s entire run for one issue that didn’t set well with you because it sunk your ship? Is bogus. Sorry.
One more thing— if you choose to be annoyed at the fact that Laura told Julian in a straightforward manner that she has no feelings for him, but NOT be annoyed that Julian called Laura an unfeeling robot? I think you need to check yourself.