Imagine the pitch meeting: "Wolverine's cool, but you know what would make him better? Boobies!"
A shadowy organization recreated the Weapon X program using damaged DNA taken from the mutant now known as Wolverine, the result was X-23. As a child, X-23 trained in the arts of war, strategy, human anatomy, weapons, combat and stealth, molding her into a killing machine.
That's a nicely vague bio, which doesn't contradict anything from either of her incarnations. Like Firestar before her, X-23 was created for one of Marvel's ancillary productions: in this case, the vastly underrated X-Men: Evolution. When a series of attcks on SHIELD bases seemed to be the work of a perpetrator with metal claws, Nick Fury came looking for Wolverine. The span didn't match Logan's claws, though - it was much smaller. Turned out that Hydra had gotten some of Logan's genetic material and, attempting to clone him, found the Y chromosome was damaged. Their scientists simply flipped the X chromosome, giving them a female version instead of a male.
Fans were surprised when X-23 unexpectedly made the jump from tv to comics, debuting as a prostitue in NYX #3. And probably nobody was quite as surprised as Craig Kyle, the guy who created her. Word has it he was smart enough to retain some control of her in his contract, and was none too happy about her turn as a hooker - he called up Joe Quesada and the remaining issues of NYX underwent a re-write, which would explain the huge delay right after she showed up.
Like most of the figures in Series 12, X-23 has a variant, but in her case, no one's really sure what it is. There are two versions: one wearing black and one wearing purple, and they're so different that they barely look like the same character. The back of the packaging shows Black as the standard version, but doesn't indicate there's any variant at all. When the figures shipped, however, Purple was packed in most of the standard cases, with Black only available in the variant cases alongside White Sasquatch and Bald Bishop. A few people reported finding Blacks in the normal cases, however, and insisted that it was just a packing error that saw so many Purples released so early. So it raises the question: if the official "variant" is more plentiful than the "standard" figure, then doesn't that make the standard the variant?
X-23 is in her early teens, so it makes sense that she's small, but at 5 3/4, she's taller than her brother/daddy - at least the one who's in ML12 with her. The figure moves at the head, shoulders, biceps, gloves, forearms, wrists, chest, waist, hips, thighs, knees, boots and ankles. She doesn't have the toe joints that almost all the ML figures do these days, but there's a reason for that.
As the embryo developed, the scientists overseeing the project noticed early signs of developmental variation. Specifically, her claws were misplaced: she had two in each hand, and one in her foot. While originally this was assumed to be an error with the cloning process, the doctor in charge looked to nature for answers. She decided that Wolverine was more than a mutant - he was the first of a new species.
The males of this species had three claws in their hands, while the females relocated one to their legs as a last-ditch survival trait - even if her arms are injured or incapacitated, she could still fight enough to flee.
To show this, X-23 does indeed only have two little claws on her hands, while the third one folds out of her boot. That's right, they gave her retractable (foot) claws. Neat! They're all painted silver, since they're coated with adamantium - unlike Wolverine, only X-23's claws are metal. The scientists didn't want to impede her growth, so they planned to do the rest of her bones once she reached maturity. Too bad she escaped first, eh?
The figure is sculpted wearing the uniform she was given in the comics, rather than the cartoon. It's a leather body suit with bare arms, a strappy pair of boots and bracers on her forearms. The design is simple, but actually looks like something a human being might wear. She's slender and barely developed, which makes sense for a young girl. Good for them, not basing her on the same sculpt as most of their other female figures.
In addition to the different colors of the two versions of X-23,
the head sculpt is entirely different. Purple looks young and angry, and her face is definitely based on the artwork of Billy Tan. Black, on the other hand, is older and almost looks bored. Her brown hair hangs straight down, while Purple's jet black tresses flow around her head, adding the suggestion of motion. Purple's eyes are painted a golden tan, while Black's are more mundane green.
Ultimately, it's a good thing Purple shipped in larger numbers, because she really looks better. There's more detail painted on Black's costume, but you can make up for that by throwing a little paint on Purple - there's no fixing that ugly head. While Black's costume has light blue and yellow details painted on, Purple actually gets two or three different tones of her titular paint app to break up the monotony - she's not one solid color at all. Dark purple shadows, light purple on the belt and straps... it's not as "duh" obvious as Black's paint apps, but it's still quite nice.
Since she's the smallest figure in the Apocalypse Series (Wolverine is shorter, but he's bulkier), X-23 comes with the largest piece of the Build-A-Figure, his head and chest. The face is great, with those big blue fish lips and gray skin. He's got a huge technological collar with a silly A in the front, and his neck is ribbed metal. The piece is 5" tall and 5 1/2" across the shoulders. His head is balljointed, as are his shoulders, and his torso is wide open to join up with the hips included with Bishop.
X-23 includes a reprint of Uncanny X-Men #451, which shows her less-than-stellar first meeting with the X-Men. The cover, from X-23 #3, shows the costume worn by the black version of the figure, but has the head of the purple one. So confusing! Inside, we get to see X-23 throw down with some of the toughest Marvel mutants, and she holds her own. She also wears a costume that would have been cool on this figure - a feminine version of Wolverine's "Fang" costume.
The announcement of X-23 set the fanboy messageboards alight - she wasn't classic, she didn't deserve to be a Marvel Legend, blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is that this a cool little character and there's no reason she doesn't deserve a figure. Are there characters who should have been in the line before her? Sure, but there were characters who should have been in the line before Thing and Human Torch, too. There's no perfect line of succession for any toy line, and ToyBiz has constantly walked the line between old and new characters, and we can forgive them if sometimes they stray a little too far to one side of that line or the other.
What's your favorite bit of comic lore that's crossed over from another source? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.