As the new trailer demonstrated, one of the most anticipated aspects of Logan will be Dafne Keen's Laura — or as comic fans will know her, the mutant X-23. But who exactly is the character? And what do you need to know about her before Logan arrives? Allow us to answer that.
Created by Craig Kyle for the X-Men: Evolution animated TV series appearing for the first time in Season 3. "Wolverine was one of the old, grizzled guys, Kyle has said, explaining that he wanted to create "Pinocchio for Marvel Comics; she’s a samurai sword trying to become a real little girl." She made her comic book debut in series NYX in 2004, though her origins were properly explored via the X-23 miniseries.
According to her agreed biography Laura is the product of a top secret program run by Dr. Martin Sutter and Dr. Zander Rice that had ben trying to replicate the Weapon X experiments that bonded adamantium to Logan's skeleton. But the focus was different: aiming to create a clone from genetic samples of Wolverine. Yet the damaged samples meant the scientists had to create a female genetic twin instead of a direct clone. After 22 failures, the 23rd is shown to be viable and Doctor Sarah Kinney moves ahead with her illegal, unauthorised research, eventually punished for insubordination against her boss, Dr. Zander Rice. Forced to act as the surrogate mother for the 'specimen', she gives birth to Laura. Raised to the age of seven in the lab, she's cruelly exposed to radiation to try to activate her mutant genes and when her claws emerge – two from each hand and one in each foot – they are coated with adamantium. Trained to become an assassin, she's triggered into murderous rages by a particular scent and eventually is tricked into killing her mother. Left by Sarah with pictures of Charles Xavier, his institute and Wolverine, she's left to go out into the world and make her own path. She's since appeared in a variety of comic book titles, both as a member of Xavier's team and elsewhere.
In Evolution, the story is slightly altered, in that the scientist responsible for creating her was Dr. Deborah Risman, who was working for HYDRA. Her skeleton was bonded with adamantium at the age of 12, and she ended up blaming Wolverine for her plight. But she still became a member of the X-Men team.
Like her genetic twin, Laura has various abilities, including similar feral rages and the ability to heal. In the comics, she's also proficient with various weapons and boasts enhanced strength and speed. Laura takes after him in personality too: she's taciturn and gruff, and doesn't always play well with others. She also has a history of self-harm, a product of her lonely, troubled upbringing.
In the film version, Laura (played by Dafne Keen) will be seen as a child who enters Wolverine's life when he's trying to lay low. The film's near-future setting finds a grizzled, weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) scratching out an existence in a desert town near the Mexican border. Caring for an ailing, nonagenarian Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), he's trying to avoid trouble while working as a limo driver. But trouble never seems very far from his life, and he's asked to get Laura to safety when dark forces close in on her location. He's not sure about this quiet, haunted young woman, but realises she has more in common with him than he first thought... particularly when her life is in danger.
“She's amazing,” director James Mangold says of the actress. “One of the things that was important to me is this idea that wanted to take the 'cute stink' off the character. I didn't want her to be some kewpie doll actress, and I was nervous about that. One of the ideas that occurred to us is the idea that Laura's character comes from south of the border, so I needed a Spanish-speaking actress and someone capable of doing an elaborate set of stunts, a lot of which she does on screen.”
Not much has been revealed yet about how the film will mine Laura's comic book history, but there's not doubt we're going to see much more of her in action.
For more on Logan, including exclusive behind-the-scenes access, pick up the March issue of Empire, on sale Thursday 26 January.