X-23 #2

Issue Date: 
April 2005
Story Title: 
Innocence Lost – Part Two

Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost (writers), Billy Tan (penciler), Jon Sibal (inker), Brian Haberlin (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterers), Cory Sedlmeier (assistant editor), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

X-23 is being forged into a weapon by her creators. Her life is not like that of other children. She sleeps in a cold, sterile cell. The adults around her have been ordered to treat her as a weapon and nothing more. But her life is not without glimmers of human warmth. Dr. Sarah Kinney continues to undermine the program’s goals by showing X-23 some maternal affection and reading fairy tales to her on the sly. X-23 trains daily with a sensei, who looks on her with fatherly pride and offers the girl some human compassion. This does not escape the notice of Dr. Zander Rice who is driven to turn X-23 into a weapon he can use to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Weapon X. He uses radiation poisoning to force the early manifestation of X-23’s powers so that he can move up his plans to use her as a weapon. He then puts her through a painful surgery to remove her claws and lace them with adamantium. He also develops a trigger scent that will send her into a berserker rage. He tests this new control tool on X-23, unleashing her on her unsuspecting sensei. X-23 recovers from the blinding fury of the berserker rage and is shocked to see that she has killed her beloved sensei.

Full Summary: 

It has been seven years since X-23’s birth. X-23 is asleep in her “room”. It is devoid of any furniture or decoration of any sort. She sleeps in a hunched position on the ground. Dr. Zander Rice and X-23’s sensei awaken her.
The narration by Dr. Sarah Kinney to X-23 continues, explaining the process of dehumanization used by the program to condition her. Dr. Kinney explains to X-23 that the program saw her merely as a weapon and treated her as such.
Their goal was to not allow her any sense of self beyond her duty as a weapon. X-23 does not speak when she wakes. She is helped up by her sensei who calls her “child”. They meditate together in a training dojo before beginning their daily lessons. She begins with a flying kick which her sensei blocks, sending her slamming into a wall. He smiles at her and speaks to her in Japanese.
In her letter to X-23, Dr. Kinney notes that she is thankful for those associated with the program who treated X-23 as a real child.
From a control room, Zander Rice, Martin Sutter and Sarah Kinney watch and evaluate X-23’s progress. They note that she is testing as extremely intelligent and in peak human condition. Her mutations have yet to emerge but they are altering environmental factors such as room temperature to encourage an earlier onset of puberty.
Zander suggests lacing her claws with adamantium now rather than waiting. Sarah objects that there is no justification for such a move and Zander accuses her once again of being emotionally involved with her “child.” Sarah reminds him that the team of psychologists has recommended her continued contact with X-23.
Dr. Sutter excuses Dr. Kinney and he and Zander continue discussing the project. Sutter orders weapons training to begin and explains to Zander that they continue to tolerate Sarah’s presence because it gives them another means of controlling X-23. He assures Zander that if Dr. Kinney becomes a problem, she can be dealt with. He then asks Zander for a report on the “trigger scent”, which Zander assures him is coming along nicely.
X-23’s martial arts training with the sensei continues. He pushes her relentlessly but there is a clear underlying affection between the two. When she does well, he encourages her with praise and a parental touch.
As they fight, Sarah watches from a control booth. She is interrupted by a phone call from her sister, Debbie. The exchange between the two is tense and it’s clear they did not part on good terms. Debbie did not believe Sarah when she accused their father of sexually abusing her. Debbie admits that she was wrong and apologizes. She has a daughter Megan who wants to send something to her Aunt Sarah, whom she has never met. Sarah reluctantly agrees but asks Debbie not to call her again.
In his office, Zander is obsessing once more over his father’s damaged dog tags and dreaming about the original Weapon X. His thoughts are interrupted by Martin’s lover/personal assistant who comes to tell Zander that she’s pregnant and it is his child. She asks what they should do and he coldly tells her to tell Martin that the child is his before leaving the office.
In the cold, stark whiteness of X-23’s room, Sarah is reading “The Art of War” to X-23. As she reads, X-23 rests her head in Sarah’s lap. Sarah notices Zander watching and tells X-23 to sit up. She then takes a page from her pocket and hides it in the book. She continues reading only now she is once again reading X-23 the story of Pinocchio.
X-23 begins training with weapons with her sensei, Tanaka. He attacks her with a katana, which she catches between her hands. He stops the exercise and praises her, placing a hand on her shoulder and telling her that he is proud of her.
They are interrupted by Dr. Rice and two guards who bark orders at X-23 to come. The guards take X-23 away and Zander reprimands Tanaka for treating X-23 like a child once more. He clarifies that he is not to touch X-23 unless it is to strike her. He also lets Tanaka know that speaking to her in Japanese is also useless since Zander clearly understands and speaks Japanese himself.
X-23 is taken to a medical facility where she is subjected to high doses of radiation in order to prematurely awaken her mutant powers. Zander has grown impatient and is determined to move up the timeline of X-23’s development. As she is about to undergo the treatment, he thinks once more of Wolverine and calls her an animal before spitting on her.
Sarah arrives too late to protest. The radiation nearly kills X-23, but instead it manages to force the manifestation of her powers. This includes a pair of claws on her hand and a single claw on each foot. Sarah realizes that this development makes it even harder for her to stand in Zander’s way on his quest to turn X-23 irrevocably into a killing machine.
Sarah goes to Dr. Sutter and begs him not to let Zander complete the surgery himself. She argues that he has lost it and become too emotionally involved. Dr. Sutter refuses to believe her and instead tells her that it is she who is too attached.
Zander proceeds with the surgery on X-23, going so far as to refuse to use anesthesia. When another doctor protests that this is inhuman, he orders them all to clear the room. He calls X-23 “Weapon X” and says that this is for his father before forcibly extracting each of her claws. He then sharpens each one, coats them with adamantium and then surgically puts them back into her.
The next day, X-23 has fully recovered and is “playing” with her new claws, popping them in and out. Sarah watches and is amazed at her physical recovery. She cannot help but wonder what psychological damage this may have done to X-23. She notes that X-23’s healing factor surpasses Wolverine’s, though that may change once the rest of her skeleton is laced with adamantium. Sarah looks at a picture that her niece Megan colored for her, a stark contrast with the life she has created for X-23.
Dr. Sutter praises Zander on the results of the surgery and notes that X-23 is now combat-ready. He asks how the trigger scent is coming along and Zander tells him he has a test planned for next week. Zander takes the trigger scent and pours a sample of it onto Tanaka’s katana.
The next training session for X-23 is her graduation day. When Tanaka unsheathes his sword, X-23’s eyes turn crimson and she flies into a berserker rage. She lunges at Tanaka with her claws and in a matter of minutes, he is dead.
X-23 looks down at her blood-covered hands and is shocked. She tries to wake her sensei who lies in a pool of blood. Sarah arrives in the observation booth and is shocked by what she sees.
Dr. Sutter simply smiles to Zander and declares the test an overwhelming success.

Characters Involved: 

Dr. Zander Rice, Dr. Sarah Kinney, Dr. Martin Sutter (all part of the Weapon X re-creation project)
Tanaka, X-23’s sensei
Dr. Sutter’s unnamed administrative assistant/lover
Medical, scientific and security staff of the Weapon X re-creation program
Debbie, Sarah Kinney’s sister
in flashback only

Dr. Dale Rice
Weapon X/ Wolverine

Story Notes: 

“The Art of War” is a classic Chinese text on military strategy by Sun Tzu.
“Pinocchio” is the story of a wooden puppet who longs to be a real boy and goes through various trials and life lessons before having his wish granted. It was written by Italian writer Carlo Collodi in 1880.

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