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Comic Book / X-23: Innocence Lost
aka: Innocence Lost

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First published in in 2005 as a six-part miniseries and later released as a trade collection in 2006, X-23: Innocence Lost was written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost detailing the origins of Laura Kinney, AKA X-23.

The Facility, a civilian offshoot of the military Weapon X program under Dr. Martin Sutter, hires Dr. Sarah Kinney when attempts by Dr. Zander Rice to duplicate the Weapon X experiments on other mutants fail, resulting in the deaths of the test subjects. Kinney proposes that she can create a clone of the original specimen, Weapon X himself. Rice, whose father was killed by Wolverine during his rampage and escape from the labs where he was experimented on, objects, but Sutter orders that Kinney proceed with her experiments. Using genetic material salvaged by Rice's father before his death, Sarah begins the processes of engineering the clone, though it soon becomes apparent that degradation of the sample was severe enough that she suspects it might be years before a viable embryo can be created. Because the damage was worst on the Y chromosome, Kinney proposes that they double the X-chromosome and create a female clone instead, however this is rejected by Sutter.


Ignoring Sutter, Kinney proceeds with her experiments anyway, and successfully creates a viable clone on the 23rd attempt. Initially furious at her insubordination, Sutter nonetheless agrees to utilize the successful clone, and Kinney is forced by Rice to serve as a surrogate mother herself in order to save the fetus when he refuses to allow a search for another suitable host. Nine months later the clone is born.

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of the ordeal for both Kinney and X-23.

Although not X-23's first appearance in the comics (which occurred in NYX), Innocence Lost allowed the character's creators, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, to establish her background within the context of the main Earth-616 universe. The miniseries remains one of X-23's most well-regarded stories, and, being a large part of her origin, elements of it were adapted in the 2017 film Logan, to form the basis of Laura's background.


Tropes featured in Innocence Lost:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Depending on your definition of "parents." Zander Rice was one of the lead scientists involved with X-23's creation and training, and the abuse he subjected her to was outright horrific. Sarah was ordered by the Facility to deny her an emotional connection, so was forced to shun X-23 whenever the girl reached out to her (though Sarah resisted those orders whenever possible).
    • Sarah herself was abused by her father. A copy of the police report for one incident shown during her introduction indicates that her mother and sister denied the allegations, and that Sarah herself would not talk to police about what happened. This led to Sarah cutting off contact with her family entirely, and she only reluctantly allowed her niece, Megan, to send her things. In fact, she didn't even know she had a niece until the girl was several years old.
  • A God Am I: Sarah specifically compares the attempt to clone Wolverine to becoming a god.
    Sarah: No one said this is going to be easy. In ten years, mainstream science is still going to be working the kinks out of cloning cats. Gentlemen, welcome to godhood.
  • And This Is for...: When extracting X-23's claws for bonding with adamantium without anasthesia (at age seven), Rice takes the time to tell her "This is for my father".
  • Anyone Can Die: Holy crap. Sarah, Rice and Sutter, Sarah's bodyguard Kevin, Rachel Sutter, X-23's sensei Tanaka. The cast isn't a large one, but that's more than half the main cast, and not even getting into candidate Johnson, his family and the entire rest of the room he's with, Dale Rice, the dozens of mooks X-23 kills, and what little we see of her missions.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The narration of the story is in the form of a letter written by Sarah, intended to tell X-23 the truth of her origins if she doesn't survive to tell her herself. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens. Even worse, it's revealed in the follow-up story, Target: X, that the letter was so ruined by Sarah's blood that Laura was never able to read it. It's only after getting the copy that Sarah had the foresight to send to Wolverine that she got to read her mother's words for herself.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: During her breakout and destruction of the Facility base, X-23 slaughters a dozen or so guards who have her cornered in the room with her incubating clone "sisters." When a straggler rounds the corner, he has an Oh, Crap! moment as Laura glares murder at him while crouching on the heaped bodies of his comrades.
  • Baby Factory: Rice forces Sarah to become this after ignoring her orders and creating a female clone. Later, Sarah is shown a literal baby factory by Rice, where 27 additional clones of X-23 are being grown test tube style.
  • Big Bad: Rice. While Sutter is certainly a Corrupt Corporate Executive and Obstructive Bureaucrat, it's ultimately Rice who's the real villain of the story.
  • Blood-Stained Letter: Because the original letter was so badly fouled by Sarah's blood, Laura was never able to read it herself until she was given the copy Sarah had the foresight to also send to Wolverine just in case.
  • Book Ends: The series both opens and closes with Weapon X (Wolverine in the beginning, and X-23 at the end) on a rampage through the installation in which s/he was created, before escaping into snow-swept wilderness.
    • Further, both scenes end with someone arriving to recover something from a dead scientist who was killed while attempting to flee: Sutter claiming Dale Rice's dogtags and Wolverine's genetic material Rice salvaged before he was killed, and an unnamed Facility agent recovering a vial of Trigger Scent from another unnamed scientist after X-23's escape.
  • Break the Cutie: X-23's treatment by the Facility was intended to break her down and turn her into an emotionless killing machine.
  • The Cameo: Wolverine, who shows up just long enough to kill Dale Rice in the prologue.
    • Among the potential clients for X's services in a video conference held by Sutter are Red Skull, Doctor Doom, and Mr. Sinister.
    • The Kingpin also receives mention, and Rice in particular talks with him by phone several times.
  • Cassandra Truth: Sarah tries to warn Sutter that Rice is letting his personal feelings about Wolverine interfere with the project, but Sutter has none of it. It's never made completely clear whether Sutter doesn't believe her, or just doesn't care.
    • It's revealed that Sarah's family never believed her father was abusing her. Even when the police became involved after one incident, neither her mother or sister corroborated, and Sarah herself was uncooperative. It ultimately led to Sarah cutting off contact with the rest of her family and she only reconciled with her sister shortly before she is killed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Shortly before Sarah sends X-23 on her rampage, she visits Rice, at which point he tells her about the X-24 through X-50 clones. After Sarah expresses her disgust, he fires her, and during the conversation in an incredibly creepy moment runs his fingers through her hair. This turns out to be more significant than it at first appears, because it's revealed to be the point at which Rice contaminates Sarah with the Trigger Scent.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Sutter. Sarah is interested in the project for the challenge, and because she believes they are working for the greater good of national defense. It's unclear whether or not Sutter began this way as well, but by the end, it's clearly revealed that the only thing he really sees are dollar signs.
  • Death of a Child: Embryos X-1 through X-22, in addition to the unknown number of male embryos, die in various stages of development before the viable X-23 clone is created. X-23's test mission involves the assassination of a presidential candidate, his family, and everyone in the room. It's made perfectly clear that she killed children in the rampage. Later, when turned loose by Sarah to destroy the Facility, she destroys embryos X-24 through 50
  • Death Montage: Only three of X-23's missions are shown in any detail: Her field test to assassinate candidate Johnson, the mission in which Rice attempts to abandon her to be killed, and the final mission Sarah assigns her to destroy the Facility. The rest of X's assassinations and operations are summed up in a montage of shots of Stuff Blowing Up and people being killed, narrated by Sarah's letter.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Although the book reveals X-23's origins, the story itself focuses primarily on her mother, Sarah Kinney. Roughly the first half is focused mainly on Sarah's attempts to create a viable clone with hints of her own family issues, and while we're certainly shown in brutal detail how badly X-23 was abused by Rice and Sutter, the focus is primarily on Sarah's reaction and growing disillusionment, and ultimate decision to free X-23 from their control and destroy the project.
  • The Dog Bites Back: X-23 is the dog. In the climax, she delivers an epic Extreme Mêlée Revenge on Rice for all the abuse he inflicted upon her.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: X-23 was abused by her creator because she was an Opposite-Sex Clone of Wolverine. He hated Wolverine because of his father's death related to the Weapon X project, and so X-23, grown from his DNA, made a good scapegoat for his frustrations with the other mutant.
  • Downer Ending: Considering the book details the beginning of X-23's Dark and Troubled Past, that goes without saying. Sarah is killed by X-23 in a Trigger Scent-fueled rage and dies after Laura succeeds in destroying the installation and killing Rice.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Sarah lives just long enough after being attacked by a trigger scent-activated Laura to name her. Realizing that she killed the only positive influence in her life is the major source of Laura's subsequent Survivor Guilt and Death Seeker actions when she faces Logan shortly afterward.
    Sarah: Laura...your y...
  • Dysfunctional Family: Sarah's relationship with her family due to their not believing her about her father abusing her. She virtually cut of contact with her sister entirely as a result, and didn't even know she had a niece until the girl was several years old. The relationship is partially repaired when a serial killer stalking children abducts Megan, and Sarah sends X-23 on an unauthorized mission to rescue her. Unfortunately, Sarah is killed liberating X-23 from the Facility not long after, so they never had the opportunity to completely reconcile.
  • Empty Shell: Sarah comes to believe that X-23 has become this. It's not until X reveals that not only was she ordered to kill Sutter and his wife, but that she chose to spare their son Henry, that she realizes the child has still clung to a fragment of her humanity.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Facility surgeons assigned to bond X-23's claws with adamantium objected when Rice refused to let them administer an anesthetic. Unfortunately their protests fell on deaf ears, as he kicked them all out and did the procedure himself.
  • Flashback Cut: A dramatic example as X-23 delivers a Extreme Mêlée Revenge on Rice, cutting between her beating him to a bloody pulp and memories of the abuse he inflicted on her, making it clear that It's Personal.
  • For Science!: Sarah's motivation for participating in the project.
  • Freudian Excuse: Rice's treatment of X-23 is excused by his father having been killed by Wolverine during the latter's escape from the Weapon X project.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Several, particularly during Sarah's under the table efforts to create the female clone.
  • Heel Realization: Sarah becomes increasingly disillusioned with the project both due to the brutal treatment X-23 receives, as well as learning that rather than creating her as a means of protecting people that the Facility is motivated purely by profit. She finally undergoes a full Heel Realization, and Heel–Face Turn, after X-23 reveals Rice sent her to kill Sutter and his family, but that she spared Sutter's son Henry.
    Sarah: I never wanted a family. My father stripped me of that desire. He took my childhood, my innocence, my life. And then I took yours. I became what I hated and feared most and you became my victim.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Of the three project leads, Sarah was from the beginning the most sympathetic. However initially even she was only focused on doing the job at hand, knowing they were working on creating a Living Weapon. However Sarah becomes increasingly disillusioned with the unnecessary abuse Rice is allowed to inflict on X-23, before finally getting fed up after X-23 reveals that Rice sent her to kill Sutter and his family.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sarah's bodyguard and confidant, Kevin, is gunned down in the climax while buying time for Sarah to escape.
  • Honey Trap: X-23 uses herself as one to rescue Sarah's niece, Megan, who has been kidnapped. Her target is a pedophile. X disguises herself as a Girl Scout to draw his attention and lull him into letting down his guard to complete the rescue.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: When she is sent to kill Martin Sutter, his wife, and his son Henry. Though she kills Sutter and his wife, she chooses to spare Henry. This later proves a key part of her character development..
  • It's Personal: X-23's final mission. She puts up her claws to go to work on Rice with the bare hands for ten minutes, making it clear this isn't just a mission to her, she wants payback for all the suffering he inflicted upon her. Made clear with a series of Flashback Cuts to the abuse Rice inflicted on X-23 as she kicks his ass.
  • Kick the Dog: X-23 is the dog, and Rice kicks her every chance he gets. Unfortunately for him, The Dog Bites Back.
    • Perhaps the worst is after X-23 kills Rice and destroys the facility, he still manages to get in one last kick when it's revealed he contaminated Sarah with the Trigger Scent.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The death of Martin Sutter at X-23's hands. It's certainly meant to be a sign of just how off the slippery slope Rice has leaped, but damned if you don't feel he deserved it for allowing and enabling all the hell the poor girl is put through.
  • Left for Dead: On one mission, Rice decides to participate and attempts to abandon X-23 to be killed, murdering his own team in the process as an excuse to withdraw prematurely. X-23 arrives nonetheless, and he deliberately leaves her behind, smugly dropping his father's dogtags to make sure she knew why he was doing it. She still survives and manages to return to the installation on her own.
  • Living Weapon: As with the Weapon X project, the Facility is running experiments to turn mutants into living weapons. However while Weapon X was military and largely focused on national defense, the Facility is a purely civilian venture in it for the money. When they succeed in creating X-23, Rice and Sutter immediately see her as a means for profit by hiring her out to whoever puts up the cash.
  • Mama Bear: Drives Sarah's Heel–Face Turn, and her decision to break X-23 out of the Facility.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Rice plays Sutter like a fiddle. It's never made clear whether Sutter ignores Sarah's warnings about Rice's behavior because of this, him not believing her, or because he just plain doesn't care. But there's no doubt that Rice knew exactly what buttons to push to get Sutter to turn over control of the project to him.
  • Matricide As the final act of his descent into evil, Rice laces Sarah with the trigger scent. X-23 killed her as a result, just as Sarah was putting her plan to escape the Facility with her altogether in motion.
  • Mook Horror Show: Sarah turns X-23 loose inside the Facility. She didn't exactly need to be ordered to tear the place apart.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Initially averted, and ultimately invoked. X-23 herself is the prototype, and once she is successfully created essentially is also the plans since the Facility can (and does, as is discovered near the end) use her genetic material to create additional clones (which would also serve as a backup). The entirety of the last act is Sarah setting X loose with specific orders to destroy her unborn "sisters," and all equipment and research associated with the project to prevent the Facility from recreating her.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Martin Sutter. Sutter ignores Sarah's warnings that Rice has become too personally invested in the project when she realizes the amount of abuse Rice is inflicting on X-23, instead accusing her of being too attached. Earlier, when Sarah tries to tell Sutter that tissue damage to the samples makes her theory of doubling the X chromosome a more viable alternative, he rejects the proposal and orders her to proceed according to the original plan. When she disobeys and creates the female clone anyway, he only acquiesces when she flat-out tells him he can either have the viable female clone right now, or wait for years until they could maybe create a viable male clone, essentially forcing his hand.
  • Offing the Offspring: Rice tries to pull this twice: First by deliberately leaving X-23 behind on a mission so she will be killed (Rice himself isn't her father, but played a substantial role in her creation). The second, is when he attempts to cover up evidence of his affair with Rachel Sutter by sending X-23 to kill her and his son with her.
  • Only in It for the Money: The ultimate motivation for the creation of X-23 is revealed to have nothing to do with national defense or the greater good, but to create an assassin they can rent out to the highest bidder. Later, Rice decides to create more of her that he can outright sell.
  • Origin Story: Innocence Lost is X-23's, finally fleshing out the Dark and Troubled Past hinted at in NYX and her early Uncanny X-Men appearances.
  • Parental Substitute: Sutter is this for Rice, after Wolverine kills Dale Rice escaping Weapon X.
    • X-23's sensei treats her with a great deal of grandfatherly affection, providing one of her only consistent parental figures as a child (Sarah was under orders not to emotionally bond with her, and though she resisted, a good bit of damage was still done).
  • The Quiet One: X-23 is this for most of the story. She speaks a bit of Japanese in training with her sensei, but doesn't speak in English until the final issues of the series. Even then, she doesn't speak much.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sutter starts off as this, showing great interest in Sarah's proposal to clone Weapon X. However he becomes increasingly obstructive as the series continues. Not helped at all by the fact that he's blindly supportive of Rice and completely ignores Sarah's warnings about him.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Rice abuses the young X-23 entirely for revenge on for Wolverine killing his father. What makes this even worse is that her only connection is having been cloned from Logan's DNA, and that Logan doesn't even know she exists.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: What happens when Sarah turns X-23 loose against the facility. Although framed in the context of being a mission, the fact that when X tracks down Rice she spends ten fucking minutes beating him to death with her bare hands makes it clear that It's Personal.
  • Self-Harm: Sarah discovers that X-23 has been cutting herself with her claws, and is part of the final straw in her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Self-Made Orphan:
    • Rice, sort of. Wolverine killed his father escaping the Weapon X installation, after which Sutter became his father-figure. Rice sends X-23 to kill him so he can have total control of the project.
    • X-23 herself. Rice contaminates Sarah with the Trigger Scent, intending for X-23 to kill her and eliminate her as a threat and liability to the project. Unfortunately for Rice, Sarah had already unleashed X-23 against the Facility, so she gets to him first. Rice still manages a posthumous Kick the Dog when X-23 heads to her rendezvous point and the Trigger Scent takes effect. By the time it wears off, Sarah is dying in her daughter's arms, and hangs on just long enough to give her a proper name, and tell her she loves her.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: When Sarah sets X-23 loose against the Facility, her orders include setting charges to destroy the entire installation. It explodes spectacularly.
    • The montage of X's missions earlier on include quite a few shots of stuff exploding.
  • Time-Compression Montage: During Sarah's pregnancy with X-23, and throughout X-23's development and training.
  • Training from Hell: Played with. X-23's sensei is a bit stern and certainly doesn't go easy on her, but is presented as very fair and shows genuine affection for her. Rice, on the other hand...
  • Unflinching Walk: X-23 does one while calmly walking out of the exploding Facility building.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid:
    • Rice is introduced in the story as a wide-eyed toddler being told by Martin Sutter his father wouldn't be coming home. It goes downhill from there.
    • The series shows in heartbreaking detail a substantial part of how X-23 became the nearly-mute Creepy Child she was introduced as in NYX, as well as the brutal Training from Hell that turned her into one of the Marvel Universe's most dangerous assassins.
  • What If?: Edge of Venomverse #1 will explore an alternate version of X-23's escape from the Facility, positing what her subsequent rampage would have been like had she been helped by the Venom Symbiote.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: It's made clear right from the beginning that Martin Sutter's wife, Rachel, knows that she is pregnant with Rice's son, but Rice violently forces her to agree not to reveal this to Sutter. Sutter subsequently raises the boy, Henry, as his own, ignorant of the truth. It doesn't end well when Rachel decides to confess. Before she can do so Rice unleashes X-23 on the family to silence her, eliminate the boy, and secure his control over the project. Martin and Rachel are killed, but X-23 can't bring herself to murder Henry and spares him.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Laura's entry strategy for her first assassination mission is to masquerade as a disabled girl with crutches and leg braces. She approaches her target, a presidential candidate, and when his security attempts to deny her request to meet him she throws a crying fit, which eventually draws the attention of her target's wife. Target X would reveal this was also her exit strategy, by masquerading as a victim of the very same massacre she carried out.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Rice falls in love with this trope. He decides to off Sutter, his father figure, just so he can gain control of the project for himself when Sutter expresses misgivings and exhaustion. As an added bonus, he can rid himself of his inconvenient mistress—Sutter's wife—when she threatens to tell her husband that his son Henry is actually Rice's son at the same time. He then pulls this on Sarah by contaminating her with the Trigger Scent, intending for X-23 to kill her as well.
  • You Killed My Father: By proxy. Because X-23 was created using Wolverine's DNA, Rice holds her responsible for his father's death, and abuses her severely for it.

Alternative Title(s): Innocence Lost