Innocence Lost starts with Wolverine in a deliberately ambiguous sequence for anyone not aware of his past. Is he just in one of his rages when he murders a research scientist? We see a man in a dark suit consoling the dead man’s young son, and twenty years later Zander Rice is working for him alongside geneticist Sarah Kinney.

Among other characters NYX: Wannabe introduced a teenage girl working as a prostitute able to pop claws from her hand. Innocence Lost provides her background as Wolverine’s cloned genetic twin raised from birth to be a weapon in the manner of Wolverine. The question never properly answered is why. “Unlimited resources and no political or legal restraints” is what Dr Kinney is offered as an inducement to continue her work. If that’s available and the purpose was to create some kind of weapon, is a teenage girl with claws and a super fast healing ability really the best option? Writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost do attempt to make the case that money raised from killing missions eventually more than recoups development costs, but readers will find other lapses of logic.

Raising the girl codenamed X-23 is a long term project. Kyle and Yost take us through a chapter of discussions before there’s even a pregnancy, supplying Sarah Kinney’s foreboding narrative captions accompanying x-23’s growth and development. Child abuse is the primary theme, shown in X-23’s case, noted for Kinney, and implied via manipulation regarding Rice. The prevailing message appears to be that monsters formed by abuse and deprivation will have no qualms about creating further monsters in their image. It’s unsavoury.

Billy Tan’s art goes a long way to disguising the unpleasant and wobbly plot. He puts the effort into supplying detail in locations and backgrounds, some of it extraordinarily decorative, such a scene viewed through a fishtank featuring exotic fish. Otherwise his is a world of impossibly glamorous people who all seem to have great trouble actually opening their mouths.

Innocence Lost is intended as macabre and fulfils the brief. Grim circumstance follows grim circumstance in a relentless procession of atrocity all the way to the inevitable scene of cathartic vengeance. Someone seeing the light toward the end is unconvincing, and the attempt to draw events full circle untidy. Innocence Lost isn’t bad, just irredeemably unpleasant, and the multiple applications of the title suggest Kyle and Yost could do better. They follow X-23 into Target X, while both graphic novels are combined with other material as volume one of X-23: The Complete Collection.