Just in case anyone’s expecting otherwise, this Complete Collection only covers X-23’s appearances in solo action between 2005 and 2010, not those in NYX, or X-Men.

Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost are the writing team for the two longest stories, previously available as Innocence Lost and Target X. For longer reviews, follow the links, but the first frustrates with illogical aspects to a deliberately nasty plot revealing how Laura Kinney came to be cloned from Wolverine, with the child abuse the primary theme. Some really decorative art from Billy Tan goes a long way to making the atrocities look good. At first glance, so does Mike Choi for the next story, but his sexualising of young teenage girls exceeds sleazy to reach offensive. It’s beyond belief that Marvel would let it pass the first time round, never mind continually reprint it. Otherwise, it’s a better plot from Kyle and Yost as Captain America confronts X-23. The final chapter with Wolverine is intended as a crowd pleaser, but it’s the weakest offering in this section.

What were originally published as two one-shots aren’t found in any other collections. In the first Laura is connected to one of the universe’s great mysteries, the Uni-Power, which transforms hosts into a being named Captain Universe in times of great need. It bonds with X-23 when she’s attacked by A.I.M. scientists in invisibility suits. Jay Faeber’s plot is part of something bigger, of several Marvel mainstays being converted into Captain Universe, as the Uni-Power attempts to rectify a situation. It reads well enough, but probably better as part of Captain Universe’s story rather than X-23’s. The pleasure now is in seeing early art from Francis Portella (sample spread left).

Marjorie Liu writes the second one-shot, and she would take Laura forward in other material. There’s some leap between the end of ‘Target X’ and Laura’s relationship with Wolverine, as what’s not mentioned is that she’s spent a fair time with the X-Men in the interim. Filipe Andrade’s expressionistic art is startling in places, and unnecessarily fussy in others, and Liu reunites Laura with the NYX crew, but overwrites terribly. “So you listen to those hearts thunder. You imagine possibilities. And later, when you discover all they want from you is the spill of blood, you do as you must. You kill the monkeys in their suits.” Wait, there’s more: “You gut them with your claws because you should. You want to…” There’s plenty more still, but we’ll spare you. It’s a long, dark night of the soul in which Laura confronts either her own internalised demon or some external controlling force. It’s never clear.

Liu also writes the final story, half of what was collected as The Killing Dream, the remainder available in Vol. 2, along with much more. Liu employs the same first person narrative glimpsing into Laura’s thoughts, but toned down to something accessible, and better. The X-Men and Laura herself are concerned that her conditioning means she’s only attuned to killing, and Liu plays up some serious manipulation. Add Will Conrad’s clear and open art (sample right), and this provides the best combination of illustration and writing in a collection that has some fine moments, but too few of them overall.