Controlling how you’re remembered is part of the human condition, even when it’s impossible to do. Everyone will be remembered differently, but it doesn’t stop some people from wanting to define their legacy. When a person is gone, what do they leave behind? That is the essence of legacy.
A character that’s battled to define herself is Lady Deathstrike. An enemy of Wolverine, Deathstrike has fought against the X-Men for years. When her motivations are pulled apart, an intriguing character is revealed. Deathstrike’s upbringing and nature have shaped the way she wants to be remembered.
Before Lady Deathstrike existed, Yuriko Oyama was the daughter of Lord Dark Wind, a Japanese crime lord and scientist. Dark Wind created the process of adamantium bonding that would later be used on Wolverine and his daughter. A former kamikaze pilot in WW2, Dark Wind had been scarred in a failed suicide attack. Feeling disgraced, Dark Wind mutilated the faces of Yuriko and her brothers. Yuriko’s relationship with her father would set the tone for much of her life.
Years later, Yuriko teamed up with Daredevil to free her lover, Kiro, from Dark Wind’s servitude. She killed her father, though Kiro committed ritual suicide to honour his master. Driven mad, Yuriko embraced Dark Wind’s ideologies and vowed to hunt down the people who had dishonoured him. Bullseye had betrayed Dark Wind, so she started with him.
During this mission she encountered Wolverine for the first time. Yuriko attempted to kill him because she believed him responsible for stealing her father’s theories. After she was defeated, Yuriko went to the Mojoverse, where she met Spiral and became a cyborg. She received adamantium bones and talons, adopting the name Lady Deathstrike.
Deathstrike started a vendetta against Wolverine and the X-Men, attacking them whenever they crossed paths. As part of the Reavers, Deathstrike became one of the X-Men’s greatest foes.
“Do you know what a whetstone does to a sword? Each injury the blade suffers makes it stronger…sharper than before. Sword makers tell stories of a blade so very fine, so very sharp, that it’s edge cannot be seen by the human eye. It’s power extended beyond its rightful borders.”
“In such a way, our lives have unforeseen consequences after our deaths. We go on causing harm, even after our own space and time have finished. To use such a weapon, and to not know until too late how much damage it inflicts, is both the nature of blades, and of legacy.” – Lady Deathstrike
Defining a legacy
At her core, Deathstrike is driven by a need to restore her honour. It ties in to her traditional upbringing in a Japanese family. Despite how much Lord Dark Wind abused her, Yuriko felt duty bound to carry on his wishes. When Yuriko received her modifications from Spiral, she became her agent. As Wolverine’s enemy, Deathstrike defined herself by the thought of killing him. No matter what she did, Deathstrike felt she was caught up in the legacy of someone else.
These motivations are captured in a brilliant story by Maguerite Bennett, which can be read in The Logan Legacy graphic novel. Deathstrike returned to Japan in order to retrieve the sword of Clan Yashida from Yakuza. With Wolverine dead, she felt honour bound to deliver the blade to where it belonged. This demonstrated Deathstrike’s complexity, as she was willing to help her fallen enemy. Yuriko went so far as to rescue girls that were going to be sold into slavery.
Deathstrike and Wolverine’s lives can be juxtaposed. Both started on a dark path, but one of them chose to be better. In the story, Deathstrike contemplated the nature of being free. With her father and enemy dead, she felt like she could finally live on her own terms.
“My entire life has always been determined by another. I was my father’s weapon, Stryker’s pupil, Spiral’s experiment, Madelyne Pryor’s plaything…Everything I have ever done has been in the service of finding Wolverine and killing him…But now he is dead and not by my hand. All the momentum of my life – gone.”
“I have always been trapped in the web of another’s legacy – stamped with the maker’s mark of another’s ambitions, like a tattoo on Yakuza, like the sigil on a sword. At last, I am free, at last I am alone….Perhaps if things had been different, Logan, you would have raised a memorial to me, here, one day…You and I were ever the dark echo of the other, the incarnation of the path the other might have taken. You, too, were a killer and criminal once. Without you, what will become of the underworld?” – Lady Deathstrike
Deathstrike’s motivations make for a compelling character study. Her obsession with legacy is a reflection of what a lot of people think about. Some choose to lead a good life, while others devote their time to performing acts of greatness. None of us know how we’ll be remembered, so all we can do is live.