I have always loved stories featuring mutant teenagers, because I find those tales the most interesting. Since there are so many mutants and so few mutant-related comics, however, not many mutant kids are consistently featured for extended periods of time. As a result, many characters lack depth, but I get plenty of potentially awesome mutants to pick from for this column. This month, I decided to shine a spotlight on a breath of fresh air that has been grossly underused since her introduction more than two years ago. Let’s celebrate the great outdoors by welcoming the lovely Nature Girl to the D-List.
Lin Li first appeared in Wolverine and the X-Men vol. 2 #1 in 2014. Created by Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar, Lin was a new student at the Jean Grey School. Wearing a proper school-uniform and sporting a lovely pair of antlers, the teenager was greeted by the living land-mass, Krakoa, when the sentient soil sprouted a flower for her. Fellow student, Eye Boy, read Lin’s powers aloud, revealing that the girl could control animals. Unfortunately, the blandly named Eye Boy gave Lin an equally uncreative codename – Nature Girl.
Though only a few pages into the comic, Lin had yet to speak. She was clearly cognizant of everything happening around her, but was apparently mute, so she had no way of protesting Eye Boy’s bland choice of code-name for her. During this time-period, X-Men writers seemed to enjoy attaching “boy” or “girl” to the end of whatever name a new mutant character was given. It was a very silly practice, as a girl who could turn into a humanoid-shark was dubbed “Shark Girl,” and “Scorpion Boy” had features similar to a scorpion. Give Eye-Boy a look and you’ll definitely see what I see (well, at least there’s no “Shit Boy”). Though dull, I must admit that I genuinely liked the name Nature Girl.
While Lin was on a tour of the school, the massive mutant Rockslide was chasing the Bamfs through the hallways in an attempt to catch them. By Bamfs, I don’t mean bad-ass motherfuckers – they were essentially miniature versions of Nightcrawler, complete with the ability to teleport. The little blue demons spotted Nature Girl and immediately took a liking to her, attempting to find safety from the rocky student on Lin’s shoulders and antlers. Rockslide froze at the sight of the adorable girl, which gave Doop a chance to knock some sense into him. Nature Girl developed an immediate bond with the Bamfs and they were frequently seen together (their relationship just felt natural).
Not halfway through her first appearance, Lin had me extremely intrigued. The proper attire and inability to speak coupled with immediate affection from the Bamfs made Nature Girl a very endearing character. Also, having the Bamfs constantly at her side could have made Lin quite a force of nature, as she would have had multiple teleporters at her disposal at all times.
While the first few issues of Wolverine and the X-Men actually had a plot, I was more concerned with Lin’s utilization than the overall conflict. I’m not trying to insult the writing, but the story-arc could have been about giant seahorses with flamethrowers who wanted to take over Alaska and I wouldn’t have cared. Month after month, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until she does something. When she finally does, it’s going to be awesome.”
The portion of the plot that actually included Nature Girl involved a large psychic man from the future named Faithful John. The giant villain wanted to kill Evan Sabah Nur, a.k.a. Kid Apocalypse, and telepathically ordered the Bamfs to attack the students. To combat John, Nature Girl commanded dozens upon dozens of birds to fend off the Bamfs and distract John, which gave Oya the chance to knock the villain unconscious.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was one of only two instances where Nature Girl used her powers, and the only time she has used them offensively. You read that right: her 15 minutes of fame were spent by calling birds to her aid (I don’t give a shit what Hitchcock says, birds are not threatening). Though I have seen webpages claim that she has the ability to fly, I believe that the one panel where Lin appeared to be floating was an artist/editorial mistake. Although she has been shown alongside other students in the Danger Room and during attacks on the Jean Grey School, she has not actively participated in battle (I guess she’s just not a natural fighter, eh?).
Perhaps Nature Girl was created specifically to be a background character, possibly because adding more teenagers to the X-books would cause the student body at the Jean Grey School to appear more robust. Unfortunately, I happened to become extremely interested in Lin very quickly, and my curiosity is still piqued. A visual account of Nature Girl’s origin or an explanation regarding exactly why she doesn’t speak would be a very interesting story.
To my knowledge, Lin has exclusively appeared in X-books, with the single exception being an issue of Nova. Nature Girl has only made approximately 16 appearances over the past 2 ½ years, but I’m just happy that one of those appearances was recent; She could easily have been killed off or just simply forgotten. Maybe she’ll be utilized in a greater capacity in the future, or even get a solo series. Maybe I should just let nature take its course (sorry, puns just come naturally to me).
Officially, Nature Girl has not appeared outside of Marvel Comics. Unofficially, there was a huge similarity between Lin and Magneto’s daughter in the film, X-Men: Apocalypse. The scene that took place in the woods between Magneto, his family, and the police, was either a nod to Nature Girl, or a very interesting coincidence. When the police threatened Magneto and his family, his daughter’s power manifested and birds began to attack the cops. Although I have not found any evidence explicitly stating that the character in the film was intended to be Nature Girl, I’m sure I’m not the only one that noticed the similarity.
Though Nature Girl’s origin has never been explored, another writer could create one for her in the future. For now, I’m satisfied knowing that she hasn’t been completely forgotten. With the current threat to mutant-kind’s well-being, I hope that Lin not only stays safe throughout the X-Men’s latest conflicts, but can aid the X-teams in their future adventures. I hope that Lin Li radiates her natural beauty throughout the Marvel Universe for years to come.