Mutant Madness1 of 12
This week marks the release of Dark Phoenix, the presumed finale of 20th Century Fox's X-Men film saga. And while the film itself may be a mutant tragedy, the story its based on put us in mind of the X-Men's darkest moments.
Inspired by (and including) the "Dark Phoenix Saga", here's our list of the worst things ever to befall the X-Men - and there's a lot of pain to go around.
New X-Men's End2 of 12
After the X-Men’s latest recruit, the incredibly powerful mutant Xorn, was revealed to be Magneto in disguise, the mutant menace quickly took down the rest of the team and conquered New York, turning it into his kingdom.
Though the X-Men finally took him down, Magneto’s defeat did not come without great cost. In their final battle, Magneto killed Jean Grey – a fate from which she only just returned.
Putting aside all the later retcons and maneuvering to reestablish the characters of both Xorn and Magneto as separate entities, the climactic arc of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men was one of the darkest chapters in the X-Men’s history.
Schism3 of 12
The respect between Wolverine and Cyclops, two of the greatest X-Men, was, for years, tenuous at best. Wolverine and Cyclops shared a love of Jean Grey, something neither of them could truly get past. Still, they worked together as allies, with Wolverine doing the X-Men’s dirty work while Cyclops represented the face of Xavier’s dream.
All that changed when actions by Quentin Quire and a new Hellfire Club, lead by 12 year-old prodigy Kade Kilgore lead to Sentinels being mobilized worldwide. The X-Men set out to save mutantkind from the Sentinels, but in the course of their fight, a “super-Sentinel” attacks the X-Men’s home of Utopia.
In the fight with the super-Sentinel, Cyclops decided to mobilize the young class of mutant students on Utopia, a decision Wolverine vehemently opposed. The pair fought with each other while also fighting the Sentinel. When the dust settled, Wolverine and Cyclops went their separate ways, with Wolverine returning to the east coast to open the Jean Grey School, and Cyclops remaining on Utopia.
The Mutant Massacre4 of 12
The “Mutant Massacre” didn’t have a huge effect on the X-Men directly, but it had major ramifications for Marvel’s mutants both on and off the page. Off the page, it kicked off an annual tradition of X-Men crossovers for the publisher. But in continuity, it kicked off a chain of events that would lead to the deaths and betrayals of numerous X-Men over the years.
”Mutant Massacre” tells the story of Mr. Sinister’s Marauders slaughtering the Morlocks - twisted, inhuman looking mutants who hide in the sewers. In the course of the story, Angel loses his wings, leading directly to Apocalypse making him his Horseman of Death. Meanwhile, the mystery of who lead the Marauders to the Morlocks was a central X-Men mystery for years – a mystery that was solved when it was revealed that it was longtime X-Man Gambit.
The revelation lead to Gambit’s betrayal of the X-Men, his joining the Marauders, and even serving as a Horseman of Apocalypse himself for a time.
The Mutant Registration Act5 of 12
The idea of the Mutant Registration Act originated in the “Days of Future Past” timeline as the “Mutant Control Act” that triggered the dystopian future. Over the years, several versions of the Mutant Registration Act have surfaced, all with terrible consequences.
The first version was passed by Senator Robert Kelly, a longtime supporting character in the X-Universe. This eventually lead to the formation of Freedom Force, a government sanctioned mutant team comprised primarily of former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and lead by Mystique. Freedom Force was tasked with tracking down mutants for the government.
The MRA was dropped as a plotline when Chris Claremont left the X-books, but its effects continued to resonate, leading to the assassination of Senator Kelly by Mystique and later in some ways influencing Civil War and Civil War II.
The Terrigen Bomb6 of 12
The scourge of the Terrigen Mists is a relatively new tragedy to befall mutantkind, surfacing only in the “All-New, All-Different” era. But until recently, it was the driving force of the current era of X-Men comic books until the onset of "ResurrXion."
The Terrigen Mists are, of course, the strange substance that empowers Inhumans. When they were released into the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of Infinity, they had some unexpected consequences on mutants – they sterilize the X-Gene in nascent mutants, and cause a strange plague called “M-Pox.”
The Legacy Virus7 of 12
For almost ten years, the biggest threat to mutantkind was the Legacy Virus, a plague that targeted the X-Gene causing almost certain death. Released by the mutant terrorist Stryfe, the Legacy Virus was his last stab at mutantkind.
Numerous mutants died from the Legacy Virus, including Illyana Rasputin, a Jamie Madrox duplicate (believed to be Madrox himself at the time), Pyro, Mastermind, and more. The Legacy Virus was eventually cured – but not without cost. Longtime X-Man Colossus, older brother of Illyana Rasputin, sacrificed his life to release a cure.
Of course, he got better – but when it comes to the X-Men, who doesn’t?
The Future8 of 12
Yeah, that’s right. The entire future.
It doesn’t matter what timeline you’re talking about. Almost every vision of the X-Men’s future has them under someone’s boot heel, oppressed and abused. Whether it’s “Days of Future Past,” Cable’s post-Apocalyptic (pun intended) world, Grant Morrison’s Sublime future, or the world seen in the recent “Battle of the Atom,” the future does not look bright for mutantkind.
In fact, numerous mutants have traveled into the past to stop their terrible futures from coming to pass. Cable, Bishop, Rachel Summers, and more all came back in time to save the future.
As for which one will come to pass - well, as they say… Time will tell.
Dark Phoenix Saga9 of 12
The “Dark Phoenix Saga” was probably the first Very Bad Thing that happened to the X-Men. It may not have had the scope of something like the Legacy Virus or the Mutant Massacre, but its impact still resonates in X-Men lore.
Probably the two biggest tragedies that occurred as part of the “Dark Phoenix Saga” were the destruction of an entire solar system at the hands of an unhinged, cosmic powered Jean Grey, and her eventual death after her trial by the Shi’Ar.
As with many dead mutants, Jean returned from the dead, for a while at least. She has since died and returned again. Fitting for a Phoenix, after all.
This story is the basis of the just-released and aptly named X-Men movie Dark Phoenix.
Phoenix Five & The Death of Xavier10 of 12
When the Phoenix Force – the cosmic entity responsible for the “Dark Phoenix Saga” – returned to Earth, the X-Men and Avengers each set out to control and contain it. The X-Men beat Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to the punch, empowering five of their number – Cyclops, Colossus, Magick, Namor, and Emma Frost – with the power of the Phoenix.
Though they initially used their incredible power for good, their intentions to remake the world quickly became clear, leading to numerous large scale conflicts with the Avengers. This lead to the destruction of Wakanda by Namor, the divorce of Black Panther and Storm, and – for many mutants – the death of the X-Men’s dream.
In the end, Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men and de facto leader of mutantkind, psychically challenged Cyclops, his protégé, star pupil, and leader of the Phoenix Five. While it looked at first like Xavier’s incredible psychic power would win the day, Cyclops broke free from his mentor’s grasp, and used the Phoenix Force to kill Xavier.
Xavier’s death – at the hands of his heir apparent, no less – further splintered mutantkind into two factions, one lead by Wolverine, in service of Xavier’s dream, and one lead by Cyclops, now branded a mutant terrorist. While there was already a rift – or schism, as it were – between Cyclops and Wolverine, the death of Xavier made them full-on enemies.
As for Cyclops, he died of M-Pox, caused by the Terrigen Mist. But there's good news - both Cyclops and Professor X have returned to life (though their paths haven't crossed yet).
No More Mutants11 of 12
With one sentence, the Scarlet Witch effectively decimated the mutant population of the Marvel Universe.
After her connection to “chaos magic” (and some behind the scenes manipulation by Dr. Doom) lead Wanda Maximoff to kill many of her fellow Avengers and fragment reality, temporarily creating a world where mutants were a dominant force.
Following a confrontation with Magneto, whom she believed to be her father at the time, Wanda uttered the phrase “No More Mutants,” instantly reducing the mutant population of the world from thousands down to only 198 mutants.
Afterwards, the Scarlet Witch became a pariah in the Marvel Universe. When she finally resurfaced years later, Doctor Doom revealed his role in her actions. While he tried to use her magics to seize greater power, Wanda turned against him, using their ritual to repower the mutant race – temporarily, at least.
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