It’s a hard life, being a Marvel mutant. Sure, you get rad powers (maybe), but also get the rest of the world hating your guts for simply existing. On top of that, you and your fellow mutants are almost always facing apocalyptic scenarios. Here’s just eight times Marvel have threatened all Mutant-kind with oblivion.
Marvel has recently rebooted its entire output of comics with an “All-New, All-Different” line up, shaking up the status quo of many heroes and teams in a fresh world created after the events of this year’s Secret Wars redux—and with it, they’ve created a new doomsday scenario for the X-Men to suffer through. This time, it’s at the hands of the similarly disenfranchised Inhumans.
This new status quo, in a move that probably has nothing to do whatsoever with the fact that an Inhumans movie is coming up, saw the worldwide release of Terrigen mist, the strange gas that transforms people with latent Inhuman genes into Inhumans. The new twist is that the gas, which has awoken Inhumans all over the world in huge numbers, now also poisons mutants, both giving them a fatal, nigh-incurable disease and sterilizing them, leading to the Mutant population slowly but steadily dying out. The poor things.
The Mutant Massacre was hardly the biggest extinction event the Mutants have faces in the comics—and the fact that you can even say that speaks to how many times Marvel has used this idea. It played a major role in the company’s decision to do yearly X-Men crossover events, making it important to the comics outside of the internal story, and although the advertising teased that the massacre would directly target the X-Men, the event itself mainly dealt with the genocide of the Morlocks, a mutant sub-race that lived under the ground.
The crossover saw much of the Morlock population below New York wiped out by Mister Sinister and his villainous gang of Marauders, a group created for the sole purpose of committing mass murder on mutants. The event was vastly popular when it first launched, which might be responsible for why Marvel thinks threatening the vast majority of Mutant-kind with death is frequently such a good story idea.
Ironically, despite having Extinction right there in the title, “E Is for Extinction” was another extinction event that didn’t quite doom all mutants. It was, however, responsible for wiping out the mutant populace of the long time mutant nation of Genosha. Cassandra Nova, the evil unborn twin of Charles Xavier (it’s... a long story) opens Grant Morrison’s run on the New X-Men in 2001 by marshaling the Mutant-killing giant robots called Sentinels to attack the island nation as a response to a sudden resurgence in Mutant populations across the world at the time.
Although the X-Men defeat Cassandra, they’re too late to stop the genocidal attack, and pretty much all of Genosha is wiped out in the process. The storyline returned for Secret Wars earlier this year, but with a twist that, for once, balanced things in the Mutant’s favor. It was set in a region of the mishmash land of Battleworld called Mutopia where, for once, the dominant species was Mutant rather than human.
The most iconic staple of X-Men storytelling is their uneasy back-and-forth relationship with humanity. Sometimes that leads to a mutual, peaceful discontent; in others, it leads to humans wanting to kill all mutants. Just another day in the X-Men’s extinction schedule!
Operation Zero Tolerance spun off out of the major 1996 crossover event Onslaught Saga, which ended when seemingly the vast majority of superheroes were killed to stop Onslaught, the psychic merging of Magneto and Professor X, from destroying the world—except formutants, who couldn’t fight Onslaught due to his ability to absorb their powers. The world was outraged at the Mutants’ survival at the expense of so many heroes, and when an anti-Mutant U.S. Presidential candidate gets assassinated, the government responds with the titular operation: Enslave or wipe out all mutants. The mutant-destroying Sentinels are deployed once more, and SHIELD had to ultimately intervene to stop the X-men from being wiped out.
As if facing multiple extinction events over the years wasn’t enough, at one point Marvel basically gave mutants the equivalent of a superpowered AIDS virus.
The Legacy virus was a major plot point in almost a decade’s worth of X-Men comics. Created in the future, the disease specifically targeted and infected Mutants, and destroyed their autoimmune systems the moment they used their powers. Thousands of mutants succumbed to the disease, which evolved from an airborne cancer into an autoimmune disease before eventually developing itself into a version that could kill normal humans as well. A cure would eventually be found in 2001, but its deployment required the sacrifice of long-time X-Man Colossus to work.
As if an AIDS/Mutant parallel wasn’t enough, in the early ‘90s Marvel used the X-Men as a metaphor for South African apartheid in in a crossover event called X-Tinction Agenda. Although mutant racial cleansing was not necessarily at the forefront of the story, which saw the Mutant nation of Genosha being ruled over by exploitative human magistrates that captured and tortured several X-Men heroes in a weird BDSM-esque scenario, it was a heavy undercurrent throughout the portrayal of the mutant Genoshan’s plight in the event. X-Tinction Agenda was another story where Extinction was in the name, but not necessarily the actual focus of the story. (Also, Storm gets regressed into a child’s body with all of her adult memories at some point. It’s really weird.)
Time travel and the X-Men go hand in hand. There’s so many future-based stories, and you even have regular characters showing up in the modern day that are time-displaced heroes from the future, like Cable. But what’s the running theme of pretty much every alternate future in these stories? That the future really, really sucks for the X-Men.
Sagas like Days of Future Past, the follow-up (and hilariously named) Days of Future Present, Cable’s own dystopic future, the world of Sublime in New X-Men and countless other future-set stories all portray horrendous, nightmarish worlds where Mutant-kind is either fully wiped out or on the brink of oblivion altogether. As if the X-Men’s own present wasn’t currently messed up enough for them, there pretty much isn’t a future scenario where Mutant-kind really does well for itself, either.
This is the biggest extinction event of them all—and the one that actually came the closest to wiping out all of Mutant-kind. Following a traumatic incident that leads to Scarlet Witch having a mental breakdown after trying to recreate the children she had with the Vision, the sorceress used her chaotic, reality-warping magic to wipe mutants off the face of the Earth.
With a single utterance of “No more mutants” at the end of the 2005 storyline House of M, Scarlet Witch depowered the vast majority of mutants—the number has fluctuated between 90% and 99% of the roughly 15 million Mutants in existence at the time—turning them into powerless humans. Initially only 198 mutants retained their powers and genetic makeup, but that number slowly grew over the next seven years, until the powers of many lost mutants were restored in 2012.
Shame they only had three years of relative normalcy before Marvel decided to play the extinction card again, isn’t it?
There are naturally quite a few times where Mutants have been placed in dire circumstances that don’t necessarily threaten their extinction in an immediate manner as these do. What fo you think is the worst thing the X-Men have had to endure? Let us know in the comments!