[Panel 1, left to right: Wildside, Random, Sinister, Lady Mastermind, Mesmero, Mentallo, Animax;
Panel 2: Shaw, Selene, Emplate, Exodus, Gorgon, Callisto]
V. Villains’ Amnesty; Magneto’s Epigraph (pgs 24-29)
Including Apocalypse and Sinister, 22 villainous or adversarial mutants step through the gates. Below, are 18* brief descriptions of those we haven’t yet covered in this series. Speculation on expectations for each following HOX/POX won’t include spoilers. In sum, what we’ll find is all the varieties of inter-mutant strife the X-Men have dealt with over the years. And we’ll likely never see this particular collection of mutants together on the same page again! Pages 25 and 27 are unique snapshot moments in time.
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Previously: More in the Hickman X-Men Re-Read!
And what makes this special moment possible is the totally unexpected and apparently wholly sincere gesture of Apocalypse submitting to “the laws of this land,” which were formulated by Xavier and Magneto! But let’s not forget that he might be speaking of something older about “this land,” not the Quiet Council—because he’s intimately familiar with Krakoa’s ancient past and violent origin. (Indeed, Erik looks surprisingly flimsy and puffed-up compared to the big A in this scene!)
[Bottom panel, left to right: Azazel, Masque, Black Tom, Lady M again, Frenzy, Marrow]
Significant group names you’ll see throughout these descriptions no longer refer to any organization with a fixed ideology (except the Acolytes, sort of) or roster. They’re all mutant outlaw posses, starting with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. I’ve left out mention of minor groups, but aside from the two just named, the main ones are the Marauders and the Mutant Liberation Front. The Morlocks, meanwhile, are outcasts living in the NYC sewers and don’t have a particular agenda. And the Hellfire Club has a long history and has only recently been taken over by mutants, from antimutant bigots.
*Note: The remaining two mutant villains—Selene and Sebastian Shaw—we’ll look at next time, as we segue (at last!) into a close look at the roster of human/non-mutant baddies listed in HOX 4. Why? Because as mentioned the Hellfire Club has long been an exclusive domain of power-politics contention between elite humans and mutants.
Animax first appeared in X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 (2013) and can summon monstrous creatures out of her own DNA, though they dissolve as soon as she’s knocked out. A low-level criminal, Blake Schiel came from an abusive Arizona home and has only recently learned to rein in her monster-making powers. She’s a very minor villain with only seven appearances before now. What’s next for her is anyone’s guess!
[first appearance by Brian Michael Bendis, Frank Cho, Marte Gracia, Joe Caramagna, 2013]
Astra first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #366 (1999), and she’s a teleporter who can shunt across interstellar space, though the extent of her abilities has barely been touched on. She claims to have been Magneto’s first Brotherhood of Evil Mutants recruit and, most notoriously, later made a name for herself by creating the Magneto clone Joseph in order to kill and replace the original. Since her scant appearances in the late ’90s up until now, she’s reappeared only in the 2012 miniseries Magneto: Not a Hero #1-4. Another oddball pull!
[Uncanny X-Men #366 by Fabian Nicieza, Alan Davis, Leinil Francis Yu, Tim Townsend, Liquid! Comicraft, 1999;
Astra maternally frustrated here by her own boy-toy creation, Joseph]
And another! Azazel first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #428 (2003), the opening of “The Draco” arc, perhaps the most universally despised story in all X-Men mythos. Looking like a red, evil version of Nightcrawler, he’s in fact Kurt’s father, an embittered mutant who deliberately sought to spawn more of himself—mutants who could never pass as human. He claims to be millennia old, one of an ancient “race” of mutant demons or vice versa. I don’t know—it’s all ridiculous, especially because the notion undermines one of Claremont’s central themes: Mutants are still human even if they don’t look it; it’s humans who project their superstitious fears onto those who merely happen to resemble what they hate and fear. Eventually, creator Chuck Austen lamented his time writing the X-Men as too much unchecked freedom given to a writer unfamiliar with the X-Men mythos. Yep. So Hickman’s just trolling fans here 😉
[Uncanny X-Men #428 by Chuck Austen, Sean Phillips, Dave McCaig, Rus Wooton, 2003;
Mystique throughout “The Draco” is treated totally out of character—arrgh!]
Black Tom Cassidy first appeared in X-Men #99 (1976), and we briefly covered him two weeks ago. His vegetal bio powers will make him vital to Krakoan security. Despite having been around for decades, he’s always been a fairly minor villain, a sort of B- or C-lister who’s fun to bring in for low-level thuggery and mercenary ops. He carries a shillelagh and has always been Juggernaut’s lover, as confirmed by Claremont and Fabian Nicieza, among other creators—even though Marvel has never made that explicit on the page and remains surprisingly sluggish and repressive about depicting non-heteronormative sexuality, until very recently, which only highlights their sluggishness!
[Deadpool vol 4 #59 by Daniel Way, Salva Espin, Dommo Sanchez Aymara, Joe Sabino;
a fun use of Black Tom’s bio-blastin’ powers, channeled through lumber!]
Callisto first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #169 (1983) as the mutant Morlocks’ champion warrior, given her enhanced senses, agility, reflexes, strength, and healing factor—at least until Storm bested her. Their rivalry evolved into a classic frenemy relationship, whose renewal fans looked forward to following her cameo here. The victim of a hate crime in her youth that left her right eye blind and her cheek scarred, Callisto went underground in the sewers of Manhattan where she met other outcast mutants, becoming, along with Masque (below), their organizer and leader—a far cry from her former human existence in fashion modeling. Unfortunately, this hard-won new life seemed all for naught as she was depowered by Wanda Maximoff’s accursed M-Day—although maybe it was a blessing that she also lost her tentacles then, twisted “gift” of her treacherous, fellow Morlock Masque—and as of HOX 5, Callisto is without powers. But that doesn’t mean the human world treats her any differently, and regardless, she’ll never stop identifying as mutant, Morlock, and warrior. The invitation to Krakoa must’ve been immediately enticing: Resurrection will see her powers restored.
[Uncanny X-Men #169 by Claremont, Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek, Bob Sharen, Tom Orzechowski, 1983]
Daken first appeared in Wolverine: Origins #10 (2007) and has already been resurrected twice before HOX/POX. Oh, and he’s Logan’s son with a Japanese woman—who was murdered by Winter Soldier, when he was still a brainwashed agent of Moscow, or, er, Romulus, in this case. Don’t worry about it! Anyone related to Logan is going to have a convoluted backstory. His powers are like his father’s, except he’s also got the ability to manipulate pheromones and mask his own scent. His psyche is also guarded against telepathic intrusion; interlopers enter at their own peril. His third bone claw is beneath his palm, unlike his father. While he’s largely been a charismatic agent of chaos, recent character development has begun to mature him away from just a bad boy version of Wolverine.
[Daken: Dark Wolverine #10 by Rob Williams, Riley Rossmo, Cory Petit, 2011]
His bisexuality would be more refreshing if it weren’t tied to his image of chaos-bringer. Maybe that will evolve too…
Emplate, Penance/Monet St. Croix’s older brother, first appeared in Generation X #1 (1994) and is, like the rest of his family, extremely difficult to describe clearly—thank you, creator Scott Lobdell! For now, let’s just a grip on his basic powers: He absorbs mutant bone marrow via the mouths on his palms and can thereby duplicate the victim’s powers for as long as their energy signature sustains him, vampire-like. There’s another, nameless pocket dimension he slips in and out of, sometimes at will, and he’s able to read “auras,” basically emotions and memories that aren’t too buried beneath the conscious mind.
Emplate is fascinating but remains quite mysterious despite having been around a quarter-century, and I’ll be excited when he finally really makes his presence really known on Krakoa… which we might recall here is also another prominently vampiric mutant. (The most famous one, though, is still Selene.)
[Generation X #1 by Lobdell, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Steve Buccellato, Comicraft, 1994]
Yet another kind of vampire—though strictly of “psionic energies”:
Exodus first appeared in X-Factor #92 (1993) as one of Magneto’s Acolytes (which dissolved in 2009) and his telekinesis was confirmed as Omega level in HOX 1. Born in the High Middle Ages of France, Bennet du Paris took part in the Second Crusade and thereafter switched to being a mutant crusader—always seeking to unite mutantkind under the icon of Magneto or his own zealous, cultic vision. In fact, while this committed zealot’s overweening confidence might sabotage his social skills and strategic goals, hubris actually enhances his psionic abilities—also including telepathy—to an unusual degree. An immortal, he can also superhumanly heal and resurrect himself and others, endure an astounding amount of damage, and teleport himself about.
[X-Force #25 by Fabian Nicieza, Greg Capullo, Dan Green, George Roussos, Chris Eliopoulos, 1993—
and guess who the “Overlord” is!]
Exodus’s telekinetic powers include the ability to: swiftly and expertly assemble and dissemble devices of great complexity; create force fields; psionically project both concussive and electromagnetic blasts; fly. His telepathy allows him to track psionic “footprints”; intuit imminent danger à la Spider-Man; control, delude, possess, or even fundamentally alter others’ psyches; cloak his mind as well as his very presence; induce mental/physical paralysis; project his astral form on the physical and spiritual planes, the latter being a place his incorporeal being can manipulate and interact with. He’s also really smart and multilingual.
So, if you’re wondering why he’s depicted front and center between Sinister above and Apocalypse below—wonder no longer! What will the cultic Exodus think of this mutant utopia and where will he fit himself into its culture? Hint: He’s always seen himself as a visionary, charismatic leader of holy crusades.
Forearm and Wildside first appeared in New Mutants #86 (1990) and have remained members of Stryfe’s Mutant Liberation Front ever since, even after Cable’s clone Stryfe had abandoned the team of disaffected mutant youth, who had merely been tools of chaos and distraction as pursued his own agenda. But the loose affiliation eventually continued on without him, and it’s safe to say that their clique will remain close as they mix with the general Krakoan population.
[New Mutants #87 by Louise Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Bob Wiacek, Mike Rockwitz, Joe Rosen, 1990]
Forearm, a superhumanly strong four-armed mutant, has already been dead and mysteriously reborn, before being depowered by M-Day and inexplicably regaining his powers well before the Krakoa era (perhaps due to Mothervine, which I’m sorry, I just don’t care about! Wildside was similarly repowered). Gee—C-list obscurity sure can make the permeability between life and death quite porous!
The other, mildly more interesting Liefeld creation here, Wildside is a savage fighter who can also psionically distort others’ senses and induce hallucinations. (Exposure to the Mothervine virus apparently caused a secondary mutation allowing him to seemingly solidify his hallucinatory ideations. Again, though, the Mothervine idea is ridiculous and, worse, convoluted—and Wildside’s new powers are silly.) The 2000s saw him captured by the reincarnated Weapon X program and given retractable techno-organic claws.
Frenzy! To me, this is the most exciting surprise appearance here. The superhumanly strong, fast, agile, and durable Joanna Cargill can take on She-Hulk, and like a Hulk or Luke Cage, her skin can be pierced only by adamantium. She first appeared in X-Factor #4 (1986) and later became an Acolyte of Magneto and then a Genoshan ambassador under Magneto’s rule of the island nation (UX 379, 2000). She must’ve been absent from Genosha during Cassandra Nova’s Sentinel genocide of the population, but with the Acolytes, she later joined the search for the post-Decimation mutant baby, Hope.
[X-Men vol 2 #113 by Scott Lobdell, Leinil Francis Yu, Dexter Vines, Liquid! Comicraft, 2001;
when Ambassador Acolyte Cargill was mind-controlled by the Phoenix-powered Jean Grey into turning on her “savior,”
a violation that’s hard to imagine Frenzy forgiving]
When she tried to kill Xavier, Magneto attacked, but Exodus kept her alive even while not healing her of her brain damage—as punishment for defying the “savior’s” will. Frenzy had already had a traumatic life: In her youth, her abusive father lashed out at her upon learning of his son’s death in military service, which triggered Joanna’s mutant powers as she struck back, accidentally killing him. Before becoming an Acolyte, she worked for Apocalypse against the then-new X-Factor and had been in and out of metahuman prison and even thrown from a high-flying jet by Domino. More recently, she and all the mutants of Utopia were reincarnated in an alternate reality created by Legion, but only Joanna retained her memories of that world, in which she was one of the good guys and married to Cyclops (see 2011’s Age of X crossover). This profoundly affected her going forward, and Frenzy is much less, well, frenzied than in years past. But creator interest in chronicling her career toward heroism faded during the post-AVX dark ages—until now, hopefully!
Gorgon first appeared in Wolverine vol3 #20 (2004) where his physical prowess, healing factor, and unremitting nihilism made him a perfect fit for leadership of the Hand and hunting and capturing Logan. His blindfold adds to his distinctive Japanese warrior look; it keeps his gaze from turning others to stone, his mutant power. He has modest telepathic skills, allowing him situational awareness while blindfolded, and of course, he was a child prodigy—which seems to be a trope for genius-level sociopathic nihilists.
As a teen death-cult leader, Tomi Shishido murdered his own family just to draw the Hand’s attention, but he also drew Hydra’s. But what motivated his youthful terrorism? Literally: Hatred of god(s), which he’d mathematically proven to be real (Wolverine vol3 #26). Mark Millar writes great action, but characters with persuasive motivations tend to slip through his grasp. But Hickman’s Secret Warriors #11 gave Gorgon his earliest appearance as an adolescent awakening to his destiny upon turning all his kin to stone—and Hydra Commander Kraken arrives to give the young man a sword called Godkiller.
[Secret Warriors #11 by Hickman, Stefano Caselli, Sunny Gho, Dave Lanphear, 2009]
Anyway, Gorgon’s one of the evilest mutants here. He killed himself in order to join the Hand following his resurrection, which mystically endowed him with all the aforementioned physical prowess. Soon thereafter, he became the Supreme Hydra and then, in Hickman’s Secret Warriors #2 (2009), joined the High Council of Hydra, which he rejoined at its reformation in the buildup to 2017’s Secret Empire. Apparently, when you’re a nihilist, you don’t care about keeping company with racists and ethno-fascists. Perhaps more than the mutant Sinister who, as a relatively recent clone, hadn’t worked with the Nazis (which his dead genetic template had), this new “Great Captain of Krakoa” (as we see him listed in HOX 6) adds to the air of dread around Krakoa’s ruling class, along with the presence there of Exodus, Mystique, Shaw, and Apocalypse: The Quiet Council is thoroughly ethically compromised from the beginning.
Lady Mastermind, or Regan Wyngarde—not to be confused here with her sister Martinique, also known as Lady Mastermind—is the daughter of Jason Wyngarde, the original creepy Mastermind who seduced Jean Grey as the Phoenix in order to enslave her to the Hellfire Club. This psionic seduction was coercive, and the implication of Jean’s molestation and rape was clear enough (“The Dark Phoenix Saga,” 1979/80). But Regan, who first appeared in X-Treme X-Men #6 (2001), simply admired her father as an orchestrator of madness and chaos. A mentalist as well, she is however much more powerful, a telepath rather than merely an illusionist. Her illusions are also more effective and potentially deadlier.
After being hired by Hellfire Club Black King Sebastian Shaw to kill Sage, Regan’s target quickly neutralized the threat of Lady Mastermind—by putting her into a coma for the next five years! She next shows up at the start of Mike Carey’s excellent X-Men run (vol2 #189). Her comatose body had been kidnapped for study by affiliates of the posthuman Children of the Vault, whom Regan helped the X-Men fight after her rude awakening.
But this was a shaky alliance, and Regan’s mostly proven a delightfully crude agent of mayhem—although the costume choice wasn’t hers, no, it was a one-off X-Men uniform that Rogue randomly dug out following Regan’s rescue. It’s almost like maybe a precog knew it would find its perfect owner someday 😉
[X-Men vol 2 #194 by Mike Carey, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, Edgar Delgado, Cory Petit, 2006]
However, before HOX 5, Regan had last been seen in the b-story of 2017’s All-New X-Men Annual, where Regan was dying of M-Pox and hoping to go out in a blaze of telepathically-induced mass murder. Dani Moonstar, however, came to everyone’s rescue, even Regan’s: She convinced Regan that she wasn’t the only mutant who was sick and frightened, and with Dani’s psychic reveal of her own history of trauma and fear, Regan indeed no longer felt so alone and afraid. It seemed she might be interested in turning over a new leaf. Needless to say, Regan survived, but where will she go from here? After all, she’s still hanging with baddies!
One interesting direction might be finally getting to know her other half-sister, Pixie! And who knows, perhaps even the whole Wyngarde clan will all end up on stage together for some Jerry Springer dramedy—trashy UK style. The OG Mastermind died from the Legacy Virus waaay back in Uncanny X-Men Annual #17 (1993)—but now we’re on Krakoa, where only death is dead.
Marrow first appeared in Cable #15 (1994), introduced as a teenaged Morlock in the sewers of NYC, and the young Sarah largely kept to the shadows until the late ’90s. Her freakish powers and wild ’90s design made her a natural creature of that violence-obsessed decade. Marrow’s remained a figure fit for ultraviolence, especially since it’s hard to see past her prodigious and readily weaponized bone spurs; potentially very interesting because of her history, she’s seldom received real character development. But as a child saved by Gambit from Sinister’s Mutant Massacre and then a teen growing up in Mikhail Rasputin’s time-accelerated and ruthlessly Social-Darwinist Gene Nation, Marrow has a lot of trauma to work through.
[X-Men vol 2 #79 by Joe Kelly, German Garcia, Jon Holdredge, Liquid! Comicraft, 1998;
an unusually ‘reflective’ moment for the Morlock, who’d recently had one of her hearts ripped out by Storm
because attached to it was a detonator to be triggered in a Gene Nation terror attack]
But going from Mikhail’s champion homicidal terrorist to a pawn of the new Weapon X program, Sarah hasn’t had much downtime to develop as a person. Even when she joined X-Force and sought revenge against another man who’d experimented on her—resulting in her miscarriage—she remained stuck with that team’s fatalistic milieu.
Still, seeing Marrow here is as exciting to me as Frenzy showing up on Krakoa. They’re both badass women warriors with a lot of trauma that needs unpacking. Each needs to be seen in charge of her own life and telling her own story on her own terms.
Masque first appeared alongside Callisto as one of the founding Morlocks but is notorious for also being unambiguously villainous, unlike most of his fellow outcasts. Yet this sadist always remained a leader, and his Morlock followers are desperate, not thinking too critically about Masque’s inveterate sadism. Instead, his powers—the ability to reshape flesh like putty in his hands—were used for horrific ends, including bestowing ugliness upon the other Morlocks as a badge of honor among outcasts.
This initiation ritual could be incredibly manipulative or downright torture following kidnapping—as in the case of the Power Pack kids, who would’ve had their faces erased if not for the X-Men’s timely arrival. The Morlock Skids was protected from Masque’s sadism by her own powers, providing a stark contrast with the rest of the Morlocks. Shadowcat once proved not so lucky.
[Uncanny X-Men #179 by Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Dan Green, Glynis Wein, Tom Orzechowski, 1983]
Following the (Morlock) Mutant Massacre, the surviving Morlocks were fractured, and Masque—staunchly opposed to allying with the X-Men—eventually competed with Callisto, who wasn’t as adversarial with other mutants, highlighting the pair’s differences. Masque’s obvious aim was to maintain a cultish grip on power. After seemingly dying in an attack on X-Force, he resurfaced 12 years later wearing a face resembling Marilyn Monroe! After all, he’s equally capable of shaping flesh to beautiful effect as well. While that didn’t last long, Masque remained, as ever, a committed sadist. What will he do now? Perhaps, if Xavier and Erik can put these formerly fractious mutants to use for Krakoa, Masque has great potential as a healer—should someone manage to cajole his ego into helping out!
Mentallo—with Mesmero, the only Silver Age character here, reminding us of the paucity of variety for the pre-Claremont X-Men—first appeared in Strange Tales #141 (1966) and has been more of a general Marvel Universe career criminal than an X-Men-specific adversary. He’s a telepath whose “psycho-helmet” both shields his own mind and augments his psionic abilities, which also include observing and analyzing inanimate objects and far-flung locales. He was originally part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Psi Division but was introduced as already in the process of defrauding and stealing from his employers for his own profit. Relatively weak compared to a mentalist like Lady Mastermind, Marvin Flumm is destined to play a role as … comedy relief? (See also: Super-Villain Team-Up MODOK’s 11 #1-12.)
[Strange Tales #141 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, Sam Rosen, 1966]
Mesmero first appeared in X-Men # 49 (1968) and was yet another mutant depowered on M-Day who later inexplicably repowered. His mutant ability is being one of the world’s most powerful hypnotists—meaning he can even edit his victims’ memories and enthrall many people at once (an augmentation wrought by the 2000s Weapon X program, to which he’d volunteered). Most recently, he headed his own Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, though it turned out to be just a mercenary job for an antimutant activist who wanted to make mutants look bad (see the turgid and poorly handled X-Men: Gold series). This guy has always been completely scum, totally self-aggrandizing. It’s hard to imagine him as an asset to Krakoa—unless forcibly compelled to lend his hypnotic powers in service of the state.
[X-Men #111 by Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Mary Titus, Tom Orzechowski, 1978]
Random first appeared in X-Factor #88 (1993) and is composed of a malleable protoplasm that can be weaponized, able to fire protoplasmic bullets from his own mass, which can increase through concentration. The striking visual of this power distracts from his other mutant ability, from which he takes his name: Autonomic and random defense against other mutants’ powers, an ingenious defense mechanism manifesting uniquely against each threat, like ultrasonic whistling against Wolfsbane and energy projections that match and oppose those of other energy projectors (like Polaris and Havok).
[X-Factor #88 by Peter David, Joe Quesada, Al Milgrom, Ariane Lenshoek, Richard Starkings, 1993]
Random’s physical appearance is a defensive ruse, the macho, bulked-up form shaped by a young boy who had trouble controlling his newly protoplasmic body. Assistance in self-control came, surprisingly, from Hank McCoy’s evil Age of Apocalypse counterpart, Dark Beast—in exchange for working as his mole while employed as a mercenary with X-Factor (see X-Factor #112-126), but he later redeemed himself. He’s also worked with Exodus’ Acolytes and Magneto’s national mutant army on Genosha (right before it was destroyed). Thereafter, he was seen as a Weapon X concentration camp inmate before rejoining Exodus briefly, before basically becoming a background character among the X-Men. With Random’s experience as a soldier of fortune, bounty hunter, and government agent, he would a useful asset to the Krakoan state. But isn’t he even more of a child soldier than most?
Next time: The human enemies of mutantkind and the Hellfire Club as an elite human-mutant battleground.
Hi, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole trying to source a statement Nicieza made about approaching Juggernaut and Black Tom as a queer couple. It’s turning out to be kind of slippery to track down, although I always took that reading as almost a given. I’ve reached out to Nicieza on twitter but could you possibly point out where Claremont discusses this?
Hey Holly–that’s a good question! Unfortunately, I’m not sure Claremont has anywhere directly confirmed Juggernaut or Black Tom’s sexuality–much less anyone else’s really! It certainly wasn’t a possibility to explicitly confirm any character as queer during Claremont’s heyday, specifically because of Editor in Chief Jim Shooter’s homophobia and/or market fears (ultimately feeding into bigotry whatever the reason).
But as with most media and public life generally in the US, queerness had to be coded, because it couldn’t be openly discussed.
However, it seems that with Fabian Nicieza on various Marvel titles starting in the early 90s things started to change–fitfully, though. A lot still couldn’t be explicitly represented in mainstream comics, but I’d recommend this all around wonderful Cerebro podcast Nicieza interview from a few months back: https://anchor.fm/cerebrocast/episodes/Episode-026-Adam-Neramani-feat–Fabian-Nicieza-erc6k1
Also, it might be worth reaching out to the great Claremont scholar: J. Andrew Deman (of https://www.claremontrun.com/index.html — both he and the Project have Twitter accounts, and they seem pretty responsive)
Hope that helps!