The X-Men are maybe the worst time criminals since Van Damme, having gone through various realities, dimensions, and timelines more than I’ve eaten at burger joints. Therefore, it comes down to somebody to gather up all the disparate adventures and try to make sense out of them for you. Sadly, this duty has fallen to me, this website’s less-talented Alex Winter.
What defines an alternate timeline/reality/dimension?
- First, an anomalous event must interrupt the normal Earth-Prime/616 timeline (eg. a time traveler kills someone in the past)
- That interruption makes a split in the timeline, causing new events that would not be possible in normal continuity. (eg. that person who was killed was a pacifist)
- This creates brand new characters — or at least new versions of familiar characters — who talk, act, and do things completely out of keeping with their Prime/616 counterparts
- The whole alternate universe must close or be resolved so that normal Prime/616-timeline can be resumed. The events of the alternate timeline being unremembered, unremarked upon, and/or uneventful to the majority of the populace of Prime/616.
What books will we feature?
We’ll be focusing on alternate timelines which are heavily impacted by and primarily feature the X-Men. For clarity, we will not be covering one-off dimensions visited in the eXiles books or those realities found in single issues of Alan Davis’ Excalibur. Those worlds are interesting, but too short lived for a list. Instead, we will be highlighting the discrete, alternate timelines which feature two full issues or more in the main team books (X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, New X-Men, etc).
Marvel-wide alternate universes (like Onslaught) and hero-specific universes (like Old Man Logan) will be handled in other articles.
Now, without further ado:
Days of Future Past (Earth-811)
As seen in: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Synopsis: This 2-issue miniseries is the granddaddy of the them all. Kitty Pride goes back in time to stop the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from assassinating Professor Xavier, Moira MacTaggert, and Senator Robert Kelly — an event that brings upon the rise of a totalitarian state run by Sentinels.
This two-issue tale is an absolute classic, frequently listed as one of the best comic book storylines ever. And of course, it’s the template for so much of what’s to come.
Notable Residents: Rachel Summers, Wolverine’s awesome shearling coat.
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Yup.
Is it Bishop’s fault? In the comics, no. In the 90s cartoon, yes.
Is it Cable’s fault? In the comics, no. In the 90s cartoon, yes.
Mojoverse (Universe number unknown)
Synopsis: This is a weird one, even by the standards of “interdimensional mutants in spandex.”
The Mojoverse is, as near as anyone can explain to me, a pocket dimension where everyone had their evolution ruined by the television broadcasts that our dimension broadcasts into space. Mojoverse is controlled by Mojo, a literally spineless TV executive in a spider leg mobility scooter, who derives his powers from TV ratings.
And if I got any of that wrong, please don’t correct me, because I need to get through this alive.
Anyway, Mojo and his crew go around abducting heroes and villains from all across the multiverse and making them compete for huge ratings in “Slayperview,” a title which suffices for explanation.
The Mojo-verse gave us Longshot, the alien mutant with luck powers, as well as a lot of terrible nightmares. Particularly since the design aesthetic of the Mojoverse set the stage for some of the very worst ideas in 90s X-books (like Liefeld’s versions of Domino and Shatterstar).
Mojo was shown to children on the 90s X-Men cartoon show because there is no God.
Notable Residents: Mojo • Longshot • Shatterstar • my absolute loathing
Is Charles Xavier Dead? This universe doesn’t seem to have unique analogues to any Prime/616 entities. So no?
Is it Bishop’s fault? No, he gets a pass.
Is it Cable’s fault? Yes, in that Shatterstar is from this dimension and he’s basically just a more infuriating version of our hero with the star eye scar. So even though the Mojoverse predates Cable’s publication by 4 years, it’s his fault, because time means nothing anymore.
Askaniverse (Primarily Earth-1191; Arguably 12201, 13021, and many more)
Synopsis: This is a future where the world has come to ruin; most humans, mutants, and otherwise powered people have been killed; and everyone has some kind of scar around their eye. It seems it’s the destiny of all of Earth-Prime/616, an inescapable suite of futures determined by two to three people: Cable (Nathan Summers Prime/616), Bishop (time cop of 1191), and Apocalypse (the possibly mutant, possibly alien, almost certainly immortal villain). Lately, Hope Summers (adopted member of the Summers clan) has been shown as integral, because what that family needed was more time-based disasters.
What I’m calling the “Askaniverse” is actually a collection of possible futures which all branch from the normal timeline at or around the 1990s. These deviations doom our world to having a mass extinction event that leads to general societal collapse, Apocalypse’s rise to total power, and a the worst part of all: mandatory thigh pouches.
There are occasional deviations, as seen in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force where Archangel becomes the new Apocalypse, or Forever Yesterday in which Professor X becomes Onslaught again and Hope Summers causes the max extinction event.
Notable residents: Cable • Strife (ugh) • Askani • Hope Summers • Ruby Summers (Daughter of Cyclops and Emma Frost) • Bishop • Apocalypse • various Horsemen • Rob Liefeld’s missing dignity.
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Sometimes, though it’s just as bad when he’s alive.
Is it Bishop’s fault? This is his home timeline, so he’s often, paradoxically entwined with the various and sundry causes of this absolute landfill of bad anatomy and geometry.
Is it Cable’s fault? This is basically all-Cable, all the time. The timeline is commonly represented as some kind of destiny where “the final battle with Apocalypse” must take place between old Nate with his stupid-enormous guns, and Apocalypse’s various cronies, incarnations, and pyramids.
Age of Apocalypse (Earth-295)
Synopsis: David Charles Haller, the mutant known as Legion, is Charles Xavier’s illegitimate son with a super power for each of his multiple personalities. This makes him an Omega level mutant back when that actually meant something. And if his Kid’n’Play flat top was anything to go by, homeboy wasn’t doing so well with all that power.
Anyway, Legion’s plan to fix his MPD, his daddy issues, and maybe even his hair was to combine a few of his powers at once in order to travel back and do the only logical thing possible: murder Magneto. Trust me, this plan was 100% in keeping with his character… right down to the part where Professor X gets killed by accident.
This spawns a discrete, more fully-fleshed out version of the Askaniverse drawn principally by Joe Madureira (the Anti-Liefeld). With Professor X being dead, Apocalypse is free to take power, sideline Cable, and slaughter a whole bunch of people. It’s up to Magneto to become the head of the X-Men (as is tradition in half of these alternate timelines), and set about creating the other alternate timeline that every subsequent parallel universe rips off.
Notable Residents: Nate Gray/X-Man (Nathan Summers-295) • Dark Beast • Blink • Morph • a bunch of manga influences • the ashes of many blown deadlines
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Yes, by patricide!
Is it Bishop’s fault? Yes. Bishop, being literally the only other X-Man licensed to travel through time, tried to stop Legion. It’s a spectacular failure on Bishop’s part, and it curses him through this run.
Is it Cable’s fault? No. Then again, AoA did have Nate Grey, who was/is the incredibly lame version of Nathan Summers of Earth-295. Nate never gets the technorganic virus and instead spends the whole series being a whiny little idiot who’s all proud of his non-metallic limbs. So on reflection, yes. Totally Cable’s fault.
As seen in: Mutant X
Synopsis: In the Prime/616 timeline, a young Scott Summers is separated from his brother, Alex, after a plane crash. Scott is found quickly and grows up to be Cyclops, leader of the X-Men, whereas Alex languishes for ages and eventually becomes Havoc, leader of various farm teams.
In the Mutant-X universe, the opposite happens. Except replace “plane crash” with “alien abduction.” But that’s just the beginning, as the alternate universe versions of this world aren’t just Mutants, but many are supernatural. Storm is a vampire for some reason. Madelyne Pryor both exists and is possessed by demons. Nick Fury is exterminating mutants. Elektra is a nanny. Nothing makes a lick of sense.
The series closes in the only way the way it possibly could: someone drops a super atomic bomb powered by uranium and narrative improbability, resulting in an explosion so large that it destroyed our heroes, levels Earth-1298, and I can only assume killed everyone who worked on the book.
When Cyclops’ brother goes on to more of a career than you do, it’s a bad sign…
Notable Residents: Bloodstorm (Storm-1298, a vampire), Marvel Woman (Madelyne Pryor-1298)
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Sorta, he’s the Shadow King now.
Is it Bishop’s fault? Not that I know of
Is it Cable’s fault? There is no Cable, as Scott never has a kid with Jean. So… maybe?
Here Comes Tomorrow (Earth-15104)
As seen in: New X-Men: Here Comes Tomorrow
Synopsis: New X-Men was basically Grant Morrison paying tribute to Chris Claremont. It’s a greatest hits album, filled with Sentinel battles, Shi’ar intrigue, and classic villains. And of course, what would a compilation record be without Jean Grey being murdered, the Thunder Road of X-stories.
The whole run wraps up with Morrison’s take on “Days of Future Past” where an alternate reality is formed when Cyclops resigns from the X-Men after Jean’s latest death (in New X-Men #150). This causes Beast to take up the mantel, leading him to transform into a drug-addicted supervillain who quotes from 1960s Spanish surrealist art films; a detail that ties for “Most Morrison Part of the Book” with the fact that this arc is titled after a bubble-gum pop song performed by the Monkees that fits eerily well.
Notable Residents: Sublime/Beast, Tito Bohusk, Evolved E.V.A., Tom Skylark & Rover
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Yea, and his twin sister, Cassandra Nova, is alive.
Is it Bishop’s fault? I see all kinds of sorrow / Wish I only loved one
Is it Cable’s fault? Look out, here comes tomorrow / Oh, how I wish tomorrow would never come
As seen in: All copies of these books have been burned • Those responsible for the burnings have themselves been burned
Synopsis: As we’ve established up top, there are ingredients that make up an alternate timeline, splitting one from the timestream and setting the events apart from what older creators made before the event, and what newer people made wrote after.
Chuck Austen’s entire run meets every one of these criteria.
Austen had gotten his start in porn comics, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with such things, it does explain this catastrophe quite well. Let’s focus on just one single sequence out of many, many awful plot points.
Stacy X, the mutant prostitute with pheromone powers, gets into a love triangle with teenage Husk and Angel (who’s maybe 40? No one knows.) The two women — well, the one woman and the under-aged girl — fight over the utterly gormless rich boy until Stacey, apropos of basically nothing, throws in the towel, announcing that she’s going to give up the chase, and retires to her room for the stated, canon reason of “watching porn.”
This somehow leads to the rest of the team (sans Stacy) watching a video of Angel jumping rope while naked. Then, a few dozen issues later, Angel has mid-air sex with Husk in front of the entire team, Professor X, and Husk’s mom. Let me repeat that: a 40-something winged billionaire has sex with a child soldier in front of / above her mom.
You explain to me how any single part of that should happen in any “normal reality.”
Notable Residents: Every character is terrible. The epilogue to Stacy X was that she stayed in her room watching porn for about 3 years of publication history, only popping up for Decimation (which makes sense, as losing her powers would probably put a damper on the porn.)
Is Charles Xavier Dead? I assume he died of shame.
Is it Bishop’s fault? If only it were that easy. No, there’s no discernible time travel….
Is it Cable’s fault? …Unless the mere existence of this run is the first real-world proof of time travel. Does that make it better? Or worse?
House of M
As seen in: House of M
Synopsis: Scarlet Witch, the mutant witch, goes a bit crazy and decides to remake pretty much everything after WWII. This was a relief to anyone who has read Chuck Austen’s run (which came almost immediately before these events. A Cynical person would think this was all part of a plan…)
Suddenly, Charles Xavier wasn’t around to lead the X-Men against the first sentinel attack over Manhattan. Instead it’s Magento who steps up, thus kickstarting the “Age of Heroes” much, much earlier. The world becomes more racist but somehow, all the Prime/616 heroes get their hearts’ desires (Wolverine learns his past, Carol Danvers gets to be Captain Marvel, Gambit gets to be on the cover of some important issues, etc).
Of course the whole thing falls apart in the end, and it’s all just a lead up to another event in the Prime/616 timeline (“Decimation,” where all but 198 mutants are depowered. Proving once again that Marvel doesn’t know a damn thing about Latin). But while it lasts, it’s an interesting look at what happens when people actually get what they want.
Notable Residents: Steve Rogers is an old man and just a veteran • Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey are a celebrity couple • Magneto has kids who actually love him
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Short answer “yes,” long answer “no.” You’ll have to read to understand.
Is it Bishop’s fault? Surely, surely he should have known about the time a crazy witch took away the powers of nearly every mutant. An event that persisted into the Prime/616 timeline after the resolution. Meaning this is a thing we knew about after House of M was over, some time in the future. Which is the place Bishop is supposedly from. So I’m gonna say “yes.”
Is it Cable’s fault? Again, time traveler. Plus one that needs his powers to stay alive, so I’m gonna say “super yes.” In fact, why weren’t either of these bozos sent back in time to stop this event from happening?!
Every Single X-Story post-Battle of the Atom
As seen in: X-Men: Battle of the Atom, everything after
Synopsis: In 1994, the Simpsons had an episode of Treehouse of Horror involving time travel. Titled “Time and Punishment,” it’s a story where Homer attempts to fix a toaster and fails so spectacular that it becomes a time machine, sending him backwards and forwards through history. By the end of the episode, Homer learns that even the smallest change to the past can have catastrophic impacts on the future.
X-Men’s Beast clearly never saw that episode, and this has caused a gap in his knowledge so wide that the entire Prime/616 timeline has fallen into it.
In the “Battle of the Atom,” Beast — ostensibly the smartest member of the X-Men — decides to create a bridge to bring the original five (O5) X-Men from the 1960s into the modern day. Beast’s plan, if we can call it that, was to show the young team their successful, future selves so as to inspire the kids to… something something something. It doesn’t matter, because Beast’s whole thought process here was virtually identical to smashing a toaster with a hammer.
A 30 year old children’s cartoon had a blindingly better grasp of quantum physics than one of the top ten smartest people on the planet. A person, Beast, who has gone through time himself. On several, separate occasions.
But comics are a special kind of ridiculous, so let’s pretend that the core concept isn’t powerfully insane. Let’s look at this another way: How long can you, personally, go without looking at your cell phone? Because whatever that number is, that’s how long the O5 team should have been allowed in our universe. Any longer and we risk doing (further) harm to the timeline. Instead, the O5 team sticks around for awhile, thus exposing them to all sorts of information, technology, and life threatening peril that threatens to “inspire” the universe right out of existence. A point well illustrated by 05 Beast nearly dying, causing present day Beast to pull a Marty McFly fade job.
Also gee, do you think they talked about Decimation anywhere in there? Or the explosion of Genosha?
Finally a futuristic incarnation of the X-Men come back in time to tell the current team to knock it off, sending their past selves back with all sorts of time disrupting information. This was the storyline where the X-Men finally just put a bullet in the head of continuity and dumped it in a river; that you’ve probably never heard of it should tell you how highly it rates on the list of ‘worst thing they’ve ever done.”
Notable Residents: Xorn III (Older, time-displaced Jean) • Charles Xavier II • Raze Darkholme (son of Wolverine and Mystique) • Phoenix (Kid Omega) • many, many more
Is Charles Xavier Dead? Everything is a Schrodingers box; alive and dead at the same time
Is it Bishop’s fault? Yes, because he should have stopped this
Is it Cable’s fault? Yes, for the same reason. Honestly, why even have time travelers on the team?