The Mutant Crucible (or Really Good Comics)

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR X-MEN #7

The Dawn of X era has already produced some stellar moments for the Mutant side of the Marvel U, but with all that it’s established since HoxPox launched, it has still left a few questions unanswered. But fortunately for us readers, seemingly all of the major issues thus far left opened are being answered in due time.

One of the questions that has been bouncing around in my head has been the fate of the former mutants who lost their powers on M-Day due to the Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants”. Since that moment, the mutants have been a dying breed, then reestablished, then killed off again, then brought back again, and you get the picture. Though pretty much every major character who lost their powers at the end of House of M have since gotten them (or a facsimile of them) back – from Professor X to Magneto to Iceman to Polaris to Jubilee to Quicksilver and on and on), there still have remained a handful of C and D listers who no one ever bothered to go back to. Pretty much all of the New X-Men era students who were depowered have either been killed off or just gone away.

So while the big story of the Krakoan society is resurrecting all of the mutants who have been killed over the years, there still remains a deal of former mutants who are stuck as humans due to acts far beyond their control. Characters like Prodigy or Wind Dancer. What happens to them in this new mutant age? Surely it’s unfair of the X-Men to continue to abandon them as they have in the past while bringing everyone else to the dance. Aren’t they still victims of the horrors of mankind that mutants are now rising again?

In my head, the solution would be simple. As a part of the resurrection protocols, couldn’t you just kill them off (preferably mercifully) and resurrect them through their original mutant DNA as you have been with all of the dead? Of course, that would beg the question with what priority do these former mutants get brought back? Does Cerebro even have a backup of their minds as they have not been mutants since before Professor X began this mission? Or was he always doing this and thus they remain in the archives? Hell, will any creator even bother with this deal or is it just something an uber-fan like me thinks of?

In X-Men #7, Jonathan Hickman answers these questions and in doing so, provides one of the greatest X-Men stories I have ever read.

Our representative of the depowered mutants comes in the form of the former Aero, the fourth oldest of Ma Guthrie’s litter Melody, younger sister of Cannonball, Husk, and Icarus.

from Uncanny X-Men (vol. 1) #444 by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis

Her elder siblings all managed to keep their powers through M-Day (though Icarus ended up getting killed in a panic-strewn run to religion and William Stryker), but Melody and her younger brother Jeb (of She Lies With Angels fame) were not so lucky. Melody was one of the lucky depowered students to make it out of the school with her life, but unlucky in the sense that she has been stuck as a regular human ever since.

When the call went out for Krakoa, Husk came to the island and Icarus was resurrected. While Cannonball is now living in Shi’ar space with his wife, an Imperial Guardsman, the New Mutants have successfully established a gate to allow him free access to the island. Thus, when the Akademos Habitat was established on Krakoa for all the generations of X-Men students, Melody too was allowed to come to the island, though as a human visitor rather than a true mutant. But that changes when she gets a long-awaited call.

She’s pretty damn excited about it, as the mere mention brings tears to her eyes.

As we come to find out, since the former mutants no longer have their powers, they are no longer considered to be actual mutants by many of those in charge, like a Magneto or an Apocalypse, and thus not really worthy of their new world. However, should the former mutant be willing enough to earn their powers back, and want their place on Krakoa badly enough, then they can earn it by fighting to their own death in a glorious ending. Thus, they cast off their human shell and are granted their former mutant body through resurrection and given their powers back.

On Summer House, odd couple housemates Cyclops and Wolverine discuss the upcoming event with their own thoughts on the matter. Apparently, the event was decided upon by the Council, which neither of them sit upon. Wolverine is not willing to witness it, so Cyclops heads off looking for a more moral view to it in the form of Nightcrawler. Kurt himself is questioning how Krakoa has been making things perfect for them, and worries that everything is simply too perfect, which usually has an underlying danger to it. He’s had a massive tower constructed for his home, which only he can enter and has everything he could want in a home, and it makes him even more unsettled.

With that established, Cyclops asks for his opinion on the crucible.

With this conversation, the two become narrators not just on the matter of the crucible, but also the moral and spiritual implications of the entire resurrection protocols mean. This is particularly interesting for me, because it is also something that I brought up when the entire thing was established. I’m not going to go through the entire resurrection process again, but the question that stems from it is whether the resurrected mutants are in fact the original ones brought back to life, or merely copies of them. For someone spiritual like Nightcrawler, it begs what happens to the soul of the mutant when the body and mind is reborn? Does the soul come back and reclaim the body, or is the body simply a constructed copy of the original? Is Nightcrawler himself, having died in the mission of the Mother Mold, actually himself or simply a copy? There are no good answers.

That’s a deep conversation that I am glad is being had. It’s shows a real depth to this story that many comics these days tend to lack. But enough about that. Back to the crucible.

So there are, in theory, millions of de-powered mutants still all over the world who lost their powers to the Scarlet Witch’s insanity (the story is retold by Exodus in this issue), who could in theory kill themselves and come back, but that would be a huge strain on the Five, who already have years of work to bring back all those killed by Cassandra Nova in Genosha. So, when a particular former mutant wishes to make that sacrifice and come back, their time comes in the queue. But rather than simply slitting their wrists and bleeding out, Apocalypse made the argument that a former mutant must earn their spot in this society or live out their lives as a human.

So, Melody Guthrie, the former Aero, is brought to a colloseum and must stand before Apocalypse himself, back in his full villain armor. The exchange of a teenage girl standing bravely before a monstrous deity to claim her spot sends chills down the spine.

Apocalypse does not mince words with her. He is now as he always has been a follower of Survival of the Fittest, and without her powers, Melody simply is unfit for their world. He makes her say that she is enraged by what has been done to her and she is jealous of the world the mutants have established. So much so, that there is only one thing that she wants to do.

So as Cyclops and Nightcrawler discuss the morality of their new society and the questions they have over what is taking place, Melody Guthrie fights Apocalypse with all her might in a futile battle that she knows must end in her death. Through the battle, Apocalypse offers mercy and says that she can be healed and continue her human existence, but at each time, Melody refuses and continues her battle with absolutely no fear whatsoever on her face. He savagely beats her, then taunts her.

And with a final act of strength and determination, before her family, friends and superiors, Melody Guthrie earns her mutancy back, and claims her place on Krakoa as Aero.

And with her dead, the process is immediately done and she is resurrected, with her new body once again containing her mutant abilities. She stands before the Krakoan people proudly, having earned her place amongst them and showing that their society is worth fighting to the death to become a part of. And, in a tender moment that makes this era of Apocalypse such an incredible character, she goes to him and thanks him for what he’s done. For making her appreciate who she is and what she’s done.

And watching Aero fly above the mutants and enjoy the fruits of her labors, Nightcrawler decides that he needs to follow what has always been his calling in life, and bring spirituality to the mutant race.

WOW. This is a very powerful issue.

Every part of me now wishes that this will become the status quo for the X-Men for quite some time. I don’t know how long Jonathan Hickman is planning on running the mutant side of things, but it would tear me up to see this go away and reestablish a Westchester school just because that’s the way it was in the 80’s and 90’s. This has not only established a new era, but it has built upon all of the things that have come before it. We have pieces of Utopia, we are dealing with M-Day, we are even seeing pieces as far back as Generation X being used and respected. For the first time in years, this is a place that I would want to be a part of. I would fight to be in this society.

And the fanboy in me also appreciates the fighting colosseum. I may be thinking too much into this, but waaaaaaaaaay back in the Muir Island Saga we had the mutants gathering in Muir Island battling each other in a similar fashion, all to the whims of Moira MacTaggert, whose inhibitions had been eliminated by the influence of the Shadow King (who has not appeared thus far, come to think of it).

Uncanny X-Men (vol.1) #278 by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith

In this case , Rogue had come to Muir Island and was forced to earn her spot in Moira’s group by fighting Guido Carosella, the future Strong Guy (who, coincidentally, could be seen in the background art of this issue). It can be connected that a society of mutants orchestrated by Moira would have a similar act for earning place in this society.

I love this stuff.

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