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Here We Go Again…Again–Dystopian Futures and the X-Men

Has anyone ever noticed that science fiction stories about the future are never all about sunshine and puppies playing in fields of joy?

If reading X-Men for nearly three decades has taught me anything, it is that the future pretty much tends to suck.

Across multiple timelines.

Days of Futures Past? Sucks.

Wherever the hell Rachel Summers or Bishop came from? Sucks.

The Age of Apocalypse? Ultra sucks.


No sunshine and happiness in any of those places, just a steady, driving rain and three-legged, one-eyes puppies with rabies.

When a guy named Holocaust is running things,
you just know this place is going to be a No Fun Zone

Later this month, X-Men: Legacy writer, Mike Carey, is going to take us on yet another trip down memories-yet-to-come lane when he kicks off Age of X.

Running mainly through Legacy and New Mutants, the mysterious storyline focuses on a world in which mutants are on the run (again) and world powers are cracking down hard (also, again).

What we do know is that it seems that a great deal of it has to do with Jean Grey’s powers first manifesting and killing over half a million people, which prompts the Government to engage in the systematic termination of all mutants, with the Avengers commissioned to lead the hunt.

Whoopsie. My bad.

Anti-mutant sentiment is so high that Susan Richards turns in her own husband for harboring a mutant, leading to the arrest of the Fantastic Four.

With Jean’s little boo-boo happening before the formation of any official X-Men team, it has fallen upon a ragtag group of mutants led by Magneto to protect mutantkind from extinction.

If you are thinking you have seen something like this before, take a bow.

You have.

In fact, this seems, on the surface anyway, to be some sort of amalgamation of several of the alternate timelines we have seen already.

Jean’s inadvertent massacre sounds eerily like the one that was spoken about in the future concentration camps we saw during Messiah CompleX, and also echoes the event that touched off Marvel’s Civil War.

Magneto leading a team of mutants in the absence of Charles Xavier? Yup, we saw that in Age of Apocalypse.

Whoa. It’s like deja vu all over again…

Government backed sentinels on the prowl for mutants? Take your pick, it has happened so many times.

An event called the Decimation, that significantly depletes the mutant population? Yeah, that would be the House of M aftermath, which was called…wait for it…Decimation.

So this leaves us all wondering: what’s the hook? What makes Age of X stand so differently that it needs to be told?

Well, for one, Carey has hinted that this is not simply a glimpse of an alternate timeline; this Age of X is going to have elements that somehow manifest and reveal themselves to the characters in the present.

Since her first appearance, much has been made of a possible connection between Hope and the deceased Jean Grey. So far her powers have been pretty benign, but she appeared to manifest a Phoenix raptor in the closing moments of Second Coming, and Bishop was so convinced she was responsible for the future he came from that he betrayed his longtime teammates in an effort to kill her.

This begs the questions: what if Bishop was right? What if the X-Men made a mistake in putting all of their hopes, pun intended, on her?

And Number One on the “Not to Babysit my Daughter” list…THIS guy.

As the X-Men have always had allegorical stand-ins for real world social and political situations, the Age of X appears to be getting into the debate between freedoms and security, as the fear over future “attacks” by mutants has allowed a more totalitarian rule to manifest in America’s land of the free, with people willing to accept a war against the “other” and living under constant surveillance “just in case.”

How far is too far, when protecting the populace?

And what if those doing the protecting are part of the problem in the first place, with secret agendas of their own?

Whatever effects the revelations of Age of X have on the present will not be revealed for several months, but it is safe to say that this will not be just another alternate reality; this will be a cautionary tale for our mutant heroes and something that will change the way the X-Men think and operate…

How many mutants does it take to screw up a timeline..?



  1. J D

    January 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Wait. At what point was the original Dark Phoenix Saga and subsequent reintroduction of Jean Grey retconned? Or was it?

    The way I remember it, the Phoenix that ate star systems was actually a genetic copy of Jean Grey that was an embodied Phoenix Force, who made a deal with Jean while the X-Men were plummeting through the atmosphere in a damaged, radiation-leaking space shuttle — it would put her in a healing cocoon on the sea floor and live her life in the meantime. Scott Summers married her (?) and then she went crazy, being unable to handle the emotions of being human, eventually being killed by Scott in a battle on the Moon. A few years later the original Jean Grey, all healed up, was discovered by an undersea study being conducted by the Fantastic Four. Jean Grey herself was never responsible for the actions of Phoenix and was never a custodian of the Phoenix Force. Or so I remember.

  2. Troy

    January 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I think that's all stuff that wasn't necessarily retconned but tweaked by Grant Morrison and possibly Carey.

    I might check this out. I've been avoiding X-Books like the plague, but I like Carey and I am going through mutant withdrawal after Whedon.

  3. Charles J. Baserap

    January 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Except for Scott marrying Jean (he married her clone, Madelyne, who became the Goblin Queen not long after mothering Cable, and then she died; Scott finally did marry Jean Grey in X-Men #30), the above is pretty much correct. Jean was in suspended animation beneath the waters, but the Phoenix force patterned itself on her and a part of it reached out and brought Madelyne to life in Sinister's lab; when she was killed in Inferno, a piece of the Phoenix Force went back into Jean.

    However, when Morrison came aboard, he changed some things and added some tweaks to have it that Jean was harboring a piece of the force and that they were intertwined. This carried all the way through his run until the death of Jean Grey in #150; Pak then played with this idea more in Endsong and Warsong, where the Stepford Cuckoos wound up possessing a small part of it as well; Rachel Summers also carried a part of it as did the Shi'ar warrior, Korvus.

    During the Kingbreaker mini before War of Kings, the Phoenix force was cut off from Rachel, showing that it likely coincided with events on Utopia when the Cuckoos lost their connections as well.

    Hope manifested the Raptor and is the only to have done so since all of the above lost their connections.

    To be continued I guess…

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