Superhero Secrets: The X-Men

Secrets of the Atom

Beast:Lots of secrets filling these halls nowadays, Scott. More than normal for people like us. Logan leading a gang off to god knows where. Bloodstained clothes in the laundry. Warren transforming into Archangel again. To say nothing of what you’ve been up to, Miss Frost. Secrets, Scott. Secrets, Emma.” –

Uncanny X-Men #511

The X-Men is Marvel’s biggest superhero team. There have been hundreds of members on the main team and its many offshoots. With that many heroes running around, something gets lost in the shuffle, secrets that even the X-Men’s many telepaths can’t discover.

So what superhero secrets have The X-Men studiously hidden from humanity? Let’s find out.

#5 The Fall of Genosha

Computer: Target: Genosha. Population: 16,521,063. Falling. Population 11,001,467… 8,290,025 … 800,000 … 763…
Xavier: [telepathically observing Genosha] “No one saw it coming. They were drinking tea… making love… All those lights going out. No one saw…

E is for Extinction

Every hero fails occasionally. They’ll be too slow to save an innocent bystander or let an ally die because they screwed up. The number five X-Men secret is the time they truly failed Mutantkind.

The island nation of Genosha was created to be a parallel to Africa during apartheid. The country rose to prominence by exploiting Mutant slaves to bolster its economy and military. The X-Men assisted a coup d’état, turning Genosha into the first Mutant-led nation.

All was well until Professor X’s evil sister Cassandra Nova assembled a team of villains. She discovered a hidden factory that constructed Mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels and had her team upgrade them into even deadlier Wild Sentinels.

Nova deployed the Wild Sentinels to wipe out Genosha while she distracted The X-Men. Her plan worked, leaving the X-Men completely out of position to interfere. The Wild Sentinels killed more than sixteen million Mutants, with only a handful of lucky survivors. The genocide led Professor Xavier to out himself as a Mutant so he and the X-Men could become figureheads for Mutantkind.

#4 Onslaught

Onslaught:Know my name and fear it! I am Onslaught!’

X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught

The X-Men have many enemies who could conquer the world by themselves, but their most powerful foe was created by one of their own. The number 4 X-Men secret is their ultimate enemy: Onslaught.

The X-Men were attacked by several villains who claimed to serve a master called Onslaught. They were unable to find any information about the villain, but learned that he had been absorbing Mutants to steal their powers. Onslaught tried swaying Phoenix to his side, even offering to let her read his mind to learn who he was. She revealed that Onslaught was the X-Men’s founder, Professor X.

Professor X had grown disillusioned with the constant struggle for coexistence between humans and Mutants. His dark side psychically manifested and took control of his body, also assimilating Magneto. The gestalt being called himself Onslaught and swore to exterminate all life.

Onslaught’s mixture of telepathy, telekinesis, and magnetism was already a ferocious combination, but he took it a step further when he targeted Franklin Richards, the son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. Onslaught absorbed the child to gain his reality warping powers so that he could become almost invincible.

Onslaught was dogpiled by The X-Men, The Avengers, Doctor Doom, and the Fantastic Four. They destroyed him, but The Avengers and Fantastic Four were seemingly killed in the battle (they were actually transported to an alternate universe called Heroes Reborn) and The X-Men were blamed for Onslaught’s crimes.

#3 The Legacy Virus

Colossus:Someday, there may be a cure that does not require a sacrifice. Someday, the violence will end. Someday… children like Illyana will not be victims of a war they are not a part of. But I cannot stand by for even one hour knowing somewhere, someone else’s little sister is dying from this disease. Snowflake. I am coming home.”

Uncanny X-Men #390

The X-Men have always been a stand-in for minorities, but they resonated most with the LGBTQ+ community because mutations appear at puberty and aren’t always outwardly obvious. The number three X-Men secret is their allegory to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

A villain called Stryfe gave one of his allies a canister with instructions to open it if he died. He was murdered by Cable and the canister was opened, revealing that it was empty. Unbeknownst to those present, it contained a virus from the future that would wipe out Mutantkind. This was Stryfe’s legacy to the world: the Legacy Virus.

The Legacy Virus targeted the X-Gene in Mutants and supercharged their powers at the cost of death. The virus drove anti-Mutant hysteria to new heights, as most people feared Mutants could spread the Legacy Virus to humans or thought it was divine punishment against their race. The virus ravaged the Marvel Universe throughout the 90’s, killing heroes, villains, and civilians alike.

The X-Men developed a cure that could be spread worldwide, but it had a drawback. It needed to propagate in a Mutant to become airborne and would kill them in the process. The X-Men debated whether to use the cure and didn’t notice when their teammate Colossus stole it. His younger sister had died from the Legacy Virus, so Colossus chose to sacrifice himself to spread the cure.

#2 The Planet X Trilogy

Wolverine:Don’t worry, Cyke. I won’t hurt him… much!
Spock: “”More accurately, Wolverine… [uses the Vulcan Neck Pinch on him] …You will not hurt me at all. [Wolverine collapses] I trust I have made my point.”

Star Trek/X-Men #1

Not all X-Men secrets are doom and gloom. In the mid 90’s, Marvel launched Paramount Comics, which focused on franchises owned by Paramount Pictures, including Mission Impossible and Star Trek. To draw in readers and celebrate Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, Marvel created a trilogy of crossovers with the X-Men.

First was Star TreX, where the Enterprise discovered a dimensional rift created by two insane reality warpers, Proteus from Marvel and Gary Mitchell from Trek. The situation was complicated when The X-Men were chased into the Trek universe by the Shi’ar empire, which had been overthrown by a villain. The X-Men and the Enterprise united to end this interdimensional incident.

The sequel, Second Contact, followed the crew from Star Trek: the Next Generation encountering temporal anomalies that resulted from Star Trek: First Contact. They were advised to work with the X-Men to fix the anomalies by Avengers-villain Kang the Conqueror, who planned to conquer all of time by manipulating them.

The final part, Planet X, was released as a novel instead of a comic. Mutants spontaneously begin evolving on one of the Federation’s planets, leading to civil unrest. The X-Men arrive in the Trek universe via plot shenanigans and assist the Next Generation crew in forcing a ceasefire long enough to create a cure for the mutations.

The crossovers are mostly goofy adventure stories, but there are plenty of interesting character interactions. The first showed Beast and Bones getting confused when a nurse shouted for Dr. McCoy. The second had both teams encounter counterparts of dead allies in the other group’s world. Ironically, Planet X had Picard meet a hologram of Professor X, who noticed that they look alike a few years before Patrick Stewart portrayed him.

#1 Krakoa and Arakko

Apocalypse:We submit to the laws of this land, be what they may, and acknowledge that from this day forward, we serve a higher purpose than want or need. One people. From this day forward.
Xavier:Very well, then let it be known… let it be spread: Krakoa is for all Mutants.”  

House of X #5

There have been many attempts to shake up the X-Men’s status quo, but few have a lasting impact. A recent alliance with an old foe has completely changed the game for Mutantkind. The final X-Men secret is their strangest allies: Krakoa and Arakko.

Krakoa is a living island with the ability to consume energy like a vampire. It defeated The X-Men when they first encountered it, leading to a new team being assembled and the debut of many fan favorites. The two teams seemingly destroyed Krakoa, but it was later revealed to have survived.

Professor X eventually used his telepathy to make contact with Krakoa and negotiate a peace. Krakoa agreed to become a country that was open to all Mutants in exchange for energy donations. The X-Men scored a lot of brownie points when they found Krakoa’s sibling Arakko in another dimension and reunited the islands.

During the recent event Hellfire Gala, the X-Men transported Arrako to Mars. Between its innate abilities and several powerful mutants, they terraformed Mars, renamed it Arrako, and unilaterally declared it the capital of the solar system. Thus, the first planet of Mutants was born.

What is your favorite X-Men Secret? Tell us in the comments.

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