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A Review of Avengers Assemble’s “Inhumans Among Us”

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I have said many times that I do not enjoy the X-Men movies currently being produced by Fox Studios.  The films are focused mostly on special effects, noir themes, and have too little hopefulness in them.  The characters – aside from Wolverine and a fortunate few others – receive very scattered, haphazard treatments which do not help them grow and which do not exercise their individuality to the full.  I am continually bewildered by reviewers who proclaim that the latest X-Man film is a hit.  The X-Men franchise is barely treading water compared to the Avengers’ franchise, from the numbers I remember having seen.

What does this have to do with the Avengers Assemble episode “Inhumans Among Us”?  In this show, Blackbolt and the Inhuman royal family of Attilan descend on a town which has been doused in contaminated Terrigen Mist.  This results in a human from the town, who has Inhuman heritage, undergoing Terrigenisis – the process by which Inhumans gain their superpowers.

For those who do not know about the X-Men or the Inhumans, the two have their similarities and their differences.  Marvel’s X-Men are a superhero team composed of mutants.  In the Marvel Universe(s), mutants are humans born with an advanced X-gene.  This gene usually activates in the mutant’s teen years, giving them access to superpowers built into their DNA.  This occasionally leads to their transforming in appearance physically to resemble an animal or to appear non-human in some other manner.  Some mutants can use their powers or look different from birth, but most discover their abilities when they become teenagers.

Inhumans are only slightly different.  Descended from humans who were experimented on by the alien Kree millennia in the past, Inhumans are also born with superpowers programmed into their DNA due to Kree meddling all those years ago.  Which type of superpowers they will have is unknown to Inhumans initially.  Also, it does not seem that a certain power, such as hydrokinesis or super strength, is passed down from Inhuman to Inhuman through direct inheritance.  For instance, an Inhuman man who is a telepath can marry an Inhuman woman who is an empath, but their child will somehow end up with superhuman strength instead of either of his parents’ powers.

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Inhumans can live normal lives without their powers.  They will have above average strength, immunity, and longevity, but they will not manifest superpowers.  Their powers will be activated only through exposure to the Terrigen Mists, a gaseous cloud released by Terrigen Crystals taken from the Kree.

Terrigen Mist will not hurt normal humans.  But if a normal human so much as brushes up against a Terrigen Crystal without some sort of protection, it has an immediate and deadly effect on them.  The Terrigen Mist permeating the town in “Inhumans Among Us” thus does not harm Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Falcon, or the Hulk.  Admittedly, only Falcon and Cap would have had to worry.  Hulk is protected by his Gamma radiation, Tony by his armor, and Thor is Asgardian. Thus the Prince of Thunder is immune to so much as the common Earth cold.  Terrigen Crystals would be among the least likely things to harm him.

This episode serves as the Avengers’ first meeting with the Inhumans in Assemble.  Prior to this, only the Hulk had had contact with the Inhumans in the episode “Inhuman Nature,” a show from his own two season series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.  Thor may have known of the Inhumans prior to this Avengers episode.  But if that is so he had not met them more than once or twice.  And in those cases he may have been on diplomatic missions to Attilan, or they might have been visiting Asgard for political reasons.

When the Avengers and the royal family discover a strange cocoon in the town library, the team fears the thing may be the result of a deadly virus capable of wiping out innumerable people.  But when the Inhumans recognize it and try to politely force the team out of the conversation – as well as the library – the Avengers realize that whatever the cocoon is, the royal family knows it is not dangerous.  And, what is more, they certainly do not want the Avengers finding out what it is.

But when Tony tells Blackbolt – rather politely, all things considered – that the Avengers are not going anywhere without answers, the alliance the two factions formed at the beginning of the episode disintegrates.  Gorgon responds to Tony’s statement by throwing him through the walls, across the street, and into the next building.  Then the rest of the royal family attacks the bewildered Avengers in order to “protect” the cocoon.

“Inhumans Among Us” was a very disheartening episode for me.  Why?  The Avengers went out of their way to be friendly and helpful to the Inhuman royal family.  They had no intention of hurting them, and once they knew that the cocoon was for a newly awakened Inhuman, they were ready to help Blackbolt and the others calm him down.  In contrast, the Inhumans looked xenophobic and intolerant, displaying violently the prejudices which they claimed the Avengers were demonstrating.

This is my key disappointment not only with the episode, but with the general trend in all things X-Men, Inhuman, and now most of Marvel.  The writers are devoting too much energy trying to make everyone in every demographic feel included.  The problem with this is that when you try to please everyone, you please no one.  Stressing differences between people instead of similarities fractures the very unity which you are trying to build.

The X-Men at the end of Marvel's X-Men: Evolution

The X-Men at the end of Marvel’s X-Men: Evolution

In the comics written from the turn of the century to 2015, all the X-Men did was whine about the fact that normal humans would never accept them.  They became so fixated on this that the team split in half; then one half went to war with the Avengers.  The royal family in “Inhumans Among Us” showed the same blasted tendency, leaping to the conclusion that since the Avengers had no idea what the cocoon was and feared it might be an infection, they would react with extreme intolerance against it.

Instead of doing the sensible thing, which was to explain what the cocoon was, the Inhumans went berserk and wrecked half a town attacking the Avengers – all without provocation.  It was suspicion and fear which motivated the Inhumans.  The Avengers were left trying to pierce that fog with clear reasoning; but reason makes no headway against deeply entrenched unreason.  Hence the destruction of half of a small town within the episode.

The Inhumans also assumed that since the person inside the cocoon was an Inhuman by inheritance, they alone would automatically be able to calm him down and get him to see sense.  They forgot that they had voluntarily cut themselves off from humans for so long that most people in the Marvel Universe(s) have no idea who or what they are.  What if the new Inhuman came out and, added to his confusion over his new powers, was confronted with people he had no idea he could trust?  What if, due to his confusion and fear of his unknown “rescuers,” he attacked them – his supposed “kind” – maybe even killing one or two of them in the process?

Even though they do not seek it, the Avengers are world famous.  They are easily recognized by anyone who has not been living without a television, radio, or the Internet.  Even the denizens of small towns know of and instantly recognize them.

In such a situation as exhibited in “Inhumans Among Us,” this would make the Avengers invaluable in helping to calm down a new Inhuman who had never known he was anything but human.  If the royal family had been thinking, not reacting, they might have realized the team would be an asset in this circumstance and not a threat or a hindrance.

But the writers ignored that possibility completely.  Why?  Why would they have the Inhumans jump to the conclusion of discrimination and fear?  Why would they write a story where the Avengers could be construed as aggressors instead of as calm, reasonable people?  (Interestingly, the episode portrayed them in this positive light instead of the intended negative view.)

The Avengers have accepted mutants, humans, Inhumans, aliens, androids, and at least one synthetic being as members throughout their history.  They do not care about a teammate’s skin color, gender, or what-have-you; they care about the person who wants to use their skills to help defend the world.  This is a proven track record that goes back to the time when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Gypsies and former enemies of the X-Men, were given membership on the team.  It goes back to Black Panther’s acceptance by the team.  Falcon’s membership in the team was accepted with facility as well, despite the government’s interference in the matter.  The Avengers are not a passel of small-minded bigots.  They never have been.

Yet recently there is a documentable effort to push them into this position.  While the team has never been anything short of hospitable to every proven hero, reformed convict, or good android, the Avengers keep getting thrown into conflict with people who claim they are not what they have shown themselves to be time and time again.  And these people, often allies of the Avengers, should know better than to claim this insanity.

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In recent comics, the X-Men are the guiltiest party.  Accustomed to being discriminated against, they had previously battled the Avengers several times, until someone calmed down enough to listen to the Avengers explain why they showed up.  This once led to reconciliation after reconciliation between the teams, something which was tossed out after the Avengers vs. X-Men event.  In an attempt to heal that mess, Cap started the Unity Squad, a team which was composed of Avengers and X-Men.  He hoped to bring the two factions together through this new team.

But his plan was in many respects an unmitigated disaster, as the X-Men refused to see eye-to-eye with their new teammates, particularly the Scarlet Witch.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, she wiped out most mutants’ powers earlier in the decade after going nuts and getting mad at Magneto.  How many times have members of the X-Men – not to mention mutants in general – wanted to be rid of their powers?  Besides which, by the end of A vs. X, the mutant population had been restored.  There was no reason to keep picking on Wanda – no reason except to spite her, Cap, and their Unity Squad teammates from the Avengers.  Who wants to put up with all of that negativity?  Not me, thank you.

Once upon a time, the X-Men were allowed to make friends with non-mutants in a TV series.  The 1990s series saw the team become friends with Senator – later President – Kelly.  A mutant-hating politician who came to recognize the humanity of mutants through the aid of the X-Men, he became one of their best supporters and friends.  Beast made friends with a human scientist in X-Men: Evolution, the same series where Nightcrawler had a normal human as a girlfriend.  And the number of normal humans the X-Men befriended in the comics is so long I would have to look it up to make a comprehensive list!

But by the time Wolverine and the X-Men TV series aired, this arrangement had largely been flushed down the toilet.  The episodes that came closest to making the point that humans and mutants were different in terms of genetics only were the introductory shows and “Code of Conduct.”  In that episode, Wolverine had to fight the Silver Samurai, who was married to his old flame Mariko Yashida, a normal human woman from Japan.  The rest of the series focused on the war brewing between mutants and humans because of the latter’s’ hatred for the former.  And the X-Men were bent on avoiding a blasted apocalyptic future where all but a few humans and mutants had been killed by the Sentinels.

Did the writers ever consider that by befriending normal humans the X-Men could make greater headway in circumventing this future?  No, they did not.  It was all X-Men vs. Brotherhood, X-Men vs. the MRD, or X-Men vs. Magneto and his Acolytes.  Let’s just lie down and die already, huh?

This different approach had started out in the comics, which began tearing the X-Men away from Professor X’s original dream of peaceful mutant/human coexistence.  It is as though, having reached a post-mutant-hating era, the writers decided to tear down all their good work and reset the original status quo.

But how exactly is this a good thing?  If you are so determined to build a platform of peaceful coexistence, why suddenly turn around and destroy it once it is built?  What can you possibly gain by this?

I once suggested an answer:  if everyone in the Marvel Universe became a mutant overnight, then the X-Men’s use as a team fighting for equality for mutants would go up in smoke.  Likewise, if you wipe out all mutants (an impossible task even for the Scarlet Witch), their reason for existence also disappears.  It seems that the Marvel writers, whether they realize it or not, are carrying out the second possibility – with unprecedented vigor.

In so doing they have neglected the third potential avenue for the team: could the X-Men not change their mission from peaceful coexistence to protecting the Earth, just as the Avengers do?  They have powers, gifts above the norm.  The achievement of one dream does not mean that you get to sit on your laurels or break off to follow your own pursuits.  It certainly does not mean you get to destroy your hard work.  It means you go out and get a new, better dream.

The imprisonment, death, or changed hearts of the X-Men’s old enemies does not mean they will never have new ones.  If the bigots who hate mutants are reduced, as had been suggested in comics in the early 2000s, to a minority, then that frees the team to fight on a wider field and for an even higher cause:  the protection of the two races from unsavory characters on Earth or in the galaxy.

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The Inhumans have suffered in a similar way.  Having existed as a race for millennia, they retreated from humanity to avoid persecution.  Living in hidden cities, they created their own culture, form of writing, and technology.  However, having made contact with humanity again, they continue to react intolerantly against normal humans first in an attempt to protect themselves.

How is this sensible?  How is this a “more highly evolved” attitude than that of normal humans?  If anything this reaction proves that you can build superhuman powers into humanity, but you cannot change human nature, no matter how hard you try.

Both of these teams have fallen into the bigoted tendencies that they either once fought against or retreated from facing.  Once the receivers – or potential receivers – of these attitudes, they are not willing to give rational normal humans the benefit of the doubt.  They instead react prejudicially toward them.

This is what saddens me the most about “Inhumans Among Us.”  Marvel, just like most other media institutions and academia, cannot let go of these hatreds.  Once seeking to fight against them, they have now become their biggest propagators.  They claim they are still combating intolerance when in fact they have embraced it.

This is the main reason I lost interest in the X-Men and never had much interest in the Inhumans.  If they are not willing to let go of past hurts and fears, then they will eventually become the new aggressors, the new bigots, the new haters.  Their writers have already fallen prey to this mentality, all the while thinking that they are helping to eradicate it in others.  They are not.  They are further dividing their audience, having succumbed to their own preconceptions of what is tolerant and intolerant.

This is a hard truth to speak, readers.  It is an even harder truth to hear.  We all like to think we are good people.  Only the most vile are exempt from this.  Everyone else thinks that because they have good intentions they are in fact good people.

But good intentions accomplished through bad means end up being evil deeds.  A lot of the people who supported the Nazi Party had good intentions.  They wanted their country to be strong again, they wanted their currency to be worth something, and they wanted their national and cultural identity to be respected.  But how many people – Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and others – paid the price for those good things to “come about”?  How many died because the Russians who supported the Soviet system envisioned by Lenin and implemented by Stalin “just” wanted to make the lives of their fellows better?  And how many good-intentioned people ended up losing their heads under Madame Guillotine’s “gentle” administrations during the French Revolution?

The answer to these questions is:  too many.  Are we to repeat these well-intentioned people’s mistakes?  Mistakes are to be learned from but, if you learn the wrong lesson, you end up with the same result.  You just get there by a different path.

We learned the wrong lesson.  And we are beginning to pay the price.  If we do not stop and ask ourselves, honestly and without fear, what we are actually doing wrong…. then we will end up in the same place and in the same hellish circumstances.  And it will have happened all for the sake of “good intentions.”

The truth is all we need seek when we ask these questions, for the truth and The Truth are all that will set us free.  Everything else are traps and darkness, for the soul if not the body.   One is more precious than the other and needs greater care because of that.

Look for the truth, readers, and do not stop until you find it.  It is the only thing worth finding, the only thing worth living for…

And the only thing worth dying for.

The Mithril Guardian

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Spotlight: An Introduction to Marvel’s X-Men, Part 1

The X-Men at the end of Marvel's X-Men: Evolution

The X-Men at the end of Marvel’s X-Men: Evolution

Greetings, readers! By now, most of you are aware of the fact that I am a Marvel fan, and I really enjoy Marvel’s Avengers, inside and outside of the theaters.

But in all my talk about the Avengers, I have let my old favorites, the X-Men, go by the wayside. Mostly, this is my own fault, but I would say that part of the reason is how Marvel’s writers – for the comics and the films – have been treating the X-Men over the last few years.

As I said in previous Spotlight! posts, the X-Men and Spider-Man were my first introductions to the world of Marvel Comics. Up until a few years ago, I thought that they were the only characters Marvel owned, aside from the Fantastic Four (who I knew of peripherally for many years) and the Hulk.

Much has been said in favor of the X-Men films, but for my part, I detest them. Where Marvel’s Avengers films have a clear roster, clear origins, and tie back easily to the earliest Marvel Comics, the X-Men films are less understandable. The roster for the X-Men franchise is almost always in flux and new mutants are constantly coming and going – even within the same film! There are literally thousands of mutants in Marvel Comics. I only know a few of them. How can I possibly be expected to keep up with all of the characters popping in and out of an X-Men film?

Plus, there have been so many different versions of the X-Men that the relationships in the films are not the relationships which I grew up with. Even a dedicated X-Fan like myself ends up with crossed eyes after catching a glimpse – a glimpse, readers! – of an X-Men film.

So today I thought I would give a little history on the X-Men I know about, where they come from, and who their main enemies are. If you are already well versed in X-Men lore (and know who everyone in the films are the moment they appear) then this list is probably not for you. If you are a newcomer to the Marvel Universe, feel free to consider this a semi-crash course in X-Men lore. Others can tell you more, but I can tell you what I know. So, readers, this is where we start:

What are the X-Men? The X-Men are a superhero team made up entirely of mutants. What is a mutant? Well, unlike real mutants, the mutants of the Marvel Universe are people – men and women – born with an advanced X gene. This advanced X gene is what gives them their powers. These people, thought to be the next stage in human evolution, are called mutants.

A mutant’s power(s) usually manifests itself when they hit their teen or pre-teen years, but some can use their powers from the time they are born. Some mutations in the Marvel Universe are obvious, others are not. Jean Grey, one of the original X-Men, is an example of the latter. Her mutant powers are telekinesis and telepathy; she looks completely normal but is in fact beyond average. Other mutants have very obvious mutant traits that make them stand out in a crowd: fish features, skin that has turned to crystal, wings, twisted faces, fur, or strangely colored eyes and/or skin.

Mutants are known in the Marvel Universe as Homo superior and some people hate them simply for being different, almost the way they hate the Hulk. Some of these people hate mutants because they think that, in time, mutants will outnumber normal humans, who will become extinct as a result. I have never truly bought into that idea myself; but that is what these mutant haters say they believe.

In response to these haters, some mutants have formed radical terrorist groups that say mutants should rule over normal humans. Many mutants simply want to be left alone, and their fear of the haters on both sides of the argument leads many to either hide their mutations or disappear into the sewers – literally.

The X-Men stand in the middle. They believe that mutants and normal humans can live side by side the same way that normal humans have managed to live together since the beginning of time. Those who hate mutants and those who hate normal humans often find the X-Men standing in their way; the X-Men’s job is to promote peace between mutants and humans, and that means protecting both sides from those who hate them. This brings up the next question…

Who are the X-Men? There have been a great many X-Men over the years. Even with all the time in the world and all your patience, readers, I could not list them all, simply because I do not know them all. But the ones I do know I will list here:

 

Professor Charles Xavier/Professor X: Regarded as the most powerful telepath on the planet, Professor Charles Xavier – better known to us X-Fans simply as ‘Professor X’ or ‘The Prof.’ – is the founder of the X-Men as well as the “School for Gifted Youngsters.” This school is both the headquarters of the X-Men and an actual school where young mutants are taught regular academics, as well as being trained in the use of their powers.

A geneticist with knowledge of many other sciences, Professor Xavier suffered an injury in his early adolescence which crippled him. When he saw how humans and mutants were not getting along, often over simple things or a lack of understanding, he decided to do something about it.

Professor Xavier assembled several young mutants and taught them how to use their powers for good. Then he sent these youths and adolescents out to do battle with the forces arrayed against peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans. He has had to rebuild the team from time to time – his first students hit adulthood and decided to retire, or at least take a leave of absence, leaving their cause largely undefended. The Professor then had to find new mutants to take up the banner. Much like Merlin of Camelot, the Professor has been the grounding force for the X-Men and the voice of wisdom they all turn to – even the sour-tempered ones!

 

Scott Summers/Cyclops: The first youth to be recruited by Professor Xavier, Cyclops’ mutant powers are as much curse as gift. When he hit his early teens, Cyclops began having headaches and, one day, beams of force projected from his eyes. He could not shut the beams off; only closing his eyes stopped them. The Professor took him in and equipped him with a set of ruby quartz sunglasses, as well as a visor with a ruby quartz lens which could be lifted to allow Cyclops to project his “eye beams” in directed, physical attacks. Only ruby quartz is capable of containing Cyclops’ “Optic Blast.”

The sheer power of the force beams Cyclops projects can burn through most any substance on Earth and probably a few extra-terrestrial metals as well. Super-powered beings or mutants with healing factors/super strength can withstand his power, though it hurts those with healing factors. Otherwise, Cyclops’ “Optic Blast” can destroy almost anything and kill practically anyone.

Because of the danger of his power, Cyclops is somewhat stoic and withdrawn. With no way to shut off his power, he feels cursed, and this drives a wedge between him and most everyone else but the Professor and the love of Cyclops’ life: Jean Grey. Despite all this, “Cyke” is an excellent tactician and field commander, with natural leadership skills and tendencies. He may not be as personable and likeable as Cap, but the X-Men trust him about as much as the Avengers trust Steve Rogers. (I never really took to Cyclops myself, but I literally cannot think of anyone else leading the X-Men into battle.)

 

Jean Grey: Jean was recruited by Professor Xavier not long after Cyclops was. The two quickly started doing the “Romance Two-step” and Cyke has never really loved anyone but her. A powerful telepath and telekinetic, Jean was the daughter of one of Professor Xavier’s friends. Kind, and with a personality almost as interesting as Cyclops’ (yawn), Jean acts as the Professor’s voice in arguments between the X-Men on the field and in the school. She’s no spitfire, but you do not want to get her angry, either.

Jean’s history with the X-Men is beyond complicated. I do not know all the details myself, mostly because it is all so confusing! Jean is typically kind, friendly, and always willing to help out. But I never really liked her or thought she was the cat’s meow. Still, I cannot see anyone else by Cyclops’ side, seconding for him in the midst of a battle, or breaking up fights as easily as she does.

 

James “Logan” Howlett/Wolverine: Known as Wolverine or “Logan” since he first showed up in the comics, Wolverine has to be the most recognizable member of the X-Men, in no small part due to the fact that he is central to the X-Men film franchise. When exactly he was born I am not sure, though recent rewrites put his birthday somewhere around the 1820s or 1830s!

Traditionally, Wolverine has been a Canadian, but now I am not so sure the writers have left even that part of what little history he had outside of the X-Men alone. For all intents and purposes, though, as far as I know he is a Canadian citizen.

Logan’s mutant power is a healing factor that allows him to survive the worst wounds – up to and including nuclear explosions – and is constantly regenerating his flesh. A side benefit of this is his enhanced, almost animal, senses. He can hear, see, and smell as well as the animal he uses for a codename. His healing factor is also the reason for his longevity, not to mention his apparent “youth.” After all, he does not look like a man who has lived two hundred plus years, now does he?

One other thing Wolverine’s mutant power has given him is a set of three bone claws in each forearm. These claws extend from his forearms and slide out of the skin on the back of his hands, locking into place just above his knuckles. His skin has to heal closed every time he retracts these claws.

Subjected to an experiment at some point in his past, Wolverine’s skeleton was coated with adamantium, a fictional metal in the Marvel Universe which is heavy but as durable as vibranium, the metal which was used to make Cap’s shield. (Interestingly, Cap’s shield was originally made from an experimental mixture of vibranium and adamantium; recent re-writes have made it a purely vibranium weapon.) This is why Wolverine’s claws appear to be made of metal; they are bone coated in metal.

Wolverine’s metal skeleton adds to his near immortality. The guy is extremely hard to kill, but he has come to the brink of death more often than even Rocket Raccoon. Like Rocket, he does not enjoy pain and has to psych himself up to take extreme punishment in battle; the adamantium in his body should also kill him, as so much metal in the body is toxic to a normal human.

But once again, Wolverine’s healing factor keeps him alive despite the metal bonded to his bones (which makes him weigh a lot more than he should and makes it hard for him to swim, not to mention the trouble he would have going through metal detectors).

Sometime after the experiment which gave him his metal skeleton, Wolverine’s memories were wiped from his mind. He can – or could – only recall fragments of his former life, one of which was the moniker “Logan.” Always a tough guy, the fact that he could not remember anything about himself and the fact that he regularly survives things which should kill him, makes Wolverine an unhappy guy you do NOT want to irritate to the point of anger. He has a temper to at least match the Hulk’s lowest anger level – and no one knows just how low Hulk’s rage can go.

Wolverine snarls, growls, and is prone to animal, berserker rages when he is incensed or the pain – physical, mental, or emotional – becomes too much for him. He is hard to get close to but he is not above being gentle; Wolverine has mentored at least three girls in his tenure as an X-Man.

Honestly, I think Wolverine’s penchant for being gentle toward these girls, as well as his never-leave-a-friend-behind sense of honor and loyalty, are what endeared him to me. It is too bad he is so often shown slashing and hacking people to bits in the films; I know he is capable of doing it and has done it in the comics, but it was always a side of himself that he hated and tried to suppress, or at least control. That said, Wolverine is definitely an X-Man you can trust to watch your back. He will growl and snarl about it, but he will not just let someone die. This is the Wolverine I know – or knew, rather.

 

Ororo Munroe/Storm: I thought Storm was one of the coolest members of the X-Men. Born in Cairo to a Kenyan princess and an American photographer, Storm was orphaned at the age of four when her parents’ apartment building was accidentally bombed. Trapped in the rubble for days afterward, Storm’s greatest weakness is her claustrophobia. She is terrified of small spaces and will either collapse as her fear overwhelms her or try to bust her way out of her enclosure.

Storm’s powers manifested when she was roughly thirteen years old. She can manipulate weather patterns, a power known as “weather warping,” in order to generate storms of all kinds, high winds, tornadoes, rain, and she can even cast lightning bolts out of a clear sky. By this method she can also move weather patterns around enough to ensure clear skies for a day or two, though she does not do this very often, as far as I know.

Unlike Thor, who can make new weather patterns out of thin air, Storm is only a “weather witch.” She needs existing weather patterns to generate her storms, and if she pulls too much moisture from one area or too much dry air from another, she can upset the balance of the weather in a region for months, if not longer.

Storm’s powers are closely linked to her emotional state. If greatly angered or frightened, the weather quickly turns wild as she starts whipping up storms, often without clear intention. When trapped in a small space, Storm will unleash her powers in order to blast her way into the open again. If that does not work, she collapses and becomes weak, unable to take being confined as she was when she was a child.

In order to keep her powers under control, Storm is often the center of calm in battles of will among the X-Men. This adds to her regal bearing and motherly tendencies. I cannot recall one X-Man who has ever been afraid to go to Storm about a problem. She is always willing to talk, listen, or be a motherly figure to one of the younger X-Men.

That being said, Storm has the temper Jean Grey so conspicuously lacks. She is not averse to telling someone off for bad behavior – even Wolverine has received lectures from her! And if Storm witnesses an injustice or an act of evil, she will act to correct it – immediately. The more severe the act of evil, the more likely she is to react with extreme prejudice. She is not a lady you want to cross!

 

Remy LeBeau/Gambit: A former thief from Louisiana, Gambit is a great hand at cards. He’s an even better flirt, able and willing to charm the ladies in a heartbeat (think Fandral, but with a Cajun accent and dark brown hair). How Gambit came to be an X-Man I am not sure. But at some point, he met the X-Men and decided he liked them better than thieving. So he joined the team and became one of its most valuable members.

Gambit’s power is the ability to charge any object with kinetic energy.   Gambit’s power accelerates an object’s molecules so that they are going as fast as they can go. As long as he holds the object, everything’s fine. But once he releases it – BOOM! The object will explode, and the bigger the object, the bigger the explosion.

Gambit’s trademark weapons are a thin staff he can use to channel his ability and decks of playing cards. (Hey, he didn’t get the name “Gambit” for nothing!) The cards are what he uses most, charging and throwing them like grenades. They make remarkably high-yield explosives; Gambit has blasted down doors, vehicles, and numerous other objects with his cards.

When he uses them against people, Gambit generally lessens the explosive impact of his “grenades.” At least, I have never seen him blow someone up and turn them into a pile of ash. Knock them down, stun them, yes, but I have never seen him kill anyone, which is one of the reasons why I am so upset at Marvel’s writers (see my post “Poker: Gambit Style” for more on that).

Gambit is a thief and a scamp, but at the end of the day, he is an honorable man who will do the right thing – with his own style and flair, mind you!

 

Anna Marie/Rogue: Growing up, I had four favorite X-Men: Storm, Wolverine, Gambit, and Rogue. I did not know a lot about Rogue there for a while – I was really young when I started watching the X-Men, so a lot of stuff flew over my head – but there were a few apparently “obvious” things about her. She was a Southern Belle who could fly, was nearly indestructible, and could hit with the force of a freight train.

Only, those are not actually Rogue’s natural mutant abilities. She stole them from Carol Danvers, who in the 1990s still went by the moniker Miss Marvel. Miss Marvel ended up with Kree DNA in her system and, as a result, gained the above abilities (as well as a few others). Donning a costume, she became the heroine and part-time Avenger Miss Marvel (in the comics, she worked with the X-Men on occasion and was good friends with Wolverine).

Rogue’s actual mutant ability is far more deadly. When she makes skin contact with a person, Rogue absorbs their memories, abilities, and a portion of their psyches. Mostly, this is described as a “life-force” draining ability. I have always preferred to think that her power makes her something like a human computer. Other people are the CDs, discs, or “documents” to her; she touches them and sort of “downloads” their files.

The longer Rogue keeps skin contact with a person, the more she drains off. A light touch knocks someone out for a few hours, maybe a day; a longer one, several days. If she does not let go, odds are good the person she touched will end up in a coma – or dead.

Rogue first discovered her power when it manifested. She and her boyfriend were having their first kiss and suddenly he passed out. He was in a coma for a few days, but eventually recovered (according to the TV series, the comics have a different take, I think). But Rogue did not recover. She still had a “copy” of his mind in her head; what is more, anyone else she touched got “downloaded” into her head as well.

So she ran away from home and was found by the mutant villain Mystique who, learning about what Rogue could do, took her in and trained her to use her powers…but this was in order that Rogue might be used to aid Mystique in all her plots and schemes, one of which landed Rogue in a fight with Carol Danvers.

During the fight, the two made skin contact. Rogue tried to break free when Danvers’ overwhelming power and anger scared her but Danvers, her Kree DNA whipping her into a fury, did not let go until she passed out. Whereupon Rogue discovered she had absorbed a good portion of Danvers’ powers. Instead of fading away, like all the other powers and talents Rogue had absorbed previously (the powers she absorbs never stay for more than a few days), Danvers powers appeared to be hers for keeps.

Unfortunately, so was a good portion of Carol Danvers’ mind. Danvers’ body remained in a coma but her psyche was largely trapped in Rogue’s mind for years. The separation made Danvers a little loopy (in the cartoon series); she would furiously “attack” Rogue or take control of her. Rogue had learned to deal with the copies of other people’s minds in her head; they eventually faded to phantoms she could barely hear. They had no control over her. Danvers did not fade, and she could take control of Rogue, and Mystique both could not and would not help Rogue get her out of her mind.

At the same time, Rogue began to break down as she realized just what she had done to Danvers. Stealing the woman’s powers was one thing, but she had also locked Danvers in her own mind and body, leaving Danvers’ real body in a coma. She had practically committed murder.

The remorse was too much, and – coupled with the fact that Mystique wanted her to go on using her absorbing powers – drove Rogue to run away again. She ended up with the X-Men, using her actual powers only when the team needed information or it was necessary to help others. For the most part, she relied instead on Danvers’ powers. As a footnote, it is largely because of Rogue that Gambit joined the team. Used to stealing, Gambit was unprepared when a thief named Rogue stole his heart.

 

Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler: A mutant from Germany, Kurt’s mutation is one of those “Hi, I’m a mutant!” gifts. From the time he was born, Kurt has had two toes on each foot, two fingers and a thumb on each hand, a tail, blue fur/skin, yellow eyes, and pointy ears. His overall appearance makes him look like a demon, and so he was persecuted for many years for his appearance.

But his “terrifying” features did not dissuade a German couple from adopting him after they found him practically out in the middle of nowhere. Kurt’s mother abandoned him after he was born, as she was accused of having a “demonic” child. It was years before he knew who she was; as far as I know, he never has tried to find his father.

Kurt’s appearance has ever been at odds with his personality. Instead of being dark and broody, Kurt is often the sunshine on the team. He cracks jokes, smiles, laughs, teases, all with the aim of cheering up his teammates and friends. He has often been called “swashbuckling” and is a very chivalrous, kindhearted fellow. Although beat up, mocked, and screamed at by everyone but his adopted parents as he grew up, Kurt is one of those rare people who turned out just fine despite the persecution he underwent.

His mutation’s physical effects are obvious, but Kurt’s mutant power is not. He is a teleporter who can disappear and reappear up to two miles from his particular position – but only so long as he can clearly visualize where he is going. Otherwise, things get complicated. His ability takes him through another dimension at the speed of, well, thought I guess. Going through and coming back means he leaves behind a puff of smoke and there is usually a “bamf!” sound as air fills the place he left behind.

Nightcrawler’s body is also perfectly formed so that he can almost instinctively pull off gymnastic and contortionist tricks. In a battle, Nightcrawler will often teleport around an opponent (it is not hard for him to teleport short distances), striking and disappearing before his enemy has time to catch him.

As things turn out, Rogue is Kurt’s adopted sister. Mystique is Kurt’s birth mother, and because of his obvious resemblance to her and his also obvious inability to hide his mutation, as she can, she felt she had no choice but to abandon him.

Despite all this heartache, however, ‘Crawler has remained one of the X-Men most loyal to Professor X’s dream of peace between mutants and humans. He is well liked by most every other hero and heroine in the Marvel Universe (including Wolverine), and the fans are not far behind those heroes. I have to say, Nightcrawler never struck me as very demonic-looking. Maybe the first time I saw him, but not after I got to know him. I still wonder how people in the comics and cartoons see him and shout, “Demon!” Or, just as bad, “Monster!”

Tsk, tsk. Don’t judge a book by its cover, people!

 

Peter Rasputin/Colossus: A big farmboy from Soviet Russia, Peter Rasputin is a warrior only because he needs to be. An expert painter, Colossus is said to have a “poet’s soul,” and despite being six feet five (or more) inches tall, Peter is generally a gentle giant.

But get him angry at your own peril. Colossus’ mutant power is to turn his skin into an organic metal. Metal “plates” will suddenly start appearing on his body when he activates his power. Soon, from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, he is entirely made of metal. Depending on the TV series you find him in, Colossus can be laconic or open, friendly, and willing to talk. For the most part, in the comics he was an easy, charming, innocent fella who had a knack for walking smack into trouble.

He is loyal to a fault and kind to the point that he is often easily taken advantage of. But he is an X-Man through and through.

 

Katherine “Kitty” Pryde/Shadowcat: A Chicago girl, “Kitty” Pryde was inducted into the X-Men at twelve or thirteen years old, after her powers manifested.

What is her power? Kitty can destabilize her molecules so that she can pass through solid objects. Called “phasing” by everyone in the Marvel Universe, she essentially becomes insubstantial. In this state she can walk through walls, bullets, or even opponents, all without coming to harm.

Her power can also be used offensively. Although I cannot recall her using her power to internally hurt people, Kitty can phase into a person, turn a part of her body solid, and whack her opponent wherever she can reach. I am not sure just how she does it, but she uses a similar trick to fry computers and other machinery. This either leaves the tech sparking and useless or preps it to blow up. If she concentrates, when she is holding on to someone or something, she can “phase” the other person or object through solid walls – or bullets – as well as herself.

Kitty has learned a great deal since she entered the X-Men. She is one of their top fighters, has excellent leadership skills, and is quite capable of taking care of herself. But that has not stopped her from being a friendly, open lady who follows in the footsteps of her “battle mother,” Storm. The two kind of adopted each other in their years as X-Men; Storm still occasionally refers to Shadowcat as “Kitten,” a play on her childhood nickname “Kitty.”

She is one of several heroes who went through a number of codenames before settling on one. In her case, the codename she stuck with is “Shadowcat.”

 

Warren Worthington III/Angel: The Tony Stark of the X-Men, Warren is a typical rich gentleman. He has the looks, the money, the charm, the manners, and the heart-throbbing smile of a knight errant. As well as a pair of six foot or so long wings which he was literally born with.

These white-feathered appendages gave Warren’s parents no end of headaches. Being a well-to-do family (Warren has his own private jet!), they could not exactly let the whole world know their son had wings! Can you imagine the tabloid headlines on that, I ask you?

So they spent most of his youth making sure Warren’s wings were well hidden. I cannot say how Warren feels/felt toward his parents; they loved him just fine, it was his wings they had a problem with. Anyway, Warren was eventually recruited to be one of the first X-Men by Professor Xavier, and he made a dashing addition to the team.

But, even more so than Tony Stark, Marvel’s writers put Warren through the wringer. In one battle, Warren’s wings were seriously damaged. His father had them amputated, both to save his son’s life and to get rid of those troublesome appendages once and for all. Distraught, Angel tried everything he could to regain his wings. When that did not work, he considered jumping off a building instead.

Archangel

But one of the X-Men’s worst enemies got hold of him before he could do that and gave him what he wanted so badly, a new set of wings, made of metal and capable of shooting out knife-like “feathers.”

The new wings, though, came at a terrible price. Angel, now called Archangel, was enslaved to the man who had given him his wings and was subsequently further altered. He now has blue skin and deals with a “dark side” this enemy programmed into him; though he has control of it by and large, he is not the debonair knight errant with the kind heart that he used to be. I can’t think of him without feeling sincerely sorry for him.

 

Henry “Hank” McCoy/Beast: A scientist and lover of Shakespeare’s works, Hank McCoy’s mutation was not very noticeable for a good portion of his life. Early on, he just looked like a meaty, muscled, ape-framed fella who had a nice face and the keen mind of a scholar. He was a great football player, too.

Beast had all the strength and agility of the ape he physically resembled – that was his mutant ability. But after a while, Beast got tired of being a mutant. He wanted to be a normal man. So he whipped up a serum which was supposed to get rid of his mutant abilities.

Only, the serum backfired. Big time. Instead of losing his mutant powers, Beast accidentally increased them. He grew blue fur, fangs, his senses of hearing, smell, and sight increased – and he gained, for the first time, animal instincts. As well as a new, animalistic fury that can nearly match Wolverine’s berserker rage.

That is the Beast from the comics and some of the newer cartoons. The Beast I knew in the 1990s cartoons certainly looked the part, but he rarely went into an animal rage. Mostly, he was the calm, philosophical scientist who quoted Shakespeare as he knocked a couple of helmeted goons’ heads together.

When he is not in a temper, Beast is as kind and friendly as he was before he took the serum. Unable to lead a perfectly normal life anymore, he stays at the X-Men’s headquarters when not involved in a mission or a battle. He is an amazing teacher and most everybody on the team, even Wolverine, respects and likes him. Unofficially, he is also considered to be one of the smartest guys in the Marvel Universe, just below the “three smartest” heroes and villains in Marvel history. (Interestingly, he briefly served as an Avenger and was trained in hand-to-hand combat by Captain America.)

 

Robert “Bobby” Drake/Iceman: Bobby was in his mid-teens when the Professor recruited him to be one of his first X-Men. Iceman gets his name from his mutant power: he can freeze moisture in the air to form snow or ice. He most often makes ice, covering himself in a thick layer of it as extra armor. Thus Iceman is, obviously, as immune to the cold as Loki.

Iceman also learned to make Hot Wheels type “ice tracks” which he uses to get around. If I had to compare him to another Marvel character, I would say he is probably a lot like Spider-Man. He makes wisecracks, is usually genial, and started out as one of the greenest rookies on record. But he is a tough opponent to beat, even if his enemy has heat powers to challenge his cold, and is a fairly able commander.

 

Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee: Jubilee was the youngest member of the X-Men in the 1990s cartoon. A California girl who was taken in by foster parents, Jubilee’s powers manifested not long after she moved into her new home. She has the ability to shoot streamers of plasma from her hands (I always thought she shot fireworks out of her fingers). The plasma stings, apparently, and can wreck machines even better than Kitty can.

Lost and confused after her powers manifested, Jubilee fell in with the X-Men and, even after a misunderstanding that saw her shoot Wolverine in the back, managed to become part of the team. And odd as it may seem, Wolverine took her under his wing not long after; for most of the series, the two were virtually inseparable.

WHEW! I am wiped, readers! I think you are probably as tired as I am. I am going to sign off now, then come back with a second post detailing the X-Men’s main enemies. I will try to make that list shorter, but I cannot guarantee anything.

See ya around!

The Mithril Guardian