Being a kid is hard sometimes. Sure, you’ve got the whole sleeping until noon on the weekends, not having to worry about a job, and getting all your stuff bought and paid for, plus summer vacation for months at a time, but sometimes things get tough.
Like when you’ve got a lot of expectations on you. Like when you’re not even sure of your true origin. Like when people think you’re some sort of savior of an entire race.
All of that has totally happened to me, by the way. Well, except the last two. Details, details.
With the mutant gene having been erased during the Scarlet Witch’s little breakdown at the climax of House of M, mutantkind was in dire straits, the state of being in pretty deep distress, not the 1970s British rock band. Although, let’s be honest here, I’d pay good money to see Wolverine singing Sultans of Swing with Deadpool backing him up.
Where there were once several thousand mutants, there now stood just under 200 and with no new ones being born and a lack of enough genetic diversity to attempt a repopulation of their old numbers even if they could, mutants were on the fast track to extinction within a generation or two and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it. Heck, Beast even tried turning to the likes of Mr. Sinister and the High Evolutionary, among other shady characters, for an answer during a story called Endangered Species.
So what were Marvel’s merry mutants to do? What could possibly stave off their impending doom?
Enter: a little girl called Hope.
During X-Men: Messiah CompleX #1, Cooperstown, Alaska was literally on fire as the first mutant birth since House of M manifested with such force, it set off Cerebro—most mutations don’t hit until puberty so mutant teens can have the joy of as much awkwardness as possible—and sent the X-Men scrambling to the scene.
Unfortunately, other parties got there first—namely the anti-mutant Purifiers who pulled a Herod and killed every infant they saw, and Mr. Sinister’s new Marauders, both sides using acquired knowledge of the future to beat the X-Men to the punch—and the baby was missing.
But the Purifiers didn’t have it. Sinister’s team? Nope, they came up empty as well. Even the Predator X creature that was created from the genes of Cessily Kincaid, aka Mercury of the New X-Men, to hunt mutants didn’t get so much as a nibble.
So, where’d the newborn go?
That’s right. Cable, everyone’s favorite time displaced mutant, got the jump on everyone and stole her away, prompting a massive game of kill/protect the carrier and kicking off the first true x-over in years, Messiah CompleX. Whereas X-Men events in recent years had been a bit loose in terms of structure, the main narrative usually going through one or two titles with the others relegated to ancillary support like Operation: Zero Tolerance or Onslaught, this one gave us a format more in line with the likes of X-Cutioner’s Song: no tie-ins, just a repeated rotation of X-Books bringing everyone together.
Opening with X-Men: Messiah CompleX #1, the event ran through Uncanny X-Men #492-494, X-Factor #25-27, New X-Men #44-46, and X-Men #205-207 and as it unfolded, it became clear that the new kid was going to be a major game changer.
It was bad enough the X-Men had to contend with the no holds barred threeway they were fighting with the Purifiers and Marauders, but then Bishop through a monkey wrench into the gears and told them that Cable had the baby and wanted to hurt her and even launched an attack on the X-Men’s defenses to prevent them from coming after him, prompting Cyclops to unleash a brand new X-Force led by Wolverine to get her back and stop Cable at any cost.
The twist, however, was that Bishop was a big old liar, and he was the one with a mad-on for the kid.
See, Bishop and Cable are both time travelers from the future, but where Cable saw the newborn as a key to the survival of the species and the future itself, Bishop saw her as the catalyst that helped make the timeline he hailed from such a hellish place.
His solution? Shoot the kid. Perfectly rational.
By the end, the truth came out and as all the competing forces converged, Cyclops allowed the baby—bearing a striking resemblance to an infant version of the deceased Jean Grey—to go with Cable into the timestream, where he vowed to keep her safe until she was older. Bishop, already down an arm from Predator X, was just a tad pissed at all of that and tried to shoot Cable as he disappeared…and Professor X wound up getting shot in the head. Again. Way to go, Bishop.
The event left quite a few scars and led to some big changes for the X-Books. New X-Men was canceled with issue #46, while over in X-Factor, Jamie Madrox aka Multiple Man had to deal with memories of the future one of his duplicates obtained thanks to Forge, as well as having been forced to leave Layla Miller in that future with no way of getting her back. With the mansion destroyed yet again, Uncanny X-Men soon relocated from New York to San Francisco and X-Men was retitled X-Men: Legacy and focused at first on Professor X, his injured body having been stolen by Exodus in the closing moments of X-Men #207.
Out of the ashes, a new X-Force book was launched and the new Wolverine led squad had a kill order mandate to take out threats before they got a chance to attack, their first mission resulting in Angel getting his wings torn off again and then their mysterious restoration combined with his sudden ability to switch from his Angel to Archangel personas at will. Cable also got a new series that had him traipsing through time with the baby, soon officially named Hope, and trying to run away from Bishop, who found a way to track them and wasn’t going to rest until he killed himself a baby.
As the different teams adjusted to the new status quo and X-Men: Legacy shifted from a focus on Xavier to one on Rogue—in which she finally gained mastery of her mutant abilities and was able to touch people without absorbing them—the second link in the Messiah Trilogy came about. With prelude chapters in Cable #11-12 and X-Force #12-13, Messiah War officially began with X-Force/Cable: Messiah War #1 and then ran through Cable #13-15 and X-Force #14-16 and brought a now slightly older Hope (more relative time passed for her than for everyone else in the present) into contact with X-Force in the future, trying to prevent Bishop from destroying her yet again.
His ally in all of this? None other than Stryfe, Cable’s clone. Yeah. Shit was getting real in the future. In the end, really, all Messiah War accomplished was making Bishop even more batshit insane and reminding all of the other X-Men that Hope was still alive.
Meanwhile, the X-Men’s home in San Francisco was starting to get complicated. Even though they were largely embraced by the populace, the Skrull invasion of Earth during Secret Invasion led to the ousting of Iron Man as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and ended up with Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin, in charge of the new security apparatus called H.A.M.M.E.R..
And since he wasn’t exactly what one would call sane, he promptly formed his own team of Avengers comprised of supervillains masquerading as heroes like Wolverine’s son, Daken, and Venom standing in for a new Spider-Man. The Dark Avengers, as they came to be called, came to challenge the X-Men after a group of anti-mutant protestors helped spark race riots in the Bay Area during a crossover event between Uncanny X-Men and Dark Avengers called Utopia. We’re actually going to skip this one for now and cover it separately in a couple of weeks, so put a pin in this one until then. We’ll get there, I promise.
There’s another little event we’re going to gloss over for right now, and that’s Necrosha, a story that spilled out of X-Force involving the former Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, Selene, using the transmode virus that made the Phalanx such a scary bunch of bastards to resurrect an army of deceased mutants, including pretty much all of Genosha that was wiped out in Grant Morrison’s E is For Extinction arc. Suffice it to say, her grand plan to take over the world was thwarted, which is pretty good news considering that totally would have sucked for everyone involved.
But touching again briefly on the aforementioned Utopia, that became the name of the new home the X-Men established after their run-in with Osborn’s Dark Avengers, a small island off the coast of California that was comprised of remnants from a piece of Magneto’s former base, Asteroid M. Magneto came to the X-Men not long after and pledged his loyalty to Cyclops, who had successfully united most mutants under a single banner and established an actual, though small, homeland and sanctuary for mutants. As a gesture of good will, he even brought Kitty Pryde back to Earth since she’d been hurtling through space in a giant bullet since the end of Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1.
But that little homeland Cyke helped bring about made the mutants a sitting duck and as Cable and a now teenaged Hope finally found their way to the present, the main villain behind Operation: Zero Tolerance, Bastion, finally decided to make his move and use all of the future tech at his disposal to crush mutantkind in one fell swoop.
And thus kicked off the finale of the Messiah Trilogy, Second Coming, an X-Book event that combined several elements of previous crossovers.
Following a prelude in Cable #21-24 which brought that series to an end, and a brief one-shot preview in X-Men: Second Coming: Prepare, the event finally began in X-Men: Second Coming #1, the main story running through Uncanny X-Men #523-525, New Mutants #12-14, X-Men: Legacy #235-237, and X-Force #26-28 before being capped by X-Men: Second Coming #2. Joining the main storyline were a few tie-ins: X-Factor #204-206, X-Men: Hellbound #1-3 and X-Men: Blind Science #1.
Erecting an impenetrable dome around Utopia, Bastion sought to keep the mutants contained while he opened a portal to the future and sent modified Nimrod class Sentinels by the hundreds to commit some good old fashioned genocide like any other fascist worth his weight.
Knowing the Hope was the target, the X-Men did everything they could to safeguard her, but Nightcrawler tragically lost his life in her defense and not even the combined forces of the Avengers and Fantastic Four were able to assist their mutant allies.
X-Force made another jaunt to the future to shut down Bastion’s Sentinel factory of doom, and they were supposed to be going on a one-way trip, a suicide mission to glory, but Cable managed to get them a portal back to the present…at the cost of his own life. Just as it seemed that Bastion would gain the upper hand, Hope, angry at the death of the only man she’d known as a father her whole life, allowed her powers to activate something fierce and, scaring the piss out of pretty much everyone, she manifested the Phoenix raptor and blew Bastion’s racist ass away, saving everything and everyone.
Was she Jean Grey reincarnated? That was the big question mark, a mystery that would eventually be answered in Avengers Vs. X-Men, and one we’ll get to towards the end of this series. For now, however, she was indeed the hero of the day and as Bastion’s dome dissolved, five little blips appeared on Cerebro—for the first time since her own birth, Hope had somehow helped bring about five new mutants, thus justifying Cyclops’ taking the chance in rescuing her and meaning that mutantkind was not as destined for extinction as it once was.
Hope Summers stayed on Utopia, soon starring in her book, Generation Hope, which spun out of The Five Lights—the first post-Second Coming arc in Uncanny X-Men—and remained the center piece around which each major X-Men story would revolve right up until Avengers Vs. X-Men. Seen as the mutant messiah to some, a harbinger of doom to others, Hope was easily one of the most influential new mutants to be created in recent years.
In next Thursday’s issue, we’re going to take a step back and see how Hope’s arrival affected both Bishop and Cable, as their own preconceptions of what she represented shaped their actions, and we’ll question whether or not time travel and predictions of the future are ever really worth it in the long run in American History X(-Men) Issue #21—The Time Traveler’s Life: Bishop and Cable Against the Timestream.
But before we get to that, please be sure to stop by next Wednesday for the monthly Chronologically Challenged as I pull back the curtain on Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis because that’s going to be a fun one.
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We’re starting to approach the homestretch of American History X(-Men) and you’re not going to want to miss what’s coming up.
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