So once again I find myself making up a collection out of the uncollected sections of the X-Men’s history during the late ’90s, and more than any other time, I have to wonder: why? This is a sprawling, epic story that leads from the desperation and anti-mutant fear that occurred as a result of the Onslaught storyline, and also is the final nail in the coffin that makes the political climate of the Marvel Universe one that will tolerate the next step in the X-Men saga: Operation: Zero Tolerance. Really, the fact that this hasn’t been collected yet is mind-boggling, as it seems necessary to the overarching story of the X-Men.
For clarification, I’m including:
Part One: X-Factor # 127: “Darker Destiny” by Howard Mackie
Part Two: Uncanny X-Men #338: “A Hope Reborn, A Past Reclaimed” by Scott Lobdell
Part Three: X-Men #58: “Testament” by Scott Lobdell & Ralph Macchio
Part Four: Uncanny X-Men #339: “Fight and Flight!” by Scott Lobdell
Part Five: X-Men #59: “Touched” by Scott Lobdell
Part Six: X-Factor #128: “Night of the Hounds” by Howard Mackie
Part Seven: X-Factor #129: “Playing with fire” by Howard Mackie
Part Eight: Uncanny X-Men #340: “Relativity” by Scott Lobdell
Part Nine: X-Factor #130: “A mother’s eyes” by Howard Mackie”
Many of these issues contain what, on the surface, are one-off issues that deal with the ever-evolving lives of the characters, like A Hope Reborn, A Past Reclaimed, in which Warren Worthington is accosted in his apartment by Ozymandias and — and a result — given his original feathered wings back. This alludes to the fact that Apocalypse is choosing new Horsemen, which will become apparent in Incredible Hulk of all places. There’s also Testament, which at first just takes the form of a bare-knuckle brawl between Gambit and Joseph over the affections of Rouge. While both these chapters work as singular stories, they slowly move the chess pieces of the Marvel Universe around the Presidential campaign of Graydon Creed.
Creed is a former member of the Upstarts who, in the Sabretooth limited series, was revealed to be the son of Sabretooth and Mystique. This savage lineage has powered his anti-mutant political stance and driven him to found the mutant hate group “The Friends of Humanity” in the past, and X-Universe equivalent of the KKK. After the events of Onslaught, when the human race lost The Avengers and the Fantastic Four to a mutant threat, anti-mutant hysteria is at an all-time high and it seems as though Creed may well make good on his bid for President. Sensing that this is the turn of the tide, the X-Men have placed two undercover agents on Creed’s campaign: Iceman and Cannonball.
This has disastrous personal results for Iceman, as his father — long thought to be an anti-mutant bigot himself — comes to a Creed rally and stands up for the rights of not just mutants, but all peoples. He is then beaten by Creed’s men, nearly to death, who investigate and discover his connection to Bobby, kicking him off the campaign trail and leaving his father broken and dying at his feet. Needing to help his father heal and reconnect with the man at long last, Iceman leaves the X-Men.
While this is happening, Creed has covertly sent his thugs in The Friends of Humanity to assault another innocent, a young boy named Tyler, with the hopes of sending a message to the mutant who has been helping him deal with his budding mutant powers: Mystique. This has the unintended consequence of taking Mystique down a path of vengeance to assassinate Creed, not only as a matter of vengeance, but also because it has already become clear the sort of anti-mutant vitriol that can be expected from his Presidency. The reemergence of Multiple Man and her former Freedom Force member Pyro allow her the circumstances necessary to make her escape from the Falls Edge compound and make her plans come to fruition.
So the chess pieces are moving around the board, but some of the greatest pieces are those you wouldn’t traditionally expect from an X-Men storyline. One of the main supporting characters of this story is J. Jonah Jameson, head of The Daily Bugle and often thorn in Spider-Man’s side. Here though he’s not anti-mutant as one might expect: he’s a newpaperman who has lived through the oppression of minorities before and has fought against it, sometimes overtly and sometime subtly (his African-American Editor-in-Chief was appointed during a time that, in real-world time, race relations were at the forefront of American politics). Despite being blinded by Spider-Man in particular, Jameson here proves to have a level head and keen journalistic instincts when it comes to the other players in the Marvel Universe, even being the victim of an assassination attempt himself in “Fight and Flight!” only to be saved by the Beast, and not allowing that to stop his investigation. As odd as it sounds, this may be the most positive characterization and growth we’ve seen from the Jameson character in the 32 years since his creation at the time of this publication. he’s a force to be reckoned with fearlessly taking on the office of the President, like Woodward and Bernstein before him. I’ve never loved his character more.
The Jameson element of course also lends itself to guest-appearances by Spider-Man, but also there are multiple Marvel Universe links in this politically-charges story, including former-Avengers Hercules showing up at the X-Mansion to pick up Quicksilver, seemingly to try and re-assemble a new Avengers here on Earth now that all the “regular” Avengers are thought dead and over in the Heroes Reborn Universe. Come to think of it, why didn’t Marvel do that? Seems like a perfectly good reason to have two Avengers titles every month, one on each reality, as the Avengers here would have no idea that the others are still in operation somewhere. Today, with Marvel putting the “Avengers” title on anything they want to sell like hot-cakes, they totally would have done this. A real missed opportunity here.
In the end, as the title of this article implies, Creed is assassinated. However, it is revealed at the last moment that while Mystique had been planning to kill Creed, she had intended to do so more covertly. Creed is killed in the middle of his last speech before the vote, on live television, in an agonizing and definitively-mutant fashion. Mystique has actually been attempting to stop this particular assassination attempt, as the last thing she wanted was to give the anti-mutant forces a martyr to rally behind…. which has now happened. The ‘collection’ ends with the cliffhanger of exactly who was responsible for the death, and I (the reader) am honestly scratching my head as to the answer, but in a good way. I can think of multiple motivations and multiple people that might have been responsible, and that allows for what I think will become a great mystery, at least I hope it does.
Again, this is an amazing group of very connected stories that tells a pivotal story in the ongoing X-Men saga. How it is 20 years later and it isn’t collected yet is beyond me, but I very much enjoyed reading it and encourage anyone out there to find the individual issues — however you personally do that — and give this a read.