Let’s face it, not every member of the X-Men dies the same.
If you’re an X-Man, you’re probably going to die at some point. But worry not, you’ll probably be brought back through some sort of nonsensical time-wizardry or cloning fiasco that we’ll just handwave away and we’ll gleefully continue read. What separates normal X-Men deaths from those that punch you in the gut, is what really matters. It’s the difference between the Wings of the world and the Jean Greys of the world. It can be done so well, even momentary deaths like we saw with Archangel in Uncanny X-Force can be impactful. Seriously, he was dead for like 5 panels and it still was an “ouch” moment. It needs gravitas and emotion behind it. The reason for their passing needs to be bigger than the actual act itself. Without further ado, here are the 10 most heartbreaking deaths of the X-Men.
10. Multiple Man
The X-Men use a lot of symbolism, none so on the nose more than their usage of the Legacy Virus. A concept birthed in the 90s but influenced by the AIDs panic of the late 80s, it was a deadly virus that infected mutants (and later humans as well). Semi-airborne it caused mutants to lose control of their powers before perishing. It was a plot device that demanded a sacrifice. One of the first victims of the illness was Jamie Madrox (or so we thought). He succumbed to the virus while on a mission with his X-Factor teammates as they battled Haven.
However, it turned out to be one of his dupes. It also wouldn’t be the first time a dupe bought the big one in place of Jamie Prime. During the Inhuman Vs. X-Men storyline Jamie and dozens or hundreds of his dupes were found dying of Terrigen Mist exposure. By this time, any effect that would have been had from his death was wasted. But his first “death scene” in the rain leaving his friends in mourning was the real heart string-puller.
I don’t think anyone would shed a tear for Sabretooth dying but when he did die during the final issue of Weapon-X, it wasn’t without some emotion! During the Axis storyline in which Red Skull had come into possession of the late Professor-X’s brain and implanted it into his own head (don’t ask), heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe found themselves mentally inverted. That meant, good guys became bad guys, and bad guys became good guys or something in between. Sabretooth was one of those affected and wanted nothing more than to atone for his sins as best he could. For him, that meant becoming an X-Man. For the next couple of years, Sabretooth, in the absence of the timeline’s true Wolverine, became the X-Men’s leading anti-hero.
After cutting his teeth as a member of Magneto’s team of X-Men, Sabretooth moved onto Weapon X-Force where he took control of a team of mercs comprised of the X-Men’s deadliest foes. And Deadpool. After journeying to hell and back to revive his dead son Graydon Creed (and stop William Striker from being resurrected), Sabretooth and company are successful, but he’s shot into a machine meant to be used for ritual sacrifice. Sabretooth is completely eviscerated. For all his efforts, he is immediately sent back to hell (for the third time- the second time that day…), but the devil rejected him. He decided to revive Sabretooth and released him back into the world where he can wreak havoc and justify his place in hell.
Following Uncanny X-Men: Disassembled the X-Men (and many others, that were called to their deaths by Jean Grey) were presumed dead, anyone else affiliated with them was imprisoned, in hiding, or being used to hunt down other mutant threats by the government. The rest of the mutant race was being chemically erased from the face of the Earth by way of Hank McCoy’s “cure.” That is the world Cyclops returned to.
Blindfold, one of the few remaining students when Cyclops returned to the land of the living, sought him out and shared her visions with him before disappearing. Shaken and genuinely concerned by her warnings of the future, Cyclops asked Multiple Man to find her, but sadly by the time he did, she was already dead. Blindfold had committed suicide after coming to the realization that she had no future. None that she could see. What made matters worse is that Blindfold passed before she could be reunited with Legion. Despite their combined instabilities, their relationship changed both of their lives forever.
Wolverine’s death only makes this list because of who he is. He’s been such a large part of the X-Men that his absence is hard to overlook. Which is probably why his role was quickly taken up by his clone/daughter X-23 and an older version of himself from an alternate timeline. Not to mention Sabretooth, Daken, and Jimmy Hudson, his alternate reality son from the Ultimate Universe. Not to miss out on a chance to sell a few covers, Marvel gave his passing its own miniseries subtly titled “The Death of Wolverine”.
Logan is robbed of his healing factor. This is a big deal, seeing as the adamantium that surrounds his bones is by nature toxic. A bigger problem is that this information has leaked out to some of his greatest enemies. Whilst having a target on his back, Wolverine was able to track down the culprit that began it all, Dr. Abraham Cornelius. When Wolverine arrived at Cornelius’ facility, the mad scientist revealed that all he needed was his adamantium. After he defeated Cornelius’ latest creation, Sharp, Wolverine is covered in molten adamantium. He succeeded in chasing down and killing Cornelius but ultimately died, suffocated by the metal as it cooled and solidifies around him.
Sometimes it’s not the character themselves that leaves an impact when they expire. Often what matters most is how they go out. Calvin Montgomery Rankin, better known as the mutate (not mutant) Mimic debuted in X-Men #19 in 1966 as a soft antagonist. I say “soft” because he started out more as a temporary nuisance to the X-Men. Matter of fact, he’s been an X-Man as many times as he’s been an adversary. In his most recent appearance, which proved to be his final, Mimic was reluctantly recruited by the teenaged-version of Cable. To send the original X-Men back to their proper place in history, he needed to replace teen Angel’s fiery cosmic wings.
Mimic just happened to have a fresh pair of feathery ones. Mimic was abducted while grocery shopping of all things and taken to young Cable’s secret bunker where he surgically removed his wings and transplanted them on Angel. When the X-Men finally arrived, they were surprised to learn that Mimic went along with it (well, after vowing to kill Cable). When the villain Ahab arrived with his hounds with the intention of slaying at least one of the original X-Men (to forever disrupt the timeline in his favor), Mimic stepped up and attacked him wearing Cyclops’ visor. Ahab successfully impaled Mimic upon one of his spears. Assuming he’d accomplished his goal by killing what he thought was Cyclops, he retreated. Mimic’s last words were “I just wanted to help.”
Death comes for every X-Man not named Storm. So, when Psylocke’s number came up in X-Treme X-Men, it may have been abrupt, but it was inevitable. Throughout her X-Men career, she’s had a couple of brushes with death. First came when she and the rest of what would become known as the “Outback” team died on National Television only to be “reborn” immediately after. She definitely almost died when Sabretooth gutted her in the ‘90s. The X-Men, while being led by Rogue in search of the lost diaries of Destiny, were up against a seemingly undefeatable foe in a mysterious man named simply “Vargas.” In several meetings, with little help, he was able to best the team of Thunderbird (Neal), Storm, Bishop, Rogue, Psylocke, and Beast.
When the latter two were left alone against him in defense of a beaten Rogue, it’s not hard to imagine how it all ended. Beast was immediately brutalized and left near death to bear witness. Psylocke, alone, challenged him but didn’t fare any better than her teammates. When the rest of the X-Men arrived, they found Psylocke’s dead body laid across an unconscious Beast with the word “Pronto” written above them in her blood. She would later be resurrected by her reality-bending brother Jamie, but Psylocke’s death gave the X-Treme series a real sense of finality and earnestness.
Colossus is many things for the X-Men. While he is physically one of their strongest, he’s also one of their most gentle and sensitive souls. Though his massive size and immense strength has allowed him to literally engage in battle with gods, he’d much rather spend his time painting or doting over his little sister Illyana (before she became a 6ft tall, hell-lord, dominatrix, of course). His sister has been a huge influence in his life. He outed himself as a mutant to save her from an out of control tractor and even became one of Magneto’s Acolytes after she died due to complications from the Legacy Virus.
It’s only fitting that once a cure had been discovered that Colossus would want to help get it out. Unfortunately, the cure needed a living host to act as a catalyst. Performing the act would mean death for the subject. Having endured so much heartache at the loss of his sister, Colossus took it upon himself and injected the serum into his still flesh body. When he transformed into his armored form, it was done. The virus was activated and immediately became airborne. Colossus died, but ensured that the mutant race would no longer have to fear the Legacy Virus.
3. Illyana Rasputin
If you’d Google the name Illyana Rasputin or her moniker, Magik, you’d probably be a little confused. She debuted in 1975 as the younger sister of the new X-Man Colossus but wouldn’t be known as “Magik” until 1983 after being abducted by the demon Belasco to the hell-dimension called Limbo. Belasco hoped to use her soul to enrich the Beatrix Medallion to gain more power, but his plans backfired. In other words, he played himself. There, Illyana learned both light and dark magic from demons and an alternate reality version of Storm as well as acquired her signature Soulsword.
She overthrew Belasco, became the ruler of Limbo, and then finally returned to Earth, though a full 10-years older than when she was taken. She joined the Jr. X-Men team of the time, the New Mutants, and later formed deep friendships with Jubilee and Kitty. It was around this time she was infected with the Legacy Virus. Illyana succumbed to the illness and died. She would later be reborn through a spell cast by Belasco, but because he used a corrupted version of her soul to do so, she returned demonic. After encountering the young group of New X-Men, being reunited with her brother Colossus, and regaining her Soulsword, she retook her human form and officially returned to Earth.
2. Jean Grey
The queen of death, herself, Jean dies more often than anyone, but always manages to come back. During the complete Phoenix Saga, Jean “dies” several times. The first occurred when she volunteered to pilot a damaged shuttlecraft following a mission in space. With her body being eaten away by radiation, the Phoenix Force reached out to her, rescued her from dying, and kicked off one of Marvel’s best stories to date. Jean became known as the Phoenix and aided the X-Men for several years. However, it would be revealed that this wasn’t Jean at all, but something of a facsimile. The real Jean was safely resting at the bottom of Jamaica Bay.
During her adventures on Earth and in space with the X-Men (as well as being manipulated by the Hellfire Club), the Phoenix, new to the sensation of emotions, found itself corrupted by them. It fell into madness and became the Dark Phoenix! During its ravaging of a distant solar system’s sun, it laid waste to a planet of innocent beings and drew the attention of the Shi’Ar who deemed Jean too powerful to be allowed to exist. The X-Men fought valiantly to save her, but Jean’s persona overtook the Phoenix and committed suicide in order to spare the universe any more harm.
It’s hard to use the word “innocent” when describing any of the X-Men, but Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner came close. And it’s not like he didn’t have a reason to be disgruntled. Despite his boyish personality and lighthearted spirit, he held a demonic appearance which led him to be abandoned as a baby. The only way he was able to find peace in the world was to use his amazing abilities to entertain people as part of a traveling circus. When he joined the X-Men his life didn’t get any better. He found heartache, persecution, and had his life threatened daily. Having found out that the collar he earned was a farce, or that he was born to help his demonic father crossover into the mortal realm didn’t help matters.
In Second Coming, the follow-up story to Messiah Complex, the mutant race was just holding on. There were less than 300 members worldwide with many of them residing on the artificial island of Utopia.
After spending years in the timestream, Cable would return with his daughter Hope, who many prayed would reignite the mutant race. However, a new threat surfaced in Bastion. Bastion and several resurrected and cyborg versions of human X-Men villains raised an army of Nimrods. One of these monstrosities had cornered Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Hope. After it made quick work of Rogue, Nightcrawler acted and attempted to get Hope to safety. Unfortunately, it cost him his life. Nightcrawler’s death lead the X-Men to splinter. Without his voice of reason, a schism formed and nearly destroyed the X-Men forever.
So which X-Men death hit you hardest? Let us know below.