When the X-Men mess up, at least they mess up big.
The X-Men have a stellar track record with overcoming the odds, but often the moment tends to overwhelm them, at least in parts. However, there are times where the X-Men have for the most part utterly failed or performed so inadequately, they made a bad situation worse. Most of the time it’s due to interpersonal relationships or decisions made from pure emotion rather than leaning on cold logic. They’ve always been more of a family than a team, which is probably why they are so unwilling to sacrifice anyone, even if it means supporting the greater good. Their mistakes often affect more than just themselves simply because of the level they operate on. Sometimes tragedy befalls their loved ones and charges rather than themselves. Here are 10 times the X-Men failed.
10. Bishop Goes Off the Deep End
I suppose this is less of an X-Men failure story and more a result of bad writing dressed-up as a retcon. Bishop is originally from a somewhat distant future where he was a high-ranking officer in the Xavier Security Enforcers. Before that, he and his sister grew up in concentration camps. Following the deaths of both their parents after they immigrated from Australia, the two siblings lived with their paternal grandmother in New York. Mutants were second class citizens and forced to live within ghettos positioned across every country, governed over by Sentinels. Though Bishop had grown up to become one of the most well-adjusted X-Men to date, he held onto his unpleasant childhood memories and it secretly drove him insane.
So insane that when he found out about the baby Hope, he set his mind on murdering the child recognizing her as the catalyst for his future. During his rampage he alienated the X-Men, lost an arm to Predator-X, and shot Professor-X in the head. He did the last part by accident, but it happened while a rather large group of X-Men stood by and watched. Bishop would go on to chase Cable and the baby for years throughout the time stream and even kill the entire population of a future earth. Bishop spent years in the company of the X-Men, half of which can read minds. How exactly does trauma that severe just slip through the cracks? And with one of their very own?
9. Hiding in Hell
So, all your leaders, save for one (Storm), are gone. The Earth’s surface is inhospitable from time to time due to the presence of one or more toxic clouds of Inhuman Terrigen mist floating about the atmosphere. Contact with it results in life threatening illness, sterilization, and/or immediate death. What’s the plan? Transporting every wooden inch of the Jean Grey School into Limbo. What’s Limbo, you ask? It’s one of several hell-dimensions infested with demons both meager and powerful. It exists as a way-station for several alternate realities and intersecting malevolent worlds. It’s a realm that is perpetually on fire and whose denizens only band together when fresh meat is present. So why on earth, would the X-Men choose to hide there of all places? The only sane reasoning behind such a decision was that Magik, a longtime X-Man, is the dimension’s “ruler”.
By ruler, I mean the realm’s most powerful being, but she has no official control over anyone or anything within the dimension. It’s chaotic and it’s something the X-Men had to contend with every waking moment they hid there. It was a bad idea from the get-go. The X-Men had any number of places to use as refuge including; the blue of the moon, Atlantis, or even creating another Asteroid-M-like base in orbit (if Mags could do it alone in the ‘90s, think of what a combined effort from him, the X-Men and the Avengers could have accomplished). Day and night, the X-Men and their horde of plucky students were put at risk trying to survive in a wooden structure, plopped down in the middle of a burning demon free-for-all. Why? Bad out of character decision making on the part of their leader, Storm that no one saw fit to question.
Luckily, that didn’t last forever. Nope. Under Kitty Pryde’s leadership, they’d later move… to Central Park. Yes. That Central Park.
8. Khan’s Invasion of Earth
The first arc of Chris Claremont’s X-Treme X-Men had a lot of moving parts. Rogue’s team of X-Men included Psylocke, Storm, Sage, Bishop, Thunderbird (Neal), and Beast. Their initial purpose was to locate the lost diaries of Rogue’s deceased foster-mother, Destiny. Along the way, they met another force in Vargas, seeking to do much of the same to prevent a future he didn’t exactly want to materialize (his death at the hands of Rogue). On top of that, they had to contend with Khan, the ambitious invader from an alternate reality that made a habit of dominating his neighboring universes. The X-Men fail on multiple levels during this story. While they add members Gambit, Lifeguard, and her little brother Slipstream- Psylocke is murdered by Vargas and Beast is all but killed and forced to leave active duty.
To make matters worse, Gambit is abducted and used as a battery to power a shield in the middle of Madripoor. The shield acted as protection for Khan’s forces as they built out a beachhead which would allow him to eventually overrun the Earth’s forces. Things had gotten so bad not even the Avengers and the Fantastic Four’s combined help was truly able to fix the problem. Not being able to keep their problems contained, the X-Men nearly lost the lives of Rogue, Gambit, Storm (who was also taken by Khan to be one of his concubines), Slipstream, and Sage. Not to mention, nearly saw the entire planet thrown into a multi-universal war. Oh, they also had no idea that Lifeguard (and subsequently her brother) were of Shi’Ar Royal lineage. Had they died and the Shi’Ar learned of it, it may have caused quite a stir amongst the intergalactic community.
7. The Phalanx Take the X-Mansion
The Techarchy are a race of advanced techno-organic beings. Our first interaction with the extraterrestrials arrived when the Jr. X-Men team, the New Mutants, came into contact with Warlock, who eventually joined the team. The race propagates by incorporating other living subjects into their collective after exposing them to their transmode virus and stealing their life force which fuels their own. Warlock is eventually abducted and killed by the Genoshan ruler Cameron Hodge as he attempted to incorporate the alien’s abilities into himself to aide in his quest to subjugate mutant-kind. The act did more than that. It created a group of transmode infected humans that became known as the Phalanx.
As Phalanx, these humans held the race’s abilities to not just absorb matter (living and otherwise) but shapeshift at will. They spread like a true virus and due to their ability to hide in plain sight, it went unnoticed. Even within the X-Mansion. Before they even knew what was happening, most of the X-Men, including Rogue, Gambit, Bishop, and their leader Cyclops had been subdued and replaced with Phalanx imposters. It was due to sheer luck and tenacity that they were able to survive the Phalanx Covenant arc. Without the help of non-X-Men like Sabretooth, of all people, there’s no telling how far their destruction would have gone. The X-Men didn’t just create the situation by allowing an alien to be taken from their custody but failed to stop Warlock’s abductors from experimenting on and ultimately murdering him.
6. The Attack and Eventual Suicide of Wing
Something amazing happened in my life back in 2004. Growing up in the ‘90s one of my favorite TV series was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That show and its spin-off Angel became must-see television for me. When it was announced that the franchise’s creator/writer Joss Whedon would be writing my favorite comic book, the X-Men, it was something of a dream come true for me. While he had to write in the dreary world that Grant Morrison created before him, he did bring in his familiar (perhaps infamous) quippy Buffy-style of dialogue. However, like in Buffy, Whedon would cloak horror and suspense within his humor.
During Whedon’s run, the X-Men were dealing with the reality of a “mutant cure.” Not exactly a new concept, I know. Little did the public know, the development of the serum was being pushed along with the help of an alien named Ord. Said alien was able to penetrate the X-Mansion, despite all its telepaths and super-sensory, para-military trained men and women. Typically, the X-Mansion is supposed to be hard to access. Easy to destroy, but someone that’s not authorized isn’t supposed to be able to just walk right on inside. Mind you, the main team of X-Men were away on a mission, but still…
While there, Ord was able to grab Wing and inject the youngster with the cure. The two were several hundred feet above the ground at the time. Ord let Wing, who once could fly, fall to the ground. The combined efforts of Armor and Elixir were able to save his life, but that wouldn’t be the end of Wing’s troubles. Without his powers, he fell into depression. While running a simulation, he was motivated to jump off of a ledge by the Danger Room’s growing sentient A.I., Danger. He eventually does so and died. The act also allowed Danger to defy her programming and gain freedom, which led to whole host of other problems for the X-Men.
5. Apocalypse Succeeds in Gathering The Twelve
When dealing with an age’s old villain like Apocalypse, one must keep their head on a swivel. Due to his apparent immortality and equally impressive patience, he’s known for setting into play plans that may not see fruit for eons. But again, this dude is mad patient. In the distant future, Apocalypse rules the planet. Tanya Trask who was stuck hurtling through time is rescued by Mother Askani (Rachel Summers) and anchored there in the future. Tanya is dissatisfied with the world and attempted to fix it by traveling back into the past, because that always works out. While there, before being ripped back by Mother Askani, she implanted information into Master Mold about twelve mutants that would cause her future.
Through several interactions with Master Mold, the legend of the Twelve worked its way to the present. Supposedly they are twelve mutant heroes said to help mutant-kind revolt against an oppressive human regime and Apocalypse is supposedly among them, which he confirms himself. In actuality they are; Bishop, Mikhail Rasputin, Sunfire, Cyclops, Jean, Magneto, Xavier, the Living Monolith, Iceman, Polaris, Storm, and Cable. They are not heroes meant to save mutant-kind, but powerful mutants Apocalypse wanted to use to become a god.
Apocalypse also needed X-Man to use a new body to contain all this power. Apparently, he set all this in motion to easily gather his prey together. Before all this, he turned Wolverine into his horseman, Death, to further keep the X-Men off balance and help him in his plans. This included the abduction of missing members of the Twelve. Apocalypse played the X-Men into doing most of the work. While he failed to complete his scheme, he did essentially kill Cyclops (for a while) when used his body as a vessel instead of X-Man’s. He also became powerful enough to twist reality twice in hopes of ascending to true godhood, but fortunately, failed.
4. The X-Men Back the Phoenix Five
Mutants became an endangered species when the Scarlet Witch decided to cast a spell that eliminated all but about 300 of them. The X-Men did their best to sustain their numbers. Cyclops, their leader, even turned their artificial island of Utopia into a protective fortress to help do just that. After all their struggling and heartache, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of the Phoenix Force. That giant firebird of death and rebirth was hurtling through space on a beeline straight for earth. Scott saw this as a chance to see the X-Gene reignited. The sketchy part was that the Phoenix was incinerating planets on its way.
This rightfully concerned the Avengers. However, with little to no experience with the Phoenix, the Avengers should have probably approached the X-Men more harmoniously. Nevertheless, it turned into a mini-war of heroes (or an MCU propaganda) with friends on both sides called Avengers Vs. X-Men. The altercation hit its peak when the forces met on the blue area of the moon of all places. The Avengers, hoping to destroy the Phoenix only succeeded in splitting it into five pieces which found homes in Cyclops, Emma, Namor, Magik, and Colossus.
Now miniature gods, at first, they began to make improvements to the earth and the X-Men followed them every step of the way. They even assisted in hunting down and imprisoning Avengers. But the power did as power typically does. The Phoenix Five were corrupted by their godly abilities. After turning on each other, Cyclops stood alone and went full Dark Phoenix. It ended with both sides uniting to take Cyke down. Professor-X attempted to reason with Cyclops, but tragically lost his life to his greatest student. The X-Men didn’t just toe the line, in many spots, they bent the knee to the Phoenix Five. In a way, they were accessories to Professor-X’s murder.
3. Captured by Krakoa
If there was ever a cluster foxtrot to be had for the X-Men, it was their interaction with the living island, Krakoa. In their never-ending quest to find new mutants, the X-Men Cyclops, Jean, Iceman, Beast, Havok, Angel, and Polaris journeyed to a mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Once they arrived, they were attacked and captured by the island itself, as they discovered that it was semi-sentient. With his X-Men team being used as “food,” Professor-X recruited Moira MacTaggert’s team of X-Men in Vulcan, Petra, Sway, and Darwin to help free his students. They managed to rescue Cyclops, but Petra and Sway died horrible deaths while Darwin and Vulcan just barely survived, kept alive due to the dying efforts of each other’s abilities (including those of their slain teammates).
Horrified, Professor-X erased the memories of the incident from all involved and covered up the whole incident. With the help of his new X-Men in Storm, Colossus, Sunfire, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, Wolverine, and Banshee, led by Cyclops the original captive members were freed. After the first two failures, the incident would come back to haunt them as Vulcan would awaken years later with a huge chip on his shoulder. It kicked into motion a plethora of events including War of Kings which mainly took place in the Shi’ar Empire. Vulcan would take control of the Shi’ar Empire and begin a host of intergalactic wars. No biggie.
2. X-Men: The End
Chris Claremont’s X-Men swan song, The End is basically what it is supposed to, or what can happen towards the end of the franchises’ road. For all intents and purposes, it’s also a worst-case scenario where the X-Men are caught with their guard down. In combined efforts from like… everyone including Cassandra Nova, the Brood, Skrulls, and Khan, just about every X-Man you can think of is killed in very unpleasant, and in many cases heartbreaking, ways.
In the world of The End, the X-Men had, for the most part, achieved their goals. Mutants weren’t in present danger while living among normal humans, and the X.S.E. was in full swing keeping the peace. The School existed like any other and regularly hosted public functions while being led by past students. A large portion of the original members are retired from active duty and pursuing their own interests. Which is probably why they didn’t see eradication coming around the corner.
They are attacked by War Skrulls, blitzed by sleeper agents within their ranks, quietly murdered via ambush and betrayed while victory is within their grasp. The death toll by itself is staggering with only a precious few making it out unscathed. The brunt of the damage the X-Men suffer is because of how relaxed they had become over the years. Their enemies constructed carefully laid plans that resulted in the X-Mansion becoming nothing more than a gigantic crater, despite how many powerful heroes they had at their disposal. The X-Men survived, but had lost so many loved ones, did it feel like a victory?
1. Legion Creates the Age of Apocalypse
David Haller, the infinitely powered son of Professor Charles Xavier woke up from a coma. Once suffering from schizophrenia, he was now as clear-minded as he’d ever been. In control of all his facets he wanted to do one thing; make his father’s dream of mutant/human co-existence a reality. Problem was, the world had become so hostile towards mutants that it was a near impossibility. This was in large parts thanks to the life-long efforts of Magneto. With the damage done in the present, David decided that his work needed to be performed in the past by killing Magneto there. Before he made his way there, he decided that rampaging through a couple of Middle-Eastern countries would be a great idea.
It certainly gave the X-Men more than one opportunity to stop David. However, after some prolonged confrontations, they still managed to fail.
After he was able to punch a hole in time and travel into the past, the X-Men followed. Once he and they regained their memories (they’d lost them in the travel and spent a good amount of time in the past before getting ahold of themselves), the X-Men had another chance to make things right. They engaged David and still managed to famously fail and allowed him to accidentally kill his father instead of Magneto. The action caused a time paradox and created the Age of Apocalypse. That was a pretty big blunder which was host to a whole other universe of X-Men screw-ups.