Marvel Comics may or may not have a dilemma on their hands. In the summer crossover event House of X & Powers of X, writer Jonathan Hickman revealed that the X-Men had begun not just resurrecting their recent fallen comrades – Chamber, Wolfsbane, Banshee, Multiple Man, and Magik, for example – but were well on their way to restoring every victim of human-on-mutant violence over the years. All very ambitious and benevolent.
However, it wasn’t their intent that fans began to question, but the means in which it was being done.
The dead characters in question aren’t brought back in the usual ways – by that I mean the use of mystical arts or divine intervention – but through mutant-power fueled science.
Using acquired DNA samples, new bodies are created, and then artificially matured to the appropriate age. Xavier – with the help of a juiced-up Cerebro – then installs the latest image of the subject’s mind.
Simple enough, right? Except that there’s a component missing that’s been vital to every corner of the Marvel Universe almost from its very inception up until now. The existence of the soul. While not Biblically correct, the concept has been a pillar of Marvel Comics lore for decades. Entire arcs and characters have been and are currently based around them – the fact that it hasn’t been addressed on-panel is peculiar.
I say ‘on-panel’ because Hickman has already been questioned on it, but for the moment has all but hand waved it away, possibly as to not give away a future plot thread. There are just some questions he won’t answer, such as how Monet was able to transform into Penance at will and why Cyclops still needs a visor after being given a new body.
Good questions, especially seeing as he also suggests that when we saw those two and others be reborn in the fifth issue of House of X – following their deaths in the prior two issues – that it may not have been their first time.
Hickman tells Adventures in Poor Taste:
“And we’ve already shown a couple of interesting tweaks like Monet being able to assume a Penance form and Warren being able to be both regular angel and Archangel. So, there seems to be some ability to tweak the finished version of a resurrected mutant. Is that also true about their age? Or about other aspects of their physical condition? What about their gender? What about if they want to be backed up from an earlier version? One that hasn’t suffered a particular trauma or had their heartbroken?”
That’s a big f****** deal, people. Between the end of Matthew Rosenbergs’ Uncanny X-Men run and the debut of House of X/ Powers of X, there was an in-story 6-month gap.
Outside of setting up the infrastructure that would become the Krakoan nation and economic system, we have no idea what the X-Men were up to.
Did they die? How many, exactly? Were they forcefully replaced with more agreeable versions?
Of the 8 X-Men that perished during the strike on the Orchis base – and while many mutants did die in Uncanny X-Men – none of them were dead prior to it.
Jean, Cyclops, and Wolverine had all been recently restored to life over the past year but Monet, Angel, Mystique, Husk, and Nightcrawler – for all we know – were alive and well. Most participated in the Age of X-Man crossover event.
Marvel’s no stranger to the idea of cloned characters. YouTuber Richard Meyers, the host of the channel Comics MATER w/ Ya Boi Zack, recently brought up as much in a recent video.
The imprint does indeed have an issue with doppelgangers and often uses that as a focal point for story arcs. Take for example the infamous Spider-Man Clone Saga, Heroes Reborn or the more recent instance with Black Widow and Iron Man.
While Stark, Spider-Man and the Black Widow’s brushes can be attributed to whacky science, – in the case of Heroes Reborn – the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Doctor Doom died defeating Onslaught. They weren’t resurrected via ‘conventional means’ – sorcery, cloning, or time travel – but recreated inside of a pocket universe by Franklin Richards and just dropped into the 616.
There are MANY more instances of this and I suppose it can be traced back to the performance of Marvel’s editorial staff. Unlike in DC where the entire universe is rebooted every 10 to 15 years (sometimes less), Marvel has gone on using the same story since the beginning. Even the rebuilding of the entire plane of existence during Secret Wars didn’t change much.
So, if Marvel has done this in the past, why’s it an issue now? It’s not exactly the same. Outside of Heroes Reborn, characters are typically only resurrected every so often and in isolated instances. At the moment, there are more cloned – possibly soulless – X-Men and mutants than ones that naturally gestated within a womb.
It’s not a huge franchise-threatening problem. It’s just messy. Almost as messy as it was a couple of years ago where nearly every main X-Man had at least one time-displaced double within the main continuity. Giving Marvel some credit, they did fix the problem. Prior to the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men, they systematically removed these distractions through mini-series and uh, very careful… murder.
Much of the same can be done, not just for the X-Men, but for the whole Marvel Universe.
In an earlier article we spoke of the chance that Marvel may, in fact, be angling to utilize Moira MacTaggert’s last life to not just reboot the X-Men one last time, but the whole Marvel Universe.
Knowing how Hickman writes and the amount of influence he’s been given over this franchise and the Avengers/ Fantastic Four before – all these soulless meat-puppet X-Men may be what kicks off a whole new Marvel Universe. Fingers crossed.