After 50 years of comics, movies and television series, it’s pretty safe to say that everyone has their favorite X-Man. Whether it’s Wolverine, Mystique, Magneto or someone else — hundreds of mutants have been affiliated the many teams charged with carrying out Professor Xavier’s mission of mutant and human peace. Many of these heroes have also earned adoration from the fans.
There are, however, some mutants that aren’t as widely respected or celebrated. Whether it’s because of their powers, costume, attitude or bad choices, a few members of the X-Men just can’t seem to catch a break. Do Marvel mutants like Jubilee or Dazzler really deserve their lesser reputation? And is there anything redeeming about short-lived X-Men like Maggott or Marrow? Could it be some of the most often overlooked characters are really just misunderstood?
Honoring the mutants that deserve the spotlight, CBR News put together our own list of 10 Underrated X-Men That Are Secretly Awesome. Disagree with our choices, or have your own favorites that you think deserve the limelight? Sound off in the CBR’s X-Books Forum with your picks!
It’s easy to rag on Cyclops. After all, he’s the leader of the team and his nearly uncontrollable optic blasts force him to live a life of restraint. He’s the guy that characters like Wolverine rebel against. For much of the X-Men’s history, Cyclops has led mutantkind in the fight against persecution, making personal sacrifices along the way. Through thick and thin Cyclops doesn’t give up on the fight for mutant survival — even if that means breaking bad and going against the only family he’s known. Cyclops’ undying conviction is just one reason why he is one of the most underrated X-Men of all time.
Marvel and Casablanca Records created Dazzler in an attempt to capitalize on the disco craze. She was originally intended to be a multimedia sensation, with Bo Derek playing the mutant in a never-produced film. Dazzler’s usually dismissed as the roller-skating X-Man with Farrah hair, but she really pulls inspiration from a different disco legend: Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Dazzler survived the death of disco, the X-Men’s dangerous stay in Australia, a civil war in the Mojoverse and numerous threats as she jumped through dimensions. She even survived Mystique posing as her, ruining her reputation with both the X-Men and S.H.I.E.L.D. As Dazzler has fought her way back, her disco roots have shifted to an edgier, punkier style.
Marrow’s one example of an extremely ’90s mutant: she’s got a gross power involving excessive bone growths, serious rage issues and she also wears a ridiculously colored costume. Marrow’s brief time with the X-Men depicted a woman struggling with the expectations placed upon her. The X-Men saw her as feral, so she acted ferociously towards them. This short-lived X-Man is great because she tackled identity issues head on. Marrow’s recent appearances have reimagined the character as a one-woman bone-wielding army, proving that she’s way more formidable that forgettable.
Shatterstar’s similarity to early ’90s MTV icons was pretty intentional. He’s a hunky warrior complete with an aggressive hairstyle and double-bladed swords for extra stabbing. But once the dust kicked up by his arrival had settled, Shatterstar’s journey towards self-discovery made him the Data of X-Force — albeit one that’s way more ripped than Brent Spiner’s “Star Trek” character. Shatterstar’s development continued during his tenure with X-Factor in the 2000s, when writer Peter David confirmed that the character is both bisexual and polyamorous. Shatterstar may have started out as sword-slinger with Axl Rose hair, but this warrior has grown into one of comics’ most notable queer characters.
In a few short years, Gambit went from being a new X-Man to a headliner whose face was drawn on everything from pogs to pizza boxes. The Ragin’ Cajun popularity leapfrogged past X-Men mainstays as his cartoonishly thick Cajun accent won over viewers of Fox’s “X-Men” cartoon. While some fans claim he’s just a 52-pick-up playing pick-up artist, Gambit is great because he’s unapologetically fun and as LMFAO would say “he’s sexy and he knows it.” Just like Daniel Craig’s beach body James Bond, Gambit’s a rare example of a male character that leans into — and owns — his physical appeal. With such unique character traits, Gambit truly is one of most secretly awesome X-Men.
5. Adam-X, the X-Treme
For the most part, Adam-X is what he is: a goateed hair metal enthusiast with a backwards baseball cap and more blades than a Cutco salesperson, talk about “X-Treme”! But during his mid-’90s heyday, writers flirted with giving him depth; he was almost made Cyclops and Havok’s long-lost brother, but that storyline was scrapped after a few somewhat poignant hints. Instead, there’s reason to embrace Adam-X for what he is: the X-Men equivalent of “Fast and Furious.” He’s loud, aggressive and over-the-top, but his longing for a deep familial connection is also right there in his character history. Just like how Dom Toretto and company are equally bombastic and sensitive, so is Adam-X. And come on, the blades are pretty rad too.
Jubilee’s major claim to fame is being the entry point character in the ’90s “X-Men” cartoon, so there’s a bit of a generational bias when it comes to this firecracker. Viewers that grew up in the early ’90s may relate to this self-proclaimed “mall babe with a major ‘tude,” but her appeal may be lost on those that came before or after that era. Still, Jubilee’s a character that brings equal parts fun and snark to the X-Men’s generally bleak adventures. Jubilee’s also great because she’s matured out of her teen sidekick phase and is frequently used as a mentor to other teen mutants — and those characters need advice because being a teenage X-Man is rough.
Because X-Men stories are action stories, most mutants have powers designed to blast, cut, throw, fry or straight up annihilate their opponents. Cypher doesn’t have that. Instead, Cypher has a power that would actually be useful in real life: he can understand any language, spoken, written or otherwise. While being a translator doesn’t help him in a gunfight, translating is a great skill to have when your team is constantly crashing in foreign countries or offending extraterrestrials. Recently, writers have boosted Cypher’s skills to make him understand body language — which includes mimicking martial arts moves with ease. But what makes Cypher great is his personality; with his empathetic nature and genuine sincerity, he becomes the heart of every team he’s on. In an action packed world, Cypher is a breath of fresh air that deserved much more recognition.
As a de-aged and amnesiac clone of Magneto, it can be hard to make the case for Joseph. But Joe allowed writers to explore the classic nature vs. nurture theory as applied to the X-Men’s most morally gray adversary. Hints of his inner Magneto’s ruthlessness would appear occasionally, which made it feel like the X-Men had a ticking mutant bomb on their roster. Joseph also gave Rogue the best Christmas gift ever: a piece of alien hardware that canceled out her mutant abilities, allowing her to touch people without hurting them. Meeting his end by sacrificing his life to stop a newly returned Magneto from wrecking the Earth, Joseph’s origin is definitely convoluted, but his heroism is clear.
With an external digestive system composed of two metallic slugs, Maggott easily has one of the grossest mutant powers out there. Sure, consuming matter gives him super strength and turns his skin blue, but not having a stomach is a weird price to pay for powers. The wise-cracking character brought some fun to the team, and his newcomer status allowed him to call out some of the more insane things about the X-Men. As someone battling self-doubt and shame spurred by his power, he also brought a different viewpoint to the team’s struggle for mutant acceptance. He may be a little gross, but he’s definitely one of a kind and that’s why he is one of the most underrated X-Men around.
Think your favorite mutant is under- or overrated? Let us know in the comments!
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