Thanks to titles like Marvel Legacy, Marvel’s X-Men comics are filled with the long-awaited returns of some iconic mutants. While all kinds of resurrections and departures are standard fare for superhero stories, members of the X-Men seem to die, leave the team or come back every other month. Since the X-franchise has so many fan-favorite characters, that’s the only way the X-Men’s stories could give every major mutant a meaningful role on a semi-regular basis. While X-members have exited the team in several moving or inventive ways, their dramatic returns have been some of the strangest stories ever told in superhero comics.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at some of the most absurd returns in the history of the X-Men. In this list, we’ll be looking at the craziest, most shocking ways that members of the X-Men came back from the dead, seemingly came back from the dead or returned after an extended period away from the team. While this list is hardly comprehensive, we’ll be celebrating the myriad of ways that X-Men came home in a deeply strange way. The X-Men’s adventures have been exciting and sometimes astonishing, but stories like these make them Marvel’s most uncanny heroes.
15. JEAN GREY
In Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum’s epic, “The Phoenix Saga,” the telepathic Jean Grey called on the all-powerful Phoenix Force to save the X-Men from crashing into New York’s Jamaica Bay. In 1976’s X-Men #101, a seemingly possessed Jean Grey emerged as the Phoenix. After a few years, the Phoenix went mad and threatened the universe before her death in Claremont and John Byrne’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga.”
Due to an edict from Marvel editor Jim Shooter, Jean couldn’t come back unless she was absolved of the Dark Phoenix’s genocidal actions. Using an idea from Kurt Busiek, Byrne’s Fantastic Four #286 revealed that “Phoenix” was really a human form created by the Phoenix Force. In that 1986 tale, the real Jean Grey emerged, unharmed and oblivious, from a healing cocoon in Jamaica Bay. Freed from Phoenix’s shadow, she and the other original X-Men regrouped to form the mutant-protecting team X-Factor.
In one of the X-Men’s most shocking moments, the super-strong Colossus gave up his life to create a cure for the Legacy Virus, the mutant plague that killed his sister. Despite that moving story’s seemingly simple sacrifice, death is never that easy for an X-Man. As revealed in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men #4 in 2004, Colossus was abducted by aliens and revived in true Marvel Comics fashion.
Colossus’ captor was an alien named Ord from the war-obsessed planet Breakworld. With the help of human scientist Kavita Rao, he revived Piotr Rasputin and used his DNA to make a “cure” that could take away a mutant’s powers. By doing this, he believed that he could stay his planet’s prophesied destruction at the hands of a mutant. While the X-Men were investigating the mutant cure, they found Colossus, who rejoined the team and eventually saved Breakworld from its doom.
13. PROFESSOR X
The X-Men’s mentor, Charles Xavier, also known as Professor X, has come and gone from the team more times than most of his students. Xavier’s left the team for the first time in Roy Thomas and Don Heck’s X-Men #41. In that 1968 tale, Xavier seemingly died fighting the completely forgotten underground villain Grotesk. As Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams revealed in X-Men #65, that was all a hoax.
As detailed in that 1970 story, Xavier went into hiding and was being impersonated by the shape-shifting Changeling during that attack. While his impersonator died, Xavier lived on and prepared to fight off an alien invasion for the war-obsessed Z’Nox. When the reptilian aliens attacked, Xavier revealed himself to the X-Men and used his telepathic abilities to link every mind on Earth together. Overwhelmed by the focused totality of humanity’s love, courage and strength, the aliens fled into Marvel obscurity.
As if going through her awkward teenage years with the X-Men wasn’t enough, Kitty Pryde, the intangible Shadowcat, had to suffer through one of the oddest fates in the Marvel Universe. During a battle with the X-Men, aliens from Breakworld shot a hollow, planet-size bullet towards Earth. Kitty used her phasing abilities to enter the bullet and made it pass harmlessly through space. While she saved everything in its path, Kitty was trapped alone in the bullet’s cold metal purgatory.
In Matt Fraction and Greg Land’s Uncanny X-Men #521, Shadowcat’s bullet reversed course back towards Earth. In that 2010 story, a repentant Magneto went into a meditative state on the top of California’s Mt. Tamalpais and pushed his magnetic powers past the limit to bring Kitty home. While Magneto was successful, Shadowcat was stuck in her intangible form, and briefly unable to speak, for a few months after her return.
For the first two decades of his existence, Warren Worthington III, the high-flying Angel, didn’t do too much to distinguish himself from his teammates. That all changed when Angel’s wings were amputated after sustaining wounds during the 1986 crossover “Mutant Massacre.” After falling into a deep depression, he seemingly killed himself when his private jet exploded in mid-air.
In reality, his mutant-hating nemesis, Cameron Hodge, had planted the bomb and the immortal villain Apocalypse teleported Warren to safety. In 1987’s X-Factor #23, by Louise and Walter Simonson, Angel re-emerged as Apocalypse’s Archangel. In return for becoming the Horseman of Death, Apocalypse gave Warren metal wings that let him fly again. Although he broke free of Apocalypse’s mind control, he struggled to control his newfound bloodthirsty side. Since then, Warren has vacillated between his blue-skinned Archangel look and his calmer, more classic appearance.
After going through Xavier’s School as one of the original teenage members of the New Mutants, the propulsive mutant Cannonball joined Cable’s paramilitary squad, X-Force. In 1992’s X-Force #7, by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, Cannonball’s time with the team appeared to come to a sudden halt when he was gutted by the energy vampire Sauron. In 1992’s X-Force #9, he reappeared, fully healed and very confused, just a few minutes after being impaled on Sauron’s dinosaur-esque talons.
While Sam Guthrie’s main power is his ability to propel himself through the air, this moment revealed that he was also an External. In some long-abandoned storylines, the Externals were a group of seemingly immortal, theoretically important mutants who could heal from fatal injuries. Ironically, most of the Externals died over the next few years. While Cannonball lived on, his possible immortality has been largely reduced to an afterthought.
Even though he’s led several X-teams, Havok has always struggled with the shadow of his older brother, Cyclops. Havok seemingly died in 1998 when an experimental time machine exploded in mid-air. Instead of dying, Alex Summers was sent to a dark parallel world where he was a prominent hero in the 1998 series Mutant X.
After another explosion, Havok was sent back to the regular Marvel Universe, where he was found in a comatose state in 2002’s Uncanny X-Men #411, by Chuck Austen and Ron Garney. With the help of his nurse, Annie Ghazikhanian, and her telepathic son, Carter, the X-Men were able to restore Havok’s mind. While Alex was in a coma, Carter had secretly linked Alex and Annie’s minds to make them fall in love. Although she briefly dated Havok, Annie and Carter have been largely ignored since they exited the X-titles in 2005.
For most of his tenure with the team, the teleporting Nightcrawler has been one of the X-Men’s most beloved members. That’s part of what made his sudden death in 2010’s “X-Men: Second Coming” so shocking. After Bastion, a super-advanced mutant-hunting Sentinel, impaled him, Nightcrawler enjoyed a peaceful afterlife where he occasionally nudged his living friends in the right direction. Around this time, Bamfs, small teleporting imps with an uncanny resemblance to Nightcrawler, also started appearing around the X-Mansion.
When his eternal paradise came under fire by his father Azazel, Nightcrawler met the X-Men in the afterworld in 2013’s Amazing X-Men #3, by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness. With the help of the Bamfs, Nightcrawler led the X-Men in pirate combat against his demonic father. At the end of that adventure, Nightcrawler rejoined the X-Men on Earth, hungry for more adventures.
Before she was a New Mutant and an X-Man, Magik was Colossus’ little sister Illyana Rasputin. While she was trapped in a hellish dimension called Limbo, she grew into a teleporting sorceress named Magik. While she struggled with her new dark side, the Darkchylde, she took over Limbo and returned to the Marvel Universe, where she died after contracting the Legacy Virus in 1993.
After sensing a version of Magik in House of M‘s alternate reality, Belasco, Magik’s nemesis and the ruler of Limbo, remembered the he had a crush on Magik and tried to revive her. In 2007’s New X-Men #38, by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and Skottie Young, Belasco only resurrected the Darkchylde side of Magik. With the help of the teenage New X-Men, Magik defeated Belasco, beating back her own dark side. After 2009’s “X-Infernus” crossover, she returned to the X-Men as a noticeably darker character.
At the peak of the X-Men’s popularity in the 1990s, Bishop traveled back in time from a parallel future to catch a time-traveling murderer and joined the X-Men to save them from a traitor. While he saved the team from an evil Charles Xavier, Bishop betrayed the team and tried to kill the young mutant Hope Summers in a twist of cruel irony. After chasing her through time for years, Bishop was left stranded in the year 6700.
On that dead Earth, Bishop became a monster hunter. He was eventually possessed by the Demon Bear and Ghost Owl, that future’s version of Xavier’s evil twin Cassandra Nova. The psychic monsters used Bishop as a means to time-travel to the past in 2013’s Uncanny X-Force #1, by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney. Although that left his mind in ruins, the X-Men healed him and welcomed him back after some mental rehabilitation.
5. STRONG GUY
Since he was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in 1985’s New Mutants #29, Strong Guy has surfed around the periphery of the X-Men. As his codename implies, Guido Carosella is one of the X-Men’s strongest mutants. After his government-sponsored team, X-Factor, disbanded, Strong Guy rejoined his old friends when they formed X-Factor Investigations.
After the assassin Ballistique shot him, Strong Guy died, but was revived by his teammate Layla Miller in 2011’s X-Factor #211, by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino. In the process, he lost his soul and quit X-Factor to work for the demonic ruler Mephisto. After killing the son of his teammate Wolfsbane, Strong Guy became the supreme ruler of that hellish dimension. Although he claimed that he wouldn’t leave his throne until he reclaimed his soul, Strong Guy was seen back on Earth during the recent crossovers Death of X and Secret Empire without explanation.
For most of his history, Magneto has been an outright villain, the X-Men’s uneasy ally and an occasional member of the team. At the star of Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, Magneto was apparently killed when Sentinels obliterated the mutant nation Genosha. In 2003’s New X-Men #146, by Morrison and Phil Jimenez, a vengeful Magneto seemingly unmasked himself after posing as the contemplative X-Man, Xorn, and tried to enslave humanity in a very public attack.
Shortly after that character was decapitated, the real Magneto emerged from hiding in Genosha’s ruins in 2004’s Excalibur #1, by Chris Claremont and Aaron Lopresti. In an editorially-mandated twist, Xorn was revealed to be a real character who impersonated Magneto while under the influence of the sentient virus Sublime. Despite numerous memorials to his memory, Magneto claimed that he had simply been “keeping a low profile” while his impersonator destroyed New York.
Cypher and Warlock, two of the New Mutants, were killed separately as that team morphed into X-Force in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While they were among the team’s weaker members, the two formed a close friendship that made them fan-favorite characters. In 1994’s Excalibur #77, by Scott Lobdell, Richard Ashford, Chris Cooper, Ken Lashley and Robert Brown, the hyper-lingual Doug Ramsey and the Technarch alien seemed to come back to life in a combined form as Douglock.
With Cypher’s memories and Warlock’s abilities, Douglock joined the British X-team Excalibur. After serving with that team for a time, Douglock discovered that he was really just a resurrected Warlock who had absorbed his late friend’s memories. He starred in the short-lived Warlock series in 1999, before reverting to his more natural alien form as Warlock. The friends were eventually reunited when Doug was revived during 2009’s X-Necrosha crossover.
2. X-MEN: DEADLY GENESIS
In Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine’s 2005 miniseries X-Men: Deadly Genesis, the X-Men learned that a previous X-team had been completely wiped from their history and their memories. Darwin, Petra, Sway and Vulcan were all seemingly slaughtered while trying to save the original group from the mutant island Krakoa.
While Petra and Sway were killed, Darwin transformed into energy that was then absorbed by Vulcan. Both lived on for years in Vulcan’s comatose body as Krakoa floated through space. When the Scarlet Witch depowered most of the world’s mutants at the end of the 2005 crossover House of M, all of that raw mutant energy reawakened Vulcan. While Vulcan fought the X-Men, Darwin separated himself from his teammate, re-made his physical form and joined the present-day X-Men. Meanwhile, Vulcan went insane and took over the intergalactic Shi’Ar Empire.
By any measure, Wolverine is one of the toughest heroes in the Marvel Universe. With the notable exception of 2014’s Death of Wolverine, Logan’s been able to bounce back from just about any injury thanks to his healing factor. While his regenerative abilities have grown stronger over the years, his healing factor reached its peak in 1987’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #11. In that Chris Claremont and Alan Davis story, Wolverine completely regenerated from a single drop of blood.
In his only appearance, Horde, an alien tyrant, kidnapped the X-Men and forced them to capture the all-powerful Crystal of Ultimate Vision. Horde subsequently defeated Logan in combat and ripped his heart out. When a drop of his blood fell on the Crystal, Logan instantly regenerated a new body and became an omnipotent cosmic being. After defeating Horde, Logan rejected godhood and returned to the X-Men on their trip home.
Keep it locked to CBR for all the latest on the X-Men and Marvel Legacy! Let us know what your favorite X-return is in the comments!
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