SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for X-Men Red #5 by Tom Taylor, Mahmud Asrar, Rain Beredo and Cory Petit, on sale now.
In this modern age of ours, disinformation is so prevalent that it’s been weaponized by the most hateful groups in society and used to sow division throughout our communities. X-Men Red is Marvel’s most socially conscious and politically relevant mutant comic in a long time and as the X-Men have evolved to represent various civil rights causes throughout their fifty-plus years, it was only a matter of time before Marvel’s merry mutants came face-to-face with the modern face of bigotry, which is largely online and viral.
Of course, this being the X-Men, it’s not quite as simple as some hateful and abusive messages on Twitter. In recent issues, one of the team’s most awful enemies has returned to do everything they can to turn the world against Jean Grey and her message of inclusion and acceptance.
The Woman Called Nova
The villain for Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men Red is Cassandra Nova. First introduced by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely in New X-Men #112, she was originally believed to be Charles Xavier’s biological twin whom he killed in the womb, only for her to survive as a psychic entity until she was strong enough to create a body of her own. That later turned out to be half correct, as Cassandra Nova was discovered to be a Mummudrai, which is the Shi’Ar word for “opposite.”
According to Shi’Ar legend, everyone faces off against their own personal Mummudrai — a shadow self — at some point in the womb, and by defeating it we are exposed to our first understanding of the other; an outside invader. In reality, Mummudrai are parasitic monsters from the astral plane, and Cassandra Nova was able to create a physical form for herself through her connection with Charles Xavier.
Cassandra Nova was responsible for the largest massacre of mutants in history, when she sent the Wild Sentinel to Genosha, resulting in the slaughter of sixteen-million mutants. She later swapped minds with Xavier, leaving him trapped in her paralysed body while she wreaked havoc on the Shi’Ar Empire in his and was eventually trapped within the immobile alien body of Stuff, a member of the Imperial Guard and imprisoned within the lowest levels of the Xavier School For Gifted Learning.
She eventually escaped, using suggestions implanted in Emma Frost to facilitate her freedom and has only appeared sporadically since, most recently in a clash with the Los Angeles based X-Force team led by Storm. Her return to prominence in X-Men Red shows a Cassandra Nova recommitted to mutant genocide, likely due to the fact that mutant births are on the rise for the first time in years, and Jean Grey’s return and message of acceptance is antithetical to her goals of hatred, division and mutant eradication.