SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for "Death of X" #3, which is on sale now
So far, "Death of X" has been packed with massive moves and monumental returns (and demises). The first issue saw one of the X-Men's oldest allies succumb to the M-Pox, and the follow-up installment revealed part of why the Inhumans and X-Men have grown to hate each other. The third issue of the event series, written by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule with art by Aaron Kuder and Javier Garron, keeps the surprises coming with the return of a minor X-Men character that positions him to enter the big leagues in a big way.
While Storm's team of X-Men deals with Crystal's away team of Inhumans in Madrid, Cyclops and Emma's X-faction seeks out a potentially powerful ally. That ally? Thomas Jones -- a mutant also known as Alchemy. The Stepford Cuckoos show up on his doorstep in Yorkshire, England and recruit him.
Okay, even the most die-hard X-Men fans might be scratching their head. "Who's Alchemy?" is a very valid question to ask at this point, along with "They named a superhero after the Las Vegas singer guy?" The reason you most likely haven't heard of Alchemy is because he's one of the most obscure X-Men characters around; excluding handbook entries, he's only appeared in eight comics.
Alchemy debuted in June 1989's "X-Factor" #41, an issue written by Louise Simonson with art by Art Adams. Interestingly, Alchemy was actually created by Marvel Comics reader Paul Bestow as part of a contest. The winning character would get added to the Marvel Universe -- and that character was Alchemy. In his debut issue, Tom's mutant power of transmutation fully emerged.
Jones got on X-Factor's radar after a gang of trolls kidnapped him. Their mission: use his transmutation power to create a ton more gold, thus throwing the global economy off balance by decreasing gold's value. X-Factor intervened and saved Tom, who defeated the trolls by turning them to gold. At that point, Beast offered young Tom a spot at X-Factor's headquarters where he could learn to control his powers and continue his studies. He declined.
Alchemy next appeared in a two-part "Excalibur" story written by Alan Davis and Scott Lobdell with art by Joe Madureira. "Excalibur" #57 kicked off with a frantic Thomas calling the mutant heroes for help as his mother had been kidnapped by members of the same troll gang. But Thomas himself got nabbed before he could finish relaying his message.
The Britain-based Excalibur ran across some of Alchemy's handiwork (a transmuted police officer) and began investigating the occurrence. That led them into battle with the trolls, a battle they didn't win. Meanwhile, the X-Men responded to Tom Jones' call, racing to England to help their old associate. On the way, they also had to explain to some newer X-Men who Tom was.
The combined might of the X-Men and Excalibur barely fought back the trolls; the tides weren't turned until Alchemy was able to get into the fray and use his powers on his captors. Jones then revealed that, after much studying, he was able to convert humans back to their original form from their gold state.
The X-Men said farewell to Alchemy, who remained unseen for a very long time. The "X-Men: 198" handbook established that Tom didn't lose his powers after M-Day in 2006, and Alchemy showed up again for real in a few issues of 2013's "X-Men: Legacy." In that story, he served as a member of a ragtag, short-lived group of British heroes.
And that's it; those are the only times Alchemy has ever appeared. Fast-forward to "Death of X" #3 and Tom Jones is poised to play his biggest role in the X-books to date. The "Death of X" issue ends with Cyclops team teleporting southwest of Madrid, placing them in the path of the drifting and deadly (to mutants) Terrigen mist. At that moment, Cyclops finally gets a moment to talk to Alchemy -- something he hasn't done in decades.
And Cyclops again offers him a place with the X-Men, and this time? It goes a bit differently.
What exactly Cyclops plans to do with Alchemy's transmutation powers remains unknown, but that Terrigen cloud is approaching fast. And after almost 30 years, it looks like Alchemy finally has a major, major part to play in the X-Men.
"Death of X" #4, the finale issue of the limited series, arrives in stores on November 23.