The X-Men are a distinct and important cornerstone of the Marvel Comics universe. While the team is basically comprised of superhero pariahs, ostracized from society, the real central core of the team is in their very DNA. The X-gene, famously born form creator Stan Lee’s laziness (he was tired of thinking up new ways for superheroes to exist, so he figured that these powerful mutations could just occur naturally), gives each mutant a distinct ability or deformity that informs who they are and how they can contribute to the team and to society in general. These powers can range from anything so benign as a forked tongue to the ability to alter and reshape reality as we know it.
The most famous X-Men also tend to have the most famous powerset in the world of mutants. Wolverine has a healing factor, Storm controls the weather, Cyclops has ocular lasers, Professor X controls minds, and Jean Gray has the ability for writers to resurrect her arbitrarily. But the nature of the X-gene allows for pretty much infinite possibilities in terms of superpowers, and an unfortunate side effect of this phenomenon is that people tend to overestimate and underestimate various mutant powers based either on scaling it compared to other mutant powers or because writers weren’t creative enough to fully explore the potential of certain abilities. To shine a light on these injustices, we’ve compiled this list of ten mutant powers much stronger than you might realize and ten that sound impressive, but are actually kind of mediocre.
Cypher is something of a running joke among long-time X-Men fans. Often considered one of the most disposable mutants the team ever recruited, Cypher had the ability to understand and speak any language. It sounds boring when compared to eye laser beams and telekinesis, but it would be pretty practical in real life.
However, his power was recently revealed to be exponentially stronger than initially believed. In the ‘Hunt for Wolverine’ storyline, Cypher was shown to be able to understand the language of the internet’s fundamental coding and could literally talk to computers and the world wide web itself, letting him track and hack just about any machine anywhere in the world.
On the surface, Marrow has the ultimate combat ability: her bones grow so fast and so wild that they poke through her skin, forming an unnaturally dense natural armor that she can break off to form instant weapons, perfect for close quarter fighting. There’s only one real downside, but it’s so significant it pretty much makes the power not worth having in the first place.
Bones are some of the most sensitive parts of the human anatomy and even exposing them to air can be outright excruciating. Not only is Marrow’s bone structure heavily exposed, but by using them as weapons she has to literally break her bones. Her existence is one of constant pain and agony.
Ironically, ForgetMeNot’s power is part of the reason why you may have never heard of him. He has innate imperceptibility. He cannot be recorded, remembered, and if you’re not currently looking at him, you have completely forgotten him. He’s so impossible to conceive of that Professor X had to set a mental alarm to remind himself every hour that ForgetMeNot even existed.
While ForgetMeNot tends to view this as a curse, consider how amazing this could be in real life. Certainly it would be a lonely existence, but you could get away with literally everything safe in the knowledge that nobody would no you did it. You could essentially run the world from behind the scenes with no one the wiser.
Mystique is one of the most iconic mutants in the Marvel Universe. She’s a shapeshifter who made a career for herself as a mercenary and assassin by training herself in disguise, martial arts, and marksmanship. She’s known as one of the most coldhearted mercs that money can buy who can always get close to her target with her powers.
However, her powers, while cool, are actually kind of impractical in real life. Turning into someone else is all fine and dandy, but there’s more to blending in than just looking different. Mystique had to train herself to adapt to any situation and improvise. Without that training, an amateur shapeshifter could be outed in a matter of minutes.
Xorn has one of the weirdest history of any X-Men, mostly because he’s the only one to be retconned, rebooted, and resurrected more than Jean Grey. He’s managed to stick around because his pacifist persona is fun to play off of and his mask has become symbolic, but his power is actually kind of confusing: Xorn has a black hole for a brain.
You read that right, his mutant power is that his brain is a black hole. By all logic, that should implode his skull, leave him devoid of thought, and suck everything within the event horizon into an inescapable vacuum. Instead, through the magic of comics, it gave him flight, teleportation, healing, gravity, and self-sustenance. Go figure.
A healing factor is basically the oil that keeps certain characters (Wolverine) running. Without it, certain characters (Wolverine) wouldn’t be able to survive half of the insane nonsense they occasionally get up to, including using some of their other powers. But here’s the thing, as these very characters (Wolverine) will gladly attest, an advanced healing factor has a very noticeable downside.
They can heal from any wound, but they still feel the wound. Also, since they often find themselves in combat situations and have ridiculously long lifespans, they endure exponentially more physical pain and can only come back ready for more.
Nightcrawler is one of the most popular Marvel characters of all time, often referred to as the soul of the X-Men. Apart from his demonic appearance, he can teleport along with anything he’s holding or touching. Teleportation is innately a cool ability and is difficult to underestimate due to its sheer versatility.
However, Nightcrawler's teleportation takes it a step further. He doesn’t just move his body from one space to another, he literally slips through dimensional bonds to do so, briefly blinking into another world before coming back. He’s been shown to be able to teleport to alternate timelines and even to Heaven and back.
Forge has always been something of a nebulous member of the X-Men. He’s essentially the Donatello of whatever incarnation of the team he’s on. His power is basically that he can build whatever he needs to build. On the surface, this is a pretty useful ability which could translate well into an engineering career.
The catch is that Forge, despite deftly building insanely complex machines and weapons, actually has no idea what he’s doing. He describes his construction process as instinct, that he’s simply doing what his subconscious tells him to do. Put him in front of a broken car and he’ll have to build a machine to fix the car because he would have no clue how to do it himself.
Anyone who’s seen Deadpool 2 knows that despite her power basically boiling down to “being lucky,” Domino is actually a force to be reckoned with. The film and general perception is that Domino is literally that, just super lucky at all times, but her power is far more precise than that. In technical terms, she can actually manipulate probability itself.
In the past, she’s used this to jam guns at inopportune moments, pull off nearly impossible trick shots without even looking, and even call down a random bolt of lightning by manipulating the probability that one would strike exactly where she wanted it and exactly when. She doesn’t show it very often, but she’s kind of a demigod.
Telepathy is such a naturally powerful ability that all of the most powerful mutants have at least some version of it. Most notable of course are Professor X and Jean Grey, but it’s a trait shared by Emma Frost, Psylocke, and others. It’s one of the most versatile powers, usually entailing mental cloaking, illusion generation, and mind reading at the very least.
The problem arises when the telepath can’t control what other people think. When you have the power to read minds, the last thing you want to hear is what people really think about you. Suddenly all of your flaws stick out a hundred-times more because you’re aware of it from a hundred different perspectives just by walking down the street.
A lot of X-Men powers are intentionally disgusting or unenviable by nature. Writers do this to point out how not all mutant powers turn people into superheroes and explain why there is still anti-mutant prejudice. Characters in this category include Maggott, Husk, and Skin, who has an extra six feet of baggy skin surface.
While this gives him extended reach, it also leaves him with saggy, gray skin and a gross complexion, but there is a distinct medical upside to his power. His skin has a much larger surface area, meaning that his epidermal cells require a lot more nutrients to stretch to full capacity. Hypothetically, he could absorb the difference in energy though his skin using osmosis. Hypothetically.
Adam-X is pretty much the '90s in a nutshell: stupid looking with a cringy name and no discernable direction as a character. His power, the ability to over-saturate oxygen-exposed blood, is actually kind of interesting in how unique it is, but is pretty useless for one very obvious reason. Most of his enemies don’t just walk around with open wounds for him to exploit.
To compensate, Adam wears a pointy uniform and uses a lot of sharp weapons, but his main weakness is distance. So long as his enemies can keep him from getting within a few feet of them, his power is basically useless.
Moonstar is a strangely underplayed X-Man in that she is an interesting character with an awesome power (pre-M-Day) but still feels underutilized in the comics. Her mutant power was the ability to manifest physical animations of peoples’ worst fears and greatest desires. While in combat she would translate that into her archery skills, the practical applications of these abilities are near infinite.
She’s basically a horror film director’s dream, a one-woman effects department who can conjure up all kinds of imagery at the drop of a hat. She could also be an effective power broker, allowing people to experience their dreams in exchange for information or authority.
Angle is a perfect PR tool for the X-Men -- he’s literally angelic with massive bird wings and the hollow bones necessary for flight. While he’s been a staple of the series since its inception, the flaws in Angel’s ability should be fairly obvious.
First and foremost, his wings are highly vulnerable. They’ve been cut off, blown apart, and occasionally replaced with metal prosthetics to compensate. Secondly, his bones are lighter to help him achieve flight. This makes them brittle and very susceptible to fracture and breaks. Angel has the vast wealth required to fix him up whenever he snaps, and most people don’t.
Tag is often derided as a random X-Man with a random power. In essence, by tapping a person or object, he can cause people to avoid or congregate around the target. Called the ‘Pariah Effect,’ it was considered useless enough by writers for him to be depowered by M-Day and written off shortly afterwards, but just think about the ramifications of this power.
Tag can essentially control mob mentality itself. He could decide entire elections by shaking hands with a candidate and making everyone avoid them like the plague. He can also be the ultimate wingman with the exact opposite approach.
Wolverine’s animal senses aren’t really necessary to his character. He could have been just a really good tracker or detective, but writers gave him a heightened sense of smell and hearing to make him seem more feral and brutish by highlighting his similarities with wild dogs and wolves. While useful in the field, having super-smell would be horrible.
Suddenly every fart makes a room a quarantine zone. One quick car ride past a farm and you’d be smelling unwashed animals for a week. A trip the bathroom would require a gas mask. Wolverine’s had over a century to get used to heightened smell, it’s probably all he’s ever known. The average person would willingly block up their nose after an hour.
Ostensibly based on the mythological figure of Argus, Eye-Boy is covered with dozens of eyeballs arbitrarily placed around his body. While this inevitably makes things awkward, it turns out that each eyeball gives him a different ocular ability, from telescopic vision to being able to detect magical wavelengths, to the non-visible light spectrum, to X-ray and beyond.
Most notably, he seems to have what could be referred to as the “Sherlock Holmes” ability to see minute body signals and instinctively interpret it with accuracy. Not only does this make him a living lie detector test, but he can discern a person’s hopes, fears, and ideology from a glance.
Tempus is one of the lesser known X-Men but also one of the most powerful. She can generate block-wide time bubbles, freezing anyone trapped inside for any amount of time. Any power that can control the flow of space-time is automatically extremely enviable by virtue of being able to rewrite reality on the fly, but Tempus’s powers come at a cost.
Due to her having to hold various time bubbles for different times, she’s aged several years in what others perceive to be mere moments. She’s also used her power to go into the future, but is always doomed to the present no matter what she establishes in a future timeline.
Though he was a disposable shapeshifter in the acclaimed X-Men cartoon, the Morph of the comics was a much more interesting character and had a much more interesting power. He didn’t just shapeshift, he automatically secreted a pheromone that could detect what form would most put a person at ease and would transform him into that figure.
To a point, this makes him pretty much the ultimate spy, able to walk into any environment and automatically appear as trustworthy as possible to everyone he comes across. It goes way beyond simple transformation into downright natural emotional manipulation. Eat your heart out Mystique.
Dust is one of the most prominent positive representations of Muslim characters in all of comics and has a great power to boot, capable of transforming herself into a sentient and manipulatable cloud of sand. This makes her an effective combatant, has practical uses in real life, is awesome to draw and look at.
So what’s the problem? What makes it so subtly weak that it earns a place on this list? Simple: all it takes to take her out of a fight is a stiff breeze. Sure she can fly in her sand form, but Dust is very much at the mercy of the elements. Or a person with a big enough fan.