Warning: This article contains spoilers for Uncanny X-Men #17, by Matthew Rosenberg, Carlos Gomez, Guru-eFX and Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
Even though heroes like the X-Men seem to die and return from the dead with alarming regularity, most of Marvel's mutants usually go out in a blaze of glory. Whether they involve noble acts of self-sacrifice or final showdowns with powerful villains, these deaths often give characters one last moment to shine before stepping into the great beyond.
Over the past few months, however, that hasn't been the case in Uncanny X-Men. With most of the X-Men trapped in the Age of X-Man timeline, Cyclops and Wolverine have brought together the handful of veteran X-Men who remain in the main Marvel Universe to form a new team. Along the way, the group has suffered a number of tragic casualties, especially among its younger members.
While defending a world that hates and fears them more than ever before, the X-Men were rocked by a pair of surprise deaths in Uncanny X-Men #16. But while Joseph, an erstwhile Magneto clone, was beheaded on-panel by the psychic assassin Kwannon, the sudden death of Wolfsbane, the werewolf-esque member of X-Factor and a founding New Mutant, was only announced at the end of the issue.
As the X-Men grieve their fallen friend in Uncanny X-Men #17, the tragic details of her death are revealed for the first time.
After growing up in an abusive household and experiencing an unusual amount of trauma in her superhero career, the series' previous issue saw Rahne Sinclair leave the X-Men to try and start a normal life for herself. Just hours into her new life, Rahne was sitting in a park when a group of men started harassing her. As she rejected their advances, her mutant powers instinctively kicked in and transformed her into a more lupine form. After reflexively clawing one of the mutant-hating attackers in the face, she recoiled and insisted that she was normal as her attackers began beating her with lethal force.
While Wolfsbane could have used her powers or training to fend off her attackers, Rahne refused to fight back, ultimately dying in the pursuit of the peaceful life that had always eluded her. Her death didn't save the universe, but she still perished fighting, in her way, for something that she believed in.
Although Wolverine and Kwannon track down and execute Rahne's killers during her funeral, this incident exemplifies the kind of anti-mutant harassment that the X-Men have always strived to prevent.
As Wolverine and Kwannon hunt down the killers, Karma, Shan Coy Manh, offers a eulogy for her fallen friend. As Shan remembers her fellow New Mutant, she lists another 63 mutants who are currently dead or presumed dead. Even though most of those characters are alive and well in the Age of X-Man, the moment still emphasizes the extent to which the X-Men's ranks are depleted.
Since the Age of X-Man began, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Joseph, Blindfold, Loa and several sewer-dwelling Morlocks have died, while other X-Men, including Cyclops, have suffered massive injuries. Writer Matthew Rosenberg has teased two more impending X-Men deaths, so the worst isn't over for Marvel's mutants. Taken together, these deaths form a quiet mutant massacre firmly establishing this as one of the most dire times in X-Men history.
With House of X and Powers of X set to rock the X-Men's world in a few months, the X-Men's future isn't clear at the moment, and the inevitable resurrections of Wolfsbane and the other dead X-Men could be closer than anyone realizes.
In the meantime, Wolfsbane is still alive in the ongoing miniseries War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men, which takes place shortly before her death. While she might get another chance to shine there, the X-Men will continue to mourn her as they deal with the resurgent threat of the psychic powerhouse Emma Frost, the new Black King of the Hellfire Club.
Uncanny X-Men #18, by Matthew Rosenberg and Carlos Villa, is set to be released on May 15.