WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Uncanny X-Men #10, by Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, Pere Pérez , Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Caramagna, on sale now,
Over the past few months, Uncanny X-Men has firmly established Nate Grey (better known as X-Man) as the strongest mutant in the Marvel Universe. While that wasn't really an issue when he was a superhero, this alternate reality version of the X-Men's Cable hasn’t been acting too heroic lately.
Throughout the "X-Men Disassembled" storyline, Nate has tried to reshape the world in his image before his own powers kill him. This Omega-Level telepath has altered reality, fought the X-Men and taken control of Legion, Professor X's all-powerful son, to transform himself into the ultimate X-villain.
Despite the combined efforts of a massive X-team, Nate Grey was still just too powerful for the X-Men. In Uncanny X-Men #10, he apparently manages to do something that Marvel's greatest villains have been trying to do for years, making the X-Men disappear in a massive blast of energy.
Before Nate's blinding final attack, things were going relatively well for the mutant heroes. Thanks to a major assist from Storm, the X-Men's telepaths were able to free Legion from X-Man's control. Then, in the midst of fighting the X-Men, Nate has a telepathic meeting with Jean Grey, where he speaks frankly about his intentions with his primary mother figure. He even tells her that he's dying and that his powers have been boosted by a Celestial artifact called the Life Seed. After saying that he couldn't save the world as long as the X-Men stood in his way, he uses those enhanced powers to make all of the X-Men around him straight-up disappear.
And, since Jean Grey sent out a psychic distress call summoning every current or former X-Man in the world in Uncanny X-Men #9, that team included dozens of battle-tested veterans and powerful mutants.
In addition to a primary X-Men team of iconic heroes like Jean, Beast, Iceman, Psylocke and Kitty Pryde, the list of potential casualties includes several members of younger X-Men squads, including Armor, Surge and more obscure characters like Maggott and Kylun.
Nate's blast even takes out some powerful X-Men villains like Apocalypse, who Nate had held in chains for weeks. After breaking free from the mind-control that made them X-Man's Horsemen of Salvation, Magneto, Blob and Omega Red turned against the telepath in this issue, but as we know, it was to no avail.
Of course, they're not really gone for good. The upcoming "Age of X-Man" crossover seems set to feature these X-characters, or versions of them, in a strange utopian world. While it's not clear if they're trapped in an alternate reality, inside Nate's head or somewhere else entirely, the X-Men are still effectively dead in the main Marvel Universe for the time being.
But what's most damaging, and a bit surprising, is that not only has X-Man made the X-Men physically disappear, his actions also made their legacy disappear as well.
As the issue's epilogue suggests, the world celebrated the demise of the X-Men. After Nate undid his recent actions, the media has minimized the X-Men's role in recent history, and a widely-circulated anti-mutant vaccine quickly ensured that no further mutants would be born.
While Marvel's mutants have survived plagues and decimations that threatened their collective futures, Nate Grey's actions pose an existential threat to mutantkind. In addition to eliminating the possibility of future new mutants, this attack took the majority of the present-day X-Men off of the playing field and made the way for others to eradicate the X-Men's accomplishments from the past.
For the few scattered X-Men who are still in the Marvel Universe, this is an especially grim new status quo where they're complete outsiders who have effectively been erased from the wider world.
Cyclops and Wolverine have both just returned to the Marvel Universe after extended absences, and neither one of those iconic heroes rejoined the X-Men yet. Despite their close relationships with Jean, neither hero responded to Jean's telepathic distress call and were noticeably absent from the X-Men's final battle with Nate Grey.
Since this issue ends with a sullen Cyclops walking around the X-Men-free world, it suggests that Nate's blast didn't affect X-Men who weren't in his immediate surroundings. Since upcoming issues of Uncanny X-Men seem to show Cyclops and Wolverine alongside other X-Men who weren’t caught in Nate's blast, it would seem to indicate others might have survived as well.
Although the high-flying, nigh-invulnerable mutant was initially present for the final showdown with X-Man, Cannonball was severely injured early in the battle. The teleporting Pixie transported him off of the battlefield to an undisclosed location to receive medical attention. Considering the fact that he's been linked to the Externals (a group of seemingly immortal mutants), and with most of the X-Men tied up in "Age of X-Man," Cannonball could be the key to helping Cyclops and Wolverine figure out what happened and how to deal with Nate Grey once and for all.
Cyclops' story will continue in next week's Uncanny X-Men Annual #1, by Ed Brisson and Carlos Gomez, before continuing in Brisson and Uncanny X-Men. Meanwhile, "Age of X-Man" kicks off in two weeks with Age of X-Man: Alpha #1, by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler and Ramon Rosanas, on sale Jan. 30.