Over the decades, the X-Men have seen a lot of highs and lows. Every decade has seen them with some fantastic storylines that comic fans love to talk about. At the same time, there are story arcs that are downright horrible to endure. The 1990s are infamous for how totally convoluted the X-Men books became with far too many long-range mysteries, nutty retcons and an obsession for gimmick covers. Also, the X-Men are the worst when it comes to Marvel’s obsession with “event” crossovers. Those comics had some world-shaking events to them, that often had fans' heads whirling. So much was so often changed either in canon storylines or special one-shots, or alternate timelines, and that is not even counting the movies.
Some storylines have become rather controversial. Sometimes, it’s for their content, themes, and situations that are just uncomfortable to read today. Other times, it’s because of a terrible character development or retcon that fans prefer to forget. Some occasions, it’s because it’s just bad on so many levels. It’s not just being terrible as a storyline but also for the characters and the X-Men franchise as a whole. Some stories have been ignored by fans because of those issues while others are still brought up when fans talk about their regrets. Here are: X-Men: 20 Controversial Stories Fans Want To Forget.
For some time, the X-Men writers had hinted Scott and Alex Summers had a third long-lost brother. In the Deadly Genesis event, it was revealed Professor X had created a special X-Men team led by that brother, Gabriel. Those X-Men perished so Xavier made Scott forget all about it. Vulcan returned, more powerful than ever and also driven mad by the ordeal.
After trashing the X-Men, Vulcan headed into space. He eventually took over the Shi’ar empire as a mad emperor and instigated a galactic war. The character clashed with Havok and some other X-Men and even appeared to have taken down his own father. When last seen, Vulcan was shoved into a cosmic “vault” and has yet to return. Maybe that’s a good thing as he’s way too complex a branch on the already complicated Summers family tree.
X-Men fans haven’t enjoyed how the MCU has cut mutants out totally. That includes elevating Inhumans to the place of the X-Men of people gaining super-powers. The comics have done much of the same with the Inhumans setting off a massive “Terrigen bomb” that created new Inhumans around the world. It also created clouds that were deadly to mutants. In the IVX series, a massive cloud is set to cover the entire planet and basically wipe out mutants. Rather than work with the Inhumans to find a solution, Cyclops instead leads the X-Men to openly attack them.
This leads to several battles that didn’t have to happen at all as the X-Men prefer reason over sheer violence. It culminates in a crazy turn as Cyclops appears to be taken down by Black Bolt. It turns out Scott died of the plague earlier and it was the White Queen faking this whole thing to “inspire” mutants to fight against the Inhumans. To write off a long-standing character in such a pathetic fashion just makes this even more loathed by fans.
By 2005, the X-Men had gone from merely a small team to a huge race. Indeed, a subplot had been introduced indicating that in a few generations, mutants would overtake humans in birth rates. Some Marvel editors felt this ruined the X-Men’s theme of being a persecuted minority and something had to be done. Yet fans would agree they went a bit too far. At the end of the House of M event, the Scarlet Witch casts her “no more mutants” spell. Overnight, the mutant population is depowered to barely over 200 mutants worldwide.
While cutting down on the mutant populace wasn’t a bad idea, suddenly making them an endangered species was something else. It didn’t help that editors couldn’t agree on who did or didn’t have powers anymore. There was also the decision to have the X-Men “protected” by Sentinels. It was eventually reversed to return the X-Men to a school helping young mutants learn about their powers. The Decimation is barely spoken of as it’s a clear example of a “fix” that just did more damage.
17 ZERO TOLERANCE
The X-Men have long had issues facing the government. 1997’s “Zero Tolerance” storyline just took that to the next level. The concept wasn’t too bad as the mysterious Bastion convinced the U.S. government to lead a full-on attack on mutants. The X-Men found themselves captured as the Mansion was stripped totally bare. That Bastion insisted he was doing the right thing protecting the world made the story more interesting. However, in execution, it was flawed with too many bad storylines, and it ran rather short.
Instead of a huge epic, the entire thing lasted only a handful of issues. It also introduced Marrow and Maggot who many fans feel are two of the worst X-Men ever. The ending was a complete letdown as the government suddenly shuts Bastion down and he quietly surrenders himself. Marvel hyped this up as a major deal for the team but it turned out to have zero effect.
16 ANGEL AS A HEALER
X-Men fans generally agree that Chuck Austen is the worst writer in the history of the franchise. His books had the heroes acting totally out of character in often insane storylines. He’d already angered fans by having Angel romance the teenager, Husk. Austen then followed that with the idea that suddenly Warren Worthington was a real angel. His wings were drawn to a ridiculous length and he suddenly possessed abilities he never had before.
His blood could become a super-healing agent able to fix any wounds in seconds. Adding to it was the idea that suddenly mutants could not get certain viruses. It didn’t last long but pushing Warren as a true angel is just one of the reasons fans loathe Austen so much.
This was a major event back in 1988 yet it hasn’t aged very well. In the massive Inferno crossover, a mad Madelyne Pryor totally snaps when she discovers she’s a clone of Jean Grey. This leads her to join in an alliance with the demons S'ym and N'astirh to literally bring Hell on Earth. New York City is soon taken by demons that bring inanimate objects to life in brutal attacks. Crossover issues showed Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Avengers and other heroes having a tough time handling this nightmare.
It leads to the X-Men and X-Factor uniting with a few of the heroes turned to darkness themselves. In the end, the day is saved although Madelyne pays the price. The story does clear up the whole issue of her origins and introduces major X-Men foe Mr. Sinister. But it just comes off way too dark as demons and the X-Men don’t mix very well.
14 NORTHSTAR IS AN ELF
A long-time member of Alpha Flight, Jean-Paul Beaubier recently joined the X-Men. The Canadian super-speedster can be arrogant but also a good aid to the team. Thankfully, X-Men fans are usually ignorant of a rather embarrassing attempt to explain Northstar’s origins. In a nutty storyline, Northstar’s twin sister, Aurora, goes missing. Searching for her, Northstar runs into Loki who reveals that the twins’ mother was an elf from Asgard, explaining both their powers and pointed ears. Northstar goes to Asgard to find Aurora and learn more of his heritage.
It was jarring for fans to find the mutant was somehow a true elf and the reaction was poor. Several issues later, Northstar is seen wandering aimlessly around Asgard. It turns out the whole elf story was nothing more than a joke played by Loki. The real elves literally laughed at the idea of Northstar being one of them. He returned to Earth and the entire thing has been ignored as a bad prank on everyone.
13 THE AUSSIE YEARS
Every long-running comic needs to shake up its formula now and then. However, sometimes these shake-ups can work poorly. Such a case was in 1987 when the X-Men appeared to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Resurrected by a mysterious power, the team decided to let the world (including family and friends) continue to think they were dead. They then relocated to some bunkers in the Australian outback and ran secret missions. It threw away the “fighting for a dream” concept for a strike force mentality that robbed from the book’s theme.
The art was good but the storylines weren’t as impressive. Too often the X-Men were involved in bad stories and the idea of even allies not knowing they were alive cut them off too much from the main Marvel universe. They finally did reveal themselves to the world and returned to the School to rebuild their image. Australia is a great country but the X-Men’s adventures there weren’t a highlight.
12 MAGIK'S HARD LIFE
Few X-Men have gone through the wringer quite like Illyana Rasputin. The younger sister of Colossus, Illyana came to visit the X-Men when she was eight. She found herself whisked into a portal by the demon lord Belasco. While the X-Men rescued her, there was a side effect: What was just seconds in our world was a decade in the other realm and Illyana was instantly a teenager. It was obvious she had been subjected to horrific experiences in that other realm, many of which were quite disturbing to watch.
It did give Illyana magical powers and a “soul sword” that she’s used as an X-Man. However, the book continues to note Illyana’s hardships growing up in that dimension and doesn’t shy away from how terrible an ordeal it was. Fans may not like it but it did lead to her growth as a character.
11 CYCLOPS AND WHITE QUEEN
It was a big deal for a while but a lot of fans are happy to put this period behind them. As soon as the White Queen joined with the X-Men, she started putting the moves on Scott Summers. At the time, Cyclops was with Jean and thus resisted Emma. However, when Jean sacrificed herself to stop Magneto, Cyclops and Emma made out on top of her grave. That was the start of a rather troubling romance between them.
At times, there were indications Emma really did love Scott and wanted to be a better person for him. Other times, they came off very manipulative and that made Cyclops and Wolverine get into more fights than usual. It got worse when they became possessed by the Phoenix Force and Cyclops turned into a bad guy. It all culminated in the ugly events of IVX and fans prefer to remember Scott and Jean in happier times.
10 THE XORN AND MAGNETO DEBACLE
At the time, this was an awesome twist. Few realized the ugly can of worms it was going to open. Xorn had appeared as a monk-type mutant with amazing powers who aided the X-Men. When the team came under attack, Xorn revealed he was actually the presumed dead Magneto, working from the inside to take the team down. Magneto then went on a rampage that was wildly out of character before Wolverine took him down. It was so crazy that Marvel almost immediately revealed this wasn’t Magneto at all but an imposter. The real Magneto was horrified anyone could think that was him.
This led to an even more confusing turn when the X-Men found the “real” Xorn in a monastery. The Xorn they’d known was his evil brother posing as Magneto as some warped plan of attack. But then that Xorn came back so the new Xorn fought him and by this point fans were going crazy. Xorn still pops up yet fans can barely take the character given the massive luggage he carries.
9 WOLVERINE GOING FERAL
A major change to Wolverine was in the “Fatal Attractions” arc. In a surprising moment, Magneto used his powers to rip the adamantium right off of Wolverine’s skeleton. This left Logan weaker for a long time with only bone claws. In 1996, an attempt to put the metal back with Wolverine backfired. In the aftermath, Wolverine began to regress into an even more feral state. Almost overnight, he was turned into a near animal figure with no nose, a huge jaw, and even jutting teeth.
It was a frankly ridiculous look for him and it was hard to take Wolverine seriously when he appeared like that. As it happened, when a new artist took over, he just went back to drawing Logan as he’d always appeared. It was explained he was using an “image inducer” but eventually it was all dropped. Wolvie got his metal back and fans are more than ready to ignore this ridiculous look.
8 MUTANT X
The concept was good but the execution was rather flawed. In the final issue of the first X-Factor series, Havok appears to have been lost in an explosion. In reality, Alex Summers was transported into an alternate Earth to take the place of his own counterpart. This world had some serious differences.
Storm was a vampire; Iceman’s ice powers were out of control; the U.S. and Canada were in a Cold War; Reed Richards was evil and more. It wasn’t a bad book at first but new writers began to shake things up too much and made it a mess. It ended with Alex returning to his regular reality and has never even mentioned this entire trip. It was a daring direction but it just didn’t work out in the end.
7 THAT WHOLE EXTERNALS THING
In the 1990s, X-Men writers were fond of setting up long-ranging mysteries but often no real ending in mind. A major example was the Externals. The concept was that a race of mutants existed who had been alive for centuries. The idea was they were secretly fighting it out for power and soon do battle to control the world. It was basically a total rip-off of the popular Highlander movie and the characters weren’t that appealing.
Cannonball being “killed” and coming back to become an External himself. However, later writers basically dropped the whole concept as a manipulation of the mutant witch Selene. Most of the Externals ended up not being that immortal after all as they were written out. It was a messy storyline that never connected with fans.
6 THE CABLE AND STRYFE MESS
When Cable debuted in 1989, fans were excited for him. With his cool look and soldier demeanor, Cable transformed the New Mutants into X-Force to fight for mutants. They clashed with the Mutant Liberation Front, a criminal group led by the masked Stryfe. Things took a turn when Stryfe unmasked to show he was a dead ringer for Cable. This led to an incredibly baffling storyline that would dominate for a long time and just get crazier as it went.
To make a ridiculously complex story short, Cable was Cyclops’ son, who had been sent into the far future to be cured of a techno-virus. Stryfe was a clone of Cable who had turned into a monster. However, for a while, Stryfe thought he was the original which obviously caused a lot of problems. They still tangle now and then but the ludicrous backstory is a reason fans find it harder to get behind Cable.
Here’s another case of a storyline that looked interesting at first but got out of hand. In the “Fatal Attractions” storyline, Professor X mind-wiped Magneto. After his headquarters was destroyed, readers saw what appeared to be an amnesiac Magneto, now somehow twenty years younger, walking around the country. Calling himself Joseph, he was found by the X-Men who were suspicious but eventually accepted him. Joseph was troubled by his past as Magneto but was doing his best to make up for it and aiding the team.
That was an interesting dynamic but then came the wild twist. It turned out the real Magneto was still out there, as confused as everyone as to who this younger man was. In a complex storyline, it was revealed that this was a clone of Magneto created by a rival. Joseph fell in battle and is barely even mentioned these days. Fans prefer the real Magneto over this cheap copy.
4 PROFESSOR X LOVES JEAN GREY
The early X-Men stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby bear little resemblance to the team we know today. They didn’t push the “world that hates and fears them” motif as much and it was more straight super-hero action. The duo did throw in some touches of soap opera antics with one rather disturbing. When Jean Grey joins the team, it seemed obvious that the triangle would be about Angel and Cyclops, who were both battling for her affection. However, it was shown that Charles Xavier considered himself in love with Jean.
Given how Jean was a good thirty years younger and Xavier was her teacher, this was more than a bit disturbing. It’s even worse to read today given how Xavier sees the X-Men as his “children.” When she found out about it, Xavier assured her that it meant nothing, and eventually, he did get over it.
3 SHE-HULK AND JUGGERNAUT
One of Chuck Austen’s arcs during his X-Men run involved trying to redeem Cain Marko. A longtime enemy of the X-Men, the Juggernaut was trying to turn over a new leaf and aided the team a few times. Obviously, his long criminal past was an issue so the X-Men got Jennifer Walters to defend Juggernaut.
One thing led to another and the two ended up in bed together. Fans of She-Hulk were naturally not happy at the idea of Jen just hopping into bed with a known criminal so easily. Later, Dan Slott turned this into a great running gag of Jen denying ever being with Juggernaut. The payoff came when it turned out to be the She-Hulk of another universe who’d slept with him. Fans much prefer that rather than imagining this as a serious romance.
2 NIGHTCRAWLER'S ORIGINS
Yep, it’s Chuck Austen again and this one is a doozy. For a long time, it had been implied that Mystique was actually Nightcrawler’s mother. This story finally confirmed it only to reveal his father wasn’t who he thought he was. The idea was that Mystique had a relationship with a guy who turned out to be Azazel, an actual demon from another dimension. It was used as the excuse for Kurt’s features and his teleporting powers.
But the story was a total mess with talk of the long conflict between angels and demons and some rather disturbing takes on the “romance” between Azazel and Mystique. The character barely shows up nowadays and writers much prefer to skim over Kurt’s fatherly ties. Fans are grateful for that as Kurt is a much better character than this horrible story deserves.
1 HOLY WAR
Nothing sums up the chaos of Chuck Austen’s X-Men run like this. It starts with several mutants found crucified on the lawn of the mansion. The investigation reveals that Nightcrawler’s supposed “priesthood” had all been faked by the Friends of Humanity. Their wild plot involved somehow making Kurt named Pope and then revealing he was a mutant to the world. They felt that the sight of a “demon” in this spot would lead to the Catholic Church to be destroyed, and the world would turn on mutants.
Think that’s crazy? Just wait. The next part of the plot involved faking the Rapture by having poisoned communion wafers cause people to vanish. The problem being Catholics don’t even believe in the Rapture. Then the leader of the Friends was a woman who wanted Catholics destroyed because of a personal trauma in her past. The entire story was an insane mess that was insulting to comic book fans of any faith.