Warning: This article contains spoilers for Uncanny X-Men #16, by Matthew Rosenberg, Salvador Larroca, Guru-eFX and Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
At some point, every X-Man's life becomes a tragedy. As if trying to protect a world that hates and fears them isn't enough, most of Marvel's mutants have to deal with descents into villainy, sudden power changes, alternate reality excursions, life-changing injuries and temporary death on a disturbingly regular basis.
While most of the X-Men are still trapped in the false alternate reality utopia of "Age of X-Man," Cyclops, Wolverine and the handful of mutants who are still in the Marvel Universe are having a particularly rough time. Even though Cyclops' "last X-Men team" is filled with hyper-competent heroes and veteran mutant leaders, its ranks have been devastated by injury, alien infections and fallen comrades in recent months.
And in Uncanny X-Men #16, another pair of veteran X-Men are killed. While they didn't have much in common, Joseph, the erstwhile clone of Magneto, and Wolfsbane, the New Mutants' lupine hero, both seemingly saw their lives come to sudden ends.
While impersonating Magneto, Joseph formed a new incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Along with Juggernaut, Toad, Pyro, Avalanche and Random, Joseph encounters the X-Men while trying to incite a mutant revolution. Once the X-Men reveal his identity to the Brotherhood, Juggernaut switches sides and the two teams have a familiar talk about their opposing philosophies.
Just as the X-Men start to take Joseph into custody, he's decapitated by Kwannon, a Japanese mutant assassin who switched bodies with the X-Men's Pyslocke for several decades.
Though he dies a villain, Joseph originally embodied the heroic promise of Magneto's better impulses. After Magneto went through one of his more evil phases and ripped out Wolverine's adamantium skeleton, Joseph debuted in 1995's Uncanny X-Men #327 by Scott Lobdell and Roger Cruz. The amnesiac Joseph joined the X-Men and had a close relationship with Rogue throughout the second half of the team's most popular era.
After learning that he was a clone created by the villain Astra, Joseph died fighting the real Magneto and saving Earth's magnetic field in "The Magneto War" crossover.
When Astra resurrected Joseph in Skottie Young and Clay Mann's 2011 miniseries Magneto: Not A Hero, she brainwashed him by implanting Magneto's worst memories in his brain. While the real Magneto embraces the occasionally heroic moral gray areas that define him, Joseph devolved into a pale imitation of Magneto. Even though he died a hero, Joseph was compelled to become a villain by someone else's delusions in a second life that he never chose for himself.
But as tragic as Joseph's death is, it's the second murder that really stands to affect the X-Men. Even though it's not actually seen in this issue, Wolfsbane's death could cast a much larger shadow over the team.
Before her apparent death, Rahne Sinclair tells Cyclops and Wolverine that she's leaving the X-Men to try and pursue a normal civilian life outside of being a werewolf-esque superhero. Shortly after that, Dani Moonstar, who has some residual telepathy and death-sensing powers, doubled over in pain and told the other X-Men about the death of her close friend.
Since she debuted alongside the other New Mutants in Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod's Marvel Graphic Novel #4, Rahne has been at war with herself. After growing up in an abusive house where she was persecuted for being a mutant, Wolfsbane joined the junior X-team, where she was a core member through the 1980s.
During 1990's "X-Tinction Agenda" crossover, Rahne was turned into a mindless mutate on the mutant-hating island Genosha. This left her unable to transform back into her fully human form and sharing an unwilling psychic link with Havok, who she soon joined on the government-sanctioned team X-Factor.
While on a more recent incarnation of X-Factor, Wolfsbane had a canine son, Tier, who was murdered by her friend and teammate Strong Guy. After several years, Rahne and Strong Guy made peace when they both found themselves on a new team of New Mutants. However, Rahne and the rest of her team were infected by the Transmode virus, an alien infection that used to be alien X-Man Warlock.
Although that infection cleared up in Uncanny X-Men #15, this issue doesn't reveal how she dies after leaving the X-Men. The circumstances of Wolfsbane's apparent death will almost certainly be revealed in Uncanny X-Men #17, which features both Cyclops and Wolverine mourning over an open grave on the cover.
At this point, it's not clear if Rahne's decision to leave the X-Men played a deciding role in her death. If it did, that decision adds another tragic aspect to the death of a character who's only intermittently had control over her own life.
While Wolfsbane has another starring role in the upcoming War of the Realms: X-Men #1, which takes place before this issue, she and Joseph are two of the latest casualties in a storyline that's seen a shocking number of current or former X-Men die. At the rate this quiet mutant massacre is going, there might not be too many X-Men left in the Marvel Universe by the time the rest of the team escapes the "Age of X-Man."