WARNING: This article contains spoilers for X-Men: Red #8, from Tom Taylor, Carmen Carnero, Rain Beredo and VC’s Cory Petit, out now.
The latest issue of X-Men: Red #8 saw an epic confrontation between Jean Grey’s new X-Men team and the twisted villainy of Cassandra Nova. The demented twin sister of Charles Xavier has been spreading bigotry and hatred across the globe in a campaign targeting mutants, using Sentinel nanobots to accomplish her scheme. And as we see at the end of this issue, she has more weapons in her arsenal just in case things go wrong.
Ever since X-men: Red began, Nova has been working behind the scenes to destroy the lives of mutants everywhere. It started with the assassination of an ambassador at the UN, something that was initially blamed on Jean Grey. This tarnishing of the X-Men leader’s reputation was only the start of their problems, as soon it was revealed that not only was Nova behind the murder, she's been developing millions of Sentinel nanobots she was now ready to unleash upon the world.
These Sentinites are specifically designed to infect the brains of their victims, manipulating emotions into inciting more hatred and violence against mutants. Nova had been using her considerable telepathic powers to coerce Forge -- the mutant and former X-Man whose superpower is an affinity for machines -- into building a Sentinite swarm large enough to infect the brains of everyone on the planet. After initially choosing her victims from the highest ranks of power, her plans to turn the world against the X-men was almost complete.
Operating from their new headquarters in Atlantis, Jean Grey and her X-Men devised a plan to defeat Nova’s Sentinites. Using their undersea version of Cerebro -- ingeniously named Searebro -- the mutant technopath Trinary would channel her powers through the machine and reach out to every one of the millions of nanobots now spreading across the globe. Due to the overwhelming strain this would put on her brain, she uses Honey Badger -- the young clone of Laura Kinney with a mutant healing factor -- as a buffer between her and Searebro’s full strength.
Trinary had spent her life absorbing decades of internet hate, and in a final cathartic push, unleashed all of this negative energy upon the Sentinite swarm, not only deactivating but destroying every last evil nanobot. While no one was under the impression that Cassandra Nova would stay down for long, the devious X-Men villain didn’t miss a beat in unveiling her plan B: taking over the mind of Rachel Grey and sending her after the X-Men.
Rachel Grey has been through a lot, recently. With the attacks from Mesmero returning her mind to her days as a mutant-hunting hound in X-Men: Gold, and Extermination reintroducing the villainous Ahab and his monstrous hounds once again, the future daughter of Jean Grey and Scott Summers is already mentally fragile. Now, Cassandra Nova has invaded Rachel’s mind and sent her into a violent frenzy, which saw her fly off in a rage towards the X-Men in the final panel of the issue.
Manipulating Rachel in this way is not only sending a friend and teammate after the X-Men, but in the case of Nightcrawler, it’s sending his former girlfriend on a mission of murder against him. Perhaps even more disturbing, for Jean Grey, it’s sending her own future daughter to kill her. Using any member of the X-Men against Jean and the team would be traumatic and difficult, but using Rachel Grey specifically is a particularly manipulative and devastating attack.