Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for New Mutants #1, by Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brisson, Rod Reis and VC's Travis Lanham, and X-Force #1, by Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara, Dean White, VC's Joe Caramagna and Tom Muller, on sale now.
On the cover of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's very first issue of X-Men, the team was introduced to the world as "the strangest super-heroes of all." While that phrase wasn't used to advertise the X-Men for long, it's always been a fairly accurate way to describe the team. Plenty of Marvel's mutants have had fairly standard superpowers that involve super-strength or psychic abilities, but plenty of others have truly bizarre abilities that involve everything from inhuman transformations to sentient, slug-shaped digestive systems.
Traditionally, X-Men stories have been built around heroes with relatively normal, combat-friendly powers like the optic blast-shooting Cyclops or the weather-controlling Storm. However, House of X and Marvel's subsequent ongoing Dawn of X relaunch have put a spotlight on several of the weirder, more obscure mutants by giving them major roles within the X-Men's new world order.
While the last few months have seen Professor X and Magneto turn the living island Krakoa into a nation that welcomes all mutants, the driving force behind that effort is Moira MacTaggert. Before Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva and Pepe Larraz redefined Moira as a mutant with self-resurrection abilities that are strong enough to reset the Marvel timeline, she was essentially just a human supporting character in a world full of superpowered heroes.
By making Moira and her previous lives the foundation that House of X and the X-Men's ongoing stories are building on, this era simultaneously embraces X-Men history while twisting it into something new. While Moira's past lives largely shaped this vision for the X-Men's future, her role also set a precedent for putting supporting or secondary characters in pivotal roles on Krakoa.
As Powers of X revealed, Cypher is largely responsible for setting up the systems that make life on Krakoa possible. While his ability to communicate in any language earned him the ire of some fans in New Mutants, Doug Ramsey's skills were absolutely essential in communicating with Krakoa and building it out into a sustainable habitat.
Even though Doug's powers weren't terribly useful in combat, they were absolutely essential for nation-building. Given his presence in the meetings of Genosha's ruling Quiet Council and Cyclops's comments about him in X-Men #2, Cypher also plays a key role in keeping Krakoa running smoothly. Even if Cypher has been absent for years in the past, Cyclops notices his absence almost as soon as Doug and the other New Mutants travel into deep space.
Like Cypher, many of the X-Men's younger members have usually found themselves relegated to the team's training squads, where they habitually fade into the background after a few years of prominence. However, the Dawn of X has already given some of these characters another moment in the spotlight too. Beyond making the mostly-forgotten Mondo a core member of New Mutants, the mutant resurrection process is only possible through the Five, a group of young mutants who each teetered on the edge of obscurity.
In the same way that this X-Men era has brought obscure heroes to the fore, it's also done the same for several X-villains. In one of House of X's more surprising moments, Xavier invited all of the X-Men's mutant villains to join him on the island, where many have assumed positions of power.
While this has led to surprising turns like Apocalypse joining an X-team, it's also put obscure villains into important roles on Krakoa. Relatively minor villains like Exodus and Gorgon were both given major leadership positions after going years between appearances.
While Black Tom Cassidy mainly used his mutant power to channel energy through wood and otherwise manipulate plantlife as a thief, those abilities made him an ideal candidate to be Krakoa's chief surveillance and defense officer. As X-Force #1 also revealed, an even more obscure villain, the Morlocks' Healer was revealed to be one of Krakoa's medical officers.
Outside of their shared obscurity or once-ignoble places in the X-Men's wider world, these characters haven't historically had a lot in common. Even though the X-Men have welcomed all kinds of mutants into their care over the years, they've usually had something of an elitist streak that's favored mutants with combat-friendly powers, and these characters never really fit into that mold.
However, their positions of power and influence have rejuvenated Marvel's X-titles by re-emphasizing the inclusive heart of the franchise, while their very presence nods to the X-franchise's lengthy history. Even if the X-Men aren't "the strangest superheroes of all" anymore, these characters still make the X-Men's corner of the Marvel Universe a little bit stranger.