As a general rule, as someone ages, their years of experience make them wiser and more knowledgeable than they ever could have been as a younger person. This is just as true of superheroes as it is of real people. They may be physically weaker -- then again, everyone's superpowers respond differently to the aging process, and some don't seem to age at all -- but their lifetime of accumulated wisdom makes them well worth listening to. And while older versions of heroes, especially Old Man Logan, tend to get the lion’s share of attention, there are a few alternate universes that put the spotlight on younger versions instead. As you might expect, these youngsters generally lack either the strength or the experience to wield their powers as well as their original, older selves.
But comic books are full of characters who surprise and astound us with their unexpected might. Some of the younger X-Men fit that bill. A few of them exist in Earth-616, the primary Marvel universe where the originals also came from. Most, however, hail from alternate Earths where the X-Men's history unfolded in another direction. They may look like pint-sized versions of the X-Men we know and love, but their skill levels and even their personalities are often radically different. So here we go: ten X-Men who overcame the disadvantage of youth and showed greater strength than their older selves, and ten X-Men who understandably need a bit more time in the Danger Room before they can measure up.
20 STRONGER: YOUNGER JEAN GREY
When she first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #1, Jean Grey was the newest student at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. But what the comic didn't mention was that Jean and Professor Xavier had met before As Jean relates in New X-Men #148, Xavier had counseled Jean when she was a young teen, teaching her how to control her telekinetic and telepathic talents.
Jean did pretty well under Xavier's tutelage, but not well enough to prevent him from blocking off parts of Jean's powers until she was older. This technically makes the younger Jean Grey stronger than the original, slightly older version.
19 WEAKER: TIME-DISPLACED JEAN GREY
When the original X-Men learn that the future is going to heck in a handbasket, they time travel to do what they can. That is very heroic of them and all, but things get complicated quickly. Even before they learn that they probably can't return to their own time, most of the X-Men decide that they want to stay in the future long-term.
Thanks to all the time traveling, Jean Grey develops her full array of telepathic and telekinetic powers earlier than the original did. Unfortunately, because of her youth, she still hasn't figured out when and how to use them appropriately. Highlights of her misadventures include manipulating her friends' emotions and snooping through their minds without permission.
18 STRONGER: NEW SUN GAMBIT
The Gambit of 616 is fun and charming, but he's far from the most powerful X-Man out there. That's certainly not the case on Earth-9921. Here, Gambit, called New Sun, was bred by the government for the express purpose of becoming obscenely powerful. He was trained from a very young age to use his mutant powers to their full advantage.
Even as a child, New Sun is orders of magnitude stronger than the original Gambit. When he reaches adulthood, he is functionally a god, capable of taking down even the Phoenix. When New Sun finally passes away, he takes an entire planet with him.
17 WEAKER: X-CAMPUS STORM
What would happen if Magneto ran Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters? We get the answer to that in X-Campus, a 2010 limited series. Here, Magneto is the principal of the Worthington Foundation, a school of teenaged mutants. He and his associates recruit the most powerful young mutants they can find, among them Ororo Munroe.
Storm's mutant powers seem to be just as strong here as they are in 616. She is able to summon a rainstorm as easily as normal people snap their fingers. It's her other abilities that have suffered. The original Storm successfully pickpocketed Charles Xavier as a young teen. Here, she gets busted rifling through her roommate's things in the very first issue.
16 STRONGER: X-23
Wolverine is such a powerhouse that of course unscrupulous organizations everywhere seek to clone their own version. Laura Kinney, originally designated X-23, is probably the most successful. Despite a lifetime of being trained as a weapon, Laura has been a hero for years.
In many ways, she is stronger than her genetic source material could ever be. The most famous difference between her and Logan are her foot claws, which have often provided the edge necessary for her to win a fight. And, in the ultimate sign of success for any protege, Laura got to carry on the Wolverine legacy while the original was presumed long gone.
15 WEAKER: ULTIMATE NIGHTCRAWLER
The X-Men of the Ultimates universe are, as a rule, younger than their 616 counterparts. Many of them also have enhanced powers. Nightcrawler, for instance, can now take large objects with him when he teleports, up to and including walls. However, he only got this boost because he uses a power-enhancing substance called "Banshee".
This Nightcrawler is also noticeably weaker in the moral department. When he learns his longtime friend, Colossus, is gay, he rejects Colossus in disgust. This and other factors cause Nightcrawler to have a mental breakdown, during which he captures his fellow X-Man, Dazzler. To be fair, he did get better and later apologized to Colossus for being terrible.
14 STRONGER: 1602 ICEMAN
1602 takes many of Marvel's most beloved characters and transplants them to Europe in the early 17th century. The X-Men of this world are called "witchbreed," although they still train under Xavier to use their abilities for the greater good. Iceman, here known as Roberto Trefusis, is among Xavier's apprentices.
During his first appearance in 616, Iceman turned himself into a snowman and lobbed snowballs at missiles. Meanwhile, in 1602, he was busy building ice walls to keep back dozens of soldiers and coating half of Otto von Doom's castle in ice. It would appear that this Xavier is a better teacher than the original.
13 WEAKER: ULTIMATE COLOSSUS
Ultimates Colossus shares some surface similarities with the 616 version. He is a young man from Russia who can turn his body into steel, but he doesn't possess super-strength like the original does. Feeling inadequate, he turns to the drug Banshee to enhance his natural mutant abilities. This grants him incredible strength, which he uses to, uh, do tricks for tourists.
But Ultimates Colossus soon learns that taking illegal substances is not the answer to life's problems, with great power comes great responsibility, and so forth. He stops taking Banshee at the behest of his boyfriend, Northstar, who had overdosed on the stuff and permanently lost the use of his legs.
12 STRONGER: TIME-DISPLACED CYCLOPS
By the time the time-displaced Cyclops arrives in the present, the original Cyclops has gone off the rails a bit. He absorbed all of the Phoenix Force and DESTROYED Professor Xavier while under its influence. This causes the other time-displaced X-Men to view their own Cyclops with suspicion. Jean Grey even starts a coup of sorts, taking over as team leader.
Despite the undeserved shunning, Cyclops stays the course, researching this new world's history, saving innocents, and berating his older self for going to unethically extreme lengths to protect mutantkind. Time-displaced Cyclops also managed to refrain from murdering his friends, which is a bonus.
11 WEAKER: THE X-BABIES
Well, duh, they're babies. First created by the villain Mojo when he de-aged the X-Men, the X-Babies later turned out to actually exist in another universe. And that's not even getting into the X-Men who appear in A-Babies vs. X-Babies, which have nothing to do with any of the others. Aren't comics fun?
Despite often looking like they've just barely started eating solid foods, the X-Babies talk and act like they're older. They also still have their mutant powers. The team goes by baby-talk versions of the originals' names, including Colossusus, Creepy Crawler and Bub. And unfortunately for them, they seem to need rescuing an awful lot. They're lucky they're so darn cute.
10 STRONGER: ULTIMATE MULTIPLE MAN
Sometimes called Multiple Man, Jamie Madrox can create identical duplicates of himself. The original is no shirker and has served the X-Men well over the years. But Ultimates Multiple Man takes the term "multitasking" to new and lethal levels.
Madrox was brainwashed at a young age and forced to put his abilities to use for Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutant Supremacy. He became a one-man hit squad, sending his duplicates out to murder whoever Magneto told him to. But Multiple Man himself proved much harder to end. Wolverine attempted to do him in but ended up snuffing out the wrong Jamie Madrox.
9 WEAKER: X-CAMPUS WOLVERINE
Along with most of the other X-Men, Wolverine was de-aged for X-Campus. As an unusually hairy teenager, Logan is the resident tough guy. He roams the school being sullen and refusing to admit that there could possibly be an upside to his mutations. He also appears to have gained his adamantium claws much earlier in the X-Campus Universe than he did on Earth-616.
As the comic itself points out, this Wolverine simply does not have the decades of experience that the original does. When he tries to fight Juggernaut, he doesn't even get a single punch in. He's great at being sarcastic and bullying his classmates, though!
8 STRONGER: X-CAMPUS EMMA FROST
Emma Frost's moral compass has always been a little shaky. While she did join the X-Men eventually, she started out as the White Queen of the power-hungry Hellfire Club. In X-Campus, she is still head of the Hellfire Club, though in this case, the club is run out of Emma's dorm room, and they all take orders from the school principal, Magneto.
But under no circumstances should we dismiss this Emma as a pale imitation. Despite being significantly younger than the original, she retains her strong telepathy, her ability to lead and to manipulate, and her unwillingness to accept anything but the best from those she works with.
7 WEAKER: TIME-DISPLACED ICEMAN
Traveling to the future was especially poignant for Iceman, the youngest of the original X-Men. For years, he'd hidden the fact that he was gay, not wanting to face persecution for that in addition to his mutant status. But now, in the comparatively open-minded future, he came out to his teammates and began dating men. That's something the original didn't get to do until well into adulthood.
In terms of how he uses his power, however, the original still stands superior. Unlike the original Iceman, who can control his powers even under pressure, the younger version will lose control if he gets too emotional. Time and training will surely clear up that weakness, but for now, this Iceman still has much to learn.
6 STRONGER: X-CAMPUS ROGUE
Using Cyberno, his own version of Cerebro, Magneto scans the country for promising mutants. As usual, he's putting together an army that will help him subjugate humanity and free his mutant brethren from oppression. And he very much wants Anna Raven, better known as Rogue, to be a part of that army.
Magneto chose Rogue because her mutant ability of absorbing powers from others makes her uniquely useful. But Rogue proves resistant to his ideas. She instead gravitates towards her biology professor, Charles Xavier, and his assistant, Dr. Jean Grey, who are trying to put together a mutant team of their own. On her very first mission, Rogue absorbs Juggernaut's powers, making her more powerful than ever.
5 WEAKER: 1602 CYCLOPS
The Cyclops of 1602, named Scotius Sumerisle shares a similar power set with the original and, to his credit, puts those powers to good use. The first time we see him, he’s using his optic blasts to save Angel from being burned at the stake. However, although the original Cyclops isn’t always known for his emotional maturity, he still somehow manages to do better than his 17th-century counterpart.
Scotius has long been in love with Jean Grey, but since Jean must pose as a young man, they cannot act on their attraction. This makes Scotius extremely prickly, to the point where he gets angry when another man tries to befriend Jean. That's healthy relationship behavior, right?
4 STRONGER:TIME-DISPLACED BEAST
The Beast has gone through many notable changes over the years. He started out as a relatively average-looking but extremely agile person with abnormally large hands and feat. Self-experimentation resulted in him growing blue fur all over his body and taking on a more animalistic appearance. The two versions come face to face when the X-Men of the past travel to the future.
The younger Beast almost immediately proves invaluable. He helps to cure his older self of what should have been a fatal illness brought on by his secondary mutation. Ever the eager student, the young Beast goes on to study mysticism and become a powerful sorcerer.
3 WEAKER: ULTIMATE DAZZLER
In terms of pure power, Ultimates Dazzler probably has the original beat. She can create explosions and bursts of light at any time, while the original needs to convert sound into light to be able to use her powers.
However, Ultimates Dazzler is also constricted by her own greed. When the X-Men invited her to join them, Dazzler only agreed to do it if they got her a record deal. Needless to say, Xavier refused. Not long after, the morally dubious Academy of Tomorrow waved a contract in Dazzler's face, and that was all it took for her to join them. She perished off-panel for no particular reason in Ultimatum.
2 STRONGER: HONEY BADGER
Gabrielle, aka Honey Badger, is the youngest of a group of female X-23 clones called the Sisters. Tragically, she is also the only survivor of that group. The rest of the Sisters perished under various and horrible circumstances. X-23 and Gabby eventually teamed up to destroy the corporation that had created the Sisters.
Despite the many traumas she has endured in her short life, Honey Badger maintains a friendly and positive attitude, unlike some clawed mutants we could mention. This optimism doesn't always come easy, but she works hard to be a good person. She even let the man responsible for creating her live, despite her own desire to destroy him.
1 WEAKER: TIME-DISPLACED ANGEL
Angel had more trouble adjusting to the future than the rest of the time-displaced X-Men. While that's understandable, especially given how much his future self had suffered, his method of dealing with that extra stress has been less than healthy.
Despite his teammates' pleas, he joins the murdery elder Cyclops' team. Later, he gets ahold of the Black Vortex, which greatly increases his natural mutant powers. That sounds great, but it also causes mental instability. Yeah, there's a reason that Kitty Pryde and others who were also powered up by the Black Vortex chose to give up that extra power.