Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I love the X-Men mythology so much. I mean, I truly think the cast and its themes kind of stands apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe. It fits nicely IN it, too, but just- there’s such intricacy kind of contained IN X-Men that you couldn’t fit neatly into cameos into other books.

I’ve been critical of Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men I admit, although he did some things that I really love, too. Strangely, I think the over-the-top ridiculously dark future sequence that he wrapped up with, while seemingly superfluous (I mean, there’s already quite a few timelines that the X-Men grapple with), had some stuff going on I really appreciated. For example I love the idea that the X-Men in Morrison’s future weren’t strictly mutants. They were champions of diversity. So humans, reprogrammed sentinels, and psychic parasites/twin sisters brought to life all fought along side them.

The X-Men have always been contending with prejudice in ALL of its forms. For every mutant brotherhood-terrorist out there, there’s some human turned racist whose hellbent on blaming mutants for all of their problems. Now the X-Men don’t want for superpowered bad guys. From mutants like Magneto, to Celestial enhanced whackjobs like Apocalypse, to geneticists gone bad like Sinister, there are plenty of scary powerhouses for the X-Men to contend with.

But for me, it’s the HUMAN (and, sometimes, Sentinel) villains that just seem…sick.

Not that Apocalypse is exactly the kind of guy you have tea with on a rainy Sunday, but the X-Mens' struggles with him are a bit more what you expect to see IN Marvel comics: evil, ancient menace, determined to bring his demented rule to the world (of course, Apocaylpse’s quest doesn’t boil down neatly to the sound bite I just wrote here, what with the whole survival of the fittest thing. But it’s a kind of world conquest, I think). Magneto’s plans and schemes have always been metaphorical, but…

It always seemed like it was high science-fiction in these kind of stories or a tragedy of epic proportions. I mean, you can understand where Magneto’s coming from, can’t you? He may be a racist and a terrorist but can you blame him, the way mutants are hunted? After what he saw, in Nazi Germany?

Now- humans.

Mutant-killing humans are just choosing ignorance. Prejudice. Yeah, they’re afraid of mutants, okay. It’s deluded. It’s hate, in its most blind, absurd form. And it’s so much easier than finding a better way or looking at yourself. But it creeps you out, I think, to read about it because you KNOW people do this. Yes, there are cultural misunderstandings every day- it’s inevitable. And everyone, all over the world, needs to work harder to overcome them.

But there’s ACTIVE prejudice too. The CHOICE to hate. Whether it’s under a banner like the KKK, or a religion, whatever it is- when you see people unite against mutants, in X-Men, you know that somewhere out there, there’s some sad, deluded organization doing the same thing against some other culture or religion. Just spreading that kind of hate and intolerance. So I guess the human villains in X-Men are just that- human. And watching them make the choices they do just feels dirty. God.

Now, that being said, I really do LOVE that the Purifiers, a band of mutant-hunting terrorists with a pseudo-religious agenda, originally only appearing in Chris Claremont’s classic God Loves, Man Kills, have been brought back to centerstage in X-Men of late. Because of the scary, kind of cautionary tale they represent. How many people do you know that grab hold of a set of spiritual beliefs and twist them to justify hurting somebody else? Discriminating against them?

Of course, the Purifiers used to be just one cell led by a charismatic, and very, VERY sick preacher by the name of William Stryker. (Yes, Styker’s original conception in the comic is very different than the character of the same name in the movies). Stryker’s stunning debut into the world of mutant-hate-crimes involved the murder of not ONLY his mutant-born son but the wife who bore him his child. Convinced that mutants are the minions of Satan, Stryker is one sick, sick puppy.

Of course, like I said they used to be one cell. Now, the Purifiers consist of a vast, underground network of deluded and spiteful humans rallying together as this kind of paramilitary cult. Stryker’s contact with former elements of the Weapon X program (who, in case you haven’t been keeping up, aren’t exactly mutant-civil-rights activists) has allowed him to outfit his soldiers with inquisition-like body armor, rifles, flamethrowers- even vibranium-based weapons (which, as any Black Panther fan knows, does all SORTS of weird stuff). The whole new look is very Warhammer 40,000, for the gamer-dorks out there. Apocalyptic and scary.

The human race does this, to each other. We rally against each other, senselessly. And it’s terrifying to watch it happen. The Purifier past roster reads like a catalogue of deluded, racist psychopaths. All of whom are human (er, or were, when they got started). A few of note include:

Cameron Hodge: A sort of relentless pox on Warren Worthington’s (A.K.A. Archangel) life, Hodge has really evolved to be one of the most truly monstrous figures in X-Men history. The most truly insidious kind of racist, Hodge portrayed himself as a friend and benefactor of mutantkind, helping Warren set up the government sponsored mutant search-and-rescue team known as X-Factor. Secretly, Hodge stewed over Warren’s wealth and good looks. Using layers and layers of deception, Hodge convinced Warren that the best way to protect the team’s operations from outside interference was to portray X-Factor as mutant hunters that protected humans. The idea being that X-Factor would hunt mutants, only to "help" them.

The thing was? X-Factor really DID hunt mutants. Hodge secretly stirred mass anti-mutant hysteria and fed Warren and other X-Men misinformation about the help they were providing. Hodge also developed his own mutant-hunting cell, which he dubbed The Right. His soldiers wore full-body encasing battle armor bearing automatic weapons, and had big, creepy, yellow smiley faces painted on the outside (just to freak you the &*$% out). Hodge also managed to amputate Warren’s wings, after they were injured. The amputation was completely unnecessary but Hodge convinced Warren it was the only way to save his life.

Oh, and than he tried to blow Warren up, in a jetplane accident.

Oh, and than he murdered Warren’s long-time love interest, Candy Southern.

Oh, and he made a deal with a demon that granted him immortality.

Than he surgically grafted his own head to a giant, techno-organic inhuman body and proceeded to head up the then strictly mutant-oppressing Genoshian government.

…there’s more. It just goes on like this. I think you get the picture.

Donald Pierce: A cybernetically enhanced mutant killing machine, Pierce has always kind of had it out for Wolverine. Originally a member of the powerful but mutant-filled Hellfire Club, Pierce used his fortune to purchase cyborg-implants for his body and only spent his time with mutants who were interested in killing or controlling other mutants (which the Hellfire Club was quite good at).

Of course, Pierce’s biggest legacy has been the Reavers. A group of barely human-looking cyborgs, the Reavers make it their job to kill any mutant they come across with extreme prejudice. The Reavers came very close to killing every active X-Man on the team, at one point- only a jump through time and space saved everyone’s lives.

Nowadays, there’s barely any real ‘organic’ tissue left of Pierce’s body. Wolverine has cut it in half a couple of times. But, like any good mechanical-menace, Pierce and the Reavers just won’t stay dead.

Bolivar Trask: A brilliant but fairly deluded scientist, Trask is actually the greatest mutant killer of all time. The inventor of the Sentinel Mark I, Trask claimed that humanity needed protection from mutantkind. Of course, Trask had no idea that his seemingly obedient robot defenders would one day eventually evolve artificial intelligence, purge any human being with the potential to pass on a mutated gene and force all of humanity to live in monitored breeding camps that resemble holocaust-conditions. But hey. Accidents happen.

Graydon Creed: A former presidential candidate, Creed had some very personal reasons to hate mutants. After all, his parents are in the top five mutant-most-wanted: Victor Creed (A.K.A. Sabertooth) and “Raven Darkholme” (A.K.A. Mystique). Abandoned because of his parents’ disappointment in a human child, Creed dedicated his life to hurting mutants. His organization, the Friends of Humanity, and his presidential campaign really worked hard at legitimizing and legalizing mutant prejudice, calling for legal reforms that would make the superhero registration act look like a parking ticket.

Steven Lang: A mutant hating government employee and robotics expert, Lang picked up where Trask left off. Committed to exterminating mutants, Lang used favors and inside-information to get his hands on decommissioned sentinel technology and start his own private war with the X-Men. Lang is made somewhat famous in that his battles eventually lead to the death of Jean Grey. Later, Lang got assimilated in the Phalanx, a techno-organic alien race bent on conquering worlds it/they encounter. Lang didn’t quite lose his individuality in the process as intended and has got a whole slew of creepy new ways to kill mutants, no Sentinels needed.

Bastion: Oohh, where do I begin? The mastermind behind Operation: Zero Tolerance and the go-to guy for mutant-hating organizations worldwide, Bastion is, as many fans guessed after his introduction, not really human. Rather Bastion is the time-displaced fusion of two separate entities. Master Mold (a kind of mass-Sentinel-producing super computer) and Nimrod (a near unstoppable advanced sentinel, sent back in time to kill the X-Men and ensure that Sentinels would rule the planet).

Ironically, Bastion’s accidental creation (the result of the two entities getting sucked in a mystic gateway that gives allows people to be reborn, into a new life) resulted a guy with almost no memories of his life as two different Sentinels. Rather, Bastion felt compelled to hunt and destroy mutants at all costs- often compulsively- and couldn’t tell you why.

Bastion may be a kind of new life in that he’s more human than your average Sentinel, but he’s retained a lot of Nimrod’s abilities- strength, durability, enhanced mental processing. And if there’s one guy who just isn’t going to stop killing mutants, like the kind genocidal computers he came from, it’s him, right?