Limited Edition #6: The Mutant Massacre
There are bodies all around me. The stench is thick, unforgiving. I am stumbling blindly through it all trying to contain my rage and hold back my tears.
For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve never seen a bloodbath like this one. Gruesome, cruel murders with complete disregard for women, parents or children.
As I move past the bodies and the rats eating them, I stumble to the ground. As I stand, I feel something wet on my hands. Even in the dark I know what it is. It’s the same wetness that is soaking into my shoes: blood.
As I slowly let the tears out for my fallen comrades, I see a light piercing the darkness. It’s my heroes, my saviors, it’s… Power Pack?
That’s right folks today we’re talking about one of the darkest times in X-Men history, perhaps one of the darker stories in comic book history, The Mutant Massacre.
The Mutant Massacre can be found on Comixology or in this set. Originally it ran in Uncanny X-Men #210-214, X-Factor #9-11, New Mutants #46, Thor #373-374, Daredevil #238 and Power Pack #27.
Yes, Power Pack.
If you don’t know Power Pack, it’s a group of powerful kids (the oldest being like 11, maybe) that fight crime or go through puberty or something. I honestly have never read an issue of Power Pack until I got to this set. The most I know about Power Pack is the “leader” is Alex Powers, who has played some pretty big roles in Hickman’s Future Foundation as well as the recently relaunched FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred.
Anyway, I’ll discuss more about Power Pack’s specific role in a bit. But first let’s talk about the overarching story. There are going to be some spoilers here but this is also a 28-year-old event so odds are you know (or don’t care) about any spoilers from this series.
I recently watched a documentary on Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men called Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men. The documentary was pretty good honestly. You could tell it was made on a dime and features some really weird (almost uncomfortable cosplay scenes) but the actual interviews were really informative.
In the documentary Claremont talks about Mutant Massacre and how it essentially kicked off the crossover phenomenon that still exists today. Up to this point, the books would overlap but it wasn’t required to read other titles to get the story and this was the first time that mold was broken.
If I am being honest though, as a crossover this looks like nothing from what we see in events today. You could skip certain titles and be fine and while there were some deadly things happening to characters, no one really important died and it didn’t really rock the foundation of the X-Men to the core like most events claim today.
As a story though, I really enjoyed Mutant Massacre. It’s not particularly iconic like Dark Phoenix Saga or particularly original like Days of Future Past but Mutant Massacre really brings the action, the bloodshed and the Power Pack.
Essentially, the story begins with a bunch of really ugly mutants, the Morlocks, who live underneath New York because they’ve been rejected by society. We’ve seen this Morlocks in quite a few issues leading up to this, typically causing trouble. They once kidnapped Kitty Pryde. They once kidnapped Angel. They once kidnapped Power Pack. Man these guys love to kidnap.
For a short time Storm became the leader of the Morlock’s when she beat their previous leader, Callisto (a one-eyed woman) in battle when she was trying to marry Angel. This was a weird time for X-Men.
Anyway, the Morlocks live down in these tunnels and the Marauders (making their first time appearance) come down to the tunnels and basically just begin slaughtering the Morlocks. It’s pretty violent stuff.
They kill women, children, old people, young people. Pretty much everyone. So considering the X-Men have helped them in the past the Morlock’s send for them and by sheer coincidence X-Factor ends up in the tunnels at the same time.
X-Factor at this point consisted of the original X-Men, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Beast and Iceman. Their stories crossover but the main casts never overlap. In fact no one from the X-Men, except Wolverine, even realizes X-Factor is down there.
So let’s walk through each team tie-in individually and I’ll tell you which ones worked for me and which ones didn’t as much.
Uncanny X-Men #210-214
Uncanny X-Men is the core title for the event obviously, but I would argue that it doesn’t have the best story. The X-Men are summoned into the tunnels where they basically move through the carnage and death, battle some Marauders (where Sabertooth makes his first appearance in the X-Men books) and then following what amounts to barely a victory, the X-Men limp home to lick their wounds and recover.
Now there are some major character beats in this book, Colossus makes his first kill against Riptide (yes, Riptide of X-Men First Class, hellfire club fame) and Shadowcat and Nightcrawler are both severely injured. Storm also suffers an identity crisis as leader of the X-Men because of their major defeat.
As I said Wolverine and Sabertooth have their first real battle that proves to be one of the highlights of the book. Sabertooth would crossover to several other titles during this but I will say that no one writes him better than Chris Claremont.
Also Psylocke joins the team in the final issue back when she was still in her old body. Apparently, she was trying to decide if she should join the X-Men or New Mutants and she also has a thing for Cypher. These are all things I didn’t know that I learned while reading this.
X-Factor is the best title of this crossover for a few reasons. For starters, I really like the original X-Men so it’s been great to see them back in action. Second, they have the most logical way to end up in this tunnel (pursuing a runaway mutant who was part of the Morlocks) and finally this is where we really begin getting hints about Apocalypse and his horsemen. X-Factor is where Apocalypse first appeared.
I also believe that X-Factor as a team suffers more than everyone. First off on more of a mental front, their goofy corporation, X-Factor: Mutant Hunters is exposed. Now while I thought this idea was kind of cheesey it also was the backbone of the group and series so having that fall apart will weigh heavily going further.
The team also suffers from several pangs of conscious. Angel blames himself for the exposing, Jean is doubting the team’s mission because everyone hates X-Factor, Cyclops realizes he was a grade-A dick for leaving his wife and child to try and be with Jean and Beast and Iceman are… well Beast and Iceman.
Finally, on a physical front Angel loses his wings. Through some pretty intense torture scenes, Angel has his wings pinned to the wall and feathers painfully plucked. Ultimately the damage is too much and they have to amputate the wings.
I know ultimately where this takes the character and I am very excited for this part of the ride. In fact, I bet I am enjoying this story more because of my knowledge than someone who read it as it was released.
New Mutants #46
The whole idea of the New Mutants seems to be built around disobedience. Xavier created the team after believing the X-Men were dead but he didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, he wanted to protect these kids. Yet, because this is comics the New Mutants are in constant danger.
The notion of disobedience though, comes from that fact that nine out of ten times the New Mutants get in trouble it’s because they directly disobey orders and this issue is no different.
The X-Men come bursting in with a bunch of dead bodies and tell the New Mutants not leave. Karma immediately calls her family and they don’t answer so she leaves with Magic. Once they both don’t return the rest of the New Mutants go to rescue them… and they don’t tell anyone.
This once again leaves the X-Men thinking they’ve lost the New Mutants to death. The New Mutants though are in fact on a completely unrelated adventure, ending their tie-in to the Mutant Massacre.
If I am being honest, this is the one series that I really would have like to have a bit more of a tie-in. It really didn’t feel connected enough for such a large event and the New Mutants typically play a very large role in the world of the X-Men.
So we come upon our first non-mutant crossover book. Now I am reading all the X-Men titles at this point (X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor) and they all had a natural fit. Thor doesn’t.
Now don’t misunderstand, it’s not bad. He has a role and it sorta makes sense how he gets in the tunnels (a frog tells him about the murders because comics) but it just feels like it was more of a behind the scenes connection.
You see Thor was written by Walt Simonson, whose wife Louise Simonson was working X-Factor. I think if that connection hadn’t existed, this crossover wouldn’t have either.
As for the actual story he connects more closely with X-Factor, acting as Angel’s savior, then he does with the X-Men. Overall, his stories are necessary because if you read one X-Factor to the next you’re left with a big hole in it so I wouldn’t skip them. That being said, there are parts in the actual issues you can skip as there are huge segments taking place in Asgard that don’t tie in at all.
Sadly, Daredevil acts as the least necessary tie-in and also my least favorite of the event. Much like Thor, I am not entirely sure why Daredevil is included in the run but unlike Thor, it just doesn’t work at all.
Let me summarize in one run-on sentence: Sabertooth kidnaps some girl from a gang to make into his mate because that’s what animals do and Daredevil stumbles upon Sabertooth and they fight and Sabertooth acts completely different than he has the entire event and Daredevil confuses Sabertooth somehow and he leaves but the girl thinks Sabertooth is good because he didn’t mate with her even though he chained her to a pole and she was only with him for like an hour but basically had she has stockholm syndrome or something and there is some bit about animals and man in the speech boxes. That’s basically the gist of the entire issue. It was written by Ann Nocenti and it just feels unconnected and entirely shoehorned in there.
I know she was editor for the X-titles at some point during Claremont’s run and I don’t begrudge her for wanting to be involved but everything about this issue felt off. Sabertooth seemed completely out of character and I felt like Nocenti was trying to write her own one issue version of Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt but it just didn’t turn out. This is the only issue I think you could skip and I am saying that considering…
Power Pack #27
Yes, Power Pack. Here’s the thing, I give this series a hard time because frankly it’s kind of goofy but I didn’t hate their issue. It wasn’t my favorite but their involvement made sense and it was written well which is more than I can say about Daredevil’s issue.
Power Pack sneak into the tunnels to rescue an old friend, Leech also of FF fame, and are shocked and frightened by all the death. These are some brave kids. They challenge some Marauder’s including Sabertooth and even sort of defeat them.
I still think they’re weird and this issue didn’t make me want to go read the entire run or anything but it wasn’t a bad edition to the event, just seemed a little out of left field.
With everything so heavy and murder and death so prevalent it seemed weird to include Power Pack in it. But according to Wikipedia what makes the series good is it deals with adult themes a lot.
Overall, this is a great first event for the X-Men and is one worth checking out if you haven’t read it. It’s got a lot of great beats that you’ve probably read elsewhere but actually happened here. Consider it like a history lesson on the X-Men.