Welcome True Believers! Today’s piece is part two of my series on the greatest villains in X-Men history, and I have some great ones to tell you about this time around. Today’s group is a pretty wide range of badies that might not be in the top tier for many readers, but each one of them at one time or another wreaked havoc upon the X-Men. Who are these evil-doers as Stan Lee would say? Let’s find out!
X-Men: Greatest Villains Part 2
Part 2 of my ongoing series on the X-Men's greatest adversaries.
The first villainous faction on our list, the Reavers have been around since the late 80s, created by Chris Claremont and Marc Silverstri. The original Reavers were a group of cyborgs that first encountered the X-Men during their time in Australia. That first battle encounter did not go well for the cyborgs, the X-Men destroying a number of them while the rest fled. Sometime later, the Reavers were reassembled under Donald Pierce (who we’ll talk about in depth later).
Under Pierce’s leadership, the Reavers became a clandestine assassination force, hunting down and murdering mutants, particularly targeting the X-Men whenever they could. During once such instance, they attacked the X-Men’s base, and the wake of the battle, captured Wolverine, torturing him and eventually crucifying him as a warning to other mutants. Jubilee manages to help him escape, and together they flee to Muir Island. The Reavers follow, but are beaten badly by the X-Men and Freedom Force, forcing them to withdraw. After that, the Reavers have several encounters with Emma Frost and the Punisher, but where beaten again and again.
After that, the Reavers became background players, reappearing every now and again to cause trouble across the Marvel U, Pierce leading them nearly every time. During the Messiah Complex storyline, the Reavers would fall under the leadership of Lady Deathstryke. Together with the Purifiers, the Reavers would attempt to destroy the newly found mutant messiah (Hope Summers). Though they did manage to injure Cable, before they could kill the child, Wolverine and X-Force intervene and wiped out most of them. The Reavers returned briefly in the pages of Cable and X-Force before fading back into obscurity.
The Reavers were one of the last teams that Chris Claremont would create during his time on the X-Men, and though there was a world of potential there, they never quite got the top flight status some would say they were destined for. Will they ever come back? Odds are yes, the Reavers one of the rare enemies of the X-Men that always seem to return when they are least expected.
Exodus was 90s villain, and unlike many of the villains from that era that are best left forgotten (seriously, don’t ask), he has actually had quite a long tenure in Marvel. Created by Scott Lobdell and Joe Queseda, Exodus was a major player during the 90s era of the X-Men, and one of the most dangerous enemies the mutant team would faced during that decade.
One of the world’s oldest mutants, Exodus began his journey into the world of Marvel comics back in the 12th century as an ill-fated friend of the Black Knight. Exodus, then known as Bennet du Paris, would enter a strange tower beset with dangerous trials, and through these trails his mutant powers would manifest for the first time. Through a series of misadventures, the Black Knight and his companion Sersi would discover du Paris, now known as Exodus, under the employ of Apocaylpse. During the resulting battle, Exodus would turn on Apocalypse to his undoing, Apocalypse nearly destroying him and sealing him away in a cavern, never to awaken.
That was until, Magneto found him, resurrecting him and making him one of his Acolytes. Exodus would become Magneto’s right hand man after Fabian Cortez betrayed him, and would lead an attack on X-Force, kidnapping Cannonball and Sunspot. X-Force would rescue them from Avalon, but not without Cable being severely wounded.
After Magneto’s defeat during the Fatal Attractions storyline, Exodus would take command of the Acolytes. When Fabian Cortez took control of Genosha and kidnapped Luna, Magneto’s granddaughter, the Avengers, the X-Men and Exodus himself arrived on Genosha to stop Cortez. This of course broke down into a massive war between the heroes, Exodus, and Cortaz. Exodus was supported by Genosha’s Mutates, and quickly gained the upper hand. The X-Men and Avengers went after Exodus, Cortez promising to give them Luna if they killed the evil mutant, but he was too much for them. He killed Cortez soon thereafter, and attempted to leave with Luna. The Avengers and X-Men fought Exodus with everything they had, but he was too powerful, and it was only with the intervention of Professor X that he was defeated and skulked away to lick his wounds.
Sometime later, the Acolytes found a strange cocoon within Avalon. Against their advice, Exodus hatches it, revealing Holocaust, a survivor of the doomed Age of Apocalypse timeline. Holocaust, confused and hearing Magneto (the leader of the X-Men in that reality) was present, attacks Exodus, and the two commence to tearing Avalon apart in the resulting battle. Avalon is sent crashing to Earth, utterly destroyed, scattering the Acolytes to the wind and sending Exodus into hiding to recover.
During this recovery, he discovered that his powers had changed, becoming a sort of psychic vampire. Needing psychic energy to live, he seeks out and fights X-Man and Cable, nearly killing them. X-Man soon realized Exodus’s connection to Apocalypse, and unleashed his full power, burying Exodus in the mountains alive. Once recovered, he escaped his prison (his powers reverting to normal somehow) and sought out the Acolytes and resumed leadership. He then launched an all out assault on the High Evolutionary, declaring him a non-mutant abomination. After taking Wundagore Mountain, he declared war on Evolutionary and the Inhumans, sending more Acolytes out to fight them, promising to cure his people of the deadly Legacy Virus, though this promise was likely hollow. This war would continue until the Black Knight arrived, entering Exodus’s mind and revealing their past friendship. Despite this, Exodus attacked him anyway, and the Black Knight was forced to defeat him and then seal Exodus back in his crypt.
After this, Exodus would return periodically, even joining the Brotherhood of Mutants for a time, but he never truly threatened the X-Men or their allies again seriously until the Messiah Complex story-arc. During this arc, he would join with Mister Sinister, and fight Emma Frost on Muir Island to a stalemate, but was defeated by Dust, forcing him to withdraw.
Exodus would return soon thereafter, strangely enough trying to save Professor X after Charles is shot in the head by Bishop. Knowing he would need help, he seeks out the aid of Magneto, and together the two work to reconstruct Xavier’s memories. Exodus betrayed Magneto, only to be challenged on the Astral Plane and then defeated by Xavier. Xavier and Magneto would leave him alive to regroup the Acolytes. Disgusted that Magneto would side with Xavier, Exodus renounces the name Magneto gave him, and goes to find a new way to help mutant-kind.
Exodus would return during Re-Genesis in a vain attempt to end the schism between the X-Men. This would lead to several battles with Wolverine’s X-Men and Generation Hope, eventually Exodus being overwhelmed by the two teams. He is imprisoned in Utopia, where he would stay until Avengers vs X-Men. Exodus would leave Utopia when Danger sets the prisoners there free, but is not seen during the war that followed. Afterwards, he is seen once again under SHIELD’s employ, but is destroyed by an omega level mutant, though this death was undone by Tempus. Since then, Exodus has not been seen or heard of, though I doubt that’s going to last.
Exodus is one of the rare villains that debuted in the 90s to have serious longevity. In a way, his almost Magneto 2.0, and by that I mean he is a violent revolutionary seeking mutant dominance, who later on tries to change his ways. Unlike Magneto however, he never truly made it to the other side even partially, and is ultimately too unstable to truly allow himself to be redeemed. Will we see him again? Given his history, I would say yes, but when and where are as a big as a mystery as the man himself.
Cyborg of Hate
Another one of our MUTANTS MUST BE DESTROYED villains, Donald Pierce originally came onto the scene in 1980 as the White Bishop of the Hellire Club. Created by the iconic creative duo of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Pierce was a mutant-hating murdering psychopath who joined the Hellfire Club (who were all mutants) to kill them. He attempted to kidnap both Professor X and Hellfire Club member Tessa, but was defeated by Xavier before being thrown in a makeshift prison by Hellfire Club leader Sebastian Shaw.
Sometime later, Pierce would re-emerge as the leader of the Reaves, claiming to have been their creator all along. Under his control, Pierce directs the Reavers to eliminate all of mutant kind, first and foremost the X-Men. As I stated before above, the Reavers weren’t successful in that venture, but Pierce never lost sight of his goal, coming back again and again in an effort to destroy the X-Men.
Years later, Pierce comes under the control of the Sentinel Bastion, and is sent against the X-Men time and again, eventually leading to his capture. During the Second Coming event, Bastion reveals that he used Pierce’s capture to plant a mole within the X-Men. Pierce escapes his prison and destroys all the X-Men’s jets and Blackbirds, effectively grounding them. He is destroyed by Cyclops, but he doesn’t care. In his mind, he had sown the seeds of death for the X-Men, and that was all that mattered. Of course, the X-Men survived their war with Bastion, but Pierce was not alive to see it.
Donald Pierce is not the greatest ALL MUTANTS MUST DIE villain the X-Men have battled, but the argument can certainly be made that he was among the most dangerous. As the leader of the Reavers, he has nearly destroyed the X-Men several times. As a Purifier, he helped nearly bring the mutant heroes to their knees for Bastion. Will he return? Never say never, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned reading sci-fi is that androids and cyborgs have a nasty habit of coming back from the dead.
By the mid-80s, the X-Men were on a high, with multiple books leading the sales charts and each year bringing in more and more fans to the readership. However, a problem was arising with finding opposition to the mutant team. Magneto was now teaching the New Mutants, the Brotherhood had all but disappeared, and the anti-mutant hate groups had fallen into obscurity for the time being. Thus, new villains needed to be created, and conversely, those villains needed to be truly dangerous adversaries and established as such on their first outing.
Created to serve this purpose by Chris Claremont, John Romita Sr, and Dan Green were the Marauders, making their debut in the now famed Mutant Massacre storyline in 1986. The group was made up of mutant mercenaries lead by Scalphunter, and featuring such members as Sabretooth, Malice, Arclight, Harpoon, and a host of others. Their first strike against the X-Teams was an all out assault on the Morlocks home in the sewers underneath New York City. Both the X-Men and X-Factor attempted to intervene, but their losses were horrible, Kitty Pryde and Colossus nearly killed while Angel was viciously attacked by Harpoon, his wings crippled in the fight. In the resulting battles however (which also involved Thor), three of the Marauders were killed, and the villainous team vanished. They would return several times, Malice even possessing Polaris for a period, and became a deeply personal enemy for the X-Teams.
During the Inferno storyline, the Marauders did return, all working for Sinister. It’s later revealed that these mutants were clones, Sinister bringing the deceased members back from the dead. They are defeated over the course of the storyline, but they remained a viable threat to the X-Teams, especially considering when any of them were killed most often they would be cloned anyway.
As the 80s rolled on and turned into the 90s, the Marauders would continue to pop up every now and again, but never in as prominent as before. In 1997, it is revealed that Gambit was the one who had formed the group originally, but when they began killing the Morlocks, he tried to stop them, saving a young Marrow in the process. This account actually contradicts the earlier storyline laid down in Mutant Massacre, and is still contested to this day.
A decade later, the Marauders would return again under Malice’s leadership, featuring many former X-men. They would battle against the X-Teams, losing a fair number of members along the way, and then slink back into hiding with their failure. They would return for Messiah Complex as one of the many groups looking for the Messiah child (Hope Summers), killing a group of Purifiers along the way. Though they do manage to capture the child eventually, they are defeated at the Battle of Muir Island, and sent packing.
From there, the team would continue to pop up occasionally, most prominently in Magneto, though it has become clear that the group were almost all clones, a new one being formed and joining the team every time one of them dies. Magneto would use them to his own ends, regenerating clones every time he needed them, and programming them to do his bidding. After he was finished with them, they disappeared until the All New, All Different Marvel relaunch where a new team was one again under the control of Mr Sinister, and have retaken their place as major adversaries for the X-Teams.
The Marauders to me are almost a pseudo-replacement for the Brotherhood, which had fallen by the wayside by the 1980s. Their debut is to this day of the most harrowing storylines in X-Men history, the crippling of Angel an image that has been burned into the minds of X-Fans everywhere. However, their later appearances were not as memorable, and now mostly serve as pawns or henchmen for more powerful enemies. One thing is for certain though, no villain team in the history of the X-Men ever made as big an impact on their first showing as the Marauders.
Media Villain, Literally
Probably the most physically repulsive character in the X-Men’s Rogue Gallery, Mojo is one of the most interesting villains the X-Men have ever faced, and not just because of what he is on the page, but for the subtext that he represents. Created in 1985 by Ann Nocenti, Mojo was a representation of the ills of media and the control it seemed to have on the public in the 1980s. Nocenti was pursuing her Masters Degree at the time at Columbia, specializing in International and Public Affairs, and thus was reading many books by some of the decade’s most prominent social commentators. Created for the Longshot mini-series, Mojo was a direct response to the these studies, the character an evil dictator that ruled his subjects through television, controlling the breadth of his dimension’s media and using it to keep its people under his heel. Once the character was conceived, she described Mojo to legendary artist Art Adams and instructed him to make Mojo both frightening and “as disgusting as possible”. What resulted is one of the most grotesque characters in comic book history, in addition to becoming a memorable foe for the X-Men.
Originally anadversary for Longshot, Mojo would encounter the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men Annual #10, where Longshot would travel to the main Marvel U. This would lead to several conflicts with the X-Men, leading to Mojo becoming more interested in Earth. He tried to enslave the X-Men by turning them into children, but was stopped by the New Mutants. It was during this time that Mojo had captured Betsy Braddock (Psylocke), and had implanted mechanical eyes that he used as cameras. Through these cameras, he would film the X-Men’s exploits, and used them to boost his ratings. This was eventually stopped of course, leaving Mojo in a difficult position with his viewers.
After this, Mojo would eventually be defeated at the hands of Longshot. He was soon replaced by a clone, but Mojo II was just as bad as his predecessor, and Longshot was forced to deal with him as well. Mojo soon thereafter returned to his throne, and would create even more havoc for the Marvel Universe.
Mojo would create the X-Babies (yeah, I know), in an effort to replace the real X-Men as his ratings giants. However, the X-Men would help their childish counterparts defeat Mojo. This would lead to Mojo’s downfall, as he would create the Mitey Vengers (baby Avengers), and then finally the Apocaylpse Babies (based on the villains from the Age of Apocalypse universe). According to Dazzler, the resulting war destroyed much of Mojoworld, killing Longshot in the process (apparently).
After that Mojo would return periodically, but never as big a threat as he was before, which is a shame to me. Mojo was a metaphor (for me at least) to the control television had gained over society. This is a creature that literally controlled his empire through television, enslaving his people and using them as entertainment to keep them subjugated. This was, and still is, one the most nail on the head allegories to modern society I’ve ever heard of, and it’s sad he became largely a joke in his later years. That being said, Mojo was a memorable villain in the X-Men’s history, one that still has a world of potential to become something truly spectacular.
Deeper into Darkness
Well, that does it for another edition of this series. As you can see, the villains in this episode were slightly more upper tier than our last episode, but the best (or worst) are still coming. When next we meet, I’ll be heading down the rabbit hole even further, and looking at a few of the most frightening and dangerous villains the X-Men have encountered over the years, and what kind of impact they’ve made on both our heroes and on comic books.
Until next time Marvelites, HAPPY COMIC BOOKS!