X-Men comics have a well earned reputation for being a little less than user friendly, but this week’s issue of Uncanny X-Men really went for a record. Weaving elements of some of the most dense threads in X-Men history with a completely buckwild psychic catastrophe, the ten part X-Men Disassembled story arc has come to a close. And in Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson and Pere Perez’s final issue the future of the X-teams is looking pretty bleak and unquestionably bizarre.
Let’s break it down as best we can.
[Ed. note: This piece contains major spoilers for X-Men Disassembled.]
X-Man And Legion Walk Into A Bar
If you’re familiar with X-history, the names X-Man and Legion might make you cringe — they both come pre-packaged with a ton of complicated continuity. In the simplest possible terms, Legion is David Haller, the mega-powerful and mentally unstable mutant son of Charles Xavier. X-Man is the easy-to-misread codename of Nate Grey, a version of Nathan Summers (aka Cable, who has his own very complicated backstory) from a different timeline. The two are linked with one another because X-Man’s alternate timeline was actually created by one of Legion’s cataclysmic psychic meltdowns, which spawned a ’90s storyline known as The Age of Apocalypse.
Legion has been thought to be dead for a while now in regular X-Men canon, but in typical comic book fashion, that doesn’t really count for much. Meanwhile, X-Man has been back in the main universe timeline as well, believing himself to be on a righteous mission to save the universe from certain destruction. To make things even more complicated, pro-mutant sentiment is at an all time low, as a campaign to “vaccinate” the X-gene out of babies has reached a fever pitch. Things have been slowly climbing to a boiling point.
After experiencing visions of the Earth’s certain destruction, Nate/X-Man remade himself as a sort of bizarro Apocalypse, kicking off his crusade by brainwashing Magneto, Blob, Storm, Omega Red, and Angel into his “Horsemen of Salvation.” He was hoping to bring about world peace by killing the mutants he believed posed a threat. Legion, however, after having a vision of Nate’s plan, began trying to rally the X-Men to fight against him and his followers.
What could have been a relatively simple battle between two super powerful mutants and their respective teams took a turn when Nate managed to psychically possess Legion, and merged the two of them into one ultra powerful, God-like entity. This Legion-Nate fusion and his Horsemen began facing off against Jean Grey and the X-Men in one final, massive battle for the fate of the world.
With the help of every psychic the X-Men had available, Jean was able to confront Nate directly by infiltrating his mind and she forced him to separate from Legion — but not before Nate was able to carry out his final, desperate act. After explaining that, if the X-Men wouldn’t let him “save” the world, he would never be able to remake Earth into a place where the X-Men belong. So, he used the very last of his power to … well, to destroy all the X-Men.
You read that right. Nate Grey’s final moments amounted to a massive psychic blast that literally wiped out every X-Men team member on Earth. What happened to them, exactly? We can’t be sure.
The narration doesn’t give much of a clue — remember how anti-mutant sentiments in the general population were at an all time high? The sudden disappearance of the X-Men apparently provided just enough of a tipping point to allow anti-mutant activists to finally get their way.
There’s an unspecified time jump between Nate’s last act and the issue’s aftermath, in which narration explains how the anti-mutant vaccine was put into effect and, the mutant population of the Marvel Universe was effectively reduced to zero — a bleak end for a ten-week story, all things considered.
But of course, there’s a little more to it than that. The final panel reveals none other than the hooded, incognito figure of Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, who we saw miraculously (and mysteriously) alive and kicking in December’s Extermination #5. Cyclops undoubtedly has sort of plan to undo Nate’s psychic genocide.
So, sure, the X-Men may be gone at the moment, but they’ve been gone plenty of times before and they always seem to get better. It’s only a question of how and when. And “when” will likely start next week, with next week’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #1. The issue was revealed with only a one word summary: “CYCLOPS!”