Ever since Marvel published Secret Wars back in the early 80’s both Marvel and DC comics have made a habit, for better or for worse, of crafting giant stories that involve multiple titles and characters. The kings of this trend for a long time were the X-Men. Nearly every year all of the X-Men titles would cross over with each other, and most of the time there were more than a few titles. A lot of really big developments have happened in these events/crossovers, which I will discuss as I get to them. First up, I will be looking at the X-Men and their crossovers, starting with….
X-Men: The Mutant Massacre
Took Place In: Uncanny X-Men 210-213, New Mutants 46, X-Factor 9-11, Thor 373-374, Power Pack 27
Written By: Chris Claremont (X-Men, New Mutants), Louis Simonson (X-Factor, Power Pack), Walter Simonson (Thor)
Art By: John Romita Jr, Brett Blevins, Rick Leonardi, Alan Davis (X-Men), Jackson Guice (New Mutants), John Bogdanove (Power Pack), Walter Simonson (X-Factor), Sal Buscema (Thor)
Featuring: Thor, Power Pack, X-Factor (Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Beast, Angel), X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Dazzler, Longshot, Psylocke, Rogue), New Mutants (Magneto, Cannonball, Moonstar, Karma, Magik, Cypher, Warlock, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, Magma), the Marauders (Sabretooth, Arclight, Scalphunter, Vertigo, Riptide, Blockbuster, Scrambler, Prism, Harpoon), Freedom Force (Mystique, the Blob, Pyro, Destiny, Avalanche, Spider-Woman), the Morlocks
Story: Unlike the majority of the X-Men crossovers that followed it, Mutant Massacre isn’t a “hard” crossover, meaning the story doesn’t continue from title to title, but rather each book features its characters facing the same problem. In this case, the problem is the Marauders are slaughtering the Morlocks, a large group of mutants that live underground. They’re the mutants that can’t even remotely pass for human, and have rejected both Xavier’s idea of mutant/human integration and Magneto’s idea of mutant superiority. Years later it was revealed that the Marauders were hired by Mr. Sinister (and were recruited by Gambit!). Anyway, in each title the characters are dealing with the Morlock massacre. In X-Men they are trying to destroy the Marauders and save the Morlocks. In New Mutants they try to get involved, but realize that this is way above their heads and they should leave things to the X-Men. In X-Factor the team is trying to stop the Morlocks and to recover a few of their own people that are trapped underground, too. Thor is dealing with the fallout of the situation, as well as doing some rescuing and some smiting. In Power Pack they try to help, but like in New Mutants realize they should leave this one to the adults.
Mutant Massacre had some really memorable scenes that are now permanent parts of X-Men lore. In X-Men, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat are seriously injured, which ends up leading to them leaving the X-Men for England’s Excalibur. Colossus is also seriously injured and is forced to leave the team for a short while. Also, Psylocke joins the team for the first time, and Wolverine and Sabretooth have their first ‘on-screen’ fight (and their best; it’s totally badass).
That’s all well and good, but the really big thing from the Massacre was the crippling of Angel. One of the original X-Men, he is pinned to a wall by Harpoon after having his wings mangled by Blockbuster. He is tortured and is fading fast when Thor shows up and crushes the shit out of the Marauders before taking Angel to Cyclops and Phoenix for help. Angel’s injuries lead to his wings being amputated, which leads to his apparent suicide and resurrection at the hands of Apocalypse as Archangel, the horseman of Death, which has been a huge part of his character ever since.
For me, the best thing about this story is the Walt Simonson art on X-Factor, and the Alan Davis pencilled Wolverine-Sabretooth fight. Each panel leads into the next, allowing Davis to show off not just his pencilling skills, but his storytelling skills. It’s an awesome fight. Seriously, these two have gone toe-to-toe at LEAST a dozen times since, and not one of their subsequent fights even comes close to this one. Sabretooth was SCARY here. He’s made out to be a bigger, faster, stronger, meaner Wolverine who heals just as fast. He’s basically a better, evil Wolverine, rather than the watered-down version of Wolverine that he became in the 1990’s and beyond.
Really, other than the Angel bits, Wolverine vs Sabretooth, and the sheer violence of the Marauders, Mutant Massacre is pretty much avoidable. I would recommend it for die-hard X-Men fans, or people that just really like seeing characters show up in each other’s books. It’s far from great, but considering the importance it has gained since its publication, it might be worth a read.