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Marvel Top 10: "Young X-Men"

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Kevin Powers



There have been many mutants in the Marvel universe throughout the years, most of whom exhibit their powers during their adolescence or teenaged years, a starting point from which to grow up to become a full-fledged X-Man. Some mutants become more popular than others, and some don't see the age of 18, but no doubt Marvel readers have been introduced to plenty of young mutants and young X-Men. As part of Comics Bulletin’s Young X-Men featurette, we bring you the latest Marvel Top 10 list.




10. New Mutants
1982's Marvel Graphic Novel #4 saw the first appearance of the first group of New Mutants, a teenage X-Men team. Due to the wild success of the X-Men by the early 80s, Chris Claremont pitched the idea of a younger group of X-Men. At the time, two of the hottest books in comics were X-Men and Teen Titans. Therefore, it seemed appropriate that a group of teen X-Men be created. (As a side note, the wild popularity of both books also led to the creation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Like the group of original X-Men, the New Mutants were Xavier's youngest students but unlike the original group, they were a bit more ethnically diverse. The first group consisted of Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, Psyche/Moonstar and Karma. Later members included Magma, Magik and Cypher. The New Mutants series enjoyed a great deal of success before Claremont left the series and other writers began to add in their own characters. Rictor, Warpath, Domino, Boom Boom, Shatterstar and Feral, amongst others would eventually be added to the roster by Rob Liefeld, and the original make-up of the series seemed to be lost. That was until Cable appeared, and Cannonball and Liefeld's New Mutants would go on to form the original X-Force. Many of the original New Mutants can be seen together in the current run of Young X-Men.

9. Blindfold
Blindfold makes this list because her impact thus far has been rather important, not only on the younger X-Men, but the main team as well. Her potential for the future is very promising as she may become one of the key elements in everything the X-Men do, no matter what team is featured. A lot of this comes from the fact that Blindfold is one of the few mutants with precognitive ability. While it is somewhat limited, her powers have dropped clues about future storylines, usually involving death. When the X-Men were transported to the Breakworld, she commented that not all of them would be coming back, and when all was said and done, Kitty Pryde did not return from the mission. During the "Quest for Magik" storyline, Blindfold told the story of Illyana Rasputin with details of what happened to her and what was going to happen and then acted as a guide when the New X-Men were attacked by demons. During "Messiah CompleX" she predicted that Lady Deathstrike was going to kill and seriously injure certain members of the X-Men. Currently in Young X-Men she predicted that one of the team would die during a battle with Donald Blake. Given her track record, it has become a major plot point in the series thus far. There are a few other instances where Blindfold sees things before they happen, although these visions are not always incredibly detailed. Her powers have the potential to help the X-Men significantly, and her impact on the mythos is just beginning.

8. Stepford Cuckoos
Creepy doesn't even begin to describe this group of identical girls sharing a collective mind. Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver originally created five young blond girls who shared a collective telepathic mind and had an affinity for Emma Frost. It would eventually be revealed that the Cuckoos were cloned daughters of Emma and that thousands more existed in incubation chambers. They were also made to be part of the Weapon Plus program and their mission was to destroy all of mutant kind through their telepathic ability. The Cuckoos did everything in unison until they each started to develop autonomous personalities and made decisions on their own. For example, Esme was the first to split from the group, first after falling in love with a Shi'ar soldier and then falling for Magento-Xorn when he infiltrated the X-Men. Usually, when one of the Cuckoos fell in love, she would break from the group and this would eventually lead to their downfall. The five eventually became three after Esme and Sophie died (Esme at the hands of Magneto and Sophie due to an overdose of kick). The two would be resurrected, only to be killed off by the Phoenix. The remaining three Cuckoos are still around, yet nowhere near as powerful. They have served primarily as plot devices through Joss Whedon's run and "Messiah CompleX," yet their original creepiness will always be remembered.

7. Rockslide
Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir created Rockslide in 2004 with New Mutants #7. Rockslide has quickly become one of the most popular "Young X-Men" in recent years. At first, he was portrayed as a bully, but he eventually grew to become a humorous and effective member of the X-Men. He is very protective of his peers and is essentially the muscle of the younger squads. Rockslide is very important to the make-up of the Young team for a few reasons. Aside from his natural inclination to protect his friends from harm, Rockslide is very reminiscent of a younger Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing, and not just because of his rocky appearance. Rockslide brings a level of sarcasm and humor to the team. He often interjects his quips and displays his sense of humor at the more inappropriate times, but it's often done in such a way that suits his character. The character has been a major player in the "Young X-books" since his creation and continues to gain popularity, mostly due to his personality being very similar to an early Thing. Rockslide can currently be seen in Young X-Men.

6. Illyana Rasputin
The younger sister of Colossus, introduced in 1975's Giant Size X-Men #1 has long been the spiritual and inspirational beacon for the X-Men. A mutant herself, Illyana, codenamed Magik, possessed the abilities of time and inter-dimensional travel. However, it wasn't until the early 90s that Illyana's true impact on not only the X-Men, but all of mutant-kind would be felt. While she did play a role in storylines such as "Inferno," Illyana's battle with the mutant-killing Legacy Virus would become the key source in determining her importance. She contracted the virus, and despite the combined efforts of Professor Xavier and Moira MacTaggert, Illyana died. This was a key element in the Legacy Virus storylines as Illyana's death had a profound effect on each of the X-Men and made readers realize that their favorite mutants were susceptible to the virus. Illyana's spirit has appeared to Colossus on several occasions following her death, and she also appeared to Wolverine after his adamantium was stripped. Colossus even secretly sacrificed himself to destroy the Legacy Virus in memory of his sister. Today, Illyana's involvement in continuity is a bit strange as she struggles to reclaim her soul.

5. Dust
I truly believe that there is a common misconception about Islam, especially by Americans. Islam is a beautiful religion and one of the fastest growing in the world. Unfortunately, there are those who take their beliefs and interpretations of said religion to the utter extremes. Ever since 2001, Islam has maintained a mostly negative connotation for many Americans, especially in our entertainment and media. Muslims in popular culture, specifically comics, are often portrayed as the enemy, a negative stereotype who carries out acts of extremism. However, there are rare moments in comics when Muslims are portrayed in a more positive light. One of those instances came in 2002 when Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver introduced Dust. Many may wonder why I'd rank Dust so high on this list. The answer is simple: she is the embodiment of what the X-Men are all about. She's a young woman and outcast, not only because of her mutant powers but also because she is a Sunni Muslim living in America. Rather than wearing an X-costume, Dust stays true to her religion and wears a burqa, the often misunderstood and controversial garb of Muslim women shot into mainstream media during the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Dust has become a mainstay on every incarnation of "Young X-Men" since Wolverine and Fantomex discovered her in Afghanistan. She's an integral part of the younger team, first portrayed as extremely shy but later coming into her own as a true warrior of the X-Men, as proved when she was the key element in taking down Exodus during "Messiah CompleX." Dust has a potentially significant future in the X-universe and can currently be seen in Young X-Men.

4. Jubilee
For any X-Men fan in the 1990s, one of the staples of the wildly popular and successful animated series was the young and 90s hip Jubilee. Introduced in Uncanny X-Men #244 in 1989 by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri, she had the ability to generate fireworks of explosive plasma. She was a self-described "mallrat," a popular teenage classification of the late 80s/early 90s, and like Shadowcat before her, she immediately attached herself to Wolverine. Having run away from an orphanage after her foster parents were murdered, Jubilee lived in the Beverly Hills mall stealing food to survive. She eventually snuck into the X-Men's temporary Australian base after being rescued by some of the X-Men following an attack by the M-squad. She hid there for quite some time before the X-Men left, only to find a kidnapped Wolverine tied to an x-shaped cross and being tortured by the Reavers. She saved Wolverine only to watch him unleash into a berserker rage on the Reavers. Her first battles involved her teaming with Wolverine against the Reavers, the Mandarin and the Hand before the two made their way back to the X-Men. After these events, the two became a surrogate father/daughter team, a relationship that was highlighted during the animated series. Jubilee would later go on to serve as part of the young Generation X team and would eventually be depowered due to Scarlet Witch's "No More Mutants." Today she can be seen as a prominent player in New Warriors where she has taken the codename Wondra and possesses artificial superhuman strength.

3. Kitty Pryde
The 1970s and 1980s saw the true rise in popularity for the X-Men and Marvel's mutants. Popular characters like Wolverine, Colossus, Storm and Rogue all made their first appearances in the '70s and '80s. However, one of the most popular made her appearance in 1980 with Chris Claremont and John Byrne at the helm. The intangible Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. Shadowcat, a.k.a. Sprite, a.k.a. Ariel, made her first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #129 as an extremely intelligent 13 year old. Kitty almost immediately fit right in with the X-Men, developing a crush on Colossus while befriending his sister and eventually coming to accept each member of the team for his or her own unique abilities. During a mission in space, she also encountered Lockheed, her pet dragon. While Kitty and Colossus' relationship took time to bud due to then Editor in Chief Jim Shooter's disapproval of an underage girl dating an older man, it eventually became one of the greatest romances in X-history. She also developed a close relationship with Wolverine, one that was first explored in "Days of Future Past," followed by their own mini-series and once more today in Wolverine: First Class. Kitty also served as part of Excalibur before returning to the X-Men following Colossus' apparent death and the destruction of Genosha. Kitty was last seen at the end of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run inside the center of a giant bullet lost somewhere in space. She was the first to have a close relationship with Wolverine in a father/daughter type of way. Jubilee would later have that kind of relationship and currently, Armor shares a relationship with Wolverine that is very similar to Kitty's.

2. X-23
It's not uncommon for characters specifically developed for other media to transition into comics. Overwhelming popularity and the basic understanding of a good idea are usually key elements into this type of move. For example, the Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn was created specifically for Batman: The Animated Series and Firestar was originally created for the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, both of whom would make the move into comics briefly after their initial inception. This past decade was no different as in 2003, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost introduced X-23 in the aptly name "X-23" episode of the popular X-Men Evolution. She was introduced as the cloned daughter of Wolverine, and she shared all of his powers, an adamantium skeleton with two claws rather than three (the third pops out of her foot), and a greater instinct for violence than her "father" exhibits. X-23 first made her transition into comics with Joe Quesada's NYX series where she was portrayed as a dominatrix prostitute, but her origin was never explored. Later, Chris Claremont brought her over to Uncanny X-Men. She was dressed in the horrible Fang costume and became an ally to the X-Men and other Marvel Heroes, but she was also treated a bit more like an animal. X-23 finally got her due when her creators Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost took control with X-23 Innocence Lost series and began to explore her past. She became one of the primary characters of Kyle and Yost's New X-Men, had a second successful mini-series with her creators at the helm and now, once again with her creators she is one of the four main members of the new X-Force.

1. The Original X-Men
Of course, you cannot list the "Top 10 Young X-Men" without referencing the original five. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman were the first students enrolled at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. In 1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a new breed of super-powered comic book heroes who were born with the "X factor" or an extra X-chromosome that granted that person specific superhuman abilities. The original X-Men's mission was to battle the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Xavier's friend and Holocaust survivor, Magneto. The world was uncertain about the mutants, and Xavier's students fought to protect their race from the Brotherhood's terrorism. While the X-Men did not truly become a sensation until the Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975 with characters like Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm, the original five laid the groundwork for one of pop culture and comicdom's greatest franchises.

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