Retcons, Reboots And Resurrections: A Second Genesis Turns Quite Deadly For The X-Men
by Scott Redmond
There is an anonymous proverb that states the only three things that are certain in life are birth, death, and change. Within the realm of ongoing comic book narratives, these take the form of retcons, resurrections, and reboots. For the purposes of this weekly feature, retcons are elements added into a character’s history after the fact, resurrections are characters returning from death or some state of limbo, and reboots are either big changes that revive a character or title or are extensive changes to their canon (history, supporting casts, origin story, etc).
These changes, just like all stories, range from those that add definitive things that still stand with the characters to those that sometimes should best be forgotten. Except, they won’t be in this feature. Each week we’ll explore the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Retcons, Reboots, and Resurrections.
Remember last week when we dove into the reboot that restored and saved the X-Men from a fate of the comic book equivalent of reruns? The writers and editors of the X-Men line in 2005 surely remembered that fateful story of the X-Men’s mission to Krakoa. They asked the question, “Well what if there was another team that went to save the X-Men before the ones we know, and what if Xavier was even more of a jerk?”
That’s how we got the retcon-laden story known as X-Men: Deadly Genesis.
Created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Giant-Size: X-Men #1, the miniseries from Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine came on the heels of the status quo-altering ‘House of M’ event that saw millions of mutants depowered and found Charles Xavier missing.
Basically, the story begins when the energy from the aforementioned depowering of mutants strikes the remains of Krakoa in space. A mysterious being awakens, angry about how much time has passed, and begins a crusade against the X-Men. They kidnap Cyclops & Rachel Grey, wreck Wolverine, overload Emma Frost and Cerebro, and kill Banshee (and tons of plane passengers) with the stolen Blackbird jet.
All because they want to find Charles Xavier to exact revenge.
Turns out that this mysterious individual is one Gabriel Summers, the third son of one Christopher and Katherine Summers and therefore the brother to Scott (Cyclops) and Alex (Havok) Summers. When the original X-Men went missing on Krakoa, Xavier turned to Doctor Moira MacTaggert who had been training four young mutants of her own. Gabriel (Vulcan) was there alongside the Earth/rock controlling Petra, the time-manipulating Sway, and the young man known as Darwin gifted with the ability to evolve/adapt to any situation.
These young mutants were given a psychic crash course of training and saved Scott on the island but they were overwhelmed and were believed killed. In the moment of death through the powers of Sway and Petra sunk them into the island itself, and Darwin’s ability turned him into energy that allowed Vulcan to absorb Darwin & the powers of the others. That’s where he slumbered for years once Polaris threw Krakoa into space during the original giant-size story. Scott returned overwhelmed and frantic, but Xavier did his usual jerk move and erased Scott’s memories (altered them some) and then went about recruiting the All-New All-Different X-Men for the story we knew.
In the present, Gabriel monologues a ton and eventually convinces the now human Xavier to show up where he reveals all the truth to the X-Men. They pull Darwin out of Vulcan, the X-men beat on him, and he rushes off to space leaving the story unfinished since it was rolling right into Brubaker’s upcoming stint on Uncanny X-Men. Oh and the X-Men end up being all split on whether they are angry at, disappointed in or sympathetic to Xavier. So just a normal day in the X-Men world sadly.
This entire retcon is very infamous because it plays into the trope of putting more and more heinous actions onto the already crowded plate of Xavier while it unsatisfactorily addresses the dangling “third Summers” brother hint from the 90s. It began a whole few years of stories where Havok and others chased Vulcan to space, he took over the Shi’ar empire, killed his father, hooked up with Lilandra’s sister Deathbird, fought the Inhumans and others, and died alongside Black Bolt during a cosmic war between their empires.
This truly added nothing to the original story and was a strange way to celebrate that story, by killing off a character like Banshee (who had been character limboed most of the years before this) while adding to Xavier’s sin pile. Darwin was an interesting addition who got many years of usage in various books while Sway and Petra are still basically blank slates since they stayed dead till the current era where mutants can be resurrected.
Speaking of the current era, there is work being done to redeem the character of Vulcan but for some, the shadow of this story might never be broken. Only time will tell.
Next Week: A beloved classic ’80s/’90s franchise gets a totally tubular revival