Since their debut in 1963, the X-Men have become famous for their narratives revolving around civil rights, social justice, and the concept of being free from persecution. Something else they have become synonymous with over the years is extinction. While the X-Men and the other mutants on Earth-616 have never actually gone extinct, the threat seems to always be looming over them like a cloud of Terrigen Mist.
Throughout the last 58 years, various factions including humans, aliens, and even other mutants have tried to wipe out Homo superior. In some timelines, they have succeeded. In this reality, complete Mutant eradication is still an unrealized dream for many X-Men foes. However, their attempts make for some of the X-Men’s most interesting stories.
10 William Stryker Attempted Mutant Genocide Using Charles Xavier
In Chris Claremont’s 1982 X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, Reverend William Stryker weaponized Professor Charles Xavier in an attempt to wipe out all mutants. Stryker was a wealthy preacher who built a global cult following through his widespread anti-mutant rhetoric.
Taking his hatred to the next level, Stryker abducted and brainwashed Xavier. He then hooked Xavier up to a machine that would amplify his telepathic abilities enabling him to trigger fatal cerebral hemorrhages mutants worldwide. Thanks to the X-Men, Stryker did not succeed. However, all of mutantdom came uncomfortably close to extinction. This narrative was heavily adapted in 2003’s X2: X-Men United.
9 The Legacy Virus Threatened Mutant Existence
The Legacy Virus ravaged the mutant community during the 1990s after Stryfe, Cable’s nefarious clone, brought it from the future. The Legacy Virus was an airborne pathogen that eventually developed into three strains: Legacy-1, Legacy-2, and Legacy-3, the latter of which was also contagious to humans. The virus, which was analogous to HIV/AIDS, targeted those with the X-Gene.
It caused mutants to lose control of their abilities and prevented their bodies from producing healthy blood cells, often quickly resulting in death. Several high-profile characters were infected and died, including Magik and Pyro, before a cure was created. The film Logan included an iteration of the Legacy Virus, which wiped out most of the world’s mutants by 2029.
8 The Scarlet Witch Decimated The Mutant Population On M-Day
When the Scarlet Witch uttered the words “No more mutants,” mutants found themselves facing one of the more well-known extinction-level events to hit them. This tragedy, commonly referred to as M-Day or Decimation, stemmed from the events of Brian Michael Bendis’ House of M comic when a distraught and defeated Wanda reshaped reality.
Mutant population numbers that were bouncing back from the massacre of Genosha plummeted as millions of mutants were depowered. Some mutants whose abilities helped keep them alive died instantly, while most just became human. In the end, only a few hundred mutants retained their abilities and no new mutants were born for years.
7 The Inhumans’ Terrigen Mists Infected Mutants With Deadly M-Pox
In 2016 mutantkind found themselves facing another event that promised extinction: the Terrigen Mists. The Terrigen Mists are a vapor released by the Terrigen Crystals, which activate special abilities in Inhumans. Once large clouds of Terrigen Mists began moving around the planet, the substance proved deadly to mutants.
The Mists resulted in mutant sterilization and for many, including Cyclops, it triggered M-Pox, which led to a fast and agonizing death. Exposure could also result in suppression of X-Gene activation. The threat of extinction was such that Beast eventually suggested mutants evacuate the planet. Eventually, Medusa destroyed the remaining cloud to save mutants.
6 Cassandra Nova Wiped Out Genosha With A Sentinel Attack
X-Men villain Cassandra Nova has proven time and again to be one of the biggest threats to mutants everywhere. Nova, who is essentially Xavier’s twin, became infamous after initiating a devastating assault on the mutant island nation of Genosha. After manipulating Bolivar Trask’s last living relative, Donald Trask, Nova commands him to attack Genosha with giant, wild Sentinels.
The ensuing atrocity killed 16 million mutants, which made up roughly half the earth’s mutant population. Unfinished in her work, Nova replicated Trask’s DNA allowing her alone to control the Sentinels. However, the X-Men caught her before she could take any more lives.
5 The U.S. Government Authorized Sentinels To Hunt Mutants To Extinction
Before Kitty Pryde changed the course of history in Chris Claremont’s “Days of Future Past,” mutant extinction was all but complete. The fan-favorite story–another by Chris Claremont, which also saw a film adaptation–depicts Sentinels ruling a dystopian North America in 2013. Designed by Bolivar Trask, the giant robots were programmed by the U.S. government to eliminate all mutants.
In doing so, the Sentinels destroyed most mutants and put others in concentration camps. They also identified humans who possibly possessed the X-Gene, and barred them from procreating. Other superpowered beings, including the members of the Avengers, were also hunted down by the Sentinels.
4 Operation: Zero Tolerance Sought To Destroy Mutants Using Prime Sentinels
While Operation: Zero Tolerance may have had a comparatively minimal impact on mutants, that does not discount the intent or action taken to wipe them out. Following the Onslaught event, many Americans distrusted mutants like never before. Henry Peter Gyrich and Bastion proposed to members of the U.S. government a program to capture and eliminate mutants nationwide.
Thus began Operation: Zero Tolerance, a campaign that utilized Prime Sentinels to capture several X-Men and steal pivotal information from the X-Mansion on known mutants. Though the operation eventually failed, it had strong potential for success and paved the way for more aggressive mutant elimination campaigns.
3 Cassandra Nova Manipulated The Shi’ar Into Attempted Mutant Eradication
It was not long after destroying Genosha that Cassandra Nova again sought to wipe out mutants. Before the X-Men caught her, Nova injected herself with Nano-Sentinels, which she then spread to the team. The Nano-Sentinels acted as an artificial virus within the infected mutants, debilitating the X-Men while Nova escaped after swapping bodies with Xavier.
As Xavier, she traveled to the Shi’ar Empire. Taking advantage of the Shi’ar’s fear of the “thought-plague contamination,” Nova manipulated the Imperial Guard into eradicating all mutants on earth to cleanse the universe of the disease they carried. Before they could do so, the X-Men proved to the Shi’ar that they had been deceived.
2 John Sublime’s War On Evolution Nearly Ended The Mutant Species
As with “Days of Future Past,” the X-Men again experienced a devastating future in the final story arc of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Cyclops, unable to cope with Jean’s death, left the team. Beast tried to run the school but became infected by John Sublime. Sublime, it was revealed, was a villainous bacteria that infected others to halt all evolution except its own.
Driven by Sublime, Beast dedicated himself to successfully ending evolution. Jumping 150 years into the future, mutants are almost extinct. Humans did not fare much better. Jean, hatched anew from a Phoenix egg, assisted the future X-Men, and reset the timeline by visiting past Cyclops and encouraging him to stay with the X-Men.
1 The Rise Of Krakoa Led To The Future Man-Machine-Mutant War
During 2019’s House of X and Powers of X event written by Jonathan Hickman, the mutant nation of Krakoa was established amid a timeline hoping narrative. Powers of X #1 provided a glimpse across time, from Year One to Year Ten (the present), Year One Hundred, and Year One Thousand.
In Year One Hundred, 90 years after Krakoa became a nation, mutants are all but extinct. The rise of Krakoa gave way to a biological and mechanical arms race between mutants and humans. Krakoa eventually fell and the world is dominated by a Man-Machine Supremacy. Less than 10,000 mutants are left in existence, all of which sought refuge in Shi’ar space.
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