Exploring the Multiverse: Mutant X
I am a big proponent of an unlimited Multiverse. I think it gives writers more freedom and makes for some extraordinary storytelling possibilities by breaking the shackles of continuity. Continuity can be a good thing, but far too often, the fear of angering fans forces a writer to adhere to continuity and lessens the impact of a story. Sometimes, the exploration of an alternate history makes for a plethora of stories. Depending on interest, this may be the first in a series of articles that explore different comic book alternate universes.
First there are some essential patterns that develop the rules for alternate realities in fiction, even comic books. There is a point of divergence, where an event has a different outcome that changes the course of history. This point could be the birth or conception of an individual. With many alternate universes, that point of divergence is unclear, with so many aspects changed, it becomes impossible to determine the point of divergence. Flashpoint is a prime example of this. The initial point of divergence seems to be the death of Barry’s mother, but points up and down the timeline get altered. It gets explained that Flash’s altering of a pivotal event “broke time,” but it’s really just an excuse for creators to do whatever they want without doing the hard work of plotting out the changes.
The flip side is the universe where a change is made and everything flows from that point. Many of Marvel’s What If? stories handle this adequately. My personal favorite is JLA: The Nail, where Superman’s absence from the timeline has a massive ripple effect. It even takes it name from the verse:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the knight was lost.
For want of a knight the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail.
However, no changes go back before that event. Differences in other characters can be traced to a lack of interaction with Superman, from Lex Luthor’s popularity to a Justice League lacking a bit of a moral center and that has suffered several losses. Everything stems from that one event.
That brings us to our first alternate reality, as depicted in the 1998-2001 series Mutant X. This is one of those realities where the point of divergence is unclear, but the differences affect characters outside of the apparent divergent character’s timeline. This falls into category of a timeline without a clear divergence, instead with a series of differences from the original timeline. The first one, most important to the story is the accident that Alex Summers survives. He is the only survivor, although his father Christopher Summers and brother Scott were abducted by aliens. A ward of the state, Alex became one of the founding members of Charles Xavier’s X-Men, leading the team for much of it’s existence. When Xavier turned his school over to Magneto, many X-Men left and formed their own team, originally called X-Factor, but eventually renaming themselves the Six. Alex married Madelyne Pryor and had a child, Scotty.
On his team are familiar mutants, but with some drastic changes. The changes made by Loki to Iceman’s powers have them so elevated that he can have no contact with anything organic. Storm was never rescued from Dracula’s control and is a full vampire calling herself Bloodstorm. Angel had his abduction by Apocalypse result in leathery bat-wings , razor-sharp talons and an ability to breathe fire. The Beast saw his initial change by his own experimentation result in a green, hairy and amphibious form that lacked the intelligence he once had, thus he began going by The Brute.
As I said, it seems that all of the changes stem from Alex taking his brother’s place in the timeline, but we see very early on other heroes that should not be radically affected. Spider-Man still has six arms from an adventure that had nothing to do with the X-Men. The world seems vastly different from the Marvel Universe that we are familiar with, but when the story focuses on the mutants, it feels more solid. Sadly, it didn’t last as it devolved into Alex being a nexus of all realities, saving not only the Earth he has been transported to, but others as well. It is at it’s best when it focuses on specifics, but falls apart when writer Howard Mackie attempts to include drastic changes for characters that don’t necessarily need them, and neglects those differences when other characters reference each other (i.e. Jean Grey and Wolverine).
It was a universe ripe with possibilities but failing to live up to any of them, now destined to lie where most alternate earths go, being a footnote on Wikipedia entries.