Marvel Comics’ line-wide relaunch of its X-Men titles through Dawn of X is about to get its own crossover event in X of Swords, rally and redefining the status quo of the line moving forward. Marvel’s Merry Mutants have had their own crossovers across the various X-Men titles in years past from Mutant Massacre to X-Cutioner’s Song but one of the most acclaimed was the 2007 storyline X-Men: Messiah Complex developed by the creative teams of the various X-titles at the time as the mutants were at their lowest point.
Here’s a quick overview for new readers to the classic event, including the status quo for the X-Men leading up the start of the story, which titles and issues were directly involved and how Messiah Complex shaped the future for mutants in the Marvel Universe.
The Children of the Atom were in their most dire position yet by the start of Messiah Complex. At the start of Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, the mutant nation-state of Genosha had been eradicated by a devastating Sentinel attack killing millions. While mutants around the world were still reeling from the Genosha’s destruction and the X-Men mourned the death of Jean Grey at the hands of Xorn, Scarlet Witch steadily lost her grip on sanity over the grief of losing her twin sons with Vision. This culminated in the 2005 crossover event House of M, with Wanda Maximoff using her chaos magic to depower the vast majority of mutants on Earth, with mutants effectively becoming an endangered species due to her actions.
With the total mutant population now numbered less than 200, anti-mutant extremists rallied to eradicate the species once and for all with a radicalized militant group known as the Purifiers. The Purifiers would create their own iteration of the Reavers, cybernetically enhanced villains similarly dedicated to hunting mutants, with this line-up led by Lady Deathstrike. Meanwhile, Mister Sinister would create a new version of the Marauders, the villainous ensemble that had first carried out the genocidal Mutant Massacre years ago. With no new mutants born since House of M, the X-Men grew increasingly desperate about their species’ survival and future, leading to the apparent detection of a new mutant birth in Alaska, kicking off the crossover event.
Messiah Complex kicked off in its own special single issue at the end of October 2007, with the subsequent story running through the pages of Uncanny X-Men #492-494, X-Factor #25-27, New X-Men 44-46 and X-Men #205-207. For the subsequent three months, each X-title released in order would tell the next chapter of the crossover’s storyline rather than being self-contained issues within their overall series, necessitating a proper reading order to keep track of its thirteen chapters in all.
After the story drew to a close in January 2008, New Mutants was canceled and replaced by a new ongoing series Young X-Men, X-Men was rebranded as X-Men: Legacy while retaining its issue numbering and new ongoing series for X-Force and Cable were launched, both spinning directly out of the events of the crossover’s finale. For several months following, all of the X-Men titles would carry the “Divided We Stand” publishing banner as the heroes attempted to regroup and rebuild after the cataclysmic finale to the crossover.
While Hope Summers signaled the first mutant birth since House of M, the X-Men and mutantkind were still very much at odds with a world that hated and feared them. And with Bishop having transformed into a committed villain seeking to prevent his post-apocalyptic timeline from taking place, Cable took Hope with him on the run through time and space to stay one step ahead of their former friend and ally. The X-Men wouldn’t stay disbanded for long, leaving the ruins of the X-Mansion to create their own island haven of Utopia just off the coast of San Francisco, financed by Angel’s family fortune, with X-Force remaining as their lethal, proactive enforcement squad. Similarly, Professor X wouldn’t stay dead for long — indeed he was quickly revealed not to be dead at all — and he starred in X-Men: Legacy as he explored the immediate fallout of Messiah Complex.
The story of Messiah Complex served as the first installment of an overarching, thematic trilogy that traced Hope’s role in saving mutantkind from extinction. The middle installment would be contained between issues of Cable and X-Force in the crossover story Messiah War, dealing with Bishop teaming up with Stryfe to help him track down Cable in exchange for helping Stryfe kill Apocalypse, with Wolverine’s team drawn into the conflict across time. This would all culminate in 2010’s X-Men: Second Coming, which had Cable and Hope definitively return from their time-travel adventures as the Purifiers launched a renewed attack on Utopia, leading to salvation for mutants on the brink of utter destruction.
One of the biggest X-Men crossover events was Messiah Complex. Here's how it shaped the future of the mutants and saved them from extinction.