X-Men: Secret Genesis
By Tom Bacon
You think you know the story of the X-Men? X-Men: Secret Genesis steps back decades into the past, revealing one of the darkest secrets in mutant history. There was a dream before the dreamer, there were mutants fighting for peace before Charles Xavier ever assembled the X-Men. And they’re the most unlikely heroes of all.
Decades ago, lovers Mystique and Destiny are living in peace – until a government task force breaks down the door, attempting to take them away for research and experimentation. The two escape, and – guided by Destiny’s visions and using Mystique’s subterfuge – they track the strike team down to a black ops division run by a former Nazi scientist, Dr. Nathaniel Essex, now calling himself Dr. Milbury. It’s one thing to uncover this sinister figure, but it’s another to take him down. If they’re going to do so, they’ll need to put together a team – and they’ll need to break their way into a secret research center at Alamagordo, New Mexico. There, they’ll uncover a dangerous conspiracy to create an army of mutants, and they’ll need the help of scientist Brian Xavier to bring an end to the experiments.
Learn the answers to mysteries that have laid in the history of the X-Men franchise since all the way back in the 1960s. What really happened to Charles Xavier’s father? What secrets tie Mystique, Sabretooth, Destiny, and Mr. Sinister together in this forgotten past? And what effect could this have on the future of the mutant race?
Mystique. We’re used to a version of Mystique who’s a ruthless villain, but this early Mystique just wants to live a peaceful life with her lover, Destiny. She finds Destiny’s visions troubling, and they’ve been the frequent cause of arguments between the couple. This is a Mystique who is still getting used to her lover’s powers, and who isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea that her future is preordained – especially given the cryptic hints Destiny has dropped suggest she’s in for a life of tragedy and pain.
Destiny. This version of Destiny is younger than we’ve ever seen her before, and in truth, she’s afraid of the visions she experiences. Destiny has learned not to tell her visions to Mystique, knowing that they’ll just cause arguments, but she’s forced to break that silent agreement when she sees a vision of government forces breaking down the door of their home. Then, Destiny realizes that the future is coming fast – and that she can’t stand by any longer. Destiny senses that they’re coming to a bridge in the road and everything hinges on one man – Brian Xavier.
Sabretooth. One of Mystique’s old flames, Victor Creed to has fallen foul of this government task-force. Rescued before he can be taken to Alamagordo, Sabretooth agrees to help Mystique and Destiny in their quest to infiltrate Alamagordo and deal with the threat of Nathaniel Essex – once and for all.
Dr. Milbury. The man who will one day be known as “Sinister” has spent years experimenting with the science of genetics, but he made a mistake and chose the wrong side during the Second World War. He was captured by the Allies in the aftermath of World War II, but under Operation Paperclip he was given a chance to make a fresh start. Sinister has used all his cunning to manipulate his way into a position of power once again, and he’s succeeded in establishing a secret government project that will scoop up genetic samples from across the world.
Brian Xavier. A scientist who works at Alamagordo, Brian Xavier is conducting secret experiments of his own – to attempt to cure genetic mutation. He’s aware that his son, Charles, is actually a mutant, and he fears Charles ever getting caught up with someone like Nathaniel Essex. Destiny senses that the fate of the future rests in Brian’s hands; will he help these rogue mutants to stop Essex, or will he choose to continue burying his head in the sands?
Kurt Marko. Charles Xavier’s colleague, Dr. Kurt Marko is a conflicted man. An alcoholic, Marko’s career was nosediving when he was given a chance by Nathaniel Essex, to whom he is incredibly loyal. He got involved in the Alamagordo project because he believed these “mutants” could be weaponized and feared that if the US didn’t do it first, the Commies would beat them to it. What he didn’t expect to find at Alamagordo was love; Kurt Marko fell in love with Brian Xavier’s wife, Sharon, and the two have been having a secret affair for years. In fact, Marko half suspects young Charles Xavier is his own son. That’s causing enormous problems for Marko, as he’s beginning to suspect young Charles is a mutant. Marko’s desire to protect Charles is now in direct conflict with his patriotism and loyalty to Nathaniel Essex. Destiny senses that this strange combination of guilt and rage could easily cause Marko to become a violent man.
Enclosed are the designs for the main characters: Sabretooth, Destiny, and Mystique. I’ve deliberately gone for images that would have been appropriate for the old Marvel Universe Handbooks, simply because I always liked those face-first shots that really gave a sense of character. In fact, people who have the Handbooks may well recognize images that were the loose inspiration for the designs.
Sabretooth’s design will be very familiar to anybody who’s a fan of the old ‘90s comics. It’s the Jim Lee Team X design, the costume Creed wore while he was a member of a CIA strike force. The implication – although it would go unstated in the story – is that he’s actually a CIA operative at the time this is set. In terms of color scheme, I’d adapt this costume a little; the bulk is jet-black, fitting in with the shadows, but colorists had traditionally rendered the rest of it bright gold, which made no sense from an espionage viewpoint. Instead, I’d dim the colors a little, going for a rusty brown. That would also be just as appropriate in terms of fitting in with Creed’s traditional aesthetic.
The mask in the center always struck me as odd, so this story would actually use it; as part of his kit, one of Creed’s pouches contains gas bombs, and he can slip the mask on to filter the gas particles out of the air and ensure it doesn’t affect him. Notice that he only has the one mask, of course; Creed is no team player!
The script would carefully develop Creed’s bloodthirsty nature, which Creed would initially be trying to keep in check. To begin with, he’d be more of a spy; when he starts killing, though, Creed will gradually give in to his traditional bloodlust. The first kills would be sniper shots to save Destiny and Mystique from the Alamagordo guards. Then he’d use his pistol for closer shots. He’d then begin killing up-close and personal, with that knife strapped to his boot. This would be the point where others began to question just what kind of man he really is. Finally, stripped of his weapons by Essex, Creed would kill with his talons.
This Mystique design is heavily adapted from her classic look; she’s still recognizable, but subtly different. The most notable part of the design is a subtle change, in that Mystique’s prime form doesn’t yet have the skull in the center of her forehead. This will only begin to appear as Mystique accepts the future Destiny foresees for her. She believes she’s accepting death and doom by embracing Destiny’s visions, and that skull becomes a visual symbol of it. A key emotional moment would be a scene at the end of the story where Mystique looks at the skull and weeps.
Destiny’s design was actually the trickiest to put together. We’ve never really seen a younger Destiny before, and I wanted this design to look wilder, more untamed and unreserved. As the story progresses, we’ll see Destiny’s design subtly change, with her hair acting as a potent symbol; she’ll start pinning it up, holding it in place rather than allowing it to flow freely.
The costume is deliberately evocative of Mystique’s, a subtle hint that it was actually designed by her lover. It would be dominated by primary colors; grays and whites, showing Destiny’s sense of perspective, her belief in balance and yin and yang. The “shades” are a deliberate stylistic touch, chosen by Mystique to hide the fact that Destiny doesn’t see with her eyes; that way nobody will connect Mystique with blind Irene Adler.