The mutant race is on the verge of extinction, your “go-to” guy, Brian Michael Bendis, is busy putting the final touches on what would become Secret Invasion, and it has been quite a while since House of M shipped. What’s a company like Marvel to do? Well in October 2007 the House of Ideas decided it was time to finally move forward with the X-Men and mutants as a whole. Exactly what would happen now that they were officially an endangered species? Was there any hope left for mutants or could there possibly be a way to save them.
To answer this question, Marvel decided the best course of action was to create another huge event, similar to House of M, except have it run through the various X-books, New X-Men, X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and X-Factor. The 13-chapter storyline was a collaborative effort by Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey, Peter David, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. It is fondly remembered as a fantastic X-Men event, and would set the stage for the next year and a half when Messiah War began. For now, let’s look at the over 350-page storyline that was Messiah Complex.
The story begins with the birth of a mutant; a mutant who’s X-gene kicks in the moment she’s born, which is exceedingly rare. This event is so powerful that it completely knocks Cerebra out of commission. Professor X uses Cerebra to track the whereabouts of any mutant on the planet. Before M Day there used to be countless hundreds of thousands and millions of mutants, but now there are so few that Charles dislikes using Cerebra at all. When he realizes what has happened, he quickly tells the X-Men, who proceed to investigate. They arrive at what’s left of a small Alaskan town. It looks like a giant battle took place here between the Purifiers (religious fanatics who believe this new child is the anti-Christ), and the Marauders (Mr. Sinister’s henchmen). Upon further investigation it is discovered that all the children in the town were murdered, before the town was torched. So who has the child now, and is it even alive?
While this is taking place one of the last remaining Predator X beasts (a creature created solely for hunting down and murdering mutants) feels the presence of the child and goes after it, devouring any mutant it happens to stumble upon as it makes its way towards the child. The more mutants it eats, the stronger it becomes.
Cyclopes now has a very tough choice to make. He needs to figure out who has the child and what they plan to do with it. He sends Rictor, a depowered X-Factor member to pretend to join the Purifiers to learn if they have the child, and Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Angel and Nightcrawler after Sinister’s men to see if they have it. He also sends James Madrox, the Multiple Man to visit Forge, who tells him that since the baby was born two distinct futures have been created. Madrox creates two duplicates of himself, and sends one to each timeline to figure out what the future holds for mutants as a result of the child’s birth. Layla Miller, the girl with the power to awaken people’s memories in House of M (who accompanied Madrox to Forge’s lab) grabs ahold of one of the duplicates and is teleported with him to another timeline in the future. For some reason the main Madrox then collapses and falls into a comma.
Just as all of this is happening the New X-Men, the youngest students at the X-Mansion overhear that the Purifiers are involved in this mess, and they decide to go after them. Before the Messiah Complex storyline, the New X-Men were involved in a story where the Purifiers wiped out 27 of the youngest students at Xavier’s school for higher learning. So they want revenge.
During all this the X-Mansion is attacked by the special Sentinels, which were created to protect mutants and the school in particular. The Sentinels nearly destroy the mansion, and injure several students during the processes. Meanwhile the New X-Men discover that not only do the Purifiers not have the baby, but also that they’re working with Lady Deathstrike. During the ensuing battle Hellion is badly wounded, and Rictor has to come to their aid. Pixie then scatter-teleports everyone to safety.
On Wolverine’s side, he learns that Sinister doesn’t have the baby either, and in the ensuing battle Nightcrawler is hurt. It’s not a total loss though as Wolverine learns that Cable is the one that took the baby and is on the run. Cyclopes immediately believes it was Cable that infected the Sentinels to attack the mansion, but he doesn’t understand for what purpose. Their troubles are far from over though.
The Predator X finally makes its way to the X-Mansion where it’s eventually defeated, but not before doing even more damage to the mansion itself. The biggest surprise comes from Madrox and Layla though. They traveled to a distant future in which the so-called mutant messiah killed over a million people, which caused all mutants to be locked up in camps and treated like terrorists. Each mutant is tattooed with an M over his or her right eye, just like Bishop has. Bishop is an X-Men who traveled back in time from the future to help the X-Men in their time of need, many years earlier.
It is in this future where they meet Bishop as a child, who says that if he ever found the mutant messiah he’d kill it to prevent this future from ever happening. Sadly Madrox has no way of returning to his timeline to warn Cyclopes of all he’s learned. Out of nowhere Layla grabs a grenade from one of the security officers in the camp and explodes both her and the Madrox duplicate, which awakens Madrox in the regular timeline. He then explains all he’s learned about Bishop.
For the first time we finally start following Cable’s storyline, and he’s trying everything in his power to protect the baby. Eventually he makes his way to Forge, so he can create a time traveling device, but when he arrives Forge is already gunned down. Bishop is there and catches Cable off-guard. He manages to get the baby and just as he’s about to kill it the Marauders appear and knock him unconscious. Gambit takes the baby back to Mr. Sinister, except it isn’t Mr. Sinister after all, but rather Mystique disguised as him. Mystique had taken Rogue some time earlier in hopes of finding a cure for her fatal disease she contracted some time earlier. She used her unconscious daughter’s body to kill Sinister by forcing him to touch Rogue for a long period of time. Mystique then places the baby on Rogue’s face, and instead of killing the baby, it actually cures Rogue.
In the end Cerebra is fixed by the New X-Men, which allows Cyclopes to locate the location of the mutant messiah. Meanwhile Cable no longer can fend for himself and contacts Professor X for his help in locating the child. Eventually everyone meets up, Cable, Professor X, and the X-Men and the story culminates with Cyclopes giving Cable the baby for safe protection. He realizes that she’s not safe anywhere in this timeline and that only his son can offer her everything she needs. He also wants Cable to give her what he was never able to give his own son, a real chance. Rogue wakes up from her comma and tells Mystique the cure wasn’t worth the price she paid as the child could have been killed, and the survival of their species is more important than her single life. She then walks away, and tells Gambit that if he truly loves her to let her go. Meanwhile just as Cable teleports to another time Bishop shoots several shots at him, all miss, except one hits Professor X right in the head and fractures his mind. Cyclopes says this is the end of the X-Men, as the scene fades to Cable holding the baby in his arms saying, “here comes the hard part.”
This storyline was tremendously successful for Marvel and was the first of their mutant messiah trilogy, which would be followed up with 2009’s Messiah War, and ended with 2010’s Second Coming. Over the course of the year between Messiah Complex and Messiah War the X-Men would be disbanded, and the various X-books would deal with this fallout, eventually having the team form once again in San Francisco under Cyclopes’ vision of what the X-Men should now be about, which is the focus on the survival of the mutant race. Marvel also started an on-going monthly series following Cable exploits as he jumped from one time period to another trying to protect the baby from a recovered Bishop. Mike Carey’s X-Men was renamed X-Men Legacy and focused on Professor X’s fractured mind, Gambit and Rogue. X-Factor would deal with Madrox’s other duplicate coming back to the regular timeline with new powers, and the stranded Layla Miller in Bishop’s timeline.
Messiah Complex is well worth the read in a collected volume or trade paperback as it ties in perfectly with House of M, and shows how desperate the X-Men were to do anything and everything to save this baby. This small baby was mutant’s only Hope.