The X-Men have a new enemy, and it’s one of their founding members. Hank McCoy aka the Beast has been an important part of the X-Men mythos since the group first appeared in X-Men #1 (1963). He’s fought alongside the group for decades, helping the team achieve their greatest victories. Beast has also appeared in various X-Men video games, animated shows, and movies. Needless to say, you would think his role as an X-Men and as a hero was set in stone.
However, in Marvel Comics it’s important to expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to the X-Men. Lately Beast has been acting less like a superhero, and more like a mad scientist. Now things have hit the fan, with Beast embracing full villainy in Wolverine #31 (written by Benjamin Percy and penciled by Juan Jose Ryp). Is the Beast really a bad guy now? Let’s unpack these startling developments.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Wolverine #31!
Is the X-Men’s Beast a hero or villain?
Beast and Wolverine haven’t been getting along lately. It probably has something to do with the fact that Beast killed Wolverine and resurrected him without his memories. Hank then used Wolverine as his own secret weapon, sending him out on covert missions. Thanks to Wolverine’s healing factor, and a little help from the living island Krakoa, he was able to regain his memories. If you know anything about Wolverine, then you can probably imagine how mad he was at Hank McCoy.
The more Wolverine dug into Beast’s activities, the worse it got. It turned out that Beast had been forcing CIA agent Jeff Bannister to work for him by threatening the life of Bannister’s young daughter. This was all too much for Wolverine, who turned to attack his longtime teammate. Wolverine #30(2023) ends with Logan killing Beast. However, thanks to the X-Men’s resurrection technology, Beast was able to immediately come back to life in a cloned body.
This brings us to Wolverine #31 (2023), where Beast puts the next step of his plan into action by transforming X-Force’s headquarters into a walking giant and departing Krakoa. On his way out, he passes a military submarine, which has been dispatched by the United Nations to monitor Krakoa. Beast destroys the submarine, stating he doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s up to.
Hank McCoy then broadcasts a psychic message to his former teammates. He tells his X-Men and X-Force teammates that he had grown tired of them, and he is moving forward with his mission without them. Beast states that everything he is doing is for the good of the mutant race. Nevertheless, he warns everyone to stay out of his way.
To assist Beast on his new journey, he’s made a few clones of himself. He’s also growing an army of Wolverine clones, which he plans to use as his own personal militia. “X-Force is no more. I call this new program Weapons of X,” Beast tells his clones. Looking at all of Beast's recent behavior, his actionsa re starting to look a little more than mad science, and a bit like full-blown supervillainy.
Hank McCoy’s rap sheet
Hank’s descent into villainy can be hard to believe, given his history as a superhero. However, when you lay out his recent actions, it’s hard to deny that he’s currently a supervillain. To recap, let’s break down some of Beast’s recent evil deeds.
- He’s built himself an army of clones (which seems like an evil villain thing to do).
- He poisoned Maddie Bannister (a little girl).
- He told Jeff Bannister that he would murder his daughter if he didn’t work for him.
- He tortured his teammate and friend Wolverine.
- He booby-trapped one of his bodies (which seems like something a bad guy would do).
- He’s also grown an army of Wolverine clones.
- He blew up a military submarine.
- He broadcasted a message to his former allies, warning them to stay out of his way or suffer the consequences.
- He’s built a walking evil lair, with a skull on the top. (Is he trying to look like a Saturday morning cartoon show?)
I could go on, but this evidence is damning. In fact, if I didn’t use Beast’s name on this list, you would probably think I was describing the actions of a supervillain like Doctor Doom.
Where did this villainous turn come from?
How does a founding member of the X-Men become a supervillain? When did this descent into evil start? For the most part Beast has been a heroic character, but throughout his history there have been some questionable moments. In X-Men #8 (1964) Beast lost his temper after he was attacked by a mutant-hating mob. McCoy stormed into Cyclops’ office, telling his teammate that he no longer wanted to help humanity, and that Magneto had the right idea.
This resulted in Hank temporarily quitting the X-Men. He even hinted that he might join Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Hank eventually calmed down and rejoined the X-Men, and his tantrum was forgotten. Over the years Hank would make morally questionable decisions. While serving on the superhero braintrust known as the Illuminati, Beast proposed allowing entire universes to die in order to save Earth.
Beast has also allied himself with villains to further his goals. During the X-Men storyline “Endangered Species,” Hank allied himself with his evil counterpart Dark Beast. Hank believed that Dark Beast would be able to help him restore the mutants that were magically “cured” at the end of the House of M storyline. In X-Men #27 (1993) Beast allowed the villain Mr. Sinister to experiment on a mutant named Threnody. Beast reasoned that Mr. Sinister’s experiments would unearth a cure for the Legacy Virus, a disease that had been plaguing humans.
In 2019 Marvel launched a new X-Force title written by Benjamin Percy. The series leaned into Beast’s moral ambiguity, showcasing Hank’s unique leadership style. For example, in X-Force #12 (2021) Hank proposed that Krakoa operate as a police state, and detain mutants with ties to foreign adversaries. In X-Force #34 (2022) Hank used a secret space prison to conduct experiments on inmates. If you’re trying to track Hank’s descent into supervillainy, then look no further than Percy’s X-Force run.
Despite all this, Beast still sees himself as a hero. Hank narrates Wolverine #31, which gives us some insight into his motivations. “What I did was only bad if you’re caught up in a moral philosophy that is ultimately pointless,” Beast says. During his monologue, he tries to justify his experiments on Wolverine. “He suffers, but millions of mutants prosper. That’s good math. That’s the proper decision.”
What’s next for Beast?
Hank McCoy’s war against the X-Men will play out in future issues of X-Force and Wolverine. According to the solicitation for X-Force #40, a revamped version of the team will go up against Beast. The solicitation for X-Force #41 states that “mysteries will be revealed as Beast’s dark agenda is fully exposed.” It sounds like Hank McCoy is still harboring some secrets, which will come out in future issues of X-Force.
The cover for Wolverine #33 features Beast and Logan locked in combat. It appears that Logan won’t be too happy to learn about his army of clones. Is it possible that Beast can ever go back to the X-Men after this? It’s worth noting that the group has welcomed former villains like Magneto and Emma Frost, so there is precedent. However, it would probably take some time for Hank McCoy to regain their trust, and that’s IF he chooses to make amends.
Beast’s actions in Wolverine #31 might also have major ramifications for the entire X-Men line. Don’t forget, Hank destroyed a submarine dispatched by the United Nations. Could this be interpreted as an act of war? It’s possible that this could hurt Krakoa’s standing on the world stage, and negatively effect mutant relations. Don’t forget, in Timeless #1 (2022) we saw a flashforward to an angry mob burning the X-Men’s Treehouse headquarters. Could this be the event that triggered the mob? Is it possible that this could lead to the upcoming Fall of X crossover event?
Time will tell. For now, keep your eyes peeled to Popverse, as we continue to track the latest news in the X-Men titles, and across the Marvel Universe.