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Marvel re-writes the origin of mutantkind (and the X-Men who followed) in Marauders #9

Exploring the origins of mutants in the Marvel Universe, and their first conflicts.

Marauders #9
Image credit: Marvel Comics

It’s hard to imagine the Marvel Universe without mutants. Since the launch of X-Men in 1963, mutants have been a pillar of the Marvel Universe. But where did they come from, and what were their early days like? Marauders #9 (written by Steve Orlando with art by Eleonora Carlini) takes readers to the early days of the mutant race, and gives us a front row seat to their first conflict – the Oxygen Wars.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Marauders #9.

Who are the Marauders?

The Marauders battle in the Oxygen Wars
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The Marauders is the name of various teams that have operated in the X-Men line of comics. The original version of the mutant mercenaries led by the villainous Mister Sinister. However, the current version of the group shares almost nothing in common with the original team. The modern day version of the Marauders is a group of mutants led by Kate Pryde. Their primary objective is to protect the borders of Krakoa, a living island that serves as a sanctuary for mutants.

Krakoa can generate portals leading to any spot on Earth, which means that their borders are essentially all over the planet. As a result, Kate and her Marauders have their work cut out for them. Their current mission, which began in Marauders #7 (2022), involves stopping a war two billion years in the past. When a trio of mutants journeyed from the past to request Kate’s help, she accepted without hesitation. Although there were concerns about messing up the timestream, in Krakoa everyone has each other’s backs.

What have we learned about the early days of mutants in the Marvel Universe?

The Oxygen Wars
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The Marauders trip to the past has revealed some interesting things about the first group of mutants on Earth. If you’ve been away from the X-Books for a while, the Threshold is the name of the first society of mutants to live on the planet. The Threshold predate humanity, and even prehistoric creatures like dinosaurs. While the Threshold predate the human race, they are humanoid in appearance and share a similar biology.

The rise of oxygen levels on Earth benefited the Threshold, who needed air to survive. However a rival group known as the Unbreathing found oxygen to be poisonous. The two groups were unable to co-exist, which then led to violence. This conflict has come to be known as the Oxygen Wars. That’s the war that Kate and her Marauders have traveled back in time to stop.

Marauders #9 (2022) is the latest chapter of the storyline, and it doesn’t pull any punches. Ancient versions of the sentient twin bacteria Arkea and Sublime are fighting for the Unbreathing. It doesn’t matter how powerful a mutant is, bacteria can hurt anybody. Akrea and Sublime infect Fang (a Marauders member), taking control of his body. This forces the team to kill their friend.

Don’t forget, Krakoa still has the power to resurrect recently deceased mutants, so Kate and her allies are counting on the fact that they can revive Fang once the mission is over. Nevertheless, being forced to kill a member of your team isn’t an easy task. The final scene of the issue reveals that the Marauders aren’t the only time-displaced mutants fighting in the Oxygen Wars.

A member of the Threshold known as Commander Nightfount has defected to the Unbreathing, helping them annihilate the ancient mutants. However, the last page of the comic reveals that Commander Nightfount is actually Stryfe, an evil clone of Cable. Time-traveling is on brand for Cable and his clones, but Stryfe’s appearance is still somewhat of a surprise. How long has he been in the past, and what does his presence mean for the Oxygen Wars?

Where do mutants come from in the Marvel Universe?

Commander Nightfount reveals himself
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Thanks to the current Oxygen Wars storyline, we now know more about the early days of mutants in the Marvel Universe. However, some readers might be wondering if these revelations contradict the previous backstories established for mutants. Like the X-Men comics themselves, the history of mutants is rich and ever-changing.

Let’s start with the origins of the mutant race. In the Marvel Universe a mutant (or homo superior) is defined as a being with a genetic deviation. These deviations, or mutations, often cause a person to have extra abilities. However, not all mutations are the same. For example, both Scott Summers and Bobby Drake are mutants. Bobby can create ice, but Scott can’t.

For a time it was believed that Mutants came from an event called First Host. One million years ago, powerful beings known as Celestials traveled to Earth and altered the genetic structure of humans. This caused some humans to develop genetic deviations, resulting in the birth of mutants. While this version of events was accepted for some time, there are some holes in it.

For example, mutants like Firehair were active before First Host. Avengers #5 (2018) introduced an alternate origin for the mutant race which seems to fix the timeline issue. According to Loki, the Celestial giant known as Progenitor came to Earth four billion years ago. Progenitor was infected with something known as the Horde, which caused him to vomit all over the young planet.

Loki surmised that the Celestial vomit altered the genetic structure of early life, which led to the rise of mutants and other enhanced humans. This version of the timeline fits in with the recent revelations about the Oxygen Wars. It’s also possible that the Progenitor’s vomit and First Host both played unique roles in the rise of Earth’s mutants. Whatever the case is, mutants are a major force in the Marvel Universe, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.

The rise of mutants in the MCU

Ms. Marvel still
Image credit: Marvel Studios

Although mutants are a big part of the Marvel Universe, they were absent for the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Originally this was due to a rights issue. Years before being bought by Disney, Marvel sold the movie rights for some of their characters to other studios. 20th Century Fox had the rights to the X-Men, resulting in a successful film series. However, this prevented Marvel Studios from incorporating mutants into the MCU - and if they did, they had to tweak them to not be mutants (in the example of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver).

In 2019 Disney acquired Fox, which opened the door for mutants to appear in the MCU. Phase Four of the MCU has slowly introduced mutants. Patrick Stewart reprised his role as Charles Xavier in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). The Disney+ series Ms. Marvel (2022) changed Kamala Khan’s origin so she was now a mutant instead of an Inhuman. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) Namor states that he’s a mutant.

As the presence of mutants grows in the MCU, it’s worth speculating how their history will differ from the comics. Celestials have already been introduced to the MCU in Eternals (2021), so the MCU has the option to incorporate First Host or the Progenitor. Does this mean we might see the Oxygen Wars play out in live-action one day? At this point probably not, especially since we’re still years away from introducing the X-Men.

However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow and surprise us. Whether it’s Celestial vomit, Oxygen Wars, or First Host, mutants are making their way to the MCU, and something tells me their presence will be just as big as it is in the comics.

Want more? Mutantkind and the X-Men are a big part of many of our recommended best Marvel Comics stories.

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