The 100 Greatest X-Men, #20 – #16

20: Hepzibah

Hepzibah is an alien lady with a passion for large guns and booze, and a massive hatred for enemy aliens the Shi’Ar. Ed Brubaker recently wrecked her life in several ways – first killing off her partner Corsair, then exiling her on Earth, and finally pairing her up with insipid legacy character Warpath. And Hepzibah deserves more credit than that, as her skunk-lady ways are the direct inspiration for everything Cyclops has done over the past five years.

From forming an army through to allowing X-Men to kill their enemies, Cyclops’ actions are less his own and more an offshoot of Hepzibah’s militaristic nature. If you ignore the Warpath thing – as everyone basically has because it makes her seem like she got over the death of Corsair REALLY easily – then Hepzibah shows herself as probably the most independent and strong woman in X-Men history. While Storm gives up whenever she’s asked to kill a child, Hepzibah cranks up her pulse rifle and shoots that bugger in the head. While Jean Grey panics at the thought of sex, Hepzibah throws herself at Corsair until he can do nothing to resist her anymore.

Hepzibah is the feminist’s X-Woman. Her passionate nature makes her a really entertaining character to read about, as well – Brubaker captured her personality well when he had her attack a giant rampaging sentinel using only her claws and a shotgun. Amazing. Her defining moment, however, was when she was captured during Kieron Gillen’s SWORD (mini)series. After escaping the prisons, she fought her way to safety using her high heeled shoe as a weapon. Can you think of a more iconic image of female empowerment than that?

19: Mystique

Speaking of female empowerment, Mystique’s appearances are utterly filled with incredible moments for scholars to explore. But there’s also an interesting undercurrent beneath the character which not many fans actually know about or understand. Best known as a foil for the X-Men and Wolverine in particular, Mystique’s ‘terrorist’ actions were more thought-out than, say, those of Magneto. From political assassinations through to organising conspiracies or successfully using entrapment against her enemies, Mystique’s plans usually work out, which makes her the most successful X-Men villain of all time.

But! This is a list about the top 100 X-Men, so let’s look at the times when Mystique has been a member of the team. Never a simple proponent of the black/white stance on morality, Mystique’s times working with the X-Men have revitalised the team and made even staid characters seem interesting and new. She joined during Peter Milligan’s underrated run on the team, and used the membership as a way to legitimise her off-peak hobbies such as robbery or making sure Gambit and Rogue split up. Rogue is her adopted daughter, you see, and Mystique has always been very careful about which men she lets her daughter hang around with.

Mystique is also the actual mother of Nightcrawler, but she doesn’t really care less about him. Her tenure with the X-Men saw her joina team with Rogue and Cable, and essentially she was in charge of the team during that time – successfully betraying them at just the right moment so she could emerge as the main victor of the ‘Messiah Complex’ event. No matter what’s going on, you can guarantee that Mystique is going to wriggle her way into victory.

18: Rogue

We spent a lot of time working up this list, so you know that our decision to put Rogue and Mystique next to each other was totally premeditated. Rogue is probably the most popular X-Men character amongst fans, who will likely be really mad that she hasn’t cracked the top ten. However, Rogue’s actual impact on the X-Men isn’t as big as you might think. Her main input has been showing the team that it’s okay to accept villains into their ranks.

She was the first character to be rehabilitated under the X-Men’s care, after a few years working as a villain alongside her adoptive mothers Destiny and Mystique. Eventually sent by Destiny to Xavier’s Institute, she gradually gained the respect of her fellow team members and became a notable member of the team. However, this also led to the X-Men accepting people like Xorn into their ranks, which many would note wasn’t the best idea they ever had. Rogue’s tenure is split into three different storylines – that she can’t control her powers, that she and Gambit have an on-off relationship, and that she once stole Ms Marvel’s powers and used them to fly around/smash stuff up.

Mike Carey has moved her on from all three, but many fans still feel like she should be addressing those three plots one more time. She’s noticeably more boring nowadays than she used to be, but that seems more because she has no real place within the X-Men as they currently stand. Maybe once Schism blows everyone apart she’ll get motivation once more, but for the time being she has no place inside our top ten.

17: Shortpack

Yeah, we really should’ve spent more time working out this list. Shortpack’s only appearances were in the Mystique solo series written by Brian K. Vaughan and Sean McKeever, but rest assured those were damn important issues. They established that Xavier had a black-ops team of mutants across the World who helped him protect mutant rights. The X-Men didn’t know anything about them, and they also were not aware of each other. Sage was one of their members, for example, but she had no idea that Forge, Mystique, and Shortpack were also hired to help out. Shortpack’s function as part of this trio was to manage the missions and run them efficiently.

While Forge supplied the gadgets, it was Shortpack’s job to organise the plans and make sure Mystique got back safe. In the process it was revealed that Shortpack – who is only a few inches high and has telepathy – has been working for Xavier for a long, long time. And that’s why he makes the list. Who knows how many times Shortpack has saved the X-Men from ruin? Behind the scenes, nobody else has done more to make sure that mutantkind stays safe from the World which hates and fears them. He’s also got a sharp sense of humour, and a cat. And he’s single! He’d be a great new boyfriend for Emma Frost, were anything to happen to Cyclops. Shortpack should come back soon, we miss him.

16: Pixie

As comics have become darker and edgier, so Pixie has risen above them to command the attention of any fan who enjoys fun. A opponent of the tame, Pixie’s purpose amongst the X-Men is to undermine anyone who is being depressing. She is one of the students, but she only appeared properly in two issues of Kyle/Yost’s new X-Men before Matt Fraction and Mike Carey promoted her to full-time X-Man status.

Once with the X-Men, this pink-haired hallucinogenic wonder became the main reason for anyone to want to read Uncanny X-Men. During a time when the series was struggling to tell interesting, coherent stories, fans came to rely on Pixie for entertainment. In the very first Fraction arc on Uncanny X-Men she bought a Vespa and used her magic soul dagger to blind a Spanish villain while shouting weird things about goths. Her real promotion to the A-List, however, came during the seminal X-Men story ‘Pixie Strikes Back’, by Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli. If you haven’t read that story? We strongly advise you to pick up the trade paperback, because it’s amazing.

Pixie goes to prom whilst simultaneously cussing out a gigantic yellow demon. And someone uses the phrase “remedial mathlete!” as an insult. But anyway, back to Pixie. She was one of the stars of Messiah Complex, she appeared in Astonishing X-Men back when the series was recommended, and she’s seriously destined to be the leader of the X-Men one day. The only thing preventing her from making the top ten is the fact that she was used as a side-character in a New Mutants series. Shudder!!


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