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411 Comics Showcase: Mystique

March 10, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

Welcome back to 411 Comics Showcase. I had planned on this column being a review of Logan, but circumstances have prevented that from happening. I have been watching most of the X-Men films though, which is what gave me the idea to write this column. Frankly, I don’t cover villains enough, so I thought it was appropriate to cover one of my favorites. Especially since some people may only know Mystique from her film appearances, which have… interesting differences.

Leader of the Brotherhood

“Mystique” is the name Chris Claremont gave to a female character drawn by Dave Cockrum, and she debuted as an adversary for Carol Danvers in Ms. Marvel #16-17. A mutant shapeshifter with limitless ambition and a ruthless mean streak, she quickly grew past being a Ms. Marvel villain. While she is most closely associated with the X-Men, her new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants were originally pitted against the Avengers. However, her first breakout appearance was in Days of Future Past, where she attempted to assassinate Senator Kelly, an event which got the ball rolling for the Sentinels to take over in a horrific future.

Mystique is a quintessentially Claremont character. The seminal X-Men writer was always fond of strong female characters, whether it be Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde and Storm in the X-Men books, Ms. Marvel, or Psylocke in the pages of Captain Britain. It only makes sense that a striking, memorable female villain would appeal to him, and that he make her the leader of his new version of the Brotherhood. Personally, I prefer this version; Magneto is dangerous enough without the Brotherhood, and Mystique’s ability to lead a team and work as a criminal mastermind is part of what makes her such a memorable villain.

Messy Maternal Relationships

Claremont originally conceived Mystique as the parent of Nightcrawler, a logical idea based on her appearance. She was originally going to be his biological father, transforming into a man to impregnate her lover Destiny. While the obvious lesbian relationship was nixed due to Marvel’s concerned executives, Claremont and his artists were always able to get the idea that they were together across, even if they didn’t state it outright. Mystique is instead Kurt’s mother, forced to abandon him when she was chased out of German village. Their relationship is understandably strained, although Kurt’s forgiving personality usually keeps them on tolerable terms.

Mystique is also the mother of Graydon Creed, the non-mutant son of Sabretooth. Graydon is as despicable as his father, founding The Friends of Humanity as a group to persecute mutants. But perhaps her most important bond is with Rogue, who she adopted when she was four years old. While there were ulterior motives to raising the girl, it was clear early on that Raven deeply cared for her daughter. The tangled web of relationships is often the focus of Mystique stories. The X-Men is very often about family, the family we are born with and the family we choose to have. Raven and her children are a perfect example of how it works.

Movies and Beyond

It’s unsurprising that a version of Mystique was included in the first X-Men movies. While this Raven Darkholme is more of a second in command to Magneto, she maintained her blue skin, shapeshifting powers and her deadly hand to hand combat skills. And since it was Rebecca Romijn wearing practically nothing except for impressive makeup, she made an immediate impression on viewers (especially young men, I imagine). While I can’t help wondering it would be more tasteful and less expensive to put her in some clothes, it’s undeniable that the films made Mystique even more popular than she was before. Since she will probably be in more movies, I’d like them to finally explore her role as Kurt and Rogue’s mother.

Raven became the star of her own comic book series, working on secret missions for Charles Xavier. It wasn’t entirely new ground; Mystique’s interests occasionally aligned with the X-Men, and she was part of the third version of X-Force, albeit reluctantly. Sometimes an adversary, sometimes an ally, she’s always a welcome part of X-Men comics. Without a doubt in my mind, she’s Marvel’s premiere female villain, and she has a strong case for being the best in all of comics.

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What are your favorite Mystique stories? Is she the best female super villain of all time?