Comics
Published November 23, 2022

The X-Men's Pivotal Alternate Timelines

Get ready for January's 'Sins of Sinister' crossover by catching up on some of the X-Men's most memorable alternate timelines.

In many timelines, the X-Men’s future doesn’t end well. From mutant-hunting Sentinels to world-conquering villains like Apocalypse, Marvel’s mutants have faced an onslaught of enemies in dark timelines where they seem doomed to become an endangered species or lose their closest friends. Now, starting in January, SINS OF SINISTER will explore three eras of a future where Mister Sinister sees his never-ending plans come to fruition. 

Before Mister Sinister takes over the X-Men’s future, we’re taking a look back at some of the most memorable alternate timelines and possible futures from Marvel’s mutant history.

DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

“Days of Future Past” was the first alternate timeline the X-Men encountered, and it is still one of the darkest. As revealed in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #141-142 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the assassinations of Senator Robert Kelly, Moira MacTaggert, and Charles Xavier led to a wave of anti-mutant hysteria and the reactivation of the Sentinel Program. While mutant-hunting machines like Nimrod took over North America, a ragtag group of X-Men – including an aged Wolverine and Rachel Summers, the child of Cyclops and Jean Grey – tried to save a world that hated and feared them more than ever.  

HOUSE OF M

The X-Men and the Avengers saw their deepest desires turn into a nightmare in HOUSE OF M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel. This world was created when Scarlet Witch used her powers to rewrite reality to recreate her lost children. Heroes like Spider-Man lived versions of their ideal lives in this timeline, where mutants became Earth’s dominant species after a mid-20th century war with humans. 

But under the rule of Magneto, humans were a subjugated underclass, which led heroes like Luke Cage into the Human Resistance Movement. After Wolverine and several other heroes regained their memories of the original Marvel Universe, they revolted against Magneto. Wanda ultimately undid her changes to reality, but caused most of the world’s mutants to lose their powers in the process, creating the incident now referred to as “M-Day.”

THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE

After a time-traveling Legion accidentally killed Charles Xavier before he could form the X-Men, the powerful mutant inadvertently created one of the X-Men’s most famous alternate timelines: the AGE OF APOCALYPSE. In this dystopian reality, Apocalypse conquered and ruled the world alongside generals like Mister Sinister. This timeline saw familiar heroes and villains take on shocking roles, with Magneto and his X-Men standing as this fallen world’s last defenders. After debuting in X-MEN: ALPHA (1995), the initial “Age of Apocalypse” epic ran for four months, and this fan-favorite timeline has been revisited numerous times since then.

MUTANT X

In MUTANT X (1998) #1 by Howard Mackie and Tom Raney, Havok was transported to a strange world where he led a group of mutants called the Six. In this world, Alex Summers was the only known survivor of the plane crash that killed his family, and anti-mutant sentiment led to the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. After Professor X died fighting the Shadow King, several X-Men went through bizarre evolutions, where Storm became the vampire Bloodstorm and Beast devolved into the monstrous Brute. After the Goblin Force possessed Havok’s wife Madelyne Pryor and killed several of this world’s heroes in a final battle, Havok defeated the cosmic force and returned to the Marvel Universe proper.

OLD MAN LOGAN

In OLD MAN LOGAN (2016), Marvel’s villains teamed up and finally killed most of this timeline’s heroes. As villains claimed massive swaths of territory as their own, a handful of survivors – like Hawkeye and Emma Frost – remained, hiding out or fortifying themselves in the Wastelands. But after being tricked into killing the X-Men, an aging, remorseful Logan started fighting back in WOLVERINE (2003) #66 by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Even after Logan defeated the Red Skull, several of this world’s remaining heroes died fighting Galactus. With help from the main Marvel Universe’s Fantastic Four, the residents of this timeline eventually resettled on a planet called Nu-World.

BISHOP’S FUTURE

Before Bishop traveled to the main Marvel Universe in UNCANNY X-Men (1963) #282 by John Byrne and Whilce Portacio, the X-Man grew up in a harsh future still reeling from the ravages of a Sentinel crackdown on mutants that happened decades prior. After Hope Summers killed a million humans in the “Six Minute War,” Sentinels hunted down and imprisoned or killed millions of mutants. However, Cyclops and his daughter Ruby united mutants and humans in a successful counter-attack against the Sentinels. 

To protect the fragile and uneasy peace created by the Summers Rebellion, groups like the Xavier Security Enforcers emerged to tackle threats such as the time-traveling mutant serial killer Trevor Fitzroy. In January’s X-MEN: LEGENDS #5, Portacio and Brian Haberlin will return to this world to reveal a new chapter from Bishop’s history.

X-MEN LEGENDS (2022) #5 cover by Whilce Portacio and Arif Prianto
X-MEN LEGENDS (2022) #5 cover by Whilce Portacio and Arif Prianto

AGE OF X

Similar to the AGE OF APOCALYPSE, the AGE OF X (2018) timeline was created by Professor X’s powerful son Legion. One of Legion’s personas spontaneously created this reality in X-MEN: AGE OF X ALPHA (2010) #1 by Mike Carey, Mirco Pierfederici, Carlo Barberi, Paul Davidson, and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Most of this reality’s mutants were killed in a vicious anti-mutant campaign after a young Jean Grey’s explosive powers emerged, destroying Albany, New York in the process. 

With his Mutant Resistance, Magneto brought together the timeline’s surviving mutants in Fortress X, a fortified bunker built to protect them from threats like the mutant-hunting Avengers. After the Human Coalition finally breached Fortress X, Legion absorbed the persona that created it and restored the Marvel Universe.

CABLE’S FUTURE

While Nathan Summers may have been born in the Marvel Universe proper, he grew up to become Cable in a distant future ruled by a ruthless Apocalypse. After being sent to this timeline for medical treatment in X-FACTOR (1986) #68 by Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, and Chris Claremont, Nathan was protected by an alternate reality version of his sister Rachel Summers, her Clan Askani, and time-tossed versions of Cyclops and Jean Grey. 

Cable eventually defeated Apocalypse, but he and his allies still had to deal with the tyrannical Stryfe, his villainous clone. Ultimately, a vicious group called the New Canaanites took over much of Apocalypse’s former empire in the 39th century.

X-MEN: THE END

In X-MEN: THE END (2005) by Chris Claremont and Sean Chen, the world’s mutant population was never depowered by the Scarlet Witch. Although some of this timeline’s X-Men lived long enough to have children or retire, many of them perished after the return of a long-dead Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force. When rogue Shi’ar leaders launched a devastating attack on the X-Men using Warskrulls, Mister Sinister and Cassandra Nova both tried to complete their long-standing final plans against the mutants. The X-Men sustained heavy losses and were rocked by shocking revelations, but Jean ultimately resurrected several of the fallen and took them to a higher plane of existence.

HERE COMES TOMORROW

While Beast may be a founding member of the X-Men, his attempt to lead the Xavier Institute almost destroyed the world in the “Here Comes Tomorrow” timeline. After a Magneto imposter destroyed New York and killed Jean Grey, Cyclops retired in mourning, and the sentient bacteria Sublime possessed Beast as he reopened Xavier's school. 

As Sublime’s Beast tried to destroy mutants and humanity with his creations, Wolverine, the Stepford Cuckoos, and a heroic Cassandra Nova led a small group of X-Men against him starting in NEW X-MEN (2001) #151 by Grant Morrison and Marc Silvestri. After the Phoenix resurrected Jean, she reached 150 years into the past and stopped this timeline from becoming the future by encouraging Cyclops to embrace life.

MOIRA’S SIXTH LIFE

In HOUSE OF X (2019) and POWERS OF X (2019) by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, and R.B. Silva, longtime X-Men ally Moira MacTaggert revealed she had a mutant power that reincarnated her as her infant self when she died, complete with the memories of the life she just lived. Moira’s powers also effectively made the events of her previous lives alternate timelines. 

During her sixth life, Moira became one of the last mutants to survive thousands of years in the future, in a world where humanity and technology merged to become Post-Humans. After Moira and Wolverine escaped from a mutant zoo, they stopped the timeline shortly before the Post-Humans joined the Phalanx alien collective.

MOIRA’S NINTH LIFE

After she witnessed the mutants’ doom in her other lives, Moira formed the X-Men with Apocalypse in her ninth life. Together, Moira and Apocalypse led mutants in a brutal, never-ending war against humanity and their machine allies. Despite the conflict's casualties, many of the X-Men lived on through chimeras like Rasputin IV, who combined the powers of several mutants. 

Eventually, Apocalypse realized that the creation of the unstoppable Nimrod Sentinel had to be stopped to save mutantkind, and he sacrificed much of the remaining team to get that information. Once Wolverine delivered it to Moira, he killed her, erasing this timeline and allowing Moira to be reborn in the current Marvel Universe in POWERS OF X (2019) #3 by Jonathan Hickman and R.B. Silva.

Dive into the X-Men's next major timeline in SINS OF SINISTER, which kicks off with Kieron Gillen and Lucas Werneck's IMMORTAL X-MEN (2022) #9, on sale December 7!

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SINS OF SINISTER event checklist

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