The X-Men are great metaphor for disability and the Inhumans are great metaphor for second generation disabled people, people who weren’t born disabled but became disabled. The two groups are very similar but the X-Men got that way because of genetics and Inhumans got that way because of the physical act, entering the Terrigen mists.
Gifted is the new TV show based in the XMCU, about the X-Men, and the MCU is releasing their show The Inhumans.
It’s confusing because both are from Marvel but different studios own the movie rights to technically in the movies the Avengers and the X-Men don’t live in the same universe. Spider-Man is now with the Avengers because of a business deal between Fox and Disney.
Still, I thought it might be a good idea to share the dynamic between them in the comic. I think it’ll better explain the metaphor and people like Captain America too much.
Mutants are legitimate race
In the Marvel universe, specifically the 616 which is what we used to refer to the main comic continuity, mutants are an actual race. They were created to be an allegory for all marginalized people and so unlike characters like Captain America who was mutated and is categorized as a “mutate” the X-Men, and other mutants, belong to the “mutant race” which can and does intersect with all other races. Some people argue that just being an allegory isn’t enough, that they aren’t actually good representation, but you would be hard-pressed to find a straight white able-bodied cis man in the X-Men.
Havok is a good example. He is a straight white able-bodied cis man who also happens to be a mutant. When he joined the Avengers he did so by making a public statement that he didn’t want to be known as a mutant
This is the equivalent of saying “your race doesn’t matter, we are all a part of the human race”
Kitty, a bisexual Jewish WOC and one of the highest-ranking X-Men, spoke for most of the mutants when she dismissed him
More than anything, mutants work best when they are an allegory for disabled people despite the fact that many X-Men are also disabled. They best represent people like me, people who are disabled due to a gene mutation. Their existence scares people, your child could be one and you may never know until puberty, the way their body works is scary, some of them are scary to look at but some of them have passing privilege and look like everyone else which means anyone could be one and you’ll never know.
Even the kindest humans (including mutates) who don’t wish them harm agree that the world would be better off without them. It would be safer. People like Captain America are different because they are selected to be given powers that don’t make them look frightening. Sometimes bad people select another bad person (or themselves) and give them powers but they can be easily targeted by the likes of Captain America and taken care of. Mutants can come out of nowhere, anyone can be one with the right recessive genes.
Throughout the years we have seen them go through genocide after genocide, internment camps, programs to make them human again (think straight camp or faith healings), required genetic testings to root them out of the population, segregation, etc. all the bad things that happened to marginalized people in the world.
What does this have to do with the Avengers?
The Avengers are sort of specialized police team. They have the same problems we have with police in the real world. The Avengers are a group of selected superpowered people used only to fight the world’s biggest problems, like alien invaders. Worldwide genocide (amongst the other things we listed) is arguably one of the world’s biggest problems and we’ve seen that it’s something they actually address. Captain America himself was ironically created to fight Hitler and the extermination of the Jewish race and we’ve seen the Avengers as a team fight genocide time and time again, even off the world with the Kree. The Avengers have never done anything to aid the mutants. They often facilitate their genocide.
What’s the Mutant Massacre?
The example many X-Men fans like to use for this is the Mutant Massacre. The mutant population was very scarce at the time and very divided between passing and non-passing mutants. Mutants without passing privilege tended to have to go underground and one of the largest groups was called the Morlocks to who lived in the abandoned underground and sewers of New York which they called the Morlocks Tunnels. Their leader was Callisto (well, some of the time Storm was their official leader but she is always busy running the X-Men so Callisto is always in charge)
Obviously mutants without passing privilege have had to stay in hiding or they would be murdered
So, the Morlocks were targeted and almost all were murdered
Parents lost children
And children lost parents
The only Avenger involved was Thor who came in towards the end, mostly to see the aftermath
but the culprits are still in the tunnel, and his enemy Hela shows up, so he blasts the tunnels
Not one of his best decisions but he got a pass because he didn’t hurt that many people even though he desecrated all the bodies.
This genocide had a huge effect on the mutant population and it’s considered one of the most important events of mutant history so even children are taught about it
Why did the X-Men hold this against the Avengers?
There’s nothing the Avengers could really do, they weren’t there at the time so they couldn’t have joined in the rescue effort but they also stayed silent on the event. The mutant population was almost exterminated, the world was in favor of that the extermination, and the most respected authority figures on Earth ignored it.
That, alone, is not why mutants hold a grudge, it’s the fact that things like this continue to happen and the Avengers never step in to help or even tell people “hey, genocide isn’t cool” so the Mutant Massacre is sort of seen as the beginning of their continued failings.
But there are mutants on the Avengers
Yes. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are mutants and also Avengers but they have always distanced themselves from the mutant community and even caused a genocide of their own (well, Scarlet Witch did) so they are seen as race traitors.
Namor is also a mutant but he doesn’t really identify as one. He has always lived separate from mutant communities, specifically in Atlantis, and considers himself Atlantean. He does fight against the Avengers to protect mutants but his justification is never based on race alone. Wolverine and Beast are mutants and a long time Avengers but for some reason get mostly a pass. Wolverine always claims to have no alliances and the two have been rationalized to have not been able to do anything to make the Avengers as a team help although they would leave to fight beside the X-Men. Not everyone forgives them. Arguably the only member (before Unity which we will get to in a minute) that is a mutant and powerful enough to have any sway is Storm but she was a recruit of Shattered Heroes which takes place after the Fear Itself event which was a time when the whole Earth was shot to hell thanks to Asgardian drama. She left later
So, why is Captain America singled out?
All this contention between the two groups came to a head during the Avengers vs X-Men event. Thanks to Scarlet Witch’s genocide mutants are nearly extinct at this point but there is some hope because a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force is heading toward Earth. Some mutants can become a host for it (mostly women from Jean Grey’s line) and do extraordinary things, like unsterilizing the mutants so there will be a future generation. The Phoenix Force isn’t always helpful. It got the better of Jean Grey and she turned evil but her daughter Rachel was always able to handle it well and now they have Hope who had been training her whole life to be the savior of mutant kind.
The X-Men are preparing for the Phoenix Force, to have Hope host it and save their race. The Avengers are preparing for the Phoenix Force, hoping to avoid the whole ordeal. Captain America goes to the segregated island where the mutants are living to take Hope into custody. She has done nothing but she has no rights and if she’s going to become powerful Captain America wants to be the one in control of her. He isn’t taking her from some evil group, he’s taking her from the X-Men.
Even Namor sides with the X-Men
Due to Avenger interference the Phoenix Force was broken up and absorbed by a handful of X-Men who use the power to re-fertilize the mutant race and to do humanitarian work all over the world to set an example for what the Avengers could and should have done.
This led to the creation of the meme “Cyclops was right”
Of course it all eventually went to shit because the Phoenix Force wasn’t absorbed into the right vessels but at least now mutants were beginning to be born again.
Captain America was sorry
Afterward Captain America considered their history and realized he had been an asshole so his solution was to put together a new Avenger team called “Unity” that has human members (like himself), Mutants, Inhumans, and Deadpool who is technically a mutate but is always associated with the mutants so he is kind of expected to be a drifter in alliances. Rogue is made the reluctant leader, never having been fond of the Avengers, but always siding with X-Men on their agenda to make peace among all the races.
Meanwhile, the Terrigen mists are traveling over the Earth and when they come into contact with mutants they make them infertile and give them a terminal disease but if they come into contact with latent Inhumans they come into their powers. Obviously these two groups are not getting along.
So, things escalate because the Inhumans now have a new member who can foresee possible futures and everyone is split on whether or not to preemptively stop possible tragedies. The Avengers are divided on how to use this intel but not at all concerned about this new genocide of the mutants.
Cable and Rogue decide to take care of mutant business by themselves.
Captain America smells drama and is right that Deadpool is covering for the Mutants which was an easy enough guess because Deadpool’s ex-husband, Cable, is the one leading the “betrayal”
Cable and Rogue break into government laboratories to find out that humans are experimenting with Terrigen mists. It could be that they’re secretly trying to find a cure but considering that the government tries to either put them in internment camps or exterminate them every year that seems unlikely
but Captain America follows Deadpool and busts them
Cable and Captain America fight over a briefcase that has the Terrigen mist that the governments have been testing and Rogue gets bored
Deadpool follows the X-Men rule of “follow the highest-ranking woman” and now Captain America is extremely pissed.
Deadpool tries to explain that his allegiance to the mutants is because his daughter is a mutant (and with the Terrigen Mists going around it’s only a matter of time before she dies)
Captain America calls off the Unity team and says probably the worst thing he could think to say to Deadpool
He is, of course, referring to how Deadpool was in Weapon X and was tortured and disfigured.
What an asshole.
That should bring you to about 2017, I doubt the shows will refer to anything more recent and it’ll be interesting to see how they take these groups now that they can’t play off of each other.