Marvel’s Scariest TV Villain Revealed the X-Men’s Biggest Weakness – and He’s Right

In New Mutants #22, a classic X-Men villain revealed what he believes to be the mutants’ biggest weakness…and he may have a point.

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for New Mutants #22, available now from Marvel Comics.

The Shadow King is one of the X-Men’s oldest enemies, and the team’s existence is intrinsically tied to the villain of FX’s Legion series. It was a chance encounter and a fateful battle with the Shadow King’s human host, Amahl Farouk, that inspired a young Charles Xavier to form a team of mutant heroes to oppose the likes of the Shadow King and other evil mutants, making the psychic entity indirectly responsible for the creation of the X-Men and the dynasty of mutant-teams that have evolved out of them.

Like many of the X-Men’s foes, the Shadow King was offered amnesty and a new start when he became a citizen of the newly-formed mutant nation of Krakoa, but the villain has wasted no time getting back into old habits, already manipulating a group of young mutants into spreading his psionic influence throughout the island. But when the New Mutants finally confront the Shadow King in New Mutants #22 (by Vita Ayala, Rod Reis, VC’s Travis Lanham, and Tom Muller), he reveals that he’s not acting entirely out of his own self-interests. The motivation behind the Shadow King’s actions offers an interesting insight into the mind of one of the mutants’ most mysterious members and presents a grim vision of Krakoa’s future based on his civilization-spanning lifetime of experience.

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New Mutants Shadow King Fight 1

Haunted by the feeling that they don’t fit in among the other New Mutants, Anole, Rain Boy, Cosmar, and N0-Girl believed that they had found a more accepting mentor when the Shadow King reached out to them. Under his tutelage, the quartet explored the potential of their abilities without restriction and discovered new aspects of their powers. Unfortunately, these exercises also proved to be very dangerous, with one “training session” almost getting the children killed after No-Girl swapped the group’s minds into each other’s bodies. When the group’s friend Scout tried to inform Wolfsbane of the Shadow King’s actions, he possesses Wolfsbane and murdered Scout during the Hellfire Gala.

Although Scout is saved by Krakoa’s resurrection protocol, the experience convinces the children that the Shadow King is not as trustworthy as they had initially believed. Once the truth is revealed, the senior New Mutants decide to confront the Shadow King. As they approach the Shadow King’s mountain lair, the team is trapped in a hallucination that pits them against a horde of their greatest enemies, from the Sentinels to the Brood. After a grueling battle, the vision changes to that of a Cairo marketplace, and the Shadow King sits the group down to explain why he’s taken such an interest in Krakoa’s young mutants.

Having lived for millennia by jumping into different bodies, the Shadow King has seen the rise and fall of entire civilizations, and he doesn’t believe that Krakoa will fair much better. Having witnessed the constant struggle for survival that the mutants have faced firsthand through his conflict with the X-Men, the Shadow King not only believes that Krakoa is doomed to fail, but that the “illusion” of peace will ultimately ensure its extinction once the conflict with humanity and its technology inevitably resumes. By encouraging the next generation of mutants to fully embrace their powers, the Shadow King believes he is saving them from Xavier’s delusions of peace.

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New Mutants Shadow King Fight 3

Although the New Mutants argue against Shadow King’s logic by stating that Krakoa is all about breaking the cycle of war between humanity and mutants, the various alternate timelines that Moira Mactaggart was revealed to have experienced during House of X offer grim evidence that the Shadow King might be right. These alternate timelines revealed that the mutants are doomed to be wiped out by technology, which in turn is destined to evolve thanks to humanity’s fear of mutants. As horrible as it is to admit, there is undeniable proof that there is at least some truth to what the Shadow King is saying.

Although the New Mutants make a strong argument that adopting the Shadow King’s “us vs. them” ideology will only create more conflict with humanity, history has already proven him right. As twisted as it might be, the Shadow King’s course of action might just be the mutants’ only hope of surviving the future.

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