Marvel’s X-Men are some of the most powerful heroes in the known universe, but being a hero does not make one a saint. Some X-Men heroes can be downright terrible and cruel when they want, or need, to be.

The founder of the X-Men, Charles Xavier, is a shockingly cruel man beneath his benevolent exterior, setting the stage for many of his later students and peers to have a similar mentality. Often due to trauma, self-righteousness, or a villainous past, X-Men like Emma Frost, Magneto, or Beast have proven to be quite cruel over the years. Check out ten of the cruelest X-Men in Earth-616 history below:

10 Emma Frost

The iconic Emma Frost is one of the most beloved X-Men heroes and leaders of the Krakoan Age. Her grace, ferocity, and loyalty know no bounds… but the brutal White Queen began her history with the X-Men as one of their fiercest enemies. Working alongside Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Gala, Emma helped set the stage for the infamous Dark Phoenix Saga.

The White Queen is also known for brutally murdering Firestar’s pet horse Butter Rum in an attempt to manipulate Angelica, a cruel and insidious act. Even after becoming a bona fide hero her cruel streak has remained, like when she had her gross psychic affair with Scott while he was married to Jean.

9 Psylocke (Betsy Braddock)

When Betsy Braddock was first introduced to Marvel Comics, she was the privileged but intelligent younger sister of Captain Britain, who quickly became an incredibly powerful psychic mutant. Betsy already displayed some signs of cruelty, like being willing to brutally murder a potential ally while in the X-Men’s Outback Era, but her cruel attitude escalated after her disastrous body swap with Kwannon landed her permanently in the body of a Japanese ninja assassin.

Psylocke took her new body and abilities to heart, becoming a ruthless and at-times cruel hero, before softening up in the Krakoan Era after getting her original body back, becoming Captain Britain, and making it official with Rachel Summers.

8 Magik

Illyana Rasputina, better known by her X-Men codename Magik, is one of the most beloved heroes in the franchise. When Magik was a young girl she was kidnapped to the hell realm Limbo by the demon Belasco, where she was tortured, assaulted, and had her soul removed over a years-long imprisonment. Much of Magik’s casual cruelty comes from the fact that Belasco literally stole parts of her soul.

However, Magik once manipulated her brother Colossus into becoming the new host of Cyttorak’s Juggernaut strength, solely so he would understand what it was like to lose your soul to hell. It was twisted, and cruel, and ruined their loving relationship for many years.

7 Cable

Cable, the son of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor, is Marvel’s most infamous time-traveling hero, using his impressive array of weaponry to keep the timeline on track and mutantkind safe through whatever means necessary. Due to his time traveling, and habit of saving the world, Cable has a slight savior complex, and he is willing to act in incredibly cruel ways to get the job done.

In X-Sanction Cable viciously assaulted and almost defeat the Avengers without them being a threat at the time, he also cruelly abandoned his team Six Pack to die and even revived Apocalypse after House of M in the hopes that a common enemy would unite mutantkind.

6 Wolverine

Wolverine’s line of cruelty comes from a fascinating place since Logan actually has a profound sense of compassion for his friends and teammates. However, this kindness and understanding does not extend far, and Wolverine will go to great, cruel lengths to accomplish his goals. He is the “best he is at what he does,” and sometimes what he does is so horrible that he at times seems irredeemable.

One particularly cruel and gruesome thing Logan has done is get revenge on Matsu’o Tsurayaba – his wife Mariko’s murderer – by visiting him once a year and cutting off his body parts until Matsu’o convinced Psylocke to kill him.

5 Magneto

At times, the cruelty of the Master of Magnetism has known no bounds. Beginning his Marvel Comics career as the greatest villain the X-Men have ever faced, Magneto has been a true hero for close to two decades, although he has dipped back into villainy at times.

Magneto’s cruel acts are hard to keep track of, from murdering a scientist with a paperclip in Cullen Bunn’s Magneto to cauterizing John Greycrow’s wounds after cutting off his regenerative limbs, the founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants can be supremely cruel. Perhaps most notably, Magneto ripped the adamantium from Wolverine’s bones, causing him endless agony, nearly killing him, and turning him feral.

4 Beast

For most of Hank McCoy’s long history with the X-Men, he has been a kind, caring, respectful hero, who had touched darkness but rarely acted in a cruel manner, especially towards his friends and loved ones. Sadly, the Krakoan Age has seen Beast become a full-fledged villain, even while running Krakoa’s X-Force group.

Beast’s descent into cruelty and madness came from a self-righteous place of “saving” Krakoa, but from enslaving Wolverine and cloning him to assaulting his former teammates with no regard for their lives, Beast will easily make any list of the X-Men’s most cruel “heroes.”

3 Namor

The errant King of Atlantis has been an Avenger, an X-Men, and a villain more times than you can count, with each superhero team somehow forgiving his many cruel sins time and time again. Namor becomes an Atlantean tyrant during “Secret Empire,” forcing his cousin Namora to lead a rebellion against him, and has also used his vast Atlantean resources to declare war on the surface world many times, often with plenty of innocent lives lost.

Perhaps most cruelly, Namor’s intense hatred of Wakanda led him to manipulate Thanos’ Black Order into devastating the kingdom… and of course, Namor nearly destroyed all of Wakanda himself while under the power of the Phoenix Force.

2 Mystique

Even before becoming a leader on the Quiet Council, the duplicitous Mystique had served on several iterations of the X-Men. With her only allegiance to herself, and now her wife Destiny, Raven will do whatever she needs to do to survive. In fact, sometimes it seems like being cruel brings her great joy, perhaps because she has lived so long she knows how terrible humanity can be.

From trying to seduce her daughter Rogue’s husband Gambit, to attempting to throw her baby Nightcrawler to his death, and even trying to murder Iceman after manipulating him into a romantic relationship, Mystique is one cruel mutant.

1 Professor X

While for many years Charles wore the kind guise of “Professor X,” it has become quite clear in the past twenty years that Xavier has an incredibly cruel streak. In Deadly Genesis it was revealed that Xavier sent a 2nd team of mutants to die, attempting to save the X-Men from Krakoa, and then covered up his horrific sin.

The mutant leader also imprisoned the sentient Shi’ar AI Danger in the Danger Room, knowing that she was sentient and capable of feeling. On a deeply personal level, Xavier is one of the worst parents in Marvel history, neglecting and failing his powerful son Legion at every turn.

While most of the X-Men try as best they can to be symbols of compassion and heroism for their fellow mutants, they are also feared and hated, forcing them to act in cruel ways to accomplish their goals for mutantkind, like Magneto and Cable. Some X-Men like Beast, Mystique, or Namor, are unrepentantly cruel characters who struggle to have believable “redemption” arcs.

At the end of the day, all the X-Men’s heroes are people, meaning that regardless of their heroic acts they come with their own unique traumas, prejudices, and attitudes toward being superheroes, making some of their most iconic characters often act incredibly cruelly.

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