The X-Men have been set up against plenty of threats recently, with their ascent to galactic recognition emboldened by the successes of Krakoa. Even some long-time allies are being pitted against the X-Men with one, in particular, being among the most dangerous in the universe.
X-Men: The End serves as a good reminder of how deadly the Shi’Ar Empire can be, even when pitted against a force as powerful as the X-Men. Considering the X-Men and the Shi’Ar’s increasing tension in the pages of Marauders and Secret X-Menit’s an important element of the empire to remember.
Written by Chris Claremont with art by Sean Chen, Sandu Florea, and Avalon’s Ian Hannin, X-Men: The End followed the same basic premise as the rest of the imprint. Stories like Wolverine: The End and Hulk: The End followed similar paths, depicting a typically dark final chapter for the various Marvel heroes and villains. Set 15 years in the future from the present day (or fifteen years after the present-day of 2004, so technically 2019), the storyline followed the return of the Phoenix in a period when many veteran X-Men had retired from active fieldwork and had families of their own. The Shi’Ar Empire ended up being a major focus of the trilogy, with Lilandra and her Lord Chancellor (secretly the X-Treme X-Men villain Khan) planning against the mutants accordingly. With the Shi’Ar resources, the attack proved absolutely devastating to the X-Men.
Khan used this opportunity to target the X-Men, unleashing hordes of War-Skrulls and bombardments against the Xavier Institute in a brutal sneak attack. Despite the overwhelming powers of the X-Men and their mutant students, the heroes were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer speed of the assault. Coupled with sneak attacks across the world, many of the most powerful X-Men barely escaped with their lives. Making matters worse, the initial Skrull assault allowed for the shape-shifting aliens to assume the forms of their worst enemies, giving them a small opening to catch the X-Men by surprise. Scores of students were killed in the chaos, along with Dust, Wolfsbane, Northstar, Elixir, Wither, Domino, Rictor, and Feral – as well as allies like Val Cooper. Thanks to the Shi’Ar knowledge of the X-Men’s defenses and technology, the War Skrulls were even able to set off a concentrated blast powerful enough to kill Juggernaut, who’d remained a member of the team in this reality. With him went the Xavier Institute, reduced to a massive crater.
It’s all a good reminder of how dangerous the Shi’Ar can really be, carrying out their own brand of justice against heroes (and in some realities, to absolutely lethal effect). The Shi’Ar rank among Marvel’s most deadly galactic empires, and while leaders like Lilandra – and her daughter Xandra, who currently controls the empire – may be kind, they’ve proven willing to do what they deem necessary. For the most part, the X-Men and the Shi’Ar have been firm allies in the modern era. As the mutants have expanded to their own nation with Krakoa and taken on galactic importance with Arakko, the Shi’Ar have proven capable and consistent friends. But recent revelations have teased renewed conflict between the two. If the X-Men are going to end up going into a more overt conflict with the Shi’Ar, then they’ll have to be prepared for the kind of assault that’s completely decimated them in other realities.
Luckily, the X-Men are largely still in their prime and the resurrection protocols on Krakoa could counteract the numerous deaths that were suffered in a sneak attack. This highlights the general importance of the Five to Krakoa – making Hope’s decision to force representation for the group on the Quiet Council all the more fateful. In the world of X-Men: The End, Elixir was counted among the early dead. If a similar attack happened on Krakoa and Elixir was among the killed, the mutants would lose what has possibly become their most important advantage and leave them open to foes beyond the Shi’Ar, like Orchis. The Shi’Ar present a uniquely overwhelming threat to the X-Men, even as they technically stand as allies.
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