Warning: SPOILERS for House of X #1
Prepare to debate a new round of X-Men powers, Marvel fans, because the comics have finally defined the term "Omega Mutants"--along with the characters who have officially earned the status. The idea of a mutant classification system was first alluded to when Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont identified Rachel Grey as an "Omega level" threat. Since then, a number of powerful mutants have been classified as Omega level, while others have been shown to be just as powerful depending on their stories and storytellers.
The ranks of Omega level characters have grown over the years, but in truth there's never been any rhyme or reason to it. The fundamental problem: Marvel's reluctance to actually define the term, leaving fans to hold debates in which they compare and contrast feats to prove their favorite mutant clearly qualifies as Omega level. All that has finally changed with this week's House of X #1.
As Marvel Comics fans already know, Jonathan Hickman has taken over the X-Men universe in a mission to relaunch the entire X-Men line, while apparently locking things down with a concrete definition, once and for all. The first issue reveals the evolution of the X-Men into Marvel's new gods, but the comic also includes the first ever in-universe definition of an Omega mutant.
OMEGA LEVEL MUTANT: A mutant whose dominant power is deemed to register -- or reach -- an undefinable upper limit of that power's specific classification.
FOR EXAMPLE: Both Magneto and Forge are the most powerful mutants of their power types on the planet Earth (Magnetism and Technopathy, respectively), but what makes Magneto, and not Forge, an Omega level mutant is that the upper limit of Forge's measurable powers could hypothetically be surpassed (and, in fact, has be multiple humans on the planet), while the upper limit of Magneto's power cannot be surpassed in any measurable fashion.
NOTE: Omega level is a classification of a single mutant power. While it is quite common that mutants manifest multiple powers, only one is normally of Omega level.
FOR EXAMPLE: While Jean Grey is both a telepath and a telekinetic, she is only an Omega level telepath."
To illustrate the point, Hickman presents a list of 14 mutants who are classified as Omega level. X-Men fans will be delighted to see Storm named on the list, as there's been intense debate for years over whether or not her 'godly' feats mean she should be classified as an Omega, but Marvel has seemed reluctant to do so. This is also the first time Magneto has been explicitly stated as an Omega, in spite of similar impressive feats. Here's the list in full:
- Jamie Braddock - reality manipulation (quantum)
- Iceman - temperature manipulation (negative)
- Elixir - biokinesis
- Jean Grey - telepathy
- Legion - power manifestation
- Magneto - magnetism
- Proteus - reality manipulation (psionic)
- Mister M - matter manipulation
- Storm - weather manipulation
- Exodus - telekinesis
- Quentin Quire - telepathy
- Franklin Richards - reality manipulation (universal)
- Vulcan - energy manipulation
- Hope Summers - power manipulation
It's worth noting that Hickman hasn't just provided a definition for "Omega level" mutants in order to settle online debates; this seems to have a story purpose. Nine of these Omega level mutants are said to live on the mutant nation of Krakoa, while the X-Men are encouraging a tenth - Franklin Richards - to move there as well. Apparently the greatest priority of the mutant nation is to protect and nurture Omega levels, so that clearly suggests who the "ten" are in Hickman's upcoming Power of X miniseries.
Marvel may well come to regret providing this classification, because no doubt they'll come under immense pressure from fans to further expand the ranks of the Omega mutants. In truth, any superhero is as powerful as a writer wants them to be at any given moment; that means fans will inevitably point to feats to illustrate why their favorites should really be classed as Omegas. Why isn't Rogue an Omega level for her power absorption ability, especially given her power's recent expansion? Why isn't Kitty an Omega level, after she literally used her phasing power to phase a giant bullet through the planet Earth in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run?
Meanwhile, fans will no doubt react the minute they see an Omega level taken down by someone who isn't as powerful--forgetting that any fight isn't just a matter of power levels, but also of skill, training, reactions under pressure, and countless variables. Far from ending the debates, House of X #1 just started up old arguments all over again.