The following contains spoilers for X-Men #15, out now from Marvel Comics.
The X-Men’s efforts to establish a positive future for all mutants have not been perfect. Mistakes were made, secrets were kept, and various longtime allies and enemies were forced into painful situations on Krakoa. This includes one of the most consistent tragic characters among the mutant population – who really can’t get a break.
A reluctant X-Man Forge officially set out to find Darwin in the Vault in x-men #15 (by Gerry Duggan, Joshua Cassara, GURU-eFX and VC’s Clayton Cowles). He also secretly took Caliban with him whether he wanted to come or not, adding another tragic chapter to the life of Marvel’s saddest mutant.
The X-Men have faced a lot over the past few years, as Krakoa’s advancement as a mutant nation has invited many unexpected challenges. One of the most dangerous underlying issues, however, remains the Children of the Vault, a rapidly evolving subspecies that could potentially reach a level of power capable of bringing down god-level characters like Thor. The final X-Men mission to the Vault was a near disaster, with only Synch escaping to Krakoa. While Wolverine was killed during the mission, Darwin suffered potentially the worst fate.
The eternally adaptable mutant was eventually captured by the Vault Children, leaving his teammates to reluctantly abandon him to warn their allies of the Vault’s potential. Now, the Vault has finally been solved, with Forge and the X-Men taking active steps to deal with it. In addition to creating an impressive (but ethically dubious) Matrix-like a trap to contain the children of the Vault, Forge decided it was finally time to venture out and rescue Darwin.
To that end, he designed a special Krakoa-tech suit that also co-opts Mystique’s shape-shifting abilities. The suit should prevent him from aging at an accelerated rate and give him the advantage of rescuing Darwin and if it looks like Forge is about to be captured he will activate a secret device that will destroy him (and everything that is less than six meters away) with a pocket black hole. Stepping through the open vault door and away from his teammates, Forge reveals the final aspect of his suit, Caliban. It turns out that Forge had more or less converted the Mutant Tracker into a custom device to help him find Darwin.
Caliban has had a tough life, even compared to the rest of the mutants in the Marvel Universe. Being used as a living GPS by Forge, who is believed to have done so without Caliban’s knowledge, is just the latest in a long line of cruel and flippant acts committed against the former Morlock. First introduced in Uncanny X-Men #148 (by Chirs Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Josef Rubinstein, Glynis Wein, and Janice Chiang), Caliban was a dark and tragic member of the Morlocks.
He was one of the few survivors of the Mutant Slaughter, and after several encounters with death, Caliban allowed himself to be transformed into a horseman of the apocalypse. His spirit was shattered from spiraling out of his control, and Caliban continued to be used as a tracker by various factions until his death during Messiah complex. Even when working with heroic groups like the X-Men, X-Factor, or X-Force, he was there more for his mutant ability to psionically track other mutants than for himself. Even after being revived, Caliban cannot take a break.
Essentially, Caliban spent much of his existence defined more as a tool than a person. He is used for dangerous missions thanks to his abilities, and despite the friendships he has gained over the years, he will always be just a tool waiting to be used. Forge is just the latest person to see Caliban as a means to an end, like other former allies of the Mutant Nation. Let’s hope Caliban finally gets a reward for his service to the mutant population if he and Forge can escape the Vault alive, potentially setting up one of Marvel’s saddest mutants to finally get the respect he deserves. deserved.