For years, readers have been speculating about the plot dangler called the Twelve. Finally over a decade after first being mentioned, it was resolved in a crossover of the core X-Men titles and Cable. However fans were somewhat disappointed with the resolution, as the Twelve contained some odd members, and others established years ago were missing.
The purpose of this article is to compare the different clues on the identities of the Twelve and also to share some thoughts about the entire storyline.
1) Plot and Clues (in order of release date)
First time the Twelve ever get mentioned is in X-Factor #13-14. Having repaired itself while lying on the ocean ground, Master Mold awakens, and senses the presence of a strong mutant in it’s proximity. Comparing the signature to it’s databanks, Master Mold understands that it‘s one of Twelve who will lead, around whom others will gather. Master Mold knows that the Twelve need to be destroyed and attacks Cyclops, who was in Alaska, searching for his missing wife Madelyne. An image of Master Mold‘s databanks reveals four other members : Franklin Richards, Jean Grey, Apocalypse and Storm.
Cyclops defeats the robot, but it shows up again in Power Pack #36, again registering one of the Twelve. Additional information is given about the group as they are described as “the dozen mutant humans who will one day rise up and lead all of mutantkind in war against homo sapiens in the twilight of earth.“ Master Mold has to hunt them down before the Twelve can fulfill their task, this time he attacks Franklin Richards, but the little guy is saved by his teammates of Power Pack. An image shows nine members of the fabled group : Xavier, Apocalypse, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, an adult version of Franklin Richards, Danielle Moonstar, Cannonball and a purple haired woman, apparently british Psylocke.
Mater Mold rebuilds itself and battles the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #246-247. It mentions the destruction of the Twelve as it’s prime mission, but fails to recognize Storm or Psylocke, as they are protected by Roma’s spell of being invisible to technical devices. Master Mold only senses vague images of his attackers and is unable to compare them to stored data. Finally it merges with future Sentinel Nimrod and they get sucked into the Siege Perilous.
Months later X-Factor battle Apocalypse on the lunar surface in X-Factor #68. Addressing Iceman, the villain says : “A truly fitting epitaph for both you and your compeers. Unfortunately, your fate – indeed, that of all the fabled Twelve – was sealed the moment you breached my citadel.“ Besides Apocalypse and the five original X-Men (Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Archangel, Jean Grey), there are six orange
boxes containing partially seen headshots, resulting in an overall number of twelve. Another page of the issue shows these heads again. Xavier, a shorthaired Storm, Cannonball’s headgear and Cable are easily recognized. The other two seem to be a dark haired woman (though apparently not Moonstar) and a man with fangs.
Six years and several creative teams later, only a few obsessive fans remember the plot, as suddenly it’s picked up again in Uncanny X-Men #minus 1. The flashback issue shows Tanya Trask, later known as Madame Sanctity in the Askani future, traveling back in time to talk her father Bolivar Trask out of creating the Sentinels. However Rachel Summers follows to stop her friend from tampering with the past. Tanya disagreed, explaining “that humanity waited so long for the Twelve – and that they were so sorely disappointed“ them. Anyway Rachel erases the incident from Bolivar’s mind and they return to the future, however Tanya had secretly programmed the Twelve’s identities into Master Mold’s main frame.
More mystery and drama enter the plot when Rachel Summers herself chooses to tamper with the past, as she transports her consciousness through time to plant the Twelve’s identities into her brother Cable’s mind, also revealing to him that he would be the group’s gatherer. [Cable (1st series) #65, 71]
Shortly afterwards Shadowcat aquires a volume of Destiny’s diaries in X-Men #94. The predictions in the book include cryptic messages of a thirteenth that will awaken, and also of two becoming one. Uncanny X-Men #376 revealed the full list of the Twelve, that was found elsewhere in the text :
Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Magneto, Polaris, Living Monolith, Bishop, Cable, Xavier, Iceman, Mikhail Rasputin and Sunfire.
Finally the Twelve crossover happens. Turns out that it was only a faked story started by Apocalypse himself to lure these mutants all into one spot. His forces capture all of them, and the twelve mutants are put into containment capsules. They are used in a special machine. The Living Monolith is placed in the center to bundle all of the energies involved. Polaris and Magneto as opposing magnetic poles are on an inner ring, Storm , Iceman and Sunfire as extreme forces of nature are on a middle ring, and the other mutants placed on an outer ring. Cyclops, Jean and Cable representing the unity of family, Bishop and Mikhail providing as control over time and space and Xavier providing the power of pure thought. Combined the Twelve grant Apocalypse omnipotence, so he has their energies transferred into the body of Nate Grey, aka X-Man, whom he wants to use as his next host body.
That’s it ! No Gathering (as Cable is among the first captured), no Franklin Richards and no great leaders for mutantkind’s future.
2) The Sources
Let’s try to get some sense into this. Overall we have twenty-one different characters thrown into the mix, but how reliable are the clues ? Basically it comes down to four different sources :
Master Mold / Sanctity
The time-traveling Tanya Trask programs the names into Master Mold’s core. We have to keep in mind that Sanctity is not the most reliable source. Having been trapped in the time-stream for years she was left mentally imbalanced, and later nearly mad.
Established Twelve members are :
Apocalypse, Cannonball, Cyclops, Moonstar, Phoenix, (british) Psylocke, Franklin Richards, Storm, Xavier
Franklin Richards was in the databanks as an adult, so apparently Sanctity expected the Twelve to gather much later. This goes along with her comment about humanity having waited for the Twelve so long.
Knowing that Apocalypse was manipulating the entire legend, his clues and hints are more than questionable. He might lie about some identities to lure the X-men into a false direction. According to him in X-Factor #68 the Twelve are :
Apocalypse, Archangel, Beast, Cable, Cannonball, Cyclops, Iceman, Phoenix, Storm, Xavier and two unrecognizable figures (a dark haired female and a male with fangs)
Important to mention is, that despite Cable being on the list and later in the energy engine as part of the family Unit, at this point Apocalypse doesn’t yet know that he is the adult son of Cyclops. He only figured it out in X-Factor #85, during the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover.
We can ignore her, as we never learn which twelve names she plants into Cable’s head.
Destiny wrote the diaries decades ago, without even knowing the people whose names she was writing down. The Twelve quoted in her book, are those that actually appear in the crossover.
Bishop, Cable, Cyclops, Iceman, Living Monolith, Magneto, Phoenix, Polaris, Mikhail Rasputin, Storm, Sunfire, Xavier and X-Man as thirteenth.
3) Comments, Questions and Errors
Sanctity programs the Twelve’s names into Master Mold, so why doesn’t the robot react to Cyclops, Iceman and Jean in Uncanny X-Men #14-16, when it first meets them ?
It could be explained away as the Twelve file being hidden so deep in it’s programming that it only surfaces after several subroutines of Master Mold were damaged. The robot repairing itself in X-Factor #13 then integrated the Twelve into it’s priority tasks. It would have been nice to see it addressed in some way.
What does Sanctity hope to achieve ? Master Mold and the Sentinels hunt mutants and destroy them, giving them the full list only endangers the Twelve accomplishing whatever mission they have.
Sanctity said that humanity waited so long, and then were sorely disappointed, so maybe she knew that they wouldn't succeed in defeating Apocalypse, but become catalysts for humanity's elimination. Knowing that Apocalypse's rise to power depended on the Twelve, Tanya programmed the Sentinel to destroy them first. A very drastic move, but it would fit Sanctity's near insane philosophies. However it doesn't explain why her list of the Twelve has some wrong names on it. (thanks to Monolith for this theory)
Why does Rachel try to prevent Sanctity from tampering with the past, yet she herself reveals the Twelve to Cable ?
I can’t think of any suitable answer.
What’s the big deal of Cable having to gather the Twelve to fight Apocalypse ?
Not only doesn’t he gather them, as Cable is among the first captured, also fighting Apocalypse has been his sole mission ever since he came to the present – why does he get help of eleven others now ?
The involvement of Mikhail Rasputin.
How does Apocalypse even know him ? For the most part of his life, Mikhail was stranded in an alternate dimension, following a space shuttle accident, and when the X-Men rescued him, he soon departed with the Morlocks to the Hill. Even if Apocalypse knew about Mikhail’s existence, how could he have known that Colossus and Marrow would retrieve him from the Hill just in time for the Twelve crossover ?
The involvement of Bishop.
Okay, Apocalypse retrieves him from the Chronomancer future line, explaining that he had him bio-tagged before. Why ? Did he know Bishop would get lost in an alternate timeline ? If so, how ?
The involvement of the Living Monolith.
Another coincidence. Right on time, Deathbird and Bishop find the original Monolith’s remains floating in outer space and Apocalypse gets the means to resurrect him.
Let’s try to construct a story that explains some of the many errors. How about this :
Originally the Twelve’s purpose was to lead mutant kind into the future, with an important event requiring their Gathering somewhen in the future, at least 10-15 years, so that Franklin was the right age.
However by programming their names into Master Mold’s core, Sanctity changes the timeline. Apocalypse learns of the Twelve’s existence (and their purpose) through Cyclops’s battle with Master Mold. Though not knowing the full list, he thinks about who the important leaders for mutantkind could be and comes up with people like Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, Phoenix and Storm.
Apocalypse has the idea to use this Twelve legend as a means to gather these and other mutants for his own dark plan he had, namely to use their energies in synchronism to gain omnipotence. Thus when battling X-Factor again, he mentions the Twelve again and also that Iceman is one of them, slowly progressing his plan, that his enemies one day would come to Egypt, believing that they are fulfilling some fabled legend, only to get used by him.
This story still has a few loopholes, but at least some of the errors and questions can be erased.
4) The Members
Let‘s finish with a quick look at the members, both in regards of leadership qualities and their roles in Apocalypse‘s energy engine.
Leadership : He was seen ruling the Askani future timeline two millennia from now, he has his own four Horsemen and created the Dark Riders. Also he is responsible for upgrading mere Dr. Essex to Mr. Sinister in the 19th century and his darwinistic view definitely has an impact on the future.
Engine : He found the basic components of the Celestial Circuit among the alien technology he acquired and planned to use the Twelve‘s energies – nothing else to say.
Leadership : Although one of the original five, Warren was never perceived as the leading type or the most dedicated to Xavier’s dream.
Engine : Wings would definitely not provide anything for omnipotence.
Leadership : Though a genius scientist and member of the Defenders, the Avengers, X-Factor and the X-Men, Hank is not the first who comes to mind when it comes to lead or inspire the masses to follow a certain cause.
Engine : Another mutant with a mere physical mutation.
Leadership : Bishop led his own squad of the X.S.E. in his own timeline, and while being stuck in the Chronomancer future, he inspired the population to rebel against their oppressor. However Bishop was not among the people mentioned while the Twelve were still believed to lead into a golden age.
Engine : The explanation that Bishop‘s energy absorption power stored some chronal energies is not completely out of the picture, but surely there are more fitting mutants with time related powers. Illyana Rasputin’s stepping disks to Limbo would have been a perfect fit, unfortunately she is dead. Locus of the MLF would be a good replacement.
Leadership : He spent his whole life leading a rebellion in the Askani future, and when he arrived in the present, he founds the mercenary team Six Pack and later takes command over the New Mutants / X-Force.
Engine : He is the offspring of the first X-couple ever. Apocalypse could not have chosen another family.
Leadership : Sam was somewhat insecure while co-leading the New Mutants, but he did a great job as X-Force’s leader. Additionally his presence is recorded till the 24th century.
Engine : His blast field and invulnerability would not have contributed anything useful.
Leadership : The first X-Man, the first leader, the best leader – nuff said.
Engine : His powers itself is not so spectacular, but Scott needs to be in the engine to complete the family unit.
Leadership : Bobby never showed any interest in leading the team, yet when he was forced to during Operation Zero Tolerance, Iceman managed to keep Cecilia Reyes and Marrow alive and secure.
Engine : His control over ice and water truly resembles an extreme force of nature. Yet Storm’s weather control too includes low temperatures and command over rain and moisture. To have both among the group seems a little bit redundant.
Leadership : He was shot to outer space where his body decayed. Certainly he was not in the mood to inspire mutantkind.
Engine : He is somewhat of a stretch, and fits in only after genetic modification allows him to absorb all involved energies and not only cosmic rays. Why not use Bishop in the center spot, as he has a natural absorption power ?
Leadership : Being the flipside of the coin to Xavier, Magneto has inspired as many mutants as the professor, if not more. The Acolytes the Savage Land Mutates and the Brotherhood were all founded by him, and being ruler of the world first mutant nation surely earned Magneto a spot in the history books. Surprising that he was not among the mutants Master Mold mentioned (though there were some spots open)
Engine : Usually Magneto is considered one of the most powerful mutants ever, too bad that right when Apocalypse tries to exploit his magnetism, Magneto is nearly powerless. It’s his “fault“ that the engine does not function, as in this weakened shape he is no equal balance for Polaris.
Leadership : The strong willed Cheyenne assumed command of the New Mutants since day one, additionally she was part of the Valkyrior and has undercover experience with the MLF, again as leader.
Engine : Her psionic ability to cast illusions would be useless for Apocalypse, but at a certain point in her career she could make her mirages real. Wouldn’t this be one step towards Apocalypse’s goal of omnipotence.
Leadership : Jean always was an emotional backbone for the X-Men. Xavier trusted her with secrets he did not dare to tell her teammates, and she has overwatched the training of young mutants during her time with X-Factor. After the Twelve storyline her leadership role even increased as she recruited a set of interim X-men, and become the school’s headmistress in Xavier’s absence.
Engine : Even if she weren’t part of the family unit, Jean’s raw power would make her a good candidate. The Phoenix Force demonstrated which high power levels she could reach one day.
Leadership : Well, Polaris never was in any leading position, only during the time when her body was taken over by the psychic identity Malice. She used Lorna’s magnetic power to lead the Marauders in Sinister’s name.
Engine : For a long time Lorna did not fully explore her abilities, but the potential was there the whole time. Good choice for the engine, especially with her and Magneto representing earth’s magnetic poles.
Leadership : Four issues of taking command of the team after all other leaders are absent, and then sending the remaining X-Men into the Siege Perilous, certainly is not on the same level of leadership as most of the other people in question are.
Engine : Her telepathic powers would fit in, however Xavier outmatches her by far, so Betsy is redundant.
Leadership : Okay, he led his team of cosmonauts, and also he was the Morlocks proclaimed leader when he was near insanity.
Engine : Mikhail’s power originally was control over matter. How he all of a sudden became a teleporter to represent control over space in the device is yet a mystery. The X-titles are full of other characters that would have fit in more suitable; Lila Cheney being the best choice as she is a long-range teleporter.
Leadership : Not much leadership can be expected from a little boy, yet for a time he was raised to adulthood and led the Fantastic Four’s junior team Fantastic Force.
Engine : Franklin’s power alone seems to equal that of the entire engine. During the Onslaught crossover he created an entire pocket universe to save his family and friends.
Leadership : Storm is one of the most dedicated to Xavier’s dream and she proven time and again that she is capable of making the tough choices that a leader has to do, even if in retrospect some decision were the wrong ones.
Engine : Ororo’s control over weather, including rain, cold and heat makes the inclusion of Iceman and Sunfire look unnecessary. Granted she has not complete control over these elements, but she often used her weather powers to defeat an opponent with extreme temperatures.
Leadership : Sunfire was not interested in participating in Xavier’s dream, yet in his native Japan, he was always there when duty called, and he led Japan’s own hero team Big Hero Six.
Engine : Shiro’s flame power is not very special. There are several other mutants who could have replaced him. Rusty Collins or Thunderbird Neal Shaara come to mind. Taking a closer look at the three choices for the extreme forces of Nature we find ice/water, air and fire, though the earth element is missing. Magma in Sunfire’s stead could have provided both fire and earth.
Leadership : It was Charles Xavier’s dream that started all this. He had the idea to open a school for mutants to receive training, and other mutants either joined, or opposed this dream.
Engine : In terms of power the Professor is another sure in. Xavier is the supreme telepath, there might be people like Nate Grey who have more raw power, but they lack Xavier‘s experience and finesse.