Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: X-Men #141 (1981)
Created By: Chris Claremont & John Byrne. John Romita, Jr. is also noted as a co-creator on several sources, but no reason is given.
In the not-too-distant future in a timeline alternate to the one of the main Marvel Universe (616), a baby girl was born to Scott and Jean Summers. In this world, Jean had taken on the infinite power of the Phoenix Force prior to her child’s birth, which came in handy when little Rachel grew up with the ability to utilize that power herself.
While Rachel was growing up, being a mutant got to be a worse and worse thing as human paranoia grew to the point that people were like, hey, know what would be a great idea? Let’s make giant laser-hand robots to get rid of the mutants. Needless to say, none of these folks had read How to Prevent a Robot Uprising, and America became something of a dark, horrible dystopia. Rachel was orphaned—most super-people were killed, in fact—and enslaved, forced to use her powers to track other mutants. Her face was tattooed as a mark of her status as a “Hound” and over the years, she was responsible for the deaths of many people just like her—even those she loved.
Eventually, she was able to escape her situation, and with other surviving mutants, including her boyfriend, Franklin Richards, tried to time travel to prevent all this awful stuff from going down. Long story short, it didn’t exactly work, and Rachel ended up in the 616 universe instead, unable to go home (and who could blame her if she hadn’t wanted to?).
She ended up co-founding Excalibur, Britain’s superhero team, and crafting the most beautiful lady-mullet in Marvel. Eventually, she met Scott, Jean, and her half-brother Cable (also from the future) and got closer to them, if awkwardly so. It was also revealed that, in the midst of her time-traveling, she sort of became two Rachels, one of which helped raise Cable under the name Mother Askani. Yes, it is confusing.
In time, as was surely her birthright, Rachel joined the X-Men, where she had a great time until the entire Grey family was murdered in front of her. She eventually flew off to space to track down the killer, and she succeeded, but she’s still been kind of depressed since then. I figure that’s understandable.
So What’s So Great About Her?
As I’ve noted before, Marvel loooooves baby-from-the-future characters. In fact, Scott Summers and Jean Grey have three between the two of them, not counting clones of Cable. I wonder if their combined DNA makes children prone to time displacement.
In any case, while Cable is probably the Future Baby most important to Marvel lore (I guess you could argue Franklin Richards, who went on to create the Heroes Reborn universe in his toy ball, because comics, but he’s never been a headliner), Rachel is the most interesting to me. For one thing, she proves that the mullet will truly come back into fashion someday, at least for women. But more importantly (and seriously), she’s arguably the true powerhouse of the Summers-Grey clan—not only was she born with some of the strength of the infinitely powerful Phoenix Force, she can control it. Even the actual Phoenix itself was corrupted once it got a human body. And how many heroes can say they beat noted planet-eater Galactus in a brawl? Answer: not very many.
But despite her crazily vast superhuman gifts, Rachel usually comes across as all too human, even tragic. It’s not fair to keep comparing her to her brother, I guess (though, having brothers, I suppose it comes naturally to me), but with Cable, you’ve got this broad-as-a-barn, stoic, battle-hardened, seen-it-all sort of dude a lot of the time, and I can only assume he’s some sort of evolutionary throwback, because he does not look like Scott or Maddie at all. And then you have Rachel, who operates with this palpable undercurrent of freaked-the-hell-out and looks achingly similar to her mother, and yeah, it makes for a more compelling characterization, in my opinion.
I think it also helps that Rachel had some experience with normalcy in her early years, before the voting public went Sentinel-crazy and started hunting mutants. It’s heart-rending to think of a little girl getting orphaned, tortured and enslaved, only to have her whole existence ripped away and having to start over in a place filled with people she loves but who don’t recognize her. Heart-rending? Yes. And that kind of angst is delicious to read.
Also, I need to give Rachel props for being one of those rare characters who have a profound bond with her mother. In comics, as with much of pop culture, back stories are often fraught with daddy issues. For Rachel, Scott is kind of like, “Oh, you. Okay, whatever,” which in real life would be awful, but in fiction is kind of refreshing. Jean is the one placed on the pedestal, the one whose loss Rachel must suffer over and over, whose name she’s taken on, and the legacy she’s chosen to honor. And I love it.
Rachel is currently appearing in Wolverine and the X-Men, helping run the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.
X-Men #141-142 (became Uncanny X-Men with #142)
Uncanny X-Men #184-185; 189; 191-196; 199-203; 206-209; -1; 444-486X-
New Mutants #18; 30-31
Marvel Team-Up #150
Uncanny X-Men Annual 1985; 1990
X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2
Excalibur Special Edition #1
Excalibur #1-52; 61-75
Marvel Comics Presents #31-32; 36-38
Excalibur Mojo Mayhem #1
Fantastic Four Annual #23; 2000
X-Factor Annual #5
Excalibur: The Possession
Excalibur: Air Apparent
Excalibur Annual 1993
Cable #9; 85-86; 92-95
Fantastic Four #406
X-Men: True Friends #1-3
X-Treme X-Men #22-23; 44-46
X-Men Unlimited (vol.2) #6; 11
New Excalibur #1-3
X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1-6
X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #1-5
Clandestine (vol.2) #1-5
X-Men: Kingbreaker #1-4
War of Kings #1-5
X-Men: Legacy #250; 253-267
Wolverine and the X-Men #1-15