- Name: Barnell Bohusk
- Code Names: Beak, Blackwing
- First Appearance: New X-Men #117 (October ’01)
- Powers: All the bad parts of being a bird
- Teams Affiliation: X-Men, Exiles, New Warriors, Teen Brigade
I like to think we all know someone who means well, who is the sweetest guy, but life dealt them a bum hand. They aren’t all that attractive, they aren’t all the smart, they try so hard but things just don’t work out for them. Life isn’t fair in that sense; random chance means that for every winner there is an equal and opposite loser. Barnell Bohusk got a raw deal in life, but his attitude and genuinely sweet heart made him a memorable mutant.
Barnell’s mutant ability gave him wings, hollow bones, talons, and other avian features. Unlike Warren Kenneth Worthington III, however, these changes weren’t all for the best. Beak, as the other kids in Rotterdam called him, could hardly lift himself off the ground. Even among mutants, he was a freak. He ran away from home to join the Xavier Institue. The similarly disfigured Beast took pity on the boy and tried to mentor him. He was sympathetic to the kid who didn’t fit in anywhere and Beak appreciated the gesture.
Barnell had one thing he treasured, one memory from home, a titanium baseball bat. He wanted to give it to Beast to show him how much his mentorship had meant. Beak walked into the lower levels of the X-Mansion to find a disaster. Cassandra Nova had possessed Charles Xavier and was using that position to manipulate Beast into believing he was devolving. Nova saw Beak with the bat in his hand and took control, forcing Barnell to beat his mentor within inches of his life. Beat felt every dull crack against Beast’s furry body and could do nothing to stop himself. He only stopped when his body physically could not continue the brutality and Beak slumped on the floor next to the bloodied Beast.
Jean read Barnell’s mind and discovered what happened. Until they could be sure he was no longer under Nova’s influence the X-Men placed him in a containment chamber. During Nova’s assault on the campus, a young mutant named Angel Salvadore rescued Beak and he joined the other students in protecting the school. He and Angel had a unique bond. She was a rough and tumble girl who didn’t care about the rules, he was a straight-edge kid who just wanted to experience life. Angel even felt bad for making the other girls pay up when they bet she wouldn’t kiss him. Beak didn’t care though, somehow in this crazy mutant world, he found someone who got him.
Beak and Angel were both assigned to Xorn’s special class. The class went camping in the woods where the lovebirds decided to do what teenagers alone in the woods do. Angel’s house fly like biology spelled trouble for the two and Beak soon discovered that he was going to be a teen dad. Her pregnancy was short. Just days later there was a shed filled with the larva from their tryst. At the same time, Angel was controlled by Esme Cuckoo into shooting Emma Frost. Beak tried to cover for his girl but the staff quickly saw through his poorly constructed lies and discovered the truth. They found the shed and Beak realized he was the proud father to some half-chicken, half-fly abominations babies.
Beak and Angel, like the rest of the special class, followed Xorn (actually Xorn pretending to be Magneto pretending to be Xorn) when he began his takeover of New York. Beak said it was to protect his new family but he couldn’t stand the violence and death Xorn was causing. Beak ineloquently tried to speak out but was quickly silenced by Xorn. He beat the poor boy and left him for dead. The underground X-Men found Beak and patched him up the best they could. He lead the charge against Xorn wielding his titanium baseball bat. While Xorn was distracted by the sheer stupidity of wielding metal against the master of magnetism, Fantomex and the other X-Men launched a sneak attack that took Xorn down.
Beak tried to settle into a normal life with his children and their mama, that is until he ran into the Exiles. Being a good teen, he tried to help them out but ended up unstuck in time away from his family. The team was unsure what value a chicken-man who could barely fly brought to the team but it became clear soon enough. The Exiles battled an evil King Hyperion but they saw no way to defeat him until Beak realized what he was good at, making friends. Beak recruited two Hyperion’s from other dimensions to beat the King all with the power of friendship. It was enough for the Exiles to make it their mission to send Beak home, just in time for M-Day.
Beak, Angel, and all their children except Tito lost their powers on M-Day. They didn’t see it as a curse, they were to be mostly normal again. Still, Beak felt the call the be a hero and joined the short lived New Warriors as Blackwing, a hero with a flight suit and energy blast. He and Angel fought with the Warriors until the team disbanded. They continued being heroes on the side, joining Miss America Chavez and as the man (and woman) in the chair for the new Teen Brigade. Really though, they focused on being loving parents for their kids and trying to finally life a normal life. For Barnell Bohusk, life had finally given him something good.
Beak is great throughout the entire New X-Men run but he shines the brightest in the Murder at the Mansion arc. Here we see Beak try and figure out how to be a father and loving partner in his own bumbling ways. He plays a fantastic supporting role as the series transitions into its’ final act and you feel a ton of sympathy for the guy. You can grab the first issue of the arc for less than $2 on Comixology so go check it out!
I often wright one of these articles and remember how much I like a given character. I forgot how great Beak was, especially in New X-Men. He is the soul of that book and plays with so many of the themes that Morrison jumped into for that run. He is the goofy, dumb kid you just want to root for even though you know he is just going to find a way to screw it all up. As much as I don’t want to admit it, he is probably better than Glob Herman, but he really isn’t as good as the Stepford Cuckoos as a whole. He is oddly comparable to Bailey Hoskins (the Worst X-Men Ever) and I think he goes just above him on the list due to the breath of stories he is in compared to Bailey’s five. That puts Beak as the new number 36 in the Xavier Files.
Beak was requested by /u/real-dreamer on Reddit among other. Thank you for the request. If you have a request for how about you send it below? If you want to cut to the front of the two-year long line, we have a Patreon you can support Xavier Files for just $1 to get a line cutting reward.
Make sure you check out my brand new podcast BATTLE OF THE ATOM. It’s where Bish & Jubez creator Adam Reck and I talk about every single X-Men story that ever existed and rank them from best to worst. The first real episode is up and we are starting with God Loves, Man Kills, God Loves, Man Kills II, and that Doop issue of Wolverine & the X-Men. Make sure you subscribe on any of the following platforms (or others, I’m not picky) Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS.
Next week all will rise for the queen. Emma Frost joins the Xavier Files.