- Name: Warren Kenneth Worthington III
- Code Names: Angel, Archangel, Death
- First Appearance: X-Men #1 (Sept ‘63)
- Powers: Flight, razor-sharp flechettes, healing blood
- Team Affiliation: X-Men, Champions, Defenders, X-Factor, X-Force, Horsemen of Apocalypse
The original five X-Men are often criticized for telling a story of persecution and bigotry through the eyes of a group of WASP-y kids living with their super-rich boarding school instructor. It missed the opportunity to tell authentic and intersectional stories about racism and hatred. The books eventually moved past that, but there continues to be an obsession with keeping those five characters in the forefront. It isn’t to say that they are bad characters, just that they often don’t live up to the potential of the X-Men as a concept. The original five don’t often work well together, and do you know why? Because Angel is incredibly boring.
Warren Kenneth Worthington III was born into a life of privilege. He father was chairman and CEO of a multinational conglomerate named Worthington Industries and Warren never wanted for anything. The handsome blonde boy became worried when he began sprouting angelic wings. He hid them from his parents, easy enough after they shipped him off to an upscale boarding school. Warren felt a call to action and began patrolling the streets as the Avenging Angel. This quickly drew the attention of Professor Charles Xavier who offered Warren a place on his new mutant team, the X-Men.
Angel was less concerned than his fellow teammates about their cause of mutant rights. He would rather flirt with Jean Grey or Candy Southern than become a champion for mutants. When the team disbanded, Angel decided he would attend college with his good buddy Iceman, however, the knowledge that he had inherited all of his families’ holdings changed his plan. Warren stopped wearing a mask and went public as a mutant, he was rich and his mutation was angelic. He had the privilege to be out. He jumped between super teams, joining the Champions, rejoining the X-Men, and teaming up with the Defenders, but nothing seemed to fit. The Champions were a ramshackle team that had no reason to stay together, the only X-Man he recognized anymore was the Professor, and the Defenders just weren’t the group for him. He needed some balance, some familiarity, he needed a rebirth, and he got just that.
Warren’s boarding school buddy Cameron Hodge shared an idea with his mutant pal. What if there was an organization that could pose as mutant hunters to rescue the mutants who needed the most help? Shocking the intelligent world, Warren thought this was a great idea and began to form a team. He organized the original five X-Men and formed X-Factor, a team that distributed anti-mutant propaganda to help mutants. Things went well enough until X-Factor was called into the Morlock tunnels under Manhattan to stop a massacre. X-Factor shepherded out as many mutants as they could but the tight spaces made it almost impossible for Warren to fly. He fell right into the Maurader Harpoon’s trap. Angel was beaten, bloodied, his wings pinned to the wall. When he awoke at the hospital days later, Warren realized that Cameron Hodge agreed to have his wings amputated to save his life. Angel was grounded.
The loss of his gift threw Warren into a deep depression. He desperately needed to fly again and took to his corporate jet the moment he was discharged from the hospital, but something went wrong. The plane crashed and to the common observer, it looked as if Warren Worthington took his own life. The truth of the matter is that the ageless mutant Apocalypse saw potential in Warren. He captured him, brainwashed him, and implanted a Celestial Death Seed in him. On metal wings, Warren Worthington would be Apocalypse’s new Horseman of Death. He sent the Horsemen to battle X-Factor, who were shocked to see what happened to their friend. Iceman was able to snap Warren back to his senses by faking his own death, but Warren felt nothing but shame. He thought he had become a monster and flew away from the team.
Warren spent many days brooding about his new condition. He began going by Archangel and discovered something disturbing. His plane was sabotaged by Cameron Hodge and Hodge had been manipulating Warren for years to further his anti-mutant agenda. He confronted Hodge but couldn’t control his razor-sharp metal wings and decapitated the man. Warren decided that the best solution was to work with his old teammates and rejoined X-Factor. They soon reunited with the rest of the X-Men and Warren joined Storm’s Gold Team.
The X-Men had changed since Warren was last on the team and one of the newest members caught his eye. Her name was Betsy Braddock, she was a child of privilege whose body had been modified into something stranger. They related to each other in a way no one else could and soon began dating. Sabretooth, who had been kept in the X-Mansion, escaped badly injuring Psylocke and Archangel leading to more changes for the duo. Betsy’s life was saved by the mystic elixir known as the Crimson Dawn and Warren’s metal wings molted off to reveal his regrown feather wings.
Warren’s commitments with Worthington Industries kept him away from the X-Men, and he and Psylocke grew apart. He used his status to address world leaders about the growing mutant population and helped further mutant rights around the globe. When he rejoined the X-Men he took on a leadership role and discovered that his blood had healing abilities. He also began dating the almost definitely underage Paige Guthrie and had sex while flying above her mother’s house. It was widely considered a bad time to be a fan of Archangel.
Warren was critical in the X-Men relocating to San Francisco and things looked good for a time, but it wasn’t to last. Wolfsbane was brainwashed by The Purifiers and attacked Warren, ripping his wings off. Elixir tried to heal him but discovered that in his cells lying dormant, was the genetic markers of Apocalypse. His skin turned blue, metallic wings shot from his back. Archangel was reborn. In a spiral of fury and hate, Archangel flew to The Purifiers base and didn’t leave any man in a single piece. He calmed down and discovered that he was able to shift from his organic, angelic appearance to that of the Angel of Death when needed or when his emotions overtook him. He decided to stay with X-Force and preemptively take out threats to mutants. He kept this hidden from the other X-Men until he was forced to transform into his Archangel persona to kill actual Toho Godzilla.
Cyclops eventually ordered X-Force to be disbanded, but Wolverine and Archangel decided to keep it operating in secret. Psylocke joined the team and her romance with Archangel rekindled while she helped keep his dark side in check. Warren sent Deadpool to investigate the Clan Akkaba and discovered a plot to resurrect Apocalypse. X-Force stopped the ascension but it triggered something dark inside Warren. The death of Apocalypse activated something inside the Celestial Death Seed planted in Warren so long ago. He began to transform into the new Apocalypse, and X-Force worked desperately to stop it. They chained him up and traveled to the Age of Apocalypse in search of a Life Seed, but the Clan Akkaba set Warren free and Archangel stole the Life Seed. Psylocke looked to see the man she loved, fully corrupted by death.
Archangel ordered the Life Seed be used to remake the Earth in an image of his own choosing, destroying a small town in Montana along the way. Psylocke came to him, holding on to some small hope that he could be redeemed. He wanted to make her his new Horseman of Death but she betrayed him and stabbed him with the Life Seed. Betsy used her telepathy to enter Archangel’s mind in his last moments, she showed him visions of a future together, giving up on being heroes and killers, having children, growing old by each other’s side. It was a perfect, beautiful life, and one that could never be.
The Life Seed destroyed Archangel but grew something new. An Angel with long, blonde hair, shimmering, metal wings, and no memory of any previous life. Wolverine enrolled the new, childlike Angel at the Jean Grey School but his insistence that he was a real angel didn’t endear him to the other students. He soon took over around the globe to recruit new mutants for the school. He wasn’t Warren anymore, but he was still happy.
Soon he felt an evil growing inside him, something he couldn’t explain. Memories that couldn’t have been his came flooding back. He was found by Clan Akkaba, or maybe he contacted them, and they removed the evil from him. Cutting out the bad flesh of his wings, but with a sinister end game. They used his wings to create the Death Flight, an army of Archangel clones to pass judgment on the world. Psylocke found him and was able to mend the broken parts of his mind. Angel, Warren, Archangel, they became one being. Warren was able to suppress the Archangel persona and be a productive X-Man again. For the first time in years, he could just be a hero.
It is interesting that when I think about all the best Archangel stories, they involve him being a villain. His heroic turns are largely boring and he isn’t incredibly engaging as a character. Not the case with Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force and its’ centerpiece, The Dark Angel Saga. You can see the full, untamed power that Archangel possess in an engaging and truly epic conflict. This ranks among the greatest X-Men stories of the last decade and you owe it to yourself to take a look.
There is no debating that Angel is the most boring of the Original Five X-Men. It took a complete character redesign and personality shift to make him remotely interesting, and even then the heavy lifting is done by the Walt Simonson costume. It is just difficult to reconcile the Angel and Archangel sides of the character in a way the hooks readers. As I scroll down this list I see a ton of characters I would rather read more of, but largely on the legs of his X-Force appearances, he goes above Artie & Leech. Wolfsbane, on the other hand, is someone who writers can tell a more engaging story with. That puts Archangel as the new number 55 in the Xavier Files.
Archangel was requested by Sean McNally on Patreon. 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 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. Episode 17 is up and we got a chance to talk with Thor: The Lightning & The Storm co-host Elisabeth Allie about some Asgardian crossovers. Make sure you subscribe to any of the following platforms (or others, I’m not picky) Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS.
Next week we hang 10 as we talk about Lifeguard & Slipstream! See you then!