Everything You Need to Know About Cassandra Nova, Deadpool & Wolverine’s Surprising X-Villain

Everything You Need to Know About Cassandra Nova, Deadpool & Wolverine’s Surprising X-Villain

Deadpool & Wolverine’s new trailer yesterday didn’t really give fresh details on what the film’s going to be about, beyond the vague threat of multiversal shenanigans and Wade and Logan’s team-up. But it did give us our first really good look at one of the several villains the movie is playing with—and one of the most infamous antagonists in X-Men comics.

That is of course, Cassandra Nova, who will be played by Emma Corrin. Although the trailer doesn’t explicitly outright say that it’s Cassandra Nova, the look, the powers, it’s all there—and with it the potential for Deadpool & Wolverine to tackle one of the most evil, intimate villains the X-Men have ever faced. But if you don’t know your Mummudrais from your mutants, or your telepathy from your telekineses, we’re here to help with our brief rundown of Cassandra Nova’s comics history… and what makes her such a chilling threat.

Who Is Cassandra Nova?

Image: Marvel Comics

Introduced in the very first issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s run on New X-Men in the summer of 2001, New X-Men #114, Cassandra Nova is a villainous foil to the X-Men and more specifically to Charles Xavier. Returning to prominence as mutantkind undergoes a new generation of the species awakening to their powers, and as the first steps of mutant statehood begin to take form on the island of Genosha, Cassandra immediately has a devastating impact on the X-Men comics for the 21st century, setting the stage for much of the background and ideas Morrison would tackle during their run. But why does she so specifically have it in for Professor X? Well…

Is She Really Charles Xavier’s Sister?

Image: Marvel Comics

… The answer is, it’s complicated. Charles’ mother, Sharon, was not aware that she was carrying twins during her pregnancy. Cassandra Nova formed within her womb alongside Charles as a spiritual mirror from the Astral Plane—and a particularly dark one. But because she was formed from the genetic potential of Charles himself, she was able to actually create a physical form directly from Charles’ own genome.

Sensing her dark nature in-utero, Charles’ psychic potential awakened as he tried to kill her—the shock of the attempt causing his mother to have a miscarriage. While Charles survived the ordeal, Cassandra was pronounced stillborn—but unbeknownst to doctors, she survived in a primordial physical form, slowly regenerating her body.

What Is a Mummudrai?

Image: Marvel Comics

The term used to describe Cassandra in the comics is that she is Charles’ “Mummudrai,” a term that comes from the theology of the Shi’ar, the interstellar imperialists who’ve long been a part of X-Men continuity’s connection to the realm of the Marvel cosmic. According to the Shi’ar, every living being has their own Mummudrai, a bodiless spirit on the Astral Plane that reflects the “anti-self”—the complete inverse of their organic counterpart. Every living being, before birth, faces the their Mummudrai and defeats it on the Astral Plane, as part of the birthing process.

Mummudrai are made up of emotional energy, and don’t usually take physical forms. Cassanda is the most famous in the comics, but they’ve appeared a few times here and there since New X-Men.

What Are Cassandra Nova’s Powers?

Image: Marvel Comics

As Charles Xavier’s genetic copy, Cassandra is also one of the most powerful mutant telepaths in existence. But she also has several more psionic abilities beyond Charles, thanks to how she formed herself—when Cassandra made her body in Sharon’s womb, she gave herself access to all of Charles’ mutant genome, taking not just the ability he would eventually awaken to as a child, but all of the potential abilities his X-Gene could have manifested. Along with extremely powerful telepathy, Cassandra has telekinetic powers, as well as the ability to project and manipulate a form on the Astral Plane.

As a Mummudrai, Cassandra also has multiple abilities beyond this—like the ability to regenerate and manipulate her own physical form through DNA manipulation, and even the ability to phase through solid objects, as well as plant her body into other people’s conciousness.

Why Is She So Evil?

Image: Marvel Comics

Cassandra Nova is Charles Xavier without a filter—no compunction to not use her vast powers for anything other than her singular goal: revenge against her brother. She literally sustained herself after her stillbirth out of her hate for him, so… it’s a lot!

But Cassandra’s effectiveness as an X-Men villain is because she’s the rare character introduced as actually achieving her initial goals. Cassandra’s very first act in the comics is to manipulate a surviving cousin of Bolivar Trask, the architect of the Sentinel program, so she can swipe his genetic material for herself, activate a Sentinel Master Mold, and use it to produce an array of Wild Sentinels that she immediately unleashes on the unwitting mutant populace of Genosha. Within hours, 16 million mutants are dead at her hands—a genocide with such horrifying, long-reaching implications that even in the ever-fluctuating continuity of superhero comics, Marvel’s mutants are only barely just beginning to really recover and move on from it.

Even beyond her opening act being the near-extermination of the mutant race, the first few arcs of New X-Men involve Cassandra’s revenge plot spiraling wildly out of control on Earth and in space. Although seemingly killed after she’s brought into Xavier’s Mansion for interrogation after kickstarting the Genoshan Genocide, Cassandra psionically swaps her consciousness into Charles’ body while placing his into her genetically sabotaged physical form, hoping to kill him while she puppets his body about. She infects the X-Men with a nano-sentinel virus that nearly finishes the job of exterminating Charles’ top students, and even manages to flee to space with the Shi’ar and destabilize the Empire along the way—almost convincing Charles’ on-and-off-again lover Empress Lilandra that Earth’s mutants have been infected with some kind of insanity plague, necessitating their total destruction.

Cassandra’s immediate legacy even beyond this shaped so much of what was important in Morrison’s work on New X-Men: through her, they established the concept of the Secondary Mutation, they set the stage for the worldbuilding of mutant culture and their presence among human society, sparked by Cassandra/Charles’ revelation of their mutant identity, that Morrison explored throughout their time on the book. Cassandra’s revenge spree also in part establishes actually setting Xavier’s School as a campus where hundreds of students live and learn—a de facto that would persist throughout the 21st century. Despite not actually taking that much page presence in New X-Men’s early arcs, Cassandra is a character that fundamentally shapes so much of that comic’s run—and in doing so helped establish New X-Men as one of the defining and influential runs in the franchise for the new century.

How Did the X-Men Stop Her?

Image: Marvel Comics

Amid all the chaos of debilitating the X-Men while also bringing the Shi’ar Imperial Guard to their turf to try and finish them off, Cassandra attempted to capitalize on the chaos by making her way to Cerebra, the telepathic-boosting supercomputer Charles used to detect newly-awoken Mutants—and with it, extend her already vast powers so she could psychically command every mutant in the world to kill themselves. However, upon reaching Cerebra Cassandra discovered at trap lying in wait: Jean Grey, having re-tapped into her connection to the Phoenix Force, had managed to extricate Charles’ consciousness from Cassandra’s sabotaged body, hold it in herself, and then store it in Cerebra.

Able to force Cassandra from his body, she fled into what she believed was her original physical form—but was actually the shapeshifting form of the Imperial Superguardian known as Stuff, disguised as Cassandra’s body. With her real form dead from the genetic sabotage Cassandra had intended to kill Charles with, Cassandra’s conciousness was wiped and reverted to a childlike state, psionically trapped within Stuff’s form as she went through a psychic re-education process by mental copies of Jean and Charles, in the hopes that she could be re-trained into a functioning member of mutant society some day.

What’s Cassandra Nova Done in the Comics Since?

Image: Marvel Comics

Although Cassandra was defeated and, for all intents and purposes, “dead,” no one ever really stays dead in comics. She’s only re-appeared a handful of times though, in spite of her status as an extremely infamous X-villain. Five years later in Astonishing X-Men, Cassandra briefly returned having purportedly placed a psychic trigger in Emma Frost’s mind just before she was transferred into Stuff’s form, eventually forcing Emma to turn on the X-Men and force her way back into existence by possessing Kitty Pryde.

That failed, but Cassandra went into hiding, eventually returning in the pages of X-Men Red in 2018, where it was revealed that she was behind an uptick of anti-mutant hate crimes and nano-organisms called “Sentinites,” similar to the microscopic virus she first unleashed in New X-Men, that she could use to send people into violent rages when detecting the presence of mutants. The recently reborn Jean Grey managed to put a stop to her, and turned Cassandra’s Sentinites on her, reprogramming them to make Cassandra feel empathy and atone for her history of horrors.

Most recently, Cassandra Nova made an appearance during the Krakoan Age of X-Men comics, playing a major role in the second volume of Marauders. Recruited by Kitty Pryde for a dangerous mission, Cassandra tried to turn on the Marauders while they were sent two billion years in the past to explore the previously unknown origins of an ancient mutant civilization called Threshold—but she was trapped there as part of Kitty’s plan, her fate left unknown even as Threshold faced its own cyclical story of extinction and rebirth, one seeded with genetic information recovered from the victims of the Genoshan Genocide.

What Does Cassandra Nova Mean for Deadpool & Wolverine?

Screenshot: Marvel

Right now, given that we’ve seen so little of the film, it’s hard to say. In the latest trailer, Cassandra seems to appear in what has turned out to be a little haven of former Fox X-Men villains, including Azazel, Pyro, Lady Deathstrike, and potentially more—a post-apocalyptic little shanty town walled out by the corpse of a giant-sized Ant-Man. We don’t even know if she’s the primary threat of the movie, just that she’s part of it in that specific moment of Wade and Logan’s multiversal adventure. And given that we also see the duo in the trailer seemingly leaping away from where Cassandra has been hiding out in a sorcerer’s “sling ring” portal, she might just be a minor villain that they deal with and then move on from.

Funnily enough, Cassandra’s legacy is actually probably being more keenly felt elsewhere in X-Men adaptations right now. Although the show’s yet to reveal if she’s involved or not (so far the blame has been firmly laid at the feet of Mr. Sinister), X-Men ‘97 just recently delivered its own devastating interpretation of the Genoshan Genocide, which was pretty faithful to how it went down in the comics even without Cassandra’s presence just yet. Time will tell, but right now, it’s hard to say which X-adaptation will handle Cassandra’s villainous legacy better… or even if she’ll appear in both of those X-adaptations.

What Comics Should I Read to Get Cassandra Nova?

Image: Marvel Comics

The bulk of Cassandra’s most important appearances are in New X-Men, starting with the very first arc, “E for Extinction,” in New X-Men #114, all the way through to her defeat in New X-Men #126. Marvel recently collected New X-Men in a complete omnibus format again last year—it’s well worth checking out!—or you can read those issues digitally through Marvel Unlimited.

The impact of the Genoshan Genocide—Cassandra’s defining legacy—appears here and there across the next few decades of comics, but if you really want to see the fruition of how mutantkind reckons with it all, it’s worth checking out some of the X-Men material of the post-2019 Krakoan age. The first “Hellfire Gala” event, as well as the spinoff miniseries Trial of Magneto, deal particularly with this, but for Cassandra’s return itself, you’ll want to check out 2022’s Marauders relaunch—which is also available in physical trade paperbacks as well as digitally through Marvel Unlimited.

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