Of all my favourite groups in the Marvel Universe, The X-Men are at the top of the list. With so many different incarnations it can be easy to forget about the original line up consisting of Cyclops, Beast, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel. They debuted in 1968 and each was defined by a specific power. But the one who seems to receive the least amount of consideration is Angel, AKA Warren Worthington III. With the power of flight his abilities might seem less flashy compared to others, but he’s one of the most interesting characters in comics and I’ll explain why.
Born into a rich family, Warren was the wealthy playboy of the group from a young age. Long before Wolverine came along, Warren was the one who competed with Cyclops for Jean Grey’s attention. As he grew up he became more responsible and started to take his role as a hero seriously. He was the original founder of X-Factor and has been a part of The Champions and The Defenders.
A defining moment in Angel’s history is when his wings are mutilated during The Mutant Massacre. His wings are amputated and he eventually joins up with Apocalyse, who restores his wings and turns him into Archangel. Warren’s personality shifts to become darker and more brutal. He fights the X-Men until he’s freed from Apocalypse’s mind control.
Later, his metallic wings shatter and his natural feathers grow back. Angel helps the X-Men against a number of threats, including the events of Decimation, Messiah Complex and Divided We Stand.
Years later, Warren’s wings are ripped off by a mind controlled Wolfsbane who is being used by The Purifiers. He becomes Archangel again and gains the ability to shift between his regular and darker form. He joins Wolverine’s X-Force and uses lethal force against enemies of mutants.
Angel is at the centre of The Dark Angel saga, one of the most memorable X-Men stories in recent memory, written by Rick Remender. His Archangel persona takes over as the heir of Apocalypse and he fights against X-Force, including his girlfriend Psylocke. In the end, Psylocke is forced to kill Warren by stabbing him in the chest with a Life Seed. What follows is an emotional scene where Betsy uses her telepathy to create the perfect life for Warren inside his mind. While he’s dying he sees the two of them together, having children and growing old. After Warren dies, a new personality is born out of the Life Seed.
More recently, a time displaced Warren has come to the present, along with younger versions of the original X-Men. He begins a relationship with X-23 while the older Warren has gone back and forth between his Angel and Archangel personas.
What makes Warren an enduring character is his duality. He’s struggled to keep his darker impulses in check while still wanting to do good in the world. It shows you don’t have to have flashy powers to be a hero. Professor Xavier put it best.
“I see the man connected to the wings. You have the greatest power of all my X-Men. Inherent courage.”
For anyone who wants to learn more about Angel then I would read The Dark Angel saga to really see what the character is about.