Her name is Paige Guthrie. She was introduced in the 1990s, and she has the potential to be a major figure in the X-Men universe!
Paige is one of the Guthrie clan, one of the biggest mutant families in the X-universe (this even became a plot point in the Endangered Species arc). When her powers first began to develop, Paige was drawn into the classic Phalanx Covenant crossover (see X-Men #36 & #37). She wound up a member of Generation X.
Unlike her older brother Cannonball, Husk always had some sort of ‘identity crisis’. She was conscious of being seen as something of a ‘Hick’, and so over-compensated by pushing herself harder than was reasonable. She was determined to be the best X-Man she could be, and dedicated herself to learning. Towards the end of the series, she became the group’s computer expert.
Husk’s power is essentially a form of shapeshifting; she sheds her skin, and in so doing can take on any form – diamond, adamantium, whatever. Now, it’s never been explored, but her power can’t simply be to turn her skin into another substance; some of the forms she’s taken on would be far too heavy, and would break a normal human bone-and-muscle-system. Even more interestingly, her energy forms can manipulate energy, a twist on her powers that’s yet to be explored in depth in my view.
In a way, Husk was a fascinating window into identity politics. Whereas the original X-Men had struggled to feel ‘normal’, she wanted to be identified as a mutant. When the Legacy Virus became public knowledge, Husk received the news like an attack upon her own identity.
And then you have her taste in men. In Generation X, she was attracted to Chamber – the guy with a hole in his chest. In fact, the relationship between these two was a variation on a major X-Men archetype: think the guy who can never have an entirely ‘normal’ life, having an awkward teenage relationship with the stunningly beautiful colleague? Yeah, it was following the same trope as Scott and Jean, making Chamber and Husk the potential power couple of the next generation.
Years later, Husk had a (rather awkward and slightly disturbing given the age-difference) relationship with Angel – again, one of the most publicly ‘outed’ mutants, and a guy with the physically obvious mutation of wings. They even had sex in the air. In front of Husk’s parents, incidentally, just to add to the slightly icky weirdness factor.
And most recently, Jason Aaron had Paige in a relationship with Toad that was actually rather sweet on occasion.
Aaron, of course, picked up on some of the ‘identity crisis’ issues, and spun them in his own direction. In Wolverine and the X-Men, he had Paige becoming increasingly unpredictable, even becoming a charicatured villain and member of the Hellfire Academy staff. Ultimately, he revealed in #41 (rather disappointingly, in my view) that a secondary mutation meant Husk now changes personality whenever she husks. She’s gotten counselling, and is now ‘better’. Yeah, like Legion was better?
And this brings me to the reason I think Paige is a new breed of X-Man. First of all, her powerset is unusually expansive – and little explored. Like I said, she has potential to manipulate energy when in another form; and, interestingly, her Age of Apocalypse counterpart actually used the husking to take on the appearance of another person.
And then you have the ‘identity crisis’ theme, the idea that Paige changes personality when she husks. Even in WatXM #41, this wasn’t exactly healthy – rather than deal with her emotions as regards Toad’s leaving, she simply husks. But combine these points, and you have somebody who could take on the appearance of somebody else and perhaps lose herself in their character as well. In other words, you have an absolutely fascinating character who could be used to explore individuality and personhood in a way only Rogue has done before in the X-Men comics.
Come on, writers, give a girl a chance!