Continuing with our Valentine’s week look at love in the X-verse, we turn now to a couple whose love transcended time, appearances, preconceptions, and the Comics Code Authority: Destiny and Mystique.
Destiny and Mystique a Love Hiding in Plain View
When Chris Claremont created Destiny, the intention was for Mystique and her to be lovers. However, the restrictions of the CCA at the time prohibited openly writing gay or bisexual characters, complicating matters to say the least. Raven Darkhölme and Irene Adler were apparently intended to be Nightcrawler’s parents for a long while. Destiny would die before the spectrum of sexuality was allowed to expand, but even in his restricted setting Claremont managed to convey how special the relationship between the two was. In some ways, it was the subtlety with which the relationship was written, albeit out of necessity, that made it one of my favorites.
We learn long after the fact that Irene and Raven met at the beginning of the 20th century, when Mystique was living as a man. We are told they were adventurers that became partners and later lovers. Much of their time together is shrouded in mystery (and is ripe for a wonderful run as a classic adventure series, are you listening Marvel?) but we are shown that they stayed together through the many, many decades.
Destiny and Mystique’s Bittersweet Dance with Time
When we first meet Destiny in the Days of Future Past arc, she is already advanced in years. The exchanges between Raven and Destiny make it clear that these two are longtime companions. Mystique affords destiny a respect and consideration, and also a sense of playfullness that she rarely shows to any others.
Destiny is nearing the end of her life, and we’re given the sense that she has already seen the details of her demise. Marvel Fanfare #40 is one of the most explicit examples. If Raven is, as we are led to believe, roughly the same age as Irene, this was probably her first great love and one of the longest relationships Mystique had. The two relate to each other on almost a subconscious level, as couples that have grown old together often do. This relationship is also unlike others that we’ve seen Mystique in over the years in that she doesn’t seem to try to distance herself from her emotions towards Irene. She is openly tender, she gives free reign to her thoughts, it seems one of the only places she feels truly comfortable. We are given the sense that she’s never had, or lost, a connection as close and as deep as she has with Destiny.
Destiny openly accepts Mystique for all she is, having no illusions about the woman and her ruthlessness, but also seeing Raven as a sum of her life and the life they have built together. She has an insight and a sort of sympathy for the path that Mystique’s life has taken and will in years to come. The two are utterly secure in the bond between them: there are no romantic declarations of love, no grand gestures, but rather the comforting embrace of a deep, abiding, affection that only comes from winding through life and its challenges side by side.
Destiny, Mystique and the Inevitability of Partings
In X-men #255 Destiny’s life is ended by Legion. Destiny has forseen her end and takes steps to ensure that Mystique’s story will continue with Forge. Her last act, as most of the ones in the brief time we know Irene Adler, is for the sake of her beloved and the course Destiny has seen Raven’s life take. And though Raven must have known that Irene’s life would end soon, it’s still a shocking blow and one of the few times we see her with a real sense of loss.
The tenderness Mystique shows at Irene’s death is, in my opinion, one of the most touching moments in all of comics. In a genre where deaths are disregarded as revolving door plot points, Claremont still creates a true and fundamental sense of loss. You can almost hear the door to Raven’s heart closing.
Whether Mystique will open her heart again is yet to be seen. In her long life she has had several pairings and partings. Azazel, Sabretooth, Wolverine, and now apparently Charles Xavier to name a few. But none of them seem to have touched her soul like Irene Adler. In my mind, Raven and Irene found their one great love in each other and were one of the most beautiful relationships in X-men history.