Why One Marvel Relationship Was Too Toxic to Exist But Crucial to Remember

WARNING: The following contains spoilers from the preview of Sabretooth #1, on sale 2/2/22 from Marvel Comics.

In some ways, Sabretooth and Mystique are complete opposites. Sabretooth is blunt, straightforward and even predictable at times. Although he is capable of deviousness, his animalistic strength and viciousness often make such scheming unnecessary. Mystique, on the other hand, is manipulative, cunning and unpredictable. Her shapeshifting power gives her an edge when it comes to deceiving others and she often uses them for the furthering of her own mysterious purposes. Although these two X-Men villains are very different, they have often been romantically with one another in the past, even though their relationship has never been particularly healthy.

Sabretooth and Mystique have been allies, enemies and lovers over the many decades they have known each other. They have even conceived a child together. Their relationship is very unconventional, in part because they are both ruthless supervillains and over a century old. Sabretooth and Mystique's relationship is built on deception and manipulation, which contributes to its volatility. Regardless, both of them have shown that they truly care about each other, and even though their time together wasn't meant to last, it reveals something important about their respective characters.

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A story from X-Men Unlimited #40 (by Chuck Austen, Clayton Henry, Mark Morales, Guru eFX and Randy Gentile) depicts Sabretooth and Mystique's first meeting shortly after Mystique has been kicked out of her home for being a mutant. While wandering alone in the woods, she finds Sabretooth at a campfire and asks if she can have some of his food. He agrees, but makes it clear that he expects intimacy from her in return. Afterwards, the two of them sneak onto a cargo ship to Canada in the interest of starting a new life. Mystique continues having a relationship with Sabretooth, but secretly harbors resentment against him and longs for control over her life. She baits him into murdering several of the ship's crew and drugs him before turning him over to the Canadian authorities.

Another fling between Sabretooth and Mystique occurred in the 1993 Sabretooth miniseries (by Larry Hama, Mark Texeira, Steve Buccellato, Marie Javins and Richard Starkings). In this story, Sabretooth learns that a woman he had an affair with during the Cold War was actually Mystique in disguise. Sabretooth had been hired to kill a scientist, but a blonde woman who introduced herself as German spy Leni Zauber had gotten there first and already killed the target. The two of them went into hiding together, but soon after Leni was found dead in the canal. Mystique later explained that she was impersonating Leni for the entire time she and Sabretooth were together, and had used Leni's death as a convenient way to disappear.

Both of these instances show the toxic and manipulative nature of the relationship between Sabretooth and Mystique. In their first meeting, Sabretooth takes advantage of Mystique's destitute state and coerces her into being intimate with him. This is obviously not a good way to start a relationship, and neither is Mystique tricking him and turning him in to the authorities. Though Sabretooth is a very dangerous man, Mystique is able to manipulate him and come out on top. She further manipulates him by later having an affair with him while posing as another woman and then faking her death, leaving Sabretooth to mourn a woman he had never really known. These many layers of deceptive and abusive behavior show just how toxic this relationship has been.

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A shared hunger for power, violence and vengeance seems to draw Sabretooth and Mystique together. They have a great respect for each other's skills, and they have teamed up several times in order to take down mutual enemies such as Wolverine and the other X-Men. Mystique knows that there is no one more savage than Sabretooth, and Sabretooth knows that there is no one more devious than Mystique, so it makes sense that they would want to work together. It also makes sense that all the time they have spent working together would lead to them developing feelings for one another, even if pursuing a relationship together is not a great idea.

Both characters may also see intimacy as a potential way to manipulate each other. Mystique is known for using her sexuality as a tool for manipulation, and it's highly probable that both of them ascribe to the rule of "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." This cynical approach isn't necessarily in conflict with the genuine fondness they both seem to have for each other, however. Sabretooth and Mystique may enjoy each other's company, but their loyalties lie first and foremost with themselves. They may feel appreciation and possibly even love for each other, but they will both readily betray the other if it suits their purposes. For this reason, their affairs with each other tend to be short-lived.

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The opening pages of Sabretooth #1 (by Victor LaValle, Leonard Kirk, Rain Beredo and VC's Cory Petit) retell the scene from House of X #6 (by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, David Curiel and VC's Clayton Cowles) in which the Quiet Council sends Sabretooth into the Pit of Krakoa as punishment for breaking Krakoan law and killing humans. This retelling shows the scene from Sabretooth's point of view, revealing his thoughts as he is condemned. Sabretooth notices that Mystique refuses to even look at him as the Quiet Council doles out its sentence. Interestingly, in his narration he refers to Mystique as Leni. Sabretooth seems particularly spiteful toward her and the apparent apathy she has for him, likely because of the long history they have shared. This could foreshadow further conflict between them in upcoming issues of his new series.

Because Mystique was finally successful in resurrecting her beloved wife Destiny in Inferno #1 (by Hickman, Valerio Schiti, David Curiel and VC's Joe Sabino), it seems unlikely that Sabretooth and Mystique will get back together soon. Still, this history between the two characters may continue to be featured in future issues. Sabretooth and Mystique's contentious relationship has had significant repercussions for both characters and reveals a lot about who they are and what actions they are willing to resort to in order to achieve their respective goals.

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Devi Singh (11 Articles Published)

Devi Singh has a bachelor's degree in English and loves writing about comics.

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