One of mutant-kind’s most famous names is “Guthrie,” and for a good reason. Lucinda Guthrie gave birth to nine children and five of them have carried the X-gene (six if we count alternate universes). I could have picked all but two Guthrie siblings for this column, but one young Guthrie really rose to the occasion recently.
Melody Guthrie was a young, unnamed child who appeared on a scant few panels for the first two decades of her existence. Although she was revealed to be a mutant, Melody did not even earn an official codename until after she was depowered. But mere months ago, something incredible happened. Get ready to be blown away, folks, because we’re welcoming Aero to the D-List.
Created by Chris Claremont and Jackson Guice, Melody technically first appeared in New Mutants Volume 1 #42 in 1986. Sam Guthrie had been featured in New Mutants since it began, but this issue showed his many siblings and incorporated his brother, Josh, into the story, who was eventually revealed to be a mutant as well. In the 90s, it was revealed that Paige Guthrie carried the X-gene and Elizabeth Guthrie was a mutant villain in “Age of Apocalypse.” However, it would be years before Melody even received a first name.
In Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 #444, Alan Davis drew Melody and Josh Guthrie showing off their mutant powers while a news reporter in a helicopter tried to speak with them. A golden aura surrounded Melody as she smiled and posed until Sam interrupted and scolded his siblings. For years, this was the most characterization Melody received and the only proof of her power—flight. Then the Decimation happened.
Mutant children awakened at Xavier’s School and many realized they were depowered. Refusing to believe it, Melody leapt from the roof determined to prove she could still fly. Emma Frost quickly alerted Beast who jumped out of a window and caught Melody as she fell. It was only in this issue of New X-Men that her codename was revealed to be Aero, but she was now confirmed depowered.
Certainly not every mutant will be featured in an important story, but it was nonetheless disappointing that Melody was depowered within a series that would have been the perfect comic to highlight her abilities and personality. Many students were background characters within New X-Men Volume 2, but still occasionally shown in action or at least interacting with other students—but not Melody. Additionally, it would have been wonderful to see Aero training with Sam or Paige. An entire miniseries could have been written about just the Guthrie siblings and featured Melody applying what she learned at the school to her daily life. Thankfully, after more years of scarce appearances, she was featured in Fearless, a 2019 miniseries.
Melody attended Gloriana Leadership Camp for Female Empowerment and secured the keynote speakers—Invisible Woman, Captain Marvel, and Storm. Ororo stated that her reason for accepting the invitation was because her former student, Melody, was attending the camp. In a very sweet but sad moment, Ororo and Melody hugged. Although none of the plot throughout this short story heavily featured Melody, it was nonetheless wonderful to see her. In fact, when some aliens arrived and attacked the camp, Melody saved one of her friends from getting shot.
Melody also seemed to be in charge of payments to the camp and donations from the camp to charities. Still a teenager and coping with the loss of her mutant power, Melody was taking an active interest in helping others; with or without powers, Melody was going to work to secure a bright future for herself. Still, new mutants were appearing in X-titles and once depowered mutants regained their powers, but not Aero, so I assumed Melody would never fly again. I was wrong.
Melody awakened on Krakoa and was greeted by her mutant siblings, then smiled and shed tears when she realized she was going to participate in Crucible that day. As the issue continued, Exodus explained that Crucible is the ritual in which a “broken mutant” must die to be “unbroken” from the effects of the Decimation. Apparently, Apocalypse had proposed Crucible – make depowered mutants “earn” rebirth as a mutant. Melody stood in an arena wearing a crown of flowers with a small sword at her side. Apocalypse entered the arena in his classic costume with a large sword waiting in front of him.
Scores of Scholarly essays could be written about the notion of Crucible in the X-Men, that it was Apocalypse who proposed the ritual, and that he dressed in his “villainous” costume for the event. X-Men Volume 5 #7 was certainly a fascinating comic for a number of reasons, but I witnessed something particularly incredible. Fearless showed Melody as intelligent and brave, and I certainly commend Seanan McGuire for her portrayal of Melody in that series, but Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu went even further.
First, Apocalypse’s entrance was an intimidating drawing that captured his enormousness. Contrasted with the following panel where Melody stood in the foreground and the former villain in the background, Apocalypse still dwarfed the girl in size. Nur asked if she felt envy surrounded by mutants, to which she answered, “Yes.” Apocalypse asked for her name, to which she replied, “Aero.” The man corrected her – Aero is a mutant name, and there is no mutant standing in front of him. Melody stared up at Apocalypse and responded – “Melody Guthrie.”
Apocalypse is a notorious mutant who has ruined countless lives and murdered in the name of Darwinism. A tall, muscular mutant who is thousands of years old, he is incredibly strong and can alter his molecules to grow and shape shift. Melody Guthrie is a teenage girl of seemingly average height and a slim build. Even with her power of flight, she would be no match for the former villain. But she stared straight at his face and answered his cruel questions before she attacked.
Apocalypse’s sword was taller than Melody, but she leapt at him. Of course, the former villain knocked her to the ground, but she stood up, confidently smiled, and readied another attack. With one swing, Apocalypse disarmed Melody then effortlessly backhanded her as blood flew from her mouth and she landed on the ground again. He then offered Guthrie an exit – if she gave up, her wounds would be healed. Guthrie wiped the blood from her mouth, picked up her sword, and as she rose, she told Apocalypse to “Go to hell.” She leapt at him again, but this time, the mutant repeatedly punched her. Her face bruised and bloody, she rose, raised her fists and exclaimed “never” when Nur asked if she would die on her knees. Finally, Apocalypse appeared to drive his sword through Melody and killed her. Reborn, Apocalypse was waiting for her, proud of what Melody had accomplished. In two incredibly effective panels, Melody first had her feet squarely planted on the ground, and in the next, they lifted. In front of her fellow mutants, Melody levitated, surrounded by a glow, and smiled.
Melody Guthrie intimately knew loss and the pain that comes with such loss. This was more than a loss of a talent, a relationship, or even a family member, Melody lost something that made her whole. Melody Guthrie had always been a mutant, but at puberty, her X-gene became active. The Decimation deactivated that gene and she now had to live as something that she was not. Certainly this occurs in real life – homophobic, transphobic, and other bigoted attitudes and laws keep people from quite literally being who they are. Surely, the need to then hide oneself causes immense psychological and emotional hardship. I believe it is this metaphor that Seanan McGuire and Jonathan Hickman used to illustrate Melody’s bravery.
The agency Melody once had to do something that came naturally was taken away by a power beyond her control. Such loss would cause others sadness, anger, and serious psychological pain. Although certainly saddened, Melody Guthrie attended a camp to learn skills and help others. Simply getting out of bed and making it through a day when you cannot be who you are must be excruciating. But even without her mutant power, when a friend was in danger, Melody risked her life to help. But when faced with the opportunity to become who she really is, it mattered not the methods, the physical or psychological pain – clearly, Melody had weighed the pain of not being herself ever again and found that any physical punishment and emotional abuse from a mutant whose codename means “destruction” in biblical terms was worth enduring. She confidently fought one of the deadliest mutants the world has ever known not just to fly, but to be whole – to be herself again. When taunted by Apocalypse, Melody confidently rose, ready to attack, because she would do whatever it took to reclaim who she had always been.
I am inherently attracted to D-List characters because of their potential—origin, family background, motivation, interests, relationships etc. What I saw in Melody in Fearless and then X-Men was not so much personal information as it was her emotional strength, dedication, intelligence, and absolute fucking bravery. Within less than a year, Melody Guthrie went from a character with nothing more than a famous last name to an incredibly strong young woman. It is surely easy to say and even easier to type, “be who you are do not be afraid to fight for it,” but I believe Aero successfully illustrated that sentiment.
To my knowledge, Melody Guthrie has never appeared in other media nor even outside of Marvel 616 continuity. I don’t think it is likely that Aero will ever become a popular character, but I like knowing that there are more Guthrie mutants in X-Men comics. More than that, I love the bravery I saw Melody demonstrate recently. Aero truly went to new heights recently and deserves to soar throughout Marvel Comics.