Warren Worthington III was born into privilege. He was wealthy, never worried about anything. That was until he started sprouting feathery wings from his shoulder blades while at Prep School. He tried to hide them, until he was forced to use his powers to save his friends from a dorm fire. After that, he put together a costume and tried to start fighting crime as The Avenging Angel. That’s how he attracted the attention of Professor X and the beginnings of the first X-team.
What’s so strange about Warren is that he was a self-realized person shortly into the run of the comic series. Warren went after Jean, she rebuked him and he found a girlfriend named Candy Southern. He didn’t stalk the redhead around campus, he just found what worked for him. Mr. Worthington also had his own financial support, even though early storylines played around with family intrigue surrounding the fortune. But, it didn’t matter. Warren had no reason to ever be a superhero, he chose to be one.
By the late 1980s, there was an effort to start beefing up certain Marvel characters who didn’t quite match the power set of newer characters. When X-Factor started, it was already on shaky creative ground. Early creative changes, plus a need to define itself as necessary outside of Uncanny X-Men left it in a weird bind. That’s when a character introduced in the first year was setup as the team’s Magneto. Apocalypse guided X-Factor into the first earnest crossover dubbed “Fall of the Mutants”. As Apocalypse’s celestial ship hovered over New York City, the team was beset by Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen.
Earlier, Warren Worthington was injured and his wings destroyed by the machinations of Mister Sinister during the Mutant Massacre in the Morlock Tunnels. We’ll get to that later, but let’s get back to Warren getting his new look on life. Apocalypse finds Warren and cuts him a deal to get back his powers. Cue to X-Factor fighting the Four Horsemen, when they realize that Death is their old pal Warren with metal wings. Newly dubbed Archangel, he’s Warren with a FOX attitude. His wings are razor sharp and he can mentally fire blades out of his wings to cut people down. Plus, he’s blue now because Apocalypse is blue and comics are a visual medium.
In the 1990s, Warren’s metal wings would molt and reveal that they’ve been secretly healing the original feathery wing nubs that were mutilated back in the Mutant Massacre. Most of that decade was a wash for the character. Candy Southern was assimilated by the Phalanx, Warren was pushed into a relationship with Psylocke and he existed just to mope and be grim. Until Rick Remender got a hold of the character, his only memorable use was a sex scene during the Chuck Austen run. Basically, he had aerial sex with what was probably a minor over said minor’s house. Siblings and mother in the yard below watching the overhead coitus.
Cut to the recent years where Apocalypse’s tampering with Warren has finally been given long-term weight. Wolfsbane (who will get her own chapter) was being mind-controlled by the Purifiers and she ripped off Warren’s wings again. The X-Men tried to heal Warren, but it was revealed that even his new feathery wings were still techno organic constructed rich with Apocalypse’s Celestial tech. This leads to Warren having an “An American Werewolf in London” style transformation where he regrows his wings and murders the Purifiers for trying to mine his old ones. Once Warren calms down, he loses the blue Archangel face and metal wings.
These changes keep happening back and forth until Apocalypse’s followers choose him to be En Sabah Nur’s rightful heir. Rebuilding Apocalypse’s army, Warren fully recedes into the Archangel personality and begins to attack. Psylocke fearing that Warren might be successful stabs him in the chest, trying to disrupt the Celestial Seed that Apocalypse placed in him back during the initial Archangel transformation. The trauma ultimately kills the Seed and the Warren that we know. He’s reintroduced to the X-Men as a blank slate that just loves to fly and has no memories of his life before the stabbing.
What has become of the Angel now? Well, he’s a student under Wolverine’s watch at the Jean Grey School. He’s even met up with his younger time displaced self, but he has no memory of even being that person. Psylocke has abandoned him, so he can find himself as a new person. Members of the initial X-Men team are sadden and dismayed, but they believe that the Warren they know will return. But, that’s not where the story ends. It turns out that while raising Apocalypse’s army, Warren had sex with Pestilence during his Archangel face. As a result, Pestilence gave birth to twins that are now the new heirs of Apocalypse.
They’re a time traveling sort who readers have learned we’re interned during a Days of Future Past style future after Red Onslaught (Red Skull with Xavier’s brain) and Kang the Conqueror (will be mentioned in The Avengers project) ended up enslaving mutantkind. But, their story is ongoing and subject to later revisions of this chapter. As for now, we turn our eyes back to Warren and finish with the mutant that no one really pegged down. Sure, he was the subject of many cool visuals including one of the greatest paintings by Alex Ross. What sticks in my teeth is the fact that Warren was never allowed to find himself outside of the team.
If you have a kid worth billions, you don’t put him on the frontlines. The Xavier Institute (later the Jean Grey School) needs money to stay in operation and Danger Room repairs don’t come cheap. Morrison dealt with similar ideas with the X-Corps during his run, but it would make the most sense for a guy like this. After all, not everyone is cut out for a fight. If this was one of those YouTube video review shows, I would’ve thrown up a screenshot of Cypher and Empath here. For now, we advance to the final two charter members of the team.