The Marvel Crossover House of M posited a world where the Scarlett Witch, temporarily insane, would first change the planet to one where mutants were in charge, and then after some stress changing everything back to a world where hardly any mutants still had their powers. Wolverine alone knew the changed world was wrong, because Marvel and writer Brian Michael Bendis seem incapable of doing a massive crossover storyline that doesn’t give Wolverine a major role, and he found a way to make the other heroes he needed remember with the help of a young girl named Layla Miller. Layla had the power to make people see the Scarlett Witch’s changes weren’t right.
So, what was Layla’s deal anyway?
You’d think Layla only existed as an off-shoot of the House of M universe, and you’d be wrong, silly reader. Stop trying to apply logic to these things. No, Layla turned up again later in the pages of X-Factor. At the time, the team was X-Factor investigations, a group of mutant private investigators. Layla was a mutant with some sort of unknown powers, and she showed up on their doorstep, basically an orphan, and introduced herself as, “My name is Layla Miller, and I know stuff.”
That was basically her thing. She knew stuff. She seemed to know how things were going to turn out. Maybe she had some precognitive abilities? She was an orphan, and the team did eventually take her in when it looked like she was getting abused as the orphanage by the other kids there.
But something about her injuries and reactions led team leader Jamie “Multiple Man” Madrox to think she set the whole thing up to get back into X-Factor headquarters. Stuff like that mostly made people wish Layla would shut up and go away, which of course she didn’t do.
Frequent readers of the Misplaced Heroes column know I love the work of Peter David, and he was handling the team at the time. It was the standard Peter David team made up of side characters, third-stringers, and others. He’d handled the X-Factor team before, and kept some of the characters he had from that group on the new team, namely Multiple Man, Strong Guy, and Wolfbane. Then he added Siren, M, and a depowered Rictor. Yes, there was a character whose codename was basically just her first initial. Maybe I’ll cover her later.
At any rate, Layla moved in and kept hanging around, putting herself into every situation, and reminding everyone that she knows stuff. She wasn’t omniscient. There seemed to be plenty of things she didn’t know. She eventually took the codename “Butterfly” because of that old saying about how a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane. It rarely came up, but it did happen.
Except, it turns out, knowing stuff wasn’t really her mutant power.
Pay attention, because this explanation is kinda cool.
During one storyline, there was a bit of time travel needed. Jamie had to send two versions of himself into two different futures to learn about a threat, and Layla unexpectedly jumped onto one and visited one of those futures. It was the “Days of Future Past” era, actually, so the two spent some time in a mutant concentration camp and got matching “M” facial tattoos. Jamie was able to return to the past, but Layla wasn’t so lucky. She bounced around, got to an even further future, and was confronted by an elderly Cyclops wanting to know why she never fixed the future if she knew so much stuff.
Layla tearfully admitted that, yes, she knew stuff, but she couldn’t change stuff. Her powers sucked.
Well, that also wasn’t quite true. Oh, her powers sucked, but remember, knowing stuff wasn’t really her powers.
Eventually, Layla returned with another trip to that same future. She was an adult by then, teaming up with Cyclops’ daughter Ruby, future X-foe Trevor Fitzroy (only he was rather heroic and dating Ruby), and a few others. The plot involved a senile, wheelchair-bound Doom managing to find a way to do what Marvel time travel said was impossible, namely alter the past, and X-Factor had to deal with it. Visiting the future and seeing the adult Layla, the team learned what Layla’s powers really were.
She could resurrect the dead.
There was a catch. She could bring back the body and the mind, but not the soul. People she brought back tended to come back evil. She discovered her powers by resurrecting a butterfly, hence the codename. She rarely wanted to use her powers due to that “they come back wrong” thing that should sound familiar to anyone who’s been to Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery.
Layla used her powers to bring back the fallen Fitzroy in that storyline. That was why he became a villain.
And when it was over and a now-adult Layla was able to return to the past, the first thing she did was track down her younger self, from before kid Layla met X-Factor, and then completely download all her memories from that point into her younger self. That was why young Layla knew stuff.
Adult Layla, knowing no more than any Layla should, then rejoined X-Factor. She had claimed as a kid to have seen a vision of marrying Madrox, but then the two being savagely killed by their teammate Wolfbane, reduced to some feral form, on their wedding night (bummer!). When or if that would happen will remain unknown.
Oh, she did apparently use her resurrection powers one more time, when teammate Strong Guy died. Strong Guy, the team’s jokester and a happy-go-lucky type, came back really evil and became Prince of Hell.
Yeah, I really need to cover that fellow soon.