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It is often stated that Jean Grey is a level 5 mutant. There are other times that Xavier and Magneto have been described as level 4 mutants. But when I look for a classification by level of power I find this list on Wikipedia:

  • OMEGA: Omega mutants are those with the highest level of power. They are the most powerful of the Alphas.
  • ALPHA: Alpha mutants have very powerful and useful mutant powers and no drawbacks such as changes in appearance. They are perhaps the most feared mutants.
  • BETA: Betas are as powerful as alphas but they have some physical changes as a drawback.
  • GAMMA: Gammas are also powerful mutants but they suffer from large physical changes. These changes make their lives very hard and make them very easy to tell they are a mutant.
  • DELTA: Delta mutants have low levels of power than Alphas. Like Alphas, they have no physical changes. Most Deltas do not even know they are mutants.
  • EPSILON: Epsilons have minor superhuman powers and major physical flaws. They are easily recognized just by looking at them.

This doesn't appear to correlate on a level system from 1 to 5, as there are 6 classifications listed. If you classify them into groups of physical appearance you get 3 levels of each.

Normal: Omegas, Alphas, and Deltas
Changed: Betas, Gammas, Epsilons

This is still not a system that supports a level 5 classification. Is there another list somewhere that denotes a line between 1 to 5 in terms of powers (or capability) ?

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Cue Brett White in 3...2... –  OghmaOsiris Nov 22 '11 at 23:49
    
Not to complicate things, but in Future Foundation #13 a Celestial classifies Franklin Richards as having "beyond Omega level power", so something beyond Omega level exists, and Franklin is it. –  casperOne Dec 30 '11 at 4:17
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2 Answers 2

Comics are fraught with peril as contradictions between writers/editors are rarely resolved and they are often best case considerations. With that said, I will go over the three positive rated classes which are Beta, Alpha and Omega class metahumans. The other three ratings, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon are often overlooked in the comic genre but are occasionally addressed in novels and other kinds of fiction. See the Wild Cards series and their terms Aces and Jokers.

How you gauge a metahuman (in most modern comic universes)

A quick rule of thumb is a metahuman that can only affect one person at a time, only some of the time or with some other limitation is a Gamma. They are likely unskilled in the use of their powers or their powers are simply too weak to be a deterrent to the current level of technology. Gammas can be brought down in a variety of ways and overall are not considered a threat, except to the unaware.

If a metahuman can affect one person effectively or larger number of things or people intermittently, then they are a Beta. Betas may be more effective, but can usually be counted with a minimum of force. Most Betas who remain untrained will simply use their powers for personal gain because they are aware of their limitations in comparison to any Alphas who may exist. If no Alpha’s exist, a Beta could be a threat if they orchestrated the circumstances of the power use well.

If a metahuman can use his powers all of the time, in a variety of ways, affecting more than one person at a time, for an extended time, the he or she is likely an Alpha. If a metahuman is able to do extraordinary things completely unable to be replicated by machines or current technology, they are an Alpha. If a metahuman can create things that were never seen before they existed or conceive of things in ways, previously unknown, and do that regularly they are likely an Alpha. In a world without other Alphas, an Alpha is nearly a godlike being depending on how their powers manifest, and how they use them. In our world, Alphas would be conscripted by governments or killed by assassination details, if it was even possible to kill the Alpha. Alphas usually have one or two weaknesses they keep under wraps.

If a metahuman can use their powers and effect dozens, hundreds, thousands or in the exercise of your powers affect the lives of millions, they are likely an Omega. If a metahuman's powers could conceivably destroy all life on Earth and there is little or nothing that can stop them they are likely an Omega. In the MU, this is the most feared class of metahuman. The DCU is only a little less paranoid about Omega-class beings.

Example: The X-man codenamed Cyclops (Scott Summers) is a Silver Age, Beta-class hero who has evolved into a Modern age, Alpha-class hero. His single power, his optic blast has grown into a diverse energy power capable of being described as: Energy Projection, increased damage, extreme range, capable of deflection (using his optic blast), indirect attack (bouncing his optic blast off of other substances), precision attack (able to control its strength, duration and amplitude from flipping a coin to destroying a mountain top).

Cyclops supplements his physical vulnerability using an armored uniform, hand to hand combat training, and regular intensive combat simulations to hone his skill with his power. As a member of a team engaged in the same intense training and supportive combat systems, their group synergy enables them to be even more effective than their individual power levels would suggest.

Strange Exceptions

There are the occasional non-powered or technologically assisted heroes who can move out of the ranks of the Gamma or Beta class to be considered Alpha-class material due to their preparation, quality of technology, or are simply just so bad-ass they can hold their own against superior metahumans. Bronze Tiger, Black Panther, Captain America, Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye, Lady Shiva, the new Batgirl are all unpowered humans whose prowess or skills allow them to interact at a higher level than would initially seem possible given their unpowered state. They will never, however, be considered Omega-class beings without outside intervention such as the introduction of the Uni-power.


Challenges in defining power levels

The comic industry is part myth-making, part storytelling, and it is difficult to gauge the power levels of the beings talked about in those stories efficiently when they were created at different times, by different writers and often managed over many decades and many character iterations, reboots and continuity transformations.

Numerical designations (i.e. "a 5 on the power scale") are the artifacts of writers who are unfamiliar with previous work done in the comics they are writing. Much to the chagrin of many fans, some writers do not read any of the previous issues of a comic before they come onboard. So they create a "rating system" to assign a threat level using numbers. Same idea, different system, and the results vary by writer.

Comic fans needing order and structure, attempt to classify the heroes and villains even when the companies who create them would rather not, based on their reluctance to release documentation in relationship to the characters in their product lines. This dichotomy created an eventual need to create classification attempts such as the Marvel Universe Handbook, or the Handbook of the DC Universe. While those publications sold well, they did little to reduce the arguments of fanboys about which metahumans were the most powerful of them all...

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YOU have played Mutants and Masterminds. –  Jeff Nov 25 '11 at 0:57
    
Actually, I have never played Mutants and Masterminds, but I have played Champions, DC Heroes and Marvel Superhero RPG so I figure they won't be too far off the mark for M&M. –  Thaddeus Nov 26 '11 at 19:39
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While an extensive answer, it does not answer my question about the designation of "level 5 mutant" compared to these classifications. –  Jack B Nimble Dec 1 '11 at 15:46
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For completion, you might want to consider issue 13 of Future Foundation. In it, a Celestial identifies Franklin Richards as having "beyond Omega level power". So there is some concept of a level above Omega. I assume that this transcends any label applied to mutants, and instead applies to higher-order beings such as Galactus, Eternity, Death, etc. –  casperOne Dec 30 '11 at 4:21
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@ThaddeusHowze: Since the poster feels the long answer doesn't address his question, and you do provide a nice, concise answer in your comment, how about replacing the long answer with a concise answer that addresses the question? –  Tango Jan 25 '12 at 17:58
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The number system and the Greek letter system come from different sources -- X-Men: The Last Stand and the comics, respectively -- so there isn't much correlation, except that Omega and Level 5 are both powerful. Neither system has really been elaborated on much, but the Greek letter system has some.

First off, anything other than Alpha and Omega comes from fans wanting to expand the system, and isn't canon.

I recall Alpha being using to describe powerful mutants during the Age of Apocalypse, but can't think of an instance where it was used in the 616 Universe.

According to Professor X's narration in the X-Men Forever mini-series, Omegas were originally for the mutants who posed the greatest threat, but he chose instead to use it for those who had unlimited potential. Presumably, his criteria is the one being used, but I think most people just look at power.

I've seen various additional Omega requirements added, such as controlling vast amounts of energy and living without a mortal body, but I don't think any of these requirements actually come from the comics and more likely originate with fans trying to tease out a better definition.

Personally, I stick to the original, super vague "unlimited potential" as the necessary factor. Of course, since that criteria is so vague, that would make the only real way for someone to be an Omega mutant to be a mention in a comic.

Sidenote to that: I often see people call Rachel Summers an Omega because way back in Uncanny X-Men No. 200-and-something, Nimrod scans her and lists her as an Omega. This is just silly. There's no way that whatever definition for an Omega the writer was using back then would be the same today.

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