X-Force (1st series) #10
Externals, High Lords
• Osteomorph with enhanced strength
and durability able to manipulate his
skeletal structure, causing bone growths
which protrude as razor sharp spikes
from his skin, creating offensive armor,
extending finger or hand blades,
projectile spikes, or incredibly long
shafts to support his weight off the ground
• High Lord physiology links him to his
fellow Externals, able to detect them at a
distance and summon them into his
presence, plus making him immortal
with a persistent healing factor that restores him regardless of mortal
injury until and unless the heart essence of all Externals is consumed by one
The immortal mutant known as Absalom was presumably born a man named Corey Flynn, from the American Southwest in the late-1800’s. Flynn was an outlaw who lived an ill-fated life; a thief and a murderer who was wanted in at least six states. He made his way to Wyoming in 1896 where he came across the legend, Caleb Hammer. A bounty hunter and Pinkerton agent, Hammer was famous for beating armed men without ever needing to draw his pistol. Flynn wanted to face down a legend, so he challenged Caleb Hammer to a duel. Hammer smiled, declined, and began to walk away. Flynn shot him in the back.
This was no way for a man like Caleb Hammer to die, and the furious town's folk quickly had Flynn on the end of a hangman’s noose. As the floor of the gallows dropped from under him, Corey Flynn wondered idly what Hell would look like. Instead, his mutant powers manifested for the first time. Flynn extended a razor-sharp collar of bone shards that shredded his noose and spared his life. At least, for a moment. The townsfolk naturally panicked at Flynn’s new appearance, and he was shot dead in the street like a dog. In the end, even this death didn’t take. Flynn woke up two days later in the funeral parlor and made his way to escape the town under cover of night. [X-Force (1st series) #37]
Corey Flynn was not only a mutant, he was a member of the secret band of immortals known alternately as High Lords, or the Externals. Sometimes called the first mutant coven, these individuals possessed an almost supernatural connection. Externals could sense each others’ presence, and detect the ascension of new Externals. They could summon each other and felt the power of one disseminate among the remainder whenever one of them died. Killing an External was no easy feat, however. Sturdier than even other mutants, Externals could regenerate from injuries even past the point of death, as Corey Flynn did on his ascension. Legend held that only another External could permanently kill one of their number, but even still they would eventually return by one means or another, be it regeneration, reincarnation, or even stranger methods. The Externals would be permanently gone from this world only when one External killed all other Externals, claiming their lifeforce and varied powers in the name of the sole victor.
Perhaps strangely given those facts, the High Lords still sought out each other for community. Most Externals supported this band of brothers, from the truly ancient Saul and Nicodemus to the more recently ascended like Gideon and Burke, who only lived a few centuries. There were rogues among their number, however. Candra of the Floating Spires preferred her own company, Crule was too wild to remain anywhere for long, and Selene (possibly the oldest among them) always did as she liked. Each contributed to the community in some way, representing an aspect of their nature: Nicodemus brought wisdom, Burke fortitude, Saul provided patience, Cruel ferocity and Gideon opportunity, while Candra and Selene added guile and corruption. Corey Flynn, who chose the name Absalom, quite meagerly contributed despair. His death was a moment of clarity regarding his life, and he chose never to return to the man he once was. However, he also largely failed to become anything else, and certainly not anything better.
Though he occasionally chose to walk among them, even the High Lords didn’t presume to assign En Sabah Nur a role among their “eternal puzzle.” Apocalypse, the true High Lord ascendant, seemingly surpassed their coven entirely with his claim on alien technology, personal bloodline cults and survivalist dogma. So, while the High Lords often came together for mutual gain, they just as often policed each other for going too far and risking undue attention from “the Eternal One.” On one occasion, Candra’s pawns known as the Thieves Guild sought information regarding the Old Kingdom from the personal scribe of Apocalypse known as Ozymandias. This imposition on En Sabah Nur's business went too far, and the Externals manifested to personally chastise Candra and remove her from the situation. [Gambit (3rd series) #14]
[Note: Absalom’s self-presentation has always been a bit odd, given his beginnings. He speaks with a pretentious and worldly attitude while looking down on base “commoners,” when he himself was a low-born Wild West outlaw. Perhaps this was his attempt at moving on from his past. However, Gideon mentioned in X-Force (1st series) #10 that Absalom had been annoying him for centuries, when it hadn’t even been one century since Flynn ascended. Also, the above story from Gambit #14 showed Absalom as an ascendant External in 1891, but his ascension in X-Force (1st series) #37 took place in 1896.]
Roughly a hundred years would pass with Absalom as the youngest of the Externals. Eventually, however, the High Lords sensed the existence of a new member of their kind. Gideon believed he identified the New Mutant Roberto Dacosta as the nascent External and recruited him as an apprentice. There was egg on his face, then, when Dacosta’s former teammate Sam Guthrie was apparently revealed as the real High Lord after his ascension. Gideon was forced to answer to the other High Lords for his mistake in choosing Sunspot over Cannonball, and Absalom was particularly grating as he held Gideon responsible. [X-Force (1st series) #10]
Not just the next High Lord, Sam Guthrie’s existence came to mean even more to the Externals with the outbreak of the Legacy virus. Burke and Nicodemus both fell victim to the plague, which targeted only mutants, and their deaths alarmed the other High Lords, who believed they were immune to such things. Before his death, the precognitive Burke foretold that Sam Guthrie was the key to the future of the Externals, and the solution for the Legacy virus would arise from him or someone very close to him. The Externals tried and failed to recruit Cannonball to their cause with intimidation and violence, and were forced to consider other tactics for the future. [X-Force (1st series) #21-23]
Absalom, Saul and Gideon made a peaceful visit to Sam Guthrie on his family farm, in order to open up to him about their lives as Externals and what they expected from him. Each shared a tale from their past and how it shaped their future. Absalom had also contracted the Legacy virus, but he had an attitude about Burke’s predictions that this common-bred child would somehow cure him. Guthrie had no answers for the Externals, only some basic wisdom that life always matters more when it can end. Absalom’s fear and despair led him to lash out, not at his death, but at the emptiness of his life. In the end, he wanted only to know that someone would mourn his passing. With sincere earnestness, Sam Guthrie claimed he would. Absalom experienced one of the power flare-ups common to the Legacy virus but, to the surprise of him and Gideon, Absalom had enough will to live that he survived what might have been his final moments. The Externals took this as a sign that Guthrie’s words carried wisdom for them, and they departed as they came, in peace. [X-Force (1st series) #36-37]
In time, it wasn’t the Legacy virus which ended the Externals, but one of their own. Selene had been badly depleted by one of her enemies and needed a means of restoring herself to power. She chose to attempt what no other External in recorded history had done and claim the power of the High Lords for herself. Selene attacked Gideon at his penthouse near Rockefeller Center, quickly consuming the heart energies of him and Saul. Gideon had reached out to Sunspot and X-Force before his death, but they arrived just in time to be blamed for his murder. Absalom and Crule found Dacosta with Gideon’s corpse and acted impulsively, attacking Sunspot and his teammates. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late. Selene lunged upon Absalom and drained away his lifeforce, taking Crule as well soon after. [X-Force (1st series) #53-54]
Candra long ago tried to circumvent the rules of the Externals by transferring her heart energy into a cameo gem, removing it from the energetic loop that guided External energies. This gem was destroyed independently of Selene’s killing spree, depriving her of Candra’s power. [Excalibur (4th series) #11, X-Men (2nd series) #60-61] As a result, Selene did not fully complete her High Lord ascension, and so Absalom and the Externals slowly regenerated and re-entered the world, even the Legacy victims Burke and Nicodemus. Gideon took the long way around, for his body was specially preserved by his A.I. assistants and awoke thousands of years in the future. This significantly older Gideon traveled back in time to take revenge on Selene and complete the ascension cycle himself. Absalom and Burke had grown tired of their existence, and they were willing to help Gideon eliminate the Externals so they could finally rest in peace.
Gideon’s first victim was the resurrected Candra, alerting the other Externals to his goals. Absalom joined Selene, Crule and Nicodemus in searching for the murderer, though his true goal was to undermine their efforts. Cable detected Gideon’s movement through time, and Absalom was fortunate that the Askani’son and his mutant allies got involved in the investigation, distracting Selene. By this point, Apocalypse was lost to the world and Cannonball’s status as an External had been disproven. Gideon attacked and killed Saul and Burke (the latter without a fight), leaving only Selene’s band of Externals still alive.
Gideon was now strong enough to confront Selene openly. Absalom revealed his true intentions and cut down Nicodemus and Crule while Gideon focused his attention on Selene. Her pet teleporter Blink whisked her away, however, leaving Gideon to consume the hearts of the two fallen. Absalom whined about Gideon fulfilling his promise to kill him, but doing so at this point would only make Selene more powerful through their linked energies. Gideon wanted to save his willing victim for last and ordered Absalom to continue helping him. They found Selene seeking allies with Cable and his band. Cable used a killshot to take Absalom out of the fight early, and the High Lord regenerated later only to find Gideon already dead, decapitated by one of Blink’s teleportation portals before he could kill Selene. Gideon and the suicidal Absalom were taken into custody before they could cause further harm. [Cable (1st series) #150-154]
Once again time passed, and the High Lords returned to life before the mutant nation of Krakoa arose. Apocalypse used their link to summon the Externals to a volcanic crater on the island dubbed the Eternal Caldera. Through his grimoire studies, Apocalypse believed the elevated life essences of the Externals could be used to fashion a unique Krakoan teleport gate which reached the extra-dimensional space of Otherworld. He hoped this greater glory for mutantkind would convince the Externals to sacrifice themselves for his ritual. Absalom’s fickle self-interest now vacillated the other way, though, and he wished to go on living. Only Gideon and Selene stood with En Sabah Nur, as he and his acolyte Rictor faced off against Absalom and the others: Saul, Candra, Nicodemus and Crule.
Rictor’s geomorphic powers made the volcano a one-sided battleground, and a wave of magma quickly consumed four of the Externals. Absalom was heavily wounded but alive, and Apocalypse compelled him to take part in the ritual that followed. Four Externals oversaw the harvesting of life energies from the four dead, and Apocalypse’s gate was eventually forged as he wished it. Absalom lived, only to remain a pawn for another day. Unable to commit to life or death given both options, Absalom continues to be a man without convictions who lives an eternal life without finding anything worth living for.
Pity him. [Excalibur (4th series) #12]