PRESTIGE: Page 9 of 10

Publication Date: 13th Jan 2022
Written By: Peter Luzifer, Monolith and Ruth.
Image Work: Peter Luzifer and Douglas Mangum.


The M-Pox crisis passed and Rachel was invited back to the X-Men by their new leader, Kitty Pryde. The X-Men took up residence in Central Park, rebranding the mansion as the Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach as they worked to defend humanity and reconnect with them on a personal level. At Kitty’s suggestion, Rachel abandoned her old codenames of Phoenix and Marvel Girl because of the baggage attached to them. Instead, she crafted a new identity of her own, calling herself “Prestige.” Prestige and the X-Men debuted battling Terrax, Herald of Galactus, and moved on to deal with a new branch of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Rachel encountered the psychic hypnotist Mesmero in a mental battle and defeated him, determining that Mesmero was swaying most if not all of the Brotherhood to act under his will. The X-Men learned an anti-mutant activist named Lydia Nance had orchestrated the Brotherhood’s terrorist acts to further her own agenda, though they were unable to prove it. [X-Men: Gold #1-3]

The X-Men’s next threat came from a new kind of nano-swarm accidentally integrated with Sentinel artificial intelligence. The self-evolving “Alpha” expanded upon existing Sentinel protocols and started classifying any form of genetic diversity (from cancer to color blindness) as mutants needing extermination. Alpha’s evolution made it sentient enough to be vulnerable to Prestige’s telepathic powers, but her first strike rendered her unconscious in the feedback and Alpha survived, evolving defenses from each prior attack. While recovering, Rachel confronted several aspects of her subconscious (including her past with the Phoenix and the Hounds) which indicated she was holding back from her true potential for fear of misusing her powers. Prestige accepted what she needed to do, and willed her powers to expand beyond her self-imposed limitations, allowing her to fully disperse Alpha with a second telepathic assault. [X-Men: Gold #4-6]

Among Prestige’s expanded telepathic senses was a read on Nightcrawler’s thoughts as he sat by her bedside. Recognizing that Kurt was attracted to her as more than a friend, Rachel took the initiative and kissed him first, throwing him for a loop. Rachel had almost changed her mind before Kurt recovered his composure and asked her out to dinner. They had a wonderful time getting to know each other in a new way, and agreed to move forward with the relationship. [X-Men: Gold #7-9]

The consequences of her expanded powers started to affect Prestige’s performance, however. While her “vision quest” initially had a version of her Hound self giving herself permission to let go of her reservations about using her powers, Rachel continued to have flashes of her future as a Hound. When Mojo attacked New York and put the X-Men into a virtual scenario based on Rachel’s future, she was forced to come clean about her flashes to Kitty (and, accidentally, to Kurt as well). [X-Men: Gold #13] When a warship from the Negative Zone attacked the X-Mansion, Prestige was struck by the ship’s weapons and blasted back into a coma for several days. As she recovered, her Hound scars hauntingly resurfaced on her skin. [X-Men: Gold #16-18]

Rachel seemed to take all this in stride. After emerging from her coma, she immediately designed a new Prestige costume that evoked her Hound heritage, and went right out to test herself in the Danger Room without talking to anyone first. Kurt expressed how concerned he was for Rachel, but she felt more alive than ever before with her powers expanding as they were. Despite Kitty’s concerns, she let Rachel back on the active roster when they were summoned to defend Lydia Nance and the Heritage Initiative from Mesmero and a reformed Brotherhood. Even with her increased confidence, Prestige found she had a harder time with Mesmero than previously. It was as if he could sense how her mind had expanded, and knew how to target it. As Rachel struggled to disable Mesmero this time, he hypnotized the X-Men into believing an arriving SWAT team were more Brotherhood members, framing them for attacking the authorities. [X-Men: Gold #21-22]

The X-Men spent several days imprisoned at the Box while Jennifer Walters worked towards their release. Prestige’s flashes of her Hound future were only growing stronger after her last battle with Mesmero. [X-Men: Gold #23-25] The team was eventually cleared of all charges and released, so they hunted down Mesmero for his part in their incarceration. Rachel helped pinpoint Mesmero in Santo Marco, but by this point it was clear Mesmero now held the advantage in their psychic engagements. He quickly disabled Prestige’s mental defenses, only going down thanks to Rogue and Storm’s intervention. [X-Men: Gold #26]

Despite her defeat, Rachel was overwhelmingly convinced her expanding powers were a good thing, and denied any side effects or consequences. Kurt became worried for her, and asked Storm to speak with Rachel, but it did no good. Rachel was convinced she wasn’t her mother, and could wield further power without any problems.

The team was sidetracked when Colossus was kidnapped by Lydia Nance and Alpha, the Sentinel nano-swarm, just before his wedding. They hoped to sample the Legacy Virus and Rao’s Hope cure from his system to find a way to kill off all mutants. Kitty was desperate to find her fiancé, and ignored warning signs in Rachel’s behavior. Not only was Prestige’s telepathy more sensitive and able to be utilized over a greater distance, she was also more inclined to use it. When Nance threatened the mutant race with genocide, Rachel suggested using her telepathy to permanently modify Nance’s behavior. After detecting psi-shields protecting information in Nance’s mind, Prestige painfully blasted through them, torturing her prisoner in the process. Colossus was rescued and the genocide averted, but Rachel’s condition remained questionable at best. [X-Men: Gold #27-30]

The morning after the wedding, Rachel awoke to find Mesmero attacking Kurt in their hotel room. Or rather, her mental impression of the hypnotist. “Mesmero” revealed that he had been playing a long game with Rachel, subtly altering her mind with each of their encounters. His post-hypnotic suggestions had encouraged Rachel to expand her powers and reminded her of her past as a Hound more insistently as time passed. Every time Mesmero “lost” fighting Rachel psychically, he had actually been reshaping her mental architecture to better suit his plans. By this point, while Mesmero himself was incarcerated, his hypnotic implants on her personality could act independently and bring her completely under his sway.

With Mesmero in control, Rachel regressed back into her original Hound conditioning, perceiving Mesmero’s avatar as a human wrangler controlling her during her future. Under this delusion, Rachel was led into attacking the X-Men, perceiving them as escaping prisoners from the Sentinel pens. Her friends tried to reach her, but Kurt was unsuccessful in connecting with Rachel’s buried consciousness, and she struck him down. Eventually it was the young, time-displaced Cyclops who managed to connect with Rachel. He helped her confront her fears over going insane like her mother, and convinced Rachel she was strong enough not to. Prestige summoned her strength and cast off the hypnotic influence of Mesmero in her mind, expelling his avatar and her Hound scars at the same time. [X-Men: Gold #31-32]

Cecilia Reyes gave her a clean bill of health physically, and Rachel’s recently resurrected mother, the adult Jean Grey, cleared her psychically. Prestige insisted she was fine and still fit for duty with the X-Men’s field team. Privately, however, she felt the need to make changes and ended her relationship with Nightcrawler. Mesmero’s actions had left her doubting her own feelings, and Rachel needed space to reassess her life. Kurt had been preparing to propose before the Hound incident and was crushed, but he respected Rachel’s wishes. [X-Men: Gold #33-36] Prestige’s mind proved to be vulnerable to further intrusion during this period. She was taken over by Cassandra Nova and used as a pawn against Jean Grey shortly afterwards. [X-Men: Red Annual #1, #8-11]