Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #18

Issue Date: 
December 2006
Story Title: 

Joss Whedon (writer), John Cassaday (artist), Laura Martin (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Sean Ryan (assistant editor), Nick Lowe (associate editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Having just shot the White Queen, Scott Summers is attacked by Cassandra Nova. However, prepared for her, he shoots her as well with a smile. Elsewhere, Blindfold is confronted by the feral Beast, but she has been instructed on how to handle him, per a plan put into motion months before by Cyclops and the Beast himself: a ball of yarn. Elsewhere in the Institute, Danger and Ord of the Breakworld are met by both Hisako and a mentally-recovered Wolverine. Though both manage to hold their own, it is the mentally recovered Beast who defeats the two with a device he had constructed to use against Magneto. Moving down to seek out Scott, the trio meet up with Scott, Piotr & Hisako – as well as Kitty and Emma, whom Scott ordered Kitty to rescue from her makeshift prison below the Institute’s foundation. To their surprise, Scott informs them that they are not really facing the Hellfire Club, but manifestations of Emma’s telepathy, caused by a telepathic suggestion by Cassandra when she was imprisoned so long ago. As the X-Men discuss this, they are unaware that the still-mentally controlled Emma is telepathically downloading Cassandra Nova’s consciousness into the unwilling Hisako. Just as the transfer is complete – and just as Ord and Danger press their attack – all of the players are transported aboard a SWORD spacecraft, which begins to rocket toward the Breakworld. Left behind, the prophetic Blindfold informs a fellow student that not all of the X-Men will return…

Full Summary: 

(the past)

Synapses fire, arcing through the darkness between two brains.

What have you done…, one voice tries to say. Reduced you to the status of a calculator, dear, the other voice mocks. Not oveeerrrr… Not yet…, the first manages. Allow mmmmee… to shhhhare… a thought…

(the present)

“So, honey,” Scott Summers says, crouching over the bleeding form of the White Queen, “you ready to talk about this?” Coming up from behind the X-Man, Cassandra Nova reaches out her hand and grasps Cyclops’ hair, telling him it’s pointless. Hardly worried, Cyclops grabs Cassandra’s outstretched hands and twists until he brings the pistol in his right hand under her chin. “Can’t mess with my head, lady,” he tells her. “I already lost it.” With this, he pulls the trigger with a grin.

His grin now gone, Cyclops is looking down at the corpse of Cassandra Nova when the telepathic voice of Blindfold contacts him. Apologizing, she informs him that someone is trying to get in. Is he, yes, all right? Speaking aloud, he replies that he still can’t access his powers, but otherwise he’s fine for now. She tells her to keep her defenses up in there. She will try, she says, but then adds that she might become distracted. When asked by what, Blindfold replies simply, “terror.” Hovering just in front of her is the snarling and salivating form of the Beast.

Speaking through her terror, Blindfold addresses the Beast by his salutation of Professor McCoy. She tells him that she cannot find his thoughts – she’s keeping close watch on Professor Summers. He has overestimated – excuse her – her abilities. As the Beast continues to bare his fangs, Blindfold asks him if he’s going to eat her. Unable to answer, but suddenly lacking interest, the Beast begins to move away. More confident, Blindfold tells her professor that she thinks he has eaten. Good. This is good. Except they’ll need, yes, a head count of the students later.

As the Beast begins to groom himself with his tongue, Blindfold tells him that, though he cannot understand her, she wants him to know that Professor Summers warned her that he might be reduced. Devolved. Gone. He told her that, if he she couldn’t reach him, she ought to give him this. Something the two of them talked about. What he might want – might have to do – just in case, he said. Holding out the object in question, Blindfold presents a metal box, labeled “Property of Hank McCoy. DO NOT TOUCH.” Opening it up, she presents to the Beast a ball of yarn…

Rather than opening to door, Ord of the Breakworld deigns to simply beak it off from he hinges to gain entry. Moving in behind, Danger tell Ord that she’s going to assume the Breakworld technology hasn’t gotten to doorknobs. Ignoring the jest, Ord simply bellows the question on his mind, “Where is he?” She told him, Danger replies. Their computer is running games with her, and the psychic interference is… there’re multiple patterns. She’s sure he’s down there somewhere. To this, Ord asks Danger why she can’t just bring their computer to life. As she learned with the wild sentinel, she replies, that doesn’t insure compliance, which is, she supposes, as it should be. As Ord races down the hallway, Danger states again that he’s down there. She’ll have him in a moment. Or, she adds, as Ord breaks through another door, possibly he’ll hear then coming.

As he regains consciousness, Piotr Rasputin sees Cyclops firing a pistol nonchalantly into the stomach of Sebastian Shaw. Smiling slightly, Scott tells Piotr hello, then adds that he will not believe the day he’s having. Crawling to Kitty, Piotr calls out to her, but Scott tells him that she’s okay. He’s trying to get her to wake up. By shooting people? Piotr asks. Please, he asks Piotr. He’s an X-Man. He doesn’t shoot people. He’s just trying to make a point. In demonstration, Scott once again fires, this time hitting Ellie Phimister in the head.

A short distance away, Ord and Danger make note of the noise. Gunshots? Ord wonders. To this Danger asks, “Is that logi…” Her sentence is interrupted by Hisako, whose psionically generated armor grabs them each by the head, smashing them together violently. “Logical?” she demands, as she then follows her move by pushing both Ord and Danger’s head into the ground. “You come back here and you worry about logic?” she asks. Having already recovered, Ord grabs Hisako by her armored neck and holds her up against the wall.

Glancing to Danger, Ord tells her that he doesn’t remember this one. What can she… Ord’s musings come to an end when Hisako’s armored fist impacts with his nose. Looking on, Danger recalls that her power has something to do with armor…

Pressing her advantage, Hisako delivers a left hook to Ord, who spits blood. She asks if he recalls Wing; do the two of them remember her best friend? As Ord recovers, hurling her backwards with an uppercut, Danger tells her that she respects her grief. She also knows she can only maintain that armor or so long. And neither of them has an issue with killing her. This was ill-planned. “Yeah,” Hisako replies. “She’s the idiot. Half a moment later, Wolverine’s adamantium claws slice Danger’s neck, decapitating her in one stroke.

Still in motion, Wolverine backflips, hurling Danger’s head toward Ord’s own in one motion. Back to Danger & Ord’s position a moment later, Wolverine impales both sets of claws into each. Now this feels better, he tells them.

Waking with a start, Kitty cries out NO!!. Moving to her, Piotr tells Kitty that it’s all right. They… Recoiling from him, Kitty yells for him not to touch her. He tries to touch her after what he let them do to their… their son…? Looking on to where Michael was before, Kitty sees what she really freed, the green pile of goo.

It’s not her son, Scott tells her. She was tricked. Whatever she thinks… that green blob will destroy everything, unless she can help. She’s got to find her, he tells he scowling Kitty. She’s got to save Emma.

Though Hisako pulls a mass of wires out of her decapitated neck, Danger manages to still speak, informing the young mutant that he thinks she’s missing the point. Anything she can remove, Danger can reroute or reassimilate. Continuing to pull out wires, even as they begin to wrap around her neck, Hisako rejoins that Danger’s metal can’t breach her armor. She’s already factored that, Danger replies as she reattaches her neck. A moment later, Danger hurls Hisako across the room toward the combating Wolverine and Ord. Unfortunately, at the moment of impact, Wolverine’s arm, as well as his claws, is extended, which easily piece Hisako’s armor. Realizing his error as she screams in pain, Wolverine places her on the floor, even as he delivers a kick to Ord’s midsection. Adamantium, Danger notes, referring to her conversation with Hisako, is not like other metals.

Yes, a new voice replies, as Ord and Danger are suddenly hurled to the ceiling. It is the Beast, once again attired in the suit and bowtie of a professor and wearing spectacles. In his hands he holds a hi-tech device, shaped in the form of a pistol. He’s factored that, the Beast tells them, harkening back to Danger’s own words. As Ord snarls in rage, McCoy explains that there’s a master of magnetism who blows in and out o there, now and again. Manner of all trouble. So, he’s been tinkering.

Turning to Logan, McCoy asks how Hisako is. When he replies that it’s not too bad, she objects, remarking that it’s bad for her… Ignoring her, Logan turns to the Beast and simply asks him, “How?” It’s technical… Hank replies. But “big magnet” covers a lot of it. No one made of metal or wearing way too much of it is going anywhere for awhile. No, Logan replies. Him Lowering his head in nigh shame, Hank replies simply. “Ball of string.”

Pulling a first aid kit out of a drawer, Hank explains further. Synthetic fiber, laced with pheromones, aerosol, smart-drugs, light sequences… like opening a series of doors, each smell, each sequence… The Professor and he worked on it after Nova’s first attack. Under hypnosis, he associated his most complex brain functions with these key… Having heard enough, Logan interrupts, saying that he’s got it. “Class dismissed.” As they then begin to patch Hisako’s back, Hank asks Logan what about him. When he says he had a beer, Hank replies that it’s the same principle.

When Hisako yelps at the two’s work, Logan tells her to quit whining. He got eaten today. Hank begins to apologize for that, but Logan tells him to forget it. When this does not reassure his teammate, Logan replies that that’s what friends are for. He’s fairly certain it’s not, Hank quips. Having finished, as he helps Hisako back up, Logan then adds at least he didn’t turn into Percy Dovetonsils.

Returning to the subject of their incapacitated foes, Logan asks how long that magnet is going to hold them. Considering them for a moment, Hank asks if he is not sure they are with Nova. He doesn’t know who’s with what around there, Logan replies. He thinks the Hellfire Club’s in it – saw Emma zombify Kitty and send her down there. They were following.

Not Emma, Hank replies matter-of-fact. Old school look and everything, Logan then adds. Don’t know what’s down there… “I do,” Hank says simply, narrowing his eyes.

In the eddy, far below the Institute, Emma Frost lies on her back, her eyes closed as she breathes the little bit of oxygen the space provides. Whether awake or asleep, her mind races. Same nightmare fifty times last night. Do you like diamonds. When I think about evil. But you do play games with me. Don’t have any claws. With all my predator’s heart.

“Death. How common.”

Suddenly, the pitch black of the crevice is ended, with blinding light. Opening her eyes, Emma sees a radiant angel, with long blond hair and wings. “Noo… not for me… I belong… below…

The angel, in fact Kitty Pryde, reaches out for Emma. As she does so reluctantly, Kitty calls her a bitch and tells her to cry her a river. They’re going up.

A short while later, the X-Men are gathered, with the green blob sitting off to their side. Explaining their situation, Cyclops informs the group that there is no Hellfire Club. Emma, however, sees a different reality. She is alone in the dark with the green blob… and Cassandra Nova, who squats nearby. They’re ready, dear, Cassandra tells her.

Still stuck to the ceiling, Danger declares her status: Constructing auxiliary self, estimate seven minutes to reroute.

Cassandra Nova, the Beast tells the others. Shaw, Piotr replies. She doesn’t know, Kitty states. A kid. Taking this in, Scott asks the group if any of them saw more than one of them at a time.

Forget Pryde, Cassandra tells Emma, back in their separate world. She’s too resistant. She needs her consciousness out of that slug now. And she’s taken a new fancy.

Attacked, Scott tells them. All separately. All psychically. Shaw’s attack was not psychic, Piotr counters. He couldn’t move, Scott tells Pete, but he was conscious in that lab. Shaw was never there. Piotr was fighting no one.

Ahhh… that consciousness is like an oyster, Cassandra smiles…

In the real world, the X-Men do not notice Hisako’s blank stare, nor the minute trickle of blood which dribbles from her nose…

He’s been “shooting” her manifestations, Scott explains to the team. She can’t maintain them. They fade. When asked what the difference is if Emma’s a one-man band, Scott replies that she isn’t.

Back in the room which currently serves as prison to Ord and Danger, a new Danger simulacra enters the room. Right, she states. Let’s get the rest of that armor off you she tells Ord.

Using her telepathy, Emma projects Scott’s “bug room.” She explains that it is Scott’s little private hell, courtesy of Cassandra Nova. Hers is much more upscale – they should come find her some time. Of course, the Beast realizes. It was Emma who stuck Cassandra Nova’s consciousness into that blob in the first place. Understanding what this means, Logan realizes that, at that moment, Cassandra did a “Hail Mary pass” into Emma’s brain before she faded… One tiny suggestion, Scott continues. Too small to notice but clamped on to Emma’s greatest weakness, feeding, growing… creating an entire reality for Emma.

When the Beast asks what that weakness is, Scott answers: “Guilt.” Guilt about falling in with Shaw, becoming the White Queen, failing her students in Genosha… surviving. Survivor’s guilt is unbelievably powerful, Scott continues. The randomness of who lives, the responsibility towards those who didn’t… there’s a voice in her telling her she’s evil, that even Genosha was all her fault. And she thinks that voice is hers.

“NO!” Kitty yells, as she grabs the gun from Scott and points it to Emma. “Three years!” Kitty shouts Three years of horror this maniac stuck in her head and he’s giving her an insanity plea?

In her separate world, Cassandra watches as Emma continues the transfer of consciousness from the green blob to Hisako. Try to concentrate, dear, Cassandra tells her. Time is becoming a factor.

Holding the gun to Emma’s head – even though Emma does not respond to the threat – Kitty asks the others if any of them care about what she did to them. Following Scott’s logic, Hank answers, what Emma did was confront them with their worst fears, …which they face. And there they stand.

Moving to Kitty’s side, Scott tells her that he lost his powers. He means, he’s not “cured,” but he can’t even begin to access it. Emma broke him right down, and he’s… He’s seeing really clearly.

My prison, open at last, Cassandra silently cheers. Now, gently…

Yeah, Kitty grimaces. See, she didn’t get the self-help seminar. Emma ripped her heart out. Of course she did, Scott replies. So she’d open a box. That’s why she brought her there… all this time… Cassandra brought her to open the box, he corrects. What Emma brought her there to do… is what she’s doing now. Still holding the gun at Emma’s head, Kitty considers Scott’s words.

The transfer complete, Cassandra floats in her full glory in the shattered mind of Emma Frost. Her body is surrounded by the psionic energy of the mummudrai. “Do it now,” she orders Emma.

Having been swayed, Kitty has handed Piotr the pistol and pushes her away as she exits the room. Squatting down next to the catatonic Emma, Scott tells her that, if she can hear him, she should hear this: She can send Cassandra back. She has a choice.

“Go to hell,” she replies.

A moment later, the reconstituted Danger and an enraged Ord leap into the room.

High above the Institute, Special Agent Brand gives the order: “Round ‘em up.” From the spacecraft, a blinding light is projected down into the Institute, enveloping the X-Men and their foes. When the light subsides, the X-Men, Ord and Danger are gone. In the cockpit, Agent Deems reports that they are all aboard. So informed, Agent Brand orders Deems to strap ‘em in. “All engines to rapid. Set course for the Breakworld.”

As the craft rockets into orbit and beyond, Blindfold sits on the ground with her arms wrapped around her legs. Gone, she says. It’s okay, another student tells her. They’re gonna be okay. Were they all asleep? Ignoring his question, Blindfold tells him that they’ve gone away. Far. “The X-Men?” he asks. “They’ll be back.”

Not all of them, she replies.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Colossus, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Shadowcat, Wolverine

Blindfold, Hisako Ichiki (Xavier Institute students)

Cassandra Nova

Perfection/White Queen, Ellie Phimister, Sebastian Shaw (Hellfire Club - illusions)

Special Agent Brant, Agent Deems, Sydren (all SWORD)

SWORD agents

Ord of theBreakworld



Colossus, Cyclops (both X-Men)

Story Notes: 

Wing was indirectly killed by Danger in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #7 from a fall, after having her powers forcibly removed by Ord in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #4.

While feral, the Beast took a bite out of Wolverine’s leg in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #16.

Percy Doventonsils was a character played by television personality Ernie Kovacs. Originating in 1950s television, the character was an effeminate poet who read his own poetry, which was invariably bad. His mannerisms would be considered by today’s audience to be stereotypical.

The Beast is aware of Cassandra Nova’s prison in the box, presumably because he put her there after her incarceration in New X-Men (1st series) #126. However, while this scene does not seem to mesh with the “Ernst is Cassandra Nova” theory, as evident by clues then-writer Grant Morrison laid out, it also incongruent with Cyclops and Beast’s panic at Cassandra being evidently missing after the destruction of the mansion. [New X-Men (1st series) #155] While it is possible that they located her containment capsule later, off panel, it is also possible that there are more unexplained connections between the incarceration of Cassandra Nova and the appearance of Ernst.

While in her small cave, Emma’s thoughts drift to conversations of the past:

“Same nightmare fifty times last night,” spoke by Ellie Phimister to Emma in New X-Men (1st series) #115.

“Do you like diamonds,” by Cassandra Nova to Emma in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #13.

“When I think about evil,” by Kitty Pryde to Emma in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #2.

“But you do play games with me,” by Emma to Scott in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #14.

“Don’t have any claws,” by Emma to Scott in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #14.

“With all my predator’s heart,” by Emma to Scott in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #13.

Emma stuck Cassandra Nova’s consciousness into the artificial form of Stuff in New X-Men (1st series) #126.

A Hail Mary pass is a play in American football, whereupon a team with few options tries to make a forward pass, though there is little hope of success.

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