Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #20

Issue Date: 
February 2007
Story Title: 

Joss Whedon (writer), John Cassaday (artist), Laura Martin (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Sean Ryan (assistant editor), Nick Lowe & Andy Schmidt (associate editors), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

On flames, the SWORD starship is in its death throws. As a result, Agent Brand orders the launch of the Splinter, a smaller vessel which erupts from the larger one and darts toward the Breakworld at a faster velocity. However, though manned by all of the crew, save Agent Brand and the X-Men, the vessel is just a diversion to draw the attention of the Breakworld Bruteships, which do indeed give chase. By the time they have made preparations, including a short briefing, the Brand and the X-Men are about to be attacked once again by Breakworld ships. However, this time Brand orders the ship’s destruction, which sunders the vessel in two. The two sections actually serve as lifeboats for Brand and the X-Men, who have split into two groups. One group, composed of Cyclops, Emma, Brand and the Beast arrive on the planet’s surface fairly unscathed. However, the other section impacts a satellite and begins to break apart. Kitty and Colossus survive by relying on Kitty’s phasing power until the strain becomes too great, then relying on Colossus’ invulnerability to survive. Meanwhile, Wolverine makes use of Hisako’s psionic exo-armor to help her survive reentry, though he himself is badly burned by the friction. As he heals, Hisako has a brief bout of panic at their situation, but Wolverine appeals to her sense of responsibility and duty. In this spirit, she heartens, as well as chooses her codename: Armor. Meanwhile, Powerlord Kruun, absolute ruler of the Breakworld, coordinates the planet’s response, specifically considering the prophecy relating to Colossus destroying their world. As he orders his men to interrogate the SWORD agents that have been captured, he decides to personally question the “synthetic” entity called Danger. Elsewhere, Cyclops’ team arrives at their destination, the recently excavated tomb called Attur-Hei. Therein, they discover an immense mosaic impossibly old. It depicts Colossus’ sun in one hand, maniacally destroying the Breakworld, which he holds in the other.

Full Summary: 

Pursued by the warships of the Breakworld, the SWORD spaceship erupts in fiery death.

Within the vessel, Agent Deems speaks to his supervisor, Agent Brand, head of SWORD. He informs her Splinter is up for thrust – her command. Asked by her time to the Breakworld, he replies fourteen minutes to clean orbit. Then asked time until the ship is shredded, he replies a lot less. The odds given, the X-Men, scattered through the vessel, are told to hang on tight.

Suddenly, two engines ignite with bright, blue fury. Seconds tick by for the X-Men, who wait for what comes next. The center of their attention remains to be Agent Brand, who speaks through a visage belying none of her inner thoughts. “Let ‘er rip,” she commands. A moment later, a smaller craft bursts free of the larger SWORD starship, propelled by two engines of bright, blue fury. Recognizing the gambit, the warships of the Breakworld break formation in pursuit.

Speaking of the new craft, Brand explains that it possesses an unbreachable hull, precise maneuverability, enough power to short range to outrun anyone. Finally with a smile, she then adds, “prettiest ship in the fleet.” Leaning over her shoulder, the Beast remarks that, not to be picky but, if this Splinter is such a wonderful ship… shouldn’t they be on it? Still within the greater SWORD starship, Brand and the X-Men watch as the Breakdown ships disappear, even as their own vessel destructs around them.

Turning away from the immense window, Brand remarks that there’s no way that thing lands undetected. Best those men can hope for is capture. Asked by Logan if she told them that, she replies that they’re soldiers. They bought them a few minutes, as ordered. Continuing out of the room and down the corridor, she suggests they not waste them.

Shortly in the briefing room, Agent Brand sees the X-Men in their full uniforms, noting that they got their sizes right. She then draws the team’s attention to small objects, which she explains are breathers. They go behind their teeth. They’ll filter out impurities, and the capsules will time-release supplementary oxygen. The earwigs work as translators.

As they begin to pull out a small map from their individual briefing pouches, Brand explains that they’ll rendezvous at the glowing red dot. The GPS maps’ll guide them, but if they lose ‘em, they’re looking to Attur-Hei. “Palace of the Corpse?” the Beast asks. When Brand notes that the translators are working, Beast compliments them as impressive, but then reiterates. Palace of the Corpse?

It’s a tomb, she explains. Got dug up recently. Their source on the Breakworld says it might tie in to the Rasputin prophecy. When Cyclops inquires about the “source,” Brands counters that they can’t do all this now. They get on the world, they find out how Rasputin’s supposed to be a threat and take out the missile they’ve got pointed at the Earth. More questions when they’re on-world. Almost ignoring the briefing, Hisako tugs at the costume given her, noting quietly to herself that Ms. Pryde has very long arms…

Speaking bluntly, Piotr narrows his eyes and asks Brand why hasn’t she killed him? Brand begins to reiterate their time, but Piotr is resolute. It’s the simplest solution. He believes she is a fan of those. Kitty starts to object, but Brand answers. Checking her pistol, she replies that she doesn’t like prophecies. She doesn’t like anybody telling her how her life’s gonna play out. These “Augurs” have a pretty good track record, though. The Breakworlders believe he’ll destroy them. They think the Earth’s a threat, and they are therefore a threat to the Earth. So they convince them the prophecy is wrong… or they make damn sure it comes true.

As the X-Men consider this, Agent Deems reenters the chamber, again with bad news. Two Bruteships are circling back, he informs them. Less than a minute. Flotsam and jetsam, Brand says. Split ‘em up.

As the Bruteship approaches, the SWORD vessel explodes into two sections. The force of the blast propels the front section forward at high speed. Within this section, Kitty, Deems, Piort, Hisako and Wolverine suffer through the intense vibrations of the uncontrolled velocity. On the other section, the back-end, Cyclops, Emma, Brand and Beast are likewise shaken. Speaking through the chaos, the Beast inquisitively yet innocently asks Brand which of them is “Flotsam?”

Aboard the bridge of one of the Bruteships, a bridge officer informs their commander that they’re still reading life-forms. To this, the commander orders his subordinates to belay the killstrike. Prepare to board.

In short order, the gravity of the Breakworld pulls down the two pieces of the SWORD vessel, twin columns of smoke trailing behind them. In the former front section, Wolverine notes that Hisako’s out and asks Kitty how she’s doing. Grimacing from the experience, she replies, “Walk in the park.” In his armored form, Colossus says that he worries about the others…

In the other section, the four in sit in a mentally constructed sitting room, drinking hot tea. Taking a sip from his cup, the Beast tells Emma that it was very thoughtful of her. As Cyclops prepares her cup, Emma replies that, good Lord, why should they endure all that centrifugal nonsense? She then tells her “dear” to include two lumps of sugar. Continuing, she then tells Hank that they can all “live in the now” once they’re on solid ground.

Handing the cup to her, Cyclops remarks that he just wants to make sure she’s not overdoing it. Also, if they start to die, they should probably know. To this, Brand replies that they don’t die. Proximity sensors’ll hit the jets miles before they land. Nav package is tiny but it should drop them within a ten-click radius of the target. First thing they learn on an op: always have a back door.

Some distance away, the falling nose section impacts with a Breakworld satellite, sundering it in twain. The section itself also begins to give way from the impact, cracking open at its seems. Seeing the fiery Hell beyond, Wolverine yells for Kitty to get Peter. She begins to object, but he ignores. PHASE! he orders through the chaos. Half a moment later, Kitty Pryde emerges from the fireball that is the remnant of their section of the SWORD vessel, carrying the armored Colossus behind her. As they free fall, she yells that she can’t slow them down. Colossus’ most immediate concern is more apparent, as he yells back for her not to unphase!

Back in what remains of the section, Wolverine unsheathes his claws and breaks free from his reentry restraints, yelling for Hisako to wake up. When she doesn’t comply, he then curses, saying her name again. Behind him there is no longer the remains of any craft, but an empty, red sky. Finally, as his claws cut her free, Hisako awakens to Wolverine’s adamant order. ARMOR UP!

Far below, Kitty and Piotr phase through a skyscraper at terminal velocity. Though unaffected in the strict physical sense, Kitty immediately recognizes the metal as being the same from Ord’s ship, which caused her so much trouble months before. As then, the strain is too much and she loses consciousness.

The rest of the job up to him, Colossus twists his body, taking the full brunt of the impact as they ricochet off of another building and then impact through another, this time making it all the way through. The two finally come to a stop on the street level, at the center of an impact crater they have created. Barely conscious, as a host of citizens of the Breakworld, some armed & uniformed, approach them, Kitty exhaustedly asks Piotr if anyone saw them…

Elsewhere, Emma stares off, announcing to the rest of the team that she can’t read a thing. If they made it, they’re nowhere near. They’ll give them time, Cyclops replies, the next of the foursome to escape their section of the vessel, now sinking in pinkish waters. Right behind him, the Beast tells Brand, the last of their number, that if anything’s happened to them… He’ll what? Brand replies. Eat her? In fact, he will, he replies. Continuing their climb, the Beast points out the new math to her. She’s outnumbered. And not well liked. And recently, he’s acquired a taste for human flesh, he admits with some embarrassment.

Telling the two of them to stop bickering, Cyclops gestures from the top of the ridge to the structure below. They’ve found their tomb. Far below is a conical stone structure, with at least five visible causeways leading up at a steep, though not insurmountable incline. The structure seems to be rising from a quarried depth, giving the impression of having been excavated. At the base of the structure at some of the ramps are several vehicles and at least one tent. Citizens of the Breakworld can be seen by the group.

Floating on a regal-looking skiff, a short distance above the sparse traffic below, Kruun of the Open Hand asks for confirmation from his subordinate. He sank into the Earth? That was as reported, yes, he is told. As the skiff then enters a tunnel structure, he continues. He fell from the sky holding a human girl. People gathered to see and, moments later, they sank right into the Earth. When Kruun then asks if they were certain that this was Colossus, the subordinate answers that the people were. They panicked and it spread. They believe he’s gone into the earth to infect it. That the prophecy has begun.

And for all they know, they could be right, Kruun grimaces. It doesn’t fit exactly, but this is not an exact science. They could have misinterpreted the Attur-Hyn. He suggests they hope the prisoners have something useful to say.

Having arrived at their destination, Kruun and his subordinate exit the skiff and enter a chamber, passing two guards in the process. Within the chamber is Ord, former ambassador now turned prisoner. His arms are shackled and elevated to above his head, even as he is made to sit on his knees. Without even having been asked, he proclaims that it’s the girl. This is her power: to move through solid objects. Colossus will be somewhere above ground. He can be stopped.

But not by him, Kruun accuses. He then tells Ord not to doubt it. He draws breath only as long as he might be of use. Turning to his subordinate, now calling him by his name of Sylatin, Kruun asks of the other captives they have. To this, Sylatin answers several soldiers from the wreck of their ship. Mostly human. One synthetic, who claims she was helping Ord. Mocking this, Kruun proclaims that Ord needed help even to fail.

Leaving the chamber, Kruun asks Sylatin of the smaller vessel. Did their hunters find it? When Sylatin reports that a force is minutes away, Kruun dismisses it as no doubt a diversion. However, he wants the soldiers captured anyway. All information is valuable, so he should only kill the necessary examples. Passing the chamber holding Agent deems, Kruun announces he’ll talk with the synthetic and orders Sylatin to start breaking the others.

Elsewhere, soldiers of the Breakworld converge on the downed Splinter vessel, which has crashed in a landscape far more alien than that of those who built it. Speaking to his men, the squad commander orders them to find the entrance. They are to fire on anything that comes out, but remember they need prisoners. Nearby, one soldier calls to his commander, having already found that which they seek. Cautiously, as they open the door, the commander instructs his men. “On my mark.” An instant later, the Splinter explodes, annihilating itself and those who sought to gain entry.

Within sight, Sydren hisses to his fellow SWORD agents that the Breakworld soldiers are no terrible sssmart. First good news he’s had all day, the man rejoins. Asked by Sydren what is next, the man replies that they remove to Site B, outside the city. They’ll wait for an order and hope someone’s alive to give it. Turning to Lockheed, the commander tells Sydren that, if he can think at this little guy and get him to fly recon…

Before he can finish his sentence, the commander watches as Lockheed takes off into the purplish sky. When the commander guesses aloud that he understood, Sydren reminds him that he is bonded with the X-girl. He will do what it takesss to protect her. “Yeah?” the commander replies. He’s the psychic. To a grunt’s eye, it looks like he’s workin’ awful hard to avoid her.

Elsewhere, Hisako sheepishly speaks the name of Logan, who sits cross-legged with his back to her. His charred skin smolders in the air. Remaining facing the other direction, he tells the youth that she’s not ready to see him. To this, she replies that she doesn’t think they should be staying in one place. They’re not far enough from the crash to be sure…

Interrupting her, Logan tells her that that armor’s pretty damn impressive. Hit the ground without a scratch. Can’t say the same for his face. Another half-hour, he should have something resembling a nose, and some tendons. Then they move.

Almost apropos of nothing, Hisako muses aloud that she has a test on Wednesday. She’s not an X-Man. She shouldn’t… she means she can’t… She has a chemistry test. When Logan then orders her to take off the suit, she rejoins that that’s not really an option. Resolute, he rhetorically asks if she wants to cry on his bubbling, skinless shoulder? She’s in that suit ‘cause she’s an X-Man. She’s an X-Man ‘cause he’s seen her fight and he wants her on the team. But if he’s wrong, if she’s just a whining teenager who’s gonna freak out on a hostile, alien planet and cost him time, then she needs to lose the suit and go die. “We got worlds to save.”

Considering his words for a moment, Hisako eventually replies. “Armor,” she states. Repeating the name inquisitively, she asks if it’s taken. He doesn’t think so. It’ll work for a name. Kinda on the nose. When she replies that it’s to the point, he agrees. He’s thinking of calling himself “claws.” To this, Hisako asks if he’s not considering “stench?” In reply, he jokingly tells her to shut up and let him heal.

Turning to leave the ruins in which they currently reside, Hisako proposes a deal: If he does one day without stabbing her, he gets to chose her name. She’s gonna check the street.

On another street some distance away, Shadowcat and Colossus make their way through a squad of Breakworld soldiers. Colossus’ strength tosses on up to the arched bridge above, while holding another by the neck. Nearby, Kitty relies instead on her martial arts, striking one with a kick, while punching another. As Colossus then finishes off the last, Kitty leaps up, phasing through the bridge to investigate the topside. Returning, via phasing again, she is relieved that nobody apparently heard – though takes another moment to lament the effect the physicality of the world has on her phasing. What is this world made of?

Approaching Piotr, who has now returned to his human form, she taps him on the shoulder. They have to keep moving, she tells him. “To what?” he asks. To the tomb, she answers. The Attur-Hei place. See what they dug up… And then? he asks. Regroup, making plan, commit genocide, go home?

Replying negatively, Kitty tells him that they’re not falling for that. Those people read the future, he reminds her, as they continue on their way. They see him destroying them and the agent, Brand, she as much as tells him to. Stopping him for a moment, Kitty says that the day they take orders from her is… He was millions of miles away, he reminds her. And Dead. Now? They will find another way, she counters. There’s no set future. She knows that as well as anyone. Just because they say he’s a danger to this world… doesn’t mean it’s written in stone.

Elsewhere, within the temple, Cyclops, Emma, the Beast and Agent Brand have incapacitated the guards and gaze upon that which they were protecting. Before them, towering to the ceiling far above, is the image of Colossus. Appearing in his armored form, this Colossus is visibly angry and, holding the local sun aloft in his right hand, brings the heat of the star upon the Breakworld, which he holds in his right, melting it. The image is composed of dozens of separate pieces, all arranged in a colorful mosaic, each piece carved in stone.

Characters Involved: 

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

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


Ambassador Ord of the Breakworld
Powerlord Kruun of the Open Hand

Bruteship commander and crew
Soldiers of the Breakworld
Citizens of the Breakworld

(on stone mosaic)

Story Notes: 

Though technically untitled, no doubt this is to be “Unstoppable pt 2.”

The Beast developed “taste for human flesh” when he was rendered feral by Cassandra Nova and had eaten a chunk out of Wolverine’s leg. [Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #16]

Kitty had noticed that metal made from the Ord’s ship was composed of something that made phasing difficult in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #4.

The X-Men were informed of the Breakworld’s prophecy of Colossus’ part it in its destruction in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #6.

Ord of the Breakworld was rescued from his prison on the SWORD space station by Danger in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #16.

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