Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #23

Issue Date: 
January 2008
Story Title: 

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

Brief Description: 

The X-Men are seemingly at a low point. Their leader, Cyclops, has been killed and left floating in the void of space. Now having landed back on the Breakworld, they split up, intending to complete the final orders of their fallen commander. On one such mission, Wolverine and Hisako attack Breakworld troops, only to be captured and imprisoned. Meanwhile, Beast and Special Agent Brand have more immediate luck with the deciphering of the details of the prophecy, the Beast surmising that it is practically an instruction manual on how to destroy the planet from its core. Elsewhere, while Colossus and Shadowcat recruit Aghanne’s help, Cyclops once again finds himself among the living, resurrected by Breakworld technology. Immediately, Powerlord Kruun begins torturing the X-Man for information on “Leviathan.” However, Cyclops continues to remain defiant until he receives a telepathic download from Emma, who had used her time to fill her mind with the schematics of Cyclops’ prison. Once the download is complete, Cyclops admits to Kruun that his actions since the assault on the artificial moon were a deception. Aware of Ord’s surveillance of the craft, Cyclops used Emma’s telepathy to order the team into enacting everything they have done since, including the capture of Wolverine and Armor. When the incensed Kruun asks the X-Man what other lies he has told, Cyclops fires his previously believed dormant optic blasts, taking out Ord, destroying Wolverine’s bonds some levels above and acting as a signal to the waiting X-Men and SWORD agents. Now free, Cyclops uses Emma’s telepathy once again to give his orders. “To me, my X-Men.”

Full Summary: 

The room which Dafi enters is a solemn one, in which a somber Aghanne of the Breakworld uses her hands to cover that of a dying child. Desiccated by disease, the child lacks all color, hair or other signs of health. Reluctantly disturbing her leader, Dafi tells Aghanne that one of them is dead. They don’t believe it was Colossus. Their surveillance was long-range, and until the X-Men contact them…

Assuming they can,” Aghanne interrupts. Clasping Aghanne’s arm, Dafi wonders if they could only speak with the augurs… Their loyalty is to Kruun, Aghanne relies. Kruun branded them as monsters, Dafi reminds her. Slaughtered them until she championed their gift as natural and useful. Turning away, Aghanne replies that she was not entirely out of favor then. Now it would be suicide for them to help them. They mustn’t judge.

To this, Dafi retorts that that’s not what the Pryde girl said. Turning back to Dafi, Aghanne asks if she told them their sad story, hasn’t she? They asked about her, Dafi tells Aghanne. Are they not allies? Should she not… No, Aghanne asserts. It’s fine. It just explains this spark in her. Already they change in the thrall of the X-Men. Any change is better than Kruun’s murderous madness, Dafi replies, casting her eyes downwards. Unthinking brutality does not make one mad, Dafi, Aghanne retorts. Only hope can do that.

Turning to depart, Aghanne concludes that the X-Men will come when they can. They have lost a soldier today… They should hope that it’s one they can spare.

Elsewhere on the Breakworld, the X-Men stand in silence. Standing a short distance from the others, her back turned to them, Emma’s face is emotionless. Right, she finally says, breaking the silence. They all have work to do. Tilting his head toward her, Wolverine asks Hisako if she’s ready to take a dive. Caught off guard, Hisako replies with a “yes, sir.”

Turning to Special Agent Brand, the Beast supposes that he and she are still partners. “Huzzah.” Almost ignoring him, Brand suggests to the others that Lockheed should rendezvous with the troops – assuming Danger hasn’t killed them. Agreed? That’s fine, sure, Kitty replies. Then noticing Emma departing, Kitty catches up to her, calling her name. When Emma does not stop, Kitty walks beside her. What they did back there… she begins. She’s never gonna be okay with that… And her approval is necessary for…? Emma rejoins. That’s not the point, Kitty retorts. She just thought…

That she might need to talk? Emma asks. Oh, yes. They should talk. They should share their feelings and have slumber parties and try on hats. Kitty understands her so terribly well. Narrowing her eyes at the insult, Kitty agrees. Hilarious her. She thought she might actually feel some kind of loss. She is diamond, Ms. Pryde, Emma replies. Turning to depart, she concludes that she is, by definition, her own best friend.

Elsewhere… there is blackness, save for a single point of blue light. Suddenly, Scott Summers opens his eyes, his face bathed in blue luminescence. His mouth gasps for air. A moment later, through a filter of white light, he sees several citizens of the Breakworld looking down upon him. Once again among the living, Scott’s first thoughts are blunt. “So that’s what that’s like.”

Staring down at the prone Cyclops of the X-Men, who is strapped to a table, Powerlord Kruun of the Breakworld. He tells the now conscious Cyclops that he may be feeling some pain. The human body finds death to be particularly traumatic. But they read their brain functions to be more or less undamaged. When he is able to speak, he will tell him about “Leviathan.” If he hesitates, or dissemble, the pain he feels now will increase a thousandfold.

Almost ignoring his captor, Scott speaks a single word, or rather name: Emma. To this, Kruun mocks that wherever his lover is, she cannot hear him. Even the cursed Colossus cannot rear through their prison wall. But, since he is so suddenly, verbal… let them talk about Leviathan. To punctuate his seriousness, Kruun activates the numerous blue spheres which circle their chamber. Arcs of blue electricity shoot from each toward Scott, who immediately convulses in agony.

The scene is a melee, dozens of soldiers of the Breakworld, all descending upon two X-Men. As he slices and punctures with his adamantium claws, Wolverine snarls to his partner, Hisako, who uses her psychic exo-armor to pummel other soldiers. “Kid… you’re fired.” When they get back to Earth, she’s demoted to “Excalisuck” or some damn team.

To this, Hisako argues that they were lining up civilians! To kill them! Leaping over two soldiers, whose blasts go wild, Wolverine replies that that ain’t the mission. Taking out two other soldiers simultaneously, Hisako asks in retort if he has looked the word “superhero” up? Like, Google it or something?

Before Wolverine can reply, he is caught by an explosion. Her eyes wide in horror, Hisako calls out his name and begins to barrel toward him, knocking out two other soldiers in the process. However, before she arrives, she finds a small mechanical device blocking her path, hovering less than an arm’s length away from her armored eyes. A moment later, the device explodes in green fury. When the dust clears, Hisako, now unconscious and un-armored, lies unconscious in a crater. Not taking any chances, the soldiers of the Breakworld surround her, rifles drawn.

This is starting to make sense, Special Agent Brand states, examining a small readout device. “Really?” the Beast replies, as he peers through a microscope. Because this is making less and less. When Brand asks him how so, he replies that this prophetic rock, with Peter destroying the Breakworld… the stone is ancient, as is the earth it was pulled from. But the carving pattern, the precision… he’s guess it was done with a laser.

To this, Brand adds that they don’t know how far back Breakworld technologies reach. When he agrees, Brand adds that what they do know is how it’s supposed to go down. Eying the display Brand had been viewing, the Beast replies that he can’t read this and asks if she can. Confirming, Brand replies that she’s studied this race for a while. Picked up some language. Then asked if she speaks it, she answers enough to order a steak. She then instructs him to hit the translation key. Once done, the Beast’s eyes narrow in understanding. “So,” he states simply. “This is the way the world ends.”

Agony fills the eyes and scream of Scott Summers, blue electricity arcing through his body. When it finally subsides, his eyes narrow in stupefaction, drool involuntarily dripping from his mouth. “Leviathan,” Kruun repeats. What is it? Who is it? The pain can end. Tears streaming down from his eyes, sweat pouring from his brow, Cyclops still manages a defiant snarl. If he had his powers… he threatens.

Your little mutant parlor tricks, yes, Kruun mocks. But he lost them, and his friends aren’t coming to save him. To this, Kruun adds that he doesn’t even think they’re following his orders – his last wishes, as far as they know. Sad. Still resolute, though tears of agony slide down his face, Cyclops asks Kruun if he’s trying to make him cry.

He’s not afraid of pain, Kruun states. But he can’t be naïve enough to think that pain is his only weapon. A human can only watch so many parts of himself removed before his mind goes. Not just his limbs, he tells Cyclops. Organs, skin… he can keep him alive in a jar. And then there’s his X-Men. Can he stand to watch him work on them? The one who heals is probably too volatile, and records indicate he might not mind a little discomfort in his case. But the new one, the young woman… will he watch her be picked apart?

Leaning toward Scott, Ord’s eyes portray his menace. “Where is Aghanne?” he says, more in statement than a question. Where is Colossus. And what is Leviathan?

“Goodness!” Dafi exclaims, seeing Kitty Pryde holding up Piotr Rasputin as they phase upward from the ground. Returning to his own balance, Piotr asks them to forgive them. They were detected and had to travel the last few miles within the ground. Phasing something so big, so far… Kitty stammers. And their… earth… The strain having finally been too much, Kitty collapses, though luckily is caught and set down by Piotr.

Moving to them, Aghanne laments that she knows nothing of human healing. However, Piotr ignores that, citing that the materials in her earth are harmful somehow. “Tingling… oh,” Kitty mutters before nearly falling unconscious. They should not have put themselves in such danger to come to her, Aghanne says. To this, Piotr replies that they had no choice. The end is coming. Are they ready to do their part? As Aghanne and Dafi consider the question, Kitty weakly asks them all if everything is really orange…

Through the immense, towering, rust-colored city, a lone blue and white craft flies. In actuality, the craft itself is Danger, in whose ship-form reside the free X-Men – Emma Frost and the Beast – along with Lockheed, Special Agent Brand and her men Addressing the group in the main cabin, the Beast explains that it’s not the sun.

To this, Emma apologies, stating that her head is stuffed with building plans. What not the sun? The prophecy, the Beast continues. It talks about pulling the light from the Breakworld – “through the temple of power.” Explaining further, Brand adds that Kruun’s thronehouse sits on a reactor. It powers everything, literally pulling energy from the planet’s core. And someone could possible get inside, destabilize it, the Beast adds. Someone made of metal, Brand compliments. Does she get it? Beast asks Emma. It’s not a prophecy. It’s a plan.

That’s still just a theory, Brand replies. The inscription is absurdly specific, he defends. It’s practically an instruction manual on destroying the Breakworld. Narrowing her eyes, Emma asks Hank who does he think would… Hold it, she corrects. She’s found him. Now closing her eyes, Emma asks someone if they are close. At the front of the craft, Danger reports that they’ll be at the prison itself in thirty seconds. God… he’s in so much pain… Emma trails. Grabbing the temples of her head, she informs the others that she doesn’t know if he can take in all these schematics. Oh, Scott…

Down on the planet, Scott replies to the faraway Emma that she worries too much, “sweetie.” Incredulous, Kruun snarls that Cyclops can’t have just called him sweetie. From this, he quickly surmises that his witch is nearby. It will avail him nothing, he tells the X-Man. She cannot breach these walls. They’re nice walls, Cyclops replies, his eyes displaying his defiance. Would Kruun like him to start answering his questions now?

Peter – Colossus – is with Aghanne, he begins. He should be on their way. But, Kruun counters, Cyclops ordered him… To stay away from her, Cyclops finishes. “How could you have known that oh my God did you have some kind of surveillance device on his own ship that we stole?” He knew he was watching, Kruun states soberly.

Aboard their stolen craft, the X-Men are on approach to the artificial moon orbiting the Breakworld. Seeing the space station launch intercept fighters, Cyclops settles upon a plan.

He asks Emma to help him. After stammering a moment, she complies – albeit surreptitiously. As the conversation continues in the cabin between the X-Men, a second telepathic conversation commences, begun by Emma who announces that she has linked them all psychically. They should try to keep talking normally.

To the team, Cyclops states that they need to get close to Kruun. That won’t happen, he continues, unless he thinks they’re helpless. When the Beast telepathically replies that there’s a good chance they’ll kill him, Cyclops silently replies that they brought Peter back to life. They’ll do the same with him if they think he has information they need. “A secret weapon?” the Beast asks. That could work, Cyclops replies. They need a name: something ominous and imposing.

“Leviathan?” Emma asks aloud, replying both to Cyclops silent need for a name, as well as to the verbal conversation about their “ace in the hole.” Telepathically, Scott compliments Emma’s irresistible idea. Leviathan! Kruun’ll work him over for awhile trying to get that out of him.

Now referring to the rest of the X-Men, Cyclops tells them to get to work. To Emma, he informs her he’ll need schematics of the prison. Logan and Hisako are to get themselves captured in a few hours, so they’ve got a force inside.

“I object!” Kitty replies verbally, which throws off the rest of the team for a moment, chiding her for overacting. Still, Kitty defends, complaining that she’s not good at having two conversations at once. And she hates Scott’s plan. She means object, Scott replies, but he’s going to allow it. Nearby, Wolverine smiles slightly, telepathically worrying that he’s going to crack up. He’s cracking up. To this, Brand silently recommends that he say something cynical, to which he agrees.

Now referring Brand, Cyclops orders that she and Hank work on that prophecy. Peter is to bring Aghanne into the fold if he can. He’s to be outside the prison in a few hours and to bring everyone. His orders given, Cyclops moves to the rear of the ship toward the smaller craft, advising that he’d better go before Kitty tries to act again.

As he departs, Emma begins to advise her lover that if Kruun has him at his mercy… Interrupting her, he tells her not to worry. “Leviathan” will save him.

“Lies,” Kruun snarls. The great human weapon. Pathetic. To this, Cyclops retorts that he’d say “pathetic” would be falling for them. Especially Kitty’s acting.

Enraged, Kruun begins to roar in fury, knocking machinery aside in rage. And for what!??, he yells. There is no “Leviathan.” There is no one who can save him! Why does he bother with plots? Now leaning in closely to Cyclops, baring his fang a short distance from his face, Kruun yells, What other lies have you told?!!

Cyclops take a moment to smile wryly, enjoying the moment before he unleashes the scarlet fury of his optic blast. Caught at point-blank range right in the face, Kruun is forced backward. Meanwhile, the optic blast continues, breaking though the tower and shooting into the sky like a beacon. Along the way, it annihilates everything it touches, including the bonds of Wolverine, who is forced to be impressed. “Damn, Summers.”

Some distance from the tower, Kitty and Piotr witness the optic blast firing disappearing into the cloud ceiling. “Is that…?” Kitty asks. Yes, Piotr replies. Elsewhere, the SWORD commander calls on his troops to follow him into the hole made by Cyclops. Meanwhile, Emma calls out her lover’s name. Indeed, Cyclops telepathically replies, but not just to his lover. It is to the entire team.

“To me, my X-Men. Let’s finish this.”

Characters Involved: 

Armor, Beast, Colossus, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Shadowcat, Wolverine (all X-Men)

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


Rebels of the Breakworld

Powerlord Kruun of the Open Hand

Soldiers of the Breakworld
Citizens of the Breakworld

Armor, Beast, Colossus, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Shadowcat, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Special Agent Brand

Story Notes: 

Though technically untitled, no doubt this is to be “Unstoppable pt 5.”

Cyclops notation of “So that’s what that’s like,” most likely refers to the frequently used plot device of an X-Man or X-Men foe returning from the dead, such as Colossus. This, however, is the first time it has happened to Cyclops.

The verbal conversation of which a second, telepathic part is seen in this issue occurred in the previous issue.

Kitty has noted her difficulty in phasing through material from the Breakworld since Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #4.

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