Astonishing X-Men (4th series) #1

Issue Date: 
September 2017
Story Title: 
Life of X – part 1

Charles Soule (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego & Walden Wong (inkers), Richard Isanove & Rain Beredo (colorists), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove (cover artists), John Cassaday & Paul Mounts(variant cover) , John Tyler Christopher (action figure variant cover), Dale Keown (villain variant cover), Terry & Rachel Dodson (character variant cover), Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Morry Holowell with Joe Frontirre (Jim Lee remastered wraparound cover), Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino (graphic designers), Christina Harrington (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

All over the world, minor psychics are under attack and being killed. This becomes noticeable only when the vastly more powerful telepath Psylocke finds herself under psychic attack as well. She is forced to psychically attack London but manages to call out to the X-Men close by. Angel, Bishop, Logan, Rogue, Gambit and Fantomex hear the call and come to aid her. Eventually, they are joined by Beast. Psylocke reveals that she was attacked by the Shadow King and that they have to fight him now on the Astral Plane before he attacks even more psychics. Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Fantomex and Logan volunteer while Bishop and Angel stay behind to guard the bodies. On the Astral plane, the Shadow King expects them, to continue his game, a game he is playing with his prisoner, the late Professor Xavier.

Full Summary: 

Two moments are common to the life of every psychic. First, the realization that the voices raging through their heads are other people’s thoughts. And the second when they understand that no one else can hear them. To psychics the world is open… for all the good it does them.

Somewhere in the countryside, a white-haired, young, telepathic woman is psychically attacked and killed.

There is a weight to the world’s thoughts. That’s why the world’s most feeble psychics isolate themselves. That’s why at first no one noticed they were dying. In their hermit caves. Their deserted islands. Dying one by one. But the lonely ones are weak. After enough failures, it becomes clear there will be no success absent stronger meat.

One extremely powerful telepath is Betsy Braddock – Psylocke – who is currently on the streets of London. She is psychically attacked and falls down, She uses her telepathy to call for help.

Elsewhere, in London in the British Museum sits her onetime teammate Lucas Bishop, researching news to use that knowledge to possibly influence the future.

In Scotland, Warren Worthington III, the Angel (and sometimes Archangel) enjoys his power of flight. Like Bishop, he is shaped by Apocalypse. He carries the end of the world inside of him. As long as he remains at peace, he can control it. But who is truly ever at peace?

In Paris, France, Gambit steals something from the Louvre. As he is chased, he kinetically powers up a small object and throws it against the wall, which explodes. He jumps outside where he is caught by Fantomex, who is hanging down from his ship EVA. Fantomex points out Gambit doesn’t seem to be carrying anything valuable on him. There were complications, is Remy’s reply. Very complicated. Fantomex suggests he could make both their lives less complicated by dropping him.

In a plane above the Atlantic Ocean are Rogue and Old Man Logan. They are three hours away from the US and Logan decides to take a nap.

In her desperation, Psylocke calls out to all of those X-Men. She is trapped in a giant psychic butterfly of her own psychic energy, which is busy damaging the Shard (one of London’s most famous skyscrapers). Something takes over her and the people on the streets below calling to be set free.

As the X-Jet closes in, they see helicopters trying to fire at Betsy. The cops warn the unidentified aircraft that they will be fired upon. He’d like to see them try, Logan retorts. Rogue chides him. So he should let them murder Psylocke? he asks. No, but a firefight over London won’t help, Rogue retorts. By the time he asks if she has a better idea, she has already left the plane.

She flies toward the energy figure. It seems to be some kind of defense mechanism and it looks like Psylocke’s blades, which are released. The energy cuts her skin, despite its toughness, but she does manage to get close to Psylocke and addresses her. She tells Betsy she will touch her, absorb her power and take over. Psylocke warns her they are coming back.

Before the energy blades can hit Rogue, Angel appears. He covers Rogue with his body and his feathered wings turn to Archangel’s metal, covering them both from the energy blades.

In the meantime, EVA has closed in as well. What is Betsy up to? Fantomex tuts. Gambit figure she is about to take the entire building down. Perhaps, Fantomex concedes, quite a spectacle. Gambit accuses him of being cold. She needs their help. Time was Betsy was his gaienne, non? She was much more than a consort to him, Fantomex replies coldly. And now she is much, much less. That moment, the energy blades attack them.

Logan has stepped outside the jet and tries to reach Rogue. He notes someone down in the street being chased by the psychic blades and decides to help.

Inside EVA, Gambit and Fantomex are also battling the psychic blades and find them impervious to their assaults. Gambit demands a bullet clip and hands it back to Fantomex charged up.

Logan, in the meantime, lands on the street and shouts at the people to run. He draws the psychic blades to him. But before they attack him, they are shot to pieces courtesy of Bishop, who identifies him as the Logan who killed all the X-Men in his home dimension. Does he plan to do the same here? Doesn’t want to, Logan snaps. Probably won’t. Bishop asks what is happening here. He go some sort of psychic call from Psylocke… Before he can continue talking, Angel carries him way and curtly informs him Rogue needs him.

Rogue explains that Betsy’s been infected with some sort of psychic energy. She could absorb it but then it would be in her. But if she gave it to Bishop, could he remove it? Though he is not sure, he figures he can turn it into something else. Rogue touches Psylocke to absorb her power…

Not far away, with the blades momentarily gone, Fantomex shouts they have won! The fight maybe, Gambit concedes. He’s still gonna lose though. He reminds Fantomex the bullet clips he is holding are charged,

Rogue kisses Bishop to get rid of the power. He changes it and sends it upward, almost hitting one of the helicopters.

Later, Rogue apologizes but he tells her he’s ok. He just usually doesn’t feel like someone kicked him in the head after a kiss. Yeah, she’s a real catch, Rogue deadpans.

Logan, Gambit and Fantomex join them. Fantomex announces the day has been most emphatically saved. Remind him what he did again, Logan mutters. Perhaps not as much as some, Fantomex admits, but probably more than most, he adds with a glare at Gambit, who tells him to keep it up. He always does, Fantomex boasts. Ask anyone.

Logan asks Rogue if she is ok. She tells him she’s grateful Bishop was here and adds it looks like he picked up a bad case of the Gambit. Is that any way to greet the love of her life? Remy complains. Still? she asks wryly. Always, he assures her.

Logan explains he found Gambit on the street. Fantomex too. Psylocke sent out a call to them as well and others. On cue, Beast steps out of EVA. He regrets being late but they seem to have handled things well. Rogue is surprised. She thought after the Inhumans war he had stepped away from them. Yes, he admits, but he received Psylocke’s distress call. What was he to do, ignore it? He’s a Beast, but he’s not a beast.

Psylocke, in Angel’s arms, moans and tells them to stop the banter. Behind all of this was the spider. Amahl Farouk. It’s the Shadow King and he wants them all!

They all look at her silently. Rogue finally asks if she is sure. She thought the Shadow King was dead. Betsy reminds her she used to keep him imprisoned in her mind. She knows what he feels like. He’s going after psychics. Building a web, he wants to use them to force his way out of the astral plane back into the real world. He had her and she couldn’t even fight him. She’s never felt him so strongly. He was like a wave of filth. She was drowning in sewage. He wants to take over the world and watch them rot from the inside out.

Warren tells her to have hope. They are here. But Betsy is having none of it. This would have been just the start if they hadn’t saved her and, if the Shadow King can take her, he can get the others. Jean, the Cuckoos, Quentin, Emma Frost. Any one of them is like a psychic nuke and he is going after them right now. She saw what he was planning! If he gets out…

Beast sensibly asks what she wants to do about it. She tells him they need to stop him. She can send them to the Astral Plane. They have to turn him back in, kill him if they can. If he takes another psychic on her power level, everyone on Earth will choke on their despair.

Logan, Rogue and Gambit immediately volunteer. Angel points out the helicopters circling the Shard and suggests they go somewhere private for this. They don’t have time! Betsy urges. They don’t even have time for this conversation! Warren announces he will stay here to watch over them then. The Astral plane is a fluid place and in order to keep the blue guy under control fluidity is not his friend.

Well, this blue guy knows exactly who he is, Beast announces and offers to join the team on the Astral Plane. As does Fantomex. Psylocke snarls at him, why is he even here? There is no way she called him for help. She did not, he replies, and after their checkered past it is doubtful he would have come. He is here because she called Gambit, his best friend in all the world. At least until Gambit pays him what he owes. Until then, he will protect him.

Gambit protests: why is he airing their personal stuff? Fantomex replies so they know this is business. He wouldn’t want people to think he is associating with a common thief. Fantomex is also a thief, Gambit points out. But an uncommon one, Fantomex retorts. For instance, what could be more useful on the astral plane than his illusion power?

Psylocke calls him a liar. She wouldn’t trust him to water her plants, much less save the world. Fantomex insists that, as long as Gambit hasn’t paid his debts, he will stay by his side. And if he is on the astral plane, Betsy won’t have to hear him talk. He can go, she relents.

Bishop decides to back up Angel on the outside. Angel doesn’t believe this will end in a shootout. Bishop points out the Shadow King might take over their friends. Two on the outside is better. Warren agrees and reveals he doesn’t allow Archangel out. He is semi-retired. Why? Bishop asks surprised. Because Archangel wants to eat the world and, each time he tastes blood, he gets closer. How the hell is he going to protect Psylocke or anyone then? Bishop demands. Angel suggests Bishop protect them his way and he will do it his.

Psylocke prepares the other five, all of whom have lain down. Sher warns them, anything they love, hate, fear he can use as weapons. The longer they stay, the more he knows about them, the worse it gets. Their will is their armor and blade. Anything they love and fear are their weapons. She is sending them now. Be ready. The moment, they arrive in the Shadow King’s realm, he will know.

On the astral plane, sits the Shadow King, his upper body that of Amahl Farouk, his lower that of a spider. Oh my, he grins. The X-Men are coming. They will try to save the world. It’s what they’ve talked about. His plans will require a silent adjustment, but that’s worth it. These poor heroes think they are ready. What’s another apocalypse to them, more or less. But they’ve forgotten some simple things a psychic could tell them. On the astral plane, an apocalypse isn’t a war, here it is secrets.

He moves in his web to a spun cocoon. In it is safe which he opens. Inside sits a chained Charles Xavier. Yes, Amahl, he states. He couldn’t agree more.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Bishop, Fantomex, Gambit, Old Man Logan, Psylocke, Rogue (all X-Men)
“Beast” (Mystique in disguise)

Several psychics

On the Astral Plane:
Shadow King
Professor X

Story Notes: 

That Beast is really Mystique is not a great revelation, as she is on the cover and he is not.

Psylocke, Angel, Mystique and Fantomex were all last seen in Uncanny X-Men (4th series).

Rogue is currently in Uncanny Avengers.

Old Man Logan, like his younger self, appears in several titles.

Gambit has been a guest star in X-Men: Gold and Uncanny Avengers.

The Shadow King was last seen in Nightcrawler (3rd series) #8-10. While he is still supposed to be imprisoned on the Astral Plane, this issue sees him trying to find a way out.

Professor X was killed by Cyclops in Avengers versus X-Men. In addition, later the Red Skull stole his brain [Uncanny Avengers (1st series)] and his soul was seen to be in Heaven [Amazing X-Men (2nd series) #1-6], so, yes, he should be very dead.

Bishop was last seen in the Cable and X-force / Uncanny X-Force Vendetta crossover.

Fantomex and Psylocke’s love affair went sour in the early issues of Uncanny X-Force (2nd series). In the following series, their relationship changed to outright hostility.

Logan killed the X-Men in his timeline in the Old Man Logan limited series.

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