Astonishing X-Men (4th series) #12

Issue Date: 
August 2018
Story Title: 

Charles Soule (writer), Gerardo Sandoval (artist), Eric Arciniega (color artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Greg Land & Edgar Delgado (cover artists),  Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino (graphic designers), Annalisa Bissa (assistant editor), Darren Shan (editor), Jordan D. White (X-Men group editor), CB Cebulski (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: 

The Shadow King has emerged from X’s body and now gets ready to take over the world via Proteus’ reality seeds. He keeps the X-Men busy with illusions, while only Psylocke is able to fight him. However, X finds himself inspired by his X-Men and literally pulls himself together. He and Psylocke, with the help of the world’s psychics, defeat the Shadow King. Afterwards, X makes the X-Men (with the exception of Psylocke) forget about his existence.

Full Summary: 

X lies passively on the ground, his head broken open as the Shadow King has burst out, now having a real body and enthusing about his world being real.

The X-Men stare at the villain in disbelief. Rogue states that they killed him on the Astral Plane. Mystique reminds her of the first rule of that damned place: Nothing on the Astral Plane is real. Gambit wonders how they can beat him. He killed X, who knew more about him. Claws unsheathed, Old Man Logan replies he doesn’t know how, but he has a pretty good idea how to start!

X passively watches the battle while believing it is not his concern.

When they attack, the Shadow King happily fights back, enjoying the reality of it all, though he takes note everything feels darker. There is so much pain… fertile soil…

X watches as the Shadow King hits them with despair, but the X-Men refuse to give up, and stand up. But then they kneel. Logan is hit by despair, recalling how he killed all his fellow X-Men. There is no redemption, he realizes. He should have done this long ago. He sticks his claws through his heart.

The others suffer as well. Only Psylocke still stands, her telepathy allowing her to fight back. Psychic sword in hand, she shouts, what did he do to them? He opened their eyes to the darkness in them. Happiness is a lie, life is a horror. The light is always dying all across the universe. The last star will flicker out sometime. When it does, all that remains is Shadow and he will be its King!

X realizes Psylocke will fight alone against him. For all the good it does her…The situation is worse. All across the world, the helpless Bishop’s computer detects nodules of unstable reality caused by Proteus’ growing seeds waiting for Farouk to take over. X no longer knows if he should have expected this or not.

A triumphant Farouk tells the attacking Psylocke she can sense it too, can’t she? All the reality gardens his pet Proteus has seeded are where he will establish his kingdom. He grabs her as he leers that she can sense every soul shouting their agony.

Bishop lies on the ground, helplessly musing that this is it. The Mindkiller Apocalypse. The end of the world. And he let it happen.

While Psylocke valiantly fights…

Gambit tries to kill himself by charging his cards…

Archangel tells himself he is a fallen angel, while Rogue and Mystique are drowning in all the identities they have had. Rogue prepares to absorb Mystique, figuring they should be no one together.

Archangel flies upward to hurl himself to the ground.

X lies motionless on the ground, witnessing their suffering. All is lost. Even Psylocke is falling. How did it come to this? he wonders. He had gifts for all of his X-Men. He planned to give them their greatest desires, in gratitude for bringing him back to life. Instead, he brought them only death.

One by one they fall.

No! He manages to move his feet. The X-Men do not give up! Mantra-like he repeats this sentence as he literally pulls himself together, fixes the damage the Shadow King breaking out of him did. The X-Men do not give up! They stand up! he announces. And he does. He psychically attacks Farouk. He is Charles Xavier! He is the X-Men!

Psylocke asks how he can be alive. Later, he tells her. He will handle the Shadow King. She has to save the world. Psylocke doubts they can do it alone. X corrects her: they won’t be alone. They have every psychic in the world. Betsy reminds him they tried to create a network and that gave the Shadow King more power. He tells her they need to go deeper. Before they took power. This time they will ask. She doesn’t know how. He takes her hand. Let him show her. No, let him teach her. And suddenly they both sense all the world’s psychics.

Psylocke glows with energy and he tells her to use it, which she does.

What has he done? the Shadow King screams. Suddenly, the villain finds himself tiny as an ordinary spider. X tells him goodbye before squashing him with his boot.

Psylocke frees all the X-Men from his influence, reaches out and destroys Proteus’ gardens.

X picks up the tiny spider. Revolting, he comments and throws it into the blackness where it dissolves.

He thanks Psylocke for saving them all. She demurs. They all did it. Is he Xavier now? she asks. Still X, he replies What he’s seen, been… is X. But he is fully himself. Whatever shadow was in him is gone now.

The other X-Men are skeptical, even when Psylocke vouches for X, pointing out she doesn’t sense the Shadow King. X understands their paranoia. They were soaked in the Shadow King’s darkness, after all. It leaves a stain. He knows. But he said he had gifts for all of them and so he does. He reaches out telepathically.

He gives Warren the choice to be Archangel, Angel or just Warren… as he chooses. He gives Gambit purpose. His debt to Fantomex remains unpaid. Find him and balance the ledger. He gives Mystique and Rogue certainty when it comes to the nature of their identities. He gives Bishop permission to, from time to time set, aside his endless vigil and be part of the world. He gives Logan vision. He can see the shadow stretching so far behind him but only because he is walking toward the light!

And to all of them he gives oblivion and lets them forget about him and what happened, but not to Psylocke. He needs her to remember, keep watch and keep him honest. Psylocke asks if all of this was his plan from the beginning, the price he was willing to make the world pay to return. He admits he doesn’t know. He would like to think he wouldn’t let innocents suffer. He wants to blame the Shadow King… but his soul held darkness long before he met Amahl Farouk. He’ll be pondering her question for the rest of his life.

Betsy has another question. That network they created contained so many psychics they don’t yet know. She suggests he could look for some of the stronger ones, bring them to the school.

But X doesn’t intend to return to the school. He is sure Kitty Pryde has things well in hand. The school was Professor Charles Xavier’s dream and, from what he can tell, the dream was achieved. There is nothing for him there. He is not Xavier. He is X. He has a new dream!

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Bishop, Gambit, Old Man Logan, Psylocke, X (X-Men)

Shadow King

Story Notes: 

X’s speech bubbles were previously black like the Shadow King’s. From this issue onwards, they are normal.

This is the last issue of this story. Next issue begins with a new cast and creative team.

X next appears in Astonishing X-Men Annual (4th series) #1.

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