Astonishing X-Men (4th series) #5

Issue Date: 
November 2017
Story Title: 
Life of X – part 5

Charles Soule (writer), Ramon Rosanas (artist), Nolan Woodard (colorist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Rosanas & Woodard (cover artists), Land & Delgado (character variant 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: 

On the Astral Plane, Xavier explains to Rogue, Mystique and Fantomex how he is still alive – of sorts – and became the Shadow King’s prisoner. He tells them he needs their help here. In the meantime, he also has a private chat with Fantomex, who despairs at never being able to change. In reality, Gambit is now also possessed by the Shadow King. He attacks the soldiers from the Ministry of Defence and passes the possession on to Bishop. Old Man Logan, in the meantime, also spreads the contagion. Commander Keene of the Ministry of Defence decides they will have to bomb London to stop the infection. Psylocke pleads with Angel to let out his Archangel half to stop all this. Finally, he relents.

Full Summary: 

On the astral plane, Professor Xavier has just gathered Rogue, Mystique and Fantomex and told them he couldn’t save Gambit. Rogue demands to know what he means by that. Xavier corrects himself: he didn’t save Gambit. Instead, he saved all of them. Rogue continues to protest but Xavier cuts her off. While he is talking with them, he is also sitting with the Shadow King, enduring his gloating. For the villain believes he has won, now that he has taken both Logan and Gambit to his side of the board. He is also maintaining secondary realities for each of them (Mystique and Fantomex are having fun together, Rogue is battling the Brood), so the Shadow King doesn’t notice this. He is engaged in a psychic battle with Logan on multiple levels, and other things besides (namely having a private chat with Fantomex) His skill and the astral plane let him do all this, but it takes his toll. He looks at his burned hand. He had to let Gambit go. Less weight for him to carry and something to split the Shadow King’s focus… to give Xavier more room to move.

But where is he? Rogue demand. Xavier replies his mind is here trapped with Logan. They are both literally trapped in the Shadow King’s spiderweb. And in the real world, they are the Shadow King’s instruments. He can’t save them. He can’t even save himself. That task falls to them. Surprise, surprise, Mystique mocks.

The soldiers of the Ministry of Defence want to shoot Gambit. Psylocke steps between them and points out that Gambit can’t help himself. She asks them to let her help. He appreciates the offer, the possessed Gambit replies, but he can take care of himself. Gambit charges the entire rooftop then jumps away to higher ground. The rooftop detonates and Gambit works his way up to the helicopter also belonging to the MOD. He is inside before the soldier can cut the ropes.

In the meantime, Psylocke has saved the soldiers on the roof and her unconscious teammates in a telekinetic bubble and sets them all down on another rooftop. When they want to arrest her, she becomes annoyed and drops their guns with a sweep of her telekinetic katana.

Gambit throws the soldiers out of the helicopter, keeping only the pilot whom he orders to fly to a certain place. As incentive, he charges up the poor man’s helmet.

The Astral Plane:
Xavier informs the others it’s getting bad out there. They should hurry. He died but that was not the end. Bored, Mystique reminds him they are mutants. If they know anything, it’s that. She suggests he skip ahead but Xavier snaps they need to understand the narrative or none of what he asks them to do next will make any sense.

He died. An agonizing fall into darkness. And then it became darker still. Somehow, the Shadow King collected his spirit and brought it to the astral plane. Charles bested him long ago. He has taken every opportunity since to torture Charles and those he cares for. Immediately, a battle began, limited only by their imagination.

In the meantime, Xavier is secretly conversing with Fantomex. Charles begins that he doesn’t know Fantomex well, but he knows his story and considers him an ally. If he’d ever wanted to, Charles would have gladly welcomed him into the X-Men. Fantomex corrects Xavier he does not know him. If he does good, he does it because in the end it is good for him. Charles recalls this is the identity they coded into Fantomex at Weapon Plus. The thief with a heart of coal. Not just a thief, Fantomex insists. A criminal through and though. A killer even. Very frightening, Xavier remarks unimpressed. Before he died, he spent much of his life as a teacher. And if there is one thing teachers believe, it is this: no one ends where they begin.

Xavier tells the others how he and Farouk battled across many battlefields, first using emotions, later sensations, later stories, which is where they come in as chess pieces.

On their private level, Fantomex muses he has tried to become something else, but he always switches back to the… default setting. The debonair deadly thief. The role he was designed to play. Even this silly dette d’honneur with Gambit… He does not truly care if he pays him at all. It is just a game to him, the sort of thing he is supposed to do. Weapon Plus also gave him illusion powers to aid in his mission. He often thinks how fitting this is. Everything about him is an illusion. He creates a tiny illusion of him dancing with his bride then destroys it. He isn’t even French!

Xavier points out he has had many students like him who believed their lives were fixed… that there was no possibility of change. They all found new paths. So can he. Fine, he’ll bite, Fantomex sighs. How? Charles warns him it won’t be easy, but on the astral plane a moment can last a thousand years. He gets up and walks away with him. Here they have all the time in the world…

Charles explains to the others how their battles seemed to last a thousand years. But over the time he came to understand Farouk and began crafting plan to beat him. But for that he needs them and now time is running short. He is about to be engulfed by blackness. He clads his X-Men in psychic armor and warns them things are about to get much worse.

Angel and Bishop have tracked the possessed Logan to a ruined building. Bishop decides he has to go in. Suddenly, Gambit appears behind him and asks what this mess is. Bishop is surprised. And Gambit quickly explains that Psylocke pulled him out. She’d said things had gotten bad here.

Bishop tries to explain the situation. That moment, Gambit touches him and uses the Shadow King’s psychic energy to possess Bishop. He acts so fast Bishop doesn’t have the time to shift the energy with his power.

Angel appears above them and orders Gambit to let Bishop go. Gambit mocks Angel is a pacifist these days. What is he going to do, flap his wings real hard? Muss Gambit’s hair? He throws a kinetically charged card at Warren seemingly scaring him off then orders Bishop to come along. He has some new friends to meet.

All around Logan the possessed people are chanting set me free. This should be enough, Gambit and Logan decide, completing each other’s sentences They order the others to go forth and multiply. Warren watches from above and contacts Psylocke describing how this contagion seems to be spreading by touch.

At the Ministry of Defence, Commander Keene watches in horror and gives orders to prepare to sterilize the site. His assistant reminds Commander Keene he is talking about a big part of London. He reminds her of what happened. They followed the protocols - now a large number of their people are dead or missing and a level four psychic threat has been unleashed. It would be brutally irresponsible to sit back and hope the mutants put everything right. The mutants have powers. But that doesn’t make the humans their victims. Acting now could save the world. Waiting could doom them. This is his duty!

Near the Shard, Psylocke telepathically contacts Angel. This all started because then Shadow King took Logan and Bishop. He can stop them. Angel doesn’t see how. Yes, he does, she replies. He panics. If he lets Archangel out and he tastes blood, it will never end. He is an Apocalypse Seed!

She reminds him she has helped him before to put Archangel in. They can do it together. Just like old times, he agrees. His eyes begin to glow and the change starts as he announces, if she saves him, he will save them!

Characters Involved: 

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

Commander Keene
Other members of the Ministry of Defence

On the astral plane:
Fantomex, Gambit, Mystique, Rogue (X-Men)

Shadow King
Charles Xavier

Written By: