Astonishing X-Men (4th series) #8

Issue Date: 
February 2018
Story Title: 
A Man Called X – part 2

Charles Soule (writer), Paulo Siqueira (penciler),Waldeon Wong & Roberto Poggi (inkers), Edgar Delgado (color artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Mike Deodato jr & Frank Woodard (main cover artists),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: 

The X-Men watch in horror as Proteus reforms and goes in search of energy. X claims he wasn’t aware of Farouk using Proteus but is met with suspicion. On the ground, Bishop fires his energy weapon at Proteus to stop him from killing a family. X tries to intervene but is too late; now they will have to deal with a less weakened Proteus. X and Psylocke get in psychic contact with Proteus who is already using his reality warping power to alter Hyde Park. In his mind, Proteus welcomes them as a young man – Kevin MacTaggert. He reveals that his mother caged him from his birth and he was only ten years old when the X-Men killed him. Later, his essence was captured by the Shadow King. He tries to reason that this gave him time to grow, change and gain empathy for other human beings. X doesn’t buy it and fires psychic guns at him. The effect in the real world is that X and Psylocke merge in a horrible way.

Full Summary: 

A greenly, glowing being of energy, Proteus floats in the sky, announcing he is so happy. He’s never felt joy like this. Like the sun is shining through him. No, like he is the sun – finally free!

If only he weren’t so hungry. He lands and looks at a bus full of people.

The X-Men are standing on a rooftop. Rogue asks X rhetorically to please tell her he didn’t just bring Proteus back from the dead. The former Professor Xavier dodges the question, stating if he did it wasn’t his intention. The Shadow King must have been using shards of Proteus’ soul to create a feedback loop. It nearly ripped a hole between the Astral Plane and this world. If he’d known, he never would have—

Or maybe this was all part of his plan from the beginning, Mystique interrupts. They don’t know. They don’t know anything at all. Why are they even listening to this man? Does she think they should be listening to her instead of him? X challenges her. Not at all, she replies surprisingly. No one will ever trust her. But that’s the difference between them. She isn’t asking them to.

Psylocke asks them to stop bickering and reminds them they need to contain Proteus. For all they know, he’s already killed people. Taken their bodies for his own. Can they just set everything else aside until they stop him?

X agrees and believes he can fix this. She’s sure, Rogue replies sarcastically, and then that will make Apocalypse pop out of nowhere. Well, if he does, he’ll fix that, too! X snarls.

On the ground, Bishop calls the team: They have a problem.

Inside the building he is watching, Proteus has cornered a family. He promises he won’t hurt them, he’s just so hungry. He promises to take only a little…

The father gets in front of the kids, shouting to take him instead. Proteus thanks him and proceeds to do so.

That moment, Bishop enters and shoots Proteus. He orders the family to run. That moment, an astral image of X appears that orders him to stop. Having no idea who he is, Bishop refuses and fires at Proteus again.

X introduces himself and tells Bishop that his energy weapon is feeding Proteus, who is only vulnerable to metal. Firing a blast through X’s image, Bishop retorts he knows that. Proteus is all over his endtime database. He’s a disaster every time he pops up. He’s a monster. But if he’s eating this, he’s not eating people. Seems like a fair trade.

X continues that the only way to defeat Proteus is to keep him weak. That moment, the weapon flies out of Bishop’s hand and fires at Proteus, who happily sucks up the energy. Finally, there is a detonation and Bishop barely saves himself. Well done, X comments sarcastically. He’s sure, Bishop saved a lot of lives…

Not good, X tells the others on the rooftop, who are just joined by Gambit, Archangel and Old Man Logan. A relieved Rogue hugs Gambit and Psylocke asks Warren if he is okay, even as Archangel. He reveals that while he is not sure how X did it. For the first time, he is in control!

So, this new guy… Logan mutters. Right with him, Mystique replies. Give the word, she‘ll have his back. Raven Darkholme has his back? he snarks. What a world! She assures him she will stab it eventually. Maybe he will stab her first, is the reply. Is he flirting with her? Mystique demands. He hopes not, Logan states.

X insists they need to hit Proteus now, when he may still be disoriented from being reconstituted. Gambit asks where Fantomex is. Psylocke points at X, explaining this is Fantomex… or was… It’s Xavier now somehow. X corrects her; he is not Fantomex. His flesh was raw material for X’s return, that’s all. Gambit is disgusted and asks how Fantomex felt about that. X cuts him off that Fantomex agreed to remain on the Astral Plane and Pslyocke can vouch for that.

X continues that Bishop filled Proteus with energy His intentions were good but, if they don’t act now… Archangel interrupts: why is Proteus here at all? Because of him! Mystique points at X, who states it was accidentally while he was busy saving thousands of people from a brutal psychic infection. And if they stop asking so many questions, he will fix it!

No need, Logan states tight-lipped. He knows how to kill Proteus. Metal. He unsheathes his claws. He suggests Archangel can soften Proteus up with his metal feather things and he can do the rest. Warren is not so happy about the idea of murder. It’s not his only move. He knows what Proteus was, but he died. Do they even know he is the same person?

X agrees. He’d like to try something else first before they fight. He asks Psylocke for her strength. Betsy hesitates then gives him her hand.

The Proteus being is in Hyde Park, changing his surroundings with his reality warping power. He senses someone wanting to enter his mind and allows it.

Astral Plane / Proteus’ mindscape:
Psylocke and X find themselves outside a medieval castle. On the turret stands a young redheaded man in a Scottish kilt. He welcomes them and introduces himself as Kevin MacTaggart. He acts very pleasant towards them and suggest they get the question out of the way. What question would that be? X demands. They’ll get to that, Kevin replies. First, tell him, do they think atonement is possible? That’s what they build prisons for. Or perhaps they exist to protect society from monsters! Betsy retorts.

Maybe, Kevin shrugs. Depends on whether you are an optimist or pessimist. He believes change is possible. That they all learn from experience. After all, when a baby hurts itself, say, when it touches a hot stove, it learns not to do it again quickly. Don’t they think the same is true for hurting other people? Once you see the pain, you understand it, you learn? Do they know how old he was during that nastiness on Muir Isle, the first time the X-Men encountered him? Ten years. He was a wee child! That’s all the life he had before their friend Colossus beat him to death.

That’s not possible! Psylocke insists. Oh, but it is, Proteus replies and creates images to underline his story. The day he was born, his mother Moira MacTaggart put him into a cage. Said it was to protect him, but in hindsight he is not so sure. Anyway, ten years later he escaped… tried to find his only other family, his father Joseph. And they probably know how that went. Smashed to nothing in Edinburgh by a big metal Russian. Sure, he popped up again here and there. That poor lad Gilbert Benson suffered for it. But really, it was just those ten years. That was all he had, and all of it but a few days in a cage! A poor wee child killed by the X-Men every time he tried to see a bit of the world.

The Shadow King got hold of his soul eventually. And he had him for what felt like ten thousand years on the Astral Plane. Bit longer than even him, eh, professor? That’s where he grew up. Can they imagine? Growing up with Amahl Farouk the only guiding light in the place. It wasn’t easy, but all that time let him understand what he did to those poor people, let him repent. Let him change.

He turns to Psylocke and creates an image of her original Caucasian body. She knows about change doesn’t she? Is she the same person she was when she started this mad journey?

Of course not, she replies. He repeats her answer. Life is change. Yet, they are here to hunt him, maybe kill him again. As far as they are concerned, he did one bad thing, he is bad forever. Doesn’t feel right to him, but they feel what they feel. His whole life has been cages. He will never let anyone put him in one again. If he gets attacked, he will defend himself. But that is all the X-Men or anyone else need worry about. Despite all they’ve done to him, no hard feelings. Leave him alone, he will leave them alone. Is that a threat? X interrupts. Of course it’s a threat, is the reply.

Proteus continues. So, here’s the question: Knowing that, knowing he let them come here and made no antagonist move, what will they do?

X creates two psychic guns and aims them at Proteus. What is he doing? Betsy shouts. What happened to ‘no bloodshed’? X insists they can’t take the chance! Proteus shrugs, apparently not surprised. He tried. X fires his guns.

A moment later, both he and Psylocke scream as they are hit and in the real world their bodies begin to merge to the shock of the other X-Men...

Characters Involved: 

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


In Proteus images / flashback:
Moira MacTaggert

Shadow King

Story Notes: 

Actually, the original Proteus story (X-Men (1st series) #125-128 clearly established that Proteus was 19 or 20 years old at the time.

Piecemeal was a young mutant who was forced by his mother and AIM to absorb Proteus’ energy causing Proteus’ rebirth. The story is told in the Kings of Pain crossover, which ran through the 1991 X-Men family annuals.

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