Astonishing X-Men (4th series) Annual #1

Issue Date: 
October 2018
Story Title: 
Who We Are

Matthew Rosenberg (writer), Travel Foreman (artist), Jim Charalampidis (color artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Rod Reis (cover artist), Jee-Hyung Lee (variant cover), Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino (graphic designers), 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: 

Jean Grey invites the other original X-Men to dinner in a restaurant to talk about their lives and opines that being superheroes basically ruined their lives. Surprisingly, they a joined by the reborn Professor X, who offers to show them a reason for what they are doing. He takes them to the small town Lago and to a bar where people seem extraordinarily tolerant. The next day, the X-Men search the town. Bobby and Hank are in the bar and Hank reminds Bobby that, when they were young, Lago was off-limits to them, because the town was particularly anti-mutant. When one man shouts injective at them and is then dragged away, Hank chooses to follow. Later, Warren returns to X’s mansion and finds only Bobby there. Hank has been gone tor hours. They talk to X, who reveals that the town is being controlled by his old foe, Lucifer. They find Hank, Lucifer and the other townies in a warehouse. Hank is part of Lucifer’s hivemind and doesn’t want to return. The X-Men hold off Lucifer’s people, while X frees Beast against his will. Archangel finally kills Lucifer and all the people who are part of the hivemind die as well. X tells the X-Men that occasions like this are the reasons why they are needed. He was hoping they’d find happiness doing good. He makes them forget him. A few days later, the X-Men meet for dinner again (not recalling he previous one), but seem more optimistic about their lives.

Full Summary: 

Monday, the Grand Salon, New York City:
The maître d’ is somewhat taken aback, when a man announces he is here to meet an old friend. He looks at him to see that he is barefoot, dressed in very informal wear and completely covered in blue fur, so he informs Henry Mc Coy aka the Beast that they have a dress code.

Hank interrupts that he is aware of their dress code and chose not to abide by it. He is sure he is aware that in weather like this it is inconsiderate to people of the furry persuasion. As a professor of both Harvard and Cambridge University, a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, a Nobel Prize winner, a nine-time recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a board member of Stark Industries and the Rand Corporation and an Avenger in good standing, the number of institutions which have turned him down based on his appearance can be counted on one paw. But if there is a problem, he can ask the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is a good friend, if he could recommend another restaurant that wouldn’t turn him down based on genetic…

Chastened, the maître d’ leads him into the private room, where Jean Grey is already waiting. They hug and Jean remarks the place has a dress code. Nobody told him, Hank deadpans.

Hank looks at her critically and asks if everything is okay. With a frozen smile, she asks why it wouldn’t be. He muses they haven’t seen each other much since her… he worries. She knows he is a worrier and she has been through so much.

That moment, Bobby Drake and Warren Worthington III enter. Bobby expresses his happiness at Warren’s presence. For a moment, he was worried he was going to have to pick up the check tonight.

They greet each other, the others surprised at Jean inviting all of the original X-Men. Are they waiting for one more? Bobby asks, answered by a tight-lipped ‘no.’

Soon they are reminiscing and gossiping. Bobby orders another bottle of wine and asks Warren to drink a glass. Warren refuses and asks Jean why she picked this place. She asks if he doesn’t remember. He doesn’t. Jean links them telepathically to share her memory. After their first mission, Charles took them here to celebrate. They hated it. Weaponizing nostalgia seems a tad gauche, Hank muses. So what does she want? Recreate the old times? Put the band back together?

Warren believes it’s the opposite and Jean agrees. Look at them in that memory and look at them now. Look at what they’ve lost. Hank asks what that means. She reminds him this wasn’t what he wanted for a life. He’s given so much for Charles Xavier’s dream, and it was never Hank’s dream anyway. Hank admits he does have regrets.

Jean continues that Warren used to be so carefree, but now there is something inside him that scares him. It scares her, too.

She admits that Bobby seems pretty okay. Munching his burger, Bobby thanks her with a full mouth.

Moving to herself, Jean announces she died saving the world and do they know what she felt when she died? Nothing. She felt nothing and she misses that. She wonders for what they suffered. What do they have? They barely have each other. They slowly slip away and all she can think is that she shouldn’t have come back.

Well, this is a fun conversation, comes the sardonic voice of a newcomer. The words come from a sharp-featured man with a blond or light brown buzzcut and dressed in a white suit. Bobby informs him this is a private party. Calling him Robert, the man responds with a smirk he is aware of that. He worries he was just drawn in by the astonishing amount of self-pity in the room.

In a threatening tone, Bobby asks if anybody knows who that guy is or does he have to show him… The stranger interrupts that Jean knows. Jean scans him and reveals he is Charles Xavier… somehow.

In the meantime, the stranger sits down at an empty place and pours himself a glass of wine. Yes, somehow, he agrees and admits he is a tiny bit hurt they didn’t invite him to this reunion. This was always his favorite restaurant.

The X-Men burst out with questions, like why he is here, why he isn’t dead and – in Bobby’s case – why he has hair. He replies the answers are complicated, but that’s not why he came tonight. His return has provided him with some perspective. Seeing the four of them, in how much pain they are from the choices they made and what they’ve been through, he can’t help but feel partially responsible. He is mostly responsible! Beast shoots back. Undeterred, the man who now calls himself X continues he came here to tell them that, after all these years, he was wrong. He was wrong for asking those sacrifices of them. He wants to make things right.

He asks them to extend the evening. He is staying not far from here. A humble place, but he has room for them all. They could catch up and maybe he could show them the world that hates and fear them isn’t quite what they think it is. He takes them to Lago in a limousine and to a villa.

The X-Men wonder how he can afford something like that when they live in his mansion and control his estate. Then again, they don’t really want to know. X offers them rooms and more comfortable clothes if they wish. Also, there is a tavern nearby where they can continue their discussion with a nightcap.

Twenty minutes later, they stand in front of a bar and Beast predicts this isn’t going to go well. X chides him for his unfounded assumptions as they enter. Beast whispers he has done years of fieldwork on this… however X seems to be right. They are met with the same kind of mild curiosity any stranger could expect. A waiter introduces himself as Heylel and gets them a table. He asks if they are passing through and Henry immediately takes this as a veiled insult. However, Heylel just wanted to turn their attention to the Hudson Valley Arts Festival this weekend.

Bobby gets their drinks and runs into and spills them on a huge biker guy. However, instead of the expected hostility, the man apologizes and offers to buy them another round.

Jean and Henry give X skeptical looks and he suggests perhaps the world doesn’t hate and fear them as much as they have all been led to believe…

Tuesday Morning:
Jean and Warren walk the town. Jean keeps searching for something amiss in all of this. Warren suggests that maybe there is nothing there. Taking a look at his bright sports outfit, she replies she cannot have a serious conversation with him dressed like this. He reminds her X didn’t have clothes with wing-holes for him, and isn’t it weird he had a change of clothes for Jean? Jean summarizes the whole thing is weird. How is he back? Why does he have a house here? What is wrong with this town? Her instincts are screaming that something is horribly wrong but every mind she reads is completely fine. Maybe Hank and Bobby are having more luck on their end.

Meanwhile, Henry watches in disgusted fascination as Bobby wolves down a burger and stands up triumphantly. He explains the burger is for free if you eat it in under a minute. Hank doesn’t see the point, as it only costs four dollars. And now it’s free, Bobby points out. Hank suggests he shouldn’t make people notice them. Bobby sensibly retorts, any amount of burger won’t make him more noticeable than a large furry blue man.

Henry asks him if the town’s name Lago really doesn’t ring any bells for him? He asks about Katrina Fox. Bobby recalls a mutant girl killed by… He remembers. She was killed by a mob of townspeople in Lago. And when the ringleaders stood trial, it took the jurors eleven minutes to find them not guilty. In Lago. This town was off-limits to them when they were kids. Charles always said the hatred run deep here.

Bobby points out they’ve mellowed out. To show this he addresses a man walking past them and asks him where his friend could find a pet groomer. The man aggressively shouts at them to get out and calls him mutie. When Henry tells him that they have every right to be here, the man upends their table.

Two other men grab him and asks if he is okay. Even as he apologizes, they force the man, David, to accompany them outside. Beast gets up wanting to talk to David. Another man tries to calm him by making apologies that David has been unwell for some time. Henry insists that “unwell” seems an oversimplification. The man apologizes and hands them some vouchers for a free meal in David’s name. Bobby greedily grabs them.

With the man gone, Henry pointedly asks Bobby if he has anything to say to him. Unimpressed, Bobby tells him he was right. With his knowledge and scientific reasoning, Hank deduced that this town has a racist in it. Congratulations.

Henry insists the whole town is getting stranger and less pleasant. Would he like to go investigate with him? Bobby demurs pointing out if this town is so awful, why does he keep getting free meals?

Hours later, Warren and Jean arrive in X’s home, calling out for Charles, though unsure how to address him. A weakened and sick Bobby lying on the couch informs them he is not here. When they ask if he’s okay, he explains his state that he ate a two-pound-hamburger in under a minute. It was free, he adds, seeing Jean is puzzled. When they ask after Hank, he explains he went to find out what happened to some crazed guy after he screamed at them. Finding out that was at lunchtime, Jean points out it’s eight now

Jean orders them to look for Henry. They follow though Bobby protests he is going to barf. Did she feel like this when she ate a planet? Dude, Angel remarks. Too soon!

Sitting and drinking at a table, X asks how their day among the common folk was. Jean insists they talk. X invites them to sit. Jean snaps they’ll stand. She wants to know why he brought them here. Is this a trap? He assures them it isn’t a trap. At least not one of his doing. When he calls them “children,” Jean cuts him off. “Do you adults,” he corrects himself mockingly, “remember what happened to my legs?”

Bobby recounts that a man named Lucifer damaged his spine. The X-Men fought him years later and beat him. “A” for effort, X muses, but “F” for work. Lucifer isn’t a man at all; he’s a parasitic alien. He merges his essence with people, literally become them. He doesn’t know how long he has existed or how often he has come to Earth, but he suspects the Bible’s fallen angel and their annoying alien don’t share the same name for nothing.

Warren spells out that Lucifer is here and has taken over the town. Warren gets the prize, X agrees as he downs another shot. X asks if they remember why the town was familiar. He figures that people who are scared are more susceptible to his abilities. And X’s. And Jean’s, right, Jean? he asks. They have to stop him now, Jean announces. No need to rush, he replies. He wants to finish his bottle. Jean explains he has Hank. After another slug, X gets up.

X tells them Lucifer wants to propagate and become the dominant lifeform on the planet. They ask who the real Lucifer is if he can take over others’ bodies. He informs them it’s Heylel, their waiter from the day before.

Warren flies upward and finds a warehouse with too much activity at the north of town.

The others sneak closer. Bobby remarks he thought this town sucked before he saw what their parties looked like. The guy who yelled at Bobby at lunch addresses them in a friendly manner and asks if he can help. They brush him off.

Jean Bobby and X enter, only to be told by Hank this is a private function. Bobby tells him they gotta get out of here. Hank replies he is where he wants to be. He offers to have them meet some people who will help them understand. Bobby ices up and freezes him. The others surround them and Jean telepathically calls Angel.

Angel flies in low, distracting people. X tells Jean to keep the others off him, while he tries to sever the link Lucifer has with Hank.

Heylel (aka Lucifer) seethes that they dare to attack him. Iceman points out he brainwashed his friend and made him even more boring. Of course he dares! When he attacks with an iceblast, not only Lucifer reacts in pain but also all his victims. Iceman moves to the defensive and protects them with iceshield from Lucifer’s attack. He asks how X is doing. X explains he has to reroute Beast’s brain functions around the part Lucifer took. Luckily, he has just been turned, so it’s easy to see which parts are Hank and which are not.

Beat breaks loose and is about to attack his friends, then stops mid-attack as X has come through. Shocked, he asks Jean what they did to him. Jean begins to explain it was Lucifer. Angrily, he interrupts, Lucifer is peace. That is all he is. He takes all your pain and suffering away. You give yourself to him and he heals you. And they stopped it! Jean insists he is jut confused.

The others begin to feel Lucifer in their heads and X decides they need to stop this now. They have to sever them instantly. They kill him… Iceman points out that is not something they do. X calls their morality childish.

However, they see Angel flying to Lucifer and kneeling down before him. His face grimaces as he becomes the Archangel. Lucifer urges him to join with him and he can be at peace. Instead, Archangel cuts off his head with his razor-sharp wings. Like one man, all the possessed in the hall fall as well.

Jean hurries to Archangel’s side and helps the Warren persona to become dominant again. Warren asks if he killed him. Jean tells him yes and asks if he was trying to. He replies that Charles was right. Lucifer was too powerful. He could feel him in his skull telling him everything was fine, making him feel like nothing was wrong. The pull of something like that… the world wouldn’t stand a chance.

Iceman checks the townspeople to find they are all dead. Beast revives, though he feels like something was ripped out of his skull.

Angrily, Jean turns to X, accusing him of making Warren do this. X demurs. He didn’t make him do anything. Jean insists he knew what would happen. The blood is on his hands, not Warren’s! X replies he didn’t know though he suspected, which is why he worked so hard to sever Hank’s connection. Lucifer’s hold on these people was more than just psychic. He was part of them. And when they excised that part, it proved too traumatic for the human hosts.

Iceman states he’s been planning this for a while. And for what? He brought them here to be killers? To exact his revenge for him? X retorts that they asked for this, all of them. They wanted to see what a world without the X-Men would have looked like. Today it looked like an alien parasite infesting a town. Tomorrow who can say what it will be? Warren understood that you don’t get to pretend nothing is wrong forever. Eventually it catches up to you. So they can all have another of their pity parties and blame him for the way their lives turned out. But when they are crying about how sad everything is, remember, it doesn’t matter. Either save the world, or let it die. Those are the only choices they will ever have.

He turns away. Come tomorrow they will move on and he won’t even be a memory. So that’s it? Jean asks. He always knew they’d be miserable, but he didn’t care because the world needed them? X replies, he always held out some hope they’d find happiness in doing good… some day. He uses his powers on them to make them forget.

The Grand Salon, New York City:
Beast enters. The maître d’ tells him it’s good to have him back so soon. Beast suggest he has him confused. Do they have a lot of blue furry patrons? Politely, the other man agrees and informs him his party is in the back room again.

Jean, Warren and Bobby (who calls him an Avatar-looking hunk of trouble) have already arrived. Hank is surprised Jean did a reunion. Did he forget something special? Jean hugs them all and replies she’s barely seen any of them since her return. She just wanted to say how proud she is of them, seeing all the good they have accomplished. She thought they deserved a nice night together, a little happiness. They’ve earned that.

Only Warren turns away, deep in thought.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Beast, Iceman Jean Grey, X (all X-Men)

Lucifer / Heylel

Citizens of Lago
Maître d’

Story Notes: 

Professor X / X returned to life in Astonishing X-Men (4th series) #1-12. He next appears in House of X / powers of X.

Jean returned to life in Phoenix Resurrection: the Return of Jean Grey #1-5.

Lago never actually appeared in the X-books, but was created in the series Alias (1st series). Jessica Jones investigated a mutant problem in Alias #11-14 in that town.

Jean eating a planet refers to the Dark Phoenix saga, specifically X-Men (1st series) #135.

The original Lucifer story was told in X-Men (1st series) #20-21.

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