New X-Men (1st series) #149

Issue Date: 
January 2004
Story Title: 
Planet X - part 4: Phoenix in Darkness

Grant Morrison (writer), Phil Jimenez (penciler), Andy Lanning (inker), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wootan (letterer), Christopher Shy (cover), Stephanie Moore (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Reveling in their success, Magneto and his Brotherhood oversee the last batch of humans on Manhattan being corralled for extermination. The subsequent debate over the proceedings leads Magneto to banish Beak for disloyalty and, in a moment of rage at his juvenile jokes, kill Basilisk. Beak, however, manages to escape the following mass execution and, after a beating from a local mutant gang, finds himself rescued by Fantomex’s sentient spaceship, E.V.A. The craft takes Beak to a hidden safehouse of anti-Magneto mutants, among which are the three remaining Stepford Cuckoos, Dust and both Cyclops and Fantomex. Despite the odds, Cyclops declares the group X-Men and his intention to lead them against Magneto. Back at his sanctum, Magneto finally puts an end to Esme’s ambitions and quells her hopes that she will ever rule at his side. After she has left, however, Magneto finds himself no longer alone, as a voice in his head claims to be the conscience that he has tried to silence. Magneto checks on the still-captive Xavier, thinking that it might be a telepathic trick. However, he finds hid old foe still helpless and his powers jammed. Inside his tank, however, Xavier is contacted by a voice and images that he finds familiar. To this person, the Professor mentally asks if it is Jean.

Full Summary: 

In Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, a mass of humans mull about, void of hope or spirit or life. In the center of their mass, reflecting their souls, the Angel of the Waters fountain is separated from them by a barb wired fence. The statue itself has been decapitated and is missing a wing. Far beyond, looming in the night sky yet illuminating it, are giant smoke stacks, belching forth black plumes of death into the raining night.

Seeing all of this and finding it good, Magneto addresses his followers, the Brotherhood, telling them that, for humanity, extermination is too good for them. Look at the state of these last dregs, he continues, stumbling like cattle towards the abattoir. Turning to Beak, Magneto asks if he is ready to activate the crematoria. Still too shocked by the sights that he cannot turn away from, Beak responds with his own question: this all started as politics and freedom… when did they all turn into such Nazis?

Repeating the work “Nazis” with bile, Magneto clenches his teeth and his eyes begin to glow. Does he look like a failed artist with a neurotic grudge against his father and the world? he asks. He is a force of nature. He is Magneto. A new world demands new resolve. They are laying the foundation stones of paradise… this is no time to be squeamish.

There is nothing new about people marching into the ovens, Beaks retorts. Agreeing, Angel adds that she doesn’t know if she really wants her kids growing up to be Imperial Stormtroopers. Undeterred, Magneto informs Angel that her children will grow strong and proud in a world without persecution or fear. One day, he states, they will build statues in his honor. Turning to Toad, Magneto asks for confirmation. Agreeing without question, Toad tells Beak and Angel that Magneto’s spent a lot of time thinking about this, so they should just shut their yaps.

Stepping into the argument with a more intelligent reply, Esme declares that it’s a scientific fact that humans are a lower form of life. They practically admitted it themselves when they called mutants Homo superior. Magneto, she then adds, wrote a brilliant article about how they can’t even feel pain like they do. Chiming in again, Toad grins wildly and tells Beak that he should have been there for the experiments…

Horrified at what he is hearing, Beak squawks that everyone can feel pain. Even a dog or a carrot can feel pain! Hearing this, Magneto moves himself closer to his disciple, asking if a carrot can really feel pain. Spurred on by his whole train of thought, Beak asks why not. Okay, he admits, maybe a carrot’s the wrong fruit to pick but there’s no way he… Beak’s words are ended by the blow from Magneto’s backhand. Shouting the word vegetable, Magneto informs Beak that carrots are not fruit and this is not Xavier’s school! This is Magneto’s empire.

Running to the aid of her children’s father, Angel tells Magneto to leave him be! Leave him alone! Flanked by their children, Angel hugs Beak close to her and glares back to her leader. Spitting out her words in night’s rain, Angel tells Magneto to look at himself. He’s eight feet tall and Beak’s nothing but chicken bones and hair. He’s not a killer.

As Esme chuckles at Angel’s protestations, Magneto turns his back on the two. Not even bothering to look at them, Magneto tells them that their children are soldiers. All of them are his soldiers and they will learn discipline. Speaking to other followers, Magneto orders them to put Beak with the humans. Immediately, two followers comply, grabbing Beak by the arms, dragging him away. With or against him, Magneto continues, as his orders are being carried out, the must make their choice.

Spitting out the words, Angel tells Magneto that he’s just like her daddy. Replying back simply, the mutant master states that he’ll do what it takes to save mutantkind. Struggling to avoid being taken away, Beak yells out to the other mutants that Magneto’s no hero; he’s a jerk. Magneto is nothing but a jerk! Stone-eyed as he looks away towards his handiwork, Magneto replies that he was designed by Mother Nature to prey on the human organisms. Blame her.

A few feet away, Basilisk, another of the Brotherhood, voices his humor at the situation, saying that somebody ruined it… Who “passed gas” at the most dramatic moment? Enraged at the juvenile comment, Magneto’s eyes glare with energy, which he focuses with his outstretched hand. Repeating his call for discipline, Magneto reaches out and instantly crushes the throat of the youth. Collapsing, Basilisk is dead before his body hits the ground.

Shocked at what he just instinctively did, Magneto stutters that he didn’t mean to… He… he… he only meant to teach Basilisk a lesson… Quickly recovering his composure, Magneto levitates himself and begins to depart. Speaking out to Toad, Magneto declares that the Brotherhood will be recruiting a new inner circle. Taking charge now that Magneto has departed, Esme calls out to other followers, ordering them to find a pyrokinetic and dispose of the body or else they’ll need a truck to get rid of him.

Nearby, still not having been taken off the platform, Beak calls out to Magneto, telling him that he’s losing it big time. The X-Men, he calls out, will beat him senseless. Riding the magnetic waves away, Magneto tells Beak that he had such high hopes for him. He thought he could transcend his limitation. He will be a soldier or he will be dead.

Hearing this, the followers holding Beak begin to take him down the steps to the park below and, reaching the bottom, stuff him in the backseat of a car. Hearing him declare that he’s a father, one tells Beak that people like him shouldn’t be allowed to breed. The other remarks that he should call this natural selection. Looking on in this with tears, Angel almost silently tells them that this isn’t right! What are they doing to him?

In answer to Angel’s question, Magneto uses his powers to lift the car that Beak is inside, along with dozens of others. Almost magically, the automobiles rise, high about the street, followed by dozens of humans. Seeing all of this with glee, Esme proclaims the sight spectacular! Listen to them screaming! Is he going to fling all the humans into space, she asks. His eyes aglow with the effort, Magneto tells Esme to be quiet. He is trying to concentrate.

High above the ground, Beak kicks the door to the backseat open, freeing himself. Quickly shedding the X-Men coat that he had been wearing, Beak bravely and without thought jumps from the airborne car, into the raining night. Flapping his feathered arms, the youth tells himself over and over again that he can fly, he can fly. For a few moments, his words seem to convince himself, as well as gravity. However, reality reasserts itself and he begins to fall, toward the street below. Falling at an angle, Beak hits the side of one building and then continues his fall. Impacting harshly, he remains motionless among the trash and refuse littering the pavement.

An untold amount of time later, possibly hours or possibly moments, Beak’s body is discovered by a group of youths. Viewing Beak’s motionless form, one youth informs the rest of the group that his shoes are his. This said, the whole group begins to pound their fists into Beak, beating him to a pulp. When their victim begins to stir, muttering about the Xavier School, the first youth replies that Magneto rules and follows his statement with a kick to Beak’s face. Their task complete, the group departs, leaving the bleeding Beak behind.

Using the last of his strength, Beak manages to raise himself, first to his hands and knees and then, slowly, to his feet. Talking to himself as he does so, Beak repeats the word Magneto spoke earlier, “soldier.” He will show him, Beak tells the non-present Magneto. He wanted a soldier? Well he is not… not working for him…

Noticing something out of the corner of his eye, Beak turns to the sight: a large luminous orb, surrounded by a circular plane, which gives the impression of a flying saucer. Rather than floating, the otherworldly object has four segmented legs, which hold it aloft from the ground. Addressing Beak as X-Man with an ethereal voice, the object introduces itself as E.V.A. He can fall over now, it tells him.

Concussion? one voice asks. Agreed another states. Fractures? another inquires. Opening his eyes, Beak sees a young girl in triplicate. However, as he sees that it is three of the identical sisters of the Stepford Cuckoos, he immediately knows that he is fine. Still speaking to themselves, one answers the question of fractures, stating that there is no sign. Now recognizing that their patient is awake, the three speak as one, informing him that he has a skull of concrete. Rising to his feel, Beak retorts that it’s too bad the rest of him is of cheap, broken glass.

Taking in his surroundings, a dingy, run-down, old structure, Beak asks the girls where is this. Their sister told him that they were all dead or gone to Magneto’s army at the Institute. Replying coldly, one sister replies that Esme’s no longer part of them anymore. Replying to the first, calling her Phoebe, a second states that they’re the Three-In-One now, right? Esme is the worst liar, says the third. There are actually still quite a few of them… and they’re all very cross.

Entering the room, Beak sees a group of mutants, including Dust of the Special Class. Seeing their gaze, Beak asks the sisters why everybody is looking at him like that. Immediately answering his own question in his mind, he quietly tells all that Mister Xorn tricked them all… they totally trusted him. Yes, maybe, one of the Cuckoos replies. But Dust told them what they all did to the Professor. To this, she adds that he is lucky that she is a telepath… she knows Esme was using Martha Johansson’s super-brain to influence their minds.

As the sister begins to tend to his wound, Beak tells the group that Magneto is not for beginners. He hates to say it, he continues, but he would kill all of them in one minute flat. Is there one guy here who can fight? Answering Beak’s question, Cyclops, flanked by Fantomex, emerges from a corner, saying that there’s always them. Will they do?

Looking in glee at the two with his one non-swollen eye, Beak announces that they are saved! Telling Beak to calm down, Cyclops asks him what is Magneto’s plan this time. The streets are in chaos… who’s in charge down there? Stepping up to the youth, a human policeman tells Beak to get out with it, seeing as how he’s on the genetic hit-list and all. With this, he introduces himself as Officer Foster, NYPD mutant liason.

Replying bluntly, Beak tells the officer that there’s no policeman who can fight this guy. He saw what he did to Fifth Avenue! There is no one in charge, no even Magneto. Chiming in, one Cuckoo adds that they shut down all electromagnetic media. Effectively, another continues, he’s blinded the planet. Which makes telepaths, finishes the third, the only reliable news source. Unfortunately, Magneto keeps his thoughts shielded.

Continuing with his own information, Beak reports that Magneto is also keeping Professor X naked in a bottle with his mind paralyzed. And he made five phone calls and sent all the super-heroes on a wild-goose chase to find a black hole bomb in Brooklyn just before he trapped everyone else inside his magnetic shield. He worked it all to win this time.

Telling Beak that they know, Cyclops adds that the only thing capable of breaking though that shield is a super-sentinel machine. Luckily, he says, they have two. Switching back to questions, Cyclops asks the youth what happened to the X-Men. The others? Saddened that he is the one to have to tell this news, Beak reluctantly reports that Doctor McCoy and Miss Frost were blown up in a plane and… and Mister Logan and Mrs. Grey-Summers were sent into the sun days ago. There are no X-Men.

Stoically, Cyclops looks on the group assembled… Fantomex, Beak, Dust, the Stepford Cuckoos… and replies that that’s not how it looks to him. He announces that he hopes they paid attention in class, because this is going to be one hell of a test.

Cocking his gun, Fantomex blithely asks Cyclops if he intends to lead a children’s crusade against the world’s most dangerous super-terrorist. He heard the telepaths, Fantomex tells Cyclops, war has begun. The final war between man and mutant. His arms wide in desperation, Cyclops asks his detractor what is his alternative? They roll over and die? There won’t be a war! He won’t let Magneto start a war and he doesn’t believe for one second that Jean and the others are dead… It’s already started, Fantomex interrupts. Humans were waiting for any excuse! And Magneto just hijacked Manhattan, in case he hadn’t noticed.

Voicing his own opinion, Beak adds that the humans have not long to make their move. Tomorrow, he informs the group, Magneto is going to turn the magnets of the Earth upside down and kill them all. Magneto wouldn’t, Cyclops begins. He doesn’t believe he would try something so stupid. He could wipe out mutants as well and… and he doesn’t have the power. No, retorts Beak, there is more… Magneto is using the drug Kick to make his powers greater. He is fifteen times the Magneto of before!

Taking the inhaler to his mouth, Magneto activates it, taking in another lung-full Kick. His ritual complete, the Master of Magnetism resumes his talk with Esme, telling her that he genuinely didn’t mean to kill the boy… he was just so… irritating. The other one was dangerous but… Interrupting her lord’s train of thought, Esme turns the conversation to Kick, telling Magneto that he’s taking too much of that stuff. Why can’t he just turn the world on its head now? Is he waiting for them to stop him?

Before Magneto can answer, a voice skims over the air around him, telling him that here comes his downfall once more. Voicing a confused “what” to the spectral voice, Magneto hears Esme reply that she didn’t say anything. To this she asks Magneto what is wrong with him these days. What happened to the brilliant, charismatic mutant outlaw she fell in love with?

Love, Magneto mocks. Esme, in the name of sanity, he says, does she honestly believe that this is about her? She’s a child. Growing angry at his words, Esme reminds Magneto that he said they’d take over the world together. He said! She helped hin do all this so that they could sit on the thrones together…

Enraged himself, Magneto turns back to the teen and grows in corresponding power. In a shouting voice, he asks Esme if she is insane. How could she be anything to him by a means to and end?! Destroyed by these words, Esme can muster no reponse, save from a nearly inaudible declaration of that’s not what you said. Repeating these words, she departs Magneto’s sanctum.

Now alone, Magneto hears another’s voice, the same from before. As predictable as ever, it accuses. Turning his gaze around the room to anything that might have uttered the sentence, Magneto’s eyes fall upon the mask of Xorn, still floating several feet above the ground and over warped piece of metal, acting as an ersatz mantle.

Approaching the seemingly inanimate object, Magneto quietly orders it to say something again. Seemingly in compliance, the voice returns. You made Xorn too well… in the image of your idealism, your strength, your wisdom. Incensed, reaches out with magnetic energy and topples the metal helmet from its magnetic perch. The helmet’s fall seems to take forever, falling through the seconds that pass as much as the distance to the ground. The jaw of the skeletal-like helmet become loose and lands separately from the rest. Laying on the ground, its vacant eyes upright, the helmet seems to stare at Magneto, piercing his inner soul. I am your inner star, Erik the voice continues. I am the conscience you can never silence. I will never let you be.

Moments later, Magneto finds himself in the chamber housing the imprisoned Professor X. As he has been since his capture, the Professor floats in a tank, now once again vertical, held aloft by the green liquid inside. Tubes feeding air and nutrients are taped to his mouth and body. As he regards his captive, old friend, Magneto sees that Xavier is quite conscious and looking at him.

This, Magneto begins haltingly, this is your doing? Turning to the monitors hooked into the Professor’s tank, Magneto answers his own question. No. His mind… still jammed. Regarding the Professor once again, Magneto asks aloud, more to himself than his captive, if this is some side effect of the drug that little witch forgot to mention.

Now speaking to Charles, Magneto asks him where does he find them? These ghastly, rebellious children of his? Why did they only ever listen to him when he was Xorn? Now facing the tank with but a few inches between he and it, Magneto tells Xavier that he almost misses their talks… their struggles. He was thinking about letting him walk free when it’s over. When there are no humans left to save.

To this, Xavier begins to protest, convulsing in rage and the impotence of his captivity. Grinning manically at this, Magneto continues, telling his foe that he’ll show him a world where there is no strife… where no one has to hide in the shadows, quaking at the sound of jets overhead. And he’ll turn to him finally and he’ll say… “It’s really so much nicer without them, isn’t it Erik. You were right.” Continuing his struggle, Xavier tries to reach out with this telepathy, but cannot. I was right, Magneto continues to prophesize, and you were wrong, Charles!

Suddenly, the tense interchange is ended by the words of a youth, telling Magneto that now he’s in for it. Turning to the source of the voice, Magneto finds a very flesh-and-blood origin. It is Ernst, carrying as always the chain leading to the disembodied brain of Martha Johansson in her anti-gravity case. Nobody likes what you’re doing, she tells Magneto. It’s boring and old-fashioned. Martha, she informs him, says it’s all coming to an end and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Back in the tank, Xavier suddenly finds himself in a different place. At first, it is a white nothingness, inhabited only by a voice, calling out his name. What is this place, he asks? Suddenly, the scene changes and coalesces into the streets of what was once Manhattan. It is in flames and the mighty skyscrapers that once lined the streets are in pieces, lying in rubble. He Xavier finds himself sitting before Jean, her hair lit in flames. He is asking her if these are words from the future. What is happening? Jean responds that it’s not a place… it’s not a place…

Xavier opens his eyes in his tank and returns to reality with a harsh realization. Jean, he asks telepathically. Is that you?

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Professor X, (all X-Men)
Beak, Dust, Stepford Cuckoos & unnamed mutants (all X-Men allies)
Officer Foster, NYPD mutant liaison

Angel, Angel & Beak’s children, Basilisk, Ernst, Martha Johansson, Toad (all Brotherhood inner circle)
Unnamed mutant followers


in Xavier's vision / flashback
Phoenix IV

Story Notes: 

Magneto’s comment about a “failed artist with a neurotic grudge against his father and the world” is, of course, a reference to Adolf Hitler and his early life before becoming leader of the Nazi party.

Angel’s reference to “Imperial Stormtroopers” is an obvious pop-culture reference to the Star Wars series. Ironically, such a comparison would make Magneto akin to Darth Vader, who periodically used his powers to crush the throats of followers that failed or displeased him. Shortly after Angel’s comparison, Magneto did just that.

Carrots are indeed vegetables, not fruit.

Of the five original Stepford Cuckoos, a third finally is named: Phoebe. She is followed by Esme and Sophie. Two still remain unnamed.

In what is most likely a lettering error, one of the Stepford Cuckoo’s word balloons has Martha Johansson’s name misspelled as Martha Johannson.

Fantomex’s reference to a “children’s crusade” refers to one of the world’s earliest urban legends. According to lore, a 12-year old named Stephen of Cloyes led a movement of 15,000 to 30,000 youths, none older than 12, to Jerusalem in 1212 to accomplish what previous armies could not, rid the holy land of “infidels.” While many believe this story to be accurate, there is little to back up such a historical account. While possibly of no ulterior connection, it is interesting to note that the story originates in medieval France, the land from which Fantomex pretends to hail.

The scene and accompanied dialogue Xavier telepathically received is exact in both detail and word for word as the vision he saw during a hypnotic session with Jean in New X-Men #128.

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