New X-Men (2nd series) #32

Issue Date: 
January 2007
Story Title: 
Whatever Happened to Wither?

Craig Kyle & Chris Yost (writers), Mike Norton (penciller), Dave Meikis (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Kate Levin (production), Sean Ryan (asst. editor), Nick Lowe (assoc. editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Paco Medina (cover artist)

Brief Description: 

Wither is now living among the homeless and destitute in Mutant Town. He is sharing a space with an elderly woman he has befriended. He continues to have nightmares about his powers and what they did to his long-time crush and classmate, Laurie Collins. He is being watched over by Wolfsbane at Emma Frost’s request, as she explains to Mercury who is worried about Kevin given all that’s happened there since M-Day. Wither continues to fight using his power. His elderly friend tries to convince him to embrace what he is. When police investigating a string of murders involving withered corpses come to arrest the elderly woman, they shoot her before Kevin’s eyes. In anguish, he uses his powers to kill them. The elderly woman is revealed to be Selene, the former Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. She tells him that she will grant his heart’s desire if he embraces his power. They kiss and he agrees. Lucinda Guthrie visits the Institute for a memorial service for her son, Jay and the others lost since M-Day. She is greeted by Dust who blames herself for Icarus’ death. Lucinda comforts her and tells her it isn’t her fault. She then gives a eulogy telling everyone how much Jay loved them and espousing her continuing dedication to Xavier’s dream. This is followed by a general memorial for all those lost since the Decimation and in the pursuit of Xavier’s dream.

Full Summary: 

Kevin Ford lies in his bed at the Xavier Institute, fast asleep. A voice calls out to him and he sits up in bed, startled by the abrupt awakening. Sitting next to his bed is Laurie Collins AKA Wallflower. She tells him he was just dreaming and everything is going to be alright. He’s confused by this as she leans in to kiss him. He tries to protest that he can’t but she shushes him and begins to tell him that she loves him. As their lips meet, she turns to ash and begins to crumble in his arms.

Kevin wakes up and shouts out “NO!”. He is not in the X-Mansion but squatting in a rundown tenement building in Mutant Town. The place is in a sad state and Wither is sleeping on a mattress on the floor which is strewn with garbage. Nearby, an elderly woman sleeps on a similar mattress.
Kevin catches his breath as he realizes it was all just a dream. He calls to God to please make it stop.
The old woman hears his pleading voice and wakes. She notes that he has the same nightmare every night and asks why he doesn’t go back to the school. She points out that he was once of Xavier’s chosen and there’s a place for him where he can be protected. He recalls the day he grabbed Laurie Collins arm, thinking he had lost his powers as a result of M-Day. He remembers the feeling of her flesh as it withered from his touch. He tells the old woman that they needed protection from him.

At the Xavier Institute, Mercury is meeting with the headmistress, Emma Frost. She tries to convince Miss Frost that Kevin shouldn’t be out there alone considering all the attacks they’ve experienced since M-Day. Emma tells Cessily that Kevin doesn’t want to come back and tries to assure her by telling her that she has people keeping an eye on him. She asks how Emma could be so cold as to keep this from them. Emma in turn asks what she would have her do. Should she force Kevin to return against his will? Emma assures Mercury that as soon as Kevin is ready to return, she will personally collect him. Until then, he needs time to deal with himself and his powers on his own. Cessily asks if Kevin knows about what has happened to the other students, especially Laurie. Miss Frost abruptly tells Mercury that they will have to discuss this another time as their guest has just arrived.

In another part of the school, Josh Foley is explaining the dynamics of his latest physiological evolution to his friends, Surge and David Alleyne. He tells them he can feel the remaining black coloration on his skin as it moves across his body. David awkwardly tries to ask if he can still use his powers to kill and Josh answers that he can but doesn’t want to. He knows that Laurie wouldn’t want that for him. Nori points out that he did save X-23’s life. Josh responds something changed when he killed Stryker and shifted again when he saved Laura. Julian helped him realize that with his powers he can be and do more than he once thought he just needs to learn to control it. As the group is talking, they are interrupted by the arrival of Melodie Guthrie, the sister of their deceased teammate Josh.

At that moment, Rogue and Cyclops are accompanying Josh’s mother, Lucinda Guthrie through the grounds of the Institute. She notes that she’s only visited the school on three occasions since her eldest son, Sam AKA Cannonball first joined Xavier years earlier. She notes how much has changed. She mentions that he didn’t want her to come but she wanted to be there for Josh… as well as his surviving siblings in attendance. Cyclops informs Lucinda that Sam is getting Paige as they speak and tells her how sorry they all are. Rogue adds that they should have done more. Mrs. Guthrie graciously thanks them both for letting her be there to say good-bye.

In Mutant Town, Madrox and Wolfsbane are on a rooftop watching over Wither and his elderly female companion through a set of binoculars. Madrox notes that Rahne has been keeping watch over Kevin for weeks. He also mentions how creepy things are given the recent disappearances and suspicion that a killer is on the loose. He suggests they simply bring Kevin in to X-Factor.
Rahne explains that Emma Frost told her not to contact or help him and asked her to only check in on him to be sure he is safe. Madrox asks when she started taking orders from the White Queen, especially after their recent conflict with the X-Men. He asks what Frost has on Rahne and Rahne thinks about her relationship with Josh Foley during the time she taught at the Institute. Rahne responds angrily and says that Emma Frost has nothing on her but that these kids deserve any help she can give them after all they’ve been through. She tells Jamie that he’s going to do all he can to help to and he sheepishly backs down.

Josh and his female companion are sitting on a park bench, watching some pigeons. He asks her what they are doing out and she tells him she likes the city, that when you are close to death as she is it’s nice to be among the living. He tells her not to say that and she asks if she should lie to herself instead. She says that she has embraced the truth. At that moment, Kevin looks down to see two of the pigeons that appear to be withered. He tells his friend that he shouldn’t be there.
Nearby, a young couple are making out against a tree. The elderly woman asks Kevin if it’s hard for him to see others in love when he is alone. The couple turns to ash as he says that it doesn’t matter.
The old woman asks why and he tells her it’s because he can’t touch anyone. The woman rises and says she should be going. Kevin asks her not to go and explains that he really misses his friends but even if he was there he couldn’t be with her because of his powers. The woman tells him that death is all around them as she watches police and the coroner, who are across the street investigating a crime. She tells him that the humans have taken more lives but that a mutant will be blamed. She says they’ll come for her soon. Kevin grabs her wrist to lead her away and tells her that they won’t come after her. The woman tells him to accept the truth and asks if she’s ever told Kevin about her gift. Kevin promises they won’t hurt her.
The police tell the coroner to leave the body bags and grab a dustbuster. The coroner seems to know what this means and asks if it’s really happened again. The police lead him inside where they find more bodies turns to ash. This raises the tally of dead bodies to nineteen in just three weeks.

Back at the Xavier Institute, Julian Keller is sound asleep having worn himself out in his efforts to fly X-23 to the school so that she could be healed from grievous injuries she sustained in their battle against Nimrod. Laura is perched on a chair watching over him. He talks in his sleep and calls out for Sofia. He wakes for a moment and thinks he sees something, but X-23 is gone. He promptly falls back asleep.

Elsewhere, Rockslide is relating what happened to his classmates Match and Anole. He comments that Elixir has gone all zen since waking up and healing X-23 and suggests that there may be an open slot on their roster soon. He asks if either of them have returned from the dead like he and Laura did. Match replies “not yet”. He tells Match that his flame head is cool and all but how will he handle being stealthy in a dark room? Ben mentions the one time in the Danger Room that he damped down his flame but is cut off by the gregarious Santo.
Santo then turns to Victor who he compliments on his stealthiness but asks what he plans to do against a heavy hitter like Nimrod. “Tongue him?” Santo adds. Dust notes that Cessily asked that everyone be nice to Santo for as long as possible but that he’s making it very difficult to do so. As she says this Rogue walks by with Lucinda Guthrie. She asks who the older woman is and Anole tells her that it’s Jay’s mother. Dust immediately chases after her without a word. Santo calls out to her and tells her to stop beating herself up over this. He tells Victor “Way to go.” And that he’s out of consideration for a spot on the team now. Victor is dismayed and wonders what he said wrong.

Lucinda Guthrie is with Rogue in Jay’s old room. She tells Rogue how she forced Joshua to go to Xavier’s after the death of his girlfriend Julia. During this time he was suicidal but he wrote home to tell his mother that being at the school helped. He made friends and after a while the pain he felt over Julia’s death eased.
Her recollections are interrupted by the arrival of Dust. She removes her cowl to reveal tears streaming down her face. She stammers but Mrs. Guthrie immediately recognizes her from Jay’s descriptions. Lucinda tells Sooraya that Jay told her what a beautiful person she is. Dust falls to her knees and clutches Lucinda, begging for her forgiveness. Lucinda cradles the sobbing girl and tells her it’s okay, it wasn’t her fault and there’s nothing to forgive.

Elsewhere, Kevin is having another nightmare. His former classmates are calling out to him, all in a semi-withered state and begging him for release. He wakes screaming out “NO!” His elderly friend asks if he cries out because he’s scared of what he’s done or the possibility that he likes it? He reminds her of how his powers work and wonders why God would allow him to exist. She tries to tell him it’s a gift but he sees it as a curse. She tries to console him, telling him he’s a good person. He has cared for her for weeks, seeing to her needs and keeping her company. But she sees how he is tearing himself up with self-hatred. She tells him that death is a part of the natural world and he must accept himself and use his powers as he was meant to. He vows never to use his powers again. She asks if he would use them to save a life and if he’d use them to save her or to take revenge on the man who killed his friends. Kevin asks her to repeat what she just said.

Moments later, Mercury is getting dressed to go to the memorial service. Her cell phone rings. It’s Kevin and he demands to know if what he’s heard is true. Cessily begins to cry and begs him to just come home so they can talk about it. He asks where Laurie is and cries out when Cessily doesn’t answer immediately, assuming the worst has happened. Cessily sinks to the floor, pleading with Kevin not to do this.

While Kevin is calling the Institute, a SWAT team arrives and attempts to arrest the woman he has been living with. She grabs two of them and their bodies instantly turn to ash. The remaining officers level their guns at her. She explains that her gift is to be one with death and that she felt his friends die. She tells him they suffered great pain and were killed by humans.
The police open fire on the woman, her body thrown against the wall as the bullets pierce her frail body. Kevin enters at that moment. He cries out in anguish as he grabs the two officers and drains their life-forces. He falls to his knees, asking himself what he’s done. His friend tells him he has simply become what he was meant to be: death, pure and simple. He looks up at her, bewildered at her revival.
She tells him that she is immortal and stands revealed as Selene, the Black Queen! She tells him that they are the same, they are killers. She takes his chin in her gloved hands and helps him to his feet. She tells him that now that he has embraced the truth of what he is, she can give him all that he desires. She tells him that this is what he wants and all he has to do is say “yes” and she will be his queen. They kiss and when he finally pulls away he whispers, “yes”.

Later that night at the Xavier Institute, the friends and family of Jay Guthrie meet to hear a eulogy from his mother, Lucinda Guthrie. She tells them how the world viewed mutants when her son, Sam’s powers first manifested. How both of them were scared by it until Charles Xavier brought him to his School for Gifted Youngsters. She notes how her children grew into adults in this place that provided them with such hope. She tells them that Jay loved it here and that he loved all of them like family. She tells them that despite the horrible things that have happened; Jay’s murder, Melodie losing her powers, she still believes in Xavier’s dream and the importance of the X-Men as a symbol of hope for a better future. She explains that despite the worry she feels for her remaining children, Sam and Paige, she would never ask them to stop fighting for this dream. She adds that here at the Institute that dream is already real and those who live here will be the ones who make it a reality beyond the walls of Xavier’s estate. She ends by saying that Joshua believed in that dream and so does she and that they all miss Jay and love him with all their hearts.

After Lucinda has spoken, those gathered make their way outside with candles. Kitty Pryde reads a list of those who have died among the students at Xavier’s School or as members of the X-Men. The names include:

John Proudstar – Sean Cassidy – Jean Grey – Sarah Vale – Max Jordan – Mark Sheppard - Andrea Margulies – Floyd Carter – Callie Betto – Brian Cruz – Sammy Pare – Jeffrey Garrett – Esme and Sophie Cuckoo – Doug Ramsey – Illyana Rasputin – Jay Guthrie – Laurie Collins

She adds that they remember all those mutants lost during M-Day and the violence in the days after. As she says this, Emma Frost catches that Carol Danvers AKA Ms. Marvel is among those present to mark the loss of so many. They exchange a look of recognition regarding the harsh words they exchanged when Carol came to the Institute with the sad news of Jay’s death. Kitty concludes her remarks by saying that they gather now to support each other and remember those they have lost. She asks that they rest in peace and that they will never be forgotten.

Characters Involved: 

Elixir, Surge, Dust, Elixir, Hellion, Mercury, Rockslide and X-23 (All New X-Men)
Beast, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Iceman, Rogue, Shadowcat, Wolverine (All X-Men)
Madrox, Wolfsbane (Both X-Factor Investigations)
Archangel, Forge, Husk, Karma, Danielle Moonstar (All Xavier Institute affiliates)
Anole, David Alleyne/Prodigy, Bling, Hisako, Indra, Loa, Match, Nezhno, Onyxx, Stepford Cuckoos (Celeste, Mindee, Phoebe), Trance, Wolfcub (All Xavier Institute students)
Wither, Melodie Guthrie (Both former Xavier Institute students)
Lucinda Guthrie
Ms. Marvel
O*N*E soldiers and Sentinel pilots
Unnamed police, coroner and other citizens of New York
In Wither’s Dream:

Withered versions of Cyclops, Dust, Emma Frost, Hellion, Icarus, Prodigy, Rockslide, Surge, Tag, Wallflower, Wind Dancer

Story Notes: 

Wither had a major crush on Wallflower during the period that they were both students at the Xavier Institute as depicted in NEW MUTANTS (2nd Series) and NEW X-MEN: ACADEMY X. He inadvertently withered her arm when he believed he had lost his powers due to the after-effects of M-Day as shown in NEW X-MEN (2nd Series) #20.
Elixir used his powers to kill Reverend Stryker in NEW X-MEN (2nd Series) #27. He saved X-23’s life in NEW X-MEN (2nd Series) #31.
Melodie Guthrie is a former Xavier Institute student who lost her flight-related powers as a result of M-Day as shown in NEW X-MEN (2nd Series) #20.
X-Factor clashed with the X-Men in X-FACTOR (3rd series) #9 over their opposing stances on the Superhuman Registration Act.
Wolfsbane had a brief romantic relationship with Josh Foley AKA Elixir during the time that she was a teaching assistant and training squad advisor at the Xavier Institute. She left the school rather than be fired when their relationship became public in NEW X-MEN: ACADEMY X #12.
Hellion calls out for Sofia in his sleep. He’s referring to Sofia Mantega, a former Xavier Institute student who lost her wind-manipulating powers. Hellion and Sofia had just embarked on a romantic relationship when she lost her powers on M-Day (NEW X-MEN (2nd Series) #20). She subsequently left the school without saying good-bye.
Match mentions that he once dimmed his flame in the Danger Room. This is a nod to ASTONISHING X-MEN (3rd series) #13. In this issue, Logan trains the remaining students in the now gutted Danger Room. When he turns out the lights, the room goes completely dark even though Match and his perpetually flaming head are present at the time.
Jay Guthrie’s human girlfriend, Julia Cabot was killed in UNCANNY X-MEN #441.
Kevin was unaware until this issue that his former classmate and love interest, Laurie Collins was killed by the Purifiers in NEW X-MEN (2nd series) #25.
Selene’s mutant abilities include the ability to drain the life-force of others to sustain her youth and vitality, making her functionally immortal. This power apparently counters the effects of Kevin’s own power to break down organic matter.
Among the names read is the name Floyd Carter. Series writer Chris Yost has confirmed in our forums that this is the previously unrevealed name of Hydro, a student at the Xavier Institute who drowned when his aquatic-based powers were lost on M-Day as shown in NEW X-MEN (2nd Series) #20.

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