Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #196

Issue Date: 
August 1985
Story Title: 
What Was That ?!

Chris Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. and Dan Green (artists), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Ann Nocenti (editor), Jim Shooter (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

During a course at Columbia University, Xavier catches a thought fragment, revealing that some among his students plan to kill someone else in the room. However, with his telepathy hampered, he can identify neither the would-be murderers nor the intended victim. He discusses the situation with the X-Men later at a restaurant and the team is not sure how to feel about Magneto’s presence. Rachel has a run-in with a strange man, whom she later realizes is the Beyonder. Intrigued by the X-Men, the Beyonder follows them invisibly. The X-Men split into small groups to find the would-be killers. Kitty runs into them, a group of her university classmates, the ones who mugged Xavier and are now intending to kill him with a bomb targeting telepaths. The bomb goes off, targeting Rachel instead who can fight back, thanks to her telekinesis. When the students try to kill Kitty, an enraged Rachel confronts them, planning to kill them in turn. Magneto of all people manages to talk her out of it. The Beyonder is puzzled by their behavior and decides to understand he must become truly human. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler has sat the mission out, instead visiting Father Bowen. He confides in the priest that their meeting with the Beyonder has shaken his faith in God to the core. In Kenya, Ororo is shot and left for dead by the same party of poachers whom she fought and humiliated earlier.

Full Summary: 

Columbia University, New York City, advanced psychology 317, taught by Charles Xavier :

What was that?! Xavier suddenly thinks, catching a thought fragment. “We’ve got no choice. He knows who we are. He knows what we did. We’ve got to kill him!

He looks around. Some of his students are planning a murder, but he knows neither the victim nor the killer. With the lecture over, Xavier muses that he cannot read their minds. With the mugging and his almost death, his resources are so stretched he can no longer keep out thoughts. Hence he has been taking drugs to reduce his telepathy. This momentary flash was a fluke. Nevertheless, the crime must be prevented.

East Africa:

Ororo Munroe stands on the Serengeti Plain, musing about where life has taken her. She still has no answer to who she is and where she belongs. Suddenly, she sees a lion with a white mane matching her hair. She wonders if that is an omen. Before her eyes, he is shot. A moment later, so is she.

The shooter, the woman Andrea, whose party Ororo humiliated some days earlier, tells her brother Andreas they’ve seen the last of that interfering insufferably arrogant Kaffir witch. Andreas congratulates her on her shot, though he bristles that he didn’t get the pleasure. After all, he was the one struck.

The guides are less happy. Poaching is one thing, murder another. Andrea informs them their bribes will guarantee their safety. Unless a foolish guide takes it into his head to say things he shouldn’t. That would be… most regrettable. She orders them to take the lion for a trophy and leave the savage to rot.
In New York City, the X-Men have met in a café. Kitty informs Rogue about Ororo’s latest letter. Xavier interrupts her, reminding her he is conducting a briefing.

He repeats that among his class are a band of potential murderers and their victim. He has no empiric proof, though. He needs the X-Men to discover those involved. He has a list of his students together with where they live. Some are away for the weekend. He assumes that places them out of danger, at least temporarily. They must reach the rest tonight.

Kitty whispers to Colossus, complaining about Magneto’s presence. Not too long ago, he nearly killed her. How come, all of a sudden they have to be nice to him?

Lee Forrester whispers to Magneto that the X-Men seem suspicious of him. He admits he has given them good reason in the past.

A waiter reads the headline in Wolverine’s newspaper and remarks that Nimrod is the Big Apple’s own hero. Somebody who looks out for the little guy, instead of spending time saving the world or whatever.

Rogue asks Wolverine what’s up. He’s been staring at the professor all evening. Something ailing him? He answers evasively.

Kitty asks the professor why he doesn’t read the students’ minds. He replies vaguely he is in the middle of a delicate experiment which requires him to neutralize his telepathic abilities. By the time the inhibitor drugs wear off, it may be too late.

Rachel silently figures it doesn’t affect his mental shields. But she still knows he is lying. Suddenly, something catches her attention. A handsome blond man in a white suit stands outside the café. He seems familiar to Rachel. Moments later, he is inside without having moved. He stands before the food, wondering what it is and whether it will affect the strange emptiness he perceives within his adopted body form.

That’s food, Rachel tells him. Eat it and he won’t feel hungry. She recalls feeling his presence in Los Angeles. Who is he?

Kitty touches her shoulder, asking who she is talking to. But the man is gone and Kitty tells her nobody was there. She was talking to thin air. Rachel tells her something weird is going on but asks her not to tell the others. They think she’s crazy enough as it is. Kitty assures Rachel she is at least as sane as Rogue. Rachel sarcastically thanks her for the dubious compliment. Kitty wonders if that presence was the Beyonder. And where is their team leader Nightcrawler, when they need him?

Nightcrawler teleports into St. Anne’s church to talk with their friend Father Bowen, who immediately notices something wrong with Kurt. Nightcrawler explains he fears he has beheld the face of God. Only to discover he is a monster!

He explains how some time ago the X-Men were abducted by a creature called the Beyonder. He destroyed an entire galaxy and used its substance to create a fantastic world where the X-Men and other heroes and villains fought a cosmic war. The Beyonder performed what Kurt can only call miracles. And now he has come to Earth.

Since joining the X-Men, Kurt has met beings so powerful others would consider them gods, but compared to the Beyonder they are nothing. What does that make him? Is he God? This creature can destroy the Earth in an instant. How can the Lord permit this creature to threaten humanity and perhaps all creation unless the Beyonder is God? But if he is, how can Kurt believe in such a being? His faith sustained him in times of utter despair. But now he searches for it and finds emptiness. Thanks to the Beyonder he is hollow inside! he sobs. He is lost!

Night time at Columbia University:

A group of students work on some experimental gizmos in the dark. Their work finished, they announce the mutie is as good as dead!

Meanwhile nearby, Rogue flies over the buildings, carrying Rachel who scans the area but doesn’t find anything useful. Rogue admits it was a good idea of Magneto to use her telepathy instead of the prof’s. It’s strange picturing him as a good guy but who is she to talk?

Rachel announces in her era Magneto was both friend and hero. He took Professor X’s place and led the X-Men after… after… Rogue smiles and reminds her for them those events haven’t happened yet and maybe they won’t.

Suddenly, Rachel senses pain from an alley below. A boy is being attacked by three armed men. Rogue and Rachel quickly take care of the thugs.

The boy accuses them of being muties and runs. Belatedly, they see he wrote a Nimrod #1 – muties, die! as a graffiti on the wall. Rachel angrily asks Rogue if her world really is nowhere near as nasty as Rachel’s. It’s all repeating itself here. Angrily, she smashes the wall with her telekinesis, promising she will never again see everyone she loves slaughtered.

The Beyonder watches invisibly, intrigued by Rachel, whom he likens to a young star that has just begun to burn. Of all the beings he has encountered on this world, she is potentially most like him. But she seems unaware of how brightly she burns. He decides to observe them a while longer.

Meanwhile, Logan and Kitty are sitting on the library steps. They’ve covered over half the professor’s list and got nothing so far. Kitty continues that the prof and Magneto are heading for his faculty office. Annoyed by the cigar smoke, she takes away his cigar and tries it out. Disgusted, she wheezes and asks how he can stand that awful thing. Grinning, he informs her, it’s an acquired taste. And with his fast healing powers, smoking doesn’t do him any harm.

Kitty wonders about Magneto. The Professor says he’s changed for the better, but how can they be sure? He admits they all have doubts, but on the other hand they all changed since joining the X-Men. Kitty wonders if Magneto is fooling the Professor or has him under control. Does Logan really believe that stupid story about an experiment? He looks sick to her. She’s really worried. Logan agrees. But his instincts say Magneto’s legit and they have to trust Charley.

Reluctantly, she agrees and runs off to check on the next bunch of suspects. She phases into the building’s sixth floor. In an empty storage room, she gets goosebumps, unaware the Beyonder is standing there.

Kitty enters a computer physics lab one flight down where there is a group of students waiting for a result, a group that is familiar to Kitty. She asks why they didn’t tell her if they are running an experiment. She’s part of this seminar too! It’s a private project, she is told coolly.

To distract them, she grabs a slice of pizza. Kitty wonders what’s going one. Could she have hit pay dirt? But she doesn’t believe this crowd are murderers.

One of them remarks they locked the doors and set the alarms. How did she get inside? She knows this hardware inside out, Kitty shrugs. Bypassing it was child’s play.

Another student, Phil, remembers she attends Xavier’s private school upstate. Common knowledge, Kitty replies. So what? Is she a mutie, like him? Phil snarls. Kitty shoots back if he is a nigger. He tells her to watch her mouth. She orders him to do the same. All of a sudden, she doesn’t like them much anymore. She thinks she’ll be on her way.

Mark blocks her way to the door and Phil takes out his gun, demanding some answers. She asks them if they really want to go through with this. If she is a mutant, do they think it’s wise to cross her? If she’s not, how do they think assaulting a 15-year-old girl is going to look on their records? She tells them to call this quits.

One of them suddenly sprays mace in her face and Joe uses presses a cloth soaked in chloroform to Kitty’s face. He asks what they will do with her. Same as with Xavier, Phil replies. Waste her!

Meanwhile on the library steps, Wolverine has been joined by Colossus and Rogue, who wonders why they bother. Even if they succeed, it will make no difference to them. They will still be hated. She wonders if she would be any worse off if she’d stayed with Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. If she’d known what the jerk had been writing on the wall, she’d have flown on by.

At Xavier’s office, Rachel tells Xavier and Magneto of the presence she’s been sensing hovering around the X-Men all evening. She’s been unable to get a fix on it since their encounter in the deli. She thinks it’s the Beyonder. Yet his psychic emanations have changed since they fought in Los Angeles. He seems different in mind as well as appearance.

Maybe he’s growing up, Xavier suggests. Evolution in a god? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Magneto points out.

Rachel senses him in the office and mindlinks the three of them. But the use of her psi-powers trips the booby trap planted in Xavier’s office. It’s called a psi-scream and it’s designed to amplify any amount of psychic energy used in its vicinity a hundred fold and reflect it back at its source. To Rachel, it’s as if her very blood has just been turned into acid. She lashes out with her telekinesis, smashing the office and sending Xavier and Magneto through the roof.

Rogue catches them. Colossus throws Wolverine into the office in a fastball special. He finds Rachel, cowering and crying, moaning Kitty’s name. They are killing her! she shouts and transforms into her Hound costume, displaying her facial scars. Telekinetically, she flies outside, ignoring Wolverine.

In the university, Phil is trying to strangle Kitty over the protests of some of the others. Phil reminds them that the explosion means Xavier is history. But they won’t be safe until they dispose of the only witness.

Leave her alone! Rachel shouts, exploding the wall inward. She cradles Kitty, sensing her heartbeat and thoughts.

Phil fires his gun at her. Rachel calls him a “puny, pathetic human” and telekinetically returns the bullet. But before it hits Phil, a magnetic field holds it at bay.

Magneto begs Rachel to forbear. Angrily, she shouts it’s no less than the humans would have done to them and telepathically lashes out at them.

Magneto reminds her he once believed the same, and see what it has achieved: He is hunted the word over. His name has become almost a synonym for madness and evil. His children have disowned him. He is as feared as he is hated. And worst of all: those whose lives he sought to safeguard are no better off. He probably made their existence far worse.

Rachel shouts that scum beat the professor like an animal. These are the killers he sent them to find, unaware that he was the victim. She sees their thoughts and motives. They’d have murdered Kitty too. There’ no remorse in them. They are muties, not real people!

Magneto points out theirs is a hatred born of ignorance and fear. Will Rachel now by her actions justify that fear and hate?

Look what they’ve done to her, Rachel shouts. In these clothes, in her own era, she was a Hound – she hunted mutants! Humans like them made her do that… and worse. She killed people she knew… and some she loved! She never wanted the X-Men to know but they pulled the secret from her. Thanks to them she can’t hide her shame any longer. For that, she wants them to pay!

As those who tormented her in the future cannot? he asks. Yes, she snarls. Then kill him, Magneto tells her. Prove her superiority. Slay them a callously as they would her. Let them see she is no better than they, that she can return blow for blow, life for life. What is she waiting for? Give them that final victory!

Rachel drops the bullet and tells Magneto she may never forgive him for this. She transforms back into her normal clothes. They’ve attracted a lot of attention. Cops and fire department are on their way. The X-Men shouldn’t be here when they arrive.

When Kitty addresses, Rachel tells her she doesn’t want to talk. Kitty tells her ‘thank you’. Rachel explains she’s telepathically erased all memories of the prof and the X-Men from their minds. She knows the prof doesn’t approve but right now she couldn’t care less. She loves them more than her life. She’ll do whatever she has to protect them. She leaves.

Magneto follows, carrying Kitty. He muses that for all her bitterness he believes Rachel will be all right. Kitty asks how he knew what to say to her. He tells her in too many ways he and Rachel are kindred souls, survivors of the holocaust.

Kitty admits maybe the prof is right and he does have the making of a hero. No hero, he tells her, merely a man who has seen, done and endured what can never be forgotten or forgiven.

The invisible Beyonder muses that Magneto possesses power enough to reshape this orb, yet he chooses not to use it, though his very existence is threatened. He prevented Rachel from using her power to accomplish what she desired, yet she does not act against him. He is puzzled. In his stay here, he has seen almost nothing but contradictions. The X-Men, especially Rachel, are among the most puzzling conundrums. To understand them, he must truly become human.

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Rachel Summers, Rogue, Shadowcat, Wolverine (all X-Men)



Lee Forrester

Father Michael Bowen


Bobby, John, Mark, Mickey, Phil, Roger and others

Andrea and Andreas Strucker

Their party

Story Notes: 

Xavier has had health problem since he was mugged and nearly killed in issue #192.

Magneto helped the X-Men in Secret Wars II #1 and has been staying with them since.

Magneto almost killed Kitty in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #150.

The Beyonder’s story continues in Secret Wars II.

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