What if…? (2nd series) #9

Issue Date: 
January 1990
Story Title: 
What if… the new X-Men had died on their very first mission?

Roy Thomas (writer), Rich Buckler (penciler), Sam DeLarosa (inker), Evelyn Stein (colorist), Phil Felix (letterer), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

When the all-new X-Men try to save the original team from Krakoa, both teams perish, leaving Professor X heartbroken and depressed and Beast caring for him. To lift Xavier’s spirits, Beast invites his old friend, Moira MacTaggert, to help care for him. Moira takes along Rahne Sinclair, a little girl who is mistreated by her foster father. In New York, Beast tells the two of them about the X-Men, however Moira’s presence seems to do little to help Xavier. Soon thereafter, Count Nefaria holds the world hostage and Beast can reach neither Avengers nor Fantastic Four to help. Instead, he uses Cerebro to gather a group of mutants, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Namorita, Banshee’s daughter Theresa and Thunderbird’s brother James and telport them all to Cheyenne Mountain. The teleport also inadvertently transports Rahne, whom Beast reveals is a latent mutant. The group enters Cheyenne Mountain and Beast orders Rahne to stay back and wait for them. James and Theresa decide to honor their dead family by taking on the names Thunderbird and Banshee respectively. The new X-Men meet Nefaria’s Ani-Men and a battle breaks out, however everything seems lost when Nefaria’s Dragonfly hypnotizes them. Xavier has been following the fight telepathically and knows that the system to deploy the nukes has been destroyed by the battle but the X-Men seem doomed. However, he contacts Rahne and activates her latent mutation. She turns into a wolf and attacks Dragonfly, allowing the X-Men to break free and beat their foes. Nefaria flees in a plane and Banshee follows him, detonating the plane. Despite Thunderbird’s fears, she survives. With the exception of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the new group decides to stay together and James apologizes to Xavier, for he now understands why his brother sacrificed himself. So, a new group of X-Men is born…

Full Summary: 

The Watcher introduces another reality, going back to the formation of the all-new, all-different X-Men. The story begins in the Scottish highlands, where Dr. Moira MacTaggert is taking the young girl Rahne Sinclair for a ride on her horse. She felt sorry seeing the young girl trudge home from school. Soon afterwards Moira returns to her estate to receive a letter from Xavier’s mansion but not from Charles Xavier himself. The letter informs her that Charles is very ill and is asking her to come at once.

While she packs her servant Aimee asks about their relationship. Moira tells her that they haven’t seen each other since they were a couple. He runs a well-respected school for gifted children. She seems quite up to date on him. Aimee remarks as they pack the luggage into the car.

That moment, a crying Rahne comes running up to them, begging Moira to take her along. She is chased by her guardian, Reverend Craig, who angrily informs Moira it’s his duty to chastise the girl when she rewards his kindness by running off. Moira suggests his “kindness” may have too stern an edge. He replies that to spare the rod is to be spoiling the child. Moira scoffs that he never really wanted to raise his niece’s child, so why not let Rahne go to America with Moira? Just the place perhaps for such a willful child, he muses. Still, she is his to bring up by hand. Moira continues that she can make a sizeable donation to his parish and, predictably, he agrees.

Moira tells Rahne they are going on a trip, provided they can find a way to get the girl through customs. Wealth and landed title work their wonders and thus Rahne Sinclair can come along and soon they arrive at Xavier’s Mansion.

Moira warns Rahne that Professor Xavier is a very sick man, so Moira may have to spend a lot of time at his bedside. Can she keep herself entertained? Rahne asks her not to treat her like a baby.

The door is opened by a human-looking Henry McCoy, who sent the telegram and thanks her for coming. He is Hank to his friends, he states, although at this moment that commodity seems to be in ever dwindling supply. Rahne and Moira marvel at how strong Hank is when he takes all their luggage at once.

Moira asks what happened to Charles. Hank replies that there was a terrible tragedy recently for which he holds himself responsible. Some of their friends died.

Rahne whispers to Moira that she senses something funny about Hank. Moira hushes her. Hank continues that he left a job he had taken recently in the city to come here and take care of Charles. But he soon realized he needs a kind of nurturing beyond his capabilities.

But why did Charles asks him to contact her after so long? Moira asks. Hank replies evasively and she realizes it wasn’t Charles’s idea. Nor does he know she is here.

Hank leads them to Charles’s room He is surprised at her arrival. She offers her hand but he refuses it, explaining he can no longer abide any human contact. Embarrassed, Moira introduces Rahne while Henry informs Charles Moira is his new housekeeper. Charles asks him not to patronize him. He can read his mind! He can? Rahne asks curious. It’s only a figure of speech, Moira quickly replies. Charles asks Rahne to step closer. As she does a machine behind him hums. When she asks if it’s her fault, Charles replies Cerebro just has a few loose circuits.

He thanks Moira for coming and tells her she is welcome to stay for as long as she likes but he’s not generally fit for company these days. Hank will explain things. And then they will have a little talk. He wheels outside.

When Moira asks why he is so morose, Hank decides to explain by showing them. He takes off his mask to reveal the blue-furred Beast. Hank apologizes for startling them and explains that an experiment backfired and turned him into the basic beast. Did Moira ever hear of the X-Men? Only vague rumors, she replies. They are some sort of mutation, aren’t they? Is he one of them?

A charter member, Hank informs her. And Charles knows this? Moira wonders. He’s a mutant himself, Hank reveals. Since he knows Charles and Moira were once close he won’t mince words, and Beast begins to tell the story.

Beast’s narration:

Xavier collected young mutants from all over the USA and formed the X-Men. A month ago, on a faraway island, six X-Men were captured by an ominous creature which promptly commenced to feed on their special powers. Only Cyclops escaped to tell the tale.

Beast wasn’t there because he had recently left the X-Men to start that new job he’s mentioned before, as one of the Avengers, a decidedly more socially acceptable amalgamation of superheroes.

Cyclops made his way back to the school. Xavier used his mutant-tracing device to find mutants while Cyclops recuperated. All over the world, he found them. The German Nightcrawler, Japanese Sunfire, Canadian Wolverine… in Kenya he found Storm, John Proudstar in Arizona and Colossus in the USSR and, finally, the Irish Banshee.

Together they stormed the isle to discover the island itself was alive, a mutant biosphere. It had planned for Cyclops to escape to gather others. Cyclops managed to free the captives and together the thirteen of them battled Krakoa the living island, while Professor Xavier guided their moves from Westchester.

In the end, the X-Men could only defeat their foe by using electromagnetic means to negate the power of gravity itself. But even as the island was hurled upward, the X-Men themselves failed to get clear in time and hurtled away with it and perished with the living island in space. While Xavier felt their deaths telepathically.

End of narration.

Beast found Xavier virtually comatose, following an Avengers mission. He resigned from the Avengers and has resided here ever since.

Rahne asks if he really expected Lady Moira to be able to help him. Honestly, Hank doesn’t know. He hoped the presence of an old friend would help. Moira promises to stay for as long as Charles and Henry need her.

Weeks pass and Moira immerses herself into running the household and tries to forget that once she and Charles were young and in love. Few words pass between them now and those pitiful few are formal to the point of painfulness.

Rahne admires Beast, asking him if he has always been so strong and agile. Later she asks him what that big computer screen is for. It used to be their window on the outside world, he explains. If some truly important telecast were made, their computer activated the screen automatically.

As if on cue, there is a beeping alert. Charles and Moira join them as the screen switches on to reveal the face of the villainous Count Nefaria. Charles quickly explains that he is one of the late X-Men’s oldest foes. This is a one way transmission only over all wavelengths.

Nefaria imperiously informs the world that he has seized control of the Valhalla base Norad, the USA’s most vital military center. He has activated the Doomsmith Command system and possesses operational control over America’s strategic missile force. Moments ago, his super-powered Ani-Men and he gained entrance to this base buried deep within Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountains and it is now firmly under their thumb. He demands a ransom from each nation on Earth, the amount to be determined by each nation’s ability to pay. If his demands are not met, he shall launch America’s entire inventory of nuclear missiles. They have three hours to decide. The broadcast is over.

Hank suggests he leave for Colorado but Charles reminds him this requires a group effort. Leave this to the Fantastic Four or Avengers. Hank agrees and tries to reach the Avengers. However, their butler Jarvis informs him the Avengers are temporarily incommunicado. Off-planet somewhere, Hank translates. And the Fantastic Four don’t answer at all. If only the X-Men were alive! he states helplessly. Well, they are not, Xavier replies coldly, and they all know whose fault that is.

Moira suggests they contact more mutants as he did that second group. The ones he sent to their death? he asks angrily. No, whether the world saves itself or gets incinerated, he can have no part in it. He wheels out of the room.

Rahne innocently asks Hank if mutants won’t die too if the world blows up? Moira too asks him to do something. Hank sits down in the Cerebro chair, explaining that Xavier gathered data on additional mutants besides those who died with Krakoa, and stored all the info in Cerebro. He knows how to operate it, even if it is a strain. He puts on the helmet. He tells the ladies that he has to monitor Xavier’s Cerebro analysis on one of those who perished.

While in agony, he begins to call mutants. First he reaches the Scarlet Witch who is currently honeymooning in Polynesia with her new husband, the Vision. While he is swimming, she is getting the message. The Vision returns to the beach to find his wife dressed in her costume. She explains that Hank McCoy needs her help. He intends to join her but Wanda mysteriously replies she doesn’t know if this will be possible.

Next is her brother Quicksilver, who is living among the people of his wife Crystal, the Inhumans. He tells Crystal that he has received a psychic summons and tells her what is going on. Since Nefaria also endangers his wife and sister, he will answer the call. Otherwise, the entire planet could burn, for all he cares.

Next up, Hank tries to reach Atlantis. Instead of the Sub-Mariner, he reaches his cousin, Namorita, who is riding a giant turtle. When she hears of the Beast’s problem, Namorita explains that Namor is off in the Mariana Trench someplace but of course she will help.

Suddenly, Cerebro hums as if there were an interference. There is, he tells the ladies and asks Rahne to step further back. The interference recedes.

Next, Cerebro takes him to an old castle in Ireland. He receives twin mutant impulses from a bearded man and from what seems to be Banshee but turns out to be a young girl in his uniform and with his powers.

The girl tells her Uncle Tom that she felt something in her head calling out to her. Black Tom Cassidy assures Theresa it was just a figment of her imagination. She insists that it was more, the world is in danger! Tom assures her it was nothing. Hank believes the man is trying to blocks his access to her.

With time running out and the machine getting louder, Hank goes for one last contact… Arizona, the exact location where Xavier found John Proudstar akaThunderbird. On the mesa he sees Proudstar’s younger brother James lifting a huge rock, his brother’s gravestone. Beast telepathically contacts him, beginning the boy has never heard of the X-Men. He has James interrupts, and he despises them. His brother left a note the day he vanished from the reservation. It said he was leaving to help the X-Men and then he’d return. But he never did. Later they got a letter from Charles Xavier telling them John was dead.

Beast interrupts, there isn’t much time. John used his hidden powers for the good of all men. Will James come with him and do the same? His powers are needed! James decides to come and, when this is all over, he wants to meet Charles Xavier….

The noise gets louder and Hank screams in agony. Xavier notices Hank and orders Moira and Rahne to get back. Xavier wheels in and tells them to do as he says and run. That moment, Cerebro explodes.

Xavier asks if Moira is all right. She is but fears Hank was blown to bits with Cerebro… and where is Rahne? She isn’t here, Xavier replies cryptically. He assures her that he sensed what Hank meant to do and both he and Rahne are unhurt… for the moment. But of the future no one can be certain.

Indeed, Hank and Rahne, as well as all the mutants Hank contacted, are somewhere else, namely Colorado. When Quicksilver asks his sister where her husband is, she explains that Hank said only mutants could be transported by his methods. Guess she’s one, then, Namorita announces and introduces herself, as does James. Theresa wonders which part of Ireland this is. Colorado, Hank corrects her and then wonders why Rahne was pulled along. He didn’t mean for that to happen. Is she a mutant too? the girl asks. She is, Hank tells her. They’ve know ever since her presence first made Cerebro hum.

James brings up the subject at hand, the nuclear threat he filled their heads with – is real, Hank agrees. There is only a million to one chance they can even get inside the mountain… Long odds are her specialty, the Scarlet Witch remarks and points only to have the automatic hidden entrance open.

They fly or walk inside. Namorita asks Beast how he knew he could yank them all here. Beast explains that he didn’t. He utilized their supercomputer’s stored analysis of a deceased mutant called Nightcrawler, whose power was teleportation. He fed the data into his head, amplified while in mental contact with all of them and honed in on Cheyenne Mountain. If he had been wrong, he might have killed them all, Quicksilver points out and Beast admits he had to take that chance. But one chance he won’t take is with her, he tells Rahne and asks the little girl to stay near the entrance.

Proudstar agrees. Children just get in the way. Theresa points out that he, she and Namorita aren’t that much older. James asks her to call him Thunderbird in reply, to honor his brother, then asks her name. After what she just learned from Hank, Theresa replies, tears in her eyes, about her poor dead father, he can call her Banshee.

Gort will call them all dead! a gorilla being - Man-Ape of Nefaria’s Ani-Men - announces as he attacks them.

Beast orders Thunderbird to stay back; this is one foe he should fight. No one does his fighting for him! Proudstar retorts. However, he is grabbed by Gort, who slams aside Beast and then intends to snap James’ neck. Banshee screams at him. James breaks free and has learned a valuable lesson about strength, not to mention teamwork, as Banshee points out. James reluctantly agrees, though when the fight is over he intends to find and kill Charles Xavier.

More Ani-Men attack. The Scarlet Witch uses her hex bolts to take one of them out while the bird-being attacks Hank, only to be kicked in the head by Namorita.

Facing Man-Ape again, Hank quips these days you can’t keep a bad man down, not even those who run about attired like animals. Gort explains that are not wearing costumes. Nefaria gave them real powers. If they help him he promised to turn them back to human.

Dragonfly orders him to be quiet and uses her hypnosis on the Scarlet Witch, then on the others.

Xavier, in mental contact with them, realizes Hank’s team is helpless, and he cannot counteract Dragonfly’s effect at this range. They’ll be murdered just like Scott and Jean and the rest!

There must be something! Moira pleads. He’s waited too long, Charles admits grimly. Perhaps if he hadn’t been so paralyzed by inaction he could have prevented the superhypnosis from taking place, but not now. Moira reminds him of Nafaria’s threat to obliterate the planet. Xavier reveals that at least the Doomsmith command system is out of commission. The battle with the Ani-Men destroyed the command relays, even the back up. The Earth is safe, civilization momentarily secure… but those who saved it will die, unless… he has an idea.

Rahne is a mutant, but so young that her power may yet be latent. He might be able to awaken it prematurely, but the danger to her… Moira urges him to do it. Rahne would want him to, to save Hank. Xavier reluctantly agrees.

He senses Rahne, sees that she didn’t stay put as ordered but is heading for the battle area. He contacts her and orders her to open her mind. He senses her thoughts, strange images of dark night, of prowling carnivores.

Rahne has almost reached the battle, horrified to see that Hank is about to be killed. She wishes for more strength and suddenly she turns into a wolf, a wolf that attacks Dragonfly, thus breaking the spell on the mutants.

Hank awakes and hits the Man-Ape, the others too act. They notice Nefaria has gone. He is heading for a plane, and still believes that the self destruction system will blow the mountain to hell, but by that time he will be gone.

However, that moment, Banshee and Thunderbird reach the plane, just as the plane is taking off. They’ll never stop him, he mocks. Banshee flies after him and her sonic blast damages the plane which explodes.

Seeing the explosion, James worries for Theresa who was too close. He fears she died like his brother, then sees her fall down and catches her at the last moment.

The others reach them to find Theresa is okay. That moment, Xavier contacts them mentally and admits that he’d forgotten that sometimes risks must be taken for the greater good. He introduces himself and thanks them. He hopes he and Hank can persuade them to stay together as the new X-Men. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch decline, they both have their own lives and duties but promise to come help if they are needed. Nita promises to stay and Rahne demands a spot on the team, which she gets.

Theresa states she must settle some things with her Uncle Thomas first, but then a Banshee will fly again with the X-Men. What about him, she asks James. That depends on Xavier, he replies. He’s been blaming him for his brother’s death even nursing thoughts for revenge. Now he sees that John chose to risk his life, just like Theresa did when she went after Nefaria. He’d be proud to be an X-Man. If Xavier still wants him after hearing what he just said.

Xavier replies he already read those thought but praises his courage for revealing this. However, his thoughts fade, as he is tired. They realize they somehow have to find their own way home.

Moira remarks Xavier was understanding to James, reaching out to him in his shame. What was James’ shame compared to his? Xavier points out. For so long he was weak, indecisive. Everyone gets overwhelmed by circumstances sometimes, she replies, what matters is that eventually they pull themselves together and start over. Charles was so busy being a mutant, he didn’t know he could be a mutant and human as well. Charles asks her to wheel him into the computer room. With any luck, he’ll have Cerebro halfway rebuilt by the time the X-Men return.

And so a new team of X-Men is born…

Characters Involved: 

The Watcher

Banshee II, Beast, Namorita, Thunderbird II, Wolfsbane (all X-Men)

Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch (X-Men allies)

Professor X

Dr. Moira MacTaggert



Aimee (Moira’s servant)

Reverend Craig

Black Tom Cassidy

Count Nefaria


in narration / flashback:

Angel, Cyclops, Havok, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Men)

Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Sunfire, Thunderbird, Wolverine (all-new, all-different X-Men)

Story Notes: 

The issue also includes a cartoon by John Lewandowski and Vince Mielcarek: What if Black Bolt talked in his sleep

and one by Gary Fields: What if the Thing’s body kept mutating

1st story:

The different reality is based on Giant-Size X-Men #1 and the main storyline is based on X-Men (1st series) #94-95.

There are several mistakes in the story:

Moira’s lack of knowledge regarding the X-Men. Actually, she worked with Xavier in the background.

The relationship between Rahne and reverend Craig: In the story, he is referred to as her uncle. Actually, officially, he was not related to her, but later turned out to be her biological father.

Actually, Beast had left the X-Men to work for the Brand Corporation. His membership of the Avengers came later.

Several times in the issue, John and James Proudstar are given the name “Proudfoot.”

Beast got his info regarding the Ani-men from Daredevil.

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