What if … Magneto and Professor X had formed the X-Men together?

Issue Date: 
February 2005
Story Title: 
What if Charles Xavier and Magneto had created the X-Men together? - Ascension

Chris Claremont (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Gina Going-Raney (colorist), Chris Eliopolous (letterer), Jim Cheung, Mark Morales & Justin Ponsor (cover), C.B. Cebulski (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

The Watcher describes a reality where, thanks to an impassioned speech by Gabrielle Haller, Magneto and Xavier didn’t part ways, but decided to work together. Years later, Xavier and Magneto have done much to help global politics, but not as much on the mutant front. While Xavier has opened a clinic to help mutants, they have only found a few candidates, chief among them Sage, Kitty Pryde, Mystique and Wolverine. During a meeting with several political officials, Xavier receives a new patient, a comatose Jean Grey, accompanied by her doctor, Hank McCoy, who, as Sage quickly finds out, is a mutant as well, just like the Russian agent Vazhin leaves for them as liaison: Peter Rasputin. Kitty shows the two men around, while Lehnherr and Xavier examine the comatose woman and find out that in its own way her mind is quite active. In the meantime, Wolverine and Mystique have failed in stopping several mysterious trucks belonging to Larry Trask and the giant robots within the trucks start fly off to attack Xavier’s school. Xavier’s associates, as well as McCoy and Rasputin, begin defending the building. However, they are in for a rough surprise, when the robots begin adapting to their attacks and reconstitute themselves after an attack. Surprise comes from an unexpected quarter, as Jean awakes and annihilates all robots in a Phoenix raptor. Later, Xavier and the others discuss the attack and the new options open to them, as, thanks to the surviving robot, they now have a mutant detection system. Xavier suggest that they form a team of X-Men to deal with further threats and the future of humans and mutants. At the Hellfire Club, Larry Trask vows destruction to all mutants. And Sinister’s agents – Sabretooth, Havok and Cyclops – bring news to their master of the attack on Xavier and of Jean Grey’s awakening.

Full Summary: 

The Watcher explains how his race has always observed the unfolding history of the cosmos, with his special charge being Earth. Among the humans there is a genetic subset called mutants and, championing their cause, is the teacher Charles Xavier and the team he founded, the X-Men.

Heroes are invariably shaped and defined by their adversaries. In Magneto, the X-Men faced someone who was at once their mentor’s best friend and most implacable foe. Xavier believed in coexistence, while Magneto saw two species struggling for supremacy on a world they could not share. What if, the Watcher wonders, Xavier and the man who called himself Erik Magnus Lehnsherr had remained friends and colleagues instead of adversaries?

The crucial moment was many years ago when a broken hearted Xavier traveled to Israel. There, he met Lehnsherr and became instrumental in the treatment of another survivor of the Nazi death camps, a young woman named Gabrielle Haller.

When Gaby was kidnapped by a mysterious paramilitary organization, the Hydra Brotherhood, Xavier and Lehnsherr followed to discover Gaby was the key to a fabulous hoard of gold, which Hydra sought as seed money of their worldwide terrorist operations. Xavier and Lehnsherr rescued Gaby and the gold and there is where the two friends parted company.

Lehnsherr, standing over the defeated Strucker, accused Xavier of being far too naïve, as he believed in the essential goodness of humanity. Mutants would not go meekly into the gas chambers, he proclaimed. They would fight and they would win!

He starts levitating the hoard of gold away, as he announces that once Homo Sapiens is no more, Homo Superior will claim their rightful place as lords if the earth.

That’s how it was, the Watcher announces, and this is how it might have been:

(other reality)
Instead of remaining quiet through Lehnsherr’s outburst, Gaby asks him to stop. Incredulously, he asks if she is asking mercy for Strucker. She was in the camps, as he was.
She doesn’t want mercy, Gaby cries, she wants vengeance. But if she did that, they would win. She’d become like them, just another monster. The Nazis gave ordinary people the license to commit evil and not be bothered, because their laws said Jews weren’t human, little more than garbage. But she refuses to be debased by them and she refuses to be debased by Erik.

Reaching out in a patronizing manner, Erik tells her she is a child. Gaby brushes his hand aside and reminds him she is as old as he. The Nazis defiled everything that gave civilization meaning, she continues. Can’t they find a way to do things better?

Xavier points out their remarkable powers. Have they learned nothing from history but to propagate the mistakes of the past on a grander scale? Are they heralds of a golden age for humanity or harbingers of the apocalypse?

The defeated Strucker ironically advises Erik to listen to those dreamers and follow their lead. It will make his final victory all the sweeter. Erik turns to Strucker with a menacing smile, stating he is glad Strucker feels that way. That makes his decision easier…

(Years later)
Xavier’s Good Sheperd Clinic at Raven’s Rock, Vermont. A bright room, whose wall is full of pictures and pertinent newspaper articles. One picture shows Xavier and Lehnsherr with Arafat and an Israeli politician, another Xavier with Ororo Munroe. The article headlines mention that Strucker has been sentenced to death as a war criminal. Another celebrates Middle East peace after Palestine and Israel have signed treaties. Yet another celebrates the end of the Cold War, and the last mentions Ororo Munroe being elected as president of Kenya.

On the desk there are several books and folders, a report to the president about mutation full of stickers regarding mutants, “Purity,” Genosha, Trask… and Wolverine’s whereabouts, the book “Understanding Magnetism” by Erik Lehnsherr and his wife Gabrielle Haller Lehnsherr, Xavier’s calendar and the student evaluation file of Kitty Pryde, who is on probation from the University of Chicago.

Said student is sitting at the desk, writing Xavier a note that with the help of Doug she has built him a supersmall and superpowerful new computer. On the shoulder of the girl who is wearing a blue wig and is dressed in what could best be describes as a punk schoolgirl uniform sits a small purple dragon who reminds that he is hungry.

Kitty looks at the watch and realizes she is late. Asking her dragon why he didn’t say anything, she phases outside the room to run into a woman in a skintight purple uniform with a hooded jacket – Sage. Kitty asks where the professor is and Sage informs her that he is in the gym with the ‘gang of four.’ Kitty thanks her and phases through the floor, not noticing that she is leaving her clothes behind, much to Sage’s amusement.

Downstairs in the gym, Xavier is playing basketball with Alexei Vazhin (of the Federal Security Bureau), while a young tall man sits on a bench and watches them. Xavier’s other three weekly guests, Val Cooper (the presidential assistant for national security affairs), Nick Fury (of the National Security Council) and Brigadier Alysande Stuart (of the Weird Happenings Organization) are present in holographic form.

While shooting a hoop, Xavier discusses Bolivar Trask, who apparently believes that mutants pose a threat to humanity’s survival. Vazhin states that Trask’s son, Larry, controls one of them most powerful corporations on the planet. He’s worth more personally than some countries. A dangerous combination, Charles muses. Vazhin suggests that sometimes it is better to let sleeping dragons lie. Have Xavier’s people found out anything? Nothing yet, Xavier replies.

Fury and Cooper interject. They understand Xavier’s concern but, in the meantime, the president needs him to broker negotiations with Genosha. Val stresses that he is the only one they trust.

Xavier’s attention is diverted, as Kitty rushes in, phasing through the wall, despite Lockheed’s fervent attempts to hold her back. The new patient is there, she bursts out. Somewhat embarrassed, but not as much as Vazhin’s young companion, Xavier reminds Kitty of the talks they had regarding concentration and focus when using one’s powers. Kitty doesn’t understand until she looks down. Then she phases away, leaving wig and dragon behind. Does that happen often? Vazhin smirks. A lot less than it used to, Xavier sighs.

Getting more serious, he explains their problem. After all these years, the mutants there are virtually all they’ve found. They believe there are so many more out there, but they have no way to find them and help, unless they manifest their powers in public or come to them.

A short while later, an ambulance pulls in and a young comatose woman is transported inside. The young doctor introduces himself to Xavier as Hank McCoy. Xavier assures him they’ll do everything they can for Jean. Hank admits that Xavier is his last hope.

Changing the subject, Xavier asks why Hank stopped playing football. It stopped being fun, Hank replies evasively. A (dressed) Kitty (complete with short, light brown hair this time), Vazhin and his companion have joined them and Xavier introduces Kitty as one of his associates. As Hank looks in disbelief, Kitty helpfully explains it’s child labor. Xavier is running a sweat shop.

Vazhin takes Charles aside for a moment and tells him he’ll like his young lieutenant. He stole him from the Red Room. He was personally trained by the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, herself. A Romanoff training a Rasputin, Xavier asks. Actually they were lovers, Vazhin adds. For Russians, fate is never without a sense of irony. And she let him go? Xavier asks amused. Well for Russians, irony is always cruel, his friend adds.

Xavier tells Kitty that Peter Rasputin is joining them as liaison with Colonel Vazhin. Once Ms. Grey is settled, Kitty can give him and Dr. McCoy a tour. Do they call him “Bones? Kitty asks Hank. The three young people begin to introduce themselves to each other.

Meanwhile, on the interstate, a group of trucks is pulled aside by a policewoman. The cop asks the first driver for his license and registration. A little above on a cliff, Wolverine watches.

The man in the passenger seat looks at a kind of scanner and tells his partner the cop is a mutant; it must be a trap! The driver shoots her in the face. Not anymore, he announces coldly. Shouting ‘Mystique,’ Logan jumps down and lands beside the track, tearing up the passenger door. The driver shoots him pointblank as well.

The cop gets up again and tears out the other door and the driver, as she begins shifting back to her true blue form. The passenger orders “Code omega hot launch – now!”

Wolverine runs to the truck’s roof, but something bursts out, almost frying him. The things in the other trucks follow suit.

Mystique announces that she couldn’t see for all the smoke and noise. What was that? Wolverine doesn’t know either, but they better warn Charley that trouble is probably coming his way.

In the clinic, Hank describes Jean’s case history to Xavier, while he searches her memories. In late childhood, Jean was involved in a hit and run accident. Her best friend, Annie Richardson, was killed. Jean herself suffered no physical injury but, immediately afterwards, lapsed into a coma from, which she has never awoken. Her condition was presumed to be permanent. But, recently, objects around her have started flying around, leading the doctors to a re-valuation of her condition and prognosis.

Afterwards, Hank joins Kitty and Peter, who is sketching her outside in the lush garden. Kitty starts leading the two men across the spacious building, explaining that she builds things for Xavier, audio, video, computers. What she doesn’t do is cook. Hank offers that he is a great cook. Leading them down a stairway, she explains that the house is actually a front. Underneath is a bunker complex. They have labs for every conceivable discipline, a great library, access to the latest tech, a garage, a hangar, state of the art aircraft. She shows them to a room where they can tap into any datanet. She explains that mainly they are a think tank. Is Peter an associate too? Hank asks. He’s on loan, Peter replies and adds that he is a secret agent.

Sage joins them. Having taken off her glove, she greets Hank with outstretched hand. Hank grasps it and wonders why they are showing him all those things. Charles has an instinct about people, Sage replies, as she licks the finger of her hand. Analyzing the traces of skin in the saliva with her computer shades, she silently confirms Hank as a mutant. With a smile, she tells the others she has some data to process and leaves. Kitty tells the disturbed Hank that Sage creeps out everyone. She seems to like him.

Upstairs, Erik Lehnsherr, now with a beatnik ponytail, goatee and earrings, has joined Charles, who tells him that, according to Sage, Hank is a mutant. And he believes the same of Jean? Erik asks as he holds his hands on the sides of Jean’s skull. Energy begins to flow, as Erik states that he senses none of the signs of a normal comatose patient. On many levels, this brain is extraordinarily active. The readings are similar to Xavier’s in their overall potential and power gradient. They also remind him of Kitty. They’ve determined that her mind straddles multiple dimensions, even though she isn’t consciously aware of it. Jean broadcasts similar resonances, as though existing simultaneously on multiple planes of being.

After Erik has finished his examination, Charles inquires if they can bring her out of this state. Should they? Erik retorts. Perhaps there is a reason her mind has shut down completely. Like a set of circuit breakers engaging for the organism’s own survival. If they upset the balance, who knows what will happen?

Charles questions the ethics of that suggestion, when suddenly there is the sound of a detonation, as the wall caves in courtesy of a group of Sentinels. Erik tries to use his powers on them, but finds the automatons composed of plastics and ceramics. So his power has no effect. Charles runs to protect Jean, as the roof caves in above her. He shouts at Erik to try hitting them with a big rock. He has alerted the others.

Downstairs, Hank winces from hearing Xavier in his head. Kitty announces that the Institute is under attack. As she starts phasing through the wall, she asks them to stay here. They’ll be safe. Peter tells her to wait. This is what he is trained to do. She grabs his hand and takes him along.

Sage comes running up to Hank, two rifles in her hand. Can he use a gun, she asks. He’s a doctor, he protests. Time to learn something new, she replies, as she tosses him a gun and orders him to follow her lead.

Kitty has grabbed a bag and drags Peter outside, where the Sentinels are bringing destruction. Kitty walks up on air, phases through the Sentinel and, on top of him, dropping the grenades from her bag. The robot detonates.

She walks down to see Peter, now in armored form. Look at him; he’s some kind of Colossus, she jokes. He tells her to watch her back, as he hits another Sentinel with the leg of the one she destroyed.

On a grassy knoll nearby, Sage and Hank emerge from a hidden trapdoor. She reminds him of what she explained. Lock the sight on target; pull the trigger. What kinds of guns are these anyway, he asks. Rail-guns, she explains. They fire rounds of depleted uranium at the speed of light, so they better not miss. What are they shooting at? Based on current data, she suspects they are agents of Larry Trask, Sage explains, as she shoots off the head of one. He uses Trask software, Hank marvels. He and the rest of the world, Sage explains. They make him rich and he has dedicated those resources to destroying what he hated and fears: mutants.

Suddenly, a truck drives to the building at breakneck speed. Wolverine’s at the steering wheel. He jumps out and observes Peter is new. How’s his pitching arm? He rooted for Havana against the Yankees in the last World Series, the Russian replies. Logan tells him to make a ‘fastball special.’ Throw him at the robot as hard as he can. Peter does so and Wolverine’s claws do the rest.

One robot left but the others start repairing themselves. And the last robot manages to deflect Sage’s rail-gun rounds. They are adapting. They are so screwed, Kitty announces.

A moment later, the robots are engulfed in a Phoenix raptor, which scatters the robots down to their compound molecules. Lehnsherr? Wolverine asks. Not even close, Sage replies. Logan points out they still have the robot in their truck. If they take it apart, they lean how to beat them.

Does this happen often, Hank asks nervously. First time, Kitty replies. Xavier’ telepathic voice addresses them to come at once. They run to find Jean awake. Jean surrounded by the Phoenix raptor, cradling an unconscious Xavier, who’s dreaming of a Shi’ar woman. Can they help him, Jean asks. Can they help her?

Later, within the building, Xavier is still trying to process what happened. He just knows that Jean saved him and all of them. Her power speaks for itself. They have no choice but to deal with it. Is there any chance of nailing Trask legally, Mystique inquires. After all, his name is on all the trucks. With his lawyers, they can forget about that, Logan scoffs.

A now green-haired Kitty chimes in that she has examined the surviving robot. There’s some kind of sensor array specifically calibrated to the mutant genome. So he can track them anywhere, Mystique states. But they can also use it to start building a catalogue of mutants, Kitty replies.

One step at a time, Xavier suggests. Before they save the world, they need to resolve the threats that are on their doorstep. Is she one of them, Jean asks fearfully.

Manhattan, the Hellfire Club. Surrounded by his fellow Lords Cardinal, Sebastian Shaw, Harry Leland and Donald Pierce, Larry Trask wonders what went wrong with the Sentinel attack. But they’ll learn. He vows that the mutant threat will be eliminated.

Outside Xavier’s clinic, in the woods, three men watch the smoldering building. Addressing the other two as Marauders, Sabretooth tells the Summers brothers, both dressed in black leather, that they are being recalled. Cyclops protests that those robots were built to kill mutants. He and Havok could have helped to fight them. Not their mission, Sabretooth reminds him. The Marauders weren’t created to save Xavier’s crew, but to help bury them. But first Sinister wants a debriefing on today’s events. And especially all about Jean Grey.

Back at the clinic, Xavier tells the others that the world is changing and humanity can either be overwhelmed by those changes or they can try to manage them. Somebody has to blaze the trail over this brave new horizon, set an example that others can live by. He believes that is their job, if they are willing to shoulder the burden. The letter ’X’ usually refers to the unknown. That applies to them and to what lies ahead. Who better to wrestle destiny for the fate of that undiscovered country than a band of X-Men?

Characters Involved: 

Jean Grey, Erik Lehnsherr, Henry McCoy, Mystique, Kitty Pryde, Peter Rasputin, Sage, Wolverine, Charles Xavier (all X-Men)

Gabrielle Haller
Alexei Vazhin (Russian politician)

Cyclops, Havok, Sabretooth (Marauders)

Harry Leland, Donald Pierce, Sebastian Shaw, Larry Trask (Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club)
Trask’s agents

Baron Wolfgang von Strucker

The Watcher

as holographic representations
Dr. Valerie Cooper, Colonel Nick Fury, Brigadier Alysande Stuart

in Jean’s memories
10-year-old Jean Grey
Annie Richardson

in Xavier’s dream
Shi’ar woman (either Lilandra or Deathbird)

Lehnsherr, Xavier, Arafat and Israeli politician

Xavier and Ororo Munroe

Story Notes: 

The break between Xavier and Magneto occurred in Uncanny X-Men #161.

It is unclear how Kitty can have Lockheed, if Xavier’s people had never been to space (as originally she found the dragon on Brood World in Uncanny X-Men #166).

The artist apparently wasn’t aware of the fact that Alysande Stuart is a woman.

Nick Fury being part of the National Security Council instead is probably due to the fact that, apparently, Magneto and Xavier nipped HYDRA in the bud by taking out Strucker. Without HYDRA, apparently there was no need for SHIELD.

It is unclear why there is no Cerebro in this reality. If an anthropologist like Bolivar Trask can create a mutant detection device, three geniuses like Xavier, Magneto and Kitty should be able to do the same thing.

The Red Room is a special Russian spy school / organization in the Marvel Universe. Its two deadliest agents were the two Black Widows.

The Romanovs were Russia’s royal family. Grigorij Rasputin was the ’mad monk,’ an alleged faith healer who ingratiated himself with them, since he was apparently able to alleviate the young prince’s suffering. Hence the irony in Xavier and Vazhin’s note about Romanovs and Rasputins.

In the normal Marvel Universe, Xavier, after his fall-out with Magneto and later his conflict with Lucifer, returned to the USA and made himself a name, among other things, as a psychologist. That is why the Greys were referred to him, when Jean’s powers emerged. In this universe, he and Magneto were apparently too busy with other things, hence Jean was never helped.

Cyclops staying with Sinister makes a certain sense. According to the back-up story in Classic X-Men #42, what rekindled Scott’s hope and his determination to escape from the orphanage (and thus Sinister’s clutches) was a telepathic meeting with Jean Grey and Xavier (which he didn’t consciously remember). With Jean comatose, this contact wouldn’t have taken place in this reality. What’s unclear, though, is why Havok is present, as Sinister allowed it to have him be adopted away.

In the Marvel Universe, Xavier inadvertently created a psi-link with the Shi’ar princess Lilandra, as a result of his channeling humanity’s will against the alien Z’nox. [X-Men (1st series) #65] However, this wouldn’t have occurred in this timeline. Also, the woman he dreams of looks more like Deathbird than Lilandra.

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