X-Men (2nd series) #39

Issue Date: 
December 1994
Story Title: 
Birds of a Feather

Fabian Nicieza (writer), Terry Dodson (guest penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Somers/Javins/Digital Chameleon (color art), Bob Harras (editor), Tom De Falco (editor in chief)
X-Treme created by Fabian Nicieza with Greg Capullo and Jeff Johnson

Brief Description: 

Realizing he’s losing his eyesight, Philip Summers, Cyclops’ grandfather, wishes to relive the adrenaline of his onetime piloting career and decides to fly a plane for one last time. The plane, however, crashes down, in the snowy Canadian woods. Incidentally, the mysterious Adam X passes by that area and rescues Philip from the downed plane. Adam patiently cares for the injured Philip and makes a shelter for them to spend the night. Fearing that Philip won’t make the night, Adam uses his mutant power to warm him up and save his life. The next morning, a helicopter spots the shelter and Philip, now completely blind, soon finds himself hospitalized in Anchorage. Cyclops and Phoenix visit him there. Jean, however, has a run-in with Adam, who returns to the hospital to check on Philip. Adam gives his final gift to Philip: a memory of what it looks like to fly at the stars, courtesy of Jean’s telepathy which temporarily links their minds. Adam departs and Jean decides not to reveal his existence to Scott. Both Cyclops and Phoenix, though, are unaware they are being spied on by two individuals. In New Orleans, Bella Donna succeeds her late father as leader of the Assassins’ Guild and vows revenge on Gambit, while in the Israeli desert, Legion has yet another vision of Destiny.

Full Summary: 


He banks the P-51 Mustang to the right, cutting through the clouds as he prepares for a steep descent. This is the part that Captain Philip Summers hates the most. Dropping down from the feelings of peace and tranquility that flying gives him… and into the gates of Hell itself, as he endures another fiery attack from a Luftwaffe squadron below. But even under the threat of fiery death and the thought that he may never see his girl back home ever again – even with the undeniable grip of fear in his heart and soul – Philip is in the air, flying, alive. Maneuvering his plane dexterously between mountains, Philip succeeds in eliminating two of the planes that pursue him, as their clumsy moves lead to their crashing on the mountains. Two down, one to go. Philip blasts the remaining enemy plane and destroys it.

Another kill to Philip’s name: maybe not as many as some of the renowned flyboys like Carson, Gentile and Godfrey but Philip only ever wanted two things out of this horrible war: the stop the Germans’ relentless march of destruction and to get home in one piece so that he can fly again. The payload drops; the target goes up; another successful mission means he’s that much closer to surviving this mess. Then he’ll go home, hold Deb tight in his arms and warm the chill of the frigid Alaska nights. And every morning, Philip will rev up the engines, lift himself up and over the canopy of trees which stretch as far as the eye can see. He will fly high – until the day he dies…


The mysterious wanderer known as Adam X is crossing a highway of Alaska, when he sniffs smoke. He realizes this smell is not wood burning. Gas? A car? No, it’s coming from too deep in the woods. A plane? Yes… it has to be. Their aircraft as fragile as their bodies, he thinks. The last thing Adam needed is to be delayed. He’s waited long enough as it is. Selfish. Becoming just like an Earther, aren’t you, Adam? he berates himself. But if someone’s in trouble, he can’t turn his back on him.

Within minutes, Adam has covered the six miles between Highway 4 and the downed plane. If the knee-high snow or the thick trees or the Canadian Yukon wilderness pose a problem, he doesn’t pay them much attention: there is nothing but focus. Through the inky smoke, he can see the pilot’s chest moving, hear his raspy breath. He’s alive; an old man by Terran standards, he thinks. Adam was raised to believe that with age comes wisdom and ability; what could have happened to cause this crash? Carrying the lifeless body of the elder man, Adam runs away from the downed plane. He notices the flames are getting stronger. Stop analyzing and move, Adam, before the…

Suddenly, the plane explodes spectacularly. The blast sends them both tumbling down the slopes. As they both roll frenziedly, Adam can feel his back burning. He tries to twist… to protect the old man… And as for you… get back here! he ponders as his hat falls off before he swiftly grabs it again. As their endless roll finally comes to an end, Adam thinks that, even though his people, the Shi’ar, long ago lost the ability to fly, he is glad that at the very least, they can still land with the best of them!

Rubbing his aching head, Adam examines the old man. He is alive – but his breathing is so labored. His ribs may be broken. Come to think of it, Adam’s not feeling that great himself. It’s cold; night is coming. He has no idea how far it is to the nearest town. Alone, a strange man on a strange world, with a stranger in his arms. What a lonely way to die…


Outside the converted boathouse at the Xavier Institute in Salem Center, New York, which now serves as the home of the newlywed Cyclops and Phoenix, the Beast has joined his old friends for breakfast and for a chance to catch up on that time-honored morning tradition: gossip. Hank presently updates Jean on all the latest developments on the Rogue-Gambit front: “So then Rogue informs Gambit that she has to take care of her past problems on her own and whoosh, she’s flying off to Lord-knows-where!” And what would their passionate Cajun do? He followed her lickety-split!” Hank then prepares to serve another ‘dish’, this one on Elisabeth and Warren. He promises it will knock their socks off…

Seeing how lost in her reflections Jean is, a hurt Hank tells her “Hello? Earth to Mrs. Grey-Summers…?” If Hank were the sensitive type, he’d say his news-gathering was less than adequate. Jean apologizes. “I was only ignoring you, Hank, becaaause…?” Hank mocks her, provoking her to justify herself. Phoenix explains she was thinking about Sara: her sister. It’s still hard to believe. Sara was missing for so long. Jean always hoped they’d find her one day – but then the Phalanx destroyed all that. Torn by guilt, Jean mumbles she should have done more to find her. She should have done something… She’s the X-Man… She’s put her life on the line. Not Sara. Not sweet Sara… Hank knows how hard it is for her and her family but…

Jean suddenly rushes back into the boathouse. Anxious, she asks Scott what’s wrong. She felt his heart jump as soon as he answered the phone! A flustered Cyclops mumbles it’s his Gram. She’s… Jean notices he’s as white as a sheet! She asks him to tell her what happened. Scott stammers it’s his grandfather: he’s missing. He took a plane out, didn’t find a flight plan and he never came home. He decides he has to get up there – try and help find him. Beast asks him if there’s anything he can do. Packing his things, Scott reminds him that the sensor array in the Blackbird is much better than anything the Alaskan EMS workers have. Beast understands: he’ll get the Bird prepped for take-off.

Jean hugs him and insists she’s coming, too. She might be able to scan for Philip telepathically and she’ll able to help Scott, as well. “Me?” Scott exclaims. Jean reveals her knowledge, however, that when Scott found out that Mr. Sinister had been surveilling his grandparents, he tried to move them away from Alaska and closer to him. Their refusal has been eating at him since, hasn’t it? Scott quips it’s tough being married to a telepath. Jean retorts it’s tougher being a telepath married to such a painfully guarded man. Scott surmises that’s why they work so well together. Jean knows they will find Philip and he’ll be all right. He has to be. She seals her promise with a passionate kiss.


Philip woke up at the first sign of daylight. The further Adam and Philip can move during the day, the better their odds at survival. The blistered skin on Adam’s back has healed. But his left knee is still stiff and swollen, enough to slow him down, but not stop him. The old man is still alive and Adam plans on keeping him that way, carrying him with an impromptu litter.

Suddenly, Adam stops for a brief rest. Looking up, he tries to gain his bearings. The sun is obscured by thick clouds; a storm is coming. Then, a hand softly touches his back – Philip’s hand. “Sir…?” a startled Adam exclaims. Philip introduces himself. He asks him what happened. The instrument gauges got so blurry… Where are they? Adam, however, was hoping Philip could tell him that. Adam explains he’s not from… around here. He’s sure he was in the land called Canada when he found Philip’s crash site. They have traveled over forty kilometers due west since then. He politely asks Philip what happened to him.

Philip explains he had a grey spell. His eyes have been acting up on him lately. That scared him. He’s a stubborn old man who had to go up one more time – he had to fly before his eyes finally gave out. Still, Adam looks familiar to him. He guesses all blurry people look alike, right? “Who are you, son?” he asks him. Adam introduces himself. He explains he’s a traveler; a wanderer searching for his home. Amused, Philip notices that Adam is flying in circles whereas Philip himself is crashing into the ground. Some pair they make, eh? “A pair of what, though?” Adam wonders.

“So you say you’re a traveler, right?” Adam remarks. He observes Adam has an accent, all right. He asks him: does he ever do his own flying? Yes… a lifetime ago, Adam replies. He notices that night is coming and with it, a storm. He’d better make a shelter and start a fire. Philip wearily points out that they’re somewhere between Mt. Hubbard and Mt. Vancouver and it’ll get to forty below before it gets really cold; a fire won’t make much difference. Adam retorts he’s not in the habit of surrendering himself to anything, much less a situation he can do anything about.

So I see, Philip concurs. Stubborn, but he gets the job done, he remarks of Adam. It reminds him of several young men he knows. “Your kin?” Adam inquires. It must be good to feel the bonds of family, he theorizes. Philip explains he was just reunited with his grandsons a few years ago – and his son, as well. They’d be missing for a while. It’s a long and strange story… Adam realizes that must have been wonderful – finding them again. Adam grew up very alone… very much an outcast. What little he had, in the way of nest and brood… he lost.

Philip is sorry to hear that. It sounds like Scott, in a way. A good boy, different he is, he and his friends. They scared him, at first, but Philip learned they were just different; nothing wrong with that. There are a whole lot of people in this world who feel they don’t belong – that they’re not a proper part of things. It seems to be a part of being human. “Is it sir?” Adam replies. He looks at the old man, trying to hide his concern. The night will be cold and Philip is weakening. Adam prays for the dawn.

Somewhere, far, far away…

Another wanderer continues his lonely, endless quest. He plods forward, through Israel’s Negev Desert, wandering south, past the Dead Sea, with no idea of where he is going. However, for the first time in his life, he has a clear vision of why he is doing something. Crystal clear. Like waking up in the morning and vividly remembering a dream… and a dreamer.

The blue-clad nomad buries his hands in the sand… and then curiously produces a crystal figurine: one representing Charles Xavier, the most powerful mutant on the planet but also known to him as… Daddy.

The man removes his hood. He is David Haller. He has only recently awakened from a catatonic state. Once driven insane by the schizophrenic fracturing of his overwhelming mutant energies, David now finds that his mind is healed and whole, though not necessarily sane…

All of a sudden, the form of the late Destiny emerges from the sand and greets him, surrounded by life-sized crystalline versions of the X-Men. Destiny tells David – son of Gabrielle Haller and Charles Xavier – that he is Legion; the many made one. Only he can heal the rift between humans and mutants which threatens to tear this world apart. Only he can make this world right, the way his father always wanted it to be. She urges him to go – go forth and fulfill… his destiny. All forms then vanish, leaving Legion alone.

New Orleans

The old church of Mirabeau Avenue in New Orleans has been an empty vessel for years. The last time such a procession walked these ancient stones was for the sacred union between the rivaling ways. That marriage lasted in nothing but pain and hardship for both the Thieves and the Assassins Guilds. Now, though, they come not to welcome a new life, but to prepare to bid farewell to a departing one. Marius, leaders of the Assassins, has passed, one of the Assassins announces with an air of formality. The mantle of leadership must be passed on, as usual. The woman asks: is the intended prepared to bear this burden?

Bella Donna Boudreaux assures her guild she is prepared to do so with honor. The female Assassin asks Bella Donna how does she, daughter of Marius, intend to uphold the traditions so well upheld through the years by her late father? Bella Donna insists she will keep such counsel to herself. She assures her ‘sister’, though, that she will seek revenge against all who cross their path and most especially against Remy LeBeau, the mutant known as Gambit.


His body is so warm, Philip thinks. Hotter than it has any right to be in a weather like this. But Adam’s skin could burn like the sun itself and it wouldn’t be enough. Philip knows he won’t survive the night. Adam has gathered wood and lit up a fire and now, bare-chested, he presses Philip against himself, trying desperately to keep him warm. Philip confesses he can barely see Adam – even though he’s right in front of his face. It’s funny: when he flew, he used to be able to see people like ants walking below him… Adam advises him to rest and conserve his energy. Hypothermia; injuries; loss of blood; Philip is confident he’s not going to make it. Adam can leave now and save himself. Adam clarifies they will both die here today before he leaves.

Increasingly weak, Philip wonders where Adam learned to care so much about others. And how can some who cares so much have such sadness in his voice? Philip explains he’s an outcast; he always has been. Of everywhere and nowhere, his entire life. Apart of everything around him but also apart from everyone he knew. Taking into account that his skin is hot and his accent’s strange, Philip asks him where he’s from. Out there… but also he’s beginning to realize more and more from here as well, Adam replies. “You mean you’re an alien…?” Adam mumbles. After all he’s learned these past few years, why isn’t he surprised?

He asks Adam to show him the star he came from. Adam points at the sky: to the right of they configuration they call Orion’s Belt. Philip sees it. He thinks it’s so beautiful. So many white flecks in the sky… so many beautiful stars out tonight. It must have been amazing for Adam to have flown through all of that. Adam admits it has never been something he could truly appreciate. What good is it to have been among the stars, to have seen the face of infinity, if you are empty inside your heart, where it really matters? Philip assures him that, outside of maybe his grandson and a few of his friends, he has more inside him than any ten men he knows put together. And if he’s going to die tonight and it can’t be in the arms of his Deborah, then nothing would make more sense to him than passing on in the company of someone who’s flown where he’s only dreamed of going…

With his last phrase, Philip loses consciousness. Adam examines him: pulse is weak but steady. He promises Philip is not going to die; he won’t let him. He grabs a knife from his sack: the blade is made of a metal never seen on this planet. Adam cuts both Philip’s palms, only enough to draw the slightest blood, then he holds his hands and lets his mutant powers – the ability to ignite the electrolytes in a person’s oxygenated blood – softly flow through him and into the wounded old man. He’s never used his gift like this before: to heal; to warm. Instead, it has always been a weapon. But Adam holds this fragile man through the night, using all his remaining strength and will to keep Philip alive until morning comes.

In the morning, a helicopter searching for the missing Philip spots their makeshift shelter. A man called Mr. Ridge sees the shelter with his binoculars and radios Anchorage, telling the people there to contact Deborah at the airport and tell her to recall Scott from his search up north. Ridge is in Canadian airspace, in a valley below Mt. Hubbard over the St. Elias range. He asks them to tell Deb he’s found her stubborn old coot of a husband… and that he’s still alive!

Providence Hospital, Anchorage, Alaska. Two days later.

Philip is hospitalized, currently senseless. Cyclops and Phoenix, Deborah Summers and Mr. Ridge are paying him a visit. The doctor is stunned that Philip is still breathing and although his eyesight is gone forever, short of three broken bones and a mild concussion, it’s a miracle Philip survived at all. Ridge explains they had help from everyone. No way Phil could have built that shelter in the shape he was in. And there were bloodstains near the travois – damnest thing he’s ever seen, he adds in a lower voice. Jean wonders, though: why didn’t that stranger stay and wait when Mr. Ridge landed? ‘Cause this person pulled stunts no man should have been able to, Ridge replies. “’Cause he didn’t want to be found,” he concludes.

The doctor asks them to leave and give his patient a chance to rest. The foursome settles at the hospital cafeteria. Deborah tells them she was terrified when she realized Philip went up his plane again. The doctors told him he shouldn’t fly anymore.

Jean suddenly senses something. She gets up and asks them to excuse her for a minute. Through the psychic rapport they share, Scott asks her if everything’s all right. Jean assures him it’s fine; she claims she forgot something upstairs and leaves. She didn’t want to tell Scott this – he’s been through enough this week. But she’s picking strange thought patterns. Strange but somehow… familiar, like the calm at the eye of a hurricane. And they’re coming from Philip’s room.

As she enters his room, she finds Adam sitting by Philip’s side. Without actually uttering the words, she mentally asks him who he is and how he got in here. Through the window, Adam explains. She shouldn’t be afraid: he’s not the enemy. Jean concurs he’s not; she can see that now. “You’re the one who saved Philip’s life, aren’t you… Adam?” she tells him. Adam realizes she read his mind. She must be one of those special friends Adam mentioned. “I guess I must be,” Jean admits. Adam asks her how’s Philip. Jean reveals he’s lost his eyesight but he’ll live… thanks to Adam. Adam wants to give him more. She can read his mind, can’t she? Jean affirms that. “Can you do what I’m asking?” Adam asks her. Jean explains she can link the three of them telepathically, so Adam will be able to let Philip see through his eyes…

(images flooding Philip’s mind through Adam’s memories of his life in space)

He banks the Shi’ar Kjeth’ya scout craft to the right, coming through a hale of phaser fire. This is the part he hates the most. The Jath’chee call it the Feya’tha… the suicide attack. When piloting a scout craft against a dreadnought what did you expect? The maneuver is nearly impossible. Buzz the ‘nought’s plasma emissions, laying down an ion flux which will ignite the volatile gases released from the giant’s massive fusion engines. He then rides the ensuing explosion, cresting with the wave of the blast, taking his gnat to a ship to the edge of infinity. The ship is pushed where it has no business going, into warp drive… until Philip Summers kisses the stars in all their glory and bright lights.

(real life)

Jean breaks the link. She thanks Adam for giving Philip that – and more, his very life. “Ma’am, he gave me just as much,” Adam replies. He gave him something he’s been lacking since he first found himself here. He gave him hope. And with that, Adam is gone. Jean smiles, having touched the soul of a tortured young man whose desire for privacy she chose to respect. There is infinite sadness about the body, a melancholy that is not unknown to her – not in the least.

Cyclops walks in and asks her if everything’s okay. Jean tells him everything’s great; everything’s wonderful. They grab hands and walk away. Scott can’t help but feel that his fractured family lines have been made stronger because of this near-tragedy. Little does he know how terrifyingly right he is. Unbeknownst to Scott and Jean, a mysterious man in red gloves spies them on his monitor – he, in turn, being spied in a similar fashion by a man in dark blue gloves…

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cyclops, Phoenix IV (all X-Men)

Adam X/X-Treme

Deborah and Philip Summers (Cyclops’ grandparents)


Bella Donna and other members of the Assassins’ Guild

Mr. Sinister

Erik the Red II

Mr. Ridge

Unnamed doctor

In flashback:

Philip Summers at WWII

As ghost or hallucination:


Story Notes: 

Neither Philip nor Deborah Summers have appeared to date since this issue.

The mysterious Adam X aka the X-Treme, a half-Shi’ar introduced in X-Force Annual #3, was meant by Fabian Nicieza to be the third Summers brother, whose existence was first hinted at by Mr. Sinister in X-Men (2nd series) #23. Bearing that in mind, the encounter between Adam and Philip Summers in this issue takes a wholly new perspective, as it constitutes the first meeting between a man and his long-lost grandson, although neither man knows the truth. However, Nicieza left Marvel shortly afterwards and the plot was left dangling. The introduction of an actual third Summers brother, in the form of new character Vulcan, in the X-Men: Deadly Genesis mini-series, published in 2006, makes the revival of this plotline even more unlikely. More information can be found in the Third Summers Brother article.

Although neither the man in the red glove nor the man in the dark blue glove are shown, it is safe to assume they are Erik the Red II and Mr. Sinister respectively. In Sinister’s case, it is rather obvious, since the trademark streamers from his cape are also visible. Erik the Red, although less easy to identify from this image, next turns up in X-Men (2nd series) #41 and Captain Marvel (2nd series) #2-3, in which issues he fights Adam. Furthermore, more evidence points towards Erik, considering the last two panels are meant to be an homage to the finale of X-Men (1st series) #97, where Erik appeared. In the finale of that issue, the villainous Dr. Stephen Lang observes the X-Men through his monitor, unaware that he is also being observed by another villain, who is not shown but is suspected to be Shi’ar Emperor D’Ken.

Rogue’s argument with Gambit took place last issue. Their adventures against Bella Donna and the Assassins’ Guild are documented in Rogue (1st series) #1-4. The marriage mentioned here is, of course, the doomed marriage of Gambit and Bella Donna. The wedding was shown, in flashback, in X-Men (2nd series) #8.

Sara Grey-Bailey went missing back in X-Factor (1st series) #12. It was revealed she had been assimilated by the Phalanx in X-Men (2nd series) #36.

Like last issue, where her appearance caused Legion to wake from his coma, Destiny again appears here, although it is left unclear whether it is her ghost or she is just a product of Legion’s hallucinations. Nevertheless, both she and Legion are later seen as ghosts in Fantastic Four (3rd series) #16, although it was never confirmed whether it was truly them.

Legion’s itinerancy in the Israeli desert leads into the Legion Quest crossover, beginning in X-Factor (1st series) #109.

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