X-Men (6th series) #21

Issue Date: 
June 2023
Story Title: 
Lord of the Brood, part three

Gerry Duggan (writer), Stefano Caselli (artist), Federico Blee (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer & production), Tom Muller & Jay Bowen (designers), Juan Frigeri & David Curiel (cover artists), Nic Klein (Stormbreakers variant cover artist) Skottie Young; Stefano Caselli & Alex Guimares (variant cover artists), Lauren Amaro (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

In Knowhere, Forge and Monet have completed the work they needed to, and initiate the teleportation of Knowhere back to their universe. In the Astral Plane, Jean Grey has engaged Nightmare in battle after Nightmare was revealed to have been responsible for the current Brood attacks throughout the galaxy. Jean defeats Nightmare in a spectacular display, while Broo is concerned about helping those Brood who fell under Nightmare's control. The rest of the X-Men are in a spaceship shuttling alien refugees through space, however some of those refugees have been infected by the Brood and have started to transform. Synch, Talon, Iceman and Firestar battle the Brood, eventually injecting them into the cold of space where they explode. Talon comforts Synch afterwards, with Synch feeling guilty about what happened to the alien refugees turned Brood. Monet and Forge arrive back in this galaxy, with Knowhere deposited near Jupiter. Magik, Jean and Broo collect them, and teleport onto the spaceship where Cyclops, Firestar and Iceman have received a distress call from Kwannon, who is with some other Krakoans dealing with a Brood outbreak alongside Captain Marvel. Cyclops wants to kill the Brood once and for all, but Broo tells him that he can't. Cyclops is angry though, and determined to end the Brood. Jean opposes Cyclops, unimpressed with his proposed genocide, and decides to leave with Broo, to take the Brood who Broo can control to safety. Forge quietly tells Jean that there is a safe piece of real estate in orbit around Jupiter, and Jean thanks Forge, before Magik teleports everyone off to join the battle against the Brood. Jean takes the spaceship with Broo and the remaining Brood to Knowhere, giving the Brood an opportunity for redemption.

Full Summary: 

Knowhere – is currently nowhere. It was lost in another universe after falling into a black hole, so two big brains have gone looking for it – Forge and Monet. Wearing Krakoan battlesuits they stand before a machine, and Forge smiles, telling Monet that he feels like the machine is a true shared creation, a collaboration – a child. 'Nice to bump brains with you' Monet responds as energy glows within the machine, which is connected to Knowhere itself through various cables. Forge remarks that it was genius of Monet to target the second largest gravity source in their solar system, and as they clasp hands, Monet tells Forge that he would have thought of it if she didn't. 'Let's go home...' Forge suggests as he presses a button. '... or die trying' Forge adds as energy swirls around them.
At this moment, the X-Men are scattered – and, depending on your perspective, Jean Grey is even farther from home than Forge, on the Astral Plane, where she is fighting the demon known as Nightmare, who is seeking revenge against Jean, who defeated him last Halloween. Nightmare has learned little in the interim, as Jean slams a fist into Nightmare's face and warns him to release his grip on the Brood. Nightmare groans as he falls backwards off his steed, Dreamstalker. When he severed most of the Brood from the hive mind, they reverted to form and rallied around new matriarchs. At present, the Brood are blitzing through the galaxy, planet by planet. Nightmare's plan was to give the Brood access to Krakoa's gates by subjugating one of Jean's former students. Nightmare lands hard on a strange platform that floats nearby, while Jean drops down beside him.
'I had no sway over the Brood at all. I just freed them from the mental jail you mutants trapped them in' Nightmare claims. 'I can tell when I am being lied to, and you haven't told a lie' Jean replies, announcing that she must leave and go join the fight. She remarks that turnabout is fair play. 'You fight by proxy via the Brood...so I'm waking all the souls you've preyed on and letting them know that their nightmare is on the menu' Jean utters as she touches Nightmare's mind, and shadowy hands reach out to grab Nightmare. 'No! Damn you, witch' Nightmare calls out, while trying to avoid the souls reaching him, warning them to dare not touch him. 'You can't kill me, woman! I am beyond death – you only anger me more!' Nightmare shouts at Jean Grey, who watches him as he is dragged down by the souls attacking him into some flames. 'Your world is about to burn! And when you are brought to your knees – I'll be waiting!' Nightmare warns Jean.
Jean stands over Nightmare and tells him that she tries never to kill, because she can do so without effort, but warns Nightmare that if he ever attacks her again, he will snap ever atom in her body apart, and then he will only exist in books on magic. Nightmare reaches out for Jean and laughs, 'You speak of breaking bonds, but I promise you – what is one will be two by the end of your day – and then you'll still have the fall of your kind to witness!' He laughs again before he vanishes in the flames. Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, now free from the chains where Nightmare trapped her, and Broo approach Jean, with Magik remarking that Jean was hard to locate, and asked her what happened to “the horseman with no chill”. Broo tells Jean that he can save the Brood that Nightmare turned against him, and that he is scared for them. 'There's no need. The X-Men will save as many as we can. Even the Brood' Jean responds, before instructing Magik to take them to the X-Men. 'On it' Magik responds as she opens a stepping disk.
The rest of the X-Men are currently in deep space, aboard a large space ship with a cargo hold full of alien refugees. Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops pilots the ship, while the Amazing Friends – Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman and Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar – stand nearby. Bobby wonders what the closes safe port for the folks in the cargo hold would be, deciding that Arakko wouldn't be safe. Firestar suggests Shi'ar space, while Cyclops wishes that he had pushed harder for the Atlantic archipelago of Krakoa to become a safe haven for refugees. 'Another $#%& decision by the Quiet Council' he adds.
In the cargo hold, Laura Kinney a.k.a. Talon and Everett Thomas a.k.a. Synch are keeping watch over the various refugee aliens. Laura remarks to Synch that there is something wrong, and asks him if he smells it. 'They're pretty stressed out, but... otherwise... they're fine?' Synch replies, before looking over at an alien, who suddenly gasps, and clutches her body, 'Stay back!' she calls out, before suddenly a Brood hatches inside her. The Brood eat from the inside out, and wear the shapes of their victims for as long as they can – eventually, the sheep's clothes slough off. 'Dammit' Synch mutters, before he begins to use telepathy to conduct a census. 'Do it fast!' Laura tells him. Synch looks horrified as he suddenly announces that all of the survivors are infected. He telepathically relays this to Cyclops, who is shocked. 'No, that can't be!' he snarls.
Talon shoves her claws through one of the aliens and remarks that this was a trap. She explains that Corsair was the bait, and these poor souls are simply payloads the X-Men were meant to deliver. 'We don't have any time to operate on them. And from the sound and smell down here in the hold...it's already too late' Talon adds as she slashes her way through another of the aliens, spraying blood everywhere. Firestar and Iceman arrive in the cargo hold, and Firestar warns Cyclops that it is getting hectic back here. 'Seal the bulkheads or I will!' Iceman shouts. Annoyed, Cyclops declares that the damn Brood will never be able to do this again. 'I'll fly us into a star if I have to'. But Synch assures Cyclops that he has got this, and that he is going to clear the ship. He remembers standing beside Polaris, how she smelled of espresso and anxiety, and a moment later, he activates her powers and tears open part of the space ship, the bulkheads give way with a single thought from his mind. Mid-transformation, the refugee-turned-Brood aliens fall into open space, where they begin to explode – and the mercy he shows the aliens will now haunt him for the rest of his life.
The void of deep space swallows the dead and dying in silence. The only sound is the anguish of the X-Men. There is a high price for service, and Synch and Talon have been paying it for lifetimes. Synch surrounds himself and Talon with a magnetic force field to protect them from the cold fate of space. Tears fall down Synch's face, before he and Talon drop to their knees. 'My god' Cyclops utters as he looks out the window of the ship's bridge and sees what has just transpired, while Bobby and Firestar stand at his side in silence.
Synch and Talon make their way into the ship's infirmary. Synch didn't kill those aliens, but he couldn't save them, either. The unconscious father of Cyclops, Corsair, lies on a table nearby, while Talon helps Synch up on to another table. The Vault mission they were on together was hell – but at least there was nobody else to fail.
Elsewhere, Monet and Forge are back in their correct universe, and Monet telepathically calls out to the X-Men, announcing that they need a ride. Forge adds that he wants to run some more tests on the gate they have aboard before they waltz through it again. 'We'll probably have to wait awhile before -' Forge begins, 'Or not. Hiya, Magik' Monet remarks as Magik teleports in with Jean Grey and Broo.'Uh-oh, what are you two doing together?' Magik asks. 'And all the way out by Jupiter?' Broo comments. Jean asks if they are still in the decapitated Celestial head, to which Monet replies 'Space is weird', before turning to Forge and telling him that this was fun. 'It was that. I don't know what Krakoa is going to do with this new real estate – but maybe that will be some more fun for us?' Forge smiles. 'Tray tables up. Next stop –!' Magik begins as she opens another stepping disk.
'- the X-Men! I repeat. This is Kwannon broadcasting on the emergency X-Men channel!' Kwannon's telepathic cries can be heard as she informs Cyclops, Iceman and Firestar that the Brood are running wild, and that if they feel like suiting up, then she, Rogue, Polaris, Gambit and Wolverine are working with Captain Marvel and have engaged the enemy. She reports that her transponder is active, and that they could use the help of the cavalry. At that moment, Magik arrives with Jean, Forge, Monet and Broo. 'You heard Kwannon – she's asking for our help, and she'll have it. Let's go kill the Brood once and for all' Cyclops announces, but suddenly, 'NO, YOU CAN'T!' Broo screams. 'I don't think I'll let you tell me what I can do' Cyclops retorts, motioning to the mess floating outside in space. 'You told us you controlled the Brood and you didn't. Those are just a few of the people who have paid the price. My father's at death's door back in the sick bay!' Cyclops exclaims.
Jean Grey steps between Cyclops and tells him that Corsair lives, and while it is true that Broo has lost control over some of his kind, some can be saved. 'Saved? For what?' Cyclops snaps, reminding Jean that he knows the value of mercy – but not for the Brood. 'So...it's genocide, then?' Jean asks. 'Don't' Cyclops replies. Synch and Talon arrive at the bridge, while Cyclops tells Jean not to equate being hard on the Brood with genocide, as the Brood represent an existential threat to all life. He looks down at Broo and asks 'And at what point are we complicit if Broo loses control of his pets again?' Annoyed, Jean frowns and tells Cyclops that the X-Men will step in and do what they always do. 'And how many more will be dead then? Refresh my memory, how is it you dealt with that fungal parasite, Cordyceps Jones?'
Jean ignores that comment and uses her telekinesis to remove Cyclops' visor, while telling him to look at her. 'What are you doing?' Cyclops retorts. 'I'm holding back your powers with mine. I want to see your face. Say what you're thinking, so we can all hear' Jean explains. Cyclops' eyes are exposed, and he looks across at Jean as he admits that he thinks wiping out the Brood is a great idea. 'How very human of you' someone replies, before Jean announces that she and Broo will gather the ones Broo can control and go. 'Cyclops, it's not -' Broo begins, but Cyclops, as he puts his visor back on, tells Broo 'Not now' and adds that his friends are in trouble, so they are going to fight alongside them. 'And don't try to stop me from killing the ones separated from your hive mind' Cyclops adds.
Cyclops then instructs Monet to take Corsair to the Healing Gardens on Krakoa, then looks at Magik and asks her to take the rest of them to the fight. Forge glances over at Jean and his thoughts reach her mind, telling her that for the Brood he can save, he created a safe, empty bit of real estate in orbit around Jupiter. 'Thank you' Jean responds telepathically, before Magik teleports everyone away, leaving Jean and Broo aboard the space ship. Broo asks Jean if Cyclops is right. 'Not always. And not today' Jean replies as she adjusts her hair. Broo solemnly remarks that he thinks Cyclops might be. Jean takes control of the ship and Broo tells her that he will die trying to prove Cyclops wrong. 'We will have redemption' he claims. Jean tells Broo that is a noble goal, and suggests he direct the ones he can. 'But steal yourself...the ones that are separated from your hive mind...will fall' Jean adds, while an optic blast can be seen blasting several Brood apart

Later, aboard Knowhere, in orbit around Jupiter, Jean tells Broo that he must hide away with his Brood and become xenophobic. 'How much do you love your kind?' Jean asks, while several Brood can be seen standing next to Broo. 'Are you willing to shelter in place for the health and safety of everyone?' Jean asks. 'If so, you'll be safe on Knowhere' Jean adds. Broo thanks Jean, and adds that he can never repay her. As Jean walks towards the Krakoan gateway, she looks back over her shoulder and tells Broo 'That may be true... but it doesn't mean you can't pay kindness forward'. She reminds him that he spoke about redemption earlier, and adds that she doesn't know what that means for the Brood, but she hopes he will find a way to earn it. 'It won't be easy, but if I can be at peace with what the Phoenix has done, then there's hope for you, too' Jean utters, before suggesting Broo get some rest.

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Firestar, Forge, Jean Grey, Iceman, Magik, Synch, Talon (all X-Men)
Psylocke II



Refugee Rock inhabitants
Unidentified souls

Story Notes: 

This story takes place after Captain Marvel (8th series) #42-46.
Synch and Talon were trapped in the vault for several centuries, beginning with X-Men (5th series) #5.
This issue includes a transcript of a discussion between the Krakoan War Captains (Cyclops, Bishop, Magik and Kwannon) discussing the Brood and how to destroy them, with a plan by Cyclops to have the Five grow a fake Scarlet Witch and have her utter “no more Brood” being deadlocked, with Bishop supporting Cyclops and Psylocke and Magik voting against.
Cordyceps Jones was destroyed by the X-Men in X-Men (6th series) #12.
The X-Men (except Jean Grey) can be seen answering Psylocke’s call for help in Captain Marvel (8th series) #49.

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