X-Men (6th series) #24

Issue Date: 
September 2023
Story Title: 
Once an X-Man...

Gerry Duggan (writer), Joshua Cassara (artist), Frank Martin (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer & production), Tom Muller & Jay Bowen (designers), Joshua Cassara & Marte Gracia (cover artists), Russell Dauterman & Matt Milla (Trading Card variant cover artists), Elena Casabrande & Jordie Bellaire (Stormbreakers variant cover artists), Mahmud Asrar (Hellfire Gala variant cover artists), Mark Brooks (Corner Box variant cover artist), Lauren Amaro (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

The X-Men arrive at Gameworld, originally planned for some rest and relaxation, but they en route they received a distress call – an old enemy of theirs, Pogg Ur-Pogg, is conducting a jewel heist with his children. The X-Men engage Pogg in battle, which only ends when Magik offers Pogg something he hasn't acquired before – the mysterious mutant metal called Mysterium. Pogg agrees to the offer, which also includes the obligation to assist the X-Men one time when they call on him. Some of the x-Men head back to Earth rather than staying on Gameworld, while Jean Grey and Cyclops have an important discussion about their future and about the future of mutantkind, during which Jean confronts Cyclops about him never stepping foot on Arakko, the mutant planet she helped to create. Cyclops explains that while he understands the intentions of Arakko, he believes it invites exile. He tells Jean that he is concerned that mutantkind is already at war. Jean says goodbye to Cyclops and tells him that she has a friend to check in on, adding that if he is not on the X-Men team after the Gala and wants to find her, he can do so. At the X-Men's Treehouse, Destiny gives Rogue some cryptic messages about the future. Jean arrives back on Earth and finds Polaris at the Lighthouse, struggling to cope following the death of Magneto. Jean uses her gifts to help ease Polaris' pain. Kid Cable arrives at the Rockies, where he is taken out by Orchis. Magik teleports to Arakko, where she meets Sunfire, who is with Redroot. Sunfire has pledged to find Redroot's voice, and Magik teleports him to Otherworld, although the journey through the Stepping Disk is awkward, and something strange happens. Magik warns Sunfire to be careful on Otherworld, as time works differently. Sunfire assures her that he will be fine, as he has been preparing for this, before Magik teleports away. X months later, Sunfire struggles through the darkness in a snowstorm – but at least he has found Redroot's voice.

Full Summary: 

The Rockies, where a teen version of Nathan Summers a.k.a. Cable arrives on the side of a snow-covered cliff, a strange facility protruding from the landscape. He instructs his A.I. companion called Belle to check the chronometers, and asks 'Did we make it back in time?' Cable declares that he doesn't have time for another mutant massacre, and asks Belle to give him the good news. 'Clocks are right – our jump was perfect' Belle confirms. She reports that the third Hellfire Gala of the Krakoan Age will occur in just over 24 hours, to which Cable, looking at a door into the facility exclaims 'Incorrect. The events of the third Hellire Gala will never happen...'cus I'm gonna put my foot up Orchis' ass tonight'. Kid Cable fires an optic blast into a control panel, which forces the door to rise up.

Cable stands in the doorway, as Belle informs him that she is not reading any life signs, except that there should be insects and bacteria, which means she is being jammed. 'Ah. Very clever' Omega Sentinel remarks as she steps forward from behind a wall. 'Hiya, Boyo' Dr. Moira MacTaggert – or rather, Moira X – adds. Cable grins, and asks Moira if she honestly thinks she could take him out. 'Honestly, yes. But just to be safe. I invited Omega Sentinel' Moira reponds as she aims a weapon at Cable, who aims weapons at both Moira and Omega Sentinel in return. Cable tells Moira that he knows what she is planning, and that he won't let that happen. 'If you traveled back in time to prevent tomorrow, then it's proof we already won...right, Nimrod?' Omega Sentinel asks.

Nimrod appears above Cable and suggests that they don't count their mutants before they hatch from their eggs. 'Oh, $#&%' Cable utters, before Nimrod grabs him by his head, and announces that he has been  studying great fighters, even human ones. 'Really inspired right now by “Float like a butterfly – sting like a bee”' Nimrod quotes as he tears Cable's cybernetic arm from its socket, causing Cable to scream. 'All right, the kid's on ice... though I want it on record that we should just kill this little $#&%' Dr. Stasis declares as he steps forward and fires a weapon at Kid Cable, that encases him in ice. But Moira tells Stasis that killing a Cable will just bring more of them from elsewhen. 'Now I've delivered on my targets. You have not' Moira points out. 'I took out the Rasputin girl's power – who cares about Manifold?' Stasis smirks. 'I do. Deeply. He's a problem. Humanity loses if Manifold lives' Moira snaps, grabbing Stasis by his neck.

At that same moment, in the X-Men's Treehouse HQ in New York City, New York, where the precognitive mutant Irene Adler a.k.a. Destiny is meeting with her daughter, Rogue. 'Trust me, Rogue. Mutantdom dies with Manifold' Destiny utters. She adds that Rogue's story and Manifold's have bisected perfectly, that they always have and always will. 'Then we must tell the X-Men' Rogue responds as she stares out a window. 'Will they understand what must be done for the greater good?' Destiny asks, putting a hand on Rogue's shoulder. 'Ah'm not even sure Ah do, Irene' Rogue answers, before turning to Destiny and adding 'You're the fortune teller, so just tell it – what happens if Ah insist we take this to team?'

'We dare not. There is a turncoat on the X-Men. A great betrayal that will turn the tide. It must happen so that we may make this weakness a strength. The X-Men will buckle under the weight of the war to comer' Destiny declares. Rogue, wearing her classic '90s costume, asks Destiny if she knows what she is asking – to keep quiet and risk everything? 'Speak plainly to me. What do you really see?' Rogue exclaims. 'I see kings clashing in white, black after the death of the Red Queen. I see a Jovian bolt from the heavens. I see the stars ripped in half. I hear the poisoning lies of the false captain, his rank earned. The fool who speaks the truth will pay the price' Destiny reveals. '... Ma. I don't know what any of that means' Rogue responds, looking at Destiny. 'It is enough that it is true' Destiny utters.

Meanwhile, on Gameworld, a spacefaring megacity dedicated to thje whims of the richest and most depraved aliens in the galaxy. When the wealthiest aliens come to your door to gamble the fortunes of entire planets...you can also attract the attention of some undesirables like the bizarre creature called Pogg Ur-Pogg, who upends several tables, scattering cards and money while shouting 'Pogg Ur-Pogg be I, and you'll drop your purses if you wish not to die!' Several aliens try to hide, and protect their riches – and at that moment, after Gameworld sent out a distress call, the X-Men, who were already headed this way for some rest and relaxation, answer, as six members of the heroic mutant team arrive on Gameworld through a Krakoan portal. 'Who's the pre-luggage?' Laura Kinney a.k.a. Talon asks, referring to Pogg Ur-Pogg's crocodilian appearance. Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik goes wide-eyed and asks 'Oh man, Pogg – what're you doing, you weird elf?'

'Well, that's the sickest elf I've ever seen' Everett Thomas a.k.a. Synch remarks as he syncs to another's power and his form becomes steel, before asking Talon if she is ready. 'Why don't you introduce me?' Talon asks. 'Happy landings!' Synch responds as he hurls Talon towards Pogg Ur-Pogg. At that moment, Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops, wearing his classic '90s costume, appears in the Krakoan gateway alongside Jean Grey. 'Looks like our business will have to wait' Jean telepathically remarks. 'Does it? I feel like the team can handle this -' Scott begins, before Pogg Ur-Pogg swats Talon aside with ease. 'Or maybe not' Scott realizes. Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman slides towards Pogg Ur-Pogg on an ice-sled and, calling him “Godzilla” tells him to calm down. Bobby begins encasing Pogg's sword in solid ice, suggesting he hold the sword before Pogg makes this situation any worse. 'My sword you'll give me, or your gourd I'll split thee!' Pogg responds.

Suddenly: 'Pogglets?' Magik asks, confused, as three smaller begins resembling Pogg Ur-Pogg rush forward, carrying sacks loaded with jewels and other stolen goods. 'We got the loot!' one of them calls out. 'Now we scoot!' another exclaims. 'Bozhe moi!' Magik gasps. Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar flies up above Magik while Forge goes over to the nearby bar and asks the alien bartender 'What have you got that's high-voltage?' The bat tender begins to shake a cocktail mixer and asks Forge if he wouldn't be helping. 'I'm easing into it' Forge responds, before he sniffs the drink the bartender offers him. 'Nice' Forge remarks, before commenting that when one can do the kinds of things he can do, sometimes the worst mistakes you can make is to leap right in. He explains to the bar tender that he makes things, and that he was recently humbled by a machine, thought because machines always bend to his will that they always would – but that normalcy bias nearly cost him his life. 'And honestly, it's really stuck with me. It's got me rethinking some things, but maybe that's to be expected?' Forge adds. 'Uh, okay. Look, uh, maybe you could make a little machine to stop that monster, and then we could talk?' the bar tender asks.

'To me, you three. Proud Pogg is of his progeny!' Pogg calls out to his children, while struggling to break free from the ice he is trapped. 'Listen, you little – whatever you are' Magik begins as she leaps towards Pogg, her sword at the ready, she tells Pogg that she doesn't think his kids need the memory of their dad getting his ass beat in a casino seared into their brains. 'Little mutant, leave us to our raid – or find yourself under Pogg's blade' Pogg responds. 'I'll kick you in the gizzard, lizard!' Magik jokes as her sword clangs against Pogg's. 'Since we last met I killed a cannibal wizard, and -' Magik begins, to which Pogg tells her that her rhymes are crimes, before he notices a smell and suggests that it is almost as though it were a spell. Firestar admits that she doesn't get it, and asks what is little about this guy. 'Are we low-blowing innuendos now?' she enquires, while Synch grabs one of Pogg's arms. 'Touch my arm and I have the right to harm!' Pogg snarls as he hurls Synch upwards and through the glass dome above them – right out into space. 'Ah! $#&%!' Synch calls out.

As he floats out into space, Synch's thoughts are projected to his teammates as he assures them that he is okay, and that he is still in Colossus' armored form, but that he could use a lift back in. Jean plugs up the hull breach with telekinesis, and reports that she can't get into Pogg's brain, so that they are going to have to do this the old fashioned way. 'And can we please get a rush on it? Pogg's Jurassic Park exterior hides a little garden-gnome guy' Jean adds. 'Well, that's not at all how I expected this was gonna go' Talon remarks, before she announces that it is time to do some gnomectomy as she shoves her claws into Pogg Ur-Pogg's armor, causing him to shout 'YEAAOW!' Pogg then opens his mouth wide and warns Talon that he isn't even famished, but that he will make her head vanish. 'Now with your jaw wired shut' Talon snarls as she shoves her claws up through the underside of Pogg's crocodile mouth.

Firestar opens fire at Pogg, and Magik instructs her to focs on Pogg's tummy. Magik then looks into Pogg's mouth, pinned open thanks to Talon's claws, blood seeping through the crocodile mouth, Magik calls out 'Listen, you little $#&% - climb outta there, or I'm making a new hole and climbing in!' Magik threatens Pogg. The true Pogg, a strange creature indeed, peers up through the crocodile armor and sniffs, before uttering 'Pogg adores sparkly precious metals! Your chain is more radiant than flower petals!' Poggs true head emergers even further, 'The metal! I must acquire – it's my heart's desire!' Pogg utters. 'Oh, this little thing? It's a very rare and powerful mutant metal called mysterium. It was a gift from Forge' Magik smiles, holding up a cross which hangs around her neck.

Forge steps forward and jokes that he is a jeweler now, before suggesting to Pogg that he can arrange a small gift if he agrees to drop everything he just stole, and never fight the X-Men again. 'AYE!' Pogg agrees quickly. 'And lastly...someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me' Forge adds. 'AYE!' Pogg smiles, agreeing that this is a priceless gift to heal their rift. 'It's agreed, and now tyoday, none of you will bleed!' he smiles. The X-Men begin to regroup as Jean brings Synch in from the cold of space. 'Thanks for reeling me back in' Synch calls out, while Iceman looks on and tells Cyclops that he is so confused: 'We're stopping a robbery by agreeing to be robbed ourselves, and – you know what? Never mind. I came here to blow off steam, and that's exactly what I'm gonna do' Iceman decides, before anouncing that he is going to the club.

'Now to keep safe the keepsake, and our leave I will take!' Pogg Ur-Pogg calls out as he swallows the mysterium cross. The Pogglets leap onto Pogg and Magik informs Forge that she is going to get Count Chonkula here his bag of mysterium and get him back to his cave. Forge asks Magik to give Sunfire his regards. 'I almost forgot' Magik responds. Synch announces that he, Talon and Firestar have had a change of plan and are not going to remain here. Jean tells Synch that she understands and that she and Cyclops will make their own way back later. The others disappear through the Krakoan gateway, while Cyclops looks at Jean and projects his thoughts to her, telling her that he was hoping they could ease into this. 'I think we have been' Jean responds. 'I know the Gala is coming, and the team is ready -' Cyclops begins. 'Stop' Jean interrupts him, announcing that she wants to ask him something, and while it might be petty, she needs to ask it.

'But first, some real privacy' Jean adds as she touches Scott's mind, and they both enter the Astral Plane. 'Uh-oh. I'm in more trouble than I thought' Scott mutters. Jean notes that Scott is so proud of the Treehouse, that he helped Forge, Cypher and Krakoa make it, and that he should be proud. 'I am proud' Scott responds. 'You should be' Jean tells him, before reminding him that she helped to create and entire living planet – and yet Scott has never even stepped foot on her. Cyclops frowns and starts to tell Jean that he thinks he was there once, before admitting that no, he never went to Arakko. Jean turns away from Scott and pauses, before asking 'Why?' Cyclops looks at Jean and tells her that if they give humans a reason to think mutants don't belong on Earth then they will take it. 'Its creation was well-intended and solved some short-term problems integrating the Arakkii, but I worry it's an invitation to exile' Scott explains, folding his arms.

'Scott. That is so cynical' Jean snaps. 'Have you met any humans recently?' Scott retorts, asking Jean if she really doesn't feel it – because they are already at war. 'Just one of those new Sentinels mopped the floor with us. Orchis' propaganda and disinformation fills the air. The stress of it...I feel like there's a noose around my neck' Scott declares. Scott continues, suggesting to Jean that she look at how humans treat their own kind – the ones who don't fit in. The ones who wear the “wrong” clothes or love the “wrong” mate. 'Those people's only crime is that they make their oppressors uncomfortable' Cyclops exclaims, adding that he wants to be there – for all of them – for mutants and for all mankind.

'I do too. But love is enough to win those hearts. Love is enough!' Jean responds, adding that they can't just pretend they are the same as humans – it has gotten them nowhere their entire lives. 'You are a great captain of Krakoa. It suits you. You're good at it, because you think like them' Jean tells Scott, who thanks her – but Jean tells him it was not a compliment. Jean kisses Scott on his lips, before she flies away, informing him that she has to see about their wounded friend, but that he should know she is sticking to her guns about leaving the X-Men. 'If you're not on the team after the Gala, and you want to, then...come find me' Jean suggests.

Back at the X-Men's Treehouse in Manhattan. Jean enters a room and finds Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris lying on a bed. She telepathically greets her longtime friend and informs her that Emma sent Jumbo over with a dress for her if she changes her mind about the Gala. 'I'm sorry I'm having a tough time' Lorna replies, but Jean tells her not to be sorry, noting that she is going through a lot. 'I'm sorry I'm like this' Lorna adds. Jean uses her telepathy to help ease Lorna's mind and tells her to stop apologizing, and points out that she is carrying so much grief, and now Magneto is unable to be resurrected. 'I lost my birth family, and I was in bed for a while too' Jean remarks. Polaris' frown turns to a smile, as she reveals that that she loves the Treehouse, and while she knows she's not really supposed to be here, as she is not serving on the team. 'Put that thought from your mind. Once you're an X-Man... you're always an X-Man' Jean declares.

Elsewhere, on Arakko, where Shiro Yoshida a.k.a. Sunfire had been tasked by Arakko to help find its voice, Redroot of the Forest. The member of the great ring has been trapped in Otherworld since Krakoa won the tournament that led to the terraforming of Mars. Mad Jim Jaspers knew what he had in the Arakkii mutant – the only question is what price would be paid for their return. 'Ready?' Magik asks as she drops down onto Otherworld through a stepping disk. 'I'm already late' Sunfire remarks, carrying a duffel bag as he stands next to Redroot of the Forest. 'Well, don't let me slow you down. Next stop, Otherworld!' Magik remarks as she opens another stepping disk and steps through with Sunfire – but they both fall into darkness, and Magik screams. 'What the hell?' she asks, before she and Sunfire land in Otherworld.

Sunfire asks Magik if she is okay. 'What just happened?' he enquires. Magik apologizes and explains that her stepping disk must have encountered some turbulence caused by Otherworld's magic. Sunfire tells Magik that he will watch her leave safely, and that if he has not found his own way back in a week, then asks her to meet him back here. 'I am sure I will have freed Redroot by then' Sunfire declares. 'You got it. See you in a week' Magik smiles, opening another stepping disk, she tells Sunfire not to worry about her, as her power is fine, but she warns Shiro to be careful, as Otherworld wasn't fun, and that this place was hell during their tournament. She adds that time works differently here, sometimes. Magik admits that she doesn't know all the rules, maybe nobody does, which is why this place is so dangerous. As Magik disappears, Sunfire thanks her, and assures her that he has been preparing for this for a long time. 'I should be in and out' he adds.

(X months later)
There is darkness all around, save for a small glow emitted by Sunfire as he trudges though the darkness, what appears to be snow falling around him. With one hand raised above his head emitting a small glow, he holds the tiny Redroot close to his chest with his other hand. Sunfire coughs and apologizes to Redroot. 'How pathetic that a mutant named Sunfire be reduced to little more than a spark in a void' Sunfire comments to himself. He looks down at Redroot, 'I've failed you' he utters, adding that he does not know how much longer he can march in this darkness. 'Soon I will fall, and when my heart beats its last... my failure will be complete.'

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Firestar, Forge, Jean Grey, Iceman, Magik, Synch, Talon (all X-Men)
Polaris, Rogue, Sunfire (all inactive X-Men)
Kid Cable
Belle IV

Dr. Stasis, Moira MacTaggert, Nimrod, Omega Sentinel (all Orchis)

Pogg Ur-Pogg


Various aliens

Story Notes: 

This issue takes place before the X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 issue of 2023.

Following the attack on Kid Cable, a memo from the Desk of the Time Variance Authority is included, however the author and recipient are blacked out. The memo refers to temporal disruptions increasing before and after the third Hellfire Gala, and that Cable Summers of every timeline is observed by the TVA.

Pogg Ur-Pogg was last seen in X of Swords: Destruction #1.

Jean helped to transform Mars into the planet known as Arakko in Planet-Sized X-Men #1.

Magneto was killed in X-Men Red (2nd series) #7.

Jean Grey's family were slaughtered by Shi'ar Death Commandos in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #466-468. Jean mentioned to Polaris that she spent time in bed following her family's deaths, however Jean herself was deceased at this time.

Sunfire’s quest to find Redroot is chronicled in X-Men unlimited Infinity comic starting with issue #106.

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