X-Men Legacy (2nd Series) #19

Issue Date: 
January 2014
Story Title: 
Smoke and Mirror

Simon Spurrier (Writer), Tan Eng Huat (Penciler), Craig Yeung (Inker), Jose Villarrubia (Colourist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letters), Mike Del Mundo (Cover), Xander Jarowey (Assistant Editor), Daniel Ketchum (Editor), Nick Lowe (X-Men Group Editor), Axel Alonso (Editor in Chief), Joe Quesada (Chief Creative Officer), Dan Buckley (Publisher), Alan Fine (Executive Producer)

Brief Description: 

Blindfold has been trying to contact David for a while and eventually she finds him on the astral plane. However, they have trouble hearing one another and eventually David is ripped away by forces he cannot quite see. He wakes up and finds that he is strapped to a table with SWORD agents Brand and Sydren standing over him. David has been there for a few weeks since he fought Cyclops. Brand escorts David through the Peak station until the meet Aarkus, whom David manipulated a few weeks before. Aarkus has recovered from David’s mind games and has come to issue a punishment to him. Aarkus explains that, since David has been unconscious, the personality that escaped and took control of Luca Aldine has been wrecking havoc across the world. He starts to lecture David on the entity’s atrocities but David decides to get into Aarkus’ mind again. When he digs in, David finds that the cosmic being’s mind is consumed by thoughts of a weapon. David starts exploring the memories to find the weapon has been used for eons to kill powerful aliens, armies and even worlds, all of which had been sentenced to death. Aarkus tells David that the entity’s effect on the world is getting worse and that it is stirring up the hate and loathing within people to cause them to lash out at those around them. The superheroes cannot stop it, so Aarkus will use the weapon against it. However, they are unsure as to the effect the weapon will have, so they need to test run it first, and since David spawned the entity the weapon will be used against him. David tries to object but Aarkus lists the ways David has used and abused the people in his life to make him see he is a danger to the world. David relents and accepts his fate and asks about the weapon. Aarkus tells him that life often has backup plans for its sure bets. In the example of birds, there is the one chick that will be favored, but there are others in the nest. Aarkus saved one of the rejected chicks during the birth of the universe and has been keeping it under his control. He shows David an egg that bursts open to reveal the Phoenix Force’s sibling, the Shadow Phoenix. 

Full Summary: 

As Blindfold dreams of a dark place full of bees and jellyfish, her astral form seeks David out. Eventually, she manages to find him floating in the ether but he doesn’t know where he is. She tries to calm the frantic man down and says that they took him away. She doesn’t know where he went, but Cyclops said he would be fairly treated. She suddenly notices an interference that sounds like a whispering voice. She cannot identify where it is coming from and David tells her that he is scared, as his powers have been inhibited. He also thinks he is being restrained somehow and someone has done something to him. Before he can finish, a bright light shines down on him and his form fades away again before he can tell Blindfold who is doing it to him. Blindfold clutches at her ears as she can hear the whispering again and it is blocking out David. In her bed at the school, she mutters to herself and asks where David is.

David wakes up on a table, his body held in place by restraints. He looks around him to see Agent Abigail Brand and Sydren from SWORD, as well as some SWORD agents behind them. Two of the metal devices that plagued him at the Church of the Happy Host float above him and declare that it is space justice. Brand greets him and Sydren closes his eyes, waves his hands and tells her that the prisoner is confused and uncertain. Brand turns to him and whispers that he is the worst psychic ever and if he ruins her gloating moment she will kick him out of the airlock. Sydren replies that David is also scared, which creates a big smile on Brand’s face.

David starts to speak but Brand tells him to shut up, as she is going to get him caught up on everything that’s gone on so far. First off, he is a prisoner of SWORD on the Peak Space Station. Technically, mutants aren’t in their remit but they have the best power suppressants known to man and she owed Cyclops a favor. The fact that he caused a bunch of lunatics to douse her in spit the last time the met is by-the-by. Secondly he has been in stasis for a month and thirdly he has only been woken because he has a visitor. Generally speaking, they don’t do it anymore as they ruled out conjugal appointments long ago. Syden adds it was after an amorous Vdrasi ate her husband whilst she was standing trial. But David has been noticed by an independent authority and she hates to stand in the way of future space justice.

As she leads David on his floating table through the corridors, they enter a large room with windows that look out across the cosmos. David says he doesn’t understand and Brand replies she told him she wasn’t the only one watching him. As it turns out, she wasn’t the only one. David looks out through the window to see an angry looking Aarkus floating outside.

David recalls the last time he saw Aarkus was when he was planning on annihilating all the mutants because of the say-so of a dime-store paperback. David figured he couldn’t leave that much power in the hands of a nutcase, although he guesses that’s what Aarkus is thinking right now. On the plus side, he is sane again. Wherever he has been and whoever helped him managed to bring him back from the brink. The downside though is that David humbled him and he can see the grudge pouring off Aarkus like steam. Once, Aarkus was a god-like arbiter of the cosmos and a creation of judgment and action. Now it looks like he is keen to make up for lost time.

The giant form of Aarkus turns into a cloud of black smoke and materializes inside the room. David yells that this isn’t his jurisdiction but Brand says that she won’t tell if he won’t. Aarkus approaches David and tells him he has no idea what he has done. He places his hand on David’s head and smoky tendrils flow from Aarkus’ hand into David’s mouth and nostrils. David gets a vision of his fight between himself, Cyclops’ team and Luca Aldine. He is shown how the gold-skinned figment snuck free of his ego and stole the body of the ghostly form of Luca Aldine. He is shown how exalted it was to be free and how it lashed out at those that were complicit in its release. He is shown how it paused like it was contemplating what kind of evil it should be. After seeing the havoc his errant personality had caused, Aarkus tells David that it was his hate that he unleashed. 

Inside the Qortex Complex of David’s mind, he says *&%# Aarkus and his wannabe parental lecture. #*%& him if he thinks David will just sit there and listen. It’s easier said than done at the moment though, because his mind is a mess. Just when things were getting under control, along came Scott sun-shines-from-his-butt Summers and borked everything back to crazytown. But maybe he isn’t quite as powerless as the bobble-head and the green haired harpy out there think he is.

Inside the chaos of his mind, David takes control of the unwilling Tyrannix the Abominoid and declares his powers are his.

Outside, Aarkus tells David that, when they last met, he had forgotten the clarity of his role and the purity of protecting the world. But in the weeks of recuperation from David’s cowardly attack, his judgments returned and he saw what was truly evil. It struck the first day after David released it; a golem form made of trash. Thirty-seven people died on a bridge in Jakarta for no reason.

Inside David’s head, he tries not to think about it now and instead concentrates on using his telepathy on Aarkus. As he sneaks inside his mind, he hopes the proverbial show and tell Aarkus is giving him will keep him busy. He discovers that Aarkus is thinking about a weapon made of smoke and fire and screams and horror.

Aarkus continues his story and tells David that, in the weeks that followed, he struck several more times. Seventeen died in Brisbane, fifty-nine in Ulaanbaatar and two-hundred-and-six in La Paz. David tries not to listen to the abominations and let it get to him that it’s all because of the beast from his mind. He won’t scream and sob and wretch with the guilt of it. Not while he is slipping in secretly through the back of Aarkus’ mind. David keeps on picking up references to the weapon. In there, all the horrors that Aarkus is describing is eclipsed because whatever the weapon is it has destroyed whole worlds.

Aarkus gets his attention again and continues by saying that two weeks ago the entity discovered that Luca Aldine’s spirit for was intangible and no more than a thought. And he invaded the one place he could do more damage than all the random violence in the world… the psychosphere.

David looks in Aarkus’ mind again and begins to wonder why the weapon is so important now and why Aarkus is thinking of how it cuts through worlds like a scythe.

Aarkus tells David that hate was David’s errant personality’s defining gift. On the psychosphere where minds are mist, his hatred could infect the whole world. David muses on the word “world” and the fact there are many others. He thinks about the horror Aarkus is describing and wonders if it matches the one in his mind. The weapon has destroyed hundreds of worlds and shattered biofleets and fractal hosts. It smuggled itself into the brains of billions and ripped them apart.

Aarkus continues his story and tells David the entity’s influence emerged slowly. A girl attacked her best friend for no reason and their parents just said “no big deal.”

David experiences another memory from the Aarkus’ mind and he sees the mysterious weapon being used to execute a giant godlike creature. David realizes all the images he is pulling from Aarkus’ mind depict executions. Sometimes individuals, sometimes armies and sometimes worlds. The link between them was that they were all condemned to die.

In the real world, Aarkus tells David that nine days ago a man in Karachi murders his entire family with a woodsaw before turning himself in. His last act was to call a radio station and tell them that he hated them all but he didn’t know why.

David probes Aarkus’ mind more to see the weapon is like a headsman’s sword or a cosmic guillotine, bought to bear against evil where nothing else will work. Now, Aarkus wants to use it again. David has to know more and understand what will happen if Aarkus uses it now.

Aarkus goes on and tells David that things all over the world escalate and suddenly people are overcome with a loathing for those nearby. Over the coming weeks, it was estimated sixteen thousand people were slain in acts of domestic violence, all of which went under the radar of the superheroes.

David pushes further into Aarkus’ mind, until he finds a half-a-billion year old memory which depicts the first survivor. An entire race doomed to die but a scant few of them found a way to escape. David wonders how they managed it

Aarkus tells David that only he managed to find the spider in the heart of the web and only he dared assault it. But the Xavier’s personality laughed and it broke him as they fought in the psychosphere.

David tries not to listen to Aarkus and digs deeper into his mind instead. He finds memories of more survivors, a tech-species, who had been condemned to death by their creators. But the weapon could not eradicate them.

Aarkus says that the hate infected civilians, politicians, lovers and generals. He asks if David is listening but David tries to block him out. Aarkus explains that tribal disputes lead to pogroms, which lead to retaliations. These lead to small wars, which lead to interventions, which lead to bigger wars, which eventually lead to horrors untold.

David is so close to understanding the weapon but he begins to lose control thanks to the horrors Aarkus is showing him. He cannot focus or concentrate and in the medley of guilt everything pales away, moment by moment, until it grinds to a halt. Aarkus comes to the end of his lecture and tells David that it all stems from a single source, and it is all his fault.

David begs him to stop, but Aarkus tells him that his errant personality cannot be stopped. The heroes cannot fight him as the wars, atrocities and bubbling over of human hate are not their world. That is something they cannot fix with fists and lasers. The evil will continue to grow until it consumes his violent little world. David is overcome by the gruesome images Aarkus continues to display in his mind. Standing to the side, Sydren whispers to Brand that he senses a great sadness but she simply tells him he is fired.

Aarkus leans down close to David and tells him he must be wondering what the wisp of pure hate is that appeared on the very day his father died. Aarkus wonders if it is the essence of Xavier or a part of his restless spirit. He guesses David would like for some trace of him to linger on, even though he hated David. It could be some Mummudrai soul-twin like Cassandra Nova, but one of his very own. Perhaps it could be a Tulpa, a psychic-infiltrator sent by the enemy. Or it could be the seed of David’s own darkness. A manifestation of all the negative thoughts he has locked away inside him. Aarkus says that it is nothing so unimaginative, lazy or obvious. The truth is… it doesn’t matter what the beast is, only that it needs to be stopped.

As Aarkus continues to taunt David, Brand leans to Sydren and theorizes that Aarkus doesn’t know what the entity is either. Sydren dryly mocks her for stating the obvious. 

David wearily gets Brand’s attention and tells her that if he was allowed to get his mind under control it could be stopped. It is his responsibility and he might be the only one capable of doing it. Brand cuts him off and tells him to keep dreaming his little dream as he isn’t going anywhere. Aarkus agrees and tells David that he is likely to exasperate the situation and he himself will stop the beast. Although David shall still have a role to play.

David tells him to cut to the chase and tell him about the weapon. Brand asks how David knows about it. David says that he knows it’s something special and terrible and Aarkus has been watching over it for a millennium. But he also knows it is imperfect. They are worried that if they send it after the beast it will incinerate every other mind that it is attached to. Thousands dead in order to save billions. At worst, the entity can beat it, which they all know has been done before. Maybe it would destroy it which is bad enough, but if he takes it for himself they are all %*$#ed. Aarkus is quiet for a few seconds and then asks David if he learned it from him, even with his suppressor. David tells him he did, which prompts Aarkus to whispers to Brand that he really is too powerful to live.

Aarkus tells David that the entity is a piece of him and so, to test the weapon’s efficacy against their enemy… He trails off and David figures out that they intend on testing it against him. They are going to try and kill him. David looks to Brand and reminds her that Cyclops said he would be well treated. Brand corrects him and says that they said he would be treated fairly. Two of the floating metal devices circle near him and shout that space crimes demand space justice.

Aarkus angrily reminds David he unleashed a broodpack of dire wraiths at his school. He framed innocent members of a religious institution. He lied and cheated to change the social order of an entire nation. He assaulted an elder power whilst picnicking on the Moon. David mutters that he only tried to do the right thing. Aarkus explains that his motives are irrelevant and that he has used people time and time again. He has failed to place trust in anyone other than himself and now he is incapable of even that. Floating off the ground with his ethereal cloak around him, he sentences David to death. He truly believes this is a kindness, not only to David but to the world he has so grievously wounded.

David is speechless for a few seconds but then he quietly asks what the weapon is. Aarkus tells him that life has a habit of spreading its bets. It thinks it knows what will work, what the strongest and most capable specimen will be. But it often provides alternatives just in case. Aarkus tells him to consider birds, to which David becomes annoyed that he is being given a speech on pigeons when he is about to be killed. He would rather they got on with the unjustifiable murder part. Aarkus ignores him and continues by saying the strongest fledgling with the most passion and fury will be the one life will favor. Yet there are always others hatched. They are weaker and slower; they could have flourished if circumstances were different. But they were doomed and tossed from the nest by their mightiest sibling.

That is, unless someone were to rescue them from the proverbial sidewalk. Aarkus reaches into his cloak and pulls out an egg that radiates with purple energy. He explains that the egg’s laying was an act of unimaginable cosmic creation. The nest was the shattered remnants of an older universe. The rescuer was a feckless young investigator from a smokeworld to which the hatchling became ferociously obedient. It had a brother, a clutch-mate that would have purged and consumed it had it not been for Aarkus’ intervention.

David’s eyes widen with horror when Aarkus asks him if he has heard of the Phoenix. The top comes off the egg and a giant, purple bird rises out of it and towers over David. Aarkus introduces David to the Phoenix Force’s sibling, the Shadow Phoenix. 

Characters Involved: 

David Haller/Legion

Abigail Brand, Sydren (agents of SWORD)
SWORD agents


Aarkus the Aetheric

Tyrannix the Abominoid
Numerous other personalities

Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, Magneto, Tempus, Triage (Cyclops’ X-Men)

Luca Aldine

Girls on playground
Alien armies

God-like creature
Man with woodsaw


Story Notes: 

David crossed paths with Agent Brand in issue #7. He infiltrated the Church of the Happy Host to get hold of Luka Aldine’s diary but SWORD caught up with him. He managed to give Brand the slip by tricking the church-going zealots to spit on Brand, angering her enough to arrest them all.

David mindwiped Aarkus and left him at the Jean Grey School so he could be caught about the plight of mutants in #9.

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