X-Men Legacy (2nd Series) #20

Issue Date: 
January 2014
Story Title: 
The Epitaph

Simon Spurrier (Writer), Tan Eng Huat (Penciler), Craig Yeung with Ed Tadeo (Inkers), 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: 

On the Peak space station, David’s mind is being attacked by the Shadow Phoenix as Agent Brand and Aarkus look on. The Phoenix tears through his mindscape, consuming many of his personalities. As David struggles to stay alive, he realizes how stupid it is to be afraid of death. Every time the Phoenix eats another monster, David reels in pain. He decides to try and fight it and tries a few different methods. First, he tries to use one personality to fight it but the Phoenix easily beats him. Then he decides to try controlling a hoard of them, but again the Phoenix makes short work of them. Eventually, it dawns on David that he simply can’t control his personalities; he has to merge with them and become one. He first absorbs Tyrannix the Abominoid into him and manages to deflect the Phoenix’s next attack. The Phoenix regurgitates all the personalities that it previously consumed and David manages to merge with some of them to grow stronger. He eventually manages to destroy the Shadow Phoenix and wake up. Confronting Aarkus and Brand, he realizes that the Phoenix was just a lie and there was no such thing as a weapon. Aarkus tells him that they lied to him because he was arrogant and they needed him to be scared. Aarkus confesses that David’s intervention a few months ago saved his life and he wanted to repay the favor. So he memorized a bunch of fake stories about the Phoenix, knowing David would read his mind. He needed David to stop fighting and start embracing who he really was. The Shadow Phoenix was really Karasu Tengo, who also wanted to thank David for saving her many months ago. David asks why they did it and they reveal the gold-skinned creature that escaped from his mind was a real threat and they needed David to destroy it. Blindfold told them that he was destined to do it and so they devised the plan to make David stronger. Blindfold didn’t want them to go through with it though, as she foresaw it would be the beginning of the end for him. David tells Brand nothing will stop him from taking on his errant personality. With a new outlook and a gestalt mind, David leaves the Peak and descends to Earth to take on the enemy.

Full Summary: 

As Blindfold lies in bed, she tries to reach out and find David with her mind, but she cannot hear anything other than a hoard of whispers. She yells out in frustration that she is trying to find David, as he is so scared and they are getting in the way.

On SWORD’s space station, named the Peak, David is under the custody of Agent Brand and Aarkus. Strapped to a table, he muses that death is kind of ridiculous if you look at it in the right light. People spend their whole lives being afraid of it, as if it is something to be afraid of. But it’s not. Being sentenced to death by a bunch of space bastards will put things in perspective. Aarkus turns to Brand and asks if she is sure about it but she simply hushes him up.

David continues and says that if you take the process part out of the equation, if you remove the pain, creeping fadeout heat and deoxygenation, then the simple truth is people aren’t really afraid of death after all. People are afraid of being dead. That too is a bit ridiculous when you think about it. Whatever beliefs you have about the great hereafter or lack thereof, the one thing you can say with confidence is that you won’t be in a position to change it.

In his mindscape, David tries to reach Blindfold and he manages to make some kind of connection, causing her slight pain. In bed, she cries out his name whilst Brand and Aarkus watch David on the space station. Blindfold’s distress causes some of the teachers and students to crowd around her bed but they cannot wake her up.

What causes people so much distress when it comes to death is that life goes on without them. The sun will rise but they won’t see it. Newness, invention and creativity all happen without them there to witness it. People go on with their lives and live out their stories without you never knowing how theirs ended because yours did.

In his mindscape, David is being caught up in a great disturbance and he holds on to a cable for dear life as some unseen force tries to pull him towards it. He cries out Blindfold’s name and in bed she calls out his.

David wonders if new loves eclipse old ones and whether other people’s memories are just a crappy medium for leaving a mark. It doesn’t matter though, as monuments crumple and histories blur. Nobody is future-proof as the world simply spins on without you. In a certain light, the fear of death is just a grubby form of envy. You have to push that nonsense aside and stop feeling sorry for yourself. When you are staring down the barrel, the first thing you see is that it doesn’t matter a jot if you are remembered or not. All that matters is how hard you fought when death came to take you.

As David lies strapped to the table on the space station, his mindscape is in chaos. The Shadow Phoenix has worked its way inside him and now the giant bird tears through the structures in his mind and attacks his various personalities. It is drawing all the fleeing personalities towards it, including David, who is holding on to some pipework as he is being lifted off the floor. As the Phoenix consumes some of his personalities, David cries out in pain and clutches his head.

Far away, Blindfold sits upright and grabs at her own head, whilst declaring they are killing him.

As the Phoenix continues its rampage, David says that it isn’t fair. He spent his whole life trying to get rid of the monsters in his brain but now it is hurting when they die. Kneeling on the floor, he starts to will himself to fight it.

In the real world, Sydren leans over to Agent Brand and tells her that he sense a great and dreadful pain. Continuing to stare at David on the table, she tells him to shut up. But Sydren continues and says the he is also picking up a deep and terrible fear. Once again, she tells him to shut up but he doesn’t listen and adds he sense a profound amount of guilt. Brand goes to repeat herself again but suddenly realizes what Sydren said. He continues and tells her the guilt is not coming from the boy either, indicating it is from Aarkus.

David realizes that Aarkus is the key to it all. When he saw Aarkus’s memories, he remembers how he discovered ancient victims that the Shadow Phoenix couldn’t kill. He wonders if they were too strong for it. David realizes he can be strong too, as he has his own monsters. Looking at the monsters of his mind running in terror, he says that they are his warriors to command and his strength to employ. Standing up, he readies himself and tries to find a tough one. He spots the alien-like Myclojester and so extends his finger-needles and injects the creature. The Myclojester tries to resist but, as David gets it under control, the Phoenix swoops past and incinerates it with its fiery breath.

David stands back up and figures he needs a stronger one. His subconscious thoughts cry out in pain and beg someone to make it stop. David looks around and spots the Weaver, a giant multi-colored spider, crawling away in fear. He comments that even his bigger personalities are afraid and decides it’s no time for half measures. Outside, as David writhes on the table in pain Brand asks Aarkus what the boy is doing. Monitoring him, Aarkus replies that he is doing what he has always done… over-reaching.

Inside, David runs up to the Weaver and tries to use his needles to take control of it. He declares its powers are his, but the Weaver shrugs David off and continues on its way. Slightly defeated, David decides not to use the Weaver and looks around for someone else to take control of. He sees the Origamist and the Protozoan Porter but they are also destroyed by the Phoenix before David can react. David kneels on the floor again and his subconscious thoughts start to overwhelm him. It’s no good, as none of them are strong enough. He wonders how anyone ever survived the Phoenix.

Suddenly recalling Aarkus’ memories again, David realizes that all the survivors were not alone. He guesses they had strength in numbers and wonders if he needs to go at the Phoenix mob-handed. He decides he can do that, as he has worked with others before and has made groups work to his own end. The Shadow Phoenix is death and it’s getting stronger every second. David looks up and sees that it’s marshalling its hate and turning to swoop at him. David releases his needles and injects numerous errant personalities. He begs for his plan to work but the Phoenix simply dive-bombs into the crowd, scattering them and consuming some.

Tyrannix the Abominoid is one of the survivors and he declares that he hates David but then begs for him to save them. David watches the Phoenix glide over the area and he marvels at how it kills by invading and tearing things apart from the inside. Dividing its prey into pieces, so it can destroy them one by one. David recalls Cyclops standing over him a few weeks ago, bemoaning him for not telling him his plan.

Suddenly, David has an epiphany and wonders what if there weren’t any pieces to destroy. He then recalls being locked in a cell by Peter Wisdom and being told that, if he wants to work with others, then he needs to start trusting them. He then remembers Blindfold telling him he can’t just make people be on his side.

In his mind, David calms down and concentrates. He decides to try working together and he begins to absorb Tyrannix into himself, merging their physical forms. It happens without action, fanfare or drama. No conscious thought or decision made, just a sigh. He has merged with other people before, other souls. His brain is greedy, absorptive and lonely. It draws other lives into the prison he has made here, the asylum he built to house the chattering hoard of sickness. It never occurred to him to merge with his own insanity.

As he finishes merging with Tyrannix, David has taken on a slightly different look. His hair is green and resembles tentacles, similar to those once displayed by Tyrannix. As he adjusts to his new status, the Shadow Phoenix sweeps down and attacks him. However, David calmly puts up a force field and deflects the oncoming bird. Watching from the outside, both Blindfold and Aarkus can see that David has finally figured it all out.

David looks on as the Shadow Phoenix regurgitates all the personalities it has consumed. It is startled, unaccustomed to the worm that has turned. As he watches it spit up all the monsters, he remarks that it is an odd kind of predator that doesn’t digest its prey. But there is no time for that, the key has been discovered and it all slots into place now.

The personalities that has just been spat up by the Phoenix rush towards David now. He looks on at them and realizes creatures like this which act in such a swarming complexity can only be understood when treated as a singular being. He has been dreaming of hives for a while now and he finally understands why. The personalities fleeing the Phoenix run at David and merge with him, adding their powers to his growing form. David stands with arms outstretched, his form changing with each new personality he takes on. There is a word for what he is… gestalt.

Not all of the personalities come to him. Many flee and he is not strong enough to force them into him. Now that he understands, he doesn’t want to force them either. They have been broken for so very long that they have forgotten that they were once whole. These creatures are not monsters at all and they are not invasive exotics clawing at his mind. They are just angry shards of him and there are plenty that want to come home. David muses that he has been saying he rules himself. As if his mind is a tyranny, his hopes, dreams, ambitions, humanity and flaws are all peasants to be crushed and controlled. They are not though and it took staring down death for him to see it.

Every brain is a chorus, a ridiculous superhero team-up waiting to happen. You don’t force it into battle; you guide it, unite it and lead by example. Every human is a legion in lead of a leader. With his numerous personalities part of him, David launches an attack on the Shadow Phoenix. As the great bird swoops down to attack him, he lunges at hit and punches it in the head. The Phoenix evaporates with a wisp of smoke and the scared personalities look on in awe.

Outside, the Shadow Phoenix rises from David’s head and rests on Aarkus’s shoulder. Brand looks on in amazement and asks if David can really kick it out. However, before Aarkus can answer, David destroys the restraints holding him to the table and rises of it. Looking at David’s floating form, Sydren tells Brand he senses a damp warming sensation in his mysterious inhuman junk. As David advances on them, a nervous Brand says she can explain. David tells her she doesn’t need to, as it is leaking out of her mind. There is no Shadow Phoenix or great weapon; it was all a con. He demands to know why.

Aarkus replies and tells him it was because of David’s arrogance. They needed him scared instead of smug. Rising up to meet David, Aarkus tells him not to get angry and perpetuate his hypocritical tantrum. He has tricked and manipulated so many and he should take heed that it has all been an act of help. Aarkus explains that when they first met he was insane and lonely and he was ready to commit grotesque acts. But David humbled and tore him down, and by doing so he saved him. He left Aarkus at the school in Westchester and they in turn transferred him to the Peak station. Brand adds they really do have the best holding facilities there. Aarkus continues and says that little by little he was restored to sanity. As it returned, he wished to return the favor to the man that saved him. As it turns out, the man was actually an impetuous child in need of humility. The best thanks he could provide was by playing the cosmic god and memorizing a package of false nonsense about a dreadful galactic weapon. All so David could steal it from his mind.

David is speechless and so Aarkus continues, saying that he trusted no-one after all the years of paranoia and hurt. They needed him to learn and to start to fix himself. To stop fighting and start embracing. Finally, David speaks and asks why, to which Aarkus tells him that it wasn’t all lies. Brand adds that the golden bastard that escaped his head will kill the world if he lets him. He will tear the psychosphere apart. Aarkus says that only David can face it because he is part of him, he understands that now. Only the specter of death could begin to seal together what remains and only that can stop him. Aarkus manifest a smaller version of the Shadow Phoenix in his hands and David asks what the weapon was.

The bird suddenly morphs into an image of Karasu Tengo and David is shocked as he thought she hated him. She explains that she got a chance to visit space, save the world and cause him extreme pain… It was too good of an opportunity to miss. Besides, she spent so long despising him for changing her life she forgot to realize the new one is better. David helps people but not always in the way he means to. With that, both Karasu and Aarkus thank David and then fade away in wisps of smoke.

Looking out of the window overlooking Earth, David asks Brand what makes her think the gestalt thing will work again the gold-skinned creature. Brand replies that David’s girlfriend told them it would. She came with him when he was brought to the Peak. She stayed right by his side and wouldn’t let anyone near him. It was she who told them how to stop the yellow-skinned guy, as she had seen it in one of her visions.

Sydren walks up to them and adds that they mind-wiped her and sent her home afterwards. Brand calls him an idiot and David asks why they did it. After a few seconds Brand asks David if there is anything they can say that will prevent him from going after the evil cackling entity that will probably kill their world. David tells her there isn’t and Brand informs him that Blindfold kept on bursting into tears when they told her their plan. She refused to let them do it and kept saying it is going to start the end.

As Blindfold lies in her bed at the school, she repeats the very same phrase as she dreams. On the space station, David rests his head against the glass of the window and Brand tells him to go start it. With that, he phases through into space, ready to descend down to Earth. 

Characters Involved: 

David Haller/Legion

Frenzy, Storm (all X-Men)
Anole, Blindfold, Karasu Tengo, Pixie (all students)

Agent Brand, Sydren (both SWORD agents)

Aarkus the Aetheric

(in David’s mindscape)
David Haller
Shadow Phoenix
Myclojester, The Origamist, Protozoan Porter, Tyrannix the Abominoid, The Weaver (David’s personalities)
Numerous other personalities

Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik (all X-Men)
Peter Wisdom

Written By: