X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #37

Issue Date: 
September 2002
Story Title: 
Sacrificial Worlds

Kaare Andrews (writer), Kaare Andrews, Dave McCraig, Mike Kunkel, Joshua Middleton, Troy Nixey, Dave Stewart, Skottie Young, Pat Duke (artists), Randy Gentile (letters), Mark D. Beazly (assistant editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor), David Bogart (managing editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

On Illyana’s birthday, Kitty thinks of her late friend. Xavier tries to comfort her, but Kitty fears that one day she will stop remembering her. Xavier reminds her that she should not remember her death by slowly dying inside herself. Not far away, a farmer by the name Mr. Thatchel performs a strange ritual involving a child’s pajama and a scarecrow. Surprisingly, it transforms into a real boy; his name is Hutch. He was born between realities and forever walking alone. No one could hear, see or touch him, but that is now over. Thatchel tells Hutch about his own family, who died because of a mutant, and he wants to cleanse the Earth of them. Thatchel struck a deal with a mysterious benefactor who told him how to get Hutch into this world. He then proceeds with another ritual and, at the Xavier estate, hell breaks loose. X-men from all realities are summoned there and immediately start fighting each other. An alternate adult Illyana oversees it all and is happy to be finally reunited with her child, Hutch. The benefactor turns out to be Mephisto, and hordes of demons are unleashed on the battling X-men. Illyana too struck a deal with him. In exchange for being with her son, she opened a portal for Mephisto to Earth. Kitty and Xavier, accompanied by several other versions of the professor, try to reason with Illyana. If this reality collapses, others will follow. But it’s no use, Illyana is too happy to be with her son. Mephisto taunts Thatchel, saying that the mutant who killed his family was actually his own son. The farmer refuses to believe it and angrily demands his price – to be reunited with his family. Mephisto follows that request by unleashing a lethal blast at him, so that he can meet his family in death. The Xaviers try to stop Mephisto, but he absorbs their souls into himself, and starts to do the same with the X-Men. Kitty convinces little Hutch that he doesn’t belong in this world, and the young boy understands. He says goodbye to Illyana and sacrifices himself against Mephisto. The souls are released, the alternate X-Men are spirited away, Mephisto is banished to hell and Hutch is again stuck between worlds. Illyana and Kitty say goodbye to each other. Later that night, Kitty is unaware that Hutch is in her room, listening as she thanks him. Hutch walks away, he is still trapped between worlds… but he thinks it’s okay.

Full Summary: 

Once upon a time, there was a small boy born in a strange place between realities. His body spread across all the worlds at once. He walks between them all, too small to be seen, too transparent to be touched and too faint to be heard. All he can do is walk, forever watching, forever alone.

A farmer by the name of Mr. Thatchel walks up to a scarecrow on the fields, a child’s pajama in his hands. As he places it on the scarecrow, he says that this is all he has left, just this one wish. Thatchel pulls a scroll with ancient hieroglyphs on it from his pocket and begins to read. A strange voice coming out of nowhere apparently answers him that they have reached an agreement – there will be a cleansing and soon all mutants will be washed from existence.

Elsewhere, in some sort of Nether realm, where the skies are red and filled with dark clouds and lighting, the X-Men are fighting for their lives, but are overwhelmed by hundreds, if not thousands of demons. Illyana Rasputin stands on top of a small hill and watches it all with a smile. Some demons cower by her side, and she holds her dark blade triumphant into the air.

Kitty Pryde wakes up, shouting out Illyana’s name. Then she gets very sad, and picks up the framed picture that’s standing on her bedside table. Looking at the photograph of her deceased friend, Kitty tells herself that it was just a dream.

Out on the field, Thatchel has finished reading the text on the scroll aloud. He is unaware of a rift in the sky opening and growing bigger. The ritual he just performed strained him, and with tears in his eyes, he begs for it to work. Miraculously it does. Apparently out of nowhere something grows and fills out the pajama. It is a young blonde boy. He runs towards the farmer, stumbles, and gets up again. Thatchel is stunned. The boy asks if he can see him, and the farmer opens his arms and tells him to come to him. He ensures him that he will never be unseen, unheard or un-held again. They hug.

With the picture still in her hand, Kitty goes to Xavier’s office. Inside, the professor, dressed in a bathrobe, is using Cerebro to scan for new mutants all over the world. Sensing that Kitty is troubled by something, he interrupts his session. Kitty shows him Illyana’s picture and says that today would have been her birthday. Xavier embraces his student and tells her that she is right, and also that it’s good to have her there. Kitty says she’ll never forget Illyana, and the professor agrees, none of them ever shall. Kitty suggests they get some breakfast.

Somewhat later, now fully dressed, Kitty and Xavier are outside, where the others are playing a game of football in their unique style. Scott throws a pass towards Bobby, but Kurt teleports and intercepts it in mid-air. However Bobby uses his ice-power to make Kurt slide, and he reclaims the ball. Watching the game Xavier continues his conversation with Kitty. It’s times like these that they can remember what they have fought for and what they lost. Kitty knew Illyana on so many levels. When they first met, she was just a child and Kitty treated her like a younger sister. When she returned from Limbo, the same age as Kitty, they became best friends and years later, when she returned to her rightful age, Kitty developed almost maternal feelings for her. On the day Illyana died, Kitty lost not only one, but actually three persons, so she has every right to grief. Kitty admits that sometimes she goes a whole day without thinking about her, but she feels guilty and fears that one day she might stop remembering at all. Xavier tells her that she can’t remember someone’s death by dying inside herself. When they are together like this, laughing, playing, living their lives, Illyana will be present as a part of them and they won’t forget.

On the field, Thatchel and Hutch, that’s the young boy’s name, are enjoying a picnic. Hutch is eating a peanut butter sandwich for the first time and is happy. This reminds the farmer of his own son, Jamie, who used to love peanut butter too. Mr. Thatchel tells Hutch how he found him. He came to him and whispered into his ear, telling him many things of other worlds, and of a young boy who forever walks between them. Hutch realizes that this is he, though. Thatchel points out, “Not anymore”. He opens the basket where another surprise waits for the child – a puppy. While the child plays with the dog, Thatchel explains that he told him how to bring all worlds together and what would happen if he did.

The farmer and the boy walk up a hill and, along the way, Thatchel talks about his late family. His wife, Sara, was a good woman, just like Jamie was a good son. On his twelfth birthday, they held a party, but one of the other kids was a mutant and his pyrokinetic powers manifested. He could not control them and killed everyone at the party. Thatchel shows Hutch the graves of Sara and Jamie. He had always believed that mutants were dangerous, but his wife was too good a person and could never see the evil in the world. Thatchel asks Hutch what he knows of evil, but the boy answers that he doesn’t know. The farmer lectures that evil took twelve innocent lives that day, and that it’s not Hutch’s fault, but some of that same evil is inside him. There is somebody he wants Hutch to meet.

A strange voice greets the boy. Hutch asks who he is, and he is answered, “I am your hopes and dreams”. Hutch wants to know if he knows his dreams, and the voice correctly answers that he desires a world of his own, friends to play with and a mother to love him. Hutch wants to know how the voice knows all this, but he receives no answers. Instead, the voice points out that not only does he know his dreams, he can make them happen.

In the Nether realm, some strange force is pulling at the fighting X-Men, placing them in great pain. Illyana notices what is going on. At the same time at the mansion, Xavier has a weird sensation, and, suddenly, he screams and falls out of the wheelchair. The X-Men rush to their mentor’s side, who comes around and realizes that Illyana is coming.

Thatchel picks up Hutch and tells him that he has been chosen. His power will pull them here from countless worlds. He will lead the mutant evil to the fields of fire and the world will be cleansed of them once and for all. As he says this, an energy aura emanates around them and they rise up in the air, Hutch is scared and begs for Thatchel to stop. At the Xavier estate a giant figure made of light erupts from beneath the ground. It orders all mutants to be brought to it, so that they can all be burned.

Unaware of any of this, Logan is in the hangar, tending to his bike. Suddenly, he smells that he is not alone. Logan sees a silhouette in of somebody, dressed in his own costume with the trademark mask. He thinks it’s some sort of Halloween joke and tells whoever it is that he is not in the mood. However the other one, an alternate version of Wolverine, asks who he and his friends are, and why they all look at him. Logan turns around and about a dozen more Wolverines, some of them popping their claws, determined to prove that they are the best there is at what they do. A battle erupts and it is the Logan who in the beginning was tending to his bike, that emerges as the winner. He gets out of the hangar, but the surroundings of the Xavier estate have changed. A huge volcano is spitting lava and the skies are red instead of blue. Before Logan can even think about solving this puzzle, his other selves come around and he gets dragged back into the hangar to continue the fight.

Hundreds of meteors are coming down at the area where the X-Men were playing football, only they aren’t meteors but X-Men of alternate realities. Immediately after landing, they start to fight. Scott calls out to Jean to stay close by his side, but he is blasted from behind by another Cyclops. Jean cries out Scott’s name before she too is knocked out with a floating rock by another redhead wearing the Dark Phoenix costume. Chaos ensues as more as more X-Men arrive, fighting for apparently no reason. Some Colossuses perform the fastball special maneuver with a few Wolverines, and while many versions of Rogue, Archangel, Banshee and Iceman join each other in aerial battles, the ground below if covered by what seems to be thousands of combatants.

A little bit apart are Xavier and Kitty, who is kneeling by his side as he is still lying on the ground. The Professor tells her to keep them intangible, so that he can think their situation through without being bothered by the fighting. Obviously, they have become some focal point or nexus, where alternate versions of the X-Men from different realities and dimensions are pulled together. Kitty comes clear to the point, the important question is – Why. Suddenly, they are approach by someone who claims to hold the answer. They turn around to see six alternate versions of Xavier approaching them.

High above in the air, Illyana welcomes Thatchel and Hutch; all of them are afloat in glowing spheres of energy. The boy recognizes her as his mom, and Illyana confirms it. They have been separated since Huitch’s birth, which occurred in-between realities. He was equally spread between all realities and Illyana believed him lost forever. That’s why she struck a deal with him and, in return for her services, she and her boy are finally reunited. Thatchel’s words are more clear. By sacrificing this one of countless worlds, they will sacrifice the others. Hutch is unsure, he doesn’t want to hurt anybody. The mysterious voice again addresses him, saying that he has suffered enough and never needs to walk alone again. Illyana too tries to make her son understand.

Xavier astral form appears behind Illyana, stating that apparently her boy understands more than she does. Illyana calls out to Hutch that she will protect him, but Xavier in return asks who will protect her from him? Angrily, Illyana points her sword towards Xavier, unleashing a powerful lightning stroke at him. The other Xaviers and Kitty are right behind the professor. Kitty is shocked by her friend’s actions, but before she can even reach her, she too is hit by a beam from the sorceress’ blade. The Xaviers try a scientific approach and explain that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. By pulling foreign bodies and foreign energies into this dimension, it will collapse. Thatchel states that this is their intent and that he will receive a reward for cleansing all words of the mutant evil. He will be reunited with his wife Sara and their son Jamie. He promised it.

The Xaviers aren’t finished yet. It will not only be this reality, but all that will be destroyed, even the mastermind behind this grand scheme – Mephisto. With his true name revealed, the hull of the light giant cracks, revealing the true form of Mephisto. He is not convinced by the telepath’s words. After all, he is beyond existence, so he won’t be affected by a reality collapsing around him. Mephisto is the harvester of souls, and as this universe is now plump and ripe with mutants, he intends to fill his vaults with their essence. As he says this, he releases hordes of demons on the assembled legion of X-Men and instead of battling each other, they now fight against the common foe.

Observing the battles, Mephisto can’t help but to gloat how easily he manipulated the players in this event. In fact, there was no fire-breathing mutant attending Jamie Thatchel’s birthday party. The mutant was Jamie Thatchel himself. The farmer refuses to believe this and calls Mephisto a liar. The rules of his own portion of Hell admits that he enjoys to lie, but not when the hard truth is so much sweeter. Thatchel’s wife had known of their boy’s mutant powers for quite some time and, at the party, they intended to show Thatchel the gift in a small demonstration. However, Jamie lost control and set the fields aflame, killing everyone at the party. Thatchel still refuses to believe this story and demands his price; he wants to be reunited with his family. Mephisto holds his word and lashes out at Thatchel, so that they can be united in death.

The Xaviers, acting as one, do not want to allow this and attack Mephisto with their mental blasts, but he laughs at their effort and simply absorbs their souls. He then spreads his arms, announcing that it is time. Within moments, reality will collapse and he can harvest all these souls, thanks to the young boy. On the battlefield, the multitude of X-Men screams in agony as their souls are pulled from their bodies.

Out in the fields, Kitty is calling Hutch’s name. She finds him covering behind a rock, playing with his puppy. Hutch wants to be left alone, but Kitty says he can’t let all this happen. Illyana appears and orders Kitty to leave her son alone. Kitty tries to reason with her, saying that she is about to sacrifice all the X-Men. Illyana replies that she isn’t the Illyana Kitty knew; they are from different realities. Kitty’s Illyana never had a child. She did not know the loss and emptiness. However, Kitty says that she knows these feelings, and lunges forward to attack. However, Illyana easily knocks her over. She tells her son that to be with him, she made a deal with Mephisto and opened a doorway to this world.

Lying on the ground, Kitty urges Hutch that he doesn’t belong here. The child approaches his mother and hugs her. Illyana smiles, but then the boy lets go of her and tells her to never forget that he loves her. Next, Hutch runs over a cliff and falls down. He keeps falling and falling towards Mephisto, who realizes too late what is happening. Upon making contact, the absorbed souls are freed from Mephisto’s body, and Hutch’s last words are “I’m going back. We’re all going back”.

With that said, the alternate reality X-Men are spirited away to their own worlds, the skies clear and the agonized form of Mephisto sinks down into the hole from which he erupted. Kitty is approached by Illyana, who asks her that, if she should ever see Hutch again, she should let him know how proud his mother was. He found the strength that Illyana did could not. Before she too fades away, Illyana tells Kitty that she wishes that they were from the same world, as they could have been great friends. With that, she is gone, and Kitty is left behind. She calls out to the air, ”Goodbye, Illyana. Goodbye again.”

Later, Xavier, Scott, Jean and Kitty are in the infirmary, gathered around the bandaged body of the farmer Thatchel. Jean finds it hard to believe that one single child could have destroyed their entire reality, and Xavier points out that this child showed them the true nature of goodness. Scott wants to know what that is and Xavier answers, “Sacrifice”. More dead than alive, the heavily burned farmer did apparently not follow the conversation. He stumbles, “The fields ...”

At night, Kitty sits in her bed, playing with the puppy. She wonders where Hutch went and if he comes back one day. She wishes he would know what his mother said about him, or that she now wants to thank him. Kitty is unaware of the boy indeed being right next to her, listening to her every word. As Kitty turns off the lights, Hutch leaves.

Once upon a time, there lived a small boy, not fully in this world not fully in the next. Forever walking between, he watches us. An endless number of worlds laughing and playing. Maybe one day he will find a way to share what he sees, but for now, it’s okay. It’s okay to be alone.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Phoenix IV, Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier (all X-Men)

Mr. Thatchel


From alternate realities :

Illyana Rasputin

Hutch, her son

Multiple versions of :

Archangel, Banshee, Colossus, Cyclops, Dazzler, Forge, Gambit, Havok, Lockheed, Nightcrawler, Phoenix IV, Quicksilver, Rogue, Storm, Strong Guy, Thunderbird, Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier

Story Notes: 

The placing of the story is difficult. There is no time after Illyana’s death when Kitty, Xavier and the X-Men shown playing football, are all together at the mansion. The only explanation might be that some of those characters are just visiting and not part of the current line-up of whatever period in the X-Men’s lives this is supposed to be.

The alternate reality versions of the X-Men include:

- Alex Ross designs from Millennial Visions 2001 (Archangel, Iceman, Wolverine)

- AoA characters (Dazzler, Gambit, Rogue, Strong Guy, Wolverine)

- Bullpen Bits (Angel, Colossus, Wolverine)

- Dark Phoenix

- Kitty’s fairy tale in UXM #153 (Bamf, Fiend)

- Manga versions (Rogue, Wolverine)

- Ultimate X-Men (Jean Grey, Wolverine)

- X-Babies (Colossus, Cyclops, Lil’ Wolvie, Red, Storm)

Issue Information: 
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