X-Men Unlimited (2nd series) #14

Issue Date: 
June 2006
Story Title: 
Dying Inside (1st story), How to be an Artist (2nd story)

First story: C.B. Cebulski (writer), David Aja (artist), Frank D’Armata (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Warren Simons (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Second story: Neil Kleid (writer), Mike Oeming (artist), Pete Pantazis (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Michael O’Connor (editor), Warren Simons (supervising editor)

Brief Description: 

First story:
Colossus visits the grave of his little sister, Illyana, and reflects upon how she felt when the Morlocks were slaughtered by the Marauders. Back then, Illyana was headstrong and thought that there must be a way of resurrecting the dead. Piotr tried to explain how death is final, and people need to try and move on when someone they know or love passes away. Illyana wasn’t having any of it and, when Piotr mentioned the word “time,” Illyana used a stepping disc to go to Limbo and return to the slaughter. When she arrived, she found many Morlocks already dead, and Scalphunter about to murder another one. She realized then that her brother was right, and she returned home in tears, apologizing for her bullheadedness. She asked him never to leave her, and Piotr replied that he would always be there for her. In the present, Piotr kneels at his sister’s grave and tells her that he was a fool to tell her that there was no coming back. His presence there is proof of that. He then asks for her forgiveness for leaving her all alone.

Second story:
Piotr Rasputin is in his art class, and having trouble thinking what to paint for an exhibition this coming Friday. One of his fellow pupils, Milos, tries to draw some inspiration from him, asking him to discover his darker side. Piotr thinks back to his upbringing in Siberia, and about how the bleak landscape made him dream of paradise, and nurtured his artistic leanings. He then thinks about ‘beautiful’ America which really opened his eyes to the darker side of life. He heads to a museum for inspiration and, as he looks at Egyptian sarcophagi and suits of armor, he questions whether Milos’ ideas are in unison with his own. He finally paints a picture of a knight, alone in the wilderness with no one to fight. Milos dismisses it as bland, but Piotr’s fellow X-Men appreciate it much more. Piotr learns that, unlike Milos, he creates beauty as a means of escaping the pain that he constantly lives with.

Full Summary: 

First story:
Piotr Rasputin visits the grave and statue that were created for him when he was believed dead. It is near the grave of his little sister, Illyana. As the rain pours, he thinks about how Illyana always tried to make people think she was much stronger than she was by acting tough and trying not to reveal any cracks in her steely exterior.

She never fooled anyone. They knew that inside, she was scared like the rest of them. She had people fooled, but the truth is, she was the stubborn one. Yevgeny Yevtushenko said time has a way of demonstrating that the most stubborn are the most intelligent. He was right, for no matter how impulsively bullheaded Illyana was, she always managed to find the error of her ways - like when the Morlocks were massacred in their own tunnels. Piotr will never forget how Illyana reacted.

Piotr visits his sister in her room. She is brooding and clearly tense. Piotr tells her she has to let this go, but Illyana turns and reminds him that the Morlocks were slaughtered for simply being mutants. How can he say something like that after seeing it happen? She picks up a book and tosses it at him, but he transforms into his steely form and it bounces harmlessly off his broad chest. He tells her that they all regret what happened and their deaths weigh heavily upon everyone.

Illyana isn’t convinced. She thinks Kitty, Dani… Doug - they’re all so calm about what happened. Piotr reverts to his human form and replies that people grieve in different ways. They have to understand that death is part of the life they choose to lead. When one of them passes, it’s best to put it behind them and move on quickly. The sooner she learns that the better.

Illyana pushes her brother away, insisting that there has to be a way to bring them back. Piotr asks her not to be foolish. She’s old enough to realize that there is no coming back from death. Illyana leafs through a book and asks why not. They can make it happen. There are plenty of ancient books and manuscripts that Xavier has collected from God knows where over the years. Who knows what secrets they hold? He asks Piotr to think about it. They can do anything! They have friends who can translate these books and enemies who have achieved immortality. They could pull together and make something happen.

Piotr assures her that there is no ‘maybe’ when dealing with death. Death is finality, and she must accept that. They have friends, admittedly, who have been lucky enough to return from the darkness beyond, but this is not one of those times. The Morlocks who died will not be so lucky. Illyana begins to create a stepping disc and asks why everything has to be so black and white with him. Piotr replies that it’s because he knows there is never any hope to be found in the grey area in between.

Illyana says she will prove him wrong. She will find a way to resurrect them. “You’ve taken this childish outburst far enough, Illyana. It’s time you…” Piotr doesn’t finish his sentence as Illyana has a moment of clarity. Something he has said has triggered a thought process that Piotr is unable to stop. She disappears through a disc with a parting warning from her brother, that by playing with time she can destroy everything. As she vanishes, Piotr wonders what on Earth she is thinking.

Illyana appears in Limbo where she controls space and time. She summons her soulsword, figuring that she can go back and set things straight. However, when she does, the first thing she sees is a Morlock hanging from the ceiling with a harpoon though their chest. More follow, killed in a variety of horrible ways. She sees Scalphunter pointing a weapon at a Morlock who appears to be terrified. She still thinks that she can save them, as Scalphunter pulls the trigger, killing the unfortunate Morlock. Illyana slumps to the floor, realizing that her foray into the past was foolish, just like her brother said.

Piotr is lying on the bed, but isn’t asleep. Illyana’s disc appears beside him and he sits up. Illyana stands there with tears streaming from her eyes. “They’re dead. I have to let them go now,” she cries. She throws herself at her brother and puts her arms around his neck. She tells him that he was right. There is no coming back. No matter what they can do with their powers, they have to let them rest in peace. She then apologizes for acting like she did. Piotr hugs her and apologizes himself for treating her like the child he once remembered.

Illyana says she doesn’t want to die. She doesn’t want him to leave her. She doesn’t know what she’d do without him. Piotr asks her not to fear. She will always be there for her. She asks him to promise, and promise he does.

Piotr looks at his own statue and then at Illyana’s, which stands behind his own. He repeats her words to himself, and apologizes for taking so long to visit her and pay his respects. He didn’t know what to do. He was so confused – first the shock, then the guilt. It was all so overwhelming. He kneels before her statue and thinks himself foolish for talking to her about the finality of death and telling her there was no coming back. He looks at his hands and asks her to look at him now, kneeling before her grave, in the flesh and breathing again, while she remains locked in death’s cold embrace. He clenches his fists and says it’s not fair. He runs his fingers across her engraved name and tells her that he would do anything to get her back. Anything. She has no idea how sorry he is that he could not keep his promise. Even in death he has left her alone. He bows his head. “Forgive me.”

Second story:
Piotr Rasputin is in art class, thinking about the painter Matisse and how he tended to play it safe in his work. Piotr does, however, appreciate Matisse’s courage in expressing the unexpected and having the conviction to break new ground. This bravery is what he hopes to find as he looks at the blank canvas before him. His instructor has asked him to submit a piece to a gallery showcase the coming Friday night. He has no idea what to draw.

His fellow pupils don’t appear to be having the same problems. Milos, a Warhol look-alike, is so inspired that he has decided to help Piotr find his muse, too. He busies himself with a fellow pupil’s sketch, which, although technically wonderful, isn’t challenging enough for his liking. He feels that to grow as an artiste, you must discover your darker side. True creation is pain and torment, he remarks. Maybe a refresher will open their eyes. Milos asks Piotr to stop for a second and consider his upbringing in Siberia. Piotr closes his eyes and thinks back to his homeland.

Piotr is hardly sentimental about the bleak landscape of the Ust-Ordynski. It was empty and unpleasing to the eye. However, beauty was present under the grey snow, and above it was his loving family who accepted his steel skin rather than hate and fear what he’d become. It was where he first began to draw. Surrounded by wasteland he dreamed of paradise. His ability to discover beauty amidst the unattractive inspired his artistic passions. So, Siberia was hard, but it wasn’t where his suffering began. That happened when he arrived in ‘beautiful’ America.

The years he has spent in America, marred by loss and heartbreak, are always fresh in his mind. How he expresses that pain across a canvas is the challenge he faces today. Where better to find inspiration than a museum. Piotr wanders around, looking at the paintings that line its walls. He immerses himself in centuries of art, and is shocked by what he sees. Is art indeed torment? he wonders. The museum reads like a timeline of pain, terrible beauty and agony in every stroke. Is this the beauty Milos sees? Can this be art?

Piotr makes his way to an Egyptian exhibition and notes that objects like the sarcophagi, which are inlaid with gold and jewels, exhibit beauty that distracts from… and conceals… the hideous truth within. It masks suffering in a beautiful façade, or even glorifies it. Piotr then wanders into another hall where he stands before a suit of armor; its steel skin reflecting his own as he changes into his metallic form. He touches the armor, thinking how terrible and elegant it is at the same time. Ages ago, this armor advanced on battlefields as a brutal instrument of death. Now, in a museum, it is considered high art.

Piotr wonders if this is what bothers him. He isn’t so different from these knights, encased in armor and balanced between art and destruction. So which is he? Is he Peter Rasputin, gentle artist and creator of beauty, or Colossus – instrument of suffering, advancing on battlefields of his own? Does he use his armor to hide his pain or does he use it to glorify his violence? Is he a knight or a poet? These and other questions pass through his mind as he looks through a sketchbook removed from his rucksack.

As Colossus, he is designed to inflict and absorb a lifetime of suffering, yet he has no desire to create more; pencilled, painted or otherwise. Perhaps the reason he draws is to distract himself from the pain inside his soul, like the terrible corpse inside the beautiful sarcophagus. So, he thinks, then what? Does he follow Milos’ advice and pour the pain and hardship he’s experienced into every sketch, or should he continue what he’s always done and enhance the beauty hidden beneath his armor? Beauty or ugliness? Which will he offer his muse?

Piotr’s finished work is hanging on a wall in the gallery. It is a bearded knight, standing beside a leafless tree with a tractor standing alone in the field behind him. Milos offers a criticism to anyone who will listen. At this moment the people enduring his outpouring are Wolverine and Cyclops. Milos feels that Piotr’s work is typical of him – bland. A hallmark attempt at angst and torment. He wonders what is so disturbing about the painting. Logan replies that he’s no critic, but isn’t there something to be said about a knight with no battle to fight? Scott understands. The character has no sense of purpose.

Milos disagrees, and calls it a pretty knight on a pretty canvas. There’s nothing challenging about it. Kitty Pryde thinks it’s sad. She tells Milos that it’s as the saying goes - beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Milos walks off, feeling like he’s surrounded by clichés and amateurs.

Piotr doesn’t think Milos understands his work. Milos thinks that true art comes from terrible images - depictions of pain and suffering, but all his life Piotr has known such agonies in one form or another. Sometimes they hide themselves in the beauty he yearns for. Like the sarcophagi, like Illyana and like Kitty. Attractive vessels hiding grim truths within. He creates beauty in the hope of escaping the pain. He attempts, like his brother knights, to use beauty to combat darkness.

Piotr’s pain is always there, no matter how much beauty he creates to balance it. It will always be there, hiding beneath the surface. Hiding beneath his armor. Hiding inside his artist’s heart.

Characters Involved: 

First story:


Second story:
Colossus, Cyclops, Shadowcat, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Art students including Milos and the instructor
People in the museum and gallery

(in flashback)
Colossus, Shadowcat, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Alexandra, Illyana and Nicolai Rasputin

Story Notes: 

(first story)
Colossus was believed to have died in Uncanny X-Men #390, curing those who had the Legacy Virus. However, he was resurrected in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #4.

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko was a Russian poet and film director born in 1933.

(second story)
Henri Matisse was a French artist whose major works include La Danse and Le bonheur de vivre.

Andy Warhol was an American artist, popular in the 1960’s as a key figure in the pop art movement. He is also known, among many things, for his involvement with The Velvet Underground and for his film directing.

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