Excalibur (3rd series) #14

Issue Date: 
July 2005
Story Title: 
The End of the World As We Know It!

Chris Claremont (writer), Aaron Lopresti (artist), Adams, Rapmund & Vancata (inkers), Avalon’s Rob Ro (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Molly Lazer (assistant editor), Stephanie Moore (editor), Tom Brevoort (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Combining his mental powers with the mystic working of Doctor Strange, Charles Xavier goes on a journey through his subconscious in the hopes of unlocking the secrets necessary to stop the madness of Wanda Maximoff. Xavier’s inner journey leads him to revisit the guilt, regrets and doubts that have built up in his heart and soul during his life. From the loss of his comrades during his wartime duties to his manipulations of Gabrielle Haller to the death and destruction of Genosha, Xavier must wrestle with his inner demons in order to find the means to help his friend, Magneto save his daughter and earn a chance at redemption for them both.

Full Summary: 

A US Army chopper, piloted by Carmen Pryde, flies over a jungle war zone as the sun sets. The team aboard is a search and rescue squad led by Capt. Charles Xavier whose call sign is “Good Shepherd”.
Xavier recounts that his specialty in the Army was leading search and rescue teams facing impossible tasks to recover soldiers lost behind enemy lines. As the team arrives, they join Logan, a Canadian officer that Xavier remembers saving numerous times (and vice versa) during his service.
Carmen notes that tomorrow they head home and he’ll be reunited with his sweetheart, Theresa. He asks Charles to be his best man at their wedding. Logan dryly informs Pryde that Xavier has re-upped and won’t be going home. Carmen is shocked and when Xavier confirms this, insists on staying, too. Xavier insists that he go home and live his life. Logan reveals that Xavier is only staying because he got dumped by his own ladylove, Moira MacTaggart. Carmen can’t believe it and insists on staying to see his friend through this, but Xavier tells Pryde that he still has a chance for a happy future with the woman he loves and he can’t screw things up. He then tells Logan to stay out of his things and mind his own business.
Dr. Strange, clad in an army uniform, interrupts this memory expressing his fascination at Xavier’s recollections and where they’ve ended up. Xavier seems surprised to see Strange in this “memory” and asks what he’s doing there. Strange reminds Xavier that he was invited into Xavier’s mind in an attempt to help Wanda Maximoff. Xavier is surprised that this has led them into his own memories.
As the two “chat” around a campfire on the beach sipping beers, a bikiniclad Wanda shows up and taunts Xavier to “catch me if you can”. Strange explains that Wanda is hiding in the places of Xavier’s psyche that he is most hesitant to go and that he is using his magic as a tool for therapy and psychoanalysis. Since Xavier’s is the viewpoint psyche, he is defining the mindscape through his own memories. Meanwhile, Magneto who is also psionically present, is defining the journey and Wanda’s serving as a wild card.
Knowing this context, Xavier wonders why these particular memories have come up. Strange explains that at this point in his life, Xavier was barely twenty but what happened here would lead him to wander and eventually meet Magneto and Gabrielle Haller.
At the mention of Haller’s name, Xavier says sharply that she has nothing to do with this. Strange notes that he’s touchy, while Xavier wonders why this is suddenly all about him. Strange explains that Xavier’s doubts and guilt are things that Wanda can use against him to resist his telepathic therapy.
As Strange and Xavier work out the logistics behind their current experiences, Carmen Pryde comes up and expresses how fortunate he feels to know Xavier and promises to name his firstborn son after him. He also notes that if it’s a girl, she’ll be named after Theresa’s grandmother, Kate. As the inebriated Pryde leaves, Xavier shares with Strange that Pryde only had a daughter who became on of his X-Men. He also recounts how Carmen came to Genosha to redeem himself in her eyes and died along with the 16 million mutants killed by Cassandra Nova’s rogue Sentinels. Charles suggests that Carmen’s life would have been better had they never met. Strange retorts that he suspects that if Carmen Pryde knew his fate and the woman his daughter would grow to be, he’d think differently. Their debate is interrupted by a soldier summoning “Captain Xavier” to the “general’s” office.
The “General” turns out to be Nick Fury and with him is Scott Summers, standing in for a CIA agent. Xavier notes that Fury is leading the hunt for Wanda and Magneto while Scott has assumed leadership of both his school and the X-Men. These two “characters” in his psyche give him orders for a search and destroy mission… his targets: Magneto and the Scarlet Witch. Scott explains that these orders come from the “highest authority” and the he must go to “Beast Mountain” and terminate them both.
Soon, Xavier and Strange are aboard a chopper heading towards Beast Mountain more commonly known as Mount Wundagore. Charles suspects that these orders come from Magneto himself and is his last desperate attempt to stop Wanda’s madness. Strange asks if Charles is prepared to follow through. Xavier says that he believes in Magneto and knows he is a good and decent man and that perhaps this is the only way. He suggests that setting this during his days in the military may be intentional as part of Magneto’s message to him.
Strange asserts that Magneto controls fundamental forces of nature and that all that they are is controlled by these forces. He suspects that Magneto’s efforts to alter the course they are on may be futile and something even he cannot achieve.
Xavier asks where Strange was at fifteen. Strange says he was fooling around with Laura Robson, Xavier recalls that he was at Harvard. Magneto on the other hand was a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. He notes that the two of them cannot truly understand how that has shaped Magnus and can only try to help him, the question being: how?
As they approach Wundagore, they are hit by a laser fired by Sir Raptor, one of the High Evolutionary’s knights. Their copter goes down as Strange notes that if it’s Magneto’s goal to be “taken down” he certainly isn’t making it easy on them.
Strange and Xavier find themselves in a makeshift graveyard for the soldiers who died under Xavier’s command. He recounts that he alone survived and his wounds led to the end of his military career.
The two are no longer in the jungle but in Vinnitsa, the Russian city that Magneto destroyed when his powers manifested. Xavier explains that he used the Danger Room to show his X-Men this so they would understand the power at Magneto’s command. He notes that thousands died and Strange wonders why it happened.
He uses the Eye of Agamotto to see beyond the veils of the past. Strange tells Xavier how Magneto lost his daughter Anya in Vinnitsa . Xavier notes that one tragedy spawned another, setting in motion the perpetual patterns in Magneto’s life.
As the two climb through the ruins they enter a forest. They realize that Magneto’s perpetual rage is fueled by his grief and guilt and multiplied by his lack of trust and endless quest to set things right and understand why it has all gone so wrong. They come upon a hut in the shadows of Wundagore, the home of the evolved cow-woman, Bova and the birthplace of the Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver. Xavier recounts for Strange how Magneto’s wife Magda ran away from him after the manifestation of his powers in Vinnitsa.
He wonders if Magnus’ life would have been different had he known she was pregnant with twins. Realizing that these locales are designed from his limited memories and the path they are now on, he suggests changing the rules and cutting to the chase. Strange has a spell that will accomplish just that.
As Strange casts his spell, it falters and the two find themselves in a cave. The Flames of Faltine appear and Strange realizes that his role in this journey has come to an end. He sends Xavier on as the dread Dormammu appears. The ruler of the Dark Dimension seems surprised to be summoned to this place and assumes that Strange is responsible. The two engage in mystic battle as Xavier continues his trek through his mindscape. Strange thinks to himself that only Wanda’s power could have summoned Dormammu and wonders if she is acting of her own volition or somehow being manipulated.
Xavier wanders on alone, wondering if Magneto’s intent is to save Wanda or sacrifice her for the common good. He wonders if Magneto is setting him up in a situation where he has no choice but to follow through with his mission to kill them.
Cassandra Nova appears and welcomes Charles to his “black bug room” where all his regrets and fears reside. Around him, countless insectoid eyes leer out from the darkness. He fires his machine gun and shatters the image of Cassandra Nova. From the shards steps Gabrielle Haller. They embrace and kiss momentarily before Charles pulls away. He realizes that it’s a ploy. Dr. Strange must face his greatest foe while Xavier must face his greatest shame.
Gabrielle is surprised and asks if that’s what she is to him. He admits to her that he manipulated her emotions in Israel using his powers to make her love him. She asks what his intent was. He confesses to being lonely. She confides that she too was in pain and in need and that their loneliness was mutual. Xavier insists that he took advantage of her. She responds that she was not a woman without some strength of character and would have fought back if things were as he recalls them. He asks about afterwards and she says that she knows he promised to return but understands that his injuries and subsequent therapy prevented this. She also notes that by that time, she had fallen in love with another man and had a son
. She admits that keeping the truth from him all those years was her secret shame. She tells him that if it hadn’t been for him, she would never have taken the risk necessary to fall in love with Daniel Shomron. Xavier insists that what he did was still wrong. She asks if he’s done it since and he says he has not. She makes it clear that they both made mistakes and learned from it and that it’s time they both moved on. Xavier asks if atonement counts when it’s only in your dreams. She asks him who said it was just his dream and explain that she’s in a diplomatic meeting at the moment listening to the US president quote Camus. Xavier asks if she’s saying their conversation is real.
As she tries to explain her own ignorance on psychic matters, the sound of Schubert playing can be heard. Xavier doesn’t recognize it. He notes, however, that Moira MacTaggart loved Schubert and that her thesis advisor played it often and they were very close. Gabby says she hates Schubert because of the albino doctor in the camp who acted so kindly but proved to be so evil. Xavier goes pale and says that he has to go. Before he leaves, she tells him once again that he was her salvation and gave her the hope to live again after her abuse by the Nazis. She assures him there is nothing to regret or forgive left between them. He kisses her one last time and continues on his way towards the music.
He begins to tie the threads together. The Schubert music has come up several times in recent weeks. At Auschwitz as explained by Magneto and now Gabrielle Haller, at Oxford as recounted by Moira MacTaggert and now…inside Mount Wundagore.
Xavier enters a laboratory where Schubert is playing. The man in the shadows is clearly the High Evolutionary’s assistant and welcomes him. He then reveals himself to be Sinister. Sinister extrapolates on the ironies of his history. He served as an eager assistant to Wyndham whose own work was inspired by his earlier research as Nathaniel Essex. He explains that Essex became Sinister who conducted experiments in Nazi Germany before partnering with the High Evolutionary. He also worked at Oxford where he settled for Moira MacTaggart as his pupil when Xavier left to fight in the war.
Xavier brings the barrel of his gun to Sinister’s temple and threatens to shoot. Sinister wonders rhetorically if firing would truly kill him given how entwined his history is with Xavier’s X-Men. Sinister notes that Cyclops and Phoenix played a role in his own creation and suggests that over the generations he returned the favor. He goes on to assert that it would be an amazing concept if he truly were the progenitor of Xavier’s X-Men. Xavier accuses him of lying and Sinister simply responds by saying that if Xavier kills him here, he may never learn the truth. Xavier insists that Sinister isn’t real but a manifestation of his fears and doubts. He tells whoever is behind these distractions to stop so they can get to the real business at hand.
Xavier is convinced that these visions are all mind games made real by too much power in motion. He comes upon Magneto reading to Wanda in her bed in Genosha. He is reading “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White. He places his hand on her forehead and says that she’s burning up, just like Anya and once more there’s nothing he can do to save her. Xavier says he doubts that and suggests that Magneto is manipulating Wanda and her power. Magneto uses his powers to dismantle Xavier’s rifle. Magneto notes that these are automatic responses for him and as usual, he is to dangerous and the threat to great and there’s never any time to think things through completely as a result. Xavier asks why he’s there.
Magneto says he cannot let Wanda die but cannot bear to see he suffer anymore. He feels that he is in the grips of forces greater than himself and that he isn’t allowed to change. He is tired and has no more strength. He looks back on his own life and sees only death and despair. His own children despise him. He reassembles Xavier’s gun and says that he sees him as more than a friend, but as a brother and that he dare not trust anyone else. He says he is hoping for a miracle, even one he does not deserve. Magneto’s solution is to allow Wanda her fantasy and to sacrifice himself so she cannot draw on his power to further warp things around her. Xavier tries to argue with him but Magneto refuses to allow Wanda to continue her descent into madness.
Xavier tells Magneto that what he has learned during this journey through his own psyche is that there are no “easy outs” and that they all must face their demons. He agrees that Magneto loves his child and that Wanda wants that more than anything, but that their happiness and their family they each long for must be earned. With that said, Charles begins to leave. Magneto pleads with him not to go and Xavier explains that it’s in his hands now to either prove that his long-held faith in the inherent goodness of his old friend was well-placed or not. He leaves Magneto with the choice of how he will shape his own future.
Xavier finds himself back in Genosha with Dr. Strange who asks what he has learned. Xavier says that he’s learned that everyone holds onto shame and regret sometimes until it becomes a comforting misery. Taking risk and moving on is frightening for both him and Magneto. For Magneto, it’s always been about building his family and securing a world where he can be safe and never again be ruled by his fears. This noble dream is eternally twisted because he has never resolved the pain and nightmares of his past and his innate desire for revenge. Strange notes that this same description could also be applied to Wanda. Xavier notes that what drives them both is love and it is from this that they both strive towards an ideal…a better world. Strange notes that if one were to combine their powers with such shared passion, anything would be possible. Xavier adds, “Even redemption.”

Characters Involved: 

Charles Xavier
Dr. Strange
Scarlet Witch
In Professor X’s Mindscape:

Wolverine, Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler (all X-Men)
Nick Fury Gabrielle Haller

Carmen Pryde and other members of Xavier’s army unit
Laura Robson, an old flame of Dr. Strange’s
Sir Raptor (Knights of Wundagore)
Cassandra Nova
Sinister Gabrielle Haller

In Sinister’s recollections:

Herbert Wyndham/High Evolutionary, Bova, Wanda and Pietro as newborns, young Magneto, Moira MacTaggart

Story Notes: 

The title of this story is a reference to the song of the same name by REM.

The bulk of this story takes place in Xavier’s subconscious memories. Within this mindscape, Xavier’s own memories and personality are used as the backdrop for an examination of his character flaws and the insecurities and personal demons that are hindering his efforts to help Wanda Maximoff. The validity of the memories and actions presented here have to be questioned due to various inconsistencies with past continuity, as well as the active influence that Wanda and Magneto are having on this mental journey. In several places, the characters shown are merely representational, so all the appearances and memories should be read with those dynamics in mind.

Carmen Pryde is the father of Katherine “Kitty” Pryde, the X-Man known as Shadowcat. When Carmen Pryde first appeared in X-Men (1st series) #129, both men acted as if they had never met each other. There are two possible explanations for this “continuity glitch”. First, Xavier could have used his mental powers to erase Pryde’s memories of serving with him, though his reasons for doing so are not apparent in this story. It is also possible that Carmen Pryde and Xavier never served together at all and his memories are being manipulated by Wanda or Magneto to make a point. Carmen’s presence in such a memory may simply serve to tie in his feelings of guilt about those who died in Genosha at the hands of his sister and his guilt for those who died under his command.

Logan appears alongside Xavier’s military unit. This is the first indication that Xavier knew and worked alongside Logan during his wartime experience. This is also odd since there was no apparent recognition between the two when Xavier recruited Wolverine in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Again, it is possible that Logan has been added to this memory for his psychological effect on Xavier. Logan has long been the conscience of the X-Men in many ways and has always questioned Xavier’s morality and decision-making. That may be his role in this visit to Xavier’s subconscious.
Moira did indeed break off her relationship with Xavier as revealed in X-Men (1st series) #117.
Sir Raptor is one of many evolved animals that serve the High Evolutionary and reside at Mount Wundagore.
The destruction of Vinnitsa and the death of Magneto’s eldest daughter Anya were first depicted in Classic X-Men #12.
The tale of Magda’s flight from Magneto and the birth of the twins was fully told in the first Vision and the Scarlet Witch limited series.
Xavier’s past love affair with Gabrielle Haller was depicted in Uncanny X-Men #161. He learned that they had a son together in New Mutants (1st series) #26.
Various hints about Sinister’s activities in Nazi Germany have been suggested in Excalibur (3rd series) #7 and even earlier in Weapon X (2nd series) #14. His interactions with the High Evolutionary were revealed in X-Factor Annual #3 and Uncanny X-Men #380. His past was indeed shaped by encounters with Cyclops and Phoenix while they were lost in the past as shown in the Further Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix limited series.
It is highly unlikely that Xavier possessed all of the knowledge about Sinister’s past that was revealed during their “conversation” in this issue. Nor would Wanda or Magneto have this depth of knowledge about Sinister. This suggests that perhaps Sinister’s presence in Xavier’s mindscape was genuine. This also adds strength to the suggestion that both Dormammu and Gabrielle Haller were truly present in some fashion as well. It is possible that Wanda or perhaps Magneto drew the psyches of each of these characters into Xavier’s mind to shape the inner journey he was taking.
Magneto is reading “The Once and Future King” to Wanda. This novel by T.H. White chronicles the early life and development of King Arthur. This has been a running theme during the Excalibur series with Xavier likening himself to Merlin.
This issue is an official “The House of M” prelude issue.

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