Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #280

Issue Date: 
September 1991
Story Title: 
One Step Back - - Two Steps Forward

Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert with Steven Butler (pencilers), Inks R us (Inkers), Joe Rosas (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Xavier and two SHIELD agents arrive on Muir Island, and find Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, Banshee, Rogue, Colossus, Archangel and Forge the prisoners of the Shadow King, who has taken over the body of Legion, Xavier’s son. The SHIELD agents are killed, while Colonel Vashkin prepares nuclear weapons to be dropped on Muir Island if no one can stop the Shadow King. Xavier battles the Shadow King, trying to reach out to his son, when Storm arrives, aiding Xavier. The Shadow King heads into the underground part of the Muir Island complex, releasing everyone from psychic prison. The Shadow King taunts Polaris, his nexus, before ordering the members of the X-Men and Muir Island X-Men under his control - Psylocke, Gambit, Jubilee, Moira MacTaggert, Madrox, Siryn and Guido - to find the others and kill them. Jean helps the Professor prepare to enter the astral plane to do battle with the Shadow King, while Cyclops, Storm, Colossus and Archangel remain with her to protect the Professor, and Wolverine, Iceman, Beast, Banshee, Rogue and Forge go to find Polaris. In battle with the Shadow King, Xavier’s body begins to break as the powerful Shadow King continues to taunt him. Wolverine and the others do battle with their friends possessed by the Shadow King, while Jean and her group arrive in the astral plane to help the Professor. Banshee is reunited with Moira, and after she is freed from the Shadow King’s grip, Moira cries. Forge shoves Psylocke’s psychic-knife into Polaris’ mind, thus breaking the Shadow King’s nexus, and freeing Polaris from his control. The Shadow King is defeated just before Legion was about to destroy Xavier’s physical body. The Professor can no longer walk, his back shattered, while Polaris has returned to her regular size.

Full Summary: 

Muir Island…not that there is much left here. It exploded less than an hour ago, torn apart by the son of Professor Charles Xavier - David Haller a.k.a. Legion, a telekinetic, telepathic and pyrokinetic mutant whose frail mind was possessed by the Shadow King - a being of pure psychic energy whom Xavier has sworn to destroy! Xavier, and several SHIELD Agents, clad in psi-suits make their way across the ravaged Island haven. Agent DeMarco announces that the psychometric readings are blowing his gauges. ‘From a psychic standpoint, this place is hotter than Chernobyl!’ he exclaims. Xavier replies that he knows, and reminds everyone that the SHIELD psi-suits are the only things protecting them from the mental barrage.

Xavier reminds himself that the SHIELD agents are the cream of their unit. ‘To me, they are brave men, good men. To the Shadow King, they will be nothing but cannon fodder, I am certain’. Xavier thinks to himself that in coming here, he had expected his worst fears confirmed, that all of his students - X-Men and X-Factor alike, would be dead from the explosion. But, what stands before Xavier now is worse than that possibility - Legion, possessed by the Shadow King, hovers in the air, while three X-Men - Wolverine, Banshee and Forge, all of X-Factor - Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Archangel - and two former X-Men - Colossus and Rogue - are held prisoner in some kind of psionic web.

‘Hello, Charles’ the Shadow King greets Xavier, through his son. ‘Welcome to what is left of your precious mutant research Island. Your dream is ended. Awaken to the nightmare!’ he booms. ‘Your children are mind. Your life is mine!’ the Shadow King exclaims, while the heroic mutants struggle in the psionic webbing. Xavier stands staunch, while thinking to himself that the animal has done it, has taken his son as his human host. ‘The eyes which stare at me are aglow with hatred’ Xavier tells himself, while wondering if the black fires burning in Legion’s eyes are those of the Shadow King, or his son’s.

‘You almost had me, Charles. Almost’ the Shadow King remarks, telling Xavier that pulling the rabbit out of the hat, by having Mystique disguised as Valerie Cooper, who had also become his puppet, and Mystique destroying his previous host, FBI Agent Reisz. ‘It did disrupt my contact with this place’. The Shadow King boasts that Xavier’s students who were assaulting his Island fortress were unable to destroy his nexus, the psychic magnifying point between the physical and astral plane. ‘So I quickly took on this shell as my host body, and destroyed the surface layers of this Island!’ the Shadow King booms, explaining what has just occurred.

‘Your children survived - protected by that cow Jean Grey’s telekinetic shields - but so much the matter, Charles, for now, I have you all - children and father, mine for the killing!’ the Shadow King booms. Suddenly, Agent DeMarco shouts ‘Not if we have a say, you don’t!’ and unleashes fire on Legion. ‘DeMarco! Not yet!’ Xavier calls out, but it’s too late, as DeMarco fires his plasma cannon. ‘Quite nasty’ the Shadow King smirks, before whipping up a telekinetic shield through Legion, blocking the plasma and sending it back to Agent DeMarco, and hitting Agent Heacock too. Xavier calls out to them, but they burn before him, there is nothing he can do to save them.

The death-cries of DeMarco and Heacock ring through Xavier’s comm-link with them, and Charles knows that those aboard the SHIELD scout-craft, hovering nearby, will also be aware of what has transpired. Colonel Vashkin frowns, and orders SHIELD Central Command to be notified of what has happened and that the familles of the deceased agents are to be informed immediately. Vashkin turns to Raven “Mystique” Darkholme and points out that Xavier may not be strong enough to stop the Shadow King. Mystique reminds the Colonel that Xavier is the most powerful telepath on the planet. ‘If not him, then who?’ she asks. ‘Maybe no one’ Vashkin remarks, stubbing out his cigarette and muttering that Russian cigarettes taste like garbage.

Vashkin tells Mystique that this international SHIELD taskforce came to Muir Island to put an end to the Shadow King’s existence. ’No matter what the cost! And so we will’ he declares, before ordering the weapons unit to begin preparations for a tactical nuclear strike.

Down below, Xavier is knocked to the ground, assaulted from all fronts, and the wet bog which is all that remains of the Island’s surface does no exactly make for a good defensive position. Xavier admits to himself that he has never been much of a physical fighter, and as his possessed son stands over him, it would appear that Xavier will never get the chance to become one either. ’It is over, Charles. Daddy. Hated and loved foe!’ the Shadow King boasts, before Charles unleashes a psychic blast, ’NO!’ he shouts, declaring that if there is a shred of his son left inside, he will help to save him.

But Legion smiles as Xavier probes his mind, and the Shadow King asks Xavier if he is surprised to find that his son actually likes what has become of him since he possessed him. ’It can’t be - you’re corrupting him - body and soul!’ Xavier shouts. ’No, Charles - I have given him self control - my presence has united his fractured schizophrenic mind!’ Legion moves towards Xavier with a pyrokinetic blast ready, and the Shadow King exclaims that it is so fitting that the hand which kills Xavier to be that of his tortured son. Xavier thinks that indeed it is ironic, and in a way, inevitable. A psychic mind burst builds with him, as Xavier tells himself that if he is going to die, then the Shadow King will die with him.

Suddenly, a voice exclaims ’Fitting also, madman, that the manipulator of the mind be felled by the manipulator of the physical forces of nature!’, and Legion is knocked over by a lightning force-bolt. ’STORM!’ Xavier shouts as Ororo Munroe flies into view. Legion sits up and gathers himself, as the Shadow King reveals that the weather witch has hurt him badly, and needs a chance to recuperate. Suddenly, Legion telekinetically clears the ground beneath them all, accessing the hatchway to the underground chambers comprising parts of Moira’s laboratory. ‘He has escaped!’ Storm exclaims as Legion takes his leave.

Xavier points out that they all need the respite as much as the Shadow King does, before thanking Storm for her assistance, and asking her where she was. Storm explains that she was injured and out of the battle for a while, then waited for the proper moment to strike. ‘And as usual…you picked just the right time!’ Cyclops exclaims as he and the others are free from Legion’s prison. Xavier looks at his children who all gather around Cyclops as the Beast explains that Legion’s physical injuries caused him to release his hold on them. ‘We’re ready to put an end to this animal!’ the Beast declares. ‘And I think I know how…’ Cyclops announces.

Down below, Legion / Shadow King approaches Lorna “Polaris” Dane of the Muir Island X-Men, imprisoned as the nexus between the physical and astral planes. The Shadow King tells Polaris that this shell he wears was almost destroyed. ‘Couldn’t have that, could we’ he remarks, adding that they would then be one step closer to severing his link to the physical plane, and that they cannot truly defeat him until the nexus, his psychic magnifier, is disrupted. ‘And that would mean killing you, fair Lorna Dane!’ the Shadow King exclaims. ‘You’re lying!’ a weary Polaris replies, before urging Legion to let the Shadow King go. ‘Shut up!’ the Shadow King shouts, slapping Lorna in the face.

‘It is not over until Xavier is dead! Ashes in the wind!’ the Shadow King screams. ‘Do you understand? All of you - do you understand?’ he asks several of those under his control - Psylocke, Gambit and Jubilee of the X-Men, Dr. Moira MacTaggert and two of her own Muir Island X-Men - Madrox and Siryn, as well as recent visitor to Muir Island, Guido. The Shadow King tells his puppets to find the X-Men, reminding them that he protected them all in the lower depths of this facility for a reason. ‘Find them and destroy them - then bring me Xavier’s head on a spike!’

Back outside, Wolverine a.k.a. Logan unsheathes his claws, ‘I don’t like this one bit’ he declares as everyone gathers around Xavier, who lies on the ground, and Jean Grey who kneels at his side. Cyclops tells Logan that they don’t have much choice, and that the only way to defeat the Shadow King is by confronting him in the astral and physical planes. ‘And I am the only one capable of the former’ Xavier remarks, adding that Jean will serve as his psychic anchor to the physical plane. ‘But splitting up this way?’ Forge asks.

Xavier explains that his physical form will be defenseless while he engages the Shadow King in the astral plane, so while some of them remain here to protect his body, the others must find the nexus and sever the King’s link with it. ‘We don’t have much time - go - and good luck!’ Xavier exclaims as Wolverine, Iceman, Beast, Banshee, Forge and Rogue leave to find the nexus, while Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Archangel and Colossus remain behind. Jean places her hands to Xavier’s head and informs her former mentor that her powers are so nebulous, ‘I don’t know if I’m up to this’ she admits, but Xavier assures her that he will be with her every step of the way.

On the astral plane now, Xavier closes his eyes, sliding into the Shadow King’s realm. He tells himself that it is like putting on an old pair of slippers - and finding your toes surrounded by insect larvae. ‘This place, once chaotic in an intriguing and challenging way - is now nothing more than a blackened mirror of the Shadow King’s corrupted soul’ Xavier tells himself. Preparing himself for an attack, psychic armor grows around Xavier’s physical projection - but, as it is, Xavier barely survives the initial onslaught, as the Shadow King’s first barrage of power pours upon him.

Xavier remarks that the Shadow King is so much more powerful than when they first met. ‘Can hatred do this?’ Charles wonders. ‘Can hatred fuel someone to the point where they become omnipotent?’ Xavier feels the Shadow King around him, and wonders if anger, despair and hatred can become this powerful, then what does that say about his dream, his way of trying to bring light and hope to the world?

The Shadow King’s massive, monstrous form appears before Xavier, ‘Welcome to my home, Charles!’ he snarls, telling Xavier that it is so nice of him to come after having ignored his open invitation for so very long. ‘I accepted your “invitation” once before, Black Heart. I did not find your home to my liking!’ Xavier replies, holding his shield up, while the Shadow King stands over him with his flaming psychic sword. ‘Of that I am certain!’ the Shadow King remarks, asking Xavier if it is the décor which he does not approve of. ‘Or your host for this evening’s entertainment? Or the very reason for the invitation?’ the Shadow King asks.

The Shadow King tells Charles that, as always, he and his kind are so vague in their thoughts and desires. ‘I, on the other hand, am quite direct in my intentions - I wish to see hatred and anger corrupt the innocent sheep called humanity!’, the Shadow King declares, boasting that he wishes to see Xavier’s life goal of global harmony dashed. ‘And most cherished of all - I wish to clean my teeth with your bones - drink your noble blood - I wish to see you suffer and die!’ he snarls, before remarking that Xavier was disabled once. ‘Do you remember the frustration, the agony?’ he asks, remarking that Xavier thought that was all behind him. ‘Poor, poor fool!’ the Shadow King declares as he brings his enormous flaming psychic sword down onto Xavier’s body.

Back to reality, Xavier begins to convulse, and as the sound of bones breaking can be heard, Jean declares that the Professor’s legs are being broken. ‘His physical body is reacting to the psychic assaults!’ Jean exclaims. Colossus asks what they should do, to which Cyclops exclaims ‘What can we do? We were supposed to protect his body from outside attacks - not inside ones!’. A solemn Jean declares that they can only hope that the others succeed in order to give Charles a chance.

Wolverine leads the others through the remains of the labs, and Forge announces that his motion detectors are picking up movement. ‘They’re engaging in a perimeter surround’ Forge remarks, while Wolverine declares that he smelled them three minutes ago. ’They’re right on top of us!’ Forge reveals, checking his monitor, to which Wolverine suggests they get moving, only for a blast of kinetic energy to be thrown at him, and Gambit appears, telling Wolverine that it is time he backed his words with more than a sour grin, as he kicks Wolverine in the face. Wolverine rubs his jaw, while remarking that the Cajun is sneaky. ’Let’s play the game…’ he tells Gambit.

Suddenly, a high-pitched screeching is heard, and Banshee goes wide-eyed, knowing that it is his daughter, Siryn, so he flies in her direction. Forge tells his friend to be careful. ’Don’t let her sucker you into an ambush!’ he exclaims, when suddenly, ’Speaking of which…Madrox is trying to do that all be his lonesome selves!’ Iceman exclaims as Madrox and several dupes, all armed with guns. Iceman creates an ice wall to block the corridor, ’And the Multiple Men on the rocks, as it were!’ he jokes. ’Smooth, Robert, but you’ve trapped Wolvie as well!’ the Beast points out, adding that Logan will have no support in his fight against Gambit.

Indeed, ‘No friends to bail you out, mon ami!’ Gambit exclaims, to which Logan replies ‘Wouldn’t have it any other way’. Gambit throws a punch, suggesting Wolverine say good night, as he realizes that Wolverine is still hurting inside, so this is not a real fight. ‘Flap those gums, boy, it’s what you do best’ Wolverine remarks as he knocks Gambit over. ‘But what I do best - is win!’ Logan declares as he pins Gambit down and puts his two outer claws on either side of Gambit’s neck. ‘You’re pinned, Creole. Don’t ask for the third claw!’ Wolverine suggests.

On the astral plane, Xavier is being crushed, inside and out, and there is nothing he can do to stop the Shadow King. The Shadow King chuckles, gloats and rambles incoherently, while Xavier winces, certain an audible gasp of despair escapes his lips. The Shadow King chuckles gleefully, while Xavier wonders how this could be. ‘How could something so vile - so intrinsically wrong - be a hair’s breadth from a final victory?’ Xavier wonders to himself, ‘And what of my children - what happens to them if I fail?’ he asks.

Jean, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus and Archangel can only listen as Xavier’s body is ground into shards before them. ‘We have to stop this!’ Jean exclaims. ‘There is only one way to help him, isn’t there?’ Storm asks her dear friend. ‘Yes. We must go inside with him. Into the astral plane!’ Jean reveals, before telling her friends to link hands with her and she will try to take them to the astral plane. ‘And we can only pray that the others prevent anyone from attacking our defenseless bodies…’, unaware that the possessed Legion is approaching them!

On the astral plane, the horrid Shadow King holds Xavier high above him, his deadly mouth of razor-sharp teeth wide open, his purple tongue flickering, as he shouts ‘You are undone, Charles! Ah what a sweet morsel you will be!’. The Shadow King asks Xavier to pardon the pun, being so close to the jaws of death as he is, ‘But this will be a moment to be forever chewed on when past meals are but distant memories!’. Suddenly though, before the Shadow King can chomp down on Xavier, a powerful optic blast slams against his arm. ‘WHAT?’ he booms, before seeing Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Archangel and Colossus. ‘If you’ll pardon us, dark soul, it would appear you forget to leave enough room for dessert!’ Storm exclaims.

Back to reality, where Sean is searching for Siryn, asking her to come out of hiding, when some kind of energy beam slams into his chest, knocking him over. Rubbing his head, Banshee looks up to see Dr. Moira MacTaggert, holding a large weapon, standing over him. Moira tells Sean that it is over. ‘I’m sorry to say…but you weren’t man enough f’r me!’ she declares, readying the weapon again. ‘Moira? You wouldn’t…’ Sean whispers. ‘She won’t!’ Forge shouts as he shoots Moira with his scrambling gun.

Forge asks Banshee if he is okay, to which Sean replies ‘Hardly, Forge. The woman I love tried t’kill me!’. ‘Don’t they all at one time or another…’ Moira whispers, while Forge injects her with the neuro-synaptic buffer. Tears stream from Moira’s eyes, ‘I - I - Sean? Ocht, Sean, m’luv, I feel - it’s been so long - I - I’m so sorry…’ a weary Moira whispers. Sean takes Moira in his arms and tells her to hush, that it is all right now. ‘It’s not over yet…’ Forge adds.

‘No kidding!’ Rogue exclaims, before telling Banshee, Forge and Moira to duck, as Guido approaches them, only to be smacked down by Rogue, who tosses him to beast. ‘How divine’ Beast mutters sarcastically, before punching Guido in the face as he remarks ‘Guido, huh? We must really be tapping out of silly names to call ourselves, no?’. Forge tells the Beast that he is one to talk, before reminding everyone that they do not have time to shoot the bull, as they have to get to the nexus.

Nearby, Wolverine has finished with Gambit and is on the prowl for Jubilee. ‘Come on out, now - don’t make pappy Logan mad at you, girl!’ Wolverine exclaims, assuring her that he won’t fight her, that he couldn’t fight her. ‘You mean it?’ Jubilee exclaims, asking Logan if he will join them. ‘I won’t have to fight you? I really don’t wanna, no matter what I’m told!’ she exclaims. ‘I know, darling. That’s why I lied’ Logan exclaims as he cracks Jubilee in the face with his fists.

On the astral plane, Xavier is free from the Shadow King and battles alongside Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Colossus and Archangel. Although they are not wholly turning the tide, they have given Xavier the chance to regain his strength of will. ‘All the pieces are here, Charles. Your most cherished students, in your heart of hearts, are here for the slaughter - and best of all, I now have you in my grasp - both in spirit - and in flesh!’, the Shadow King exclaims, as in reality, Legion stands over his father, and the Shadow King announces that if his students take one “step” closer, he will crush Xavier’s physical body completely. Nevertheless, Xavier urges his X-Men to stop the Shadow King - no matter what!

Back in the laboratories on Muir Island, Banshee comes across Iceman, who has just taken Siryn down. ‘With a little extra TLC, used just for your sake, Banshee!’ Iceman tells his friend. ‘Ye have my thanks!’ Banshee replies. ‘And mine!’ a voice shouts, before Iceman is knocked out, and Psylocke steps forward, telling those who are not under the Shadow King’s thrall that, in dealing with Siryn, they have turned their backs on her. Banshee tells Psylocke that she, of all people, must be able to flight against the Shadow King’s control. ‘Perhaps I’d rather not?’ Psylocke replies.

The Beast declares that they simply do not have time for this tete a tete and Banshee agrees, leaping towards Psylocke and pushing her towards Forge, he tells Forge to look out for Psylocke’s psychic knife, for one shot of that and his brain will be fried. ‘Good point, Irish’ Forge replies, before using the scrambler weapon on Psylocke, then shoving Psylocke’s psychic knife into Polaris’ mind, causing Lorna to scream.

‘NO! I WAS SO CLOSE!’ booms the Shadow King on the astral plane, while Xavier feels the nexus torn asunder. For the Shadow King, it is the severing of his life’s blood. Xavier rejoices that his X-Men may have broken the link. The energy released from the Shadow King’s final dissipation is nearly overwhelming, and Xavier, Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Colossus and Archangel are caught like flotsam in the rushing tide. ‘He’s being ripped apart! Everyone back off!’ Cyclops orders, while Xavier telepathically guides Jean as they absorb what they can of the rampant psychic energies, acting as a shield for the others, whose minds could not cope with the onslaught.

On Muir Island, Legion convulses and is knocked backwards, while Xavier’s crumbled body falls once more. Xavier feels his son’s mind simply wink out, and he tries to reach for him, but it’s too late. ‘I would weep for him, were there time…but there was never time for David…and I must guide my students out of danger and into the light’ Xavier tells himself.

Suddenly, Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Archangel and Colossus wake: ‘We’re out! We’re alive! We did it!’ Jean exclaims, telling her friends that she felt it all destroyed - the Shadow King, the astral plane, everything. ‘Jean! My God! The Professor!’ Cyclops calls out as he rushes over to the Professor’s moaning body. Exhausted, Xavier tells Scott not to fear, for, surprisingly, he is still alive. ‘The Shadow King is gone, this time his madness is truly finished!’ Xavier declares, before revealing that, at the end, he offered the Shadow King a chance for redemption, but that he chose the void instead. ‘We have won, my X-Men. The dream has not died!’, Xavier declares as Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Archangel and Colossus gather around him. ‘But at what price?’ Storm asks.

Down below, Siryn stands by her father, who kisses Moira, while Forge and Rogue free Polaris from her restraints. Forge announces that it worked - the psychic blade short-circuited the nexus completely. Forge remarks that Polaris has been through the wringer, but she is alive. ‘Is it my imagination or does she look like she’s shrunk?’ Rogue asks. Nearby, Wolverine hugs Jubilee and tells her to be quiet, that she has seen the dark side of herself, and it is not a pretty sight. ‘Now just let it go’ he tells her, adding that being an X-Man is never easy.

Up top, Colossus asks ‘Professor, Moira and the others?’ Xavier replies that they are well - scarred in spirit, but they will all recover. ‘And you, Sir?’ Colossus adds. Xavier replies that, sadly, his fate is a different one. ‘My back is shattered, a parting gift from the Shadow King’, Xavier reveals, adding that it appears if he is ever to achieve his dream…he will need the X-Men to walk him there….

Characters Involved: 

Banshee, Forge, Gambit, Jubilee, Psylocke, Storm, Wolverine, Professor X (all X-Men)

Colossus, Rogue (former X-Men)

Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Factor)

Legion III, Dr. Moira MacTaggert, Multiple Man, Polaris, Siryn (all Muir Island X-Men)



Shadow King

Colonel Vashkin

Agents DeMarco & Heacock

Story Notes: 

This is part four of the “Muir Island Saga”, it follows X-Factor (1st series) #69, and is followed by an epilogue in X-Factor (1st series) #70.

Muir Island exploded in X-Factor (1st series) #69.

Error: Colossus is shown in amongst those imprisoned by Legion on page 3, however he was not shown going on to Muir Island with X-Factor in X-Factor (1st series) #69.

Mystique was revealed to be disguised as Valerie Cooper in X-Factor (1st series) #69.

Storm was left for dead in Uncanny X-Men #278.

Artistic errors occur in the costumes that Siryn and Moira MacTaggert are wearing this issue - Siryn appears in the standard X-Men costume, and Moira in a brown, blue and red costume, however Siryn had stopped wearing the standard X-Men costume, and donned her own green and yellow costume [as seen in Uncanny X-Men #278 and X-Factor (1st series) #69], and although Moira had been wearing a myriad of costumes lately, in X-Factor (1st series) #69, she was wearing a relatively plain blue spandex costume.

Polaris’ form increased when she received her new powers in Uncanny X-Men #250.

Issue Information: 
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