X-Men (2nd series) #77

Issue Date: 
July 1998
Story Title: 
Psi-War: Storm Front - part 1

Joe Kelly (Writer), German Garcia (Guest Artist), Art Thibert (Inker), Liquid! (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT (Letters), Mark Powers (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Storm explains her history with her adoptive mother, Ainet, and why she must go to Kenya to save her. Psylocke arrives and uses her shadow slipping powers to take herself, Storm, Wolverine, Maggott, Cecilia, Cannonball and Marrow to Kenya, where Psylocke and Wolverine are quickly separated from the others. After an ambush by sand warriors, Wolverine disappears, leaving Psylocke alone. In the empty village, Cannonball disappears, only to reawake in the Kentucky mine where his dad died in. However, his dad’s reanimated corpse is still there and aims to kill Cannonball for leaving the family. The other X-Men find the villagers, who are under some trance, when suddenly the spider trickster god, Ananasi, shows up with Ainet, who is also under his thrall. Ananasi claims to want Storm as his bride and quickly sends the souls of Maggott, Marrow and Cecilia elsewhere, where Marrow finds her bone growths gone and Maggott finds himself free of Eany and Meany. Ananasi shows them a feral Wolverine chained like a dog and offers them a proposition. Storm battles Ananasi and is aided by Psylocke, who reveals that the “god” is a telepath. In the Psionic Plane, the two women find the villagers’ minds set up in a distinct patter. Before they can discern the reasoning, Ananasi attacks Psylocke and brings up her past failures and how she was always considered a redundant Jean Grey-wannabe. Ainet finds Storm and tells her the truth, but Ananasi buries Storm under bones of her dead friends before she can tell Betsy the truth. Psylocke falls into Ananasi’s trap and accidentally hits one of the villagers, which causes a reaction that cripples the entire psionic plan, as well as all psi-sensitive in the corporeal world. Psylocke is left as a discombobulated mess, as Ananasi reveals himself to be the Shadow King, now free of any opposition on the Psionic Plane!

Full Summary: 

Once upon a time there was a goddess, who in truth was not a real goddess, but a mutant who was believed to be a goddess when she showed she could control the weather. She had a family, all gifted with powers as well, and they were known as the X-Men. Storm eventually found herself in the darkness, buried in something. She asked her Earth Mother for light and was able to produce enough to see the bones of her friends, Wolverine and Jean Grey, for you see one day all the X-Men died and Storm was buried alive in their corpses. The end.

However, her story begins at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in New York State. As the sun sets over the mansion, Storm calls a meeting in her attic room and explains to her fellow X-Men that the woman who contacted her was Ainet, who saved her life once. When Storm entered the Kilimanjaro Valley, she was nothing more than a street urchin, whose education was mostly wrong. When she was a child, she thought she had mastered the secret of life, like she had pick pocketing and lock picking. She was foolish but, fortunately, Ainet saw past the chip on her shoulder and showed her that she knew nothing. She raised her and taught her things long forgotten about people and, when the time came that others thought of her as a goddess, Ainet was the only one who knew that she was really a child in need of a home.

Ainet became a second mother to her. The X-Men can imagine her surprise to receive a package from Ainet, only to discover that it was a call for help in the form of a living statuette. Then the statue turned to sand. Storm explains that Ainet is a village priestess and a magician and Storm recognizes her spells. As she runs her hand through the sand, she admits that she fears for Ainet’s life if sent a totem like this to her. To that end, Storm announces, she will travel to Kenya and she doesn’t expect any of them to accompany her.

Assembled before Storm are Maggott, Wolverine, Cannonball and Cecilia Reyes. The doctor asks Cannonball, who is playing with the sand, if Storm is serious about all this. Surprised, Sam asks Cecilia that, after all she has been through so far, is she really that skeptical about this stuff? Wolverine tells Storm that after a story like that she might be nuts thinking none of them would help her out. He at least will watch her back. Storm admits it is useless to argue with Wolverine and graciously thanks him for the help. Smiling, Wolverine tells Maggott that he is sure a stud like him would be jumping at the chance to help a damsel in distress.

Reluctantly taking the bait, Maggott agrees to help after all the X-Men have done for him. Who wouldn’t want to go back to Africa? He loves it so much that is why he left. Cannonball happily agrees to go and tells Storm that he always wanted to see where she grew up. Cecilia cautiously asks Storm if there are going to be any more “demon dogs” there, because if there are than she has some issues. A voice from above tells Cecilia not to worry, because the X-Men won’t let any of the beasts who prowl through the night get to her, unless she wants them to.

Cecilia is terrified at the sight of the beautiful, yet deadly, Asian woman, who lands onto the attic floor. Storm welcomes Psylocke with open arms and thanks her for coming so soon. Still terrified, Cecilia asks Cannonball how Psylocke melted through the shadows and how does Psylocke know her name? Sam explains that Psylocke is a telepath, so names aren’t any problems. As for the shadow slipping, Sam has no clue. Creepy, isn’t it? No, says Cecilia sarcastically, it’s perfectly normal. Psylocke finishes speaking with Storm and asks the other X-Men if they are ready to board the Braddock Bullet to Kenya. Scared again, Cecilia asks if to get to Africa they are going to do what Psylocke did. Cecilia declines the invitation and offers to walk instead. Psylocke points out to Cecilia that they are already doing it.

Cecilia starts screaming at the top of her lungs that she is sinking into the floor and quickly holds onto Cannonball’s hand and asks if she is supposed to hold her nose or something. As the group is halfway through the floor, Cannonball assures her that it is easy as riding a bike. Of course, back when he used to magically teleport it was in a pool of light and not a shadow. They also had to stop in hell anytime they wanted to go someplace. Cecilia glares at Sam and tells him that he isn’t helping. The X-Men disappear into the shadows, as Marrow walks into the room. She comments how the X-Men forgot to invite her on their trip, but decides that she could take the time to explore, or better yet redecorate Storm’s room Morlock style. Suddenly, Wolverine’s arm pops out of the shadow and he tells her that they wouldn’t let her miss all the fun. With that said, he grabs Marrow and pulls her in.

That is the last thing Wolverine remembers as he is enveloped by Psylocke’s shadows. Then there is the half-second felling of nothingness before they emerge into the sun and right into the African Welcome Wagon. Psylocke and Wolverine emerge in Kenya… hundreds of feet in the air with four African tribal men armed to kill. Psylocke knocks off her attacker and calls out to Wolverine, who tells her that she sure knows how to travel. He shakes off the two men on him and hopes that Betsy learned how to land in Ninja school. Psylocke boasts that it is like tripping from a curb, though she thinks their assailants will fare far worse.

However, Psylocke need not worry about the attackers, as suddenly they burst into sand. Wolverine and Psylocke land and Psylocke asks Logan if Storm was not contacted by a charm made of sand. Wolverine confirms this and asks about the others. Psylocke explains that they are in the village and that she was going to put the two of them there last. As the two are covered in sand so that they cannot see one another, Wolverine tells Psylocke to contact the others and tell them not to move until… Wolverine suddenly becomes quiet. Until what, asks Psylocke. Unfortunately, when the sand clears, Psylocke finds herself alone.

Less than a mile away, the rest of the team find themselves at the village. Cecilia is still astounded over the fact that they are in Africa in seconds. Cannonball is more concerned over where Psylocke and Wolverine are. Marrow complains that it is too hot and bright and asks Storm why they are here. Storm smiles and tells Marrow that this is her home. Marrow is surprised and admits she imagined a golden palace and servants who washed her feet, as well as tributes to the weather goddess. Storm and Marrow walk into the village, as Storm explains that, contrary to what the Morlock believes, her only palace was the sky and her servants the clouds. As Maggott and Cecilia talk, Cannonball asks the rest of they think they should wait for Psylocke and Wolverine. Maggott tells him to relax and points out that, if he were alone with a woman like that, he would take his time getting to the village too. Cecilia and Maggott follow Storm and Marrow. Cecilia asks Maggott how far they are from his home. Not far enough, says Maggott.

As Cannonball tells the team that he is serious and demands that they listen to him, Cecilia asks Maggott why he said that. She thought the trouble in South Africa ended. It did end, says Maggott, but once the ladies realize that there is only one of him to go around the rioting will begin in the streets. Cecilia comments that she is glad she doesn’t live in Maggott’s world and asks if anyone noticed that for a village there aren’t any villagers. Maggott turns around and asks where Cannonball, who is now gone, disappeared off to. Storm calls out to the X-Men to come to her. The two run off after her and Cecilia tells Maggott that Cannonball must have caught up with the rest. As the two run off, neither notice a hand being sucked into the sand.

Marrow, Maggott and Cecilia reach Storm and ask what the fuss is about. They then see that Storm is standing in the middle of a circle formed by the villagers, who all sit on the ground chanting the name Ananasi, with out any regard to the flies swarming on them or the blistering heat. Storm recalls how this village was always carefree and full of laughter. Not it is full of blank faces and the only indication of life is the chanting. Cecilia checks one of the villagers and sees that the pupils are dilated and the heartbeat is irregular. Maybe it was a mass drugging? Storm wonders where the missing Ainet is, as Maggott tells Cecilia that drugs aren’t affecting these people. Eany and Meany are getting skittish, which is what they have been doing lately around magic, like that thing over there.

Everyone follows Maggott’s gaze as a giant, slender creature, wearing a tribal mask and covered in spiders, rises out of the ground bearing and old, spider covered woman in his hands. The woman greets Storm and says that it is wonderful she dropped by. She tells Storm not to delay any longer, for she found the god that Storm is to marry. The creature with Ainet tells her not to be pretentious. She can just call him Ananasi. Cecilia is in disbelief that Ananasi is a god. Marrow spits on the ground and sarcastically agrees that he is a god.

Elsewhere, Cannonball calls out to Storm or Wolverine, but gets no response. He raises the lantern in his hand and finds that he is wearing a miner’s uniform and realizes that he is back in Kentucky. Suddenly, the realization that he is in his father’s mining outfit hits him, as he stumbles back when he recognizes this as the mine his father died in. A voice asks him why he is here and why he isn’t with his mother and siblings. Cannonball looks up at his dead, decomposing, impaled father, who asks Cannonball what is wrong with him. Did he raise him up to be a fool? He is ashamed of him!

Storm orders Ananasi to let Ainet go. Ananasi tells Ainet that she was right; Storm is a feisty one. However, they must work on her delivery. When encountering an ageless and immense evil, the hero is supposed to ask what he or she wants. Then the villain, who is him, clumsily reveals that he had Ainet send a message to her to get a certain goddess to bring his bride to him. After that, he will announce with a gasp that he plans on absorbing her power like he did her people’s souls. Then it is the usual villain speech and now Storm tries to stop him. Not amused, Storm flies into the air and calls for a storm. She tells the trickster that they will succeed in stopping him. Maggott points out that Ananasi doesn’t sound like a god, to which Marrow says that he sounds like dead meat. Cecilia asks Storm what the three of them should do. Ananasi sighs and asks if he must choreograph everything. Obviously, the three of them go and search for the others. “Amateurs,” he mutters.

Suddenly, the three new recruits scream, as an orange light escapes their eyes and mouths. They collapse to the ground, as Storm screams that they are only children. Ananasi pulls his abdomen out of the ground, as well as his eight legs, and tells Storm that he only assisted them by taking their souls and sending them off to find their missing friends. Now, unless she plans on killing poor Ainet there by attacking him, maybe she better calm down so the two of them can get to know one another better. Storm responds by sending two bolts of lighting through the left and right halves of Ananasi’s body, leaving Ainet untouched. Ananasi clears his throat and, after surveying his now half-destroyed body, he admits he didn’t know she could be so precise.

Somewhere, Cecilia, Maggott and Marrow wake up in darkness. Cecilia asks where they are, but the others have no clue. Marrow, angry, states that she has had enough of shadow traveling and mystery locations, when all she wants are blood, spleens and broken bones. She then stops and asks Maggott and Cecilia what they are staring at. Maggott tells Marrow that she is gorgeous. Marrow is about to yell at Maggott when she suddenly realizes that there isn’t a single bone protruding out of her body. It doesn’t even hurt anymore.

Ananasi arrives and tells her that it is because the truth never hurts. She is the true Marrow, who is beautiful and pain-free. Maggott also doesn’t need his hideous slugs. Maggott tells Ananasi to watch his tongue and asks where they are. Ananasi reveals that they are in the place where truth stands revealed and masks undone. He takes off his own mask to reveal his ugly, bandaged face and tells them that people are seen as they truly are here. Since the three of them have yet to be tainted by the X-Men, they are worthy of this gift. He yanks a chain on his side and tells the dog behind him to heel. The three X-Men, however, see that the “dog” is actually an animalistic Wolverine. Ananasi gives them the X-Men, as they truly are without their costumes and their dream. “Cool,” says Marrow.

Back in the village, Storm holds Ainet’s body and hopes that her mother can hear her. She swears that if Ananasi hurt her permanently then he will pay; him and all his brood. Ananasi reforms himself and asks if that is anyway to talks about her future in-laws. His Auntie Mektazula won’t like her saying such things. Besides, how does she expect to make a god pay, he is eternal after all. Suddenly, a blast of psionic energy cuts right through Ananasi’s body, slicing him in half. The creature asks the X-Men if anyone every told them how difficult they make baroque posturing.

Ananasi vanishes and reveals that Psylocke was behind him. Betsy sighs over how men always choose to split once the woman asserts herself. Storm asks Psylocke where she has been, to which the telepath replies that she has been up to her armpits in sand warriors. She approaches the elderly woman and presumes it is Ainet. She puts her hand on her head and gets confirmation on how Ananasi is manipulating the sand. He is no god at all, but a telepath of a high order.

Psylocke explains that that was why Ananasi separated her and Logan from the rest of the team. He had hopes to kill her, since with no telepath he would have no competition. It was only a matter of time before he got to Sam and the new recruits. Storm realizes that her emotions got the best of her and left her susceptible. Suddenly, two blasts of energy separate Storm and Psylocke. Ananasi asks Psylocke if she really thinks she can understand the ways of a god. Storm asks Psylocke who the man really is, but Psylocke is unable to breach his psionic defenses. Ananasi suddenly points at Betsy and tells Storm to be wary of the woman. It is not well to have in her court a mind-witch who hardly as a mind with which to witch!

He turns his attention to Psylocke and asks her if it is not true. She has been transmogrified and obliterated and possessed and killed so many times that she can no longer tell dream from fantasy. She is everything’s plaything. She is a mismatched freak, who isn’t sure if she exists. Psylocke admits she has been mind controlled in the past, but no longer, especially since she knows that Ananasi is frightened over what she can do. Psylocke asks for Storm’s hand, who asks if she is sure. Positive, says Betsy, as she teleports them both to the Psionic Plane. Ananasi screams as he turns to dust and yells that Psylocke will ruin everything.

In the Psionic Plane, Psylocke tells Storm to stay close and on guard. Storm looks around and sees a grid of psionic energy, where each point is marked by the mind of a villager. Storm asks if those are her people. Psylocke confirms that their minds are trapped on the Psi-plane, though she doesn’t know why. Did Ananasi do all this just to get Storm to come? Psylocke notices that the villagers are arranged in a distinct pattern. Storm tells Psylocke to look to her right, but Ananasi knocks Storm away with her leg, saying that he would like to have a word with Betsy. Ananasi grabs Psylocke in his hand and tells her that she shouldn’t be here and that the souls are a tribute for his bride. Psylocke thinks to herself how cold his touch is and remembers that, even though she is on the Psionic Plane, any damage she is inflicted with will show on her corporeal body. Betsy, however, is fond of her body and uses her telepathy to simply disappear from Ananasi’s hand.

Nearby, Storm thinks to herself that, for someone obsessed with having her as his bride, he sure has forgotten about her fast. A voice calls her from behind and Storm turns to see Ainet’s mind. Storm tells Ainet to remain calm. She will get Betsy, who will free her. Ainet tells Storm that there is little time. Ananasi is a trickster and he is never what he seems. His agenda is rattled in riddles. Ananasi calls Psylocke a coward for hiding. Suddenly, Psylocke appears in her old armor, reminiscent of her early days as an X-Man, and asks Ananasi if he cares to bet on that. Ananasi tells her that the psionic armor is a nice touch and asks if the sword is a rental. Storm is in awe over how the two look like gods, but if what Ainet said is true…

Psylocke slashes Ananasi with her sword and asks if it tickles. It is the focus of all her power. Ananasi scoffs at the remark and asks if it is the power to be unimportant and ignored, to be nothing? Psylocke screams that she is not a nothing. Storm realizes that Ainet was right. It isn’t she that Ananasi is after. Ananasi continues to goad Psylocke and tells her that today she is the X-Men’s ride, but tomorrow she will go back to being “that Asian chick, who used to be English.” As a telepath, she is ineffective and redundant. Would the X-Men have called her to the mansion to help if Jean Grey was around? Of course not!

Storm tells Psylocke to listen to her, but, as Ananasi grapples with Betsy, he tells Storm that she cannot give away the end of the movie yet. Storm tells Betsy anyway that it isn’t her he is after. Ananasi opens a portal under Storm and she falls in. He tells her to go be buried under some dead friends to help deal with her claustrophobia. Psylocke calls out to Storm. Whoops, says Ananasi, there goes Psylocke being a failure again. Phoenix would have saved Storm. Ananasi tells Psylocke to avenge and free her friends. She needs to prove it. Psylocke cries and, in a rage, she says that she will. She unleashes her psionic sword and thrusts at Ananasi.

Betsy opens her eyes and finds her armor gone and Ananasi too. Instead, her blow landed right into the mind of a villager. The chain reaction takes place at the speed of thought. One significant thought hit the wrong target and started the chain, which hits mind after mind after mind. The thought is propelled through the minds and is amplified so that when it comes full circle and hits Betsy it is a million thoughts. Once, there was a princess who was tricked by a being pretending to be a god. She fell mind first into a trap and was ripped to pieces. The end.

There is no term for what happens next. Decades later, when psionic studies are offered at Empire State University, professors will call it a radical psionic event, which is a discharge of psionic energy so intense and pure that it cleaves the fabric of the psi-plane. Normal people would experience déjà vu to nightmares to migraines to nosebleeds. Those born with psionic, telepathic or intuitive abilities, however, would suffer a debilitating feedback from the energy overload, essentially crippling them. The results could be permanent. Though this even occurs now and affects the world, including Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Emma Frost, Cable and others, professors in the future would smile and assure the class that no one would attempt such a thing.

Ananasi asks if has worked. Has he seen his hour of triumph? He rips of his accursed psionic disguise and stands true as the Shadow King! Has he really used Xavier’s X-Men to win? Yes, he has! The Shadow King will always be the undisputed master of the mind and, as always, says the villain, as he picks up the discombobulated form of Psylocke, “he who brings shadow to the realm of the mind brings darkness to the world!”

Characters Involved: 

Cannonball, Cecilia Reyes, Maggott, Marrow, Psylocke, Storm, Wolverine (X-Men)

Various villagers

Ananasi/Shadow King
Psionic recreation of Mr. Guthrie

Cable, Dr. Strange, Emma Frost, Spider-Man (various psi-sensitive people)

Story Notes: 

Storm received her package in X-Men (2nd Series) #76.

Maggott’s hesitation to go back to Africa is explained in X-Men (2nd Series) #76.

Psylocke has had quite a history. Her eyes were cut out in Captain Britain (2nd Series) #13 and received bionic eyes in New Mutants Annual #2. She died with most of the other X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #227, but was also resurrected. In Uncanny X-Men #251, she traveled through the Siege Perilous and, upon her return, her mind was placed in the body of Kwannon in Uncanny X-Men #256-258 by Spiral and the Hand. She was eviscerated by Sabretooth in Uncanny X-Men #328, but was healed thanks to the mysterious Crimson Dawn in Uncanny #330, leaving her with new powers and a diminishing personality.

Cannonball’s reference to teleporting in a pool of light is a reference to his deceased teammate Magik I.

The Shadow King was thought to have died at the end of the Muir Island Saga crossover in Uncanny X-Men #280.