X and team are deep in the Proteus Garden of reality warped town that now evokes the plot of X-Men Vol. 2 #77-78’s Psi-War. The team psychics, Psylocke and X, team up to battle Proteus on the psychic plane which does not end well for our heroes.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #11
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ron Garney
Cover: Greg Land
Variant Cover: Leinil Yu
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
What You Need to Know:
The Scottish town of Fetter’s Hill has turned into an expanding thought garden by our villain Proteus while the large team of X-Men attempt to thwart his plans to warp all of reality to his childish whims. “Seeds” of his garden are now spreading into major world cities making this a global threat. Time to save the world! The team Psychics continue their struggle for team captaincy of this X-Squad. The main focus of this 12 issue arc remains on the psychic battle which began with Shadow King taunting the X-Men into an attempted rescue of Xavier who is presently corporeal inhabiting Fantomex’s body.
In 1998 in X-Men Vol. 2 #77-78 We have a team of the mostly neophyte X-men plus Storm, Wolverine, and Psylocke taking on a new threat to Storm’s Kenyan adoptive village. As the X-Men arrive they realize the town has succumbed to a psychic attack and each X-Men is presented with their own worst fears on the psychic plane. Storm and Psylocke take lead as Storm is the present team leader while Psylocke has the abilities to best combat the psychic attack.
The villain, it seemed, was a trickster god called Anasasi who was using the appearance of reality warping powers of Storm’s village elder friend to create physical counterparts to the psychic attacks upon the X-Men. The village elder had sand based powers which were put to physical form by “Anasasi.” Anyways, the whole setup of the village and utilization of the minor sand witch reality warper turns out to be a ploy by none other than the Shadow King!
The Shadow King was using the threat to the town and the small-scale psychic attacks on the team to lure Psylocke to his trap in order to create a global psychic cascade effect that would award him global domination. The clever attack Shadow King has been planning since the Muir Island Saga defeat results in Psylocke getting turned into a mush monster by the Shadow King and then Poof! Disintegrated oh no (Avengers Infinity War anyone?)
Which, if we recall from Astonishing X-Men #9 the Shadow King loves to make a PsylockFaceMonster®
Anyways, so Psylocke seemingly dissolves. However at that time she had mysterious Crimson Dawn shadow-ninja powers, because why not, which allow her to have a dark-psychic-ninja form not to be confused with a dark-phoenix form. This shadow ninja form resists full dissolution and ultimately foils the Shadow King’s reality warp/psychic trap world domination plan because he wasn’t prepared for her Crimson Dawn based Ninjutsu. As a result, Psylocke uses the “Sum totality of her psychic powers!” at that time to imprison the Shadow King into a thought ball surrounded in her shadow ninja darkness which required her full concentration as a psychic to maintain so she “retired” until 2001 when Jean makes her a strong telekinetic but that’s a story for another time.
“Oh Elizabeth!” — that silly ninja. To quote Betsy, emphasis added: “I’d do it AGAIN if it meant keeping him in check…” So let’s see what happens in our present issue when the same basic plot and battle recurs!
Our Astonishing X-Team:
X: Is he a younger Professor X inhabiting Fantomex’s body or a ploy by the Shadow King or a foil construct of Proteus? We finally DO find out!
Bishop: Hey, did you know I was still in this story and have powers?
Mystique: Dream’s End relevance. Moira on that later.
Gambit: I’m just here still because Rogue is here, also, was I even in this issue?
Archangel: I finally have control over my wings and body yay… oh wait.
Old Man Logan: Nobody would buy this without at least one Wolverine. I also have Adamantium claws bub!
Psylocke: I’m the leader now! But seriously. Listen to me! I did all this before!
Rogue: I am more absorbent than your leading paper towel brand.
Proteus’s Garden Show: a Bloomin Onion of Layers & Liars!
So if you forgot, a fetter is a ball and chain thing that weighs you down. Proteus had been imprisoned by Shadow King in issues 1-6 and prior to the psychic equivalent of decades and before that by his mother, Moira MacTaggert to contain his dangerous powers. If you’ll notice our first dialogue box in the splash panel Fetter’s Hill is no more because Proteus has finally become unchained and made a reality garden which has branches and seeds now attacking the rest of the world.
Overconfident acting leader X begins our battle sequence of the issue with a psychic order “Take Him!” and then we get a panel of our heroes each battling the root/vine Krakoa resembling garden of Proteus. Our useful heroes begin with Archangel and Wolverine attacking Proteus with metal, his Achilles’ Heel and mostly random weakness. Rogue breaks the 4th wall by proclaiming “Psychics. Think they know everything. Let ’em have their fun Gambit.” Which underscores how this entire 12 issue arc is basically Psylocke and X v. Shadow King and Proteus.
Main players form Voltron via psychic linkage: Psylocke, who is still attempting to assert dominance based on the Psi-War experience as discussed above, and X who is a cocky jerk.
Meanwhile, on the physical plane, an Angel loses its wings yet again because Warren can’t have nice things having just gained full control via a Xavier hand wave earlier in our 12 issue arc. The psychics still assaulting Proteus, Mystique shifts into Moira MacTaggert, his mother. This being in incredibly poor taste as Mystique indirectly killed Moira herself via her alteration of the Legacy Virus in the Dream’s End storyline. Mystique confronts poor Scottish Kilty-Guilty Kevin MacTaggert as his dead mum but gets caught red-handed. Oh no, unhand her you brute wha-wha. Kevin effectuating some semblance of revenge cries “You Lie!” and Mystique’s arms are off. Which, really shouldn’t be an issue because as a metamorph she can just regrow them, but I digress.
No! Everyone cries in unison as simultaneously X’s eyes go all shadowy and evil. “yaaas!” X shouts as he loses psychic control and Rogue, Gambit and Bishop effectuate a victory against Kevin who ‘dies’ with a “Why can’t you let me live?” because you’re awful Kevin, just awful. Lest we forget he’s killed scores of people including the present town and Exiles Mimic.
Back to X! Psylocke’s like “this all seems so familiar to me!” as X shatters into shadowy ink darkness of foreboding while still saying “Yaaaaas!” X then X-Plodes and tears down the middle as an evil and very needlessly naked Shadow King spider amalgamation erupts from his corpse Fantom-X halves. Now, don’t forget Shadow King currently has psychic access to the global reality warping mind garden thanks to Proteus. His plot resurrected from Psi-War has been seemingly achieved this time as X is bisected and Psylocke has no secret Crimson Dawn dark ninja force up her figurative sleeves. Will she make true on her 20-year-old promise to Storm circa 1998 to keep him in check? Hopefully, we’ll find out because next issue is our 12-issue arc conclusion!
Mystique finally gets some medieval punishment for killing Moira MacTaggert that she’s deserved since circa 2004 at the hands of Moira’s son no less which was satisfying to a degree. I hope that Psylocke overcomes Shadow King as she did in Psi-War but learns from experience and doesn’t use all of her telepathy to achieve this end result causing a 3-year hiatus for her character after that past battle. I couldn’t care less if X reincorporates as Xavier or if Fantomex ever returns but ideally, Fantomex would reacquire his corporeality which is highly likely given his ability to make more bodies/brains of himself. Hopefully this time X/Xavier will have to keep the Shadow King at bay in the psychic plane limbo yet again rather than Psylocke thus leaving him where we found him in issue #1.
Final Thought: It seems we finally remembered that there were other members on the team and everyone excepting Gambit actually proves useful in some respect. Bishop and Rogue dispatch Proteus huzzah! Psylocke and X doing most of the heavy Psychic hitting but ultimately resulting in the reality/psychic choke-hold over the world that the Shadow King has wanted to achieve for 20 odd years of our reader’s real-world time.