X-Men (5th series) #7

Issue Date: 
April 2020
Story Title: 
LifeDeath
Staff: 

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Lenil Francis Yu (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Lenil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho (cover artists), Mike del Mundo (variant cover artist), Nick Russell (production), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Melody Guthrie, the depowered mutant known as Aero has been living on Krakoa. She meets with her siblings Cannonball, Husk and Icarus, who inform her that today is Crucible. At the Summer House on the moon, Wolverine and Cyclops find themselves unable to sleep, so they discuss the upcoming Crucible. Wolverine appears to be against it, and informs Cyclops that he won't be going to watch it. Cyclops takes a portal to Krakoa, where he finds Cypher sitting in a forest, and appears confused when he thinks he sees Warlock. Cyclops finds Nightcrawler atop a hill, looking out over Krakoa. Nightcrawler reveals that he once teleported into the strange sealed building, and found it eas perfect inside, like everything here. They spend some time discussing Krakoa, before Nightcrawler realizes that Cyclops wants to talk to him about Crucible. In a forest, Exodus talks to several young mutants, explaining to them how Crucible came about – because the Scarlet Witch took away the powers of a million mutants. The children react in disgust at the mention of the Scarlet Witch, and the children understand that  to defy the Scarlet Witch's decree that there be no more mutants, the depowered mutants have to die. Cyclops and Nightcrawler observe Exodus and his speech, before making their way to the arena, discussing the ethics of Crucible, while many mutants gather to watch. Nightcrawler explains to Cyclops that the Council settled on Crucible, because if the one million depowered mutants killed themselves so they could be reborn, that would prove a problem for the Five. Melody Guthrie stands in the arena as Apocalypse arrives and asks the young woman if she is filled with envy. Melody admits that she is. When she introduces herself to Apocalypse, he tells her that Aero is a name for mutants, but when he learns her true name, he is impressed, as he thinks Guthrie is a great name among mutantkind. Apocalypse asks Melody if she is willing to fight and die like those around her, and she tells him that she is – that she would die for her people. They each take a sword, and begin to battle each other. As they fight, Nightcrawler admits to Cyclops  that this causes himself to question his faith, and wonders if they really are who they say they are. As Apocalypse knocks Melody back, Nightcrawler asks Cyclops if he has heard about the wills. Cyclops has, and they know there could be issues about mutants being resurrected with specific conditions – coming back in someone else's body or with someone else's powers, for example. Apocalypse tells Melody that all she has to do is quit, but Melody refuses, and continues to fight the ancient mutant. Melody is knocked back again, but gets to her feet. Husk and Cannonball are concerned for their sister, but other mutants keep them back from interfering. Apocalypse informs Melody that she has earned her gift, and kills her. Melody is resurrected soon after, and is put on display for all of Krakoa to see. Nightcrawler tells Cyclops that he might start his own religion, before Apocalypse tells Aero to show Krakoa who she really is, and Aero flies up above the mutant nation, grinning.

 

Full Summary: 

Krakoa, the sun rises over the island nation, where in the Akademos Habitat, within the Sextant, Melody Guthrie, once known as the mutant called Aero, wakes. She sighs and rubs her eyes, 'Rise and shine, kiddo. It's another day in paradise' Melody remarks to herself. Walking down a corridor, Melody tells herself that she doesn't know what the problem is, but that she cannot get a good night's rest here. 'Do we have any of that coffee the green kid is famo-' Melody calls out as she enters a dining room, but stops herself mid-sentence as she sees her siblings Sam, Paige and Joshua – also known as Cannonball, Husk and Icarus, respectively, looking up at her, as is Angelo Espinosa a.k.a. Skin who walks nearby. 'What's wrong?' Melody asks. 'Melody, we... we've got some -' Sam begins, before Paige tells her that word has come down from the Council – it's time. 'Cruicible?' Melody asks, wide-eyed. 'If you want it' Paige tells her younger sister. 'When?' Melody asks. 'Today' Paige reveals.

Meanwhile, at the Summer House, Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops enters a room where Logan a.k.a. Wolverine is sitting in a chair. 'Couldn't sleep?' Cyclops asks. 'Never do' Logan replies. Scott sits down in a chair next to Logan and tells him that it is all that hair – too hot for covers and too cool without them. 'Can we just sit here like men, drink our coffee and enjoy a quiet moment? For once?' Logan responds. 'I guess' Scott replies. 'But here's a thing that -' Scott begins, to which Logan asks 'What did I just say?' Scott ignores him and reports that he and Jean are taking the kids to Chandilar in a few days, and were wondering if he wanted to come along. 'I know that's not normally your idea of fun, but it might be nice' Scott suggests.

Logan stares out of a large viewing screen, down at the planet Earth below. 'The scenery at that place is something else' Logan remarks, and Scott agrees. 'Jeannie in a bikini' Logan adds. 'Scott in a Speedo' Scott replies. Logan laughs, 'Well, who could say no to that?' he exclaims. 'Great' Scott tells him, before sipping his coffee, and pointing out that Crucible is today. Logan glances over at Scott, 'Yes. It is' he agrees. Scott asks Logan if he is going, to which Logan reports that he is not. 'You think it's wrong?' Scott enquires. 'Didn't say that. Even if I felt that way...nit ain't our choice to make, is it?' Logan  states, to which Scott tells him that response sounds like a cop out. 'Call it whatever you want, but I don't sit on the Council, and neither do you. They had a choice to make – and they did. Now we all have to live with it. Whether we like it or not' Logan declares, adding, if the kid wants it, then who are they to say no?

'You and I've never had a problem making judgment calls in the past – or deciding what's right and what's wrong' Scott reminds Logan, who tells Scott that he isn't sure that is something they should hang their hat on. Logan admits that there is no getting around the fact that they have to have a way to deal with this particular problem – there is no avoiding it. 'But do I love the choice? No' Logan states, before telling Scott that if he is looking for absolution or some kinda answer from on high, then he is talking to the wrong person. 'Go find a priest' Logan suggests. 'That's a great idea' Scott replies.

A short time later, Cyclops steps through a portal to Krakoa, and makes his way through a forest. 'Hello, Douglas' he calls out to Doug Ramsey a.k.a. Cypher, who is sitting in the forest. Warlock appears to be sitting opposite Cypher, while a large face can be seen looking out of the forest. 'Did I...did I just...I guess not' Cyclops remarks, before asking Cypher if he has seen Nightcrawler around. The large face looking out of the forest utters something in Krakoan, while Cypher, who now appears to be sitting opposite an empty chair, and whose arm now appears to be merged with Warlock, informs Cyclops that Nightcrawler is usually up in his perch this time of day. 'Just follow the path up. Keep turning left' he tells Cyclops.

Soon, Cyclops continues to follow the path, which takes him to a series of ridges on cliffsides that overlook Krakoa. 'That's some view' Cyclops calls out to Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nightcrawler. 'It is, isn't it?' Nightcrawler replies, without turning to look at Cyclops. Cyclops walks over and joins Nightcrawler and the edge of the ridge and as Nightcrawler points out over Krakoa and asks Cyclops if he sees that building in the distance – the tall one, the forked towers. 'Hard to miss' Cyclops replies, before telling Nightcrawler that what is interesting about that building is that even though they know it is hollow, there is no way inside. He starts to say that Logan told him someone tried to cut their way in. 'It was him' Nightcrawler declares. 'It was him' Cyclops agrees. 'Yeah. Of course. Anyway, he couldn't get in... it just immediately sealed back up. So no one's been in there' Cyclops states. 'I have' Nightcrawler claims, turning to Cyclops.

'Is that so?' Cyclops asks. Nightcrawler explains that curiosity got the best of him, so he went in – leap of faith and all that. Cyclops asks Nightcrawler what he found, to which Nightcrawler tells him that he isn't sure. Nightcrawler remarks that when he was younger, if he was designing a place to live that was everything he wanted, then this building would have been it, and he thinks he would have called it home. Kurt declares that it is perfect, like everything here, like the island made it just for him. 'Doesn't that make the hair on your arms stand up?' Kurt asks. Scott tells Kurt that he learned years ago not to look for cracks in the firmament, and suggests to Kurt that he enjoy what little joy they find, for soon the world will be the world, and they have lived in it long enough to know better. 'Ah. In the land of blind faith, the one-eyed man is king' Kurt utters. 'Fair enough' Scott replies, before asking Kurt why he is up here instead of in that perfect building.

Nightcrawler explains that up here he can breathe, he can think – which is good, because Krakoa asks hard questions of him. He tells Cyclops that every day there is some new, amazing something to believe in – and all it costs is the suspension of everything he used to believe. 'Speaking of... Crucible is today' Nightcrawler reminds Cyclops, who tells his longtime teammate that is exactly why he came to see him. 'You're struggling with it?' Kurt asks. 'Yes. Aren't you?' Scott replies. 'How could I not?' Nightcrawler replies, asking if they are really going to sit around and just watch a mutant die.

Later, darkness has fallen across Krakoa, save a fire that glows in a dense forest. Several young mutants are gathered around the fire, as the powerful, anient mutant called Exodus stands before them. He tells them that great things are happening all around them, great and wonderful things that lift mutants up. 'And you might wonder... how high, Exodus? How high? Well, now we know: higher than ever believed possible' Exodus tells the young mutants. He continues: 'I look at all your beautiful faces, and they fill me with hope. For today and tomorrow and in the ages to come'. Exodus then asks which of the glorious children can tell him what is happening tonight. 'Crucible' a young mutant with glasses utters. 'Our first Crucible' Exodus remarks, adding that is what they named this glorious thing. 'But can you tell me what Crucible actually is?' Exodus asks. The young mutant with glasses explains that he thinks it is where a broken mutant has to die so they can be an unbroken mutant. 'Is that right?' he asks.

Exodus tells the young mutant that his answer has the ring of truth, but not the whole truth. 'Would you like to hear the whole truth?' Exodus asks. 'I think so, yes' the young mutant replies. Exodus tells the children to listen closely, for this is the truth. 'It is the story of a woman. Her name was the Scarlet Witch' Exodus tells them, using his powers to create a projection of the Scarlet Witch in the flames before the children. 'Pretender! Pretender!' the young mutant with glasses exclaims, covering his ears. 'Stop! Stop! We don't say her name!' another mutant utters. 'Pretender! Pretender!' a girl calls out. Exodus tells the children that they know her, they all know her, and her great sin – that she erased the powers of one million mutants, made mutant into man. 'She made so many of us less. She spoke the words...' Exodus' voice trails off. 'No more mutants!' the boy with the glasses exclaims, putting a hand to his head. 'No more mutants' the girl with the hat adds, lowering her eyes. 'No more mutants' another young mutant calls out.

'And sentenced one million of us to hell on Earth. Trapped in a body that was a prison' Exodus exclaims, asking the mutants if they can imagine being able to do such wonders and then having your gift stolen from you. 'And why? Because she thought it was the right thing to do? Because she knew what was best?' Exodus asks. He tells the mutants 'That's why they do – the worst of them – they decide what's right for all of us. How to talk, how to think, what to believe... but what do we say to them? What do we say to her?' Exodus asks. 'No more' the boy with the glasses responds. 'No more' the girl in the hat calls back. 'No more' another mutant adds. As Cyclops and Nightcrawler appears on the other side of the fire, Exodus tells the young mutants that the great gift of the Five means that any of them can be reborn, that they can be made whole. 'All that's required is one thing. And what is that, children?' Exodus asks. 'You have to die' one of the children calls out. 'That's right... but not just any death' Exodus replies as he looks over to Cyclops and Nightcrawler, who are walking away from the group.

'So... how did you come up with the rules for mutants who have lost their powers?' Cyclops asks. 'Jean didn't tell you?' Nightcrawler responds. Cyclops explains that they have both been so busy, and he keeps forgetting to ask. 'And Emma?' Nightcrawler enquires. Cyclops admits that he is afraid to ask Emma because of what the answer might be. 'You're a wiser man that most, my friend' Nightcrawler smiles. Scott and Kurt approach a series of portals, where Forge, Daken and Selene are gathered nearby. Nightcrawler tells Cyclops that, as he might imagine, many of them are finding the world of late a place of increasing complication, that Krakoa is causing them to confront difficulties, problems and questions they may have never faced before. They step into the portal, as Kurt tells Scott that it is more difficult for him because many of these questions lie at the heart of his religion, and perhaps, but perhaps not, he believes they are all finding them difficult in their own way. Kurt adds that his perspective comes more from a place of the soul than the considerations others on the Council might have.

'Like today, for example?' Scott asks as they emerge at some sort of arena, and follow some steps down to gather with other mutants who are standing around the arena. They pass Colossus, and other mutants gathered in the stand – among them are Havok, Magneto, Strong Guy, Domino, Professor Xavier, Vulcan, Storm, Emma Frost, Angel and Gasmbit. 'Yes, today... and the not-so-small matter of Crucible' Kurt replies as he and Scott walk over to where Melody Guthie is standing with Cannonball and Husk. Melody has a floral wreath around her head and wears one of the standard X-Men costumes. Kurt remarks that he remembers when Xorn taught him the Zen Koan: “When I do violence to others, I do violence to the world, and when I do violence to the world, I do violence to myself”. Kurt adds that the inverse of that is also true – violence to yourself is violence to the world, and therefore, violence to those around you.

Kurt and Scott take their place around the arena with the other mutants, and Cannonball and Husk join them, leaving Melody alone in the arena. Kurt remarks that for him, these acts have both an external and eternal cost, and to leave the Buddhism behind and return to the bosom of Christ's church, why they are sins. Kurt admits that his perspective, impassioned as it was, lacked the pragmatic strength of some other arguments. 'After all, if one million depowered mutants decided to kill themselves tomorrow so they could be reborn in mutant glory, well...that represents a very real and practical problem for the Five. Scott asks if this is how the Council landed on Crucible, and if he is telling him that in paradise the pragmatists have won. 'No...' Kurt replies. '... there was another argument made'.

Soon, Apocalypse stands in the arena, a large sword sticking into the ground between he and Melody Guthrie. Other mutants can be seen watching from the sidelines – Emplate and Sinister. Apocalypse then speaks: 'Humans. What can we say about humans that they have not already said about themselves?' he asks. 'They cover the truth with lies, but their actions – their godforsaken actions – always reveal who they really are. Oh, how they hate us. Oh, how they fear us. Oh, how they envy us'. Apocalypse tells Melody to look around her and asks if she is filled with envy. Melody remains silent, before replying 'Yes'. Apocalypse asks her what her name is, and Melody tells him it is “Aero”. Apocalypse frowns, and declares that “Aero” is a mutant name, and that he sees no mutant standing before him. 'Perhaps you were born a mutant, but the humans stole that from you. And now – in all the ways that matter – you are as they are... aren't you?' Apocalypse asks.

Melody holds her ground and looks up at Apocalypse, pausing before she replies 'Yes'. Apocalypse asks her again to tell him her name, and so she informs him it is Melody Guthrie. Apocalypse states that Guthrie is a powerful mutant family, a great name. 'What a disappointment you must be' he tells Melody.

From the sidelines, Cannonball exclaims 'This is too much. I'm gonna knock his -' as he starts to get up, but Husk holds her brother back, 'No. Wait. Give it a minute. This is what she wants' Husk reminds Cannonball, as Skin looks over to them.

Apocalypse asks Melody if she can stand the disappointment, if she can abide what they did to her. 'No' Melody calls back. Apocalypse tells Melody to look around her, to look closely – that these people are willing to fight to the very last one to preserve their way of life. 'To fight and die for one another. And this is why we do not accept those like you simply killing yourself to be reborn as something better. It's a surrender. And those days are beyond our people. Do you understand?' Apocalypse asks. 'Yes' Melody confirms.

Apocalypse holds up the large sword and asks Melody what she wants, why she is here. 'To fight and die for my people. Like a mutant' Melody replies. Apocalypse holds his sword overhead and tells Melody to pick up her sword. Melody does, and they stand several feet from each other, ready to do battle.

Nightcrawler tells Cyclops that the problem with all of this is that it feels a little reckless. 'It's true, we have laws and the foundation of some kind of government. But what was it built on? Hope? Anger? Inevitability? Arrogance? What's at the real center of it?' Nightcrawler asks. 'I take it you have some opinions' Cyclops responds. 'That's the thing, my friend. I really don't. All I have are more questions...' Nightcrawler admits. 'Consider my faith. I can't help but wonder what happens to souls when we die?' he asks. 'Do they linger waiting for eternity, or do they return to their mortal vessel when that vessel is reborn, as you and I recently were?' Nightcrawler enquires.

At that moment, Melody leaps through the air, up towards Apocalypse, her small sword clashing against Apocalypse's large one. Apocalypse knocks Melody back to the ground.

Nightcrawler asks 'Am I really me? Are you really you?' to which Cyclops assures Kurt that this is the first time he has felt like himself in years. 'If this is wrong. I don't wanna be right' Scott adds. Kurt tells him that he understands that. 'Still...' his voice trails off. 'Questions?' Scott asks. 'Yes' Kurt confirms.

As Melody raises her sword towards Apocalypse, Kurt tells Scott to think about it – mortality – if one cannot die, if one is immortal – then what lure is eternity?

Apocalypse slams his sword down, knocking Melody backwards, while Kurt asks Scott why they would seek heaven if they can, for all time, do God's work here in the living world? He asks if their true cross now is the burden of creating a heaven on Earth. 'Such questions... I could continue for days, but consider the small cracks already spidering through the foundation of this society we're building...' Kurt's voice trails off before he asks Scott of he has heard about the wills. 'Yes' Scott confirms. 'And?' Kurt replies. 'It's going to be a problem' Scott admits. As Apocalypse slams his fist into Melody, drawing blood, Kurt tells Scott that he agrees, but that some might say it isn't – especially after witnessing Crucible.

'You can live like this. Like a human. It's an existence of a sort. There's nothing wrong with it' Apocalypse tells Melody as he stands over her. 'We can make the pain stop. You wounds can be healed. We have mutants that can make you whole... all you have to do is quit' Apocalypse suggests to Melody, who wipes the blood from her face. 'Just lie there. And don't get up' Apocalypse shouts. 'Go to hell' Melody calls back as she uses her sword to help herself stand up, and raises her sword again as she looks up at Apocalypse. 'Good' Apocalypse replies, before Melody leaps towards him once more.

Nightcrawler tells Cyclops that if one is changed, made whole, in being reborn, then why shouldn't other mutants have the same opportunity in death? 'Why shouldn't they be able to be the very best version of themselves – or perhaps even a better version?' Kurt asks. Scott tells them that he thinks they should, but the problem is that some are arguing that the best version of themselves would be being reborn in a copy of Magneto's body with his powers. 'I've already seen that written into someone's will' Kurt remarks. 'By why stop there? Why not combine two? Why not add a third into the mix?' Kurt asks. 'Yeah. Like I said... it's going to be a problem' Scott remarks as Apocalypse grabs Melody's sword.

Apocalypse then punches Melody over and over, blood sprays everywhere, before Melody collapses to the ground. 'I... I... I...' she utters, hanging her head. 'You're... what?' Apocalypse asks. 'Going to die like that? On your knees?' he enquires. Melody braces herself as she stands up, blood matted across her face, she clenches her fists, 'Never' she snaps back at the ancient mutant. Cannonball and Husk look shocked, and Skin has to hold Cannonball back, while someone else grabs Husk as she tears part of her face off, revealing a stronger form underneath.

Apocalypse holds his sword and tells Melody 'I see you, sister. We all do. Accept this gift. You have earned it'. He then raises his sword and brings it down towards Melody.

There is darkness, before Melody Guthrie, crying, emerges from the hatchery, covered in the gunk that all newly resurrected mutants are covered in. 'Welcome back' Charles Xavier tells the reborn mutant, while Apocalypse and Storm stand next to him. Melody looks up at them, and Storm tells her to get to her feet, as Krakoa is waiting for her. Melody joins Apocalypse, Storm and Xavier as they stand before dozens of other mutants on Krakoa, light shines down on Melody, while Cyclops and Nightcrawler stand among the gathered mutants.

'How do you explain something like this? How do you accurately describe it? Miraculous? Glorious? Wrong?' Kurt asks. 'All I know is you've convinced me. You're right... you do have questions' Scott replies, while the mutants known as the Five – Hope, Elixir, Proteus, Egg and Tempus – stand nearby. 'Yes. And the thing I'm sure of is this: Any answers I find... I do not think they are for me alone' Kurt frowns. 'They're for all of us' he adds, as Apocalypse looks down at Melody.

'I... I'm back. I'm whole. Thank you' Melody utters, looking up at Apocalypse, who tells her that he deserves no credit for revealing what was always there. 'What victory there is is yours and yours alone. All that's left for you to do is claim it' Apocalypse explains. 'Still... thank you' Melody utters. Apocalypse puts a hand on Melody's shoulder and tells her that she is welcome. 'Now... what are you waiting for? Show them who you really are' he suggests.

Husk, Cannonball, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and Wolverine are all standing together and look up as Melody rises into the air, using her powers for the first time since she lost them.

'Right or wrong. It sure is something, isn't it?' Cyclops remarks. 'Yes. Yes, it is' Nightcrawler replies, before telling Cyclops that he needs to start a mutant religion, as the light shines down on Aero, who hovers above Krakoa, smiling.

Characters Involved: 

Aero, Apocalypse, Cannonball, Cyclops, Cypher, Exodus, Husk, Icarus, Nightcrawler, Skin, Storm, Warlock, Wolverine, Professor X

Angel, Colossus, Daken, Domino, Emplate, Forge, Emma Frost, Gambit, Havok, Magneto, Marvel Girl, Mr Sinister, Selene, Strong Guy, Vulcan

Egg, Elixir, Hope, Proteus, Tempus

 

Various unnamed mutants

 

Story Notes: 

The title “Lifedeath” refers back to Uncanny X-Men #186 in which Storm dealt with losing her powers.

The Cypher / Warlock subplot is continued in Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler.

Melody Guthrie is one of the middle 10 Guthrie children. She first appeared, unnamed, in New Mutants (1st series) #42, and would appear occasionlly at Guthrie events thereafter. She arrived at the Xavier Institute in New Mutants (2nd series) #9, and was first named in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #444. In her next appearance, New X-Men (2nd series) #20, she was confirmed as depowered following M-Day. Melody would continue to appear occasionally at Guthrie events, before returning in Fearless #1-4 as a camp counsellor, her most recent appearances prior to this issue.

Joshua Guthrie a.k.a. Icarus was killed in New X-Men (2nd series) #26, this issue marking his return to life.

The Scarlet Witch de-powered 95% of mutants at the end of the classic House of M #8 when she uttered the now infamous phrase “No More Mutants”.

The Scarlet Witch was revealed to in fact not be a mutant herself in Uncanny Avengers (2nd series) #1-5.

 

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