X-Men: Red (2nd series) #2

Issue Date: 
July 2022
Story Title: 
Man on Fire

Al Ewing(writer), Stefano Caselli (artist), Federico Blee (color), VC’s Cory Petit(letterer & production), Tom Muller and Jay Bowen (design),Russell Dautermann and Matt Wilson (cover artists),Camuncoli & Arbutov (variant cover), Laure Amara (associate editor), Jordan D. White (editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Some time ago at the Summer House, Cyclops and Professor X revealed to Vulcan that his two friends Sway and Petra are only energy constructs he created, but they could resurrect the real versions now. Vulcan doesn’t take it well and almost demolishes the house. As a result, he is no longer welcome there. Currently at the KEEP, Commander Brand asks Vulcan to join her X-Men team. However, several members seem less than enthusiastic and Manifold outright accuses her of murdering Henry Gyrich before he quits. When Morrowlands, an Arakkii artist colony, is attacked by the Progenitors, Brand sends her team there. However, the Progenitors quickly kill Cable and the Arakkii feel insulted by the highhanded way the team enters the fight, especially as Vulcan outright belittles them. When he turns against the Arrakkii in his anger, Storm’s new Brotherhood arrive and she freezes Vulcan. The Brotherhood work together with the Morrowlanders and manage to chase away the Progenitors. When Vulcan breaks free, he enters a battle of wills with Storm and loses. Later at the KEEP, Brand offers him another chance by suggesting he take a place on the Great Ring by challenging Tarn the Uncaring …

Full Summary: 

The Summer House on the moon, some time ago:
Gabriel Summers aka Vulcan lies on his bed, his eyes empty as he recalls a particular memory:

Three beings stating he has fire in him. True power inside a twisted and broken host, but how broken? They are going to release him back into his universe… they are going to see him as changed, reborn healthy and whole. But that is just a shell. Underneath it is the real him.

Is this happening now? Vulcan whispers.

Hey, emperor, comes another voice. It is his friends Sway and Petra. Don’t call him that, Gabriel demands automatically. Petra tells him he has visitors and offers him a margarita. Said visitors are Professor X and Vulcan’s elder brother Cyclops, who criticizes that it isn’t even lunchtime. Gabriel takes the glass and states he has to keep the fire down somehow, especially when talking to him. He derogatively refers to Xavier. Why is Xavier here?

Scott explains it is about the Waiting Room. The mutant afterlife Wanda built for them (while Gabriel was drunk). They now have a way to resurrect mutants who died before Cerebro achieved full resurrection functionality, Xavier continues. Thunderbird, for instance. Or poor Changeling. Or… Petra and Sway. Petra and Sway are right here, Gabriel points out.

Xavier confronts him with the truth: That “Sway” and “Petra” are just energy constructs Gabriel created.

Gabriel takes it badly, refusing to believe. Xavier announces he will reach into his mind and help him. Vulcan refuses. Never again! He can decide his own truth - he is Emperor Vulcan! He orders Xavier out of his mind and finally blasts out of the house.

The present:
SWORD station 2 - the KEEP orbiting Arakko:
Vulcan walks down a corridor. Now? he mutters: is it happening now? Abigail Brand addresses him. Vulcan complains that they have already forgotten him. How does that happen? He left a scar across the stars themselves. She remembers and suggests that in the future they may have some shared interests. But right now: he is not welcome at the Summer House, and for personal reasons he does not wish to set foot on Krakoa. And here on Mars, one of the last places he is welcome he is trolling the Diplomatic Zone, stirring up trouble. He needs something to put his mind to… something worthy of a Summers brother. And this is it.

She leads him into a room where several other mutants are already waiting: Frenzy, Manifold, Mentallo, Random and field leader Cable. Brand introduces them as X-Men Red.

Vulcan scoffs that he is expected to take orders from his nephew? He led an empire and he leads from the front!

Wonderful, a team player, Frenzy snarks. It’s bad enough Brand is pulling her from her diplomatic work for this circus. Brand retorts that this is diplomatic work: Krakoan-Arakkii relations. The Arakkii need to knows there is a SWORD team watching over them.

Why is that then? Manifold asks surprisingly. He is with Frenzy. Why is that their remit? Arakko got its own culture, its own government. They want an X-Mean team, they can do it. It’s their planet, isn’t it? he challenges Brand. The parts they allowed them, Brand corrects. The rest is the Diplomatic Zone. Mars hasn’t left the Sol system. No matter what Arakko might think.

Manifold decides he is out. He’s quitting the squad? Brand asks. He clarifies he is quitting all of this. He’ll go be an Avenger again or something, he mutters. A little drastic, Brand smiles. He was practically her second in command. Was he? Manifold demands. What happened to Henry Gyrich?

Brand repeats that Gyrich jumped out of an airlock. She couldn’t save him. He could have, Manifold retorts. Brand remarks, he could barely move. Right, he’d caught a space station. An accident it fell on his home after one of her plans, right? A nice convenient accident. She knows what they say. Fool me once. He walks away through a teleportation gate.

Brand announces they will discuss this later. She asks Cable if he can bodyslide a team this size. If need be, is his curt reply. Then he is transport. And if he has a way to make miniature suns, he can do that too. And for the record, Brand addresses everybody: let’s say as a hypothetical that she did throw Gyrich out of an airlock – is there anyone left in the room who’d have a problem with that?

Vulcan clearly has no idea what she is talking about. Mentallo smirks. Frenzy and Random look away. Cable is busy with his weapons. Nobody speaks.

All right, she continues. Wiz Kid is manning Station One, so Arakko has her full attention today. She gets an alert that moment.

The Morrowlands:
A colony of artists and poets on Arakko suddenly finding itself under attack from alien giants. While most of the Morrowlanders don’t have aggressive powers, they nevertheless refuse to back down from their attackers.

Cable bodyslides the team in and informs Brand that their enemies are the Progenitors. Those giant weirdoes have a name? Mentallo asks. What’s their deal?

Brand who has stayed behind informs them they are a Worldmind level civilization of unethical space scientists with computer brains. They build artificial solar systems in the gulfs between galaxies. They treat entire worlds like petri dishes. Last time they made an incursion into known space, it took the Guardians and the Kree/Skrull royal couple to turn them back. They have their work cut out.

He always does, Cable replies as he lands. He identifies the green giant as Harvester-Class – high level telekinetic. He takes him on. The green Harvester spits out a slimy green tentacle that grabs Cable’s T/O arm and begins to harvest it.

A shocked Vulcan shouts it just ate Cable’s arm. Cable corrects him: it ate his techno organic viral load. Without that blocking him, his telekinesis runs out of control… but that’s their problem. The Progenitors get an error in their data upload. Detecting Cable as a threat, one of them kills him with an energy blast.

A shocked Frenzy informs Brand. An Arakkii woman shouts at her people if they will let Krakoans give their lives for Arakkii land? Every drop of their blood shed is a challenge! A challenge by insult! And Orsi Lightshaper will not yield! She runs towards the Progenitors without any weapon and is also killed. A horrified Mentallo states she barely had any power. She made glowing cubes. These idiots don’t stand any chance…

Frenzy points out this is their home. You cannot expect them not to fight. Brand agrees with Mentallo. She orders Vulcan to initiate the Civilians Rescue Protocol. Round up the Arakkii and get them to a safe distance. And enforce that distance. Frenzy warns that is the wrong move. The Arakkii don’t see themselves as civilians. They need to work with them on their terms. Work with a pitiful powerless rabble? Vulcan scoffs as he flies upwards. Please.

From the air, he addresses the Arakkii as rabble and order them to run and hide. The X-Men are here to save them.

One of the crowd calls him a “soft Krakoan pup.” Who is he? The beasts threaten all they’ve built and he stands in the Arakki’s way? A few meagre shacks, Vulcan scoffs. Their homes, their work, the Arrakki protests. He sang their song at the final siege. Where was he? Who is he to look him in the eye? Their emperor! Vulcan retorts, and if he wants to lose his other eye, he can test that…

Suddenly, he is surrounded by snow. Challenge accepted, a voice says and a snowstorm is upon him.

Storm accompanied by Magneto, Sunspot and the Fisher King addresses the people of the Morrowlands and announces the Brotherhood of Arakko have heard the challenge and consider it a challenge to all. May they answer? The crowd are pleased to see her. One mutters reverently that the unnamed king is with her… who ruled at midnight. Unarmed king? Sunspot notes. Do they refer to him? he asks the Fisher King. A few old talesmiths spinning their tales, he replies smoothly. It’s nothing to do with here and now. Addressing Magneto as Max, he asks if that floating head gives him any thoughts. Magneto replies it’s a form of magnetic levitation but it’s fighting him. He knows asking for help is frowned on here, but if he could get a distraction… The Fisher King explains, help is not help when it’s all of them. Then it's tactics. He’ll pick up the nuances.

The Fisher King addresses the Morrowlanders. Their enemy comes for knowledge and it has many faces – but they have many talents. A fresh new sight for each eye. He tells them to pick an eye and tell it all they know. The artists and musicians act swamping the progenitor with information, distracting it and allowing Magneto to destroy it. The crowd cheers for Arakko and their Brotherhood.

Mentallo is satisfied. His favorite kind of mission: getting paid for doing nothing. How about him, “Emperor Snowcone?” he addresses the still-frozen Vulcan. Vulcan mumbles he never died, and his power finally melts the ice. He rages against the Arakkii. Who is any of them to challenge him? he rants. He is an emperor! An X-Man! A son of Summer! He is Vulcan, the son of Mars!

Before he can move further, Storm grabs him by the throat. And she is the mother! She warns him they are both energy manipulators and omega mutants. This is a battle of wills. Finally, her lightning fells him. As she drops him, she tells him, no thrones on Arakko. Pass it on.

Later in the medbay of the KEEP, Vulcan weakly asks if it is happening now. Misunderstanding, Brand explains he is being healed. She apologizes for what happened. She wasn’t using him to his full potential. Yes, the shell, Vulcan mutters. She only fought the shell. That’s one way to put it, Brand agrees. He only used his powers on the surface level, which is natural. Ororo was trained in the use of her power at the highest level. He was alone all those years. Stick with her and she can help with that. Besides there are other kinds of powers.

The healer leaves.

Brand explains she need someone inside the Great Ring. And if he wants the locals to speak his name like the way they do Ororo’s, there is a way to do that in one kill. By executing their bogeyman. She hands him a file of Tarn the Uncaring. No, Vulcan promises. Tarn the dead.

Characters Involved: 

Fisher King, Magneto, Storm, Sunspot (Brotherhood)

Commander Brand
Cable, Frenzy, Mentallo, Random, Vulcan (X-Men Red)


In flashback:
Cyclops, Professor X
Constructs of Petra and Sway

Story Notes: 

Text pages:

Xavier’s notes on Vulcan’s mental state explain the situation with Petra and Sway. When they were originally shown hanging around Vulcan [X-Men (5th series #8-10] that seemed odd, as they had died before forge altered Cerebro to save mutant minds. Originally, the idea was for the two of them being Vulcan’s delusions, but that didn’t work, as other characters were mistakenly written as addressing them (and Petra even showed up at a training session in New Mutants (5th series) #14)). By having them be energy constructs and everyone humoring Vulcan Ewing goes back to restoring the original idea.

Brand’s secret notes revealing that she was behind the Progenitors’ attack with the help of Orbis Stellaris.

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