|Astonishing X-Men Annual # 1|| || |
Issue Date: January 2013
Story Title: Welcome to the Family
Staff: Christos Gage (writer), David Baldeon (penciler), Jordi Tarragona (inker), Veronica Gandini (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), David Williams & Jay David Ramos (cover artists), Daniel Ketchum (editor), Nick Lowe (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Jean-Paul and his new husband, Kyle, are about to begin their honeymoon at a fancy hotel in Paris. Unfortunately, as they enter their hotel room, they find the X-Men waiting for them. Wolverine informs Jean-Paul that the Friends of Humanity (FoH) have put out assassination contracts, not on the X-Men, but on the people they love. Pixie is covering the Americas but they need him with his super speed to cover the rest of the world. Reluctantly, Jean-Paul agrees to do it, but he hates leaving Kyle alone. The X-Men assure him that they will protect him against any assailants. Northstar heads off and takes down FoH teams in Tokyo, Mumbai and Ukraine amongst others. Kyle uses the time to get to know the X-Men, each of whom has a few words to say about the upsides and downsides of relationships. By the time Northstar returns, he has ascertained that the ringleader is in Moscow. The team decides to head over, leaving Karma to protect Kyle. They mop up their enemies quickly but a team crashes into the room in Paris, takes out Karma and prepares to assassinate Kyle. Receiving a warning, Northstar flies back as quickly as possible and arrives at the hotel just as a gunshot rings out. He catches the bullet and defeats their foes. He then heads off to amend the honeymoon arrangements, leaving Kyle to realize that he has a new family now in the X-Men.
(Hotel Plaza Athanee, Paris)
Kyle tells his new husband that he loves him, but unless he wants their marriage to end before their honeymoon, he should put him down! There is no way he is carrying him across the threshold. Jean-Paul puts him down and apologizes. He just wanted everything to be perfect. Kyle replies that it is. They are together… in Paris. He should relax. Just because he has super speed doesn’t mean he has to plan every last detail. Jean-Paul replies that he has planned it and he’s going to love it. He grabs the room door handle and swipes the entry card, asking Kyle to prepare himself, for behind the door are the makings of the greatest honeymoon of all time. The door swings open and the two men are faced with Wolverine, Warbird, Karma, Iceman and Gambit. “That is not what I was expecting,” sighs Kyle.
Wolverine apologizes but says they had no choice. Jean-Paul exclaims that there was meant to be a string quartet. Karma informs him that they left. Apparently, they found the X-Men off-putting. “And a lobster dinner!” adds Jean-Paul. Gambit turns to Warbird. “What did I tell you, chere,” he says. She tells him warriors must be well fed for battle.
Jean-Paul tells them that there will be no battle. This is their time. He doesn’t care what insanity Mr. Sinister or the Marauders are up to. They will handle it without him. Wolverine replies that it’s none of those guys. He explains that the Friends of Humanity are back; the anti-mutant hate group. They have a special mad-on for ‘race traitors…’ humans who support mutants. Jean-Paul says that’s fine. He can add them to the ever-growing list of people who want them dead. Wolverine adds that there’s a difference. Cypher monitors those groups’ computer chatter and the Friends of Humanity aren’t just talking anymore. They’ve put out assassination contracts and not on them. They’re on the people they love. Jean-Paul turns to Kyle and realizes what this means.
Grimly, Jean-Paul says that they’re on their honeymoon. “Where are they?” he asks. Logan tells him that if they knew they’d be out there taking them down. They are spread out with cells all over the world. That’s why they hired him. Jean-Paul turns and informs Logan that he won’t leave Kyle…. Not when he could be attacked at any time. Iceman says he knows how he feels. The slimeballs almost killed his dad once. He’d rather be with him now. Karma adds that she would also rather be with her brother and sister, but they’re safe at the school guarded by dozens of X-Men. She tells him that even in the Blackbird they can’t reach every friend or loved one and get them to safety in time. He can.
Iceman informs him that Pixie is covering the Americas so they need him to take on the rest of the world. They’ll stay behind and protect Kyle. “C’mon,” he asks. “Who’s gonna get past them?” Jean-Paul is really uneasy about being asked, but Kyle interjects and tells him that he has to do it. The X-Men are right. Paris will be there when he gets back and so will he. He has to make sure every other X-Man has their loved ones to come home to. Jean-Paul asks if he’s sure he’ll be all right. Kyle looks at the X-Men and assures Jean-Paul that he looks forward to it. Jean-Paul got to know his family so now he will get to know his.
Northstar is in Tokyo taking out motorcycle-riding members of the Friends of Humanity who have targeted Amiko, the adopted daughter of Yukio. Back in Paris, Kyle chats with Karma. He says she must be worried about her family. Karma explains that she’s actually not. There’s no place safer for them than the Jean Grey School. What she’s really worried about it is that this is never going to end. He asks if she hasn’t dealt with the Friends of Humanity before. She says that she has… and the Sentinels and the Purifiers and on and on and on. But, she‘s afraid that Leong and Nga will be targets for the rest of their lives because of her. “How do you not end up hating someone who puts you through that?” she asks.
Kyle replies that he’s met them and they adore her. Karma replies that they’re kids. What happens when they’re older and she won’t allow them to go backpacking across Europe because it’s too dangerous? Or, they miss out on their prom because they’re on lockdown like now? Kyle asks her, rhetorically, if he likes the fact that he’s spending his honeymoon without his husband. Of course not, but sometimes they have to make sacrifices for the people they love. He reminds her that she’s made plenty of sacrifices for them. They won’t mind making a few for her.
Karma replies that he chose to be with Northstar. With Leong and Nga, they had no choice in the matter. Does he really think that he’ll be so charitable when this has been going on for ten years? She then covers her face and apologizes. She says she didn’t mean that. She’s just scared. Kyle tells her there is no need for an apology. He understands. It’s a stressful time for all of them. She can consider it forgotten. Karma’s phone rings and he tells her that she should answer that. While she does so, he slopes off to the lounge. Karma finishes her call and heads to the kitchen where Wolverine is scouring the contents of the fridge. She informs him that Northstar just called and says Amiko is safe. He’s heading to India next. Amiko took prisoners and is interrogating them now. Logan replies that he’s itching to start playing offense.
In the lounge, Gambit asks Kyle if Karma’s okay. He replies that she’s just worried about the kids. Remy can’t say that he blames her. He’s lucky. Everyone he’s close to can take care of themselves so he’s free to focus on the important things, like a friendly game of cards… with a little wager to make things interesting of course. He doesn’t supposed Kyle’s ever played Bourré? Kyle takes a seat and says that it so happens that he has. Remy is surprised. He’s rich and cultured? If things don’t work out with Northstar he might marry Kyle himself!
Northstar locates the family of X-Men student Indra and defeats the Friends of Humanity goons that are there for them.
(Hotel Plaza Athanee, Paris)
Kyle asks Remy if he’s been married. Remy puts his feet up and informs him that he was. It was to his childhood sweetheart. It didn’t end well. Where he comes from, divorce involves sharp objects and explosions. The sad thing is, he admits, things might have worked out. This should be a lesson to him. When you marry someone you get their family too and nothing can poison love like family drama. Kyle replies that his parents have been wonderful and he’s known Jean-Paul’s sister even longer than him. Remy looks through his cards and tells him that family goes beyond blood. In his case they have the entire Thieves’ Guild and Assassins’ Guild mixed up in it, and he’s got the X-Men. He adds that he might want to fold.
Kyle gets the wrong end of the stick. He stands up and replies by asking if he doesn’t think he can handle this! He did not get married lightly. “The cards, homme,” replies Remy. “Might wanna fold the cards. I got an unbeatable hand here.” Kyle calls himself an idiot but Gambit tells him an idiot wouldn’t worry about it at all. He reckons he’s right to have his guard up. A relationship’s got to be about the people in it. Make it about something else… family, career, kids, whatever and it’s going to wither and die. Kyle says that there is nothing more important to him and Jean-Paul than them. Remy replies that they’re both good people. Crises come and go and lives are on the line. What’s he going to do? Look the other way? They have newly-manifested mutants showing up and X-Men working with Avengers. They’re not endangered anymore.
He tells Kyle that he didn’t hear this from him, but he should try and talk Northstar into quitting. He isn’t sure the X-Men is something a marriage can survive. Wolverine then appears at the door and informs Remy that Yukio called. Her guy puts the Friends of Humanity’s backers in Moscow. It’s just a matter of finding out where. They will take them down. They’re toothless - no guns, no money and no contracts. They’re just a bunch of racists drinking cheap beer in basements again. Remy reckons they can then go back to their normal level of people wanting to kill them. “Comes with the territory,” replies Wolverine. “I suppose it does,” says Remy, nonchalantly.
Northstar rockets away from the scene of an explosion carrying the parents of X-Man-in-training, Primal.
Back in Paris, Kyle finds Iceman and has a cosy chat with him. Bobby explains that he tried to be an accountant and joined other teams like the Champions and the Defenders but it never took. The X-Men are like the Mafia. You never really leave. Kyle asks if it’s really that all-consuming. Bobby asks him not to misunderstand him. He’s not saying you can’t have a life outside it. He’s just saying you’re in it, no matter where you are. But, he knows that. Kyle’s run Northstar’s company a while now.
Kyle replies that it’s true, but he’s starting to wonder if there’s room for both the X-Men and a relationship in anyone’s life. The track record… hasn’t been good. He mentions Storm & the Black Panther, Colossus & Kitty and Remy & Rogue. Bobby replies that Scott and Jean only split up because she died. He then realizes he’s probably not very good at this. He tells Kyle that he can’t promise him that it’ll work out. He couldn’t promise that if he were a doctor or a lawyer, though. Kyle replies that he’s starting to understand that now. Whether Jean-Paul is an active X-Man or not, he’ll never be able to fully understand a crucial part of his life. If he did understand, he might start running… and never stop.
Northstar has one of the members of the Friends of Humanity by the collar and he takes him to somewhere really cold and high up. The guy knows he’s in real trouble so he offers to spill the beans on where their backers are.
(Hotel Plaza Athanee, Paris)
Warbird is playing Five Finger Fillet, or a variation on the game. She stabs her dagger down between her fingers rapidly, managing to avoid them each time. Kyle asks if she can ask her a question about her homeworld. Warbird says fine. It’s not as if she’s doing anything useful like hacking their enemies to pieces. Kyle mentions that everyone in her culture is a soldier, right? Warbird replies that all Shi’ar are warriors, former warriors or warriors in training. Kyle nervously asks if that strengthens their marriages. Warbird informs him that it’s the foundation of their marriages, and marriage, a union meant to strengthen those within and without it and produce the warriors of tomorrow, is the foundation of their culture. She stands and slams the knife down on the table, point first with a thnk.
Warbird believes that to battle for one’s life or the lives of others cannot be understood by one who has not experienced it. Even on this world she has seen this. Combat veterans have their own gathering places. She asks how two people who are meant to be closer to each other than anyone else have such a gulf between them. Northstar is her comrade in arms, regardless of her feelings. It is her duty to ensure he goes into combat from as much a position of strength as possible. Frankly, she adds, Kyle’s interest in the way of the warrior does him credit. She can never make him fully understand but she will impart certain basic tenets to him.
“Come at me,” she says after tossing him a sword to fight with. Nervously, Kyle drops the sword and replies that he doesn’t want to learn how to fight or to kill. It’s just not him. Warbird sheathes her own sword and tells him in that case, she wishes him well. He will need it. Both of them will need it.
As soon as Warbird has left the room, Northstar returns and informs everyone that he has them. They’re in a warehouse in Moscow and being bankrolled by a Russian Mafia boss with a racist streak. Kyle turns and sees a slash across his chest. “Jean-Paul. You’re bleeding!” Northstar assures him that he fine. Better than ever as this is almost over. Wolverine tells everyone to gear up. They’ll all go on this one except for Karma. She asks why not her. Logan replies that if anyone comes after Kyle in numbers, she can mind-control them all. Bobby informs him that the Blackbird will be overhead in thirty seconds.
Northstar asks Kyle to be careful and not to leave the room. Kyle tells him that he’ll be fine and that he should be careful. He can’t stand sitting there not knowing what’s going on. Jean-Paul asks him to hush and brushes his cheek. He tells Kyle that he runs their company, deals with the daily press, fought off the influence of the Marauders and married him despite the insane life he leads. He is never helpless. He is the bravest man he knows. He says he’ll call him when it’s over. Once they’re gone, Karma tells Kyle that he’s right. Kyle wonders if he is. He’s right in that he is a strong person, but is he strong enough? Is anyone strong enough for this?
The X-Men tear into the Friends of Humanity with ferocity and don’t hold back.
(Hotel Plaza Athanee, Paris)
Outside the room, a group of FoH soldiers prepare to enter using a battering ram. Karma senses them just before they smash the door open and orders Kyle to get down. The door then shatters and a sonic grenade is tossed in which emits a high-pitched noise which throws Karma off balance. One of them then knocks her out with the butt of his rifle and the leader stands over Kyle. “The man we all came to see,” he says with a nefarious grin.
Whilst the X-Men mop up the soldiers, Wolverine goes after the mobster in charge. He tells him it’s a little different when he’s not going after helpless civilians, isn’t it? The guy replies that he takes no pleasure in killing humans. He’d much rather kill all of them. And, Wolverine will stand there and let his men do it. He shows Wolverine live footage of Kyle with a gun pointed at his head. “Or you’ll watch this man die,” he adds. Northstar sees the picture and his face drops. Without a thought, he smashes through the window and heads towards Paris at super speed. As Wolverine rushes the guy, he calls his agent in Paris and orders him to kill Kyle. If they die today, then they will take the race-traitor with them.
(Hotel Plaza Athanee, Paris)
The leader of the FoH squad tells Kyle that it seems his husband chose his own life over his. Loving a mutant is always a fatal mistake. Kyle replies that he’s the one making the mistake. He does branding for a living and the way he’s going about this sucks. All they will accomplish with his murder is to define themselves as terrorists and make their cause radioactive. They need to mainstream themselves and establish the Friends of Humanity as a legitimate advocacy group. “Get laws passed.” His assailant replies that, honestly, he agrees with him, but unfortunately his employer prefers methods with more immediate rewards. Kyle replies that his employer is an idiot. He should take the money he spends on sonic grenades and body armor and spread it around political campaigns. He will see how fast things get done. If his boss can’t see that then someone else should be running things. Someone with a vision. Someone like him! The man replies by laughing. He tells Kyle that he’s a smart fellow. He likes him and will genuinely regret this. With that he pulls the trigger.
In a blur, Northstar arrives and catches the bullet inches from Kyle’s face and punches the assassin in the face several times before mopping up the rest of his team in an instant. “Yes,” he replies, “Every time you see your ruined face in the mirror.” He then hugs Kyle and says he is sorry. Kyle replies that it’s okay. He got there in time. Everything’s going to be okay.
The rest of the X-Men arrive back in Paris via the Blackbird and go to the hotel. Northstar tells Kyle that the way he stalled for time was brilliant. Kyle replies that Jean-Paul was amazing. He was the hostage… again. Northstar says he was the best husband ever and they will resume the best honeymoon ever. He just needs to handle a few things and he’ll be right back. Wolverine approaches Kyle and tells him he did great. Kyle, sitting on the bed, replies that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life being a liability to him… his vulnerable spot. Logan says he can’t help that. Jean-Paul loves him and it comes with the territory.
He sits on the bed beside Kyle and informs him that he’s lost more than a few people. Some could protect themselves and some couldn’t. It didn’t make much of a difference in the end or hurt any less. It didn’t stop him wishing it had been him or feeling like he shouldn’t get close to anyone ever again. Life makes its own plans. He ain’t Dear Abby, but two things can make him think that they can work. One, he’s going in eyes open and two, being together makes them both stronger. “So be strong and have fun. It’s your damn honeymoon.”
Northstar returns and informs his husband that all last night’s arrangements have been rescheduled for tonight and ‘they’ will be leaving. Kyle asks him to hold on. The X-Men are family. They’re going to the Louvre tonight, right? The X-Men should go with them. Northstar guesses if it’s all right with him, then fine. Wolverine tells him it’s mighty nice of him. They don’t mind if they do. Gambit says he knows a tailor who can find appropriate clothes. He thinks there’ll be something for him in children’s sizes.
“And then they have to leave, right?” says Northstar, smiling. Kyle says definitely. This way they’ll be out of their way when the lobster arrives. “As I said, my love,” replies Jean-Paul. “Brilliant.”
Gambit, Iceman, Karma, Northstar, Warbird, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Amiko and her enemies
Primal and Indra’s family members
Friends of Humanity
This issue features a reprint of Alpha Flight (1st series) #106. It comes between Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #56 and #57.
The Hotel Plaza Athanee at 25 Avenue Montaigne, Paris is a five star hotel. Opened in 1913, famous guests include Maurice Chevalier, Grace Kelly, movie star Gary Cooper and Rudolph Valentino.
The Champions were a short-lived team consisting of Iceman, Angel, Darkstar, Hercules, Black Widow and Ghost Rider. They had a seventeen-issue series which began in 1975. The Defenders lasted a little longer, beginning their career in Marvel Feature #1 in 1971. Iceman joined the team in Defenders (1st series) #125.
Dear Abby is an advice column or agony aunt column, founded in 1956 by Pauline Phillips under her pseudonym, Abigail Van Buren. Her daughter Jeanne now runs the column.
The Louvre is a museum in Paris, most famous for hosting Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting, The Mona Lisa.
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex