WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Astonishing X-Men #6 by Charles Soule and Mike Del Mundo, in stores now.
Ever since that last page reveal of Astonishing X-Men #1, we’ve known that Charles Xavier has returned from the dead — more or less. The Professor died at the hands of a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops back in the the 2012 event series Avengers vs X-Men, and this was the first sign that the Professor hadn’t truly perished. As the series has unfolded, we’ve learned that while his physical body had been destroyed, his soul was trapped inside the Astral Plane by the Shadow King, the only other telepath on Earth whose power can match the Professor’s.
Xavier has been held prisoner, stuck waging a potentially never-ending battle with his nemesis for what felt to him like centuries. In Astonishing X-Men #6, we learn that it was only when he was able to reach out and involve his X-Men that the Professor was finally able to turn the tide of his horrific battle. Thanks to the involvement of Fantomex, Rogue and Mystique, Xavier is finally able to break free from his restraints, and defeat the Shadow King. But that’s not all. Then, in a shocking twist, we see that the Professor is also able to escape the Astral Plane and return to the land of the living. Everything has a price, however, and it just so happens this turn of events comes at the expense of Fantomex.
Near the end of the book, we pick up on a conversation between the Professor and Fantomex that was started back in issue #5. The typically arrogant mutant is surprisingly introspective, not speaking with his trademark wit. He says that this is what he wants, and that they have talked about this previously, indicating that the Professor has been in communication with Fantomex for a while in the time-warping Astral Plane. Before long, we see what the mutant assassin and thief meant: Following the Shadow King’s defeat and now back in the real world, Fantomex wakes up and removes his mask to reveal that the man underneath it is now Charles Xavier.
The Professor and Fantomex agreed to let the elder X-Man to take over the younger one’s body. As a former assassin created by the Weapon Plus program, Fantomex recognizes what he was created to be, that he has always been, at his core, a loathsome character. He sees this as an opportunity for redemption, an act beyond reproach that every member of the X-Men will see as a wondrous act on his part, something to wash away all the bad that he has ever done. It’s a noble gesture, and one that speaks volumes about the character. His willingness to sacrifice himself so that the X-Men can have their precious Professor back is just the newest reason to add to the list of what makes him a fascinating and compelling fan-favorite.
This new, Professor X-possessed Fantomex ends the issue by stating that he would now like to be called “X.” His face appears to be the Professor’s, albeit younger, and with hair. That said, it’s only a single panel, and while Mike Del Mundo’s art is beautiful, we’ll need a little more to go on to know for certain if the Professor has somehow shifted perception, or Fantomex’s actual features, to look like himself. It’s very possible, after all; in issue #5, we were subtly reminded that the power to create illusions is part of Fantomex’s arsenal. It’s therefore possible that the Professor has used this ability to essentially mold himself a new body for others to see.
As fascinating as that is, of course, the most important question is whether this shocking turn is only temporary, or if we’ve witnessed the true end of Fantomex.