The X-Men are no stranger to deaths and returns for even the team’s most core members – but one big resurrection has largely flown under the radar. Though the return of the adult Jean Grey took the spotlight earlier this year, Jean’s return coincided with the resurrection of her mentor, Professor Charles Xavier.
But how did it happen? Where has he been? And, most importantly, what’s next?
Following Professor X’s death at the hands of Cyclops during 2012's Avengers vs. X-Men, Xavier’s brain was stolen by the Red Skull, who used super science to implant it in his own skull and gain Xavier’s incredible psychic power. For years, the Red Skull attempted to conquer the United States, using his new telepathy for increasingly horrific attacks. Eventually, Rogue and Beast, as part of the Avengers Unity Squad, captured him and removed Xavier’s brain with Rogue using Human Torch’s fire powers to incinerate it, effectively destroying the last remaining vestige of Xavier.
Or so it seemed.
In 2017, a new volume of Astonishing X-Men launched, bringing together a seemingly disparate collection of X-Men (including Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke, Bishop, Old Man Logan, Fantomex, Beast, Mystique, and Angel) to venture into the Astral Plane and fight Xavier’s longtime foe, the Shadow King.
While in the Astral Plane, the team discovered that Xavier’s psychic essence remained alive there, imprisoned by the Shadow King with Xavier and the villain having pulled the X-Men into their deadly game of psychic supremacy. As the pair pitted the X-Men against astral horrors and telepathic torments, Xavier secretly contacted his team, putting them in place to allow his escape. As Xavier sprung his trap, the X-Men seemingly killed Farouk – and Xavier played his final trick.
Calling on the X-Men’s sometimes-associate Fantomex, Xavier offered the genetically-engineered thief a bargain – Fantomex would give Xavier his body, and in return Xavier would leave Fantomex a psychic paradise on the Astral Plane. Taking the opportunity to be a hero, Fantomex allowed Xavier to take over his body, leaving Fantomex trapped on the Astral Plane and Xavier back on Earth in a new body.
Taking the name “X,” Xavier and his assembled team fought the returned Proteus, who had escaped from the Astral Plane along with Xavier. However, with Prometheus’ defeat, Shadow King abruptly reappeared, bursting out of X’s skull, apparently killing him, and taking physical form.
As the X-Men struggled to defeat Shadow King, X somehow (in a method that still hasn’t been explained) psychically reassembled his exploded skull and, with Psylocke’s help, defeated the monstrous psychic mutant by connecting the psychic potential of every mutant telepath on Earth – with the added result of the pair discovering dozens of latent telepaths all over the world.
Now fully returned in a brand new body (and with Shadow King now finally defeated), X granted each of his allies a psychic boon – and wiped their memory of his resurrection. X leaves only Psylocke with the knowledge of his return, telling her she must “keep him honest,” and that he’s embarking on “a new mission.”
And… That’s where the story ends as of June 6’s Astonishing X-Men #12. The next issue begins a new run by writer Matthew Rosenberg and Greg Land, seemingly unconnected to the previous issues or Xavier's return.
X’s next whereabouts - and that “new mission” he mentioned – are still complete mysteries. Two X-Men titles, Blue and Gold are ending in September, leaving potential room for Xavier to lead a very different team of X-Men – perhaps on a mission related to all those untapped psychics.