In ‘Amazing X-Men #15’, fans were shocked to see the anger with which Storm treated a fellow X-Man – namely, Colossus. Sure, Storm’s grieving and lashing out, but some fans remembered the closeness between the two and felt something was wrong. Ironically, I think something was very right. Because I don’t think that fans have quite connected with Colossus’ story…
I’d argue that Colossus was redefined in the late 1980s. The X-Men went through a dark time; they were believed dead by the world, but things just kept going wrong. Rogue was lost in the mystic Siege Perilous; Storm was believed dead, apparently killed by Havok. Psylocke, sensing that the X-Men were soon to be attacked and slaughtered by the Reavers, cheated death by persuading the last few members into entering the Siege Perilous, where they would be transformed.
For Colossus, his mind was erased and he lived a new, satisfying and fulfilling life – that of the artist Peter Nicholas. Unfortunately, as we learned in ‘Uncanny X-Men #279’, Peter Nicholas was found by none other than the Shadow King, and was turned into a puppet, to be used against Professor Xavier.
Xavier’s only defence was to penetrate the mind of Peter Nicholas, and use his formidable psychic powers to unlock Colossus within him. And this is the key moment, the one that we should never forget; because, for all Xavier was successful, we are explicitly told that Colossus resisted him. Colossus loved the simple life of Peter Nicholas, and had found peace in it; reborn as an X-Man once again, from this moment on he would know no peace, only loss.
As a member of the Gold Team, Colossus was shocked when his brother – who he had long believed dead – returned. Unfortunately, Mikhail was skirting the edges of insanity, and ultimately committed suicide. Given how Colossus had hero-worshipped his brother, this was a terrible shock. Colossus travelled out to Russia with the Blue Team in order to tell them the sad news.
That was when things twisted even more for Colossus, as, in ‘X-Men #18‘, his parents were cut down in a hail of blaster-fire. Even worse, his little sister – his ‘Little Snowflake’ Illyana, otherwise known as Magik – contracted the Legacy Virus. Hers was a long and protracted death, and when she finally passed away in ‘Uncanny X-Men #303‘, Colossus had lost all the things he most loved in the world.
Magneto intruded in Illyana’s funeral in ‘Uncanny X-Men #304‘, and – abandoning hope and, I suspect, on some level holding Xavier responsible for his ‘rebirth’ to this pain – Colossus betrayed the X-Men, siding with Magneto.
Now, you have to understand that Colossus was no villain, even when he joined the Acolytes. Instead, he provided a moral conscience to the team. He was also the one who disabled the security of the space-station Avalon in ‘X-Men #25‘, allowing the X-Men to enter; when Magneto was left mindless, Colossus accepted the responsibility of looking after him. It’s telling that Colossus chose to remain on an orbital space-station, separated from the rest of the world, shielded from the hurt that caring could bring by sheer distance.
It didn’t last, of course. Avalon was ultimately destroyed in battle between Holocaust and Exodus (‘X-Men #42-44‘) and Colossus – struggling to deal with being back on Earth, and with having lost once again – found his way to Muir Isle in ‘Excalibur #92‘, looking for his old flame Kitty Pryde. When he found her with current boyfriend Pete Wisdom, he almost killed him!
Ultimately, Colossus returned to the X-Men, and it was then that Beast found a cure for the Legacy Virus in ‘Uncanny X-Men #390‘. But there would be a cost to this cure; a single mutant had to die. Colossus chose to embrace death, taking the cure and sacrificing himself in order to ensure nobody else lost what he had lost to the Legacy Virus. He no doubt looked forward to seeing those he loved once again.
There’s a tendency to remember this as an act of heroism, but it was as much an expression of loss as anything else. Colossus had lost everything, and – while he would never have chosen a meaningless death – the reality is that he chose death as much out of loss as anything else.
Of course, the death didn’t stick. Colossus was resurrected by the science of Breakworld, and was held captive – experimented upon, in experiences that seem analogous to torture – for months. Freed by the X-Men in the first arc of ‘Astonishing X-Men‘, he found real joy once again, not least in the relationship with Kitty Pryde. That was tragically cut short when Kitty sacrificed herself to save the world in ‘Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1‘.
When Colossus learned that fragments of Magik’s soul had been gathered by the demonic Belasco, coalescing into the Darkchylde, he devoted himself to saving her. Magik ultimately joined the X-Men, but was to prove an untrustworthy ally; her quest to recover her soul literally led to her risking all of reality in a war with the Elder Gods, and she was held prisoner in Utpia’s brig. Meanwhile, Kitty’s return meant that Colossus at last had something more to life once again, and the two resumed their relationship.
Then came the events of ‘Fear Itself’. With an enhanced Juggernaut storming towards San Francisco, Colossus and Magik travelled to the Crimson Cosmos in an attempt to draw away some of the Juggernaut’s power. In ‘Uncanny X-Men #543‘, Cyttorak offered the power of becoming his avatar, and – while Magik was minded to accept it – Colossus chose to take it on, sparing her further evil.
The power of the Juggernaut tainted Colossus, introducing a darkness that sought destruction. Walls were raised between Colossus and Storm in particular, as he betrayed her in favour of Cyclops; Colossus’ relationship with Kitty fragmented under the strain. He had himself incarcerated in the brig with Magik, and struggled to keep control, never more so than when he became host to a fifth of the Phoenix Force. Ultimately, he and Magik began to fall, and – in ‘AvX #8‘ – turned against one another, literally knocking the Phoenix out of one another.
Emotionally scarred by what had happened, Colossus and Magik had a ‘heart-to-heart’ – in which she revealed she could have removed the taint of Cyttorak all along, and finally did so. She had wanted to teach him an insane lesson about her own character, and her betrayal shook Colossus to the core. Again, he tried to retreat from humanity.
Instead, Colossus was approached by Cable, and in ‘Cable and X-Force’ wound up a key part of X-Force. It’s worth remembering that the team’s first mission ended in tragedy, and Colossus saw men he had aimed to protect die around him. Worse still, the Avengers thought that X-Force were responsible! Colossus chose to turn himself in, but left the cell to help X-Force. He then headed his own way, but ultimately rejoined the X-Men. And here is Storm’s attitude to it:
You can see why Storm doesn’t trust Colossus. Since his rebirth from the Siege Perilous, he’s constantly warred with his own sense of loss, and his decisions have been tainted by grief and pain. Whether it be Magneto, Cyclops, or Cable, he’s continually been drawn into places of darkness and loss. Emotionally, he’s been a mess pretty much since Xavier restored his psyche, and I actually feel sorry for him. But were I Storm, I really don’t think I’d trust him.