Marvel's Uncanny X-Men _ long one of comics' most tight-knit teams _ is being torn apart by a schism between Cyclops and Wolverine to such a degree that something's got to give.
And it's the Uncanny X-Men who will do just that.
Marvel Comics is putting an end to the flagship title with issue No. 544 in October as the brutal effects of the upcoming "X-Men: Schism" mini-series rends the team apart.
"Well, as anyone who's watched the movies will know, the traditional axis of the X-Men has been the polarity of Magneto and Xavier. Xavier basically believes in peaceful integration. Magneto doesn't," said Kieron Gillen, who has been writing "Uncanny X-Men" since 2010.
"In the last five years or so, the X-Men have been exploring a different angle. A catastrophe reduced the population to a couple of hundred mutants, and no new ones are being born," he said. "This fledgling species was looking at extinction _ and the militarized forces of prejudice moved in for the kill."
Cyclops united the remaining Mutants, doing what neither Magneto nor Xavier, aka Professor X, was able to do.
"Everyone has basically gone along with Cyclops, no matter what reservations they had," he added, but now, those reservations are reaching the breaking point, which is the focus of "Schism" and sounding the death knell of the Uncanny X-Men.
Marvel has likened the fracture, and its fallout, as world-changing as its "Civil War," a 2006-2007 crossover that divided Marvel heroes in ways still being felt.
"The X-Men are getting torn apart from within. The events of `Schism' do more damage to the X-Men than any villain has ever done," said Nick Lowe, who has been editing X-Men books for Marvel for six years and "Uncanny X-Men" since 2006.
Lowe said the story shows Cyclops _ a founding X-Man and part of the series since its debut in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby _ and Wolverine, the ferocious fighter, seeing their relationship frayed beyond repair.
Jason Aaron, who is writing the five-issue mini-series, said the foundations for the X-Men's end is the heart of "Schism," but it's something that has been developing over the course of years.
"It's obvious that things are coming to a head between" them, Aaron said of the mini-series that will have issues 1 and 2 shipped to comic shops next month. The first issue is illustrated by Carlos Pacheco while the second issue will be drawn by Frank Cho. Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis and Adam Kubert provide the art for issues 3, 4 and 5.
"Whether you're a long time X-Men fan or a new X-Men fan, you can pick out and understand the nature of this conflict and how it breaks apart the two lynchpin guys of the X-Men."
The duo has a complex history and relationship with each other rooted far back in the simmering romantic tension between them and Jean Grey, Cyclops' girlfriend who went from Marvel Girl to Phoenix to Dark Phoenix before sacrificing herself.
"That very personal conflict is going to ripple off and break apart the X-Men in a huge way," Aaron said of the characters, whose names are Scott Summers and Logan. But as to how it happens, he's not saying.
"As far as the nature of that conflict and what sparks it and how it happens, that's still under wraps. That's the whole crux of `Schism,'" Aaron said.
Gillen said the events of "Schism" makes ending the series a necessity.
"The X-Men has always been a book with ideology and ideas at its heart, and to be fair to them _ to best present them _ you have to be entirely true," Gillen said. "And if the story we're telling demands that you end the `Uncanny X-Men,' you end the `Uncanny X-Men.' No, it's not taken lightly _ but it's taken if it's necessary to do it."