RUSTY COLLINS: Page 2 of 3

Publication Date: 20th Dec 2023
Written By: Monolith.
Image Work: Blanchett and sixhoursoflucy.


As time passed, X-Factor finally came to blows with the shadowy anti-mutant organization known as the Right, which had been secretly organized by their own PR director, Cameron Hodge. The Right lay siege to the X-Factor complex, kidnapping Rusty and the other children to be used as experimental subjects. The kids were tortured for hours by Commander Hodge and his scientists at their hidden base in the Arlington Interactive Museum of Science. They eventually escaped after X-Factor tracked them down, but were left stranded in Virginia after the fight with the Right when Apocalypse teleported X-Factor back to Manhattan for a test of worthiness in battle with his Four Horsemen. [X-Factor (1st series) #21-23]

By the time Rusty and the kids returned to New York, many things had changed. X-Factor had driven off Apocalypse, but much of Manhattan had been destroyed in the conflict, including their headquarters. They had also shed their mutant hunters’ identities before the media, and had instead become publicly welcomed mutant heroes. The kids were openly identified as mutants and as X-Factor's wards, although Rusty was forced to wear a mask and hide his identity in public since he was still wanted by the authorities. They made their public debut right around Christmas time, as Iceman created a giant Christmas tree made of ice atop the Empire State Building to replace the antenna destroyed in the fight with the Horsemen. As the kids joined X-Factor in making their new home inside the enormous ship that Apocalypse had abandoned, they were surprised and delighted to find an enormous number of presents donated to them from the grateful city. At Leech's suggestion, however, the kids decided to donate their gifts to the children's ward at Roosevelt Hospital, so that the sick and injured kids could have as merry a Christmas as they were. [X-Factor (1st series) #27]

Apocalypse's ship was not as lifeless as it seemed, though. After its self-repair sequences were complete, the ship imprisoned Rusty and the others while attacking X-Factor. Artie managed to get free, and helped lead the other children to the ship's brain. With Artie guiding him, Rusty fire-blasted the conduit restraining the ship's independent thought processes, freeing it from Apocalypse's lingering control. "Ship's" artificial intelligence then agreed to voluntarily serve as X-Factor's base of operations. [X-Factor (1st series) #28]

One day, while walking through Central Park, Rusty saw Johnny Storm and rushed over to tell the super-hero what an inspiration he was to him as the Human Torch. The Torch was in no mood for hero worship, though, as at that time he was dealing with the death of Teddy Bannion, a teenager who committed suicide by setting himself on fire in emulation of the Torch. In fact, Johnny had just vowed to never use his flames again. While Rusty tried to convince Johnny he was wrong, the two were attacked by a trio of armored mercenaries known as the Seekers, the father and uncles of the boy who had died, who were seeking an ill-conceived revenge on the Torch. Even while being choked to death, Storm refused to flame on, and Rusty had to use his pyrokinesis to save the distraught hero. The two of them fled the park by cab and were hunted down into a department store. Working together, Rusty and the Human Torch ultimately managed to drive off their attackers and, more importantly, Rusty convinced Johnny that he shouldn't give up being the Torch, as he was a true inspiration to so many people out there. [Fantastic Four (1st series) #342]

Meanwhile, X-Factor began thinking about the futures of their trainees. The Mutant Registration Act was passing through Congress, mandating that all mutants over the age of 18 must register with the government, and then keep the government informed of their location on an annual basis. Also, with X-Factor openly accepted by the public, their trainees no longer needed to hide in their headquarters all the time, so the elder mutants decided to send the kids to boarding school so that they could have genuine classes and friends outside of Ship. Rusty would've had to use a fake I.D. and credentials to get into the school since he was still technically on the lam, but it became a moot point once X-Factor and their trainees got into a public brawl with the Alliance of Evil. Freedom Force arrived to take the Alliance into custody, and identified Rusty by his powers despite the mask he was wearing. Faced with the authorities, Rusty agreed to voluntarily surrender himself to the Navy for his crimes, but openly refused to sign up under the Mutant Registration Act, as an act of civil disobedience to call attention to the unjust law. [X-Factor (1st series) #33] Unfortunately, Rusty had to leave Skids behind in order to make his stand, as the others went off to boarding school and Rusty went into Portsmouth Naval Prison. [X-Terminators (1st series) #1]

Rusty's stay in prison was a short one, though, as a few days later Artie and Leech were kidnapped by Inferno demons and the rest of the trainees busted Rusty out of prison to help rescue the kids. Initially, Rusty recommended going to X-Factor to help, but the demon manifestations in and around Manhattan made it impossible to locate Ship physically or contact the team by phone. Taking the initiative, Rusty and the trainees adopted new costumes for themselves and X-Factor's old team name, the X-Terminators. [X-Terminators (1st series) #1-2]

Artie had managed to send out a brief telepathic image of the mausoleum where they were being held before the demons canceled his powers, and so the X-Terminators used the aerial maps on file at the New York public library to locate the cemetery in Queens. Once there, they became embroiled in N'astirh's plot with S'ym to bring a demon rain down upon Manhattan.  The X-Terminators joined forces with the New Mutants in order to disrupt the mutant energy pentagram and spell-casting computer that were the key elements of the demon invasion, but Rusty suffered a head injury in the battle. As a result, he remained relatively inactive for the rest of the "Goblin Night," holed up in an abandoned church with Skids and Mirage, defending the mutant babies the two teams had rescued from the conflict. [X-Terminators(1st series)  #3-4, New Mutants (1st series) #73]

After Manhattan settled down again to relatively normal, Rusty and the X-Terminators returned to Ship for rest and recuperation. Fortunately for Rusty, his and X-Factor's high profile involvement in the "Goblin Night" events put political pressure on Washington, and he was officially granted furlough to remain free and out of prison until his trial date came due. [X-Factor (1st series) #40] His freedom was short-lived, however, once he and the other X-Terminators joined the New Mutants. Xavier's students were boarding with X-Factor after their school was destroyed following the goblin incident, but the team's co-leader Mirage had been experiencing severe headaches ever since Inferno. Eventually, she burst into flame, corrupted by Hela's dark magic due to her Valkyrie powers. Driven to madness, she rampaged through Greenwich Village before being subdued. Her antics were enough to draw Freedom Force's attention, and they were quick to lay blame for the fire damage on Rusty Collins and his pyrokinetic powers. The Mutants were desperate to get Dani back to Ship for treatment, making a fight with Freedom Force the last thing they needed. During the scuffle, Rusty and Skids were separated from the others, and therefore were outside the range of a transportation spell cast by Doctor Strange, sending the rest of the New Mutants to Asgard to deal with Mirage's illness. [New Mutants (1st series) #76-78]

Rusty and Skids were left behind on Liberty Island, hiding behind Skids' deflection field as Freedom Force surrounded them. Rusty was about to surrender just for expediency's sake, but then Blob dim-wittedly blabbed about the government's "special plans" for Rusty and the mutant babies recovered from Inferno. It became clear to the teenage couple that Rusty would never get a fair trial, and that the babies X-Factor surrendered to Freedom Force for home placement were in fact being used for some other sinister purpose. This potential scandal made it even more imperative to Freedom Force that Rusty and Skids be taken into custody and out of the public eye. To accomplish this, they simply blasted the ground out from under Skids' deflector field, and carted the two young mutants off to prison atop the slab of concrete on which they were standing. Skids eventually collapsed from lack of food and sleep, dropping her deflector field, and she and Rusty were properly imprisoned. [New Mutants (1st series) #80, 82]


While in federal lock-up, Rusty was housed across from Adrian Toomes, the Vulture. As part of Loki's Acts of Vengeance, Vulture received a care-package containing his electromagnetic wings harness, and prepared an escape. In order to stop him, Rusty burned through both their cells and tried to tackle the villain as he leapt out of a hole he'd blown in the outer wall, but only ended up dragged out with Vulture and dumped in the prison yard. Having overheard Vulture's plan to free Nitro the Human Bomb at his trial, Rusty fire-blasted Skids free from her cell, and the two of them escaped from custody together in order to stop Vulture's schemes. [New Mutants (1st series) #83-85]

Not only concerned about the super-villains, Rusty also saw the danger as a chance to be heard. With Freedom Force holding them without trial or hearing, publicly capturing some dangerous criminals and saving innocent lives would attract a lot of media attention, giving Skids and Rusty an opportunity to tell their side and inform the public about the mutant babies the government was holding. Confronting Vulture and Nitro at a courthouse in Albany, Rusty began grappling with Toomes in midair over the building. He set Vulture's wings on fire, forcing them to crash, but ended up on the bottom when they landed and was knocked for a loop. With Skids injured as well from containing Nitro's detonation, the pair were in bad shape to challenge Freedom Force for the media's attention when the government-sponsored task force arrived on the scene. Before he had a chance to speak, the already concussed Rusty was beaten senseless by the Blob and taken back into custody, while Crimson Commando painted them as criminals for escaping custody and helping in the super-villains' plot. [New Mutants (1st series) #86]