Exiles (1st series) #25

Issue Date: 
June 2003
Story Title: 
With an Iron Fist – conclusion

Judd Winick (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Simon Coleby(inker), Transparency Digital (colors), Paul Tutrone (letters), Nova Ren Suma (assistant editor), Mike Raicht and Mike Marts (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Dr. Strange and the Scarlet Witch alert the Inhumans that the disruptor is now in the hands of President Stark. The Inhumans wonder what to do. Black Bolt studies several books on races that have been hunted down and, after reading a tale entitled “Masada,” he formulates a plan. Sue Richards, his wife, doesn’t agree with it, but it’s now use, his decision is made. The strongest warriors of the Inhumans await the attacking forces outside the barrier, while inside Black Bolt carries out his plan. Led by Weapon X, Stark’s troops attack Attilan. Vision is maimed by Karnak, but Colossus and Gambit manage to get the disruptor to the G-Barrier. The device works and the force field fades. Weapon X and Stark’s army storm inside, but they find only dead bodies. The Inhumans have robbed Stark of a true victory, as he needed the Inhumans as slaves. With their mission at an end, Weapon X is teleported to the next reality, although they are not aware of the events they really set in motion. Black Bolt, hovering above Attilan, shouts a single word a full force “Masada,” killing himself and vaporizing everything in a certain range, so that Stark can’t even use the bodies’ genetic material. Later, President Stark ponders the situation, when he is suddenly sought out by Sue Richards, who kills him with an invisible force dagger right before being shot by his security. During the battle, Black Bolt made Sue cloak 300 Inhumans, who will secretly rebuild their society in hiding, while, in the following years, all of Stark’s machinations will be uncovered. Thus, the timeline restores itself to what it should be.

Full Summary: 

Black, the king of the Inhumans, soars above the ruined Attilan, carrying a book. He never speaks, not because he lacks the ability to, but because his voice produces the most powerful sound ever heard. It is not only his greatest power, but also his greatest curse, for his voice is deadly. A single word can topple buildings and explode through the Earth’s crust, which is why Black Bolt remains silent. However, he can speaks volumes with his body language, a skill he spent his entire life cultivating.

Black Bolt lands at his palace, welcomed by his wife Susan Richards. She takes great pains to understand her husband, as she must interpret, search and fight to comprehend his every gesture. Especially as of late, it is hard to understand Black Bolt, as he has kept completely to himself. Sue approaches Black Bolt, who stands behind a table with many different books on it. She asks if he has read all of them and points out that all of them are about races that have been slaughtered – the American Indians, the African slave trade to the new world, the French Revolution, Jews from all eras, etc. Sue wonders what he hopes to find in these texts; there won’t be an answer how to defeat Stark in them. Black Bolt shows her the book entitled “Masada.” Sue says she knows the tale and then she understands what Black Bolt’s plan is. Her eyes widen in shock and she pleads with him that there must be another way.

Crystal interrupts the tense moment and apologizes to her king and queen, but they received word from the Scarlet Witch and Dr. Strange that the disruptor has been stolen and now is in Stark’s hands. With the means to bring down the G-Barrier around Attilan, another attack is certain. For a moment, all are silent. Tears in her eyes, Susan once more tries to convince her husband not to go through with his plan, but his motionless expression tells her that his decision is reached.

The mission of Weapon X, in order to repair the timeline and move on to the next, is to aid President Stark in defeating the Inhumans. Currently, they are assembled in the War Room of the White House in New York City, just like dozens of super-powered mercenaries, viewing a map of the Pacific and a holographic simulation of Attilan and the G-Barrier surrounding it. Gambit asks Stark why he wants them to lead the attack and the President eagerly explains. For one, they managed to take out Wonder Man, something nobody else has be able to do. Also, Weapon X has the most to lose. If they fail, they have to stay on the planet or, even worse, are returned to their own twisted realities. That’s why Iron Man thinks Weapon X’s motivation to win the battle is much higher than of the super-powered mercenaries he assembled. But, if they don’t want the job, he could ask someone else.

Gambit denies this option; they’ll do it. Right then, one of the scientists alerts the president that the city of Attilan is moving again, due east over the Pacific at 200 knots. Iron Man wonders what Black Bolt is up to and asks if there is anything ahead of the city. The scientist tells him not much, only a four mile stretch of coral. Stark concludes that Black Bolt will set the city down there, wanting to take away the fight from a civilized areas. It’s a noble gesture, he thinks, but it also tells him that the Inhumans are aware of them attacking soon.

(hours later)

Dozens of ships and a battalion of Generators are flying over the Pacific Ocean, closing in on Attilan. Stark wants to capture the Inhumans, as he needs them for a super-powered army to conquer the stars – ruling Earth is not enough for him. Being the commander of the invading forces, Gambit tells everyone to await his orders.

In Attilan, Black Bolt is going through with his plan. Everyone has been given their instructions and their king’s blessing. His queen was not so easily swayed and Black Bolt took some time to convince her that this is the only solution. Black Bolt and Susan stand on a balcony of their palace, watching a battalion of flying Inhumans leave the city to meet the invading forces. Then, it’s time for them to say goodbye as well. Sue passionately kisses her husband a final time, before she creates a platform with her forcefield and propels herself off the balcony, and descends into the city. What Black Bolt isn’t aware of is that she lied to him. Sue has a plan of her own. She knows that her husband wouldn’t approve her plan, but she would not be able to live with herself if she didn’t see it all out to the end. It’s a small lie, but one with great consequences.

Outside of the perimeter of the G-Barrier surrounding Attilan, the Inhumans forces, led by Gorgon, Karnak and Triton, assemble on a small landmass. The incoming troops of President Stark radio him that the Inhumans opened the barrier for 15 seconds to let them out but now it’s close again and it seems they aren’t going down without a fight. Stark’s orders are simple and clear – all divisions are to prepare to engage and they are to await the final command from Gambit. After the ships get a little bit closer to the Inhumans, Gambit finally gives the command everyone is waiting for. All teams are go. Immediately, the Exiles and the super-powered mercenaries rain down on the Inhumans and fighting starts. The sound of the two forces colliding can be heard fifty miles away.

Amidst all the confusion, Gambit yells for Storm and Colossus to cover him and stick together, as it’s their job to get the disruptor to the base of the barrier. Colossus shouts that he is busy with a scaly Inhuman (Triton) and that he should blame the Weather Witch, who should give arial support. Flying above him, Ororo angrily replies that the name is Storm and that she can only clear a path, but not carry them to the target point. That said, she fells a horned Inhuman with a lightning bolt.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Karnak makes quick way of some of the invading forces. Destroying one of the Generators with a single blow of his hand, he announces that he shall disarm all of them, one at a time. He then leaps onto his next opponent: the Abomination. Karnak’s power is to sense the tiniest flaw and the weakest spot in everything. With that knowledge he can dispatch any adversary with a calculated blow, just like the Abomination now experiences when Karnak strikes him in the back of his head. Karnak’s problem though is, that he needs to see his opponents coming and he fails to notice the Vision coming up from behind.

The synthezoid phases his right hand into Karnak’s chest and declares that by slowly solidifying it, he will sever the ventricles of Karnak’s heart and take him out of the fight. Already in great pain and unable to speak, Karnak turns and senses the weak spot in the Vision’s design. Though only a millimeter thick, the flaw is there and Karnak strikes at the Vision’s shoulder, severing his left arm. Now severely damaged, the synthezoid lets go of Karnak and both of them seem to collapse.

Meanwhile, Colossus has reached the G-Barrier wall, with Gambit close behind him. Piotr wonders if they can really befall the barrier with the small device, but Gambit reassures him that Stark’s examination revealed that it is more than capable to do that. Gambit urges his teammate to active the disruptor before ... Too late. Gorgon has seen them and throws an unconscious opponent on Colossus, stopping him from using the disruptor.

Inside the force-dome, Black Bolt knows that the time has come and that he has to do what is inevitable. Standing atop the tallest building of Attilan he looks down into the faces of his loyal subjects. All Inhumans, that aren’t fighting outside, have gathered in the streets. Even the Alpha Primitives have emerged from the caves beneath the city, all looking up in agreement. Fate has dealt them a terrible blow and they shall now turn to meet it. Black Bolt looks at them, his head lowered in sadness.

Outside, Vision has come to aid his teammates, and Gorgon is quickly subdued. Gambit rams his charged bo staff into his gut, apologizing, but he wants to finish the mission and go home. With his dying breath, Gorgon hopes that he has bought his king enough time. Colossus activates the disruptor and the G-Barrier breaks down. President Stark is informed through a radio transmit that his troops can now start Phase Two – neutralize every Inhuman in the city, man, woman, child. As the invading forces reach the center of Attilan, they find only smoke and death... all Inhumans lying dead on the streets. Gambit, in constant radio contact with President Stark, is grasping for words, trying to describe the scene in front of him.

Centuries ago, after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE by the conquering Roman army, 1,000 Jewish zealot resisters and their families fled Jerusalem and took over a remote mountaintop. The resisters withstood a 2-year siege by the Roman Tenth Legion. Then, in 73 CE, the Roman Governor Flavius Silva marched against them. The Roman army established camps at the base of the fortress and laid siege to it. Later they constructed a rampart made up of thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth. In the spring of the year 74 CE, the attacking army moved a battering ram up this ramp and finally breached the wall of the Jewish resisters’ fortress. The end was inevitable for the resisters. This was a battle they could not win. So, the 1,000 robbed the Roman army of their victory. They would not live to be enslaved and tortured. Their children and their children’s children would not lead the desperate life of bondage to the Romans. They chose death at their own hands. When the leader of the Roman army finally entered the resisters’ stone fortress he had laid siege to for so long, he gazed upon the dead and uttered – “We have won. We have won a rock.”

Suddenly, Gambit realizes that it is a trap and tells everyone to get out fast and not to look back. Colossus doesn’t respond, still shocked by the sight in front of him, but Storm grabs him by the arm and, calling him idiot, tells him to run. Right then, the members of Weapon X are being teleported away. They wonder how that can be the case, as they didn’t really finish their mission, which was to defeat the Inhumans. Gambit thinks that they must have set something else in motion and then Weapon X is gone. Stark’s troops are left by themselves.

Black Bolt is floating above the remains of the city, he wonders what Stark would say now and if he knows about the story of the Romans and the Jews. He hopes that the legend of that rock will never be forgotten and that the name would ring in the ears of his oppressors, even if they are half a world away. Black Bolt takes off his costume, charges up for one final time and releases all his power in a single word – MASADA !! – flattening the remains off Attilan and all of Stark’s troops at once.

Somewhat later, Iron Man thinks about the events in his presidential garden, observing some butterflies. He realizes that Weapon X were merely pawns in time’s massive reconstruction. They were meant to help him fail. He has lost. Stark cares little for his army that has perished, as it was the Inhumans he had wanted. There weren’t even any bodies to recover, as everything in and around Attilan was vaporized. The Inhumans and everything they could have provided for him are gone. Actually though, Stark is wrong, not all Inhumans are gone, as some of them are hiding and will begin again in secret, with the world being oblivious to their existence. Black Bolt’s plan worked perfectly.

A butterfly lands on Iron Man’s Fist, but he crushes it between his fingers, calling it a weak, pathetic failure. Suddenly, an invisible force bolt strikes through his throat from behind. As Stark is dying, Sue explains that Black Bolt beat him and that she wanted him to know that. She tells him of the three hundred Inhumans she cloaked during the battle, but she herself had to come back and kill him. Two security guards enter the gardens, readying their energy weapons. Sue touches her 4-necklace and tells herself that she will be with her loved ones soon. The two soldiers fire and Sue is killed. She falls to the ground, next to Iron Man’s dead body.

This world will never know the debt it owes to a group of nomadic super beings. A reality away, Weapon X will never understand their true purpose on this planet. They set events in motion that brought about this moment. In the decades to come, the horrors that Tony Stark had perpetrated would come to light. And it will be recognized by the world that it took the sacrifice of an entire civilization and one woman who loved their king, to free the world of this monster.

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Colossus, Gambit, Spider, Storm, Vision (all Weapon X)

Alternate reality Weapon X visit in #23-25 :

Iron Man




Abomination, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Spiderwoman, Strong Guy, Thing (all super-powered mercenaries)

Black Bolt, Crystal, Gorgon, Karnak, Triton and dozens of others (all Inhumans)

Invisible Woman, Black Bolt’s wife

Story Notes: 

The fortress of Masada and the tale recounted in this story are real and accurate. The account of the siege was recorded by then-Roman governor of Galilee, Josephus Flavius, in his book The Jewish War. Lost to antiquity but not forgotten, the fortress was finally identified in 1838, when Americans E. Robinson and E. Smith viewed the rock through a telescope from Ein-Gedi.

Issue Information: 

This Issue has been reprinted in:

Written By: