Exiles (1st series) #26

Issue Date: 
July 2003
Story Title: 
Hard Choices - part 1

Chuck Austen (writer), Clayton Henry (penciler), Mark Morales (inker), Transparency Digital (colors), Paul Tutrone (letters), Mike Raicht (editor), Mike Marts (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

In another reality, next to every superhero is controlled or employed by Heroes for Hire, Inc. If one needs their services, they have to pay for it. When Japan is blackmailed by Moses Magnum, threatening to sink the entire island, they ask for the “Avengers package” to help and offer two billion dollars. However, the regular price for that group is five billion, so Iron Fist, the head of the company refuses, thinking that Magnum is bluffing anyway. Unfortunately, he is not and, hours later, several earthquakes hit Tokyo, killing thousands of people. The Exiles arrive in the middle of the destruction and the Tallus tells them that the Avengers were supposed to be there and get killed, just like the entire Japanese race. Mariko is outraged and refuses to let this happen. She manages to convince her team that they have to stop blindly following the orders of the Tallus and the Timebroker and re-define themselves as heroes. Only Magik thinks otherwise; she couldn’t care less for these people of a world not her own. She only wants back home. The heroes split up; Morph, Nocturne and Sunfire helping the many injured and dying people, Sasquatch and Mimic tracking down Magnum’s base and Illyana welcoming the Heroes for Hire, who, feeling guilty, are now heading to Japan. Illyana claims that she wants to ask them to help, though actually, when the jet arrives, she causes it to explode. Some of the heroes inside are injured and killed but Iron Fist, Power Man and Colossus emerge unharmed. Illyana is shocked, seeing her brother among the group of people she is intent to kill. In Magnum’s lair, Mimic and Sasquatch learn that the villain and his army have left for Tokyo, to stop the people helping the Japanese. Indeed, Moses Magnum, his consort Namorita and their army comes across the three Exiles, who try their best to help the injured and frightened citizens of Tokyo.

Full Summary: 

In New York City, on an alternate Earth, Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, walks to work. A beggar asks him for some money, saying that he could eat all year for what he paid for his coat, but Danny ignores him. As he reaches the building of Heroes for Hire Inc., he runs into Spider-Man, who complains about not having been paid yet for his Octopus job. Spider-Man blames it on the new electronic vouchering system of the company. Danny continues through the building, towards his office, when a secretary informs him of an important client waiting in a conference room. Still, Rand has more important matters to attend to and he is joined by his two friends and partners, Colossus and Luke Cage, Power Man.

Piotr tells Danny that the Japanese are on the satellite phone again. Moses Magnum has upped the ante and is threatening to sink Japan at midnight if they don’t make him absolute ruler. Seeing Luke eat a donut, Danny asks if there are any more left, as he didn’t have breakfast. Luke informs him it was the last one. Slightly annoyed by this, he heads to the video screen, only to see a very angry Silver Samurai reporting from Japan. He demands to know where they have been, but Danny doesn’t like his tone and tells the Samurai to back off, as surely he doesn’t want to start out on his bad side. Seeing his usually very calm friend in such a bad mood, Luke offers the rest of his donut to Danny, while the Samurai states that Japan offered them two billion for their best people and they refused. Danny points out the difference between refusing and asking for a fair compensation. They requested Black Knight, Scorpion and the rest of the Avengers package, which costs at least five billion. The Samurai gets mad, pointing out that there are billions of lives at stake, but Danny breaks the connection.

(half a day later)

In Tokyo, Japan, the Exiles materialize. The city around them is burning, several buildings damaged or ruined and many citizens are running through the streets in panic. Sunfire is shocked to see her hometown in this state and Nocturne wonders where to start getting to work in all of this chaos. Morph questions Mimic what the Tallus says will be their mission, sarcastically suggesting that it’s possibly to let everyone die. “Listening” to the device on his wrist, Calvin tells him that he isn’t far off. Morph quickly says that he was just kidding and Nocturne wants to know why they even need to be here to just let them die. Mimic further explains; they are not to let the people die, but they have to prevent them from being saved. Sasquatch too disagrees with this mission, she is a doctor, after all.

Not having listened to the conversation, Sunfire picks up an injured woman and realizes that her parents’ counterparts live close by. She wants to check on them and suggests that Mimic changes into his steel form. However, as nothing happens, she asks why all her teammates are just standing there doing nothing, as there are people dying all around them. None of them reply, all just staring at her. Mariko finally understands what the problem is and cries out that this can’t be what the Timebroker wants from them.

Meanwhile, the jet of Heroes for Hire reaches the coast of Japan. Inside are Iron Fist, Power Man, Colossus, Scorpion, Black Knight and Black Widow. Luke asks Danny if he is okay but obviously he is not. Millions of people died because he woke up the wrong side of the bed this morning. Luke tries to make him feel less guilty, reminding him that they talked it through when they started their business. They aren’t a group of cops or vigilante do-gooders but are a business company and, sometimes, have to make hard choices. Danny, however, says that millions of people are no business decision but aiding and abetting genocide. Behind, the Scorpion tells Danny to stop it. It was Moses Magnum who killed these people and Danny’s whining is getting on his nerves. All he wants to know is where exactly Magnum is and that he can finally kill something and do it, for a change, with a clear conscience. The jet approaches Tokyo.

In the city, Mimic tries to explain to Mariko what this reality should be like, according to the Tallus. The Avengers were supposed to protect Japan and die trying. Moses Magnum is supposed to kill Victor von Doom to complete the conquest of Europe and the world. The Japanese race and culture is supposed to be extinguished within the next ten years. Sunfire gets angry. She refuses to believe any of this. She accuses her teammates of having lost their humanity and claims that Blink would have never let this happen. Morph agrees; this mission seems like something Weapon X handles on a regular basis – the Timebroker said that it’s they who handle the dirty tasks.

Illyana interrupts, explaining that the Timebroker is a construct of their collective subconscious, which has significantly changed since he first gave the group their instructions. Mimic agrees with her, although he misses Blink more than anyone else, things have changed, although he doesn’t believe the bit of the Timebroker having anything to do with their collective subconscious. Nocturne asks what he means by that but Mimic tells her it doesn’t matter, they should just finish the job and move on. Holding up her sword, Illyana tells him to just point her at the Avengers.

Mariko is outraged; she can’t believe what she is hearing. It’s the death of a culture they are talking about; genocide, millions of innocent people. Illyana yells back at her that it’s just on this world, while there are millions of other worlds with Japanese people running around. Although he doesn’t agree with how she says it, Mimic in general agrees with Illyana. They are not to judge, they just have to accomplish their missions so that they can go home. He is sick of this entire situation they are in. In every scenario, he might find people he remembers as friends and loved ones as their enemies. Sunfire doesn’t buy it. She says she is disgusted by them, all of them. She reminds everyone that they were heroes on their worlds, so how is this any different? They go off and fight for something they believe in, risking not to come home alive. They have been taking that chance every time they chose to get involved.

Illyana correctly points out that she didn’t choose to be here, which ticks off Mariko even more. It makes no difference, she cries. It’s the ideals they stood for and the same ideals they have to defend now. Now Calvin gets annoyed. While with the Exiles, he was forced to compromise his ideals a hundred times over. Two months ago, he beat Namor to death in an inferno, a few hours ago he broke the Juggernaut’s neck to keep him from killing all of Russia and today he will kill the Avengers and the Japanese will die. And, maybe, he will finally get back to his own world, where Japan still exists and all of this was just a horribly bad dream, like none of it ever happened.

Mariko calms dawn and approaches him. She knows he is a good man and has been pushed beyond what’s fair or right to expect of anyone. However, she also reminds him that this is not a bad dream; it’s a bad reality and they need to decide something right now. Do they want to ignore the Tallus and the Timebroker and make a stand for their ideals or do they allow themselves be turned into another Weapon X, who blindly does whatever they are told? Do they let the Timebroker define them or do they define themselves as heroes? She gently touches his face as she asks this. Calvin looks down, a tear coming from his eye. He says he knows Mariko is right.

Illyana is furious; how can he say that? Who are they to arbitrarily throw away her life? Mimic says that it isn’t arbitrary. All of them have been with the Exiles longer than she and no one knows for sure if they ever really get home anyway. Illyana doesn’t like this, but Calvin says he doesn’t care. He chooses to define himself as a hero. Changing the subject, he asks if anyone knows anything about Moses Magnum and his whereabouts. Morph, looking like Sherlock Holmes, says that he has a secret island abode in the Kuril Island chain and that the only thing capable of beating him was Banshee’s ultra-sonic scream. Mariko welcomes that the team is now willing to oppose Magnum but she also reminds the others of the injured and dying people all around that need their help.

Mimic suggests that they’ll do what the always do: they split up. He picks Sasquatch and Magik to accompany him to Magnum’s place, while the rest will stay and aid the wounded as best as they can. Morph cracks a joke, saying that he is no doctor, but he plays one on TV, earning him a “Not now” remark from Nocturne. He complains that he is hearing it so often that he actually begins to think that “Not now” is his first name. While they and Mariko get to work, Magik Sasquatch and Mimic walk away. Illyana thinks that someone should meet the Avengers where the Tallus told they would be and Mimic thinks it’s a good idea. They can use all the help they can against such a powerful foe. Illyana tells Mimic to fly ahead with Sasquatch to Magnum’s base, while she will find the Avengers. More like whispering to herself, she adds, “and this will all be over in no time.”

The heroes for Hire’s jet has finally arrived and, looking out of the cockpit, the heroes look at the amount of destruction beneath them. None of them really thought Magnum would back up his threads with such massive earthquakes. Colossus spots someone waving them down and, as the jet gets closer, he thinks that the blonde woman looks like his sister, Illyana, all grown up. Iron Fist wonders what a blonde woman with a sword is doing in the middle of all this destruction and Colossus suggests they land and ask her. Probably, she is there to help too. Power Man does as he suggests, though he thinks that it looks like the woman is getting under the jet. Colossus tells him that probably it’s just his viewing angle, but he should continue. Surely, the woman will get out of the way.

Beneath the jet, Illyana takes aim and then lashes out with her sword, causing the aircraft to explode in a big fireball. The jet’s remains and its passengers rain down. Scorpion hits the ground hard and cries in agony. The blast has torn off both his legs and his right arm. As he cries for lost limbs, Illyana approaches him, telling him to shut up. It’s not like he is going to need them anymore...

Approaching the Kuril Island chain, Calvin and Heather immediately spot Magnum’s lair, which is built into the interior of an inactive vulcano. Mimic descends, while Heather changes into her Sasquatch form, expecting to run into some guards. Right before they land, Sasquatch asks her friend whether he thinks the Timebroker is actually grooming them or training them for some unknown purpose, instead of what he’s claiming. Calvin says that in the time they have been bouncing from one world to the next, he has considered next to every possibility, but now is not the time to talk about it. He transforms into steel and, together, the two Exiles start ripping apart some of the equipment, as they make their way to the deeper levels of the base.

Back in Tokyo, the Scorpion has managed to stop Illyana’s sword with his long tail. He calls the Avengers or anybody else for help, the dead body of the Black Widow lying next to him. Magik curses at him to just die and severs his tail with a strike of her sword. He is supposed to be dead anyway, so he should just shut up, do everyone a favor and die. Saying this, she rams her sword into the ground, pinning down the remaining tail and then pulls a dagger from a pocket in her costume. She holds it up the Scorpion’s face, who, with eyes wide open, pleads with her not to die like this. It’s no use. Showing no remorse, Illyana rams the dagger in his forehead, stating there is a reasonable explanation for all of this.

Behind her, Iron Fist, Power Man and Colossus emerge from the debris unharmed. Danny tells her that he doesn’t care for her explanation. He just wants her to turn and drop the sword. Still holding her weapon, Illyana turns and Colossus realizes that indeed she is his sister. He asks how she could have grown up so fast and what she is doing in Japan with a sword. Illyana doesn’t answer. She is still surprised to see her brother among the group of people she is meant to kill.

In Moses Magnum’s base, Sasquatch and Mimic have effectively dealt with the security guards, though they kept one conscious for interrogation. Calvin asks him where their leader is but receives no answer. Getting impatient, he pops Wolverine’s bone claws and, holding them up the man’s face, repeats his question. This time, the scared guard is more than willing to answer and reveals that Magnum went to Tokyo to put an end to people helping the Japanese. Sasquatch and Mimic understand that it must be their teammates the guard is talking about.

Morph and Sunfire are walking through the destroyed streets of Tokyo, carrying yet another injured man and a child. Morph tells Mariko they should really go find her parents and she agrees. But there are so many people needing them that she can’t just walk past them. Concerned about her friend, she asks if Morph is okay as he hasn’t tried to joke in over an hour. Morph answers that it’s hard to find any humor at the moment. They reach their destination, a sort of field hospital. Many of the people are already dead, the other injured or apathically sitting among the dead bodies. The situation is too much for them. Nocturne sits besides an elderly woman, offering her some soup.

Mariko tells Morph that she is sorry it took something like this, but she has to admit that she finds him a more interesting, well-rounded person when he turns off the joke machine from time to time. His mood a little bit lighter, Morph asks if it means she will have sex with him now. She responds in jovial matter. “I don’t know ... try looking like Spiderwoman and we’ll talk.” Nocturne interrupts them; they have company. Moses Magnum, Namorita and their army have arrived. Magnum looks at them, not pleased that someone is crashing the “party” he started and he intends to stop them.

Characters Involved: 

Magik, Mimic, Morph, Nocturne, Sasquatch, Sunfire (all Exiles)

Alternate reality the Exiles visit in #26-27 :

Black Knight, Black Widow, Captain America, Colossus, Iron Fist, Power Man, Scorpion, Spiderman (all Heroes for Hire)

staff of Heroes for Hire Inc.

Japanese citizens

Moses Magnum


Atlantean soldiers

on video screen :

Silver Samurai

Story Notes: 

In the main Marvel Universe, Moses Magnum also tried to blackmail Japan by threatening to sink the entire island. While there he was working alone, his base was too located on the Kuril Island Chain. [X-Men (1st Series) #118-119] It seems that events happened very similar in Morph’s timeline, as he knows about this and that Magnum was defeated by Banshee’s sonic scream.

Blink, the Exiles’ former leader, was sent back to her native reality in Exiles #22.

Weapon X is a similar group of characters, unhinged from their own times, hopping from one reality to the next in order to fix things. So far, they appeared in Exiles #12-13 and #23-25.

Mimic had to kill an alternate reality version of Namor in Exiles #15.

Mariko is referring to Mary Jane Watson, the Spider-Woman of the Earth they visited in Exiles #20-22. Apparently, she is a lesbian too and she and Mariko became very intimate.

The next issue establishes that the redhead among the Heroes for Hire is the Black Widow and Magnum’s pointy-eared, blonde consort is Namorita (instead of Meggan).

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