Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix #2

Issue Date: 
July 1996
Story Title: 
Unnatural Selection

Peter Milligan (writer), John Paul Leon (penciler), Shawn Martinbrough with Klaus Jenson (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers (colorist), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Scott Summers is surrounded in the sewers by the captive ‘freaks’ who the Marauders have removed from the streets. They don’t know if he’s a Marauder or a freak like them, but they attack him anyway. Scott unleashes an optic blast, which scares them off for the moment, and he tries to contact Jean using telepathy. Jean, meanwhile, is visited by Sanctity, who informs her that Apocalypse must be stopped in this time, or the future is damned. She and Scott have forty-eight hours to carry out their mission. She manages to make contact with Scott, but he tells her she must follow Sanctity’s lead, as he is temporarily unable to assist her. At Milbury House, Rebecca Essex chides her husband, but the strain takes its toll and she retires. Apocalypse then speaks with Nathaniel Essex and has him show off his experiments. Apocalypse realizes he is a mutant and wishes to accompany Essex, who is meeting some influential people at the Hellfire Club. There, Apocalypse becomes infuriated with the club members’ weakness and reveals his true self, telling them they will serve him or die. They must await his instructions. Jean visits Milbury House, only to find Essex gone and his wife burying their child once again. Jean then enters the annex and discovers Essex’s experiments. She is appalled and, after discovering where Essex has gone from one of his captives, she departs for the Hellfire Club. Scott, meanwhile, manages to get the freaks on his side, and they take down a group of Marauders with his help. One remaining Marauder, Oscar, is taken by Scott to be his eyes, as he doesn’t have his ruby visor. He takes him to the Hellfire Club and, upon their arrival, they see the members fleeing the club in horror at having witnessed Apocalypse’s fury. Jean and Scott are reunited, but they are set upon by some Marauders, who have been enhanced by Apocalypse’s alien technology. Jean is knocked unconscious, and Scott is attacked by Apocalypse and beaten unconscious. He gives Scott to Essex to perform his experiments upon and offers Essex the dream of longevity, in exchange for his humanity. He vanishes, leaving Essex to pull Jean out of the river.

Full Summary: 


Beneath the gas-lit streets of London, Scott Summers has arrived, naked and confused into an anachronistic nightmare. He is effectively blind, but he can hear dozens of people around him who seem to be mistaking him for one of Cootie’s boys. Deprived of his ruby quartz, he has little choice but to use his optic blast to act as a warning to his assailants. It works and, as they panic, Scott tries to get through to Jean using their psionic rapport.

Above ground, Jean walks the streets of London. She can hear his call but knows that Scott is too weak and confused to be able to answer him. She looks around at her surroundings. She recognizes the grand interior of Westminster Abbey and judging by the dress and accents of those around her, she guesses she’s at least a century in the past. She wonders how she got there, and why. A priest asks if she’s all right, and she replies that she’s quite well as she departs.

Outside, the world seems to slow down, with passers by becoming Victorian mannequins on a frozen film set. Only Jean Grey sees reality’s dominion usurped. Nearby, a woman floats above the ground, with a green aura surrounding her. She introduces her self as Sanctity, last of the Askani Sisterhood, burdened with guarding the timeline. She explains that she has brought Jean and Scott to this time. They are charged with an awesome duty. If they do not save the present, then the future is damned!

She asks Jean to look around at the world of gas and steam, clumsy machines and crude science. Would there be anyone in this world able to withstand the power of the evil one? Jean realizes she must be talking about Apocalypse. Sanctity explains that even the Askani cannot stand outside the wheels of time, but the ancient texts speak of a place called Milbury House. There, she will find a man named Essex; a man on whose soul will be the battleground, and on which the fate of the future will be decided.

She adds that she can maintain Jean and Scott’s physical form for a limited time only. She informs Jean that she has forty-eight hours to find Essex and stop the rise of Apocalypse. All their futures, everything Jean has known, lives or dies in these two days. Without warning, Sanctity vanishes, leaving Jean Grey alone with a final fleeting image of her dear Scott. Using her awesome telepathic power, she reaches out to him.

(Milbury House)

Rebecca tries to reach out to her husband. She tries to make him see that what he did to their son was wicked and evil. Nathaniel feels that his wife doesn’t understand him. Rebecca prays she never will. He informs her that he is a pioneer, a scientific explorer. Just as Livingstone explores the uncharted regions of the Dark Continent, so he explores the darker continent that is their species’ future. Rebecca tells him that won’t do. These are excuses, not reasons. At first his work was for the benefit of mankind, but now mankind, and even his own family, is there for the benefit of his work. She adds that no amount of genius gives him the right to play God.

With the stress of the situation, Rebecca receives a sudden jolt of pain from her heavy womb and settles on the couch. Nathaniel tries to comfort her, and says he will do anything in his power to stop her suffering. She asks him if he’s willing to abandon the mad excess to which he is taking his work. For the sake of her and their unborn child, can he do that? Nathaniel pauses, and his hesitation says everything. Rebecca departs, as the watching Apocalypse enters.

He tells Essex that he must learn to ally his intellect with strength. He wants to know about Darwin, and also how Essex arrived at his conclusion. Essex thinks not. He doesn’t know from which end of Jermyn Street Apocalypse procured his outlandish garb, but he isn’t welcome in his home. The stranger replies that he is En Sabah Nur, and he could be of use to him, and Essex to him in return. There is something in his eyes; an intensity… a power, a hidden knowledge that causes Essex to change his mind. He could certainly do with powerful allies now he has been outcast by his peers.

He accepts Apocalypse’s proposal, but warns him that he might find his work shocking. Apocalypse doubts that. As they turn to leave for his annex, he looks at the door his wife left through. A voice in his head seems to say there is still time to go after her, but another more ancient voice asks him to come along; the future awaits them.

In his laboratory, the ‘freaks and fools’ are in cages; some on the ground and others raised above it. Bottles, vials and casks of all shapes and sizes litter the room, and diagrams adorn the walls. Essex explains to En Sabah Nur that these freaks are nature’s failed experiments, human sediment on the test-tube of progress.

Apocalypse looks around with interest. At last, after two millennia, he now knows what he is. He is an anomaly - the first born of this great mutation. He is the first and mightiest of a super race that will follow him.

Essex checks his watch and says that time grows short. He has a meeting with some men who are also concerned in shaping the planet’s future. They are his last chance of support now that he has been condemned by the Royal Society. En Sabah Nur would like to meet these men, and Essex figures it can’t do any harm. He points out that the famed house of lust and decadence is but a smokescreen for their real work.

Elsewhere in London, Jean ascends to the highest point of Westminster Abbey to better search for Scott. She wonders why Sanctity chose them. Haven’t they sacrificed enough? The city she looks out upon is almost as alien as the future the Askani pulled them into, but she knows that the love she and Scott share was enough to pull them through then, and always will be.

Beneath the streets, Scott realizes those around him are backing off, but doesn’t know for how long. He tries again to contact Jean, and this time he is more successful. He explains that he’s in some kind of sewer, and even has a little company. He just wishes he knew what was happening. Across the static of Victorian consciousness, she tells him all she knows. If they don’t stop Apocalypse in forty-eight hours, he will rule this world. This means that by the time they are born, the planet will have been under his rule for over a hundred years. They need to combine their mutant powers. Scott replies that it must wait. He advises her to follow the lead that Sanctity gave her, and find out what’s going on. If they know the Askani, it wasn’t a complete fluke that he ended up in this hole.

Jean descends into the abbey, and asks about Milbury House. One gentleman informs her that it’s a place where the devil’s work is done, and the devil’s own ideas are propagated. Another adds that its owner is a man more ungodly than Darwin himself. Jean catches a coach, knowing full well that she will have to mind-wipe him once they arrive at Milbury House. She even feels a little sorry for him. Eventually, the brooding façade of Milbury House comes into view through the rain. She shivers as she approaches. The entire place seems to emit a sense of rottenness… of evil… of grief.

Jean finds herself thinking of young Nathan Dayspring Summers, the man who grew up to be Cable. She recalls the terrible decision Scott had to make to send him into the future, into the arms of the Askani, and where she and Scott eventually traveled to raise him. She feels a parent’s grief at losing a child.

At the cemetery near Milbury House, the cause of her thoughts can be seen. Rebecca Essex lowers the corpse of her dead son back into his troubled grave. She whispers a prayer to a god she only just manages to still believe exists. She senses Jean’s approach, and informs her that it’s private property. What does she want? Jean finds her words hard to articulate; what with the dead child in the coffin and the stifling air of suffering. She manages to say that she is trying to find her husband. Rebecca says she finds this funny, since she is in the process of losing hers. Jean doesn’t mean to intrude, but she has been informed that a Mister Essex might be able to help her. Rebecca replies that she doesn’t believe Mister Essex can help himself.

She begins to cry, asking herself what she is to do. She knows he’s not a bad man. The death of their son must have turned him sour; poisoned him. She explains that he was a scientist, a genius, and yet he couldn’t save their boy. Jean empathizes, telling Rebecca that her own husband suffered in a similar way. Rebecca adds that Nathaniel tried to work his pain away, but instead he became obsessed, even wicked. But she asks, was that his fault? They are only flesh and blood. Bend them with enough force and do they not become twisted?

As Rebecca cries out her anguish, Jean is drawn towards the strange-looking annex to Milbury House. Rebecca warns her not to go near the place, but Jean doesn’t have time for explanations. She approaches the house, and enters with a reluctant Rebecca following closely behind. She sees Essex’s work, and wonders what Essex is doing to all these people. It’s his work, Rebecca explains. Jean replies that this isn’t work. It’s evil, pure and simple.

She walks up to the cage where Daniel sits silently. She senses that he cannot speak, and uses her telepathy to communicate with him. The boy tells her his name is Daniel, and asks if she’s like the bad man. No, replies Jean. She wants to know what they look like, and prompts Daniel to create a telepathic image in his mind. She presumes the two men are Essex and Apocalypse in disguise. She asks where they went. Daniel informs her that they went to a place called the Hellfire Club! Jean is shocked at this revelation, and rushes from the annex. She has work to do, and so does Rebecca if she is willing to help.


In the sewers, Scott Summers tells those around him that he isn’t going to hurt them, but he needs their help. They still believe he might be a Marauder, but others believe he’s a freak like them. He is told to get used to this place. It’s where they belong. Scott asks them to listen. He leans against the wooden bars that confine them to the sewer. He tells them that they might imprison them, but they don’t make them prisoners. It’s inside you that does that.

With that, he opens his eyes and destroys the bars, opening up a hole so they can escape. However, he asks for someone to be his eyes in return for freeing them. The freaks stare at him, numbly, as though they fear freedom more than captivity.

At that moment, a group of Marauders arrive and wonder what the racket is. They see the mangled bars and the gaping hole where the freaks are gathered. Oscar is told to shoot Scott, and he manages to let a shot loose, catching Scott in the shoulder. Jean simultaneously feels this through their psionic rapport and she calls out to him. He assures her it’s only a flesh wound; nothing to worry about.

He fires over the Marauders’ heads to scare them off, whilst asking for any news on Apocalypse. Jean informs him that she’s heading to the London Hellfire Club. Scott is surprised by this. Jean adds that he wouldn’t believe some of the horrors she’s seen today. She’s about to say there’s something familiar about this Nathaniel Essex, but her connection is lost, leaving Scott alone to face the Marauders.

As he prepares for the worst, the underground freaks suddenly find themselves backbones, and they pile on the Marauders. Within seconds, the Marauders are reeling, and most of them flee. One man, Oscar, falls and is caught by the freaks. They recognize him, and know that he isn’t usually as bad as the others. Scott grabs him, and asks if he knows where the Hellfire Club meets. Oscar does, so Scott tells him he can fill him in on the way there. When Oscar asks who he is, Scott replies that he’s just a freak who’s fighting back.

(The Hellfire Club)

Apocalypse, in his human form, explains his vision of the future to the assembled gentlemen. They are incredulous, as they listen to his ideas of the strong subjugating the weak with little mercy. He tells them that Essex will be his first prelate, and will help him control the master race whose destiny is nearly manifest. Essex listens with interest. He thinks that being able to conduct experiments on the sort of scale that Apocalypse outlines is unimaginable. He could pursue science for the sake of science; unshackled by money or morality. However, he wonders what kind of a world it would be, and what place there would be for someone like his son, Adam.

He snaps out of his thoughts and decides to call a halt to Apocalypse’s rant. He apologizes to people like Lord Braddock and Mr. Shaw. He had allowed himself to believe the man was genuine. Shaw agrees that he should apologize. The man is a buffoon! Braddock asks from what authority this stranger speaks. “Authority!” exclaims Apocalypse. “I will show you from what authority I speak!”

Suddenly, his face changes and an incredible metamorphosis takes place. The human body of En Sabah Nur is transformed into the hulking metallic creature that is Apocalypse!

Essex gets somewhat of a thrill out of this transformation, as this proves that his theories of the great mutation were right all along. Look at this creature, he thinks. Look at this monster!

Apocalypse turns to face his hecklers and calls them weak, complacent parasites. He once knew a man who thought as they do. He was full of pride, and thought his so-called royal blood gave him power. For more than a thousand years this man has been his slave.

Energy surges through his body, and his clawed hands glow with this power. He warns them that, unless they serve him, they will have a most intimate knowledge of death. He informs them that it is his custom to remove the eyes of those unfortunate to bear witness to his power, but the looks in their eyes tells him it is unnecessary. He tells them they will await his instructions, and departs with Essex. The meeting is concluded.

Nearby, on a lonely embankment on the Thames, a rowing boat moors. Oscar Stamp is at the oar and he tells Scott Summers in his unusual vernacular that the monster he saw must be a demon. He explains that he changed and did something unnatural to Cootie and the others. He talked about the importance about being strong, and wonders if Scott knows him. You could say that, he replies, before asking if they’re near their destination. Oscar says that, if his contacts are right, they’re meeting across the street from where they are. He admits to Scott that he never liked picking those freaks up off the streets, but, Cootie said they had to change with the times.

He suddenly stumbles and Scott, despite wearing a scarf over his eyes, grabs his arm to stop him from falling. Oscar asks how he can do that. Scott smiles, and replies that someone else is acting as his eyes now.

From above them, Jean Grey asks if he’s all right, before dropping down to him and giving him a big hug, which he reciprocates. They are grateful to be reunited. Jean tells Scott that Apocalypse is somehow using Essex. Scott knows, and he tells Jean that Essex has recruited a small army. But, as long as he and Jean stick together, they don’t stand a chance.

Oscar calls to them and points at members of the Hellfire Club running from their meeting house. They see Apocalypse, and Scott asks Jean to remind him what Sanctity said. “If we don’t save the present, the future is damned,” she replies. Oscar points out the other man he mentioned; Essex. On the riverbank, Nathaniel Essex asks Apocalypse what exactly he is. He replies that he is the future. Essex says his theories show that mutations should not occur for several generations. Apocalypse replies that he is above his theories. For all Essex’s genius, he couldn’t possibly envision a being of his… magnitude.

Jean is shocked at what she sees, and so is her husband. “Essex is Sinister!” exclaims Scott. “Or will become Sinister,” adds Jean. Scott feels it could be so easy. One optic blast and, in one instant, Sinister would be wiped from the history books. All the suffering he will cause would be eradicated. But, can you kill a man for what he might become? Presently, Essex is still human. Perhaps he can stop Essex from becoming Sinister. Maybe that’s what the Askani intended all along?

Scott’s deliberations are rudely interrupted by a group of Essex’s Marauders, only now they’ve been monstrously enhanced by Apocalypse’s alien technology. Scott unleashes an optic blast, toppling them, and Oscar takes the opportunity to slip away unseen. From the street, Nathaniel Essex sees Scott on the jetty and asks Apocalypse how this can be possible. How could his theories be so wrong? Such a being shouldn’t be born for a century or so!

Apocalypse asks if he can see how they fight. Does he not feel the fire in his belly? He transforms once again into his true form and proceeds to attack Scott. He tells Scott that he has long awaited another such as himself, but none may oppose him. Scott fires at his chest, but he barely slows the hulking creature down. Jean is about to help, but she is slammed by a Marauder wielding a club, and falls unconscious in the river.

With Jean down, their telepathic link is severed and Scott is effectively blind once again. He feels she may drown. Apocalypse delivers a crunching blow and Scott too falls unconscious. Apocalypse tells Essex that it’s over. Whoever the creature in his hands may be, he is a truly courageous opponent but, ultimately, he is not fit. He must be destroyed.

Essex asks if he’s going to kill him, but Apocalypse has a better idea. He gives him to Essex so that he can have a living specimen to dissect, examine and understand. Essex thinks how Scott and Jean looked at each other, just like he and Rebecca used to, but how can he refuse? He’s worked all his life towards this. How can he not do as his master says?

Apocalypse, however, says there is a price. He must join him. He must allow himself to be released from the stupid chains of weakness and morality that he still clings to. In return, Apocalypse offers him the chance to follow his work to its end, and witness sights undreamed of. Essex doesn’t understand, but Apocalypse gives him until the next sun sets to give his decision. He then disappears in a flash, leaving Essex alone to make a choice that will decide humanity’s fate.

He begins to leave the harbor area, considering everything that’s just happened. Can he afford to leave the world in the hands of someone who would happily destroy all knowledge if it served his precious drive towards power? But, can he also afford not to have the means to longevity, to be able to pursue his work to the limit? Does he not owe it to science itself to accept his offer?

As he thinks about the consequences and possibilities, he hears someone coughing nearby. He looks to the river and sees a woman’s hand reaching out to him. He reaches over and drags the young woman from the river, asking if maybe she fell from a boat. Jean asks where Scott is, and as Essex lifts her to him, he exclaims, “You?”

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Phoenix (both X-Men)

Adam, Nathaniel and Rebecca Essex

Apocalypse/En Sabah Nur

Westminster Abbey worshippers

Marauders including Oscar Stamp

Marauder’s captives



Essex’s test subjects including Daniel

London cabby

Hellfire Club members including Lord Braddock and Mr. Shaw

(in Daniel’s memory)


Nathaniel Essex

(as Jean’s visions)


Marauder’s captives

Story Notes: 

Jermyn Street is in the center of London, between Picaddily Circus and St. James Square.

This Mr. Shaw is the great-grandfather of Sebastian Shaw, as mentioned in Cable (2nd series) #50.

Scott and Jean were taken by the Askani to bring up young Nathan Dayspring in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix limited #1 - 4.

Apocalypse’s slave of over a thousand years is Ozymandias.

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