Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix #4

Issue Date: 
September 1996
Story Title: 

Peter Milligan (writer), John Paul Leon (penciler), Shawn Martinbrough (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s DL (letters), Kevin Somers (colors), Malibu (enhancement), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Nathaniel Essex emerges from the chamber as Mister Sinister. Scott cannot help but attack him, but pulls away at the last moment. Scott feels he cannot really kill him for crimes he has not yet committed. His blast causes the structure to become unstable, and, as Sinister begins to fight back, the walls become increasingly delicate. Sinister makes his escape, leaving Jean and Scott behind to save everyone from falling debris. Once safe, Sinister realizes by looking at a photograph of his dead wife that he no longer feels remorse or love. He is truly free of the shackles of humanity. Meanwhile, Apocalypse heads to Buckingham Palace to murder the royal family, and Sinister returns to inform Scott and Jean of this, after killing Cootie Tremble who was attacking young Danny. They rush there just in time to save the royals, with a little behind-the-scenes assistance from Sinister. Apocalypse teleports both himself and Sinister to his stronghold, and Jean mindwipes everyone present in the palace. Apocalypse knows that Sinister has been lying to him about his plague, and Sinister admits that he had changed it so it would affect only Apocalypse himself. The ancient one decides to let Sinister live, but warns him that when he is resurrected once more, he will be his slave. Back at the palace, Sanctity appears and removes Scott and Jean from this time. From their conversation, Scott deduces that this whole scenario wasn’t just for them to stop Apocalypse, but maybe to allow Sinister to be born. Several months later, after Apocalypse has gone into hibernation, Oscar Stamp and Danny head to America, and take on the assumed names of Oscar and Daniel Summers. Two years later, Sinister watches Charles Darwin’s funeral procession. He had once presumed to leave the future to Darwin, but now it seems Darwin has left it to him.

Full Summary: 

(1859, London, England)

Apocalypse has created Sinister from what was once a man known as Nathaniel Essex. The last dregs of his humanity have been removed, and he emerges from his chamber a wholly different kind of being. Jean Grey and several people that Essex once held captive see his emergence. Through Jean’s eyes, Scott also sees him. He doesn’t have his visor, and must keep his eyes closed at all times.

Jean senses he wishes to attack Sinister, but she reminds him that he cannot kill a man for what he might become. Scott tells Jean that, if they don’t stop him, he’ll spend the next century manipulating bloodlines; genetically engineering his own twisted vision of evolution. He ignores her and opens his eyes, unleashing one of his powerful optic blasts towards Sinister. However, at the last nanosecond, his blast veers off course, narrowly missing the villain. He closes his eyes again and doesn’t know what’s worse: that he almost slaughtered the man, or the fact that he couldn’t do it. Jean knows what he’s destined to do to Scott’s family in the future, but Scott knows that this isn’t the answer.

Scott comments that Sanctity pulled them into this era and told them they had to save this present, or the future will be doomed. Surely that means they have to stop this unholy alliance between Sinister and Apocalypse… doesn’t it? Jean replies that they were sent there to prevent Apocalypse from taking over the world. They can’t concern themselves with maybes. If he wins today, there is no tomorrow.

As the two X-Men consider their next move, the roof begins to collapse due to Scott’s errant assault, and he uses the blast again to stop the debris from hitting those below. Sinister then walks out of the chamber and addresses them. His face is ashen white and a red diamond has appeared in the center of his forehead where the harpoon plunged into it. His outfit is blue and flamboyant, with a succession of blue strips acting as a cloak.

He tells them that he believes he has undergone what amounts to an industrial revolution of the mind. His mind is clear and Essex’s moral baggage weighs him down no more. He now takes his first steps as Mister Sinister! Scott knew he should have killed him. To blazes with right and wrong. Jean asks if he would have traded his soul to get what he wanted. Scott wonders if that’s a price he should have been willing to take for the lives of all those Sinister will destroy.

Essex tells Scott that he intrigues him. He wanted him dead, and it appears that his living seems to affect Scott in a most negative manner. If that’s the case, he adds, he should have killed him. Perhaps Scott is tainted with the same sentimental poison that afflicted the man called Essex. Scott replies that he’s the one who’s tainted. He willingly allowed whatever humanity he had to be carved out of him, all for the sake of his precious science. That’s insane! “No,” Sinister replies, “that’s progress.”

Sinister raises his hands and Scott is hurled away from him along with several of Essex’s former captives. Scott reacts by blasting him full on with his optic blast. Sinister is impressed with such incredible power, and would like to discover its source. Scott isn’t pulling any punches, but Jean says he might have to, as the place is crumbling under their combined assaults. She uses her telekinesis to keep as much debris from falling as possible, and the other people flee the scene.

Cyclops approaches the downed villain and prepares to unleash one final, devastating assault. However, before he does, Sinister asks what in heaven’s name he has done to allow Scott to hate him so much. What hidden knowledge does he possess? They should be allies but, instead, Scott foolishly chooses to oppose a being who offers knowledge untold, gathered over a lifetime that spans thousands of years.

By playing possum and allowing Scott in close, he manages to topple him by hitting him with some of the machinery Apocalypse left behind. Before Scott can react, Apocalypse’s stronghold metamorphoses, wrapping fingers of organic metal around Sinister. As the metal closes in on him, he informs Scott that their meeting has been painfully amusing, but now it is aborted. He has work to do. He shall decode the nature of existence and cut the Gordian knot of evolution.

As Scott scrambles to his feet, Sinister tells him that first he shall finish off Apocalypse’s nasty little plague. If letting him believe that allows him access to the tools of science, then so be it. Scott replies that he won’t let him use those tools for anything but conquest and war! He’s not interested in knowledge. He’s a tyrant who lives only for destruction. Jean realizes that Sinister’s escape is successful, and she comforts her husband who is reluctant to allow him to get away. She reminds him that before they search for Apocalypse, they must ensure the others made it out of the sewer okay.

(later, even deeper beneath the teeming streets of London)

Mister Sinister figures the pestilence can wait. First, he wishes to see just how extensive the Egyptian’s transfiguration of him is. He takes out a little music box, which he bought for Rebecca. It chimes as he opens it, revealing her photograph. He remembers every facet of her face, and realizes that it’s true; he feels not the slightest jab of remorse over her untimely death. He feels no love for her, just a vague memory of a smell… the crushed dried flowers that Rebecca liked so well. Even this brings no pain. “Truly, I am free!” he exclaims.

He knows that he owes his freedom to Apocalypse and, as such, he will honor his commitment to creating a plague for him. Besides, would it be so terrible to see those who mocked him choking on their own stupidity?

(meanwhile, at the sewers mouth)

Oscar Stamp and Daniel have made it out alive, and Danny asks what they’re going to do now. Oscar doesn’t rightly know, but he reckons they should stick together. Neither of them have any family, and it can be a rough old world on your own. Danny agrees. Suddenly, Cootie Tremble appears. He explains that Apocalypse made him tougher and more handsome than ever when he put him in his machine. They weren’t thinking of leaving without him, were they? Danny is shocked at his appearance, and can’t breathe as Cootie holds his neck in his iron grip. Out of nowhere, Jean appears and uses her telekinetic power to hurl him through the air and away from Daniel.

She senses that Cootie is in pain. His psychic aura is screaming out in agony and confusion. She presumes that Apocalypse’s transformation was too quick, and too careless. Now, the mutation that caused Cootie’s enhancement is spiraling out of control, as though his entire body were a cancer cell. Cootie admits that he feels sick, and Jean attempts to enter his mind to ease his suffering. However, she can’t maintain contact as his brain cells are mutating by the second. Suddenly, a gut-wrenching noise shudders from Cootie’s body, and his neck breaks, seemingly all by itself.

This isn’t the case. Mister Sinister appears once again, and admits responsibility. He tells Jean that, by her supposed kindness, she causes more suffering than any tyrant. He broke Cootie’s neck and terminated him. It’s a much simpler and more scientifically robust way of easing the wretch’s suffering. He looks at Scott, and says that it seems they cannot escape each other.

Scott is willing to finish what they started, but Jean communicates with him telepathically. She reminds him that their priority is to stop Apocalypse. Maybe Sinister can help them? Scott thinks she’s lost her mind, but Jean wishes to see if there’s still some vestige of humanity left in him.

Sinister is appalled at Cootie’s transmutation - so crude and so hideously unscientific. The hastily-transformed Marauders are a travesty of the dream he has for the new species. The correct bloodlines must be bred naturally to produce the most racially supreme dreams. This must not be allowed to happen again, he insists. He tells them that he cares nothing for his suffering per se, and one must be willing to be cruel to search for the truth. However, cruelty for no purpose is ignorance, and ignorance is the greatest enemy of science.

Scott grabs his arm, and asks Sinister if he can’t see that this way of Apocalypse isn’t a means to him, it’s an end. Sinister replies that his relationship with… Lord Apocalypse is none of his affair. Scott begs to differ. He wants to know what Apocalypse has planned. Sinister asks why he should help. When he was Essex the world mocked him; now it begs for his assistance. What pleasing irony, he gloats.

Scott continues to try and have Sinister see his point of view. He tells Sinister that he has a chance to stop Apocalypse’s evil. Sinister stares right back at him, and says that the way Scott calls him Sinister so easily… it’s as though he has often addressed him thus. He’d love to put Scott under the microscope. However, he informs Scott that his requests are futile. Knowing his whereabouts wouldn’t help him one bit. Apocalypse is beyond his ken. His plague will spread quickly across the world, killing millions. Only the most resilient will survive. Nature must determine its own course.

Jean interjects, and asks Sinister to think of the children. They are nature at its most fragile. Sinister actually pauses and considers her words, before replying, “You might want to visit Buckingham Palace.”

(meanwhile, at Buckingham Palace)

Apocalypse’s power makes short work of the palace guards. They’re not used to tackling this kind of creature. He makes his way to the great banqueting hall where the king and queen are entertaining a large number of guests. Apocalypse, in his human form, looks forward to taking these people down. He has waited centuries for the time when a new race would rise to cull the weak from the fit. Surely it was fate that led him to Essex, whose theories confirmed his own beliefs, just as the appearance of the two strangers is a portent of things to come. It’s time to ignite the flames of global conflict by snuffing out this false royalty.

Queen Victoria is discussing the problem with the Irish with William Gladstone, when Apocalypse appears before them. He informs them that the problem is easily sorted. Raze the entire country and kill all able-bodied men and male children. End of problem. He compliments them on the grand setting of their palace, but says they have grown soft and fat. An empire that forgets how empires are won is doomed to crumble. Gladstone asks how in the name of Jupiter he got into the palace, before calling his guards.

Apocalypse tells them their guards are useless, and with a click of his fingers, two guards are murdered before them. Then, an incredible metamorphosis begins. His body begins to twist and grow. Victoria asks her husband to do something, but the German prince asks what he can do. It is inhuman! Apocalypse states that, even as he transforms into his true shape, so he will transform their world into a glorious battlefield of perpetual conflict, where only the strong will survive. Their deaths will herald the end of the British Empire; the end of all empires, and the beginning of the Age of Apocalypse.

He unleashes a fearsome burst of energy at the two royals but, amazingly, his attack is deflected back at him by some unseen force. Jean’s telepathic shield has done its job, but she is weakened by the effort. Scott asks her to take care of the V.I.P’s while he nails Apocalypse. Queen Victoria asks Gladstone to do something. He’s the prime minister. “With respect, ma-am,” he replies, “I ain’t budging.”

Despite being injured, Apocalypse remains a fearsome opponent. He takes Scott’s blasts in his stride, and admires his ability to take the fight to him. He thinks Scott is a sign of things to come. But, he faces the irresistible might of one who has survived war, famine and the passage of centuries. He blasts Scott straight through the window, and Scott only just manages to roll with the fall.

Apocalypse then smacks Jean to the ground, and faces the two royals and Gladstone once again. He prepares to deliver the killing blows, but somehow he feels himself strangely weakening. He wonders what’s happening to him. Scott arrives back inside and asks Jean if she’s okay. She hurries him to hit Apocalypse whilst he is confused, and Scott immediately blasts Apocalypse. With reflexes forged in hundreds of battles, the two X-Men press their advantage. They bombard the ageless warlord with the combined strength of their mutant powers. Apocalypse struggles to cope, and can’t believe that this is happening. This is the Age of Apocalypse? He’s foreseen it. He cannot be defeated. With that, he falls under the prolonged attack, and his defenses are crushed.

As soon as he is down, Jean senses the slightest of psychic tugs; the like of which she’s only felt once before. Scott knows it means they’re starting to be pulled back into their own time, and that they must finish this, quickly. Suddenly, Mister Sinister appears and warns them that they are too weakened to face him as well. Apocalypse asks what’s happened. Sinister replies that there were some unexpected difficulties with the plague. Jean knows Sinister is lying, and wonders if maybe they got through to him. Scott thinks that maybe they have, but he might also have his own agenda. Either way, he’s right. With their bodies beginning to timeshift, there’s no way to fight him. They’ll have to live with what they accomplished.

Before another thought can pass between the two X-Men, a blister of negative energy confounds several laws of physics. Sinister picks Apocalypse up as he wishes the strangers farewell. He is certain they will meet again. Apocalypse teleports them both back to his stronghold.

With the danger now passed, Scott asks Jean if she saw how Sinister looked at him; like he was a mouse ready for dissection. Scott realizes now how his obsession with the Summers’ bloodline started. All the pain and suffering that the people he loves will suffer will happen because of what happened here. Jean is relatively pleased that they have prevented Apocalypse from creating global war, and helped persuade Sinister from poisoning the world with disease. As failures go, it’s quite a success.

Queen Victoria demands to know what on Earth is happening. Jean informs her that this is knowledge that she must not have. Victoria asks how she dare speak to her like this, but Jean doesn’t have time for arguments. She psychically wipes everyone’s mind of the entire event, leaving them with the strange sight of a ruined hall with no explanation for its destruction.

(soon, in Apocalypse’s alien sanctuary)

Apocalypse explains to Sinister that he requires another period of hibernation. The signs are good, but the time for his ascendancy is not quite right. He asks about the problems with the germ. Sinister replies that it’s biological in nature. “When I attempted to alter the chemical structure of the plague so that its toxicity would not be destabilized by the climatic…” Apocalypse orders his silence. He knows Sinister is lying, and tells him to make his last breath the truth. Sinister admits that he actually deliberately manipulated the plague so that it would affect only Apocalypse himself. But, his immune system quickly adapted to it, which is why he still lives.

Apocalypse had deduced this. He asks why he did this. He has left behind Essex, but what does he care how many millions of people suffer in order for the strong to survive, or for him to reach the apex of learning? Sinister replies that it wasn’t that. The plague he created was barbaric. It would have polluted and deformed the evolution of the entire species. All his work and his predictions of the great mutation would have been for naught. He tells Apocalypse to kill him if he must, but he will not be a party to that.

Apocalypse stands in his technological womb, preparing to go back into hibernation. He assures Sinister that he will not kill him. Sinister’s defiance showed that he had strength and that is good, but it will not be tolerated again. He is pleased to learn about what he is from Essex and, in doing so, what he will be. However, he warns Sinister to never forget who has the true power. It is he who will decide whether Sinister lives to witness the great mutation, or die before it comes to fruition. When he returns, it will be the dawn of the Age of Apocalypse, and Sinister will be his servant.

With everything said, Apocalypse is sealed within his tomb once again. Sinister realizes he underestimated this ancient warlord. It could have cost him his life, and worse, the opportunity to indulge his every scientific urge. He also realizes that he will one day have to decide whether to serve Apocalypse, even if that means destroying the species’ future.

(somewhere outside of time)

Sanctity has returned for Scott and Jean. She congratulates them on proving their worth. The men of the Hellfire Club will be disappointed that their awaited signal will not now come, now that their dark messiah has been dispatched once more into dormancy. Scott tells her that they still didn’t do all they could have. Sanctity asks how so. Jean informs her that her husband is upset that they let Sinister through their fingers.

Sanctity reminds him that Sinister is important. He orchestrated the birth of Scott’s child, and the future’s savior - Nathan Dayspring Summers. Scott asks if this means all this was meant for them to persuade Essex to become Sinister, in order for Nathan to exist? Sanctity tells him that time is not a thing so easily quantified. It’s bigger than all of them. They are merely there to make a small difference; in this case, to prevent this primitive world from being crushed by Apocalypse. Perhaps, she suggests, sometimes lesser evils are necessary if greater evils are to be overcome. She decides to take her leave.

Jean tells Scott that he’s shivering. Scott replies that it’s because even though his head tells him she’s right, his heart keeps asking if it was worth one man’s soul. “And…?” prompts Jean. Scott adds that he can’t help thinking that there is something else that they have done without even knowing about it.

(New York Harbor, 1860)

Oscar Stamp arrives at the harbor with young Danny. Immigrants are flooding into America from all over the world, including London. They approach an official, after Oscar reminds Danny to tell people he’s his dad, and that his mum died when he was a nipper. If they find out they’re not related, they might shove him in a workhouse. The official asks Oscar his name. Oscar tells Danny that maybe they should have new ones, and asks him to choose one. Danny remembers the beautiful woman, and the strong and kind man who was her husband. If he could grow up to be like him he would be happy. He informs the official that their names are Summers… Oscar and Daniel Summers.

(epilogue - Westminster Abbey, 1882)

As the coffin of Charles Darwin is carried through the softly falling rain, Sinister almost laughs. He enjoys the irony of someone like Darwin being buried in the highest church in the land. A man suddenly approaches Sinister. He introduces himself as Higgins from the Royal Society. As he gets nearer, he notices Sinister’s pallid complexion underneath his hat. He apologizes, and informs Sinister that he thought he looked like a man he once knew; Nathaniel Essex. Sinister replies that he’s heard of him, but he believes he died a few years ago.

Higgins wishes him good day, and Sinister looks at the trinket that he has kept all these years with the photograph of Rebecca. Today, he will let go of Rebecca, of Charles Darwin, of all of them. He recalls barging into Darwin’s house the day Rebecca died, and telling him that he was leaving the future to him. It seems that now, it is Darwin who has left the future to Sinister.

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Phoenix (both X-Men)

Mister Sinister

Oscar Stamp, Daniel and the freaks

Buckingham Palace guards, serving staff and dignitaries

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert


Cootie Tremble

William Ewart Gladstone


New York travelers

Imigration official

Charles Darwin’s funeral cortège and mourners


(in photograph)

Rebecca Essex

Story Notes: 

The royals are discussing politics. However, some historical facts are wrong.
Victoria did not become Empress of India until 1877. Gladstone did not become prime minister until 1868. In 1859 he was M.P. for Oxford and became Chancellor of the Exchequer (something like Treasury Secretary) in Palmerston’s cabinet, and he was never “royalty.” Also, the foreign crisis of the day was Italy, not Ireland.

It is assumed that Apocalypse’s weakening during the battle with Jean was caused by Sinister’s plague, and not by Jean herself.

The Gordian knot reference refers to the story of Alexander of Macedonia coming to the town of Phrygia, which had a local legend that whomever could untie an intricate knot would become king of all of Asia. Rather than try to manipulate the rope, Alexander purportedly used his sword to cleave it in two, thereby satisfying the prophecy, albeit in an unorthodox way. Since then, the story has become a metaphor for solving an intricate problem with a bold, decisive stroke.

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