Giant-Size X-Men: Fantomex #1

Issue Date: 
October 2020
Story Title: 

Jonathan Hickman (story), Rod Reis (story & art), VC’s Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Rod Reis (cover artist), E.W.Gist (variant cover), Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annlissa Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D. White (editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Years ago, two identical babies are created in an AIM lab. Years later, one of the twins, now the grown Fantomex, is hiring the Howling Commandoes to break into the World. While they distract the attackers in the World, Fantomex faces his twin, still a child, who doesn’t want to come with him. A decade later, he repeats the process, this time duping the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle into helping him. His brother is older and wishes to stay; in fact he asks him not to come again. A decade later, Fantomex does as he wishes and avoids the Word. Another decade later, however, he tricks a superhero team into acting as cannon fodder in the more aggressive World, where Fantomex faces his brother, now a grown-up. By now, though, his brother believes in what they are doing in the World. Years later, Fantomex and Wolverine shanghai a drunk and despondent Cyclops into accompanying them into the World where his brother Ultimaton is now ready to destroy it. In the present, Fantomex and an AIM scientist on his payroll are waiting for Storm, Monet and Cypher, who need his help into sneaking into the World where they believe they will find a cure for Storm.

Full Summary: 

The past:
A laboratory: one scientist instructs another one to pay attention, as from a manipulated cell a baby is quickly born. He describes that this facility is a factory of sorts. They are a baseline, produced of the ex-vitro material that is at the very heart of their research of metahumanity. In this field, they are decades ahead of the world. And their goal is advanced ideas… at any cost.

Most people would look at this place and label it inhumane, but who are they to judge them? The vast majority of people are decisionless hypocrites and superstitious cowards. Here they worship the one true god: science! And their commitment to her is all that matters.

Identical looking babies are created on what looks like an assembly line. The newcomer asks if those are identical clones. The first scientist explains they are not identical, but progressive. Each one different from the next by one single chromosome. As such, they are perfect experiment stock.

One worker interrupts that his microscope shows those two babies are identical. The scientist scoffs at first but then is forced to agree. As the two babies are marked with different symbols on their forehead, one with a circle, the other with a diamond, the first scientist gives orders to keep the one baby and throw the other with the diamond away.

One decade later, the UK:
Fantomex has hired Sergeant Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes. Donning a beret, he announces the mission is reconnaissance: they go in, scout the place, they get out, any questions?

Unimpressed, Dum-Dum Dugan asks what his terrible accent is supposed to be. Belgian? Gabe Jones opines it’s Swiss, whereas another member suggests it’s Flemish. Flemish is Belgian, yet another one scoffs, to be schooled by Fury that Flemish is Dutch. None of which explains why they are taking orders from some pastry boy in the middle of monarchy land without a single star or stripe in sight.

Fantomex shows them the way to a dome. As for why they are here, that’s simple: they may be men of some moral standing, but many in their government are not.

They enter and Fantomex continues. Someone showed him their belly and their greed led to his need, and here they are, as a favor for a favor. If it’s any consolation; he asked for the best. Yeah, bad luck he got them, Fury replies drily as they enter a portal. What is this place? They are in what looks like a street in a French town. Fantomex replies, he doesn’t think it has a formal name, but he hears the men who have built it, have taken to calling it the World…

As they scrutinize the street, Fury asks if they just look around or is he looking for something specific? Fantomex informs them this is a super science lab where monstrous and illegal research is being done. He was born here. That’s funny, it doesn’t look Flemish, Dugan opines. Fury wants to correct him, then announces he hears something.

Of course, it’s robots, he sighs a moment later when armed drones fly towards them. He commands the Howling Commandos to take them down. He gives order to look for cover. Dugan shouts they need to get out. Fury retorts that that is a negative. The mission is done when the mission is done. Fantomex corrects him that they have done enough by drawing their attention; they can head back to the exit now.

And where is he headed? Fury asks. Where does he think? Fantomex retorts as he runs in the opposite direction, guns drawn, deeper into the World. He makes his way up the steps of a tower, taking out a drone with a thrown grenade. He falls off the tower and lands on the back of a flying pterodactyl. He flies until he finds his quarry and lands in front of a boy.

Fantomex notes that it is alarming that the world spins against its axis when starting up. A little retrograde before propelling itself forward. And he is still a boy, he addresses his twin. Unnerving. The boy apologizes. Fantomex asks if he is okay. Yes, is the reply. Does he want to leave? Fantomex asks. The boy hesitates then replies, not yet.

A decade after that, Fantomex is making overtures to the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle. He states his case to Sebastian Shaw, Jason Wyngarde, Donald Pierce and (presumably) Tessa. Shaw summarizes Fantomex offer: they are to help him gain entry to the World, and in return he will not oppose their asserted rights of pillage and plunder, is that right? Plus club privileges for himself in perpetuity, Fantomex adds. If he wants.

Shaw is suspicious. Why does he need their help? Getting in should be easy enough. Fantomex explains that they are a distraction. What he needs is time alone inside, uninterrupted. Now he has a question: what’s that smell? Shaw and Pierce are unsure if it’s baby oil or butter and Fantomex makes a note to himself not to ask if he doesn’t want to know.

Shaw agrees to their deal. Take them to his World that they may have their way with it.

Soon, the Inner Circle plus some armed Hellfire guards accompany Fantomex into the world, which seems little more than a French town. Quite threatening, Shaw mocks. He may never sleep again. Why again was there a need of their being here? he demands. Not that he minds but this feels like found money. Fantomex asks him to give it a minute. As if on cue, the World goes mad. Drones fire at them and a tentacled flying monster grabs Pierce and a guard, the latter of whom it eats.

Wyngarde evades the drones’ fire by creating illusional doubles of himself. Shaw fights what seems to be a faceless cyborg. What kind of hell is this? he demands.

Dodging some drones, Fantomex corrects him it isn’t hell… it’s the World!

Pierce frees himself and announces he is leaving. Shaw and Wyngarde follow. Shaw promise he won’t forget this.

Fantomex makes his way through the chaos and finds his brother. Asked how he is, he replies he is fine. He definitely looks better. Fantomex takes off his mask. With the brother now grown up, they look identical. Is he ready to leave yet? Fantomex asks. His brother declines. Work to do. Many children of the World to raise. In fact, he thinks from now on it’s best Fantomex stay away.

A decade later:
Following his brother’s wishes, Fantomex does just that, enjoying a day at the beach instead. He may not ever go back, he mutters.

Nevertheless, a decade later he is back at it having recruited a team of young heroes who want to know why he chose them. Well, first he went to the Avengers, saw a room of has-beens and thought: not good enough. After that it was the Defenders… the Champions, even the Thunderbolts, and he thought each time: no quality. So, he came to them: the Humonganauts. They are the best this generation has to offer and to pull off this rescue mission.

They enter the World, even as one of them asks if he said “bait”:

This time, the World’s creatures are instantly hostile and waiting from them. Sterile environment breach! one of them screeches. That’s new, Fantomex observes. He and one of the heroes run as the others are killed. and she shouts, he knew this was going to happen. He retorts, he definitely never expected this. Yes, they were probably never going to survive, he remarks, as she is blasted, but he was absolutely expecting to make it past the front door. He wonders how.

His twin, now an adult, is expecting him. He thinks they are the same. That’s how. Fantomex is like a memory of a time long lost. Something he saw out of the corner of his eye a hundred years ago. He can see him now, but why can’t Fantomex see: they are building something here. It cannot be stopped. Fantomex leaves determined.

A decade after that, Fantomex sits in the bar of the Hellfire Club close to a table where Cyclops has been getting drunk. Cyclops asks Wolverine who the guy with the phone is. Because he’s been winking at him. Fantomex uses the phone to order some hangover cure. Only one of these idiots has a healing factor.

Wolverine tells Cyclops that Fantomex is his contact. He is going with him to find out where he came from. Cyclops refuses to come along. He is so sick of missions and being some perfect mutant soldier teacher - whatever it is they are today. He strives for a dramatic exit which is spoiled by his falling over drunk.

Some drinker, Fantomex scoffs. Finishing his drink, Wolverine replies that guy is one of the best. There’s nobody he’d rather have in his corner than Scott Summers. So what’s the name of this place again?

A little later, the three are standing outside the building housing the World or as Fantomex explains, a square mile of experimental micro-reality with its own culture, religion, history… a giant petri-dish where the lives of unsuspecting humans are used up in days, even moments. A torture chamber. They call it the World. Here his mother was mated with machines and he was bred. Let them now return to the womb.

They sneak inside the complex and fight their way through AIM agents. Wolverine groans that everything smells wrong. As they enter the World, Fantomex announces this is the smell of old sins revisited. Of claims being made on what was wrought.

They enter what seems to be an ordinary urban neighborhood, only to be attacked by a flying robot guard, screaming that the sterile environment has been breached. Fanomex shoots at it, then runs to find once again his brother, now grown to be Ultimaton. Can he feel it? Ultimaton asks. This experiment – this society is coming to an end. They built the world, but look, he has broken the World. Does he build a new prison here in the ruins or dare go beyond? He remembers the idea of him, he addresses Fantomex. Like a cave painting from thousand years ago. Some primal direction of man. Some primal direction of himself. Is he real?

Not a decade later. Less:
Fantomex sits outside the entry to the World with an AIM agent discussing what is real. He doesn’t know where the lies stop and the truth starts anymore. It’s all just stories. Unsure, the AIM scientist replies he is just an evil scientist from Boston. Can he spare him the Flemish therapist routine? He’s just here for the money.

Storm, Monet and Cypher step though a Krakoan gate. They rang? Fantomex asks. Storm explains that she is dying and their best mutant scientists believe their best way to save her lies inside the World. Once they get there, they are going to need him to guide them.

They understand how it works, yeah? Fantomex asks. Yes, temporal nonsense, Monet replies haughtily. That’s the gist of it, Fantomex agrees. He can’t promise them anything. But he’ll do it? Storm asks. He replies that AIM has reasserted control of access, but he’s paid the ferryman. He’ll get them in the door.

The group step into the entrance to the dome that house the World. Storm asks what’s in it for him? She knows he doesn’t do charity or believe in goodwill, so can they trust him. Normally? Probably not, he replies. But he’s working through some of his own stuff. So maybe just this once…

Cypher asks the AIM guy what Fantomex is paying him. A lot, is the reply. Seriously, it’s a ridiculous amount. Like change-your -identity-leave-your-wife-and-kids-disappear-forever money. Cypher bets it’s not enough.

The entrance to the world. Madness rules inside.
One last time, Fantomex announces: Welcome to the World…

Characters Involved: 

Cypher, Penance, Storm, Warlock (hidden)

In the past:

Izzy Cohen, Dum-Dum Dugan, Nick Fury, Gabe Jones, Dino Manelli, Percival Pinkerton, Robert Ralston (Howling Commandoes)

Mastermind, Donald Pierce, Sebastian Shaw, Tessa (inner Circle of the Hellfire Club)
Hellfire Club mercs

Cyclops, Wolverine


Story Notes: 

Several aspects don’t quite fit with Fantomex’s established continuity, but that seems to be typical for the character.

In Marvel time, decades wouldn’t pass between those events, perhaps it is Fantomex’ personal time.

Fantomex was last seen in Astonishing X-men, where he left his body to Professor X. Presumably, he has been resurrected into a new body off-panel.

The story with Wolverine and Cyclops takes place in New X-Men (1st series) #142-145.

While the dark-haired woman in the Hellfire sequence is drawn like Selene from the time of the story, it only makes sense for her to be Tessa.

Storm was infected in Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost.

The story continues in Giant-Size X-men: Storm.

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