New Mutants (1st series) #91

Issue Date: 
July 1990
Story Title: 
Prey for the Living

Louise Simonson (Plotter), Fabian Nicieza (Scripter), Rob Liefeld (Penciler), Hillary Barta (Inker), Rick Parker (Letterer), Mike Rockwitz (Colorist), Suzanne Gaffney (Assistant Editor), Bob Harras (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Rictor manages to stay out of the way while Sabretooth and Caliban battle each other in the Morlock tunnels. While Cable and the New Mutants trudge through the tunnels in search of their teammate, they are soon met by Masque and some other surviving Morlocks. The two parties decide not to battle, and Masque allows the New Mutants to pass. The New Mutants eventually find Rictor, with Caliban and Sabretooth looming over him, the young heroes engage them in battle, eventually covering Caliban in a pile of rubble, unaware that Sabretooth has taken off with Rictor. Nearby, Sabretooth harasses Rictor, until finally Rictor manages to use his powers, causing a cave in over himself and Sabretooth. The New Mutants hear the commotion and track Rictor down. Sabretooth reappears and the New Mutants are about to fight him when Masque and his followers return, declaring that Sabretooth is theirs for the crimes he committed against the Morlock community. Cable agrees, but before the Morlocks can attack Sabretooth, Caliban returns, surprising Masque by his new appearance. Caliban doesn’t want any more Morlock blood spilled, so he attacks Sabretooth, and in a very short battle, wins. The New Mutants leave Sabretooth’s motionless body in the tunnels, and return home, with Caliban thinking to himself that the day will come when Cable and his followers participate in a trial by fire at his hands. A few days later, the New Mutants visit Rictor who is recovering from his wounds, and question him as to why he is being so hard to Cable, he doesn’t answer them and they tell him they cannot support his views if he will not elaborate on them. Rictor realizes his friends are right, and later goes to practice in the Danger Room, only to discover that Cable is using it. Rictor watches Cable’s awesome display, and admits that he is beginning to respect him.

Full Summary: 

In the Morlock Tunnels…the former Morlock Caliban, now the Horseman of Death, is at the mercy of the deadly and murderous Sabretooth, while the New Mutant Julio Richter a.k.a. Rictor lies, badly wounded several feet away. Rictor knows that his is bleeding, which is why he cannot run away, but he also knows that Caliban and Sabretooth are both crazy - so no matter who wins this fight, he will be their next.

Caliban uppercuts Sabretooth, knocking the villain back while telling him that he can rake all he wants with his claws and barbaric fervor, but that as he has weathered the agonies of physical reformation and the ravages of self-distress to find purpose in life, the mania is unto a gentle breeze against a granite cliff. Caliban informs Sabretooth that Rictor sought refuge in the tunnels from his own spiritual demons, so it was not necessary for Sabretooth to become physical with him as well.

Rictor sobs while thinking that it serves him right, as he ran away from the other New Mutants cause he cannot deal with Cable taking charge, nor could he hack it in the Danger Room. Julio thinks that the joke is on himself now, because if he couldn’t handle a practice battle, then how is he going to survive the real thing now?

Caliban lunges at Sabretooth, suggesting that he prepare to make peace with his past, ‘For you no longer have hope left for a future!’ Before Caliban can strike Sabretooth though, the Marauder picks up a slab of concrete and smacks it hard against Caliban while remarking ‘You talk and talk and talk about strength and the survival of the fittest…well here’s a bulletin for you…I wrote the book on survival!’

Rictor comes to Caliban’s defense by using his vibration powers on Sabretooth, striking the fierce mutant in the back. Sabretooth quickly turns though and smacks Rictor in the face, telling him that he is too weak and that his powers don’t do anything against him. Sabretooth looms over Rictor, ‘Now then, little boy meat - let’s finish what we started!’ he snarls, when suddenly Caliban comes up behind him, and referring to the massacre of the Morlocks in which Sabretooth took part, Caliban calls him a butcher of his own kind, and declares that they shall indeed finish what they started.

Meanwhile, over a mile away, the rest of the New Mutants, led by their mysterious new mentor Cable begin the search for Rictor. The well-armed Cable announces that he is picking up background noise all over the place, and remarks that the way sound in these tunnels reverberates, it is hard to tell what is a mile away, or an inch in front of your face. ‘Either way, this place is totally disgusting!’ Tabby “Boom-Boom” Smith mutters, to which Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta tells her to ease up, reminding her that she knew going into the Morlock tunnels would force her to make a daring fashion statement. ‘Yeah Roberto, like slime-on-pink is the rage this year!’ Tabby replies.

Cable tells Boom-Boom and Sunspot to be quiet, but it is too late, as several large Morlocks drop out from the shadows and surround Cable and the New Mutants in the dark and dank tunnels. ‘You were saying something about an inch in front of your face?’ Tabby asks, trying to make a joke. Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie tells Boom-Boom to quit joking and points out that these Morlock bruisers look pretty tough. Bobby boasts that the Morlocks don’t have anything the New Mutants can’t put out in kind, to which Cable agrees.

The Morlocks’ leader, the grotesque Masque, replies ‘Perhaps, shiny metal man…but for every Morlock I lose, another will stand in his steed’ and asks Cable if he can say the same. Cable replies that he cannot, to which Masque warns that if Cable loses, then he will have oodles of fun with him and his kids. Cable tells Masque that if he wants a fight, then they can give him one, before informing him that they did not trespass on his land with that intention, explaining that they are after one of their own who may be in trouble. Masque remarks that the tunnel is getting a little crowded, and allows Cable to proceed, and adding that if luck is with the Morlocks, they will all kill each other off. ‘Less mess for us to deal with, you know’.

The alien New Mutant known as Warlock excuses his colloquial slang, before asking Cable if Masque was a bit out of his gourd. Cable replies that he had a similar thought in mind, before pointing out that the main thing they avoided was a fruitless fight with them. Cable orders Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair to remain in her full wolf mode and keep tracking Rictor’s scent. Cable then orders Cannonball to fly ahead and scout around, but that he is not to engage anyone if he encounters resistance.

Ten minutes later, Cannonball has flown back to his teammates and informs Cable that it looked like there was a ruckus up ahead, like there was a whole lot of shaking going on. Cable agrees and announces that this is it, as Rahne has picked up Rictor’s scent. He tells everyone to be on their toes. ‘I didn’t mean literally, Warlock!’ he adds.

Arriving up ahead, the New Mutants see Rictor lying in the tunnel and Warlock exclaims ‘Self friend Rictor is damaged!’ Cannonball notices who he suspects to be Caliban, while Cable aims his weapon at Caliban and declares that they are here for Rictor. ‘Let us have him and we’ll go!’ he exclaims, when Rahne sees Rictor’s injuries, she lunges towards Sabretooth, boasting ‘It’s time to fight someone who can match you claw for claw!’, but as she tries to strike Sabretooth, he smacks her hard telling Wolfsbane that there is no way she can be a match for him, before announcing that he got off on seeing her little boyfriend bleeding and whimpering. Cannonball exclaims that the New Mutants may not enjoy hurting people and fighting like Sabretooth does, ‘But that don’t mean we can’t do it!’ Sam adds as he blasts towards Sabretooth, then smacks him into the side of the tunnels.

Cable watches as Sunspot engages Caliban and tells him not to, but seeing as Bobby isn’t listening, Cable just unleashes his weapon against Caliban, blasting him hard. Cable thinks to himself that it has been so long since the New Mutants have had qualified instruction, they no longer work well as a team. Cable knows he is going to have to correct that, or else it may cost them dearly in battle. Cable calls out to Boom-Boom, ‘The roof, now!’, which Tabby assumes that Cable wants a time bomb right over where Caliban is, and tosses a burst of plasma in the air, and very shortly after, some of the ceiling comes down on their over-sized foe. ‘No problema!’ Tabby exclaims, adding ‘That’s Spanish, ya know!’

‘You call that Spanish?’ Sunspot snaps back, to which Cable remarks that he would call it “effective” in any language, to which Boom-Boom exclaims ‘Finally! A bohunk of the species who recognizes talent when he sees it!’ Warlock announces that he has a query, and proceeds to ask if “former self friend Caliban” has been flattened to the consistency of ‘Floury breakfast dough sans syrup’. Wolfsbane exclaims that they should forget about Caliban, and asks where Rictor is. ‘And Sabretooth!’ Sunspot points out.

Sabretooth is currently rushing through a nearby tunnel, with Rictor tossed across his shoulder. Sabretooth declares that the New Mutants will never be death on two legs, as they don’t have the brains or the guts, and they are so busy seeing what they have done instead of looking at what they should be doing. The villain suggests that perhaps they just don’t care enough about Rictor. ’Seems like no one really cares much about you - your friends, your new teacher…well guess what, “shakin’ bake”?…I care about you!’ Sabretooth snarls as he tosses Rictor to the tunnel floor.

‘I care enough to kill you!’ Sabretooth roars as he looms over the injured Rictor. ‘NO!’ Julio screams, ‘Oh yeah!’ Sabretooth snarls as he remarks that Rictor got in the middle of his fight with Caliban, ‘You get between the hunter and its prey and you’re gonna pay!’ Sabretooth warns Rictor, before suggesting that he shreds Rictor’s skin clean off his bones and wears him like a scarf, or perhaps he might hang Rictor up in front of the tunnel entrance, and warn all the Morlocks what is in store for them. ‘I’ll be fair - you decide!’ Sabretooth offers.

‘No’ Rictor whispers, while he begins to vibrate. ‘The mouse that roared? More like a squeak, pip!’ Sabretooth laughs, while Rictor whispers that he will not give up - no matter how much it hurts! ‘Even if it kills me - I’m gonna take you with me!’ Julio declares, furiously staring at Sabretooth, who just roars with laughter, ‘Show me some teeth, you little wimp! Make me sweat for it!’ Sabretooth shouts, when suddenly Rictor manages to get to his feet, ‘DON’T LAUGH AT ME, YOU ANIMAL!’ he shouts as his powers cause major rumblings in the tunnels, while Rictor tells Sabretooth to go for it, that the only way he is going to get out of here alive is if he runs like the animal he is. ‘What’s it gonna be, pig - you gonna be a man - fight me and die - or run like a coward and live?’ Rictor asks as the ceiling begins to collapse.

The rumbling is heard nearby by Cable, who asks his charges if they also heard it. Warlock exclaims that it would appear that Rictor has repaired his internal damage, and asks if they should lend assistance. Sunspot asks about Caliban, to which Boom-Boom boasts that when she puts uglified meat-machines down for the count, they stay down! Cable replies that whether Boom-Boom is right or not, their main responsibility is to Rictor, and he adds that, if necessary, they can come back after Caliban another time, when they are better prepared.

The New Mutants and Cable rush to find Rictor as more rumbling is heard, and Cannonball exclaims that it sounds like the whole tunnel is going to come down around them. Boom-Boom mutters that she is sure her ears are bleeding here, before exclaiming that she thinks they are closer to finding Rictor than ‘Cute on Johnny Depp!’ Cable confirms that he has Rictor sighted on infra-red through his bionic eye, adding that he is half-buried under rubble, but awake.

Shortly, Rictor opens his eyes sees his teammates, while muttering ‘Hey guys…guess I blew my top for real this time, eh?’ Ten minutes later, the rubble has been cleared off Rictor, and Boom-Boom stands over him, muttering that they just had to save him again. Rictor asks her what she means “we”, as he doesn’t see any dirt under her fingernails. ‘Sure, because all of hers is under all of mine!’ Sunspot mumbles while continuing to move some rubble. Cannonball tells his friends to zip their lips and asks where Sabretooth is under all of this mess. ‘Why don’t you try…right behind you?’ Sabretooth snarls as he pops up behind the New Mutants.

The New Mutants turn to face Sabretooth, and Rictor tells him to floss his teeth or keep them under wraps, adding ‘You don’t scare me anymore, mister!’ Cannonball informs Sabretooth that they are taking him in, while Sabretooth just mutters ‘Do tell’. ‘You hurt one of us and you answer to all!’ Cable exclaims, informing Sabretooth that they can take him down hard or easy, and offers him the choice. Boom-Boom backs Cable up, while suggesting Cable nudge Sabretooth towards the easy answer.

Suddenly, ‘NO, CABLE!’ bellows Masque and several of his followers lumber towards the New Mutants. Masque exclaims that the Morlocks owe Sabretooth, the savage butcher a lot more than a nick or cut to the New Mutants’ pretty face. ‘He’s ours!’ Masque exclaims. Cable asks the Morlock leader if it is very logical for them to fight over who gets the right to fight Sabretooth, while Cannonball informs Cable that he doesn’t think logic gets in the Morlocks’ way too often. Sunspot points out that Sabretooth has hurt Rictor now, and the rest of the New Mutants at some point in the past, so they are honor bound to stop him.

Masque calls Sunspot a pampered boy and tells him that he knows nothing about hurt, nothing about the kind of pain the Morlocks have gone through. Cannonball remarks that it is Cable’s call, but that it is his opinion they can walk away from this one. Boom-Boom suggests that they “amscray” and tell everyone else that the kicked the crud out of them all. Cable tells Boom-Boom to keep quiet and announces that he agrees with Cannonball, as the Morlocks will dispense their own brand of justice to Sabretooth, or Sabretooth to them. Cable adds that the New Mutants will always be around if the winner causes a fuss down the road. ‘But he -’ Sunspot begins to protest. ‘Right?’ Cable remarks. ‘- and they!’ Bobby continues. ‘Right?’ Cable asks. ‘Right’ Bobby mutters.

‘You win the jackpot, pizza-face!’ Sabretooth exclaims as he turns to Masque and the Morlocks. Masque points out that they still outnumber him, no matter how many of them he slays. But before the battle can begin, Caliban bursts onto the scene, ‘No!’ he shouts, ‘There will be no more Morlock blood shed by this demon!’ Masque is shocked, ‘Caliban? Is that you?’ he asks, while Cable snarls ‘Oh, let’s cook with fire now!’

Caliban exclaims that the weak must be culled from the strong, ‘The kill is mine!’ he cries. An angry Masque replies ‘Oh, it is, is it?’ before pointing out that he rules the Morlocks, and what he says goes. Caliban replies that only one weak mutant must be killed today, and reveals that he has chosen Sabretooth. ‘Give him to me, or I will choose another!’ he warns Masque. Frightened, Masque remarks that Caliban has changed, ‘An improvement as far as I’m concerned…go get him, big guy!’ With that, Sabretooth leaps towards Caliban, ‘Let’s do it!’ he snarls, while Caliban informs him that his madness ends tonight.

The New Mutants begin to take their leave, but Cable tells them to wait, as he wants to see how this plays out. Caliban grabs Sabretooth in his large arms, and tells the deadly villain that for all the pain he has caused in his lifetime, he hopes his soul suffers eternal damnation. There is a major KRAKK as Caliban bends Sabretooth’s body. Masque grins in pleasure, while the New Mutants gasp in shock. ‘I think I’m dealing in some major chucking on this end, here…’ Boom-Boom mutters, while Cable looks at Sabretooth’s motionless body, lying on the tunnel floor and remarks that Sabretooth has been tried and executed by those he wronged, which is acceptable as far as he is concerned.

Cable tells his charges that it is time to go home, while Caliban watches them, thinking that his task here is finished, for now at least. However, Caliban feels that the day is coming when this man Cable and his flock will participate in a trial by fire at his hands. ‘The day is coming soon…’.

Days later, ‘Dogging it for sure now!’ Cannonball tells Rictor as the New Mutants gather around their teammates bed while he recovers from his injuries. Rictor replies that he isn’t faking it, but his wounds really have not healed. Sam asks Julio if he is sure he just doesn’t want to do another Danger Room session with them, to which Rahne points out that the Danger Room was the very matter which got Rictor into this mess in the first place. Sunspot remarks that Wolfsbane is right, and tells Rictor to consider himself lucky that Cable wanted to come and get him in the first place. Rictor scowls and remarks that he would be happier knowing not owing Cable anything, before telling his teammates that he is glad they came to help him, but that nothing Cable did makes a difference to him.

Wolfsbane asks Rictor how he can say that, as Cable has been good and kind to them since they first met him. Rahne reminds Rictor that he has not told them what his problems with Cable are - or were - and asks him how, until he does, he can expect them to support his views towards Cable. ‘What she said - except maybe with half as many words!’ Boom-Boom exclaims in agreement. Rahne sees that Rictor looks upset with her, and tells him that they have said their piece, and that she didn’t mean to snap, before asking Rictor to give this a chance with Cable, but to most of all, give himself a chance.

Later, Rictor is up out of his bed and makes his way through the sub-basement headquarters of the New Mutants, thinking to himself that his teammates are right, he did quit on himself, and exclaims that he leaned in the tunnels you can never ever quit. Julio realizes that he has never used his powers like that before, but feels that he wasn’t really in control. He decides that there is only one way to learn to control it - practice! ‘And only one way to practice in this place…the Danger Room!’ Entering the control booth, Rictor decides that he has to practice now, while no one is around, so if he screws up, no one will know about it.

But gazing down into the Danger Room, Rictor is shocked to see Cable down below battling some kind of droids, with the Danger Room in full scale solo combat mode. Rictor thinks that it is too much for one man - even if he is half-bionic, and is amazed at how Cable is battling the droids - outnumbered and outgunned! Rictor watches as Cable doesn’t give up, doesn’t quit. ‘Even at his age - geez - he must be like a million years old or something - and he keeps at it!’ Rictor exclaims as Cable leaps above two droids and smashes them together with ease.

Rictor continues watch Cable, until the powerful Cable completes his training exercise. ‘He did it!’ Rictor thinks to himself, realizing that Cable doesn’t know he is watching him, so he wasn’t showing off or anything. ‘He did it because he knows you have to always practice in order to survive the kind of work we do!’ Rictor realizes that Cable wasn’t asking him to do anything he doesn’t do himself, and wonders if perhaps he had listened to Cable, he wouldn’t have gotten trashed by Sabretooth. ‘Then again, Sabretooth’s kind of tough!’.

Rictor frowns while admitting that Cable wins, and that, perhaps, this Danger Room stuff, working out of this grubby basement under Xavier’s mansion, maybe it will be cool. But that still doesn’t mean he likes Cable, or trusts him. ‘But maybe…just maybe…I’m beginning to respect you!’

Characters Involved: 

Boom-Boom, Cannonball, Rictor Sunspot, Warlock, Wolfsbane (all New Mutants)




Masque and other Morlocks

Story Notes: 

The reasons for Rictor going to the Morlock tunnels, and his injuries at the hand of Sabretooth, can be seen in New Mutants (1st series) #90.

Yes, it would be hard to see the dirt under Boom-Boom’s fingernails, after all, she has got her bright pink gloves on (but we get the point, it’s not like she ever would get dirt under her nails).

Naturally, Sabretooth does not die this issue, and appears next in Wolverine (2nd series) #41.

The “next issue” box announces that the next issue of New Mutants is set in Madripoor. Instead though, a fill-in issue takes its place. The Madripoor storyline takes place in New Mutants (1st series) #93-94.

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