New X-Men (1st series) #123

Issue Date: 
April 2002
Story Title: 

Grant Morrison (writer), Ethan Van Sciver and Tom Derenick (pencilers), Townsend, Miki, Hanna, Florea (inkers), Hi-Fi Design (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Saida! (letters), Pete Franco (assistant editor), Mark Powers (editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Jean and Emma walk through the campus of the Xavier Institute and converse about the pending press conference that Jean has called. Later, Emma tries to console four of the Stepford Cuckoos quintet about their sister, Esme, who has begun exchanging affection with a boy. Later again, as Jean holds her press conference with the media, Beast makes a startling discovery: the flu that the mansion residents have been stricken with recently is being caused by Nano-Sentinels. Beast rushes to tell Jean, who is escorting the media out. At this time Kato, Esme's new boyfriend, makes his final report to his mothership. Simultaneously, Cyclops and Xorn are taken out in China, and the Imperial Guard make their move on the Institute. Gladiator, leading the assault on the mansion, gives one simple order: Destroy all mutants.

Full Summary: 

Jean and Emma walk through the Xavier Institute while the students enjoy the grounds. Jean remarks at how terrific this year's students seem to be, but Emma scoffs, declaring them to be a horde of ghastly illiterates. Emma next asks how Xavier is fairing. Jean replies that he can't remember her name most days. Some days he calls her Moira, an ex-lover, and some days he calls her Gus, a childhood dog. Jean states that she is unsure which is more disturbing. Jean directs the conversation to the pending press conference and asks how she should handle it. Switching to telepathy Emma jokingly tells her to point out that humanity is doomed within five generations. However, Jean replies that she would rather concentrate on the positive aspects of human-mutant relationships today.
Elsewhere on the Institute grounds, Esme one of the Stepford Cuckoos quintet approaches a young asian boy, Kato, smiles, and kisses him. Their kiss is interrupted by Esme's four identical sisters. They are complaining to Emma Frost, who is picking some roses, that their sister is kissing a boy, making her practically a slut. While they theorize that he has taken over her mind, Emma tells the girls to treasure young love, as it all soon enough turns sour. The girls retort that combined, the five of them are a single brilliant mind but separate they are just four smart blondes. Still Emma scoffs, comparing Esme and Kato to Dante and Beatrice, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde and even Tom and Jerry.
Wolverine stops his bike at a tree where Angel sits atop a high branch. She tells Wolverine, her only friend, that she hates the rest of the kids. Wolverine asks Angel to come out of the tree. Angel retorts that if spending time around the rest is so great, then why is he gone so much. Wolverine, still atop his bike, simply explains that when a man's been around the block as much as he, the unfinished business piles up. But now, he says, he's planning to stay awhile. Emma approaches the two and succinctly insults the two with one statement. After a few quick retorts from Wolverine and Angel, Emma informs Wolverine of "ominous vibrations" reported from her psychic telepathic girls. Wolverine scoffs at the threat, pointing out that they all sense danger with Cassandra on the loose in space. Further he dismisses Emma's claim of her girls being "crème de la crème" and reclassifies them as "five teenage girls with hormones like the fourth of July". Angel laughs at the verbal beating that Emma is receiving from Wolverine. Emma grins at the young girl and tells her that if she is interesting in a battle of wills, then the challenge is accepted.
At the front door of the mansion, Beast welcomes the visiting media, pointing out that the mansion has been vacuumed specifically for them. In the medical bay Jean speaks, one-sidedly, to Professor Xavier. She tells him that she has been so nervous about the conference that she has gone to the bathroom fifteen times so far today. However, even though she is nervous, Jean says, she will not let him down. Jean picks up a stray thought from the professor, and asks him to repeat it. Her telepathy picks up the thought, and, in tears, Jean agrees that Gus, the professor's childhood dog, was a good dog. As she walks away from the professor Jean still mumbles to herself that Gus was the best dog in the world.
Back at the conference, Beast finishes the last of his amusing anecdotes and introduces the Xavier Institute's acting headmistress, Mrs. Jean Grey-Summers. As Jean takes the podium, Beast tells her to give them hell. Jean telekinetically levitates a glass of water next to the microphones, almost trying to remind the audience of why they are there. With eight microphones set to record her words, cameras and in the audience to record her image and almost two dozen reporters to transcribe her words, Jean speaks.
Jean greets the audience, admitting that she didn't expect so many people. Next she apologizes for the professor's absence and says that while illness has kept him away, his spirit has informed the content of what she will say. Thirty years ago at the end of August, Jean tells them, Charles Xavier discovered that he was "X-Gene Positive" after he discovered that he was telepathic. At this time, he was only eleven years old. As Xavier grew up, Jean continues, he was able to see through the lies that we tell ourselves and realized that through all of the hate, deep down, we were all just scared of being betrayed by one another.
To push the point of telepathy, and make it a reality, Jean unites all of the minds of the reporters into what Jean calls a "telepathic meeting room". All presently seated find their chairs or couches no longer setting on the floor of the conference room, but floating in a pink sky full of stars. Images float nearby; images of Xavier, a variation of Donatello's "Creation" from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and a brain with cinema film instead of a spinal cord.
A reporter named David musters up the courage to ask a question. He points out that mutant issues have been in the forefront lately with the Genosha tragedy and, rather than just mutant terror groups, mutant celebrities and corporate CEOs. With this in mind, he asks, are mutants the new Rock N' Roll? Jean answers straightly, No. She points out that while in recent times, everyone wants to portray themselves as an oppressed minority, the institute tries not to encourage that kind of defeatist worldview. Xavier's, she explains, is a school that exists to teach students to take care of themselves and other people. Another reporter asks Jean if there is a kind of private army attached to the institute. Again, Jean answers no. She tells the reporter that they have a group of highly trained volunteers, including herself, who have elected to monitor and resolve mutant emergency situations. Outside the mansion, Kato speaks into his watch in another language.
Back in the telepathic meeting room a reporter doesn't so much ask a question, but makes a statement. She points out that casually violating the privacy of others may seem normal to her, but it's wrong. Further, she points out that trouble seems to follow mutants wherever they go. Enraged by this statement, Emma telepathically grows into a giant. Pointing at Beast, Emma states that while he is a world-renowned scientist she, the reporter, is "a witless bigot with brightly glowing masochistic tendencies". Quickly, Jean re-takes control of the situation, reducing Emma to normal size. She chastises Emma, telling her that she will now have to wipe the previous thirty seconds from the audience's memories. As Emma considers this, the previous reporter realizes out loud that she is indeed a witless bigot.
A quick mind-wipe later, Emma reacts in shock to the reporter's statement about trouble following mutants. Beast, who agrees, begs her pardon as he realizes that his corporeal self, still in the laboratory, has discovered something weird. Now fully back in the lab, mentally as well as physically, Beast looks into a microscope. Softly, and to himself, he repeatedly mutters "Oh, my God".
Jean continues. She states that while mutants have been persecuted and exterminated, mutants have yet to begin to comprehend, let alone recover, from the unprecedented murder of 16 million mutants in Genosha. Any of those lost, she states, could have discovered the cure for Cancer or AIDS. Any of them could have gone on to become a Shakespeare, Einstein, or Kurt Cobain. To press the point of mutant potential, Jean mentions a twelve-year old autistic boy who can talk to atoms in their own language.
In the lab, Beast stares into his Microscope. Speaking aloud, he asks Emma to recall the flu that has stricken all of the mansion residents. Further, he asks her to recall the theory that they had discussed of Cassandra Nova being behind the virus. Gazing into the microscope he tells her it is ten thousand times worse. In the slide of blood he can see microscopic mechanical creatures attacking the white blood cells.
At a bar, Wolverine drinks a beer and watches Jean's conference on television. He sees her tell the world that the Institute is not training mutant terrorists, but mutant artists and scientists. They are giving the world mutant musicians, politicians, doctors and athletes. She tells them that mutant telepaths can voyage into the depths of the human mind and free people from ancient, destructive behavior patterns. As humans and mutants are from the same evolutionary tree, she states, fighting each other is like one finger fighting another. Drawing to a close, Jean points out that as both humans and mutants have to live in the future, they should get together and make it a nice place to live.
A little later, Jean leads the reporters back to the front gate. One reporter gushes to Jean. He admits that he knew nothing about mutant culture before and now sees the whole new world of possibilities of which Jean has spoken. He tells her that while he cannot speak for every other human, her plan of the future looks like some type of utopia. Jean responds that as long as there are a few willing to talk, it'll be a start.
As the group walks back to the mansion entrance, Esme notices her new boyfriend, Kato, speaking into his watch. She approaches the teen and asks to whom he is talking and if there is anything that she should know. Kato looks up at her and replies that he might as well tell her, as she is going to soon die and it will not matter.
Still walking with the reporters, Jean loses her balance and falls to the ground. Emma kneels next to Jean and smiles to the reporters, telling them that this is something that she always does for dramatic effect. Oblivious to Emma's attempt to explain away her behavior, Jean rises to her feet while ranting. She asks if Emma felt that they had just been scanned. Then, raising her voice, she tells Emma to switch to her diamond form and to go into telepathic shutdown. As Jean begins to panic about Scott in Tibet, Beast runs into the courtyard. Yelling at the top of his lungs he tells Jean about the "Nano-Sentinels".
In the ruins of a Tibetan temple Cyclops and Xorn lie unconscious. Nearby, one of three alien forms contacts his ship in orbit above. The alien, named Arc, tells Gladiator that the primary injection was successful. There were no surprises and the enemy didn't expect them. Further, he informs his superior that his team is on their way back to the superdestroyer with two mutant samples. Soon enough, on the superdestroyer, Arc approaches Gladiator as he looks at the planet Earth below. Arc informs Gladiator that the two mutant specimens, Cyclops and Xorn, have tested positive for the thought-plague contamination, just as the Empress warned. As such, Arc continues, they are to proceed with total life-form sterilization.
As a final thought, Arc reminds Gladiator that the X-Men were once friends of the empire. Gladiator in turn reminds Arc that the empress nearly died in 4-Space as a result of the mind infection. While he hates what they must do, he asks if they would spare a deadly virus that was ravaging the galaxy? In an attempt to steel Arc's nerves, Gladiator asks him to remember the Shi'ar ninth vow of destruction: "Be strong and be merciful. If they plead for their lives, do not falter." Concluding, Gladiator reminds Arc and the other two Imperial Guardsmen that they do as the Empress commands. With this decided, the four step off of the ship's observation platform and descend to the planet below.
On the grounds of the Xavier Institute Esme's four sisters approach her. They tell Esme that something terrible is about to happen, and her so-called boyfriend is a part of it. Esme defends her new boyfriend, telling her sisters that they are jealous. To all of the girls' surprise Kato admits to not being human, declaring, as he transforms, that Kato was merely his human disguise. Swiftly, Kato transforms into a green alien form with a large one-eyed head. He announces that he is called Stuff, and is the advanced scout of the Shi'ar superguardian team assigned to the lifeform sterilization procedure. Stuff continues to transform, shaping his body into a gas-pocketed balloon. As he floats away, he tells the girls to prepare for sterilization.
Flame engulfs the grounds. Through the inferno Gladiator calmly strolls. He introduces himself as Gladiator and states that it is his sworn duty to preserve the stellar harmony. As he stands over Emma Frost, who is sheltering the Stepford Cuckoos sisters, he asks the eternal heavens to forgive them for what they must now do: Destroy all mutants. Emma, still shielding the five girls, advises Esme not to let this experience put her off of boys.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Phoenix IV, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Xavier, in Cassandra Nova's body
Angel, Stepford Cuckoos, and other students of the Xavier Institute
Xorn, X-Men ally
Arc, Gladiator, Squorm, Stuff, and some unnamed characters (all Shi'ar Imperial Guardsmen)

Story Notes: 

Esme is the first of the Stepford Cuckoos to have been referred to by name.
Jean tells the reporters that Xavier manifested his telepathy thirty years ago when he was eleven, making him 41 years old. This seems somewhat young for a man who served in a war, spent some time in Israel and became a world know expert on genetics.
Over 16 million mutants died in Genosha in New X-Men #115 when Cassandra Nova's super sentinels attacked the island nation.

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