New X-Men (1st series) #144

Issue Date: 
September 2003
Story Title: 
Assault on Weapon Plus - part 3: The Flesh

Grant Morrison (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wootan (letterer), Anne Thornton (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

As a wide-eyed Cyclops follows him through the time-frozen landscape of The World, Fantomex explains that while mere months have passed since he escaped from the transport train, entire generations have passed inside the dome. Each generation, bio-engineered to be part-man and part-machine, is fed lies in the form of narcotic Nano-Sentinel pollen that there is nothing but endless, solid rock beyond The World’s walls. After leading the two X-Men to a place he formerly lived, time suddenly lurches forward, giving life to everything around them, including a homicidal car-cop. The threesome easily dispatches the cybernetic monstrosity but then are attacked and defeated by Weapon Fifteen. Rather than finish the three off, however, Weapon Fifteen muses that there must be more than this and takes off, skyward. As he watches the light from Weapon Fifteen soar through the domed sky of The World and into outer space, Fantomex realizes why no one has ever found the nerve center to the Weapon Plus operation on Earth… it is a space station in orbit, to where Weapon Fifteen is now speeding.

Full Summary: 

Through the frozen capital of The World, Fantomex leads Cyclops, his white boots grinding the rubble beneath them. Like walking through a snapshot, the two step through a moment in time. Clad in their traditional yellow environment suits, and cowled in their bucket-like helmets, A.I.M. soldiers are dying around them, or would be if time were not standing still. The source of their deaths, a giant floating mechanism, is frozen in the act of firing its machine guns. The mechanism itself is piloted by a giant brain, with numerous wires connected to its mass. Lacking true eyes, the brain "sees" through eyeballs attached to long metallic tentacles, which even now are transfixed on the dying A.I.M. soldiers.

So, Cyclops begins, who’s the monster? Is this Weapon Fifteen? Nah, Fantomex replies, it’s just a car-cop. World police. Finally explaining the frozen world around them, Fantomex adds that, inside The World, normal time is now on pause. Ignoring Cyclops analysis of the situation as „bizarre," Fantomex continues. It’s been what, he asks, a few months since he escaped from that transport train… but in The World, entire generations have passed. Only these buildings stay the same… and the car-cops. Living remnants of the earliest Artificial Evolution experiments. They’re what happens when you put a whale’s brain under the hood of a truck, he explains.

As Cyclops silently passes flying shrapnel, which hangs in mid-air, unaffected by the law of gravity, Fantomex asks him if he’s sure he’s ready for Weapon XV. His expression, he tells Cyclops, has all the unendearing qualities of a clenched fist. He’s still a trained X-Man, Cyclops replies. If there’s a threat, he’ll do whatever he can to contain it. Then let’s pray, Fantomex retorts, that some lumbering "martial arts" and a commanding voice are enough to carry the day.

Sensing the attack, Cyclops tells Fantomex that he works best under stress, but super-evolved mutant-killers might be asking too much until he gets his "stare" back. If he doesn’t, it feels like his head’s going to blow up. Mocking Cyclops recent loss of his mutant power, Fantomex proclaims that here he is, in the lion’s den, stripped of his mutant gifts, handicapped, emotionally crippled… and then asks him what in the hell drives such a train wreck. Replying bluntly, Cyclops states that he’s there to look out for Wolverine. He’s there because he doesn’t trust him. He’s there to make sure he doesn’t just string Logan along with false promises because he needs some indestructible muscle by his side. And how will he do that, Fantomex asks. By appealing to his better nature? Mocking back, Cyclops replies that he’ll probably try that first.

Having found a stone staircase, attached to a building’s side, Cyclops and Fantomex begin to descend to the street below, passing dead A.I.M. soldiers. Moving their conversation to Wolverine, Cyclops reminds Fantomex that Logan was tortured and brutalized by the Weapon X Program. It took him a long time and a lot of hard work to reclaim his dignity after what they did to him. He’s not a pawn or a weapon… he’s not their Weapon Ten. He’s not Professor Xavier’s weapon for peace and he’s not Fantomex’s weapon. He’s a man. He deserves respect. Now turning his statements to a question, Cyclops asks Fanomtex why can’t he just tell him what he knows about his past and give the guy a break? Because, Fantomex replies, he’s no good dead, and he thinks it’s safe to say that the knowledge in the Weapon Plus files has the potential to kill him.

The World, Fanomtex continues as he begins to enter the ruins of a building, was built to breed and supply artificially evolved super-soldiers. Part man, part machine; bio-engineered to win the imminent war between man and mutant. When Cyclops repeats the word „war" inquisitively, Fantomex replies, what else? The human species is dying. Their only hope lies in a machine fusion and a program of sustained mutant experimentation. Genetic war is coming.

Finding a tile at the edge of a room, Fantomex opens a small knife. Working it to pry the tile up, Fantomex explains that his partner, E.V.A., has a story about a space traveler traveling at light speed through the stars for what seemed to him to be only days. But, when he arrives home, breathless with tales of the great beyond, he finds that hundreds of years have passed. And everyone he knew died long ago. His generation laid down in these cells like battery hens. Battery supermen and women, absorbing lies in the form of narcotic Nano-Sentinel pollen. The told them there was nothing but endless, solid rock beyond The World’s walls…

Finished with the tile, Fantomex lifts it up, to reveal a small chamber beneath. Inside the chamber, he finds a rolled up piece of paper. Unrolling it, he reads to Cyclops its contents: "My name is Charlie Cluster 7… The World operators tell me I am a living hall of mirrors. I am a stealth fighter. I am Super-soldier Generation Thirteen. They say mutant monsters will come to steal The World and kill all my friends. But they shouldn’t have made me so smart, or I would have believed them."

Having listened carefully, Cyclops muses to Fantomex that he thought he was French. No, replies Fantomex, he just likes the accent. We all find dignity where we can. He then adds that his is in "Fantomex." After telling Fantomex "if he says so," Cyclops turns his face upwards and asks Logan if there’s anything up ahead. Everyone’s dead, Slim, Wolverine replies, referring to Cyclops by his nickname. Judging by the smoke and the trail of damage, he continues, Weapon Fifteen’s right down there by the chimneys. Speaking in a mainly rhetorical manner, Wolverine wonders aloud what’s got him so mad he wrecked his own nest?

Leading Cyclops up some steps to Wolverine’s position, Fantomex answers: he saw it for what it was and everything lost its meaning. He saw a factory farm. Reaching the balcony where Wolverine crouches, Fantomex ponders their position: Weapon Ten and Weapon Thirteen. Compared to Fifteen, he tells Wolverine, they’re walking fossils; they are dinosaurs. So? Wolverine counters, would he want to go head-to-head with a tyrannosaurus? Having made his point, another thought occurs to Wolverine and he asks Fantomex about the creepy A.I.M. guy that he warned him not to leave alone with the equipment.

Elsewhere, Wolverine’s A.I.M. agent makes his way into a small lab and seals himself inside. Through a small window he can watch the trio. Gas begins to enter his room and a loud noise reverberates through his chamber. Silently and deliberately, he twists a knob. Outside, Cyclops states softly that he can’t breathe… the air just got thinner…

A few feet away from Cyclops’ face, a blackbird hangs in mid-air, removed from the grip of the law of gravity by the frozen time. Suddenly, it’s artificial, mechanical eye opens, revealing its red sensor within. Less than a moment later, its wings beat, causing it to rise in the air and depart. Recovering from his just as sudden spontaneous regurgitation, Cyclops declares to his partners that it moved. The bird just moved!

Understanding immediately, Fantomex declares that time is starting up all around them… and yells out a warning of the reanimated car-cop. Once again brimming with life as time’s flow has returned, the car-cop draws its attention and guns toward the threesome. With a booming, electronic voice, the car-cop announces Organisms! Sterile environment breached! World under threat!. Running into the car-cop’s path rather than away from it, Fantomex instructs Cyclops and Wolverine to aim for the control chip, the six-inch area behind midbrain. Illustrating his instructions, Fantomex begins to fire with both handguns, causing the area he just described to explode in fury. Losing control, the car-cop falls to the ground, impacting harshly with the street and explodes.

And the flaming wreckage burns about them, Fantomex glibly points out to Cyclops that he could have easily joined in. It was his head it was aiming for. Referring to their previous conversation, Cyclops retorts that he guesses his moment didn’t get there yet. To this, Fanotmex tells the X-Man that he’d better understand this – it needs to come fast.

Changing the conversation, Wolverine points out that everything else in the area is on the move… Which means, Fantomex concludes, that Weapon Fifteen is also free. Turning to his teammate, Wolverine tells Cyclops that he didn’t mean to get him into this. No, Cyclops replies, he only got him blind drunk and carried him there on his shoulder… he had nothing to do with this.

With little warning, the threesome are joined. From a gaping hole of a nearby building floats a figure clad completely in nightmarish armor. The blue and purple color of the armor is broken only by the occasional circle of light, mainly surrounding some of the protruding spikes. The helmet of the figure contains no slits, but a single, round portal, through which a white light shines. Arcing over the figure, as like with a life of its own, is electricity, which seems to emanate from its eye.

Look, it thinks to itself. I have broken The World. But do I build a new prison here in the ruins… or dare go beyond? Finally drawing its attention to the three intruders, Weapon Fifteen decides to ask: "Are you real?"

After Wolverine incredulously asks what kind of question is that, Fantomex responds. Real? He grew up right around the block… they’re neighbors, he tells Weapon Fifteen as he points his guns at him, relatives maybe. Gibberish, Weapon Fifteen responds. Now that the old rules are gone, he continues, no one remains but he to make the new rules. They’re doomed, Fantomex announces to his companions. He has no sense of humor.

Just as Fantomex begins to muse aloud as to why he’s even bothering to point his guns at the monstrosity, Cyclops yells out a warning that his head is lighting up. Half a moment later, lightening arcs into the middle of the three, filling them with painful electricity. Recovering first, Wolverine announces that these big, bad, mutant-killing machines are all the same, and launches himself into an attack. Recovering next, Cyclops looks over the collapsed Fantomex and asks him to say something that isn’t "urrk." Responding promptly, Fantomex gives Cyclops a weak "churrhh…" followed by an "urkk."

As one of the intruders, armed with metal claws extending from his forearms, begins to slash at his armor, Weapon Fifteen thinks that these new encounters suggest puzzles he must solve. Equations of brute force. Calculus of conquest and annihilation. Barriers to his understanding of The World and its lies. After a few moments of allowing the intruder to vainly attempt to penetrate his armor, Weapon Fifteen raises his right hand and sense jolts of electricity through his body, laying his assailant low.

Seeing Wolverine fall, Cyclops tells the recovering Fantomex the obvious: this isn’t good. Turning his attention back to Fantomex himself, Cyclops asks him if he’s okay; his skin’s burning. A few hundred thousand volts, questions Fanotmex. He’s not so easy to hurt. Lucky for him, he adds, pointing his finger down an alley at nothing in particular, he keeps his nervous system outside his body.

In a nearby control room, a spark of energy silently flashes behind the one remaining A.I.M. soldier. Without warning the soldier, who is hard at work at a panel, the energy takes the form of E.V.A Instructed from far away by Fantomex to take control, E.V.A. obeys, telling his master that he loves it when he has that. Hearing the reply, the A.I.M. soldier whirls around to see the newcomer and half a moment later sees no more. Receiving new instructions from Fantomex to let him see through his skin, E.V.A. informs his master that there’s bad news; Weapon XV jammed the dials…

Walking slowly, almost absentmindedly, Weapon Fifteen approaches the still-unconscious Wolverine and his nearby partners. There must be more he thinks. Grabbing a plumbing pipe from the rubble, Cyclops shouts to Fantomex that if Weapon Fifteen gets loose… what happens? Like Genosha, millions dead. Still pointing down the alley, Fantomex tells Cyclops that he’s trying to stop time; don’t distract him. Too late, Cyclops replies, as he whirls to face Weapon Fifteen, he let a moment slip through… and it looks like it’s his.

Cyclops swings his pipe, which connects against Weapon Fifteen’s jaw. Fifteen responds in kind, cracking against the side of Cyclops’ face. The punch-for-punch brawl continues, as Weapon Fifteen emotionlessly and mechanically identifies his opponent as mutant… mutant… Winded from the exertion, Cyclops asks Fifteen why, if he has all of these powers, is he just hitting him? Inexplicably declaring "More: Slugfest default zero!" Weapon Fifteen increases his attack, punching Cyclops several more times, finally knocking him down.

Having won, Fifteen pauses in confusion. Looking over to the approaching Wolverine and Fantomex, he thinks to himself that there must be more than this. He can feel it inside. He was born for more. Proceeding to ignore, his impending attackers, Weapon Fifteen cranes his head skyward, into the white above them. Understanding the meaning of this, Cyclops, barely conscious, warns his partners to not let it get out… it’ll kill everyone… If he is wrong, Fifteen thinks to himself, he will break against the infinite rock beyond. But if he is right, if The World is only a dream in which he has slept for awhile… if he is right…

A brackish, gray smoke begins to accumulate at the feet of Weapon Fifteen. Then, as he is propelled into the sky, followed only by a shimmering light, the gray smoke expands, filling the space where he once stood. Reaching the finite height of The World, Weapon Fifteen breaks through the sky, which is in reality the top of the dome enclosing The World. Into the sky of the true world, Weapon Fifteen continues to climb, even as he is wordlessly surprised at the reality of it.

Perfect, mutters Fantomex, as pieces of the dome fall around him. Like all the other super-soldiers, he informs Cyclops and Wolverine, Weapon Fifteen had to have a failsafe mechanism, in case he ever broke loose… E.V.A., he tells them, is now tracking a homing signal… the hidden hand just jerked his chain and called him back to the kennel. Not really listening, Wolverine points out to Cyclops that he is bleeding from the ears. Unconcerned, Cyclops tells Wolverine to leave him alone… he let it get away… what’s it going to do to everyone? Still watching Weapon Fifteen ascend by the light trailing him, Fantomex thinks aloud how no one’s ever been able to find the nerve center of the Weapon Plus operation anywhere on Earth… now they know why…

Still ascending, Weapon Fifteen leaves behind the atmosphere surrounding the planet below and enters the vacuum beyond. Last survivor, he thinks to himself; unstoppable, indestructible, immortal. As he continues to ascend toward the space station above, Weapon Fifteen thinks All of the this. All of this is mine.

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Wolverine (all X-Men)


Weapon Fifteen
Robots and cyborgs of The World

A.I.M. soldiers

Story Notes: 

Fantomex’s escape from the transport train and the events that followed were related in New X-Men #128-130.

The story that Fantomex relays to Cyclops about the space traveler is based on the concept of Time Dilation, as proposed by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Part of Einstein’s theory states that as an object approaches the speed of light, the time for that object will appear to slow down by an observer who is not moving with the object. The idea of this phenomenon has been the subject of many science fiction stories since its inception.

Presumably, the note that Fantomex reads was written by himself some time ago while he lived in The World. If this is the case, then his "name" or "designation" is actually "Charlie Cluster 7."

Wolverine managed to get Cyclops drunk off of Jack Daniels in the Hellfire Club in New X-Men #142.

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