Sabretooth: In the Red Zone

Issue Date: 
January 1996
Story Title: 
In the Red Zone

Fabian Nicieza (writer), Gary Frank (penciler), Joe Holdredge with Mark McKenna (inks), Dana Moreshead (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Electric Crayon (separations), Mark powers (editor), Bob Harras (editor)

Brief Description: 

Sabretooth is being hunted by the X-Men, after he left Psylocke critically wounded at the mansion. Caliban is the first to find him but, not being too smart, he is outwitted by Sabretooth and left unconscious in the tunnels. Cyclops and Iceman head to his safehouse and find travel schedules there. As they search the apartment, Creed returns and attacks the two X-Men. Iceman manages to force his retreat and Creed heads into the city. Bobby manages to catch up with him again but Creed uses a hostage to force Iceman to allow him to board a train into Grand Central Station. Unfortunately for Creed, Beast is also on the train and he manages to occupy him in battle until Cyclops and Jean Grey can catch up with them. Once again, though, he slips away and, this time, Archangel tries to stop him. Sabretooth manages to damage one of Warren’s wings, forcing them to crash land in a water tower. The tower explodes and the falling Archangel is frozen in ice by Bobby before he hits the ground. Sabretooth escapes yet again. Jean Grey determines that Creed is actually heading for Massachusetts in order to take out the kids of Generation X, the next generation of X-Men. Jean intercepts him before he boards the Boston train and, along with Cyclops and Beast, they manage to keep Sabretooth down until a chopper lands, carrying Val Cooper. Instead of allowing Creed a final chance of glory, Cyclops blasts him in the forehead. A police officer, thinking he is unconscious or dead, gets too close and Creed grabs his rifle. More police officers open fire on him and Creed goes down hard. He manages one final act of defiance, before he finally gives in to fate. Val Cooper orders his dead body taken away and thanks the X-Men for their good work. At least there was only one casualty, she tells Scott. Unfortunately, he replies, he was the one they were trying to save.

Full Summary: 

The hunt is on. After months of incarceration at the Xavier Institute, Sabretooth is free. He hastens through the underground tunnels, knowing that the X-Men cannot be far behind. His run comes to a stop, as he sniffs the unpleasant air around him. There is a familiar scent, close. He knew they’d be on him quickly, but it’s been only five hours since he escaped Xavier’s mansion and he’s ready to unleash some of his pent up anger. He calls for his pursuer to come out and, as expected, it turns out to be the muscular mutant tracker known as Caliban, one the mansion’s resident members of X-Force.

Sabretooth knows that Caliban may not be the brightest star in the sky, but he hits like all get out. Caliban is on him in a flash and buries Creed’s head under the murky water, saying that he hurt Betsy and Boomer, and now Caliban will hurt him. Creed surfaces and tells him that he still has the taste for it. Apocalypse gave him the teeth to bite with. Caliban replies that he broke Sabretooth once, and he’ll do it again. Creed, though not exactly small, is physically inferior to the hulking Morlock, but he’s smarter, and replies that beating on him won’t get him in good with Xavier and the X-Men. They’re too controlling and won’t allow him to be himself to smell the scent of blood. That’s what he is now: a hunter. “Not true!” Caliban shouts, as he launches his massive fist in Creed’s direction.

His attack fails and Creed tells him that a man’s gotta listen to himself and stay true to his nature. Standing in the water in front of a fizzing electrical box, Caliban insists he’s part of the X-Men, part of their family. Creed tells him that they won’t allow him to cut loose and hurt him they way Caliban knows he deserves to be hurt. Caliban makes the mistake of trying to think about this, which provides Sabretooth with the opportunity to grab a live cable and lift himself from the water, holding on to a pipe above him. He drops the cable and Caliban is shocked unconscious.

Above ground, Jean senses Caliban’s downfall using her telepathy, but is unable to get a lock on Creed. She’s not even sure that Caliban even found him. She continues to try and fix a location on him and asks Archangel if he’s spotted anything yet. Warren flies over the streets of New York, struggling to contain his rage after what Sabretooth did to Psylocke. He did more than simply wound a teammate; he nearly took all meaning from his life. He has found nothing, so Jean diverts her attention to Iceman and Cyclops, who are on the ground. They are heading towards Creed’s apartment, as Beast patrols the rooftops nearby, looking for any telltale sign of their prey.

Jean informs them that, without Caliban’s tracking senses, they won’t know if Sabretooth is even in New York, unless he does something stupid. “Like going to a safehouse he knows might be compromised?” says Bobby. He zips his lip after Scott hints that his comment might not be helpful, but adds that it’s just a little spooky walking into Sabretooth’s lair, when their fifty telepaths can’t get a mental fix on him anymore. Half a city away, Jean hears Iceman’s thoughts and suppresses a chill, as she thinks about all the innocent people who could get in Sabretooth’s way; the heartless, the cruel, the lonely, the lost. They’re nothing but meat to Creed and he has to be found before one of them gets hurt.

Jean contacts Professor Xavier telepathically. Xavier is connected to some highly sophisticated tracking equipment at the mansion but, somehow, he feels unnaturally powerless. He tells Jean that he shares her frustration, as Creed appears to be able to mask himself from their telepathic probes. Jean wonders how, as he could never do that before. Xavier surmises that he has changed, as a result of Wolverine’s head wound. When his healing factor mended his injuries, his psychological need to sooth his addiction to a psionic ‘glow’ changed as well. Without that requirement, Creed will be all the harder to track.

He receives a call from Dr. Valerie Cooper, the government’s liaison on mutant affairs. Charles asks if she’s made any progress on her end and she informs him that she’s alerted the NYPD and the Avengers. She is also scrambling a tactical team to fly in once Creed is found. Charles replies that it won’t be necessary; Sabretooth will not be able to hurt anyone else, ever again.

Meanwhile, Cyclops uses a precise, tightly focused optic blast to break the lock to Creed’s apartment and they enter, flicking the light switch on to reveal a surprisingly orderly room. Bobby is sceptical that he’s even in the city, but Scott tells him not to be fooled. He did take out Caliban and knows they’re on to him. He’s just rubbing their noses in it. For him, tonight is about spitting on everything the X-Men stand for. Jean once again contacts Scott telepathically and asks if there’s anything that might give them a clue as to his whereabouts. She breaks off momentarily as Scott notices some brochures, train schedules and flight times out of LaGuardia and JFK.

As Sabretooth enters the building and gets into the lift, Jean says they can do the detective work here. There are two train terminals which can take you out of Manhattan and three airports he has immediate access to. There are also dozens of tunnels, bridges and subways. Scott thinks it’s a wasted effort and gets the feeling that Creed isn’t in that much of a rush to leave. The apartment is too tidy and there is still a suitcase in the closet. Jean asks what he’s implying; that Creed would escape from the mansion only to hide from them like a regular human being? Scott says that’s exactly it. Creed knew they’d find the place and is taunting them.

Jean suddenly feels something. She senses imminent danger, but her fellow X-Men don’t know where it will come from. Just as Jean tells Scott that Sabretooth is right outside the door, he comes crashing through it. “Get out of my home!” he screams, as he leaps at Bobby, who ices up immediately. Cyclops blasts but it just grazes Creed’s back. With Bobby down, Sabretooth turns to Cyclops, who blasts again, this time over Creed’s head. He is quick and manages to knock Scott’s ruby quartz glasses off. With his beam now uncontrollable, he is almost helpless. Thankfully, Iceman recovers and grabs Creed’s arm before he can gouge out Scott’s eyes.

Iceman makes his body look more threatening than usual by forming spikes all over it. He tells Sabretooth that, after months of therapy, he thought he’d have learned better manners. He guesses they’re going to have to start all over again with him. Sabretooth replies that he ain’t going back, and causes ice to fly in all directions as he releases his arm from Bobby’s grip. He flees, leaping out of the window, but Iceman is straight after him, heading towards Union Square.

A young couple are chatting happily about which movie they fancy watching that evening, when their levity is broken by Sabretooth. He grabs the guy and cuts his neck slightly, warning Iceman to back off. Bobby orders him to let the man go; this is between him and the X-Men. Creed replies that he’ll let him go all right, but first he must ice over the downtown subway tunnel entrance. He asks why but, with little choice, he submits to Creed’s demand. Creed then says he’s going down the upside and Iceman must ice up the entrance behind him, or the geek gets it sooner rather than later.

Cyclops soon catches up with the action but Bobby has to inform him that he had little choice other than to let Sabretooth go. Cyclops knows he’ll be on a number six-line train, which goes up to Park Avenue. He telepathically contacts Jean again and she’s on it. She replies that the only way Creed can get to the twenty-third stop before her is if another train is coming into the station right now. As it happens, one is.

Below ground, Creed throws away his hostage, who thanks him profusely for allowing him to live. As soon as Creed boards the train, he is met surprisingly by a large, blue, furry fist, which smashes into his face, causing blood to spurt from his nose. Beast leaps from above and asks if he’s gonna make it easy or hard for him. Sabretooth clenches his fists and rushes Hank. “Neither, McCoy,” he replies, “I’m gonna make it fun!”

Beast says to pardon him if he doesn’t share the same definition of the word. He prefers Yeats, or the latest issue of the New England journal of medicine. Heck, he adds, he’ll grudgingly admit to enjoying the Richard Bey show. He’s about to admit that this isn’t fun, but he manages to leap over Creed’s attack and crunch his face into the carriage window, smashing the glass and Creed’s face with it. “Oh, who am I kidding? So far, this is fun,” he grins.

Above ground, Jean telekinetically carries Cyclops, as Iceman uses an ice slide to propel himself towards the trouble spot. Scott tells Iceman to ensure the train doesn’t get any further than the Thirty-Third Street station, while he and Jean attempt to find Creed at Twenty-Eighth. Jean informs Scott that Beast is fighting Creed, but Creed’s anger is building. There is a red haze coming off him. Scott prays that Hank can hold him until they arrive.

Back on the train, Hank pursues Creed through the carriages, past several frightened and confused passengers. He warns Sabretooth that he knows the rules. For every civilian he hurts, he’s going to break five of his bones. Creed tells him to give it a rest. He doesn’t care about these rabbits! Hank asks what he does care about then. Why this ridiculous chase? He came to them in his own twisted way. He wanted Charles to cure his bloodlust; he wanted to be stopped.

At Twenty-Eighth, Scott and Jean await the train, which rolls into the station. They enter the carriage where the fight began and are faced with a group of terrified passengers, who run towards them. They figure it won’t be hard to discover where Hank and Creed are. The two are locked in hand to hand combat, with Sabretooth taunting McCoy, asking if he’s mad because he humiliated his hero. He never needed their help and played them for a bunch of patsies. Hank asks if he honestly believes that. He reminds Creed that he was incapable of controlling his violent instincts on his own. Now, he’s refused the help they’ve offered and he wonders just what it is exactly that he expects of himself. Creed manages to grab Beast by the chin and forces him backwards. “Expect, McCoy?” he replies. “A little peace, a little quiet, a lot of blood!”

Out of nowhere, Sabretooth is hit in the chest by Cyclops’ optic blast, forcing him to release his grip on Hank. Ribs snap. The embers of rage smoldering inside of Sabretooth are being fanned into an inferno. Cyclops tells Creed that he had his shot at redemption and he blew it. Creed is becoming increasingly obstreperous and says he should go salute a flag. Only Logan and Red have any idea what it’s like. Scott asks what. To need the burning rush of anger? To want to surrender to all those negative emotions and enjoy hurting others? Creed replies, yes, as he hurls himself through the carriage window and into the darkened tunnel beyond. Scott peers out and sees him enter an access tunnel, which Hank suggests will let him out onto the street. Jean immediately warns Archangel, who is flying overhead.

As Sabretooth crawls out through a manhole, Archangel uses his keen eyes to scan the ground below. He is like a hawk, spiralling over its prey. Though it pains him to admit it, he is as much a predator as Creed and, worse now, he has to prove that he is better. Warren suddenly spots him working his way to the rooftops. He thinks that isn’t a bright move and, as soon as Creed’s head appears, Warren grabs him and carries him by the hair away from the building. Warren tells Creed that, after knowing Wolverine a while, he came to respect him, but after what he did to Betsy, he just wants to kill him. He wants to indulge the fury that Apocalypse instilled in him as his angel of death. Creed replies that he hasn’t the guts. He adds that, if Betsy was his little chippie and Archangel had put her in intensive care, he’d be cold and stiff by now.

With that, he turns and manages to turn and use his claws to slice one of Warren’s metallic wings, opening up the veins inside, which release a flood of blood. Warren screams in pain, as Creed licks the blood off his finger, telling Warren that it tastes different to last time; thinner and weaker. It ain’t even really blood anymore. The pair of them plummet to the ground. Helpless to stop their freefall, Archangel can only allow them to smash straight through the top of a water tower atop another building.

The impact causes the whole tower to explode and water gushes over the edge of the building, carrying the two antagonists with it. A crowd below begins to panic, as thousands of gallons of water gushes towards them. Thankfully, though, a cooler head prevails. Iceman manages to solidify the water molecules in mid-air, suspending them in place. The waiting X-Men congratulate Bobby for his actions, but see Warren’s wing in tatters.

Nearby, a news reporter talks to the camera. Charles Xavier watches the report, as she explains that if the mutant outlaws known as the X-Men can’t stop one of their own, then what chance do normal humans have against this vicious killer? Val Cooper calls him, as she is also watching the events unfold on television. She is aboard a chopper piloted by Lieutenant Blackwell, who informs her that their e.t.a is eight minutes. She says that the question isn’t if Sabretooth has time to cause any more harm, but how many people can he kill in four hundred and eighty seconds?

Warren is freed from his suspension, and Bobby cares for him. He tells the others that they have to put Creed down. Jean telepathically senses police on their way; lots of them. When Scott asks if she can lock onto Creed, Jean manages to determine that he’s running uptown. Scott asks Bobby to get Warren to a hospital while he, Jean and Hank continue the chase. As they run, they wonder why he is heading uptown; where is he going? Val’s chopper lets Officer Stone down onto the building roof, which is still covered in water. He searches through the debris and Jean scans Stone’s mind to see what he’s seeing. He collects tatters of Creed’s clothing and some paper, which is soggy but legible. It’s a brochure; a train schedule! Stone calls Val to get a team scrambled to Grand Central; stat! Jean tells Charles that Creed is trying to catch a train to Boston.

(Jean’s thoughts)

Jean recaps recent events in her mind. Sabretooth is loose in the red zone. When Birdy, died, he lost her telepathic ‘glow,’ which calmed his murderous impulses. This forced him to ask for the X-Men’s help, in his own way, and Charles agreed to help him. However, he sought to cure Sabretooth in order to punish him. This had the result of forcing Creed into a cage of his own making. The kicker is, Creed doesn’t even need the glow any more. Killing to him is no longer a compulsion, or an addiction. It’s a choice. The only thing Xavier did was to stoke the hatred inside of him. How can Creed get them back; rip their souls out, cut out their hearts? What makes them tick? What Jean sees is that Creed is going to go after the children of the atom.


Jean exclaims that Creed is going to the Massachusetts Academy; he’s going to kill the students! Over at Grand Central Station, Creed wants to catch the nine-forty to Boston. Upon his arrival, the shirtless Sabretooth makes his way to the train but knows his appearance will make it awkward. That’s okay. He’ll kill them all. Before he gets there, however, Jean Grey manages to catch up with him and locks him in a telekinetic hold, forcing him to the floor. She warns him that she’ll break every bone in his body before she lets him hurt another person. Creed replies that he knows that she would; beat him by becoming like him. It’s a nice twist, he says, but it wasn’t supposed to be that way, was it?

With Jean floating high in the air, Sabretooth reminds her that they couldn’t cure him just because they wanted to. He tells her that she can look inside of him and see why he ain’t never gonna be man enough to beat back the burning inside, the same way Logan does every day of his miserable life. Jean scowls at him and replies that she doesn’t need to open the lid of a trash can to know that there’s nothing but garbage inside. He’s pulled their strings long enough. Sabretooth has but a moment to feel genuinely fearful of Jean. He knows she is a firecracker, an atom bomb; and he’s lit the fuse. Jean finally explodes and sends Creed flying though a nearby wall, using her telekinesis. He lands amongst a crowd of people having a quiet drink, and Jean follows him through the hole in the wall, telling him to stop trying to run.

Creed attempts to stand up, but Jean breaks his leg with but a thought. She asks him how he’d like to try for two. The people there stare at him like he were an animal in a cage. He leaps at them but Cyclops appears and blasts him against the window, which he crashes straight through. Suddenly, he realizes his mistake, as Creed uses the opportunity to leap straight back at him. He manages to tear the cloth of his costume and pins Cyclops to the edge of the roof, as a helicopter comes into view overhead. Sabretooth tells Scott that he’s a loser; a perfect little mutie-nazi, goose-stepping to Chuck der Fuhrer’s marching orders. Scott responds by telling Creed that he knows who he is, and what he believes in are good and right, unlike him. He blasts Creed in the face, sending him backwards, pulling Scott’s costume straps off in the process. Scott’s circular X chest plate comes loose and falls to the ground, where the police below wonder how long it’ll be before the chopper lands.

With blood seeping from his eyes, Creed says he is sick and tired of the X-Men saying he runs away from a fight. Saying that, he starts to run, but Beast connects with a hefty left cross and knocks Creed down again. Creed is in poor shape, but he isn’t beaten. He tells them that he messed with the head of the world’s greatest telepath. He abused a junior X-Man and massaged Braddock’s innards with his claws, and they still think of him as some kind of reclamation project?

Beast tells him he’ll never make the train. Creed replies that things aren’t going to plan; “Things are going better!” He grabs Hank and pulls him to the edge of the roof. Hank manages to secure a hold on the roof’s edge and Creed grabs his fur to save himself from falling. Unfortunately, Hank is shedding and the fur comes loose in Creed’s fingers and he begins to drop. Jean Grey uses her telekinesis to grab him in mid air and Cyclops tries to talk some sense into him.

He says that, for the past few hours, he’s been running away from them; running to something. Creed asks what that would be. “Your death!” Scott replies, “If you can’t hurt us, kill us, then you’d rather die here tonight wouldn’t you?” Creed struggles, as the chopper moves closer. He replies that he isn’t scared of anything and, if he can take as many people with him when he goes, then fine. Scott asks why. Xavier took him in and gave him a chance. Why did he throw it all away? He disagreed with Charles when he offered his help, as did most of the X-Men. He thought he wasn’t worth the effort. Creed didn’t have the desire to change like others before him had, such as Logan and Rogue. He looks Creed right in the eye and tells him that the simple truth is: he’s too weak a man to better himself.

Creed is furious and, despite the telekinetic bubble preventing him from touching Cyclops, he leans forward as far as he is able. He replies that he is a force of nature, and the little runt back home is nothing but a pale imitation of him. Jean warns them that she is unable to maintain her hold on Creed and she is forced to let him drop to the ground. Immediately, a group of policemen train their guns on him as the chopper lands behind them. Jean links Scott’s mind to Sabretooth’s. He warns Creed not to even think about it. Creed asks if he’s seen the ending to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Scott knows what he’s about to do and replies that he has, and he hated it. He uses a precision blast to smack Creed right in the forehead, dropping him to the floor once again.

The impact hits him with the force of a bullet and a policeman warily approaches the fallen man. A fellow officer warns him to stay back but, as he speaks, Creed grabs the rifle he is carrying. This action is met with a hail of gunfire, which shocks even the three X-Men. With blood everywhere, Creed moves his arm and mumbles something. Hank asks if he’s trying to escape. Scott replies that he’s just trying to spit on them, one last time. Creed manages to grab Scott’s chest emblem, which lies next to him. He holds it in his hand and reaches for the sky, but his arm flops back and the emblem drops at the feet of Valerie Cooper, spinning to a stop, along with Creed’s life.

One of Cooper’s agents informs her that he’s dead and she orders him to load him on to the chopper and prep the crash cart. A floating coffin appears and Val tells them to get him to Zero Wing at Bathsheba. “Silent running, understood?” One of them asks if she’s coming with them, but she replies that she has some unfinished business to take care of. Hank, meanwhile, communicates with Bobby and tells him to stay with Warren. They’ll collect them and Caliban on the way home. Hank then tells Scott and Jean that Bobby had some trouble getting Warren admitted, but he’s in a stable condition.

A police officer asks where they think they’re going. Beast flashes his Avengers identity card and Val Cooper also points to her identity card, telling the officer, “They walk, you don’t talk,” The chopper takes off and carries Sabretooth’s body away. Val tells them that Charles already knows the situation and she knows how hard the last few hours must have been for them. She thanks them for doing a really good job. Taking into account how bad things could have gone, she says, there was only one casualty. Scott replies, “But the one who died was the one they were trying to save…” Jean reminds Scott that what happened to Creed wasn’t their fault. They did all they could to help him. Scott replies that he knows, but the ironic thing is that Sabretooth won tonight; because he got exactly what he wanted.

Characters Involved: 


Caliban (of X-Force)

Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey (all X-Men)

Professor Charles Xavier

Dr. Valerie Cooper

Police officers including Lieutenant Blackwell, Joey and Officer Stone

Various people in New York

News reporter and camerman

(in Jean’s thoughts)

Professor Charles Xavier

Gambit, Wolverine (both X-Men)


Monet, Skin, Synch (all Generation X, all dead)

Victims of Sabretooth

(on monitors)

Bishop, Cannonball, Storm (all X-Men)

Dr. Valerie Cooper

(on television)

News reporter

Story Notes: 

This double-sized issue follows on from Uncanny X-Men #328, in which Psylocke was severely injured by Sabretooth, who escaped from the Xavier Institute.

Caliban and Sabretooth previously fought in New Mutants (1st series) #91.

The end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is a classic movie moment. The two bandits are trapped with nowhere to go and decide to go out in a hail of bullets, courtesy of the Bolivian army.

Sabretooth didn’t actually die. He was taken away by the government and was later placed under the watchful eyes of X-Factor. Once his injuries had healed, he was given a state-of-the-art restraining collar that didn’t allow him to harm anyone but his designated target.

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