Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #327

Issue Date: 
December 1995
Story Title: 
Whispers on the Wind

Scott Lobdell (writer), Roger Cruz (pencils), Tim Townsend and Al Milgrom (inks), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors), Bob Harras (editor)

Brief Description: 

A mysterious man arrives at an orphanage and displays strange magnetic powers before passing out from exhaustion. He awakens later to find himself tied to a bed, with a woman calling herself Sister Maria offering him food and drink. He has amnesia but, in the back of his mind, he feels he has a dark secret. Sister Maria allows him to stay until he is well enough to travel and he accepts her kind offer. A week later, he shaves off his long white beard and is shown to be a somehow younger version of Magneto, and Sister Maria suspects this to be the case. He grows fond of the children and they feel the same way, and he remains at the orphanage, helping Sister Maria work the land while receiving spiritual help in return. One day, his powers come to the attention of Colonel Ramos, who has Sister Maria and the children kidnapped by his criminal associates, hoping to use this as leverage to make Joseph work for him. His plan doesn’t work, and Joseph instead uses his powers to force Colonel Ramos to tell him where the children are. He arrives at an old church, where the children in the basement hear a commotion above. Sister Maria knows Joseph has arrived to save them but, as she and the children leave the basement with him, they see the retribution Joseph has wreaked on their captors. Everyone is shocked and he sees their disappointment, deciding to leave the following morning. Sister Maria explains that the children will forget and he doesn’t have to go, but he does so anyway, heading to America to discover his past.

Full Summary: 

(Place, unknown)

A small group of inquisitive young children peer with wide eyes at the man’s body beneath them. Some think he’s dead, but Migdalia says she’s seen dead, and he’s not it. Another confirms that he is breathing, and dead people don’t breathe. “Too bad,” adds Umberto, “It would be cooler if we found a dead guy.” Migdalia tries to rouse the man, speaking in Spanish, and her actions appear to work as the robed stranger raises his hand, causing the children to scream, the sound of which is heard from the field nearby. The kids are terrified, and it isn’t surprising, as the man is caked in manure and suffering from exposure. His long white hair and beard almost cover his face, his eyes offering a piercing gaze at the strangers before him. He is, however, too weak to find his voice and, as the children run, a voice behind the man orders him not to move.

The man turns and finds a beautiful woman in a long yellow dress aiming a shotgun right at his face. Again, speaking in Spanish, she tells him that she doesn’t want any trouble here, and he must leave now or she’ll have to shoot him. She knows she would fire the weapon in order to protect the children, but she isn’t given the option. She looks into his eyes and sees the pain, the pride, and the power; a power he uses to manipulate the metal in the gun, causing her to fall backwards and fire into the air harmlessly. “Don’t threaten me woman!” he says. The woman is surprised to find that he speaks German and she prays that, even if he harms her, he will leave the children alone.

She needn’t worry. Behind the man, the children plead with him not to harm her and she senses that their fear almost seemed to frighten him. As he falls to the floor unconscious, she wonders if he has spared her out of compassion, or out of exhaustion. For three days and nights he staggers in and out of unconsciousness and on the fourth day, his fever breaks.

She doesn’t take any chances and ties him to the bed with rope. He’s probably strong enough to free himself, but he doesn’t. Instead, he appears to watch them, just as some of them are watching him, especially Migdalia. The woman enters his room and says good morning, before introducing herself as Sister Maria. She welcomes him to one of god’s humbler homes with a bowl of soup, a bread roll and a hot drink. She wears a nun’s habit and a large gold cross around her neck. She places the tray down and asks him his name, but he doesn’t understand and asks if she speaks English, which she does. He says, “Other day, when you tried to kill me..?” Sister Maria interrupts him and says that she spoke Spanish, but that was before he rambled on about nonsense for three days in English and German. She doesn’t speak German and, for the record, she wasn’t trying to kill him; though he might feel differently after he’s tasted the soup she adds to create a little levity. She puts the spoon to his mouth but he says that he can feed himself and she hands him the spoon.

As he eats, Sister Maria informs him that she doesn’t mean to pry, but asks where he was going before he decided to ‘visit’ their orphanage. The man has no idea, and remembers very little. Sister Maria tells him it is settled then; as he has no memories of who he is and where he belongs, until he is well enough to travel, he is welcome to remain with them and free to leave whenever he likes. He replies that it is very generous of her, but how can she trust him when he doesn’t even know himself. She turns and says that she has it on good authority that everything happens for a reason; he’s only here because he’s supposed to be. As the door closes behind her, the man looks at himself in the mirror and asks himself, “Who are you, and why do I fear the answer?”

(One week later)

The man shaves off his long beard in his room as Migdalia watches him. She has named the man Joseph, and wants to apologize to him. He asks why, and she replies that, when he first came to the orphanage, she thought he was mean and old, but he’s really young. Joseph turns to her, showing his youthful complexion and says that it’s as if he’s in his twenties, but asks himself why it feels so wrong.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gunshot hits the wall behind them and they crouch down, peering outside into the cornfields. More shots are fired and Joseph springs into action, trying to stand. “Filthy Nazis! I’ll teach them to…” Migdalia grabs him and asks him to stay there. She tells him that the men outside are bad men, who are fighting each other. He should just ignore them as they do. He complies with her request and the pair of them leave the building and head back to the main orphanage. As he carries her, she asks why he called them Nazis. He replies that he honestly doesn’t know.

(Several weeks later)

Joseph remains at the orphanage and comes to learn about their country, a beautiful blessed place, drenched in the blood of the lives bought and sold with drug money. Sister Maria clutches an old copy of Time Magazine with the faces of the five original X-Men on the front cover. For all intents and purposes, she thinks, they know as little about Joseph as they did when he first arrived, except that the children adore him, and she is thankful for the company.

One night, with a full moon illuminating the orphanage and its grounds, she joins Joseph as he stands and contemplates what he sees. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” she says. More than words can say, he replies but adds that it’s much more so than a man like he deserves. He doesn’t know what he did in his past, but he knows somehow, in his soul, he did things he is not proud of; dark things, evil things, things that should not be forgiven. Sister Maria holds his hands and tells him that, whatever happened in his past, she has been taught that there is nothing that can not be forgiven. “No sin that cannot be absolved?” he asks. She begins to reply but their bodies move closer together and they seem like they are about to kiss when Sister Maria places her fingertips against his chest, so as not to allow him any closer. She tells him he is a good man, a true man, but she holds her cross and says he’s absolutely no competition for the one she has. As she walks away, she can feel his smile on her back, and cannot help thinking that it’s probably been a long time since this man had any hope in his heart.

(One month after Joseph’s arrival)

Joseph is outside fixing a tractor engine. Umberto has drawn a picture for him of a man sat on a horse with a strange glow around his left hand. Joseph asks what it is and Umberto replies that it is a moo-tant; he’s learned about them at school. Joseph takes the picture. “A mutant?” Umberto says they’re different from real people and that’s why they wear masks and hide, because regular people fear them.

Joseph continues to work on the tractor, using his powers to raise the vehicle above him so he can reach the underneath with his spanner. He toils away for hours with little or no thought for himself and, while Sister Maria knows that he may be capable of real evil, he has never once showed her any evidence of his life before his time with them. This is soon to change.

With the tractor still high in the air, Joseph feels the children somehow being threatened and raises a pitchfork with his powers and sends it towards the threat. Sister Maria gives him points for moderation as the pitchfork stops inches away from its target, a man who screams as the pitchfork ceases its trajectory just inches from his face. Joseph approaches him and lifts him by his belt buckle using his powers, saying the man was spying on them. The man replies that he was, but only for the sake of the children. Sister Maria then arrives and tells Joseph that he is Colonel Ramos, so Joseph deposits him on the ground.

Ramos stands and asks Sister Maria if he can have a word in private. As they walk away, Migdalia tells Joseph that Ramos is a jerk and the children hate him. She explains that he is with the government and is supposed to protect them from the bad people, but they all think he is getting paid by them. Even Sister Maria says they shouldn’t talk to him. Joseph replies that she is a smart woman of discerning taste. She continues to say that now they have him, they no longer need the colonel, “You’ll protect us, right?” Joseph watches the colonel and Sister Maria from a distance and replies, yes, and tells the children to run along as he has work to do. While Sister Maria endures the colonel, she notices that he appears more interested in Joseph than in speaking with her. It isn’t until six days later that she discovers how right that feeling was.

(Six days later)

Joseph is out in the fields when he sees the barn on fire in the distance. He drops his basket and uses his mutant ability to close the distance between himself and the barn but discovers that the barn is beyond saving. As he surveys the damage, he hears a clapping behind him and turns, only to find Colonel Ramos seated behind him. Ramos apologizes for them getting off to a bad start, but thinks they’re going to be friends. Joseph asks why that is. Ramos tells him that he is a mutant, and he has need of one, or rather, he and his ‘business associates’ could use a man with his abilities to help with the law enforcement agencies that seek to stop their export business. “Interesting,” says Joseph, “And what is it you have to offer me?” Ramos smiles and says he has the children, and his friend. His associates are keeping an eye on them.

He is about to tell Joseph to run an errand for them but doesn’t get to complete his sentence. Instead, Joseph uses his powers to remove the barbed wire from a nearby fence and ties Ramos up with it, levitating him off the ground before moving his lips close to the colonel’s ear. “I will only ask this once; where?” The colonel begins to panic, and informs Joseph that if he kills him, he’ll never find them. Joseph has no intentions of killing him, and instead he tightens the wire around him. The colonel complains that he can’t breathe, but Joseph says he can, it simply hurts a lot. The colonel realizes he is helpless and tells Joseph that they’re in the basement of the old church. With the information he needs now at hand, Joseph hurls Ramos skywards, as he takes a horse and heads off to find them.

Sister Maria and the children are huddled in the basement. She knows that nothing this side of heaven will stop Joseph. She doesn’t know if it is her faith that lets her believe in him, or her suspicions of exactly who he was before he came to live among them. Without seeing him, she knows he has arrived. The children are scared but she tells them to trust in god; he hasn’t let them down yet. There is a commotion above and one child likens the noise to the war where he lost his parents. Suddenly, there is silence, and the children gather round their teacher. Migdalia hears the sound of horse’s hooves approaching but Sister Maria tells them that they can relax; everything is fine. Migdalia asks how she knows, but Sister Maria just knows.

The basement door is torn away like tissue and the robed figure of Joseph enters the basement, holding out his hand like some avenging angel sent to deliver them to freedom. “Come,” he says, “It’s time for you and your charges to go…home.” Sister Maria notices how the word home sticks in his throat, as if it’s the first time in a long time that it meant anything at all to him. This only makes what happens next all the more tragic. She and the children are shocked when they peer outside and bear witness to a scene of utter devastation. Dead, bleeding bodies litter the ground amongst the tangled wreckage of their vehicles, their faces twisted and bodies broken. A fire burns nearby as Sister Maria screams, “In the name of god Joseph, what have you done?” The children are speechless; even Umberto, who had come to love Joseph the most, grabs hold of Sister Maria as he cowers away from him. Their silence speaks volumes. In the midst of all the quiet, the only sound Sister Maria hears is that of several breaking hearts.

(The following morning)

Joseph decides to leave the orphanage before the children wake. Sister Maria, despite what has happened insists that he needn’t leave; the children will eventually forget, but Joseph knows that isn’t true. He asks her how he can ask them to accept him, his ways and his powers, when he himself doesn’t even understand them. He has learned a lot in the past few weeks, more he suspects than he has in his whole life, but that’s the point he says. There’s too much of his life that remains a mystery and, until it is solved, he cannot share his life with anyone. Sister Maria gives him the copy of Time with the X-Men on the cover and says they are like him. It’s been years since she went to school in the states where she bought the magazine and the may not even be there anymore, but he should find them, and then he might finally have a place to call his home. She throws her arms around his neck and hugs him before he leaves without saying another word.

Later, Sister Maria speaks with Father Helcio and, having related the whole story to him, asks if she did the right thing. Father Helcio replies that he cannot say for certain. If the man is, as she suspects, Magneto, who has spent all his adult life as a sworn enemy of all that is human, it is possible that she may have unleashed a horror upon the rest of the world. He takes her hands and says that he’d like to believe otherwise, and she may have given him the faith he needed to help him use his power to help a humanity that has been less than kind to him. They are in the business of second chances. All they can do now is pray for the man’s soul, that he might find his place in the world, and that that place is on the side of angels.

Characters Involved: 


Sister Maria de la Joya

Orphans including Migdalia and Umberto

Colonel Ramos

The Colonel’s associates

Father Helcio

(on the Time Magazine cover)

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl (all X-Men)

Story Notes: 

The front cover has an alternative title for this issue: If sins be forgiven.

Joseph and Sister Maria de la Joya were introduced briefly in X-Men (2nd series) #46.

It was not specified where exactly the orphanage was in this issue but, in Uncanny X-Men #345, it was revealed to be near the village of Las Lisas, Guatemala. The full name of the orphanage is The Holy Sepulchre Orphanage.

Migdalia was misspelled Magdalia at one point, but her name is Migdalia.

The story is really told in flashback, with Sister Maria telling the story to father Helcio.

No X-Men actually appear in the issue.

Issue Information: 
Written By: