Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #394

Issue Date: 
July 2001
Story Title: 
Playing God

Joe Casey (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Mark Morales with Churchill, Rapmund and Thibert (inkers), Avalon Studios (colors), RS / Comicraft (letters), Pete Franco (assistant editor), Mark Powers (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

While a grumpy Cyclops watches with dismay media reports on mutants, a young mutant, Warp Savant, celebrates his eighteenth birthday - by going to Cape Citadel and announcing himself as an evil mutant. He uses his powers to seemingly make all sorts of army personnel and weapons disappear. Wolverine and Phoenix are the first on scene to investigate, but they too find themselves elsewhere when Warp uses his power on them. Cyclops and Archangel arrive, with a device that manages to quell Warp’s ability - but unbeknownst to them Wolverine and Phoenix have been transported into Warp’s brain. While Warp is taken down, Wolverine and Phoenix are forced to confront the fact that they may be about to die - and so they share a passionate kiss - only to be ripped back to reality when Warp releases them. Warp then uses his power on himself, and vanishes, leaving a still angry Cyclops, a bothered Phoenix and a scowling Wolverine to pick up the pieces.

Full Summary: 

They say it’s your Birthday….

A heavily tattooed and pierced young man sits at a computer, reading old Daily Bugle articles - one in particular about a terrorist attack organised by Magneto at Cape Citadel. The young man has a cigarette in his fingers and grins, ‘Sweet’.

Later, at a very busy nightclub, the man leans back on a sofa in a booth which is littered with empty alcohol bottles. Three scantily clad young women sit with him. One of them calls him Warp, ‘Don’t leave us hanging, man!’ she exclaims. Another tells Warp that tomorrow is his birthday. ‘Eighteen miserable years, baby! What’re you gonna be doing with yourself?’ she asks. The third tells Warp that they know he has plans, and to tell them. ‘Back off, skanks. I got plans alright…’ the young man announces, holding a bottle in his hand, his eyes suddenly light up, and the bottle seems to melt away after going to a liquid metal like state. ‘Come tomorrow…I’m gonna be celebrating. Big time!’

Meanwhile, at the Xavier Institute, ‘Some things never change’ Scott “Cyclops” Summers remarks as he watches a news report, while his wife Jean “Phoenix” Grey enters, both wearing their new black and gold outfits. ‘Welcome to Datebook’ the reporter begins. ‘They are born with extraordinary abilities…abilities that separate them from the rest of humanity. They are labeled homo superior, but the more common term…is mutants. Over the years, increasingly public incidents involving homo superior behavior have severely divided opinion on this issue…are we at an evolutionary crossroads? Is homo superior the next step in natural selection?’

The reporter continues, while Scott frowns as he watches: ‘Radical opposition to the mutant phenomenon claims we are dealing with a dangerous threat to homo sapiens’ existence…that humanity will be forcibly pushed aside by this new species…certainly, many acts of terrorism have been committed in the name of homo superior activism, which suggests that peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants…may be an impossibility’. Scott tells Jean that this kind of talk only makes their job tougher, and remarks that he has stopped trying to second-guess the outcome. ‘Scott -’ Jean begins. ‘Jean’ Scott replies, turning to her. ‘They run these stories every few weeks, just a new way of saying the same old thing. Fear never goes out of style. It’s a ratings bonanza!’ Scott declares. Jean hangs her head and walks away. ‘I guess I know better than to try and talk to you when you’re like this’ Jean remarks. ‘Like what?’ Scott calls out. ‘Obsessed? Is that the word? There’s a whole wide world outside this mansion. The longer we hide from it…the worse it gets’ Scott announces.

Meanwhile, at Cape Citadel, a fence with a sign “restricted access” has been broken through, and the young man, Warp - a mutant - shouts ‘Awww yeah, baby! This is what I’m talking about!’ as he goes about the military base, using his power on tanks and weapons fired at them, causing them all to seemingly melt away. ‘Out come the freaks! And war’s next on the agenda! I’m a mutant and I’m evil!’ he calls out. A group of soldiers race towards Warp, ‘That was my tank, civilian! What is your malfunction?’ one of them asks. Warp mutters that authority figures are his favorite, and stands to attention, saluting the lead officer, ‘Hail to the chief!’ Warp jokes. ‘Private First-Class Warp Savant reporting for double duty!’

The soldier points at Warp and tells him that he is a genetic defective, and that he will have him downsized, pulverized and atomized. Warp points out that he as taken the soldier’s stuff and put it away. ‘And you’ve seen me do it!’ he adds. ‘Thanks…shells…anything you wanna drop on me. One thing though…it works on people, too. Later, pops!’ Warp exclaims as he kisses the soldier on the forehead, and the soldier begins to melt away like the other objects.

Back at the Xavier Institute, inside the Ready Room. ‘You rang?’ Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, wearing black leather pants and a white singlet, asks as he enters. Scott tells him that there is trouble in Florida, that the Beast’s improvements on Cerebro confirmed it is straight from their gene pool. ‘Anyone we know?’ Logan asks, cigar in hand. Frowning, Scott replies that he doesn’t think so, that there are no matches in Cerebro’s memory files. ‘Another new kid on the block. We’ll take him to school’ Logan remarks, before asking if the three of them are it tonight.

Cyclops replies that Warren is en route, and tells Logan and Jean to go ahead, as he has programmed the flight plan into the X-wing. ‘Go supersonic, you’ll be there within the half-hour. Proceed with caution. We’ll be right behind you’. Logan watches as Jean kisses Scott on the cheek and tells him that she loves him. Practically ignoring her, Scott frowns: ‘Love you, wife’ he mutters. Logan leers at Scott and flicks the end off his cigar.

Soon, the X-wing takes off, with Jean piloting, Logan asks her if there are problems between her and Cyke. Jean pauses, before replying ‘No. Why do you ask?’ Logan points out that back at the mansion, they didn’t seem too cozy. Phoenix tells Wolverine to mind his own business, before they skip across the upper atmosphere.

At that moment, back at Cape Citadel, Warp Savant “dances” about, ‘Bring it on, jarheads! Bring it on! Say hello to the place where there’s no way out!’ he exclaims while soldiers fire their weapons at him, but he just “melts” them away, while also melting away the soldiers themselves. ‘Fall back!’ one of the soldiers calls out. ‘Retreat! We’re evacuating the base!’ he adds. The soldiers run, and Warp lights a cigarette. ‘Thanks for playing’ he remarks, before deciding that this was a lot easier than he thought it was going to be. ‘It’s all so easy…!’ Warp exclaims that the dirt farmers and the politicians - their fear is mutant kind’s greatest weapon. ‘If Bucket-Head won’t show his face to tear it all down, I’ll take the heat, bay-bee!’

Warp shouts that he will give them an incident that will divide opinion, and exclaims that he will shine the world - but suddenly, he looks upwards - as Wolverine is diving down towards him - but as Logan gets closer, he suddenly melts away just like everything else under the power of the young mutant. ‘Bye-bye-bye!’ Warp exclaims, poking his tongue out. Suddenly, Warp cries out in agony as he is struck from behind with a telekinetic burst of energy, courtesy of Phoenix, who demands to know what Warp has done to Wolverine.

Blood trickles from Warp’s nose as he keels over, while Jean warns him not to make her ask the question again. ‘Do your research!’ Warp exclaims as his eyes light up, and suddenly, Jean begins to melt away as well. ‘What are you doing to me?’ Phoenix shouts. ‘Say hello to your friend, Red’ Warp exclaims, before Jean screams as she melts away - Warp’s words echo around her as she suddenly, re-materializes - in Wolverine’s arms, surrounded by tanks, helicopters and all other sorts of weapons that Warp earlier melted away. ‘Hel’s a poppin! This ain’t no training exercise! This ain’t target practice! Like ducks on the pond!’ a soldier shouts.

‘Logan, what -?’ Jean calls out, to which Wolverine tells her not to ask, just to move. Jean asks where they are, unaware that a sign on the fence around them reads “City Hell”. Jean asks if they are dead to which Logan tells her to get it together, and remarks that he doesn’t know where they are, or how they got here. ‘But I do know one thing…my senses are telling me this place is real. So as long as there’s something to tear into, we’re not dead yet!’ he declares, before using his adamantium claws to slice off the end of one of the tanks’ launchers. ‘Don’t you circumcise my army ordinance, pee-wee!’ the soldier shouts. ‘I’ll have you hog-tied!’ he exclaims.

‘Your turn, Patton’ Logan remarks as he reaches the soldier - only to find the soldier has a flaming skull. ‘Ggg!’ is all the soldier can utter. ‘Eh?’ Logan asks, before turning around to Jean and telling her that it is good to have her back. Phoenix replies that they should consider themselves lucky that these “soldiers” are susceptible to a telekinetic attack, and suggests that with the soldiers all down, they can concentrate on figuring out where they are and how to get back.

Back at the army base, Warp dances about on an empty field while a soldier radios his superior, informing him that the base has been evacuated. A female soldier asks if they should call in an air strike, but another tells her that they don’t know what they are dealing with, and cannot get a visual. ‘Why am I talking to you? Clear out, dogmeat!’ the soldier suddenly shouts down the phone. ‘This is Barrister on a secure channel alpha. We’ve got a perimeter set up…awaiting confirmation on sniper teams. If this enemy is a mutie, we need to get him from a distance -’.

But a voice from the phone exclaims ’Gentlemen, I’ll advise you to stand down. We’ll handle this’ The soldiers look surprised: ’Who is this? How did you break onto this channel? Identify yourself!’ one of them calls out. The others all look upwards, ‘Uhhh…sarge?’ one of them exclaims, as Warren Worthgton the Third a.k.a. Archangel hovers over them, carrying some sort of sonar device. ‘I’ve got a visual here. Confirm single target’ Archangel reports to Cyclops, adding that it looks like the mutant’s ability has a reach limit, and he thinks that if he keeps this distance he can get him. Warren adds that there is no sign of Jean or Wolverine.

From inside the Blackbird, Scott replies that Cerebro’s analysis suggested an extraction ability, similar to teleportation. ‘Damn. He must’ve gotten them, too’ Scott declares, adding that he will put Cerebro on their trail to pinpoint their signatures, so wherever they are, they will find them. Scott tells Warren that he thinks they are out of options here, and orders him to employ the pulse. ‘Copy that’ Warren replies, and he uses the device that he has been carrying - which causes Warp Savant to scream in agony.

Inside the altered reality, the screams are heard, as Wolverine and Jean are knocked about as if an earthquake is taking place. ‘You hear that scream? That’s him screaming!’ Phoenix exclaims, before telling Wolverine that she thinks she knows what has happened to them. She tells him to hang on, as she thinks it is about to get a lot worse - when suddenly, the find themselves in a bedroom. ‘Smells kinda like a kid’s room. But there’s something else here’ Wolverine announces. A strange monster suddenly emerges from under the bed. ‘Well. I give the kid some credit…he knows how to treat a guest right’ Logan exclaims, before shoving his claws into the monster ,only for another to lunge at Jean. ‘What? Wait…the monster under the bed…the creature in the closet…this place is a lifelong psychosis personified! Not an astral projection…we’re inside the brain!’ Jean exclaims, declaring that someone needs to shut this kid down in the real world.

Back in the real world, ‘Hey!’ Warp exclaims as he dodges optic blasts. ‘No fair! Come out and fight!’ he calls out, while Cyclops unleashes quick successions of optic blasts, and orders Archangel to hit Warp again. ‘Copy that’ Warren replies, adding that there is only one more charge on the sonar. ‘Let’s hope it works’ he adds, and from up in the air, Warren uses the weapon on Warp, who convulses and falls to the ground. Cyclops stands over him: ‘You’ve just taken another hit from an EMP weapon that temporarily shuts down a mutants physiology. You’re powerless’ Scott explains, telling Warp that when he regains the ability to form words, he has a serious question. ‘What did you do to my teammates? More importantly - what did you do with my wife?’

Back inside Warp’s brain, Jean announces that they are completely cut off, that she cannot feel anything. ‘Logan?’ she calls out, while Logan finishes off the creature. Jean declares that she cannot even feel Scott’s thoughts, to which Logan suggests Scott might not be listening. ‘WHAT?’ Jean asks, before telling Wolverine that this kid’s subconscious is their reality, that there is absolutely nothing beyond this room. ‘I’ve stared down the void too many times to count, darling. It’s always blinked’ the now shirtless Wolverine replies. Phoenix tells Wolverine to drop the posturing, and exclaims that she is talking about total entropy here. ‘I can’t even tell where we are’ Jean adds. ‘That makes the two of us. My senses are going crazy’ Wolverine tells Jean, before asking how they get out of this.

Hanging her head, Jean replies that she doesn’t think they can - and suddenly, everything goes dark around them. Jean declares that it is all breaking down, that wherever they are, it is collapsing on itself. ‘Maybe they’ve killed him…’ Jean supposes, while Wolverine remarks that all he feels is cold. ‘We’re dead, Logan!’ Jean exclaims, turning to Wolverine. ‘Nothing like a little optimism’ Logan replies, while Jean tells him not to do that. Logan puts his hands on Jean’s shoulders and tells her that he can feel her giving up. Wolverine reminds her that this is their business - facing down death comes with the territory. ‘Save the speeches’ Phoenix replies, glancing sideways. Wolverine replies that he is not going to make a speech, but that until they take their last breath, he is going to keep on living. ‘But if this is our last breath…we ain’t wasting it…’, and with that Wolverine grabs Jean and pulls her towards him, wrapping his arms around her, Logan kisses Jean passionately - then everything goes white.

An instant later, they find themselves back to the real world - ‘Oh my God…JEAN!’ Cyclops exclaims as he holds Warp Savant up, while Archangel swoops down towards them. Logan and Jean are dazed as Scott grabs Jean and calls out to her: ‘Talk to me!’, before picking her up in his arms. ‘Scott…? Is it really you? We made it back? How?’ Jean asks. Archangel announces that they may not have long before Warp gets his bearings and it will all start over again. But Wolverine declares ‘No…it won’t…because I’m gonna put this punk-ass outta his misery right now…’ and marches towards Warp, claws outstretched.

‘Don’t do it, Wolverine. I mean it’ Scott orders, still holding Jean in his arms. Wolverine tells Cyclops to back off, and that they can have their “back-from-the-dead-club” meeting later. ‘For me…and for Jeannie…I’m taking him out. If you don’t get that -’ Wolverine begins, while Warp begins to cough up blood, ‘I’d love to have that party…’ he utters. ‘Uh-oh’ Archangel remarks. But Warp announces that he is going to cash out now, that he has just enough juice left to do it. ‘N-not a bad way…to spend a birthday’ Warp utters, before using his power on himself, and he melts away.

‘No!’ Wolverine exclaims, but it’s too late, as Warp is gone. Archangel points out that the kid must have had a death wish. ‘Wild-eyed chaos-bringer out to have a good time. Live fast, die young. Leave a good-looking corpse. I can relate’. Scott puts Jean down on the ground and announces that they need to get her back to the med-lab, adding that they should clear out before the military and the attendant media move back in. Archangel agrees, while Jean announces that she will be okay, and explains that it is hard to remember what happened.

‘I remember, Jeannie. Every bit of it. Just another day on the job, eh?’ Wolverine remarks. Jean pauses as she looks back at Wolverine. ‘Right’ she agrees, while Scott tells everyone to move. ‘No one ever changed the world by just standing around…’. Wolverine leers at Cyclops, and sniffs.

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Cyclops, Phoenix IV, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Warp Savant

Girls at nightclub



Story Notes: 

Obviously some time passed since Eve of Destruction, the school has undergone some changes and Jean has her telekinesis back.

Magneto attacked Cape Citadel in X-Men (1st series) #1. The story infers that Warp was born that day which doesn’t quite work out with the sliding scale of Marvel time. In the Marvel Universe the X-Men haven’t been around that long.

This issue marks Joe Casey’s debut as writer on Uncanny X-Men.

This is not Wolverine and Phoenix’s first kiss, of course. They have previously kissed in X-Factor (1st series) #61, while both imprisoned in the same cell on Genosha during the “X-Tinction Agenda”.

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