Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #404

Issue Date: 
May 2002
Story Title: 
Army Ants

Joe Casey (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), Hi-Fi Design (colors), RS Comicraft’s Saida! (letters), Pete Franco (assistant editor), Mark Powers (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

The news show a video tape of somebody posing as Jakob Eisen(killed last issue), leader of A.R.M., who claims that his organisation exterminated X-Corps member Surge. Banshee sends M, Jubilee, Husk and Multiple Man to Zürich to investigate, but it’s a set-up and they have to fight an entire army of A.R.M. operatives, yet they are able to defaet them. Banshee finally snaps and uses his sonic power on one of the A.R.M. members demanding to know Eisen’s location, but Nightcrawler stops him in time and Sean finally comes to his senses. Meanwhile Sunpyre is studying Abyss in the labs, and assasinated from behind. Chamber and Martinique communicate on the astral plane, until she says she has an important appointment. She tries to lock Chamber out, but underestimated him, as he escapes from her trap. Chamber witnesses a conversation between Martinique and an unseen person, who apparently infiltrated Banshee’s organisation. Chamber is discovered and knocked out by Surge’s electricity blasts, next to him are Blob, Avalanche and Fever Pitch, ready to take over.

Full Summary: 

Chamber finds himself facing the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, however he knows that magneto has died in the recent attacks on Genosha, this can’t be real.. Chamber tries to touch the villains and the images get blurry, turning around he finds the Brotherhood again standing there, only this time they are not wearing their recenmt costumes, but those of when they first battled the X-Men. Chamber wonders on whose mind the illusions are based, certainly not him as he doesn’t have a fetish with Evile Mutants. The Brotherhood get impaled by dozens of spears and Jono wonders what this has to do with the X-Corps. Finally the female Mastermind reveals herself, she introduces herself as Martinique and accuses Chamber of trespassing as this is her mind.
Meanwhile Stacy, Archangel and Iceman are in the lab area where Sunpyre is still running diagnostics on Abyss who is held in a containment field. Her tests reveal that his body celss are not only extremely pliable, they also open up a spacial rift to an unidentified void dimension. Possibly they could learn more by sending a Madrox in there. Archangel demands to know if Abyss ius held against his will, but he and Iceman have to repeat the question several times before Sunpyre answers them. She claims that since he volunteered to be examined. Warren asks Leyu about her brother Shiro, the one-time X-Man Sunfire. Sunpyre says that he was made an offer by Banshee but declined and she took his place then. Archangel asks her about her time with Jean Grey (among the Interim X-Men) and touches her shoulder, but Leyu uses her flame power to make him remove his hand. Leyu tells them to not pretend that they share any bonds that they all know do not exist. Stacy watches Abyss and asks him if he can hear her inside the fielkd, and Leyu finally asks the X-Men to leave the lab, after all she has work to do and Abyss should be ready for field duty by the end of the week.
On TV another video tape of Jakonb Eisen, leader of A.R.M. is shown. He holds Surge’s harness and claims that the first mutant has fallen. A.R.M. have executed Surge and this was only the beginning. In the X-Corps’s office, Banshee, Multiple Man and Nightcrawler watched the news on TV. Nightcrawler is the only one to express any emotion at all, before he asks Banshee who this Surge was. Banshee explains that Surge sought him out when the X-Corps just moved into this building, and the harness helped him to keep his electricity based powers under control. He then tells Multiple Man that they need to track down Eisen and his organisation right now. Kurt tries to intervene, if they perform a counterstrike now, they will ignite a full war, yet Banshee says that one of their own has been murdered and he won’t allow A.R.M. to continue. He then tells Madrox to give this assignment to his angels. Not before long, M and an X-Corps helicopter carrying Husk and Jubilee are closing in on Zürich, yet as soon as A.R.M. members spot them, the copter is fired on.
On the astral plane, Chamber apologizes, he didn’t invade by choice, and Martinique says that telepaths sometimes attract and sometimes repel; apparently they are in synch with the frequencies they operate on. She then talks about her father, the late Mastermind, who actually didn’t achieve much in his life, despite him being as goal oriented as she is. Chamber can’t make any sense of what she is saying, however she teslls him to not get distracted if he wants to learn something. Mastermind goes on that in this illusion plane, she can play her own little psychodramas and try out things she could never tell anybody. She wonders if Jono has such secret thoughts too, but he denies. Martinique then says that he is still trying to fin his own way, and that he believes to have lost so much in his life, still he keeps everyone at arm’s length to pretend of being im control. Chamber tells her that she shouldn’t try to psycho-analyze him, but she says she wasn’t, it was just a way to pass the time. Fact is, he was not invited, and she now has other matters to attend to, matters that don’t involve him.
In the main office, Nightcrawler and Archangel witness as Banshee is filled in on the situation in Zürich through radio contact with Jubilee. The helicopter is doen, and hundreds of A.R.M. operatives are coming out of the woodwork – it was a set-up. Then the contact breaks down. Banshee immediately prepares to leave for Zürich. Kurt once more tries to reason with him, obviously the situation has escalated beyond control and the X-men want to help. Warren agrees, but Sean replies that neiother of them understands. He is not moving in to join the fray, by the time they’ll arrive the battle will already be over. Afterall A.R.M. are not the only one with an army. In Zürich dozens of Multiple Men, who apparently was piloting the helicopter, are seen fighting with humans.
On the astral plane, Chamber wants to know why Martinique just threatened him. He wants answers from her about the X-Corps and about Banshee, and he grabs her to stop her from leaving. Martinique doesn’t like to be touched and she really has to leave, so she starts to create a furnace around Chamber. She tells him to not take it personally, but she is a lot more skilled in mind control than he is, with the proper training he copuld do a lot more than just communicate, but as it is right now, he will be stuck in her mental trap, and he should better not worry about his physical body. Then she departs, however she underestimated Jono, and he is able to blast himself out of the furnace, though under a lot of strain. Free again, he wonders where Mastermind has gone.
In the lab, Sunpyre is still making notes on Abyss. She uses a voice recorder and comments that Nils is a true survivor, he overcame being exploited as a mutate and survived the Legacy Virus. She continues that she lacks the needed technology to fully analyze him, but it seems that his entire body being a conduit between dimension is not a conscious act, but apparently second nature. While making notes, Leyu fails to notice a few figures sneeking into the lab behind her. Abyss gets aware of them, but from inside his containment field he can’t warn her.
In Zürich the fights are already over when Banshee, Nightcrawler and Archangel arrive. Several people are carried away in ambulances and Banshee checks on his team. Jubilee, M, Husk and Multiple Man are all fine. Multiple Man says that A.R.M. had an impressive number of operatives and Archangel asks if he killed any, however Jamie says that the X-Corps are not murderers. Banshee goes over to one of the injured A.R.M. members and demands to know the whereabouts of their leader Jakob Eisen. As he refuses to talk, Sean repeats the question, however he asks with his sonic powers at full force and the guy collapses. Kurt teleports over and stops Banshee from continuing, asking if this is what he meant “by any means necessary” ? Sean hesitates, then he comes to his senses : “It wasn’t supposed t’go this way. There wasn’t supposed to be any more death ...”
In the lab, Abyss looks at a horrific scene. Sunpyre lies on the ground, her head in a pool of blood. Her eyes are wide open and staring into nothing. Next to her lies her damaged dictaphone, it’s playing her recorded entries. Ironically in her notes, Leyu was talking about how the X-Corps might have the right goals, but there was some feeling of menace where hope should be and also she was worried about the personal sacrifices they had to make.
On the astral plane, Chamber is walking through some caves, searching for Martinique. He hears voices and carefully peeks around a corner. There Mastermind is talking with an apparently female figure who is seen in shadows. Martimnique complains that her muscles are already starting to atrophy and about the loss of her hair, yet the mystery person says that they need to play along a little while longer. Banshee has constructed quite an operation, but the loss of his loved one made him unstable and self-righteous and he never suspected that his X-Corps have been infiltrated. The mystery person says that it’s time to make their move now, as Banshee is currently not in the base, and just then they discover Chamber spying on them. Chamber is hit by a bolt of electricity both on the astral plane and physically. As he collapses near Mastermind’s tank, the attacker is seen – Surge. Behind him are Fever Pitch, Avalanche and the Blob. “Gentlemen, it’s time to take over.”

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Chamber, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Stacy X (all X-Men)

Avalanche, Banshee, Blob, Fever Pitch, Husk, Jubilee, M, Mastermind II, Multiple Man, Sunpyre (all X-Corps)

Mystique, posing as Surge


Story Notes: 

Sunpyre was among Jean Grey’s interim X-Men during Eve Of Destruction in Uncanny X-Men #392-393 and X-Men (2nd series) #112-113.
The person barely seen in contact with Mastermind within the astral illusion is Mystique. She was also acting as Surge the whole time, the “restrainer” pack then being the artificial means of electric powers. After killing Jakob Eisen last issue, Mystique also shapeshifted to impersonate him.

Issue Information: 
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