Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #421

Issue Date: 
June 2003
Story Title: 
Rules of Engagement - part 1

Chuck Austen (Writer), Ron Garney (Artist), Mark Morales (Inker), JD Smith (Colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Mike Raicht & Nova Ren Suma (Assistant Editors), Mike Marts (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief), Bill Jemas (President)

Brief Description: 

Xavier is telling the recently awaken Havok about some of the most important events that have happened in the time he was in a coma, while Nightcrawler, Juggernaut and Annie Ghazikhanian are waiting to see Xavier also. The original X-Men walk past the queue and enter to see Havok. Inside the office, Havok tells them all how much he missed them, and Polaris proposes to him, surprising the X-Men, and upsetting Annie. Juggernaut tells the Professor that he wishes to teach at the institute and join the X-Men, Xavier welcomes him, but tells him that he will have to ask Nightcrawler about joining the team, to which Nightcrawler tells Xavier he is stepping down as team leader and going on vacation with Havok and Polaris, who are taking leave before the wedding.
Before he leaves, Havok goes to talk with Annie, launching Annie into a very embarrassing monologue. Ready to leave, Havok comes over to thank Annie, and tells her that he feels like he knows her somehow, before he is interrupted by Polaris telling him to go.
Two days later Husk and Annie are chatting, when they are interrupted by the arrival of Alpha Flight, who order them to hand over all the children in their care…

Full Summary: 

In Professor Xavier’s office, at his home, the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in Westchester, Charles Xavier is meeting with Alex Summers, the former X-Man known as Havok, who until recently had been in a coma after an explosion.
Charles tells Alex that a lot has happened in the that time he was lost. And Xavier begins to tell Alex major events that have occured, such as the onset of secondary mutations, to which Xavier adds that Emma Frost is living in the mansion, Alex is more than a little surprised at that. However, Alex’s surprise turns somber when Charles mentions September Eleven, the death of Colossus, the arrival of Cassandra Nova and destruction of not only the Shi’ar Empire, but the destruction of Genosha and deaths of sixteen million mutants, including Magneto. As Alex’s face is covered by his hands, Charles tells him not to be too surprised to see Juggernaut wandering the halls either.

Outside the office, there is a queue of others waiting to see the Professor. Nightcrawler tells Annie Ghazikhanian that if she would like, she can go ahead of him to see the Professor. Annie thanks Kurt, and looking to the ground tells him that Xavier wants to talk about Carter, her son, and she adds that she should probably tell him what really happened between her and Lorna in the infirmary, before the rumors starts. Sitting across from his mother, Carter is playing the game "peknuckle" with Juggernaut, who asks the boy how he expects to beat him when he cannot even reach his thumb. Carter just says that he can do it!

In the adjoining hallway, six of the first ever X-Men approach Xavier’s office. Leading the way, Jean Grey tells her old friend, Lorna Dane that everyone is excited about having her and Alex back at the school again.
Annie steps in front of the originals and tells them that there is a line of people waiting to see Xavier. Derogatively calling Annie ‘Florence Nightingale’, Polaris tells her that the line does not apply to them. Jean keeps the peace and tells Annie that Xavier summoned them all mentally to come into his office and welcome Alex home. As the originals enter the office, Polaris tells Annie she can go home now, as her job is done, Alex doesn’t need her to look after him anymore. Annie just stares at the Mistress of Magnetism.

In the office, Lorna makes a spectacle of things, when she runs over to Alex. In the doorway, Cyclops puts a comforting hand on Annie’s shoulder, telling her that they will only be a minute, then she can see the Professor. Scott turns his head into the office, shocked when Lorna continues her dramatic spectacle. Alex asks Lorna how she is, and Annie bites her tongue. Lorna asks Alex if that is all he has to say? He tells her he isn’t sure, as when they last saw each other – before he can continue, Polaris kisses him in front of everybody, a very passionate kiss, and bites his lip too!

The door to the office closes as Cyclops enters. Alex stares at his brother, and removes Lorna from his body as he hugs his brother, and talking about everybody, tells them all how good it is to see them again. Alex lifts Scott off the ground, and Scott jokes to watch the jacket, as it is new. Alex tells him he doesn’t care, and tells everyone how much he missed them all. He tells them all how much he loves them, and everyone gets a little nervous. Phoenix breaks the silence and sarcastically remarks that they all just heard the "L" word from a Summers brother, and that somewhere beneath them Hell must be freezing over. Iceman quips it is not him!

Alex tells them that he means it and wants them to know how important they all are. Especially as they all helped him get through the last few months in the endless darkness. Annie is listening behind the door and squints her eyes. Alex tells them all that it was their faces in his mind everyday and the love he felt for them all. Lorna wraps her arms around Alex again, and tells him she is sorry for everything, Alex tries to tell her there is nothing to apologize for, but she interrupts and tells him she was such an idiot – Alex tells her it was not her – Lorna tells him she loves him more than anything, and asks him to marry her. The room goes quiet except for the ‘Whoa’ let out by Archangel. Xavier frowns upon this sudden outburst, while Cyclops and Iceman seem equally disapproving, though for their own reasons. Phoenix seems a little unsure, possible concerned for the mental state of her friend Polaris, while Beast seems to be the only one happy for them. Warren looks at Bobby with concern, and outside the office, Annie, who has overheard everything, is shocked and upset.

Alex smiles at Lorna, but before he can say anything, Beast comes over to offer his congratulations. He tells Alex that everyone has been waiting for them to tie the knot for years. Outside, Annie grabs Carter and telling him they will see the Professor another time, she asks Nightcrawler to tell the Professor she had to leave. Cyclops looks back and sees this.

Later that day, Warren asks his best friend Bobby, if he is okay, especially as he and Lorna were an item once. Bobby tells Warren that he is fine, and to stop asking him. Bobby asks Warren if he wants to grab some lunch down at „The Robin" where it is a ‘babe-fest’ at this time of day. Warren hesitates, but tells Bobby that he is having lunch with Paige. Bobby raises his voice, kind of to see if he is hearing right, and asks Warren to tell him he is not dating ‘that twelve year old.’ Warren looks away from Bobby and tells him that Husk is older than twelve, and they are not dating, they just have a lot in common, and…Bobby tells Warren not to get him wrong, especially as he thinks he has been out of the saddle too long… Iceman tells Archangel that if he has a taste for cheerleaders, then that’s okay by him. In a mocking tone Bobby admonishes Warren to be home by ten and to remember "Sixteen’ll get you twenty." Bobby walks away from Warren, then behind his own back pulls his hands around imitating hands held by cuffs. Warren just looks away.

Back in front of Xavier’s office, Charles tells Kurt and Cain that he is sorry to have kept them waiting, but as they could imagine, it has been hectic around the institute today. They both tell the Professor it is not a worry. Xavier asks them if he can see them at the same time, but Juggernaut tells his step-brother that he needs some privacy, but only a few minutes. Kurt says he will wait outside, but Juggernaut tells him to stay, and that he needs to get out of the office, as he is feeling claustrophobic. Charles says that he could do with a walk in the grounds, and asks Cain if that would be all right with him, to which the Juggernaut agrees.

As they leave the room, Xavier tells Nightcrawler they wont be long, and thanks him for being patient. Albeit hesitantly, Kurt tells Charles that he is not in a hurry. The Professor then asks Kurt if he knows what happened to Annie. Kurt tells Xavier that she left rather abruptly after a very loud marriage proposal carried well from his office to this room. Professor Xavier frowns and says ‘Oh, dear.’

Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Paige is in the middle of telling Annie about her meeting with Warren the other night. Obviously very giddy, Paige tells Annie that she and Warren just spent, like, four hours just talking, and Warren is so funny, but not in a Kurt or Bobby way, more in a dry and gentle way. All through this, Annie is sorting medical equipment and saying ‘Mm hmm.’ Paige continues, saying that Warren has a soul that lights up the room, like an Angel – which he sort of is. Paige leans on a bed and smiling, tells Annie of all the things he has been through; Apocalypse; losing his wings; losing Betsy, and yet he is still so positive about life and people. Annie asks Paige if he walked on water for her.

Paige tells the older woman that he didn’t, but that he didn’t even try to kiss her, but that she wanted him to. She asks Annie if she has ever looked into Warren’s eyes, and describes them a powder blue, like the sky on the best day of your life. Somewhat sarcastically, Annie asks Paige if Warren can feed the hungry or house the homeless or cure the crippled. Paige suddenly becomes a lot quieter, and frowns. She says ‘Probably,’ and then her smile re-appears when she tells Annie that Warren healed her. Annie looks a little confused and a little skeptical. Paige tells Annie that his blood healed her when she was dying - or dead actually, but his blood mixed with hers and he healed her. Annie puts her hands on her hips and asks her if he can do that, then asks Paige if Warren is sexually active.

Paige loses the smile again and tells Annie not to ‘be like that.’ as it was romantic, and tells Annie that mutants cannot get AIDS anyway. Now Annie looks very surprised, and asks why they cannot. Paige suddenly hugs a pillow and says it is because of the X-Gene. Annie tells Paige that she just made that bed. Paige smiles sheepishly, and tells Annie not to be such a wet blanket, she is in heaven with her Angel, so don’t to ruin it. With a wicked grin, Paige tells Annie that she would be happy for her if they were talking about Alex this way. Both woman turn their heads in shock when they hear ‘Talking about Alex like what?’ and see Havok standing in the doorway, and smiling he says ‘Or isn’t Alex supposed to know?’

Outside, Xavier tells Juggernaut that if speaking to him is too difficult for him, he could just read his thoughts. Cain tells his step-brother to stay out of his head. ‘No offense.’ Charles is shocked at that last remark, never has the Juggernaut said those words before, let alone to Xavier! Cain looks at his brother somewhat angrily, and somewhat confused and tells him that fighting the wolves was…’kinda fun.’
Charles looks at Juggernaut a little bewildered, and Cain tells Charles not to psychoanalyze him, as he is just being honest.

Charles smiles at Cain, who tells the founder of the institute that Kicking butt, doing serious property damage, Warren healing him and coming home to a nice diner was all fun. Xavier is shocked, but pleased and asks Cain if he is aware he just said that he "came home." Juggernaut tells Xavier that he knows what he said, and that he had fun! Even better was that there were no police chasing him for a change, or no X-Men looking to beat him up either. Xavier is still smiling at Juggernaut. Cain tells him that he wants to stay at the Institute, and that maybe he could teach gym or something.

Cain asks next if he could join the X-Men, be the team muscle, and says ‘If it is not a "mutant only" thing’. Xavier says that it is not an actual rule, but he will have to talk with the team leaders about joining though, as he leaves those decisions to them. Charles tells Cain that he approves absolutely, as he is always welcome in his home. Cain smiles at his brother and says ‘Thanks.’ He asks whom he should talk to about joining, and Charles tells him that Cyclops leads one team and Nightcrawler the other, though he prefers to share the role with Archangel. Charles suggests he talk to Kurt.
As they re-enter the mansion, Cain thanks Xavier again, but Charles tells Cain that the pleasure is all his.

Back in the infirmary, Alex tells Annie that Scott told him he has she to thank for keeping him clean and odor-free for the time he ‘was a vegetable.’ Annie just tells him, somewhat hesitantly, that it was her job. Alex takes Annie by the hand, and tells her that it was pretty special to him, even if a little awkward, given what she probably had to do. Annie tells Alex it was all her pleasure…but quickly adds that it is not like she gets pleasure out of…and begins a messed-up half-conversation, adding that she had to keep him clean as it was part of the job…. Paige quietly tells Havok that she is surprised Annie can talk that much with her foot in her mouth. Alex says that he thought he would be the embarrassed one, after all, he was naked during the procedure. Annie says ‘Well, yeah, but if I could have been the naked one, I would’ve been - - I mean, not the naked one, that’s not what I meant, I mean the one without clothes one- - and you’d be naked - - I mean the one with clothes on and you’d be rubbing me naked - - - - cleaning, not rubbing, cleaning, you know, sponging in a medical way - - . Alex and Husk just stare at her smiling. Annie puts her head in her hands, and says ‘Oh my dear God…. So! I hear you’re getting married!’.

Back in front of Professor Xavier’s office, Kurt folds his arms and tells Juggernaut that he will have to take his request to join the X-Men up with Warren. He tells Charles that this is what he wanted to talk about –Alex and Lorna are leaving for an archeological dig soon with one of their former teachers, as Alex said he needs to get his bearings in a calm setting before the wedding. Nightcrawler says that he invited himself along, and to the shocked expressions of Charles and Cain, tell them he is stepping down as leader of the X-Men.

Later that day. In front of the mansions, several of the X-Men are assembled outside, saying their temporary good-byes to Alex, Lorna and Kurt. Scott tells Alex he understands that he needs to adjust back to life, but is a little upset that he is leaving so soon. Alex tells him it is only for a little while. Polaris tells Xavier that they will be having the wedding at the mansion, and Xavier replies that he would be hurt if they had it elsewhere. Lorna climbs into the cab and is excited about how beautiful the trip is going to be. Paige mumbles to Annie that it should be her going to Bermuda with Alex, not ‘that psycho.’ Annie reminds Husk that they have been together for years, and she is just a lonely mother who developed a crush on a comatose patient. She asks the younger woman who the real psycho is.

Alex turns to Annie and says ‘Well. I guess this is it’ Alex tells Annie he is sorry that he wont be here to get to know her better after she and her son saved his life. Annie jokes that he will be getting her bill in the mail. Alex tells Annie that while they never really met, and he was unconscious mostly, and that he doesn’t even remember anything after the accident, and was just floating in a black void…he tells Annie that he feels he knows her somehow. Their eyes meet and Annie looks as if she could just about cry.

Lorna breaks the sudden silence with a ‘ALEX, the plane isn’t going to wait for us’. She adds that Nightcrawler is already at the airport. Alex calls Lorna "dear" and says he is coming. He is about to say something else to Annie, but stops himself, and just looks at her. He turns away from her and heads to the taxi, where he asks Lorna what they should read on the way to the airport, tragedy or smut? He tells her that he even found something with a monkey boy on the front cover! Polaris tells him to spare her. And Alex says they will just read the news then. Annie stares at the cab smiling.

Two nights later, in the lounge, Annie tells Paige that those were the exact words she used to say to Alex when she bought him magazines, "Tragedy or smut?" She adds that on top of that he knew her name, as soon as he came out of the coma he was saying her name. She asks Paige how he could have known her name. Husk suggests he may have heard her in the coma somehow. Annie says she hopes not, as she said some embarrassing stuff!

Suddenly, the front doors swing open, and Guardian, Vindicator, Sasquatch, Snowbird, Puck and Earthmover, a.k.a. Alpha Flight, Canada’s premiere super-hero team are standing in the doorway.
Guardian announces that by order of the Prime Minister of Canada and governor general and attorney general of the state of New York…the X-Men are ordered to relinquish custody of all the children in their care, or have them removed by force!!!

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Husk, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Phoenix IV, Professor X, (All X-Men)

Juggernaut (Resident at Xavier Institute)

Havok, Polaris (Former X-Men)

Nurse Annie Ghazikhanian

Carter Ghazikhanian

Earthmover, Guardian, Puck, Sasquatch, Snowbird, Vindicator II (All Alpha Flight)

FBI Agents

Story Notes: 

Havok was believed to have died in a plane accident in X-Factor #149 (September 1998), whiles his consciousness was actually shifted into the body of an alternate self in another reality (see Mutant X). At the endof that series, Alex was once more floating between realities. It is unclear whether this is Havok in the other Havok’s body (as he was during Mutant X) or whether he has been restored to his original body.

This was the first time the seven "original X-Men" have been together for a very long time.

Polaris and Havok had quite a few relationship troubles going on in the pages of X-Factor. Havok seemingly betrayed the team and injured Lorna in the process (X-Factor #125) and when he later wanted to make it up again she told him their relationship was over (X-Factor #147). However, after his seeming death, Lorna once more became obsessed with finding Alex (X-Factor #149; Magneto. Dark Seduction #1-4).

Iceman and Polaris had a little something going on in the later of Uncanny X-Men, (before the series became reprints) until she met and instantly fell for Havok. Iceman never quite got over his feelings for Lorna.

Husk is not twelve; according to Chuck Austen she is approximately nineteen years old.

It is unclear whether Husk is being sarcastic or truthful, when she claims that mutants cannot get HIV.

Havok is unconsciously echoing Annie’s "tragedy or smut" line which she uttered in Uncanny X-Men #411.

Alpha Flight’s reason for being wanting the children removed from Xavier’s custody can be seen in X-Men Unlimited #45.

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