Weapon X (2nd series) #19

Issue Date: 
March 2004
Story Title: 
Countdown to Zero - part 1: Gene Nation Rising

Frank Tieri (writer), Jeff Johnson (penciler), Don Hillsman II (inks), Tom Chu’s Color Dojo (colors), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Stephanie Moore and Cory Sedlmeier (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

During the months after defecting from Weapon X, Marrow has reorganized her old group, Gene Nation, and incorporated the leftover rebel cells of Cable’s Underground, even using their safehouse as her own base. Following her orders, the mutants have performed various terrorist attacks at some Weapon X training facilities for foot soldiers, but not all of the rebels like this change of course, as, under Cable, no innocents were harmed. Another of Marrow's problems is her control over her bone growth fading, again some structures growing on her temples. She tries to convince herself that her beauty only hindered her and that she is better off this way, her battle with Sabretooth having reminded her of her true obligations to the Morlock cause. That is when Maverick sneaks into the base and points his gun at her, only to be subdued by Vessel and Hemingway. However, Maverick gets free, but Marrow manages to get him to listen – as they have the same cause, bringing down Weapon X, and, with the rest of Cable’s Underground dissembled, why not join Gene Nation instead? Reluctantly, he agrees, neither of them aware of a second invader in the base – Agent Zero. Meanwhile, at the Weapon X compound, Jono romances a staff member and pressures her for information on how the compound is impervious to telepathic inquiries. He learns of some secret project called The Paths but, when checking out the chamber it’s supposed to be in, he finds that Paths is short for telepaths, about two dozen of them being held in stasis tubes.

Full Summary: 

Somewhere in Manhattan, on a crowded street filled with people and cars, on what seems to be an ordinary day, is when it happens. An explosion goes off in the second floor of a building, lots of debris crashing down on the street and the people below, damaging cars and humans alike. Some of them die in the fumes and flames, the last thing they see is a number of letters written on the pavement – Gene Nation.

In a hidden location, a number of mutants stare at a monitor showing them these events, which are commented by their leader. The voice says that the building was a secret training facility for Weapon X foot soldiers, that 32 people died in the fire and that this was their sixth successful attack against them in as many months. A robed female figure appears on the screen, she raises her fist and says, “We are Gene Nation. We will live free or die.” The many mutants mimic the gesture and repeat her words.

As the mutant crowd disperses, some lizard-like mutant approaches a female with cat-like features and tells her that she wants to see her. While the cat-woman leaves to follow this invitation, the other people are busy talking about what they just saw. One man, having several horns sticking out of his forehead, his cheeks and his chin, says that he found it interesting, to which a friend of his, bald, and with a little bit too much skin for his head answers that their new fearless leader sure seems a lot different than Cable was. The goat-man asks whatever became of Cable, to which the bald guy can only offer some speculation – maybe he was captured, killed or he abandoned the cause.

As the two mutants make their way through the base’s corridors, they look back on recent events, their name being changed to Gene Nation and their rather new, intense course of direction. The horned mutant says that it’s all a bit much for him; after all, innocent people are getting killed. The bald mutant agrees that this is something Cable wouldn’t have allowed. The goat-man wonders if that is why Cable was replaced as their leader. Maybe their new leader thought Cable didn’t have the guts to get the message across. Whatever the case, though, the horned mutant concludes, he has been thinking about quitting, for he doesn’t like their new direction.

His friend is somewhat surprised and asks whether he doesn’t trust their new leader anymore. “Who, Marrow?”, the horned guy asks in return, before replaying that he is just not sure anymore. The two mutants are unaware of their conversation having been spied on. A camera in the corridor recorded their exchange and, in her room, Marrow overheard their every word.

She pulls off her hood, revealing new bone structures having grown on her temples, just like those on her elbows, kneecaps and feet. As she passes a mirror and catches a glimpse of herself, Marrow tells herself to get over it already, as she got bigger things to concern herself with. Still, she pauses and gazes at her reflection, carefully touching her facial bone constructs. She wonders out loud if they really are that bad, as she is still looking a lot better than before Weapon X fixed her up. Besides, she reminds herself, she knew that she’d have to pay some price for betraying the program and, apparently, losing her beauty is it.

Marrow angrily smashes the mirror with her right fist and tells herself to deal with it. Looking at her reflection in the shattered glass surface, she tells herself that the pretty face never fitted anyway; it just wasn’t her. Worst of all, she knows, is that worrying about such things as her looks made her forget who she really is. Of all people, it took Sabretooth, the greatest murderer in Morlock history, to snap her back to her senses. Seeing Sabretooth again brought back a rush of feelings and memories, which reminded Marrow of her obligation to the mutant cause. So, lost in her own thoughts, Marrow fails to notice an assailant sneaking up on her until it is too late. As a gun is placed at the back of her head, a mocking voice says, “How touching.”

Meanwhile, at the Weapon X compound, Jonothon Starsmore is busy with some nightly action. As he and his female guest are getting dressed, he apologizes time and again that he didn’t mean it and, by accident, the name slipped out of his mouth. The young redhead is not fully convinced and tells him that it better not happen again, or else they are through. However, she is also curious as to who this “Paige” is anyway. Jono tries to avoid the subject, saying that she is nobody, but Amanda, the redhead, replies that this is his answer to everything. Sometimes, she thinks he is just toying with her, Amanda adds, but Jono quickly says that he’d have no reason to toy with her... that is other than for the obvious reasons he smirks, eyeing her body as she is slowly putting on her clothes.

Amanda, however, suspects that it is information he is after, as he is asking her so many questions, for example like earlier this evening when he wanted to know how the Program is able to hide its plans from telepathic inquiries from the outside. Jono claims to be just the curious type and pressures on a little bit, stating that she never answered him on that. The redheaded woman says that she didn’t because she doesn’t really know, only that “the Paths take care of it.” Both nearly finished dressing, Jono mentions that the Paths are what are in the room at the far end of the 13th floor, to which Amanda surmises that he’ll obviously take a peek. She asks him to be careful, though, after all he wouldn’t want Director Brent Jackson to catch him up there and tear off his face again. Jono pulls her closer and kisses her passionately. Of course he doesn’t want that, for then they couldn’t do this anymore.

In the headquarters of Gene Nation, Marrow holds up her hands in defeat, while Maverick states the obvious – the building used to be one of Cable’s safe-houses and, last he looked, she is not him. The former Morlock slowly turns around, arrogantly congratulating him on this brilliant observation. She then explains that the base used to belong to Cable and the Underground, but it’s under a new management now – in fact, she even brought her own “assistant managers”. Before Maverick knows what happened to him, he is grabbed by Vessel and Hemingway from behind, each of them pinning down one of his guns and arms. The two Gene Nationals argue about who gets to rip the captive in half, when suddenly both of them let go off him, holding their hands in pain. Apparently, Maverick either charged or heated up his guns, both of them still smoking. He grins, saying that he isn’t such a big fan of manhandling, while Marrow decides that he could be useful after all. She suggests for them to talk.

At the Weapon X compound, an elevator stops at the 13th floor. The door opens and smoke emanates from the elevator, soon covering the entire hallway. Fearing there to be a fire, the scientists and other staff quickly evacuate the floor and, once they are all out of site, Jono comes out of his hiding place – the smoke being his doing. He proceeds towards the door at the end of the corridor, pries it open and enters the chamber behind. At first, he wonders why it is so dark in there but, as he moves onwards, he spots something ahead. As he gets closer, he finally understands the secret behind the Paths. Before Jono there are more than two-dozen holding tanks, filled with mutants. He realizes that ”the Paths” is short for “telepaths”.

At the base of Gene Nation, Maverick angrily exclaims that he has no interest in whatever position Marrow wants to offer to him, but the young woman asks him to cool down and think. As it seems her outfit is the only one he has left. She sums up what happened – Maverick came back here because the Underground lost, he wanted to regroup with Cable and the others, only they are not here anymore – just Gene Nation. However, why bother, as they too want to take down Weapon X. Marrow calmly continues that he has nobody else to turn to, at least nobody capable of taking Weapon X down the way they both know it needs to be done.

She warns him not even to mention the X-Men, or she’d laugh in his face. She offers him a choice - Gene Nation could use someone like him. Otherwise, she says, they’d be forced to spray the walls with his insides and, while she heard that Maverick beat death once before, she doesn’t think he would be eager to try again, not when they actually have the same goal in mind. Maverick flinches his lip in anger, but then calms down. Having listened to her words, he knows Marrow has a point. He hesitates a bit further but then agrees to her offer. The former Morlock congratulates him on the decision. She grabs him by the arm and says that she needs to bring him up to speed on Gene Nation’s next mission – which is gonna be a real eye opener.

As they head away, deeper into the base, Hemingway and Vessel follow their leader and their new ally at a safe distance. Neither one sees the other figure that has secretly entered the building and apparently observed the entire scene – Agent Zero.

Characters Involved: 

Chamber, Agent Zero (both Weapon X)

Amanda and other staff members of the Weapon X program

Marrow, leader of Gene Nation and former Weapon X agent

Hemingway, Vessel (both Gene Nation)

numerous other mutants (formerly members of the Underground, now Gene Nation)

Maverick II, single remaining member of the Underground

many terrorism victims

Story Notes: 

Cable had organized an Underground organization of many rebel cells to undermine and expose the Weapon X program. However, when he and his friends attacked Weapon X, they ended up captured and Brent Jackson had the knowledge erased from their minds, all besides Maverick, who avoided capture.

Right after Cable’s capture, Marrow defected from the Weapon X program and freed Cable and his Underground. Him still being weary from the telepathic tampering, she could easily goad Cable into giving her his files on the remaining rebel groups. [Weapon X #7-13]

Weapon X leader, Brent Jackson, dispatched his most resourceful operative, the mysterious Agent Zero to bring in both Maverick and Marrow.

Marrow’s original reason for joining Weapon X was them restoring her beauty and tempering her rapid bone growth down to a controllable level. [Weapon X – The Draft: Marrow]

Sabretooth and his fellow Marauders killed a large number of the Morlocks during the Mutant Massacre, which is why she eagerly accepted Weapon X’s assignment to hunt him down. They fought each other to a stalemate in Weapon X #12.

Paige Guthrie, aka Husk, is Chamber’s ex-girlfriend.

When Gene Nation first surfaced, they were performing terrorist attacks on the anniversary day of the Mutant Massacre, killing a certain number of humans for every Morlock that was slaughtered. Hemingway and Vessel were both part of this group led by Marrow.

The original Maverick was apparently killed by Sabretooth in Wolverine (2nd series) #165, who first smashed into his chest and sliced through his heart, before dropping him off a building. It is still unknown whether the Maverick in Cable’s Underground is the same one, though it’s pretty unlikely. Only, Marrow doesn’t know that.

Issue Information: 
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