Wolverine: First Class #12

Issue Date: 
April 2009
Story Title: 
The Substitute

Fred Van Lente (writer), Scott Kublish (penciler and inker), Ulises Arreola (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), David Williams and Wil Quintana (cover artists), Ralph Macchio (consulting editor), Nathan Cosby (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Reunited on Bermuda Island, the X-Men enjoy a campfire until they hear an eerie noise from the island’s citadel. Professor X asks Kitty to go investigate as a training exercise but asks Cyclops to accompany her instead of Wolverine. During their investigation—which includes an unpleasant encounter with an eldritch demon named Quoggoth—Kitty gets a crash-course in Cyclops strict teaching methods, which differ wildly from Wolverine’s. Afterward, when Wolverine mocks Cyclops’s failed teaching attempt, Kitty comes to his defense and runs away. However, she returns to Professor X and tells him she would still prefer to have Wolverine as her mentor. He has perspective that X-Men poster-boy Cyclops lacks—and Kitty doesn’t want to be an X-Man forever.

Full Summary: 

It’s a dark, star-filled night over Bermuda Island. The X-Men—finally reunited with their teammate Cyclops, along with their fellow refugees Lee Forrester and Moira MacTaggert—pass the night away by sitting around a campfire, enjoying each other’s company.

How long are we gonna be stuck on this stupid island, Professor?” the cantankerous Kitty Pryde asks. Xavier tells her it’s just for one night, until Nightcrawler finishes repairing his yacht. Even though Magneto used this island as a base, he fled after the X-Men defeated him so it should be relatively safe, the professor adds.

Suddenly, an eerie wail cuts through the otherwise quiet night. “Famous last words,” Kitty says. The X-Men look toward the island’s citadel in absolute horror. Wolverine leaps to his feet, unsheathes his claws and asks Xavier if he wants him to check out the noise. Professor X tells him to wait a minute; he doesn’t detect anything with his telepathy. He decides this might be a good teaching opportunity for young Kitty Pryde to learn the importance of reconnaissance. He would like her to investigate the noise with one of the other X-Men.

Kitty sighs; a teaching opportunity usually means a situation in which she could easily get killed. Nevertheless, she agrees to the assignment, but decides to revert to her original costume, since Magneto tore up her current one during their recent battle. With that, Sprite pulls out the multicolored uniform she designed for herself just days earlier and tosses it in the fire. “Fare thee well, O spangly roller skating costume. We hardly knew thee,” she says.

Surprisingly, Wolverine takes issue with this. “Whoa! What did you call it?” he asks. A costume, Kitty answers. Wolverine tells her that trick-or-treaters and people going to parties wear costumes. If that’s the case, Kitty says, then what does Wolverine call it? “Bein’ an X-Man is my job. This is what I wear when I’m doin’ my job. This is a uniform,” he says, pointing toward his brown and gold outfit.

Colossus reminds him that acting is also a job; actors wear costumes too. “An actor’s job is to pretend to be somebody he ain’t,” Logan says. “I ain’t pretendin’. This is me. I’m me all the time.” While he continues taking issue with Peter’s assertion, Kitty throws her arms up in frustration and agrees to just call it a uniform. Wolverine, crushing his beer can, supposes he had better get ready to head out as well. Professor X tells him otherwise. Much to Wolverine’s shock, Professor X assigns another instructor to go with Kitty, one with whom the X-Men only just reunited: Cyclops. Cyclops accepts the task with enthusiasm. Wolverine, however, is less than enthusiastic. “You’re gonna send Kitty off with him?” he asks. “She needs a teacher—not a teacher’s pet!” Cyclops doesn’t see the problem; he’d rather Kitty learn something useful for a change. He fails to see the educational value in learning how to belch the alphabet. Wolverine narrows his eyes. “Oh, yeah. I missed you,” he says. “A whole bunch.”

The tension dissipates when Kitty Pryde, now in full uniform, stands up and meekly tells Cyclops she’s ready to go. Taking charge, he leads her through the dense foliage and into the foreboding temple’s entrance. Kitty notices how weird it feels; even the air feels cold. Cyclops tells her some information Magneto passed along to him while he was held prisoner. Apparently, Magneto raised the entire island from the ocean floor using his magnetic powers. No one knows how long it stayed down there.

“Cyclops?” Kitty asks. Sternly, he tells her that on recon missions, it’s best to speak as little as possible; Wolverine should have taught her that. She scowls behind his back. Although Wolverine did teach her that, she just wants to ask him a question: why do he and Wolverine hate each other so much?

Scott pauses for a moment. He thinks about Jean, and how uncomfortably well Wolverine got along with her. “What makes you think we do?” he asks in response. Everything, Kitty answers. Cyclops tells her she misunderstands. He and Logan have a great deal of respect for each other’s field experience and commitment to mutant rights. Incredulously, Kitty asks if Scott has ever actually talked to Logan.

Suddenly, a slimy green tentacle slinks out of a barnacle mounted to the citadel wall and grabs hold of Kitty’s torso. She squeals. Just as the tentacle retracts, Cyclops turns around and tells her to be quiet, clearly having missed it. She will not be quiet, she says! She points to the barnacle and tells Scott it got slime all over her uniform! “Your what?” he sternly asks.

“My…uniform?” Kitty answers. Cyclops tells her that janitors wear uniforms. If that’s the case, Kitty asks, then what is she supposed to call it?

“It’s a costume!” Cyclops says. He marches away, leaving Kitty to stew. After he leaves, she hears an innocent voice calling for help. Kitty turns and sees a young, red-headed girl in pigtails hiding in a crevice between two pillars. The girl claims she can’t find her parents. Their boat crashed, and when she woke up, they were gone, the little girl says. Kitty rushes over to the poor dear. Cyclops, however, grabs her by the arm. He tries to tell her to take the most cautious plan of action, but Kitty asks where that leaves common decency. Quoting Wolverine, she tells Cyclops that inaction can be worse than wrong action—particularly in an emergency! She phases through his grip and defiantly marches over to the little girl’s outstretched arms. However, she fails to see that it’s not a little girl at all, but a simulacrum of one attached to the end of yet another monstrous tentacle. Kitty embraces the thing in a big hug. It begins to say thanks before sending an electrical jolt through her body. Kitty screams as two smaller tentacles emerge from the redhead’s eyes, and another from its mouth.

“KITTY!” Cyclops shouts. He opens fire at the monster, which now holds the unconscious Kitty Pryde in its clutches. Another of its tentacles snakes behind Scott and hits in the back. He falls forward, into the grip of another one of the cephalopod’s extremities. The monster then pulls them both through a hole in the floor and down toward a central pit. Cyclops never gives up fighting. He continues blasting at the plethora of tentacles. One of his blasts misses its target and instead hits a colossal statue of a robed man with the head of an octopus. The statue crumbles. The monster slaps Scott into the statue’s side. He manages to get a grip on the ledge, at which point he turns back to the tentacle wrapped around his leg and hits it with an optic blast. It releases him, allowing him to climb over the ledge. He rests on his hands and knees while he catches his breath, glad to have escaped—but worried sick about Kitty.

Kitty, meanwhile, wakes up on the bottom of the well, blanketed in the eerie green glow of the monster that pulled her down in the first place: an octopus-like creature with fourteen eyeballs and even more tentacles. It tells her not to be afraid; it means her no harm. Kitty screams at the top of her lungs anyway. The creature then introduces itself as “Quoggoth” and tells Kitty its story. It fancied itself more powerful than its master, Shuma-Gorath, the Lord of Chaos and the greatest of the Old Ones. Quoggoth eventually rebelled against its master, but Shuma-Gorath emerged triumphant. However, it could not simply destroy its defiant protégé, so it imprisoned it here, on Bermuda Island, where it has laid in wait for hundreds of millions of years. It was not until some foolish human raised its sepulcher from the bottom of the sea that it tasted freedom. “Technically, he was a mutant,” Kitty interrupts. “Magneto.”

“The walls of my prison are too strong for me to break,” Quoggoth says, “…and the mystic sigils lining the walls cannot be pierced by magery. But you little humans…?”

“Mutants,” Kitty corrects. Quoggoth continues. It intends to keep one of the humans here, with it, while the other goes back outside and removes the crystal seal locking shut the tomb doors—a seal Quoggoth and its spawn are magically forbidden from touching. After that, all three of them shall go free, Quoggoth says. Does this sound fair to Kitty?

Kitty thinks about it for a second. Fortunately, her dilemma ends when Cyclops fires a ruby-red optic blast at the monster from up above. She looks up and sees him hanging from a series of handholds he blasted in the side of the well. He tells her they can climb out, but it would be much easier to simply have her airwalk them to the top of the deep well. He doesn’t have to tell Kitty twice. She springs upward and grabs Cyclops by the hand. Phasing them both, they proceed toward the well’s entrance, with Quoggoth and his winged minions hot in pursuit.

As Cyclops ineffectively blasts at the monsters, he asks Kitty if Wolverine has taught her anything of value. Was she about to agree to this demon’s demands? She doesn’t think so; she barely had time to think at all, she says! The last thing she remembers was grabbing onto that girl. “That wasn’t a girl,” Cyclops says. “Which you would have realized if you had listened to me. Do that again and I have half a mind to leave you down here, got it?” he says. Kitty meekly tells him yes.

Cyclops now asks if she can phase through the walls of the well. Kitty tries, but fails; she assumes the walls must have the same mystical protection Quoggoth mentioned earlier. Cyclops tells her not to speculate without evidence. Continuing upward, they arrive at one of the slick air tubes through which they arrived. Unfortunately, it’s too slippery for them to climb. Kitty delights at the discovery of something Cyclops cannot do. What makes him so high and might anyway? He explains he has been an X-Man longer than anyone—since he was Kitty’s age, in fact. Even then, it still took him a long time to learn what can happen when one is careless in battle and doesn’t follow the rules. Unlike Wolverine, he says, he’s not invulnerable—and neither is Kitty. Therefore, she needs to obey his orders.

They emerge from the top of the well seconds before the swarm of gargoyles. Immediately, they dart toward the nearest exit, but find its encrypted door sealed. Cyclops optic blasts do nothing to open it. Kitty tries to phase through it, but finds she cannot. Worse, the door is locked from the other side; they have reached a dead-end. To make matters worse, a horde of insane monsters summoned by Quoggoth emerges from the well and begins bearing down on Cyclops and Kitty. Cyclops orders her to pay attention. They’re coming! he shouts.

“Stop yelling at me!” Kitty snaps back. “I’m not your girlfriend Jean, okay? I know you lost her, and I’m sorry! But the only one who blames you for that is you!” Cyclops says nothing. He gives Kitty a wounded look. She apologizes, but he tells her it’s okay; he shouldn’t push her so hard. He just didn’t want their first lesson together to be their last. Cyclops turns to the horde of demons and opens his visor broadly, hitting them with a wide-angle optic blast. The monsters close in anyway. With them only seconds away, Cyclops orders Kitty to phase and save herself. She refuses; not only can she not leave Scott behind, but her intangibility lasts only as long as she can hold her breath. Once she runs out of air, she will die.

Suddenly, the locked door pushes open, and both Scott and Kitty tumble through and hit the ground. The look up and see Wolverine holding its crystal seal. He apologizes; did he interrupt the learning process? Wolverine tells Cyclops he should be grateful he decided to track them and clean up their inevitable mess. Cyclops asks how he managed to open the door. Easy, Logan says. As soon as he popped this crystal seal off with his claws, the door swung right open! “Put it back! Put it back!” Cyclops and Sprite shout in unison. Wolverine asks why. However, the giant, hideous tentacle-monster approaching the door and shouting for its freedom answers the question for him. The X-Men scream. Cyclops slams the door shut with an optic blast, while Wolverine slips the crystal seal in its slot just in time to lock the ancient demon up, this time, hopefully, for good.

With the threat neutralized, Logan laughs in Scott’s face. Five minutes into his first mission and he nearly unleashes Armageddon! Logan can’t say he’s surprised. He just wonders how Scott and the rest of the original five survived as long as they did. Surprisingly, Kitty comes to Scott’s defense. “Why don’t you just leave Cyclops alone for once, huh?!” she shouts in Wolverine’s face. “He’s been through a lot!” She then runs away, leaving the two veteran X-Men alone to share an awkward silence.

Kitty returns to the campfire and finds Xavier sitting by himself. He asks if she discovered the source of the strange noise. “Yeah,” she says. “It was an aeons-old eldritch thing from beyond the veil of space and time.” Professor X just shrugs. Kitty then asks if he intends to make Cyclops her instructor from now on. He asks if that’s what she would like. Sensing her reticence, he assures her she can freely speak her mind. Cyclops has been at Xavier’s school since he was her age, Kitty begins. Therefore, being an X-Man is practically all he knows; he hasn’t done much else since he was a kid. Professor X doesn’t disagree. Continuing, Kitty thinks this weighs on Scott. She senses a certain sadness about him, as if the burden of being an X-Man constantly pushes him down. Kitty prefaces what she says next by saying she doesn’t want to hurt Scott’s feelings, but honestly, she doesn’t want to turn out like him.

Wolverine, on the other hand, has done things with his life. He’s seen the world. “He’s got perspective,” Kitty says. “That’s what I think I need.” She removes her cowl and lets her curly hair down. “This is a job. It’s not me. I want to wear a uniform,” she says. “Not a costume. So I’d rather stay Wolverine’s student, if that’s okay.” Professor X smiles and says she can do as she wishes. After thanking him, Kitty says goodnight and heads for bed.

After sitting motionless and staring into the campfire for a while, Professor X says it’s safe to come out now. From behind, Wolverine emerges from the dense jungle foliage. “Little squirt,” he says, wiping away a single tear from his eye.

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Cyclops, Professor X, Sprite, Storm, Wolverine (X-Men)

Carol Danvers, Moira MacTaggert (X-Men allies)

Quoggoth (ancient eldritch demon)

in flashback only:

Phoenix II

Shuma-Gorath (Lord of Chaos)

Story Notes: 

This issue takes place immediately after Uncanny X-Men #150. The X-Men and their allies convened on Bermuda Island for various reasons: Cyclops and Lee Forrester because they shipwrecked near the island; the X-Men, because Magneto’s magnetic field inadvertently drew their ship toward it while on their way home from a mission to Antarctica; and Professor X, Carol Danvers, Moira MacTaggert and Peter Corbeau, because they came to confront Magneto after he declared war on the world.

Lee Forrester, Nightcrawler and Peter Corbeau are also somewhere on Bermuda Island at this time, although none of them are depicted in this issue.

For more information on the history of Bermuda Island, see its article in “X Marks the Spot”.

Although it’s a popular figure of speech, it’s perhaps no coincidence that Kitty’s second line of dialogue in this issue – “Famous last words” – mirrors the final line of spoken in Uncanny X-Men #150, courtesy of Nightcrawler.

Kitty constructed the colorful costume briefly featured in this issue in Uncanny X-Men #149. Professor X scolded her for making her own costume, and Kitty only wore it for one mission, on which she was a stowaway. This issue marks the infamous costume’s final appearance.

Although this is the first and only appearance of Quoggoth, the demon’s master, Shuma-Gorath, is a recurring force in the Marvel Universe. Shuma-Gorath, an immortal, extra-dimensional entity, first appeared in Marvel Premiere (1st series) #10. As explained in Marvel Premiere (1st series) #14, Shuma-Gorath first arrived on Earth over 1,000,000 years ago, at which point he ruled over it and feasted on its inhabitants.
The names of the demons seem to be vaguely reminiscent of the names of the Great Old Ones in H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories.

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