X-51: The Machine Man #4

Issue Date: 
November 1999
Story Title: 
With Friends Like These...

Mike Higgins and Karl Bollers (writers), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bob Wiacek (inker), Benchmark and Mark McNabb (letters, colors), Ralph Macchio (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

X-51, the Machine Man, finds himself in Times Square, New York City, teleported there by his own technology after thinking about Cable who resides nearby. Cable is an ally and Aaron feels he could be of help, despite being a mutant. He is now surrounded by a SWAT team who intend to take him down but despite their firepower and superior numbers they are no match for the robot. Not wishing to harm anyone, X-51 flies away in order to find help at Avengers mansion. Meanwhile, Jarvis, the Avengers butler receives a call from Duane Freeman, the Avengers security liaison, who informs him of the order to take down X-51 by any means necessary. Jarvis wonders what to do, knowing only the two youngest members are currently in residence at the mansion - Justice and Firestar, who are training in the Danger Room. Aaron arrives at Avengers mansion and is fine when Jarvis greets him but when he sees the two young mutants, his Sentinel programming kicks in and he begins to attack them. They don’t hesitate to defend themselves as Jarvis calls for backup. Firestar manages to use her microwaves to switch X-51 off, but before long, he manages to reboot himself and uses the mansion’s defenses against his foes. He takes the upper hand and drags them by the wrists into Central Park where, despite the junior Avengers’ best efforts, they fall to X-51’s superior skill. Just as they are about to die, the Vision arrives and puts himself between Aaron and his team-mates. Not too far away at the Hellfire Club, Tessa informs Sebastian Shaw that X-51 is heading in their direction and provides him with a disk with every snippet of information she could find on the robot to find a possible way to defeat him, should he come after them.

Full Summary: 

X-51 finds himself in a strange place having apparently been teleported there by his own technology in the early evening. His senses are distorted, everything is out of focus and he is confused. A moment ago he had been near Virginia Beach but now he finds himself in Times Square, New York City, surrounded by shocked onlookers and the neon lights that adorn Times Square’s commercial buildings. He recalls his battle against an orbiting satellite, employed against him by the United States government. He was looking for some time to himself and maybe get some help when the attack happened. He had thought of someone who could get him out of this mess and as Cable’s details appeared from his database, he was teleported here, probably because Cable works out of Manhattan according to the information he had been accessing.

Cable’s details are shown as Aaron remembers that it was Cable who saved him and helped him defeat the Master Mold and override its Sentinel programs when they were introduced into his robotic system. He was there when all this began and maybe he can help put an end to it. He has a dilemma though as Cable is a known mutant and his programming causes him to react adversely to mutants due to the Sentinel programs running inside him. He thinks that the risk is too great and there must be another way around this quandary and at any rate, there are a few other problems to tackle first; namely a SWAT team who have arrived in an armored van who are surrounding him, armed to the teeth.

Meanwhile, over at Avengers mansion, Jarvis takes a video call from Duane Freeman, the Avengers security liaison whose face fills the monitor. Jarvis is shocked at what Freeman has to tell him. “Machine Man? Impossible,” he exclaims as he is told of the recent attack. Agent Gyrich had informed Freeman that he had discussed the X-51 situation with the President himself. Jarvis tries to assure Freeman that ‘Master Stack’ has always displayed the gentlest of dispositions; unless it was necessary for him to be pressed into service. He adds that he always acted heroically and he has seen Avengers being accused of deeds most foul on far too many occasions, only to see them exonerated in each and every instance. The good name of the Avengers was always restored he continues, and he is sure that Aaron will be able to clear up any misconceptions he may have about his recent activities. As X-51s image appears on a second screen in the mansion, Freeman replies that he will hopefully get the chance, but for the time being, his privileges should be revoked, and the order is to take him down using any means necessary. He apologizes to Jarvis though as he is only following orders. Freeman logs off and Jarvis ponders the situation. He wonders whether is would be wise to notify one of the founders, after all, the only Avengers presently in the mansion are the two newest and youngest recruits; Justice and Firestar.

The two young heroes are in the mansion’s training facility. Firestar is resplendent in her red and gold costume while Justice dons a blue and white number with a long cape. They are fighting the training room’s programs, even though Vance is on the injured list at present. He has still maintained a strict regimen since he and his fiancée Firestar took up residence there and is more eager to prove himself than ever. As he struggles with a kind of cyber-cocoon, Angelica gracefully blasts away with her microwave powers and they keep up the banter as they fight. She tells him that maybe they shouldn’t have set the program to such an advanced level considering his recent concussion. Justice replies that just because his leg is in a cast, it doesn’t mean he wants to follow suit by having the cyber-cocoon shrink-wrap the rest of him, or that his telekinetic powers aren’t operating at peak levels again. Angelica suggests that concentration is also a key factor, so if he doesn’t mind, she’d like to see a little more action, and a little less talk. Unfortunately, as Justice tries to warn her about some missiles behind her, his mouth is covered by the cocoon and she doesn’t become aware of the heat-seeking missiles before she has already become their target.

X-51 meanwhile has an array of weapons and lights trained on his robotic form and is told in no uncertain terms not to move as he is surrounded. The police are concerned, having never had to take down a super-hero before but a man in the crowd says the way he hears it, the robot’s more like a super-villain now. As the crowd is ushered away from the scene, X-51 thinks about how he can let them know he means no harm but a slight movement is enough for one particularly eager cop to order his troops to fire. As Machine Man takes to the air, bullets ricochet off his armor as Aaron’s persecution continues.

Back at Avengers mansion, Firestar is caught by a missile, but strangely unharmed. She realizes she should have taken her own advice and adds almost sardonically, that at a time like this it’s nice to know she has someone watching her back. She turns to see Vance covered from head to toe in the green cocoon, helpless under its weight. Angelica tells him that she’ll see if she can return the favor of his telekinetic shield with a little microwave energy designed to scramble the cocoon’s cyber-circuitry. As she fires at it, the thing explodes and frees Vance and the happy couple hug each other, with Angelica saying, “And bring back my baby to me. “ Justice comments, “Now that’s teamwork!” as they leave the training room.

At Times Square, the SWAT team is doing everything by the book as they don their gas masks and then launch gas at X-51, before charging in to surround him. Unfortunately for them, the powerful robot thinks that unfortunately for New York’s finest, it isn’t enough, not by far. He feels they don’t even begin to comprehend the power they’re dealing with; even he doesn’t understand it fully since the destruction of his original body and his rebirth as some sort of Sentinel-hybrid. Three officers try to keep hold of him as he goes airborne but they cannot hold on and X-51 departs the scene as a television crew in a helicopter flies behind him. He knows that the officers experienced fear, and that’s what they’ll continue to feel as long as he allows the situation to continue unchecked. He doesn’t want to lose control again and for this reason he sets a course for New York’s upper east side; Avengers mansion.

Just a few blocks north of the mansion, the Hellfire Club is hosting a dinner, and the VIP guests are greeted by the host, Sebastian Shaw who is secretly the Black King of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle. He tells Senator Miles Brickman that he is pleased he could join them and he replies with a smile that he never misses an event at the Hellfire Club. Unfortunately for Sebastian, Tessa calls him from the shadows and apologizes for disturbing him but she wonders if she can have a word, in private. Sebastian makes his excuses and asks Tessa what’s wrong with her as she shouldn’t interrupt him when he’s entertaining guests. She replies that she knows the routine but there is something he will like to know. X-51, she tells him, has been sighted in midtown and their scanner show that he is heading right this way. He is indeed interested by this news.

At Avengers mansion, Vance and Angelica begin to relax after their exhausting training session. They talk about the session, with Angelica saying he needn’t have worried as she wasn’t about to let anything happen to him. Vance admitted he had been a little nervous but only when he saw the missiles arriving and realized he couldn’t call and warn her. She asks jokingly, “What’s the matter? Don’t you think I can take care of myself?” Vance tells her that she knows that isn’t it; they both have what it takes to be the next generation of Avengers but then stumbles over his words when he tries to explain how he’d feel if anything ever happened to her. He adds that as they’re now full-time members of the team, it’s everything he ever wanted, just as long as he has her too. Firestar replies that she feels the same way but wonders if they’re just trying to fool themselves. She looks quite subdued now as she leans against the windowsill and wonders if they’ll ever be able to raise a family. Justice tells her that other Avengers have married but Angelica replies that those marriages haven’t been particularly happy ones and were never between two mutants like them. Vance reassures her, saying that so what, a few cards have been stacked against them but all that matters is that he loves her. “And I love you, Vance Astrovik!” she replies as they kiss.

Elsewhere in the mansion, Jarvis is feeling concerned for Aaron’s welfare, and the fact that he is continually misunderstood when he hears a noise outside and opens the mansion’s door to find X-51 standing outside, having just landed. He is almost silhouetted against the city skyline and looks imposing, even angry. Jarvis tells him that he cannot tell him how pleased he is to see him and he is glad he chose to come here. Now, he adds, they’ll be able to straighten out this affair. X-51’s grim appearance suddenly changes as information about Jarvis appears from his database. With this information comes recognition and all the robot can say is, “Jarvis, I, I…”

Jarvis approaches him and everything appears well as he asks if he is quite all right. He turns as the two junior Avengers wander out to meet the Machine Man and Jarvis suggests that perhaps they might be of assistance; after all, “the Avengers is much more like a family than simply…” It takes X-51 a split second to access information about the youngsters whom his Sentinel programming identifies as mutants and targets for extermination. He fires at them and Justice immediately throws himself in front of Jarvis and Firestar as he completes the sentence Jarvis had begun, “A super-hero team!” With X-51 powering up, energy sparkles around him and Justice and Firestar look understandably nervous as Justice adds, “So much for the family reunion.”

However, Justice is nothing if not brave and he quickly takes to the air and summons his telekinetic power as Firestar picks Jarvis up. She asks him if he’s sure that is Machine Man and Jarvis replies that he believed so at first, despite the obvious physical transformation he had been told Aaron had undergone, but now he isn’t so sure. He doesn’t seem to be acting like the Aaron Stack that he knows. Justice lays into the robot with his power, forcing him back into the ground as his telekinetic shove temporarily takes X-51 by surprise. He realizes though that as he continues to pour on his power, he is barely slowing him down and Firestar reminds Jarvis that Vance is still recovering from serious injuries and this type of exertion might be too much for him. Jarvis sprints back into the mansion as the battle rages outside and heads to the communications room. He sends out an urgent call for assistance to the Avengers, six of whom are displayed on the monitors and hopes that at least one of them can respond before it’s too late.

Adapting to Justice’s power, X-51 manages to break his telekinetic shielding and Justice is blasted away towards Angelica. Firestar shouts at the robot, telling him that she doesn’t know what’s gotten into him since last time they met, but then they were friends. If it’s a fight he’s looking for then he’s got it, and she tells X-51 she’ll fry whatever passes for brains for what he just did to her boyfriend. She takes up the fight, firing her microwave blasts at the robot which actually cause him pain. After letting out a shriek, the robot’s knees buckle and he slumps to the ground as Firestar looks back at Vance who is slowly recovering from the blast. Aaron wonders what is happening; his brain is on fire, the pain had been so intense and he can’t think straight. As his system begins to shut down, Firestar helps Justice up and he tells her, “Th-that’s it Angel, show him we’ve got what it takes!”

Far below the Hellfire Club in Sebastian Shaw’s hidden inner sanctum, he looks at footage of X-51 during his run-in with the SWAT team on a large screen. Tessa asks, “You understand why I felt it necessary to disturb you?” and Shaw replies that he does, all too clearly, though maybe even she doesn’t fully understand the seriousness of the situation. X-51 knows his secret and has somehow come into possession of Sentinel abilities so advanced that so far he is at a loss to explain them. Even now the robot could be heading straight for the Hellfire Club. Tessa replies by asking, “Feeling a little stressed?” as she removes a computer disk from her person, before continuing that he needn’t worry as he’s safe for now, and while he’s been playing, she has managed to keep herself busy. On the disk she has compiled all the information anyone could ever possibly want to know about X-51, from the secrets of his inception, through the time he spent with his father Abel Stack to the mundane specifics of the few short years of his life. All the details about everyone with whom he had ties is on there and suggests Shaw look at the disk for his own good. She shall make excuses to his guests.

A short distance away, at Avengers mansion, Firestar’s actions appear not to have ended the threat X-51 faced. He doesn’t know what is happening entirely, but his system is rebooting and a new sequence initiated. His designated targets are still within range and his systems begin to interface with the mansion’s exterior defenses. This is done by having his fingers extend cables underground and into the system directly. He takes control of the weapons as Firestar and Justice realize their work isn’t yet done. They are fired upon by their own security grid and as they take off, Vance uses a telekinetic shield to deflect bullets as Firestar realizes that even though they might be able to handle the barrage coming their way, now that’s he’s adapted to their specific powers there’s no way to stop him from snaring them. X-51 propels himself towards them and grabs them both by the wrist, dragging them helplessly into Central Park.

An unseen figure witnesses the discharged weapons in the mansion’s grounds whilst against the backdrop of a full moon, Firestar tries to reason with X-51, telling him that it’s not too late. The robot replies that there can only be one outcome, one final solution. They are a threat and humanity must be purified; they will be eliminated. Hearing this, the two Avengers simultaneously strike at their armored foe and Justice says, “What is it with you? Do you think we intend to just give up?” The blast is watched from the mansion’s grounds by the stranger. X-51 tells Justice their intentions are irrelevant as he punches Firestar in the face. This knocks the fight out of her and she begins to fall to the ground as Justice races after her at full speed. As he catches her, the stranger spots them and is approaching quickly. Justice cannot prevent the pair of them from plunging into the lake as onlookers watch and wonder who it was. They see X-51 flying overhead with his searchlight scouring the waters for traces of his opponents. The image is classic Sentinel.

Suddenly, X-51 is assaulted by a ferocious attack from Justice who gives the robot everything he has to offer, telling him that after what he did to his girl, he’ll use everything he’s got to tear him apart. Firestar crawls from the water onto the muddy bank and calls weakly to Vance telling him that it isn’t going to work. X-51 stands still and appears unaffected by Justice’s power. With his powers spent, Justice falls and X-51 approaches them, his programming ordering their imminent termination. With the two young mutants staring death in the face, the stranger makes an opportune appearance,, saying, “It is most fortunate that I have arrived in time.” Suddenly, between X-51 and the two Avengers, the Vision phases through the ground and informs X-51, “My young allies have been the focus of your unwarranted assault for too long X-51, and I assure you that your encounter with them is at an end. Now you face the power of the Vision!”

Characters Involved: 


Firestar, Justice, Vision (all Avengers)

Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler

Sebastian Shaw


Senator Miles Brickman

Hellfire Club diners and waiting staff

New York City bystanders

Police SWAT team

in flashback:


on video monitors:


Duane Freeman, Avengers security liaison

Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Thor, Wonder Man (all Avengers)

SWAT officers

Story Notes: 

X-51 fought the satellite which was being operated by X.E.R.O in X-51 #3.

Cable helped X-51 back in Cable/Machine Man Annual ’98 and Machine Man/Bastion Annual ’98.

SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics.

The founding members of the Avengers were Ant-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and the Wasp, though the Hulk was quickly replaced by Captain America. Justice and Firestar were previously members of the New Warriors and Justice in particular was excited about his role in the Avengers.

Justice was injured in Avengers (3rd series) #17 in a battle with the Doomsday Man.

Avengers who have been married are Yellowjacket and the Wasp, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, Quicksilver and Crystal and the Swordsman and Mantis. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman were also married but their tenure in the Avengers was extremely brief.

Information in X-51’s database:


Real name: Summers, Nathan Dayspring

Ht: 6’2” Wt: 225 lbs

Classification: Homo sapiens Superior

Status: Unknown

DNAnalysis: High-level telekinesis / High-level telepathic abilities

Group Affiliation: None

Jarvis, Edwin

Ht: 5’9” Wt: 160 lbs

Classification: Homo sapiens

Status: British citizen - U.S. permanent resident

DNAnalysis: Normal

Group Affiliation: Avengers


Real name: Astrovik, Vance

Ht: 5’10” Wt: 180 lbs

Classification: Homo sapiens Superior

Status: U.S. citizen - Criminal record

DNAnalysis: Mid-level telekinesis

Group Affiliation: Avengers


Real name: Jones, Angelica

Ht: 5’8” Wt: 125 lbs

Classification: Homo sapiens Superior

Status: U.S. citizen - No criminal record

DNAnalysis: Microwave energy absorption and projection

Group Affiliation: Avengers

Issue Information: 
Written By: