X-Force (1st series) #113

Issue Date: 
April 2001
Story Title: 
Rage War, part 4

Ian Edgington (writer), Jorge Lucas (artist), VLM (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Frank Dunkerley (assistant editor), Matt Hicks (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

X-Force and Major Valentina Rychenko arrive at the Ural Mountains, and easily take out the numerous guards protecting a facility SHIELD has asked them to infiltrate. They are confronted by the resistant Warborgs, but Proudstar takes them down with ease. When X-Force break into the facility, however, they find it full of fully-grown, hideous warrior-creatures. Niles Roman is monitoring their every move, and while X-Force are unable to keep the warriors at bay for long, they begin a full-on confrontation. Domino and Rychenko locate the power source that Niles Roman is using to keep his facility in action, and plan to take it out. Before long, however, Niles Roman confronts X-Force, ending the battle between them and the warriors. X-Force are naturally angry about him killing Wisdom, but Roman reveals to them information about his mysterious actions over the years, and about the alien device which recently latched itself onto Domino - that it was planning to take over the world, and that the army he has been creating will be used to fight the alien take-over. Roman isn’t able to prove this, but tries to convince X-Force. However, they are all unaware that they are being watched by someone at another location. This mysterious person activates a vibranium bomb - which turns out to be Major Rychenko - who explodes, killing X-Force, Niles Roman and all of the creatures.

Full Summary: 

Once upon a time, a noble mad had a fine dream that the different and disenfranchised - mutants, like himself, could coexist in peace and tolerance with the rest of humanity. He drew to him others who would share that dream, and they kept dreaming it, too. While humans burned mutant homes, destroyed mutant businesses and denied them the right to education, free speech, liberty and equality of life. Maybe that’s why they wear the “X” - nothing to do with the genes or chromosomes, instead it reminds them of what humanity wants to do to them - examine, exclude, exterminate. ‘Once upon a time, we shared a noble man’s fine dream…and then we woke up’ Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith thinks to herself as she and her teammates - Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, James Proudstar, Domino, Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson - known as X-Force, as well as their associate Major Valentina Rychenko - ‘A kinda Russian James Bond’ Tabitha thinks to herself - as they fly though the airspace wearing jetpacks, save for Cannonball and Proudstar who can fly.

‘We don’t play nice, we don’t play fair. You hurt mutants, we hurt you, Simple. We’re about to pound a guy so hard he’ll wake up in a previous life’ Tabitha tells herself. Wondering if it sounds harsh, well, the guy they are about to pound did murder their boss and is threatening to set loose an army of monstrous clones derived from genetically enhanced, deep cover, Soviet super soldiers. ‘When did things get so complicated?’ Tabitha wonders, before Bedlam report that they are in sensor range, and are being scanned. Down below, Russian soldiers guard a bunker and look upwards, ‘’They’ve made us! Incoming!’ someone exclaims as missiles are launched skyward.

Cannonball tells Bedlam that he wants EMP, an bio-EMP bursts with broad dispersal, to take out the troops and their toys. ‘Understood’ Bedlam replies, telling everyone to stay behind him, unless they want to drop like a comatose stone, as he unleashes his powers below, causing chaos as the missiles fall backwards, amongst various bunkers, vehicles and crates, and knocking some soldiers skyward. Cannonball reports that the only things left standing now are EMP-shielded Warborgs - dead men dripped in science. ‘Jimmy, you know what to do’ Sam tells his friend. ‘PAY BACK!’ Proudstar replies, armed with two powerful weapons, he moves towards the ground, firing the weapons, which gets the attention of the Warborgs, who all look upwards, only to be ripped to shreds by the bullets that blast through them.

As he sets down on the ground, Proudstar is contacted by Meltdown, who tells him that was some serious overkill, and asks him what is in those weapons. ‘Pretty cool, huh?’ Proudstar replies, explaining that they are adamantium-tipped, explosive flechette rounds rigged to a mini gun belt feed, and that it fires one thousand rounds a second. He continues to fire the bullets, taking out more of the Warborgs. Proudstar reveals that he and Domino stripped them from a SHIELD air cavalry car before they left.

Cannonball, Meltdown, Bedlam, Domino and the Major land, and Proudstar points out that the last time they went toe-to-toe with the Warborg freaks, they almost killed him. ‘This way, they don’t even get within spitting distance’. Meltdown smiles and asks what their “Uncle Nick” said, considering SHIELD is not supposed to be involved here. ‘Not much. He doesn’t know we’ve got them’ Domino replies, while Cannonball suggests they carry on with their mission, and go and pay the doctor a house call.

However, inside the bunker deep within the Ural Mountains, the deformed Dr Niles Roman and his associate, Ford, are watching X-Force on monitors. ‘Fascinating! Look, Ford. Our guests are none other than those mutant mongrels who proved so bothersome in San Francisco!’, and with tanks lining the walls of the laboratory all empty, Roman declares that their timing couldn’t have been more opportune.

At the entrance to the bunker, the large door is pounded against, and eventually, falls to the side, thanks to Proudstar’s incredible strength. ‘We’re in!’ James tells everyone. ‘Uh-oh’ Meltdown mutters as she sees what is waiting for them up ahead. ‘We’re too late…big time!’ Cannonball exclaims as hundreds of hideous monstrous mutates are waiting for them.

‘This will be amusing’ Niles Roman tells himself , smirking in delight as he continues to watch on monitors.

Cannonball tells Bedlam to shut them all down, but Bedlam replies that he can’t, while Proudstar tries to put the door back in place, and Domino and the Major shoot weapons at the mutates who try to get through. ‘What?’ Cannonball asks Bedlam, who explains that some of them have EMP dampening abilities, and are shielding the rest. ‘I can only handle a couple at a time’ he adds. Proudstar tells his teammates that if they are going to do something, to do it fast. ‘I mean it!’ he exclaims. ‘Plan B?’ Domino asks Cannonball. ‘You can do it?’ he enquires. ‘Do we have a choice?’ Domino points out, when suddenly, a large brute forces the door down. ‘Let’s move!’ Cannonball orders, as he blasts into the chamber, while Meltdown and Bedlam release their powers, keeping back as many of the mutates as they can. Cannonball tells the Major that after they punch a breach in their lines, she and Domino will go through, and everyone else will close up behind and watch their backs. ‘Copy that’ the Major replies.

‘Ingenious. Their scheme could actually pose a threat to us’ Roman tells Ford, deciding that this may call from some radical thinking.

Cannonball blasts through the chamber, literally tearing mutates apart with his blasting. Meltdown releases beams of plasma, striking into the mutates, frying them, while Bedlam extends an electro-blast backwards, keeping the mutates at bay, and Proudstar uses his strength to hurl pieces of equipment at the larger mutates. Reaching a door, Domino announces that they are through. ‘This is it!’ she tells the Major, who follows her into the room. Domino asks Valentina what they are looking for, and motioning to large vat containing a glowing energy, ‘That!’ Valentina exclaims. ‘Oh!’ Domino gasps, while Valentina explains that to fuel a covert science operation this size, you need a massive, untraceable power source, such as a cold fusion reactor. As she begins firing her weapon at a console, Valentina tells Domino that if they rig it to blow right, they can take out Roman, his creatures and the complex. Valentina begins fiddling with the wires, while Domino tells her to get to it, and she will cover her.

‘Hmmm, enterprising. I think we are for once in genuine jeopardy’ Niles Roman states as he watches Valentina at work. He instructs Ford to bring him his drugs, and preparing two large vials of a pink fluid, Niles brings them, in an injector, to Niles Roman. ‘Ready?’ he asks. ‘Go ahead’ Niles replies, and Ford injects the fluid into the back of Niles Roman’s neck.

The battle in the large chamber continues to rage, ‘There are too many! We can’t hold them back much longer!’ Proudstar exclaims, but Cannonball blasts about, declaring that they can and they will, when suddenly, ‘STOP THIS!’ a voice booms, and the mutates halt their attack. ‘Stop this immediately!’ Dr Niles Roman declares, as Ford pushes him in his wheelchair, passing the mutates, and reaching X-Force. ‘Dr Roman, I presume?’ Meltdown enquires. ‘Stop this, I implore you. For the sake of every living soul on this planet!’ Dr Roman exclaims. Frowning, Meltdown asks him what he is talking about. ‘You’re the bad guy’ she reminds him. ‘My dear, you have either been well and truly deceived or are considerably more moronic than you look!’ Roman replies, claiming that he is trying to prevent the subjugation of the entire human race.

‘Okay, now this is getting seriously strange’ Bedlam mutters. ‘Sam?’ Domino calls out as she looks in from the other room. Cannonball glances back at her and tells her to keep working, as this isn’t over yet. Sam turns back to Roman, and instructs him to say his peace. ‘Who sent you? The Department? SHIELD? Carnival? They are pawns in a game the design and dimensions of which they can’t comprehend. They are mere puppets, just like you’ Roman replies, while asking ‘What did they say I was? A maniac? A scientific zealot?’, causing Meltdown to step forward, and shaking her fist exclaims ‘You killed our boss, you freak!’, but Proudstar holds her back, and tells Roman that they know what he is. ‘You fronted a corrupt intel bureau in San Francisco, detonated a mutagenic bio-weapon beneath the city, turned thousands into deranged mutants, just for the sake of some war game experiment!’

Roman sniggers and replies that he had no choice. ‘Hundreds died!’ Cannonball points out. ‘To save millions’ Roman declares, while telling X-Force that, from their actions, he took them for the enemy. ‘They were establishing a bridgehead in the city, I had to stop them. Activating the bio-engine was my only option…and it was glorious!’ he declares. ‘That really isn’t helping’ Proudstar remarks, arms folded across his chest, he declares ‘Our late boss, Pete Wisdom, said you and Cuckoo were as corrupt as they came!’ but Roman replies that Wisdom just told them what he wanted them to know, as the players in this game are potent, sly and invisible. ‘When my field agency glimpsed a fraction of their true purpose, they killed us all…almost all’, before exclaiming ‘Ask yourself, what is a cuckoo?’, to which Meltdown stares down at him and replies ‘I’m looking at one’.

Cannonball crosses his arms and replies ‘It’s a bird, lays its eggs in others’ nests. The hitchhiker then kicks out the other young and takes over’. Roman tells the young mutants to apply that reasoning on a cosmic scale. Sam replies that he doesn’t understand, before exclaiming ‘Oh, hell - aliens! You’re talking about an alien invasion, aren’t you?’. Roman frowns and explains that this is only one alien, and it is already here. ‘One is enough’ he adds, before revealing that millions of years ago, when the infant Earth was nothing but a boiling mass of toxic gas and molten rock, and extraterrestrial creature, part ship, part being, entered this solar system.

Roman informs X-Force that the alien collided with Earth, shearing off a vast body that would eventually become the moon. He adds that it is fair to assume that the device itself was destroyed, vaporized by the impact, and barely a few molecules remained - but that was all it needed. Each aspect of the whole was alive, and it slowly began to repair itself, taking millennia, of course, evolving from one form to another. The discarded forms were then found by archeologists in the fossil record. Roman explains that in the last century it had begun to manifest itself more aggressively, whether by influence or infection, it tried to progress to some kind of the next phase of development.

Cannonball remarks that it sounds like the regenerative device which was grafted onto Domino not so long ago. But Meltdown frowns, ‘You’re not buying this are you? What about the bio-engine? Explain that!’ she exclaims. Roman announces that when he joined Cuckoo in the Fifties, during the Cold War, his remit was to build a mutagenic engine as a means of extrapolating data on a potential mutant / human ground war between Russia and America. He admits that he became engrossed in his work, and that it blinded him to the true aim of the program, a fact he stumbled upon quite accidentally. Roman reveals that the engine was a machine not for creating mutants but for manufacturing enhanced components - human components. He explains that, via its agents, the device intends to convert the Earth into a new vessel, with humanity as organic parts in a living ship. ‘Ironically, it was the Russians who picked up on this first, thinking me part of the conspiracy, they tried to kill me…twice!’ Roman adds.

Roman continues, stating that he used certain of Cuckoo’s resources to heal himself, hence his inhuman condition. ‘Thanks to those Russian bullets, I’m also missing half of my brain, but I get by’. He adds that he hasn’t slept since 1971 and exists mostly on baby food and prescribed narcotics injected into his brain stem. Roman explains that the Russians have mostly managed to hold out against the device’s infiltration, as he convinced them of his loyalty and endeavoured to use the bounty of Dr Racal’s sleeper program, to create an army of resistance. Cannonball asks him if he can prove all of this, to which Roman replies ‘Of course not! I told you the people involved are experts at what they do!’

Roman exclaims ‘If you want to take over the world, you don’t manipulate those in power but the ones who put them there…the intelligence communities. The Americans, the Germans…the British’.

At another location, X-Force and Roman are being watched on cameras. ‘That’s enough from the good doctor, I think’ a woman calls out. She puts a hand on the shoulder of a man she calls Michael, and instructs him to deactivate the LMD’s infiltration protocol. ‘Activate the vibranium initiative’ she adds. ‘Yes, madam’ Michael replies, before announcing that the vibranium initiative is enabled. ‘She’s live’ he adds.

Back inside the bunker, ‘New instructions received and understood’ a voice calls out. ‘Major?’ Cannonball asks as everyone turns to Valentina, who suddenly sheds her clothing, revealing a mechanical form underneath. ‘Infiltration protocol deactivated’ the LMD states, before her torso falls from the rest of the body, revealing a small glowing cylinder. ‘She’s a flipping bomb!’ Cannonball exclaims. ‘Vibranium unit primed. Initializing…’ the LMD states. ‘SAM!’ Meltdown screams as the bomb explodes, and engulfs X-Force, Roman and the mutates in a blinding display….

Characters Involved: 

Bedlam II, Cannonball, Domino, Meltdown, Proudstar (all X-Force)

Major Valentina Rychenko

Dr Niles Roman


Romany Wisdom (unseen)



Russian soldiers

Transformed children of sleeper agents

In Flashback Images:

Dr Niles Roman

Cuckoo scientists


Story Notes: 

Proudstar was almost killed by a Warborg in X-Force (1st series) #111.

The war in San Francisco took place in X-Force (1st series) #103-105.

Issue Information: 
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