X-Force (3rd series) #4

Issue Date: 
July 2008
Story Title: 
Angels & Demons: part 4 of 6

Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost (writers), Clayton Crain (artist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Anthony Dial (production), Aubrey Sitterson (assistant editor), John Barber (editor), Axel Alonso (executive editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Rahne receives the healing touch of Elixir and pulls through. However, when she regains consciousness and sets her sights on Warren she transforms and goes on the attack, first taking down Elixir and then going berserk on Angel. Outside, X-23 can smell the blood and comes to the rescue; only she just stands there, heeding the words of Logan who earlier told her Rahne was worth saving. Rahne escapes with her prize, Angel’s amputated wings, and leaves to rendezvous with the Purifiers. The Purifiers then use Warren’s wings to gain a sample of Apocalypse’s techno-organics. From there Dr. Adam Barkin is able to recreate the techno-organic wings, and with a plethora of Purifier volunteers the Choir is formed. However, back at Angel’s aerie a recuperating Angel starts to spasm and lash out in pain. When he’s done Warren stands transformed as Archangel.

Full Summary: 

Colorado Rocky Mountains, Angel’s Aerie

Inside Angel’s home, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Rahne, face strained and pouring sweat, lets out an agonized grunt of pain as the X-Men’s resident healer, Elixir, works his mutant magic. Rahne’s wounds, suffered at the hands of Matthew Risman, his Purifiers and her father, Reverend Craig, are grievous. She was shot, tortured and doped up with heroin, but despite all that it looks like she’s going to make it.
Warpath wants to know what’s happening, how things are progressing. Her leg is healed, Elixir reports back, then moves his hands to her forehead and wrist and goes about purging the drugs from her system. He tries separating the heroin from her blood cells, but can’t get it all. Elixir tells Warpath and Angel she’ll be ok physically. Angel volunteers to tell Logan the news, but Warpath says he’s going.
While outside, X-23 stares intently at her progenitor, she being a clone of Wolverine. She believes their mission is at risk, their mission handed down by Cyclops to kill Matthew Risman. Now, she feels her teammates’ emotional connection to Sinclair is putting them at odds with their objective.
The aforementioned Wolverine, gazing out over the snow-capped mountains, finally breaks the silence. He tells X-23 that Rahne was one of the first kids Xavier brought to the mansion after he got there, someone he helped train. X-23 says she should have known better then.
The scent of Wolverine changes the instant the words leave her mouth. He turns his head, angry, then grabs her and slams her up against a tree. He screams at X to shut up and listen. He tells her Rahne has two things they’ll never get back, hope and innocence, and that she’s who they save, she’s why they risk their lives, and she’s who they die for.
X-23 stares at him, emotionless. Warpath comes on scene and grabs the furry Canadian around the neck, pulling him off X-23 and lifting him into the air. Wolverine doesn’t stop scolding her, though, telling X Rahne is more important than either of them, and their lives are worth nothing compared to hers. Warpath asks the old man if he’s gone nuts, then tells him Rahne is going to be fine.
Wolverine’s not through, though. Still getting held back by James, he points an accusing finger at X-23 and yells, “You hear me, X?!” Warpath starts dragging him away telling him to cool off. Wolverine finally agrees, saying he needs a beer. Still standing there amongst the snowy backdrop, detached, unmoving is the trained killer X-23.
Inside the aerie, Elixir tries bringing Rahne back into the world of the conscious. He calls out her name a few times until finally her eyes open and she lets out a small moan. Remember me, Elixir asks, followed by Angel who wants to know how she’s feeling.
Rahne’s eyes dart over to Warren, a slow growl begins emanating from her throat. She instantly transforms into her wolfen form, knocking Josh out of her way, scraping her claws across his chest in the process. The blood spray is fierce and Elixir goes down, but it’s Angel who’s the actual target. The maniacal Rahne leaps, howling, arms outstretched at the shocked and unmoving Warren.
Outside, X-23 has wandered off a bit questioning all the stuff Wolverine was yelling at her about. She doesn’t understand, she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t understand… and each time she repeats this in her mind she takes the tip of her claw and makes a small incision into her forearm. Over and over again she carves small X’s into her skin. Rivulets of blood stream down her arm dropping into the snow and forming small pools of red slushiness.
Then she catches a scent of blood, not hers, but Elixir’s, Angel’s. X springs to her feet and races toward Angel’s pad. She realizes Wolverine’s out of range, and isn’t sure of Warpath’s enhanced senses, so figures she’s all that’s left. Amongst the sounds of the attack she can hear Josh’s labored breathing, meaning he isn’t the target, Angel is.
X-23 nears the building and leaps onto the deck. She can now hear the sounds of muscle being torn from bone and flesh, the attack not emotional, but strategic, the lacerations sounding almost surgical. X is at the glass door in seconds, but stands transfixed by the sight before her. Two of her fellow X-Men lay seemingly dead amidst blood and feathers, one of her former teachers standing over Warren with one of his wings clenched tightly between her fangs.
Popping her claws, X moves into an offensive posture. She knows Wolfsbane isn’t going to stop and will have to be put down. Then Wolverine pops into her mind and all his talk about Rahne and how important she is, and how their lives are nothing compared to hers. X-23 declaws and relaxes, just standing there. Rahne isn’t so timid, rushing X and gnawing on her neck.
X-23 falls to the ground. As her abdomen is being ripped open she continues to replay Wolverine’s speech in her mind, “She’s who we save. She’s why we risk our lives. She’s who we die for.” X drifts into unconsciousness and with no more opposition Rahne transforms back into her human self. She pulls out a cell phone and lets the other end know she’s in possession of the demon’s wings. The voice coming from the speaker tells her Reverend Craig will be pleased.
Chicago, Purifier’s base

“…proceed as planned.” Risman finishes and hangs up the phone. Standing behind him is Eli and Risman orders him to meet up with Sinclair and take her to the Facility base where they’ll meet up with a man named Adam Harkin, who’s in charge of the Choir. Eli asks if he’s coming. Risman says he’ll be there as soon as he can, but has to get back to them first.
When he says them, he’s referring with disdain to Bastion and his new techno-batch of mutant haters. He enters their conference room and approaches Bastion, aka the Oracle. If a cyborg is capable of expressing derision Bastion comes pretty close asking Risman what he wants. Risman tells him there’s much day-to-day business he must attend to with the Purifier army. Bastion agrees, saying the groundwork must be laid for Stryker’s return. Risman pauses, taking it in. He looks at his former leader, now a techno-organic construct, and replies, “…the Reverend. Yes, of course.”
The Oracle continues, explaining Stryker will soon again take control of the Purifiers in preparation for “The Day.” He asks Risman if he has his instructions. When Risman says he does he excuses Risman from the room. Bastion watches with seeming distrust as Matthew walks away.
St. Louis, S.H.I.E.L.D. field office

Agent Morales is at her desk looking over a photo. This photo shows a young Purifier, dead, missing his nose and with part of his cheek gouged out. She knows she’s seen these types of wounds before, but has no time to reflect on it further as another agent comes over with a report of Purifier activity hot off of Interpol, though several days old.
“Days?” Morales responds and asks how that’s possible as they always get Interpol data before they do. Someone on the inside wiped the data from the S.H.I.E.L.D. mainframe the other agent assumes.
Morales looks over the data: a still frame of a video from a Guatemalan jail showing the Purifiers breaking out the Leper Queen, and a traffic camera that caught some Purifiers converging on a building in Prague, the last known location of Donald Pierce. Morales takes the picture she was holding and nibbles on the corner of it. First they take Bastion’s head, she recounts, then bust out an anti-mutant militia leader and an outlaw cyborg. “Whatever the Purifiers are up to, I think they’re just getting started,” Morales states.
Colorado Rocky Mountains, Angel’s Aerie

Smack! Wolverine slaps Elixir across the face yelling his name. The young mutant finally comes to and immediately starts healing himself. Still groggy he asks what happened. Wolverine tells him he has three seconds to get himself together and then rips him from the chair and drags him over to Angel.
Kneeling down next to the wingless Warren Josh gets right to work telling Angel to hold on. X-23 watches this display from the other side of the room. She used to be Josh’s teammate at the Xavier Institute and has firsthand knowledge of his healing capabilities. She knows Warren will survive and thinks they should be tracking Wolfsbane right now. Knowing how Wolverine will feel about this, though, she keeps these thoughts to herself.
With the healing underway, Wolverine asks Josh how this all happened. Josh, working on Warren’s neck at the moment, explains everything was fine right after Rahne woke up, then she set her sights on Angel and all hell broke loose. Warpath asks if Warren’s going to be fine. Josh says he’s healed his neck and chest wounds, but as far as the wings go he’ll have to regrow them.
Warpath log rolls Warren’s body toward Josh so he can get a better look. Josh attempts the regrowth process, but immediately runs into a problem. His powers aren’t working, something’s blocking them. It’s as if Warren’s cells aren’t human or mutant, or even organic for that matter. Some foreign matter is blocking him.
Facility Red Lab, north of the Canada/North Dakota border

One and a half hours later

In a brightly lit, sterile room with white walls and not much else hang Warren’s bloodied wings suspended in the air. “He finally did it,” Adam Barkin proclaims staring at the same set of wings. He tells how the first time Stryker brought him a set of wings they were just big and red, feather and bone, nothing special. Not like these, he clarifies.
Risman asks Barkin if he found the Apocalypse strand in the blood. Not only did he find it, but every cell in the wings is a strand, he explains. Barkin inserts a syringe into the wings and pulls back a small amount of blood. He moves over to a tray extended from one of the walls and dangles the needle just above a tray. Plip, a drop of blood falls from the needle tip. Once it hits the tray it immediately spike up into a three foot techno-organic construct. “Lord!” Reverend Craig exclaims.
Once the construct retracts what remains is a metallic feather. Barkin smiles, pleased with himself and explains once the cells run out of blood, the growth stops. Risman asks how soon he can have the test subject ready. Barkin says he was so excited he had him prepped before they even landed.
They relocate to the control booth where they can see Gabriel, the test subject, lying face down on a chiropractic-type table. A large device with dozens of arms, each equipped with a needle and a red sight, drops down from the ceiling. Barkin comments on how he likes that the Purifiers are very committed, and prompt with their payments, but smiles, admitting he probably would have done this for a significant discount.
Risman orders him to proceed. On a monitor in the operating room Barkin’s face appears. He warns Gabriel it might hurt a little. “Praise be to God,” is Gabriel’s response. And with that the process begins, the arms going to work on the stalwart Purifier’s back.
Colorado Rocky Mountains, Angel’s Aerie

Warren lies still, recovering in his bed. He awakens and sits up, letting out an anguished yell of pain.
Facility Red Lab, north of the Canada/North Dakota border

The trio of Risman, Barkin and Bard check on Gabriel post-op. They’re surprised to discover the metal wings growing out of Gabriel’s wings and shoulders don’t hurt at all. Barkin says he’s almost disappointed, as Gabriel’s DNA is being rewritten by what looks like alien technology.
Colorado Rocky Mountains, Angel’s Aerie

Angel continues yelling in agony. Warpath and Wolverine are with him trying to hold him still, but they’re having difficulty. Laura and Josh watch from the other side of the room, Josh saying he wants to help. Laura says Warren wouldn’t let him anyway, that the type of pain he’s in he’s more likely to kill him.
Warren’s thrashing gets worse and he tosses Warpath and Wolverine aside like they were rag dolls. Warr starts screaming to make it stop and then doubles over on his bed. “Oh, crap” Josh utters, watching as the bandages around Warren’s back burst open. Warren screams even louder.
Facility Red Lab, north of the Canada/North Dakota border

Gabriel, techno-organic wings fully formed, informs his leader he’s ready to serve. Risman looks at him pleased and tells him he’s the first of the Choir, and that he will lead the charge in striking down Satan’s spawn with God’s own might. Risman then inquires about the rest. “You wound me, Risman,” Dr. Barkin replies.
Barkin leads Bard and Risman to another area of the facility, where multiple multi-legged machines hang suspended from the ceiling. Lifting a remote in his hand, Barkin presses a button and begins the infusions. Dozens of men with shaved heads begin to undergo the procedure.
Colorado Rocky Mountains, Angel’s Aerie

Warren continues to yell. Everyone else just stands and watches unsure of what’s happening. Wolverine asks Elixir what he knows, but he admits he’s not sure what’s going on.
Facility Red Lab, north of the Canada/North Dakota border

The procedure continues as batch after batch of Purifiers take their turn. Those of the Choir with their wings fully grown watch in muted anticipation.
Colorado Rocky Mountains, Angel’s Aerie

“It’s getting worse,” Elixir states. Then it stops. Warren is no longer. All that remains is Archangel and he’s infuriated. Wolverine did not include him on the list of the people they should die for, X-23 thinks, but that may not matter…

Characters Involved: 

Warpath, Wolfsbane, Wolverine, X-23 (all X-Force)

Angel (member of the X-Men)

Elixir (former student of the Xavier Institute)
Agent Morales (S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Reverend Matthew Risman

Reverend Craig
Eli Bard

Adam Barkin

Gabriel and various members of the Choir

various Purifiers

Donald Pierce (leader of the Reavers)

The Leper Queen (leader of the Sapien League)

Graydon Creed, Cameron Hodge, Stephen Lang, Reverend William Stryker, Bolivar
Trask (all reanimated vessels of the techno-organic virus)

Leper Queen

various Purifiers

Story Notes: 

This issue is narrated by X-23.
Laura was dubbed X-23 because she was the 23rd embryo created in an attempt to clone Wolverine. From birth she was conditioned to be a living weapon, to track and kill any target, anywhere. At thirteen, she killed her creators, including her mother, Dr. Sarah Kinney. Her origin story was told in the aptly named limited series X-23.
It’s interesting that Elixir was brought into this book due to his previous relationship with Rahne. While he was a student and she was a teacher at the Xavier Institute they had a romantic fling. Nothing serious ever occurred and Rahne eventually broke it off due to her status as a teacher. Not long after, Wither, another student at the Institute, spilled the beans on their romantic liaisons resulting in Rahne’s decision to leave the school. Some of these key moments occurred in New X-Men: Academy X #6, 7, 12
X-23 has a history of cutting. She did so after killing Martin and Rachel Sutter in X-23 #5.
Agent Morales seems to be looking at a photo of a dead Purifier agent, killed at the hands of X-23. In the next arc S.H.I.E.L.D. starts to look in on X-23 so this assumption makes sense. -thanks Sixhoursoflucy
The red wings Adam Barkin is referring to belonged to Jay Guthrie, aka Icarus. He was a student at the Xavier Institute and showed up one day at school, bloodied and bandaged, his wings amputated at Reverend Stryker’s behest. New X-Men (2nd series) #20
X-23’s personal knowledge of Elixir’s healing ability occurred in New X-Men #31 when Elixir healed a near-death X-23. -thanks Sixhoursoflucy
Warren first lost his wings during the famed Mutant Massacre when he was attacked by a band of Marauders in the Morlock tunnels. Harpoon pinned his wings to a wall while Blockbuster took to beating him. Luckily, Thor arrived and chased them off, but the damage had been done and Warren’s wings were amputated at X-Factor benefactor Cameron Hodge’s behest. (Thor (1st series) #373-374, X-Factor (1st series) #14) Following this, Warren became depressed and was seemingly killed himself during a midair jet explosion. Instead he was teleported to Apocalypse who gave him techno-organic wings and turned him into his Horseman of Death. (X-Factor (1st series) #15, 24) It actually turned out that Warren’s wings were regrowing inside the techno-organic mesh, finally busting out on their own in Uncanny X-Men #338.

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