X-Force (6th series) #3

Issue Date: 
February 2020
Story Title: 
The Skeleton Key

Benjamin Percy (writer), Joshua Cassara (artist), Guru eFX (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Dustin Weaver & Edgar Delgado (cover artists), Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Chris Robinson (assistant editor), Jordan D. White (editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

In Seoul, Wolverine and Kid Omega try to rescue Domino, while barely able to hold themselves against the artificial humans attacking them. Their luck changes for the better, when they take off Domino’s power suppressor and her luck power kicks in. On Krakoa, Marvel Girl uses Cerebro to resurrect Professor X. In the US, Magneto holds a press conference. When asked about Xavier’s fate, he is spared the need to explain, as the resurrected Xavier joins him to show everything is alright on Krakoa. Xavier and Magneto decide to reinstate X-Force as a black ops team. Someone – presumably Colossus – kills the last attacker in the Healing Gardens. The ones behind the attacks are the new anti-mutant organization XENO that has been created out of all the anti-mutant organizations that have been forbidden in the wake of countries’ treaties with Krakoa.

Full Summary: 

Domino recalls being captured and told she was a walking skeleton key for evolution by the peacock-masked leader of the mysterious cabal she was investigating, as her skin was grafted onto the agents meant to attack Krakoa.

Now, outside Seoul:
Having finished off the attackers, Wolverine hopes the Krakoan “kill no human” rule doesn’t refer to those walking hamburgers. Kid Omega opines this is exactly why Krakoa will never work. Professor X has always been too kind, too generous, too optimistic about the protozoic slime that is humanity.

He stands before the tube in which Domino – partially skinned - floats. Look at what they’ve done! he states. Wolverine replies that Quentin doesn’t know everything. Is he saying that doesn’t make him angry? Quentin shouts. Domino’s been used as a platform for bio-printing! She’s been butchered! He’s pissed as hell! Wolverine replies as he smashes the glass of the tube. He carefully cradles Domino as he adds that the professor knows exactly what humans are capable of. The same as mutants. The very best and the very worst.

Domino comes awake. A moment later, both Wolverine and Quentin sway as a huge, skinless giant comes crashing in.

On Krakoa, Beast and Marvel Girl have procured the new Cerebro unit. Beast muses about bringing Charles back to life. He is not just one mutant; he is all of their lives. Will they become recklessly assured? Shouldn’t they have a healthy fear of death? Jean disagrees. When she was a kid, her family took a few road trips, Niagara Falls, Arcadia National Park… and when they got tired of driving, they’d stop at county cemeteries. Her parents would lie in the shadow of big tombstones to rest or have a snack. In the meantime, Jean and her sister ran, playing a game: who could find the oldest grave.

They walk towards a cocoon holding a clone of Charles Xavier. Jean continues she’s died more times than anyone can keep track of and maybe that’s in part because she learned from an early age that death wasn’t something to fear. It’s made her a better person and hero. Hank is suggesting that death or the fear of it rather makes people selfish. What she’s saying is that, without death, life is less about “them” and more about “us.

She activates the Cerebro unit over the cocoon. That’s the dream of Krakoa. And they are charged with protecting it.

Xavier awakens and breaks out of the cocoon.

Wolverine and Quentin are running chased by the monster. Quentin swears he can’t do much thanks to the power dampener. Domino weakly points to the power inhibitor around her neck. Logan grins. He announces their luck is about to change and destroys it. A moment later, Quentin’s power returns and he telekinetically takes their hunter apart.

Krakoa, the Healing Gardens:
Sage urges the Healer to do whatever he can to save the one attacker left, as they have question. They both leave and somebody else secretly walks closer to the unconscious man. He presses his hand to the man’s nose and mouth asphyxiating him.

At the Krakoan Gate in Washington Square Park, Manhattan, Black Tom complains to Magneto that at every gate there are crowds and reporters gathering. Wanting to know if Xavier is dead. What would Tom have him do, Magneto asks as they return to Krakoa. Tomb blames himself for not properly defending the island. He’d like to send out a swarm of vines and strangle the lot of them, but he supposes Magneto prefers his fancy words and fancy ways. So, he’d better do something, before Black Tom does something!

Magneto steps through the gate to the crowd in Manhattan. Reporters ask if he can confirm that Xavier was assassinated and Cerebro destroyed. What does that mean for Krakoa and the mutant nation? Do the treaties still stand? It’s all right, Magneto begins.

He doesn’t need to say anything, comes another voice, as Charles Xavier walks through the Krakoan Gate. He can speak for himself, old friend.

A reporter asks how can they be sure it really is Xavier. Maybe he is a shapeshifter or an illusion. Is that question any more relevant than it was before? Xavier shoots back that, if this new geopolitical situation is going to work, they have to trust he will always be there for them.

Quentin telepathically suppresses Domino’ pain and telekinetically give her back use of her limbs, but he admits he cannot access her memories. The pain and narcotics have made a mess of her brain. No #/&%, Domino replies. She is living a mess right now. She wishes she could tell them everything, but she can’t. She feels like she has gone through a blender. Everything’s a scramble. Logan calms her. He’s been there. She’ll find her way with calm and rest.

Dom recalls Xavier sent her to investigate shell companies with ties to anti-mutant politicians and business leaders. She can’t remember much, but she remembers a man with a peacock mask. Wolverine suggests they head back in to find more intel. Domino warns that isn’t a good idea. A moment later, there is an explosion inside. Lucky guess, she explains.

Later at the Pointe:
Around a round table are gathered Magneto, Wolverine, Domino (wearing some healing plantmatter over her flayed areas), Kid Omega, Sage, Marvel Girl and Beast. Xavier stands some distance away, looking at the waterfall.

Jean asks Magneto what they told the journalists. Nothing, he replies. Nothing about the assassination or resurrection? she insists. Nothing, he repeats.

Wolverine asks why they are gathered here. To talk about nothing. They are there to talk about denial, Magneto replies. Deniable operations, Xavier clarifies. He was hoping they were beyond this, but their foes - whoever they are - are operating from the shadow, so they must respond in kind. He turns to Beast, Marvel Girl and Sage. They studied their enemy and determined they are trying to catch up with mutantkind, bioengineering themselves into weapons. He turns to the others. They chased them and spilled their blood like hunters. The left hand turns a page, the right hand makes a fist. That seems right to him. That feels like a force for good. “To me, my X-Force.”

Elsewhere, the man with the peacock mask states that Xavier is back and hunting for them. This is not the time to be quiet but to be loud. To funnel money into xenophobic gangs, churches, think tanks. And, of course, they will hunt mutants for their experiments. Every country has a shadow agency, Weapon X among them. Xavier made sure every one of them was found and disbanded. But, just as the mutants have come together, the shadows have gathered here. And where shadows gather, there is darkness. They are one and they are many. They are XENO!

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Black Tom Cassidy, Domino, Kid Omega, Magneto, Marvel Girl, Professor X, Sage, Wolverine
Colossus (presumably)

Members of Xeno

Story Notes: 

Text pages

The Fifth assassin:

A short text page relating that no one questions the fifth assassin’s death, and the body self-detonated.

Cerebro Sword

After Xavier is happily welcomed by others, Magneto hands him the sword he made of the remain of the Cerebro unit he wore and suggests he keep it close, which Xavier promises to do.

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