X-Force Annual #2

Issue Date: 
October 1993
Story Title: 
Extreme Measures

Fabian Nicieza (story), Antonio Daniel (pencils), Mark Pennington/Bob Wiacek/Brad Vancata/Keith Williams/Kevin Conrad (inks), Kevin Somers (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Lisa Patrick (managing editor), Bob Harras (group editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

X-Force is infiltrating the Foundations, a mutant research facility. Cannonball, Siryn, and Feral are working undercover inside the facility, while the rest of X-Force comes upon a recent runaway from the facility, Neurotap, who happens to also be hunted by a mutant called X-Treme, a bloodhound for the Foundations owner, Martin Henry Strong. X-Force saves Neurotap from X-Treme, but X-Treme follows them back to the Foundations, where the undercover X-Force members are working. Cannonball and Siryn uncover the facilities true goal: to study mutants in hopes of removing the mutant gene to make them normal humans. Feral was the team’s bait and, once Strong finds out his project is being infiltrated, he quickly defeats Cannonball and Siryn, stringing them up along with Feral. Meanwhile, X-Treme spies on X-Force, but Warpath, Rictor and Shatterstar attack him, and eventually convince him to switch sides and help them defeat Strong and his operation. Neurotap explains to the team that Strong’s operation is being funded by Project: Wideawake, and she became involved with Strong after running away from home. Strong promised to help her and her family if she worked for him. Strong also promised to reveal X-Treme’s past to him if he worked for him. The team breaks back into the Foundations, battling Strong, but Neurotap betrays X-Force, revealing that she was working for Strong all along in order to gather more mutants for his schemes. All along, Strong was trying to “cure” mutants because he himself was a mutant. But, while his outer appearance made him look like his mutant power was strength, in fact, after X-Treme ends the battle after defeating him, Strong’s power is revealed to be intelligence in creating a fake body for his deformed, fish-like body to reside in. X-Force leaves the defeated Strong with his noble head scientist, Emilio Licciardo, who genuinely wants to help mutants. Cable invites X-Treme to join the team, but X-Treme leaves to find more about his past.

Full Summary: 

A girl named Michelle Balters runs through an alleyway, being chased by an unknown predator. Three blades cut her chase off, and she is met by her hunter: X-Treme. X-Treme pleads with her to come back with him, and she tries to convince him to break his bonds and join her as a free person. Michelle, also known as Neurotap, blasts him with her “neuro-taps,” but he is too quick. He slices her with his throwing knives, but just slightly enough to bleed a little. That’s all it takes for X-Treme to use his power on her. Neurotap gives up, however, and begs him not to “flash” her. Suddenly, X-Treme is attacked from behind by X-Force.

Cable suggests that they end this fight with a minimal amount of bloodshed. Instead, that’s right up X-Treme’s alley, so he quickly jumps to attack, dodging all of X-Force’s efforts to stop him. In the process, X-Treme barely nicks each of the team, which allows him to use his power. X-Treme’s power depends on oxygenated blood, which, once exposed, he can then flash-fry the electrolytes therein. He fries X-Force and warns Cable to think twice before messing with him again. He then tells Neurotap that Strong wants her back and he always gets what he wants.

With X-Treme gone, Neurotap helps X-Force to their feet. Cable asks who he was and Neurotap explains that he was given the name Adam X, but she called him X-Treme. Shattershar is impressed with Adam’s mutant ability. Cable suggests that they all get out of civilian territory and calls on Professor to bodyslide them all to the IPAC – the Inter-personnel Assault Carrier. However, Adam has locked onto them and is in pursuit. In the IPAC, Warpath has detected Adam following them and locks onto him as well. Cable hopes that, maybe next time, Adam will be more willing to talk about the man known as Martin Henry Strong and his torture chambers, providing that Cannonball’s unit does their part of the mission.

Inside the Foundations, a scientific research facility outside of Denver, Colorado, Dr. Emilio Licciardo is getting his new interns, the undercover Cannonball and Siryn, started early for the day. They have been there for three weeks and Siryn notices that the doctor hasn’t allowed them inside one of the labs. Dr. Licciardo explains that the lab is under a level five security clearance and, besides, there’s nothing in there that is interesting anyway. Cannonball and Siryn glance at one another.

Later that night, the two mutants sneak into the lab with a keycard that Siryn obtained from a lab tech who had a crush on her. They enter the lab and discover numerous holding tanks filled with mutant subjects, among them is the person they’ve been looking for - their teammate, Feral, who screams “An’ it’s about time, too!”

At dawn, Adam stands on his transporter, watching the sunrise. He thinks about the many questions in his past and wonders if he is simply searching for things he can never have. He is afraid of the answers he might find, yet he plays the game anyway. He pretends that his goal is to find out about his past and his family, but he continually refuses to ask the questions or hear the answers.

His thoughts are interrupted by Rictor’s seismic powers, which shake him off his transport. Along with Shatterstar and Warpath, the three members of X-Force are here to get Adam to surrender. Shatterstar goads Adam, saying he would prefer to fight him, but he has experienced that this world offers few warriors and more cowards. Adam replies that Shatterstar should be happy then, because he is not even from this world. Adam dives in a trench to lay down an ambush, and Shatterstar remarks on Adam’s agility. The two other-worldly warriors fight hand-to-hand, until they come to a stalemate. They are separated by Rictor’s quake and Warpath picks the two of them up and knocks their heads together.

Adam wishes they could just fight to the death and, when Rictor questions his motives, Adam says they wouldn’t understand. Adam explains that he’s not sure who he is, and that the only reason he tracks mutants is because Strong promised to tell him about his past. If Adam doesn’t find out where he’s from, then he can’t stop himself from becoming the man responsible for killing every mutant on the planet.

Back at the IPAC, Cable expects the group sent to retrieve Adam at any minute. Neurotap thinks Cable is underestimating Adam. She says that, in order to get at Adam, you must get him at his heart. Neurotap then explains her past:

Neurotap was once a normal thirteen-year-old living outside of Chicago with her family. She began to get awful headaches more and more frequently. She then learned she was a mutant with the power to route energy pulses through anyone’s optic nerve and nervous system, which she says didn’t make her family happy, so she ran away. Once in Denver, she read an ad about research help for young people with special gifts and abilities. That place was Strong Industries. She went and lived there with other mutants, getting room, board and payment for being test subjects. There, she met Adam, and they became intimately close. She explains that Adam was a bloodhound for Strong to find runaways like herself.

In the present, Cable asks her why anyone would run away from such a cushy set-up. Neurotap explains that while there were good people there with good intentions, Martin Henry Strong had other plans to eliminate the mutant gene. Boomer quips that plans like that have been tried before, but Neurotap says Strong’s operation is being funded by the government’s Project: Wideawake. Rictor’s unit returns with Adam, and Cable debriefs them, telling them that he knows that Strong is a mutant and a traitor to their kind.

The next morning at the Foundations, Cannonball and Siryn are getting ready for another day, discussing that they thought Feral would kill them when they told her they couldn’t release her yet, although she knew that coming into the mission. Cannonball says that they can’t screw up now, but is overheard by Strong, who enters the room with his humongous and muscular frame. Siryn uses her sonic scream on Strong, but it has no effect on him. Cannonball flies at him, but Strong grabs his tie and swings him around like a doll, flinging him into Siryn. Strong picks Cannonball up and Cannonball attempts to use his blast field on Strong, but Strong stands unhurt, with the exception of his clothes being destroyed. Strong throws Cannonball again, and this time Cannonball isn’t getting up. He tells Dr. Licciardo to call security and take them away, putting them with Feral.

Dr. Licciardo replies that Feral almost killed her guards, even after being tranquilized. Strong goes to talk with her to find out who these intruders are. Feral won’t talk, and Strong goads her with telling her information about herself. He wants to help her and mutants like her. He explains that he has a son and daughter around Feral’s age and that their mother took them from him because he was a mutant. Feral asks why his wife didn’t know that he was a mutant before they got married, maybe it was because she discovered he had two heartbeats. She scratches Strong across the chest and he whacks her good.

Outside of the Foundations, X-Force, Adam and Neurotap are ready to fulfill their mission. Warpath wants to storm in, but Cable wants to work from the inside-out. Adam can’t believe he’s about to betray Strong, the man who might have the answers he seeks, but Rictor reminds him that X-Force might be the only hope he really has left. Adam hides their comm.-link and extends his forearm blades, cutting Rictor and Boomer and flash-frying them, so he can bring them in as “prisoners.” As he walks to the gate with Rictor and Boomer over his shoulders, the guards shine a light on him, asking him to identify himself. Adam reports that he has brought more mutants for the zoo. The guard asks him what happened to his scoutcraft. Adam says the two prisoners destroyed it and he had to walk back with them, all the way from Phoenix.

Inside, Strong greets Adam and asks about Neurotap. Adam says she got away in Phoenix with the help of X-Force, although he nabbed two of them. Strong recognizes the name “X-Force” from his sources, who he heard were involved in incidents at the World Trade Center and at a space station with S.H.I.E.L.D. Adam says he’ll need a few days to recover before he goes out to hunt more mutants. Strong questions if Adam is actually so greedy to hunt his own kind and wonders if he respects him more or less. Adam pulls out his commlink and wonders what Strong will think of him now.

Rictor and Boomer awaken and blast Strong. Cable and the rest get the signal that they are inside, and the team bodyslides to their location. Adam fries a slew of guards as Strong and Dr. Licciardo run away. Licciardo tries to understand Strong by telling him that they are here to help mutantkind, but Strong disagrees. Cable notices them leaving through the security access corridor, but doesn’t reach them in time. He tries to override the lockout, but another security door closes. Cable tries to destroy the panel and the room they’re in, but Neurotap stops him because much of the equipment in the lab is life-support for some of the trapped mutants.

Sunspot suggests that the only way to save mutants is to destroy this place, but Cable reminds him that his days of “burning the village in order to save it” are over, and he tries to blast through the blockade. Adam flips his way over to the panel and punches in the code and the doors are opened. He says that sometimes it pays to be part of the system, but Shatterstar reminds him that it never pays to betray your people.

The team walks down the corridor and is ambushed by Strong. Cable questions Strong’s tactics, but Strong backs up his actions with force, hitting Cable with one of the hardest punches Cable’s ever felt. X-Force uses their combined powers on Strong and Strong admits that that was the hardest he’s ever been hit. Adam and Shatterstar attack and Strong expresses his disappointment in Adam’s betrayal, especially after the promises he made to Adam concerning the knowledge of his past. He helped Adam just like he helped Neurotap.

The team realizes they’ve been set up all along. Through her tears, Neurotap explains that Strong promised to help her family if she helped to flush out X-Force. She hates being a mutant and Strong promised her that he would cure her forever. She blasts them all with her neuro-taps, all except Adam, who tells her she can’t help herself at the expense of others. He slashes her with a blade and flash-fries her. Adam blames Strong for all of this and tells Cable to take him down. Cable pulls a knife, but Strong says that he’s impervious to even Adamantium. But Cable’s knife is an ionic molecular blade from the future and he thrusts it into Strong’s chest. Adam finishes him off by frying his blood.

When he does, Strong explodes, revealing his true self: a half-form of a man with fins for hands and feet. His power wasn’t strength, but incredible genius, which he used to make his artificial body. Strong asks them if any of them, besides possibly Adam or Feral, ever had to deal with the pain of being a mutant with such physical deformity. Cable says we all make ourselves what we can to help us get by and we shouldn’t make those decisions for others.

Cannonball, Siryn, and Feral enter the room with Dr. Licciardo who released them. Cannonball thinks the place needs to be shut down, but Cable thinks that maybe Licciardo can do some good. They can’t shut the place down because there will always be those people who will not accept themselves as mutants and they may choose to end their mutantcy. But Cannonball says that at least those who are there against their will need to be set free.

As they leave, they wonder what to do with Neurotap. Licciardo says she chose to stay because her power, when it first manifested, put her family into comas for two years. Strong was paying their medical bills and thus, she gave her allegiance. The team leaves Licciardo to deal with her and Strong and he reminds himself that he really is trying to do some good.

Outside, Cable invites Adam to join X-Force, but Adam declines. He needs to find out more about himself before he can be a part of a team. Shatterstar salutes Adam X - the X-Treme and X-Force leaves. Adam watches them depart and he feels a piece of paper caught on his foot. He reads the paper, which is an ad for the Foundations. He throws the paper in the air and pins it to a tree with one of his blades and walks away.

Characters Involved: 

Boomer, Cable, Cannonball, Feral, Rictor, Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath (all X-Force)
Professor (Cable’s computer)

X-Treme (aka Adam X)

Martin Henry Strong
Dr. Emilio Licciardo

Numerous unnamed mutants in liquid-filled tanks
Numerous guards at Foundations

(in flashback)
Neurotap’s parents

Story Notes: 

This issue features the following pin-ups: Domino by Chris Bachalo, Cable by Jae Lee, Cable vs. Deadpool by Rob Haynes and John Lowe & X-Force by Larry Stroman.

The 1993 Marvel Annuals all featured brand new characters, complete with trading cards of the characters. This issue is the first appearance of Adam X, the X-Treme. It is also the first appearances of both Neurotap and Martin Henry Strong.

Adam X was rumored, but not officially confirmed in continuity, to be the alleged third Summers brother, sibling of Cyclops and Havok, although this was never confirmed and the subplot was subsequently dropped.

X-Force battled Juggernaut and Black Tom on top of the World Trade Center in X-Force (1st series) # 4.

X-Force struggled against War Machine, G.W. Bridge, and S.H.I.E.L.D. over Cable’s former space station called Graymalkin in X-Force (1st series) #20-22.

Written By: