X-Man #4

Issue Date: 
June 1995
Story Title: 
The Art of War

Jeph Loeb (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud Larosa (inker), Mike Thomas / Digital Chameleon (colors), Richard Starkings / Comicraft (letters), Lisa Patrick (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

While Apocalypse learns that Domino has failed to bring him the telepath, Nate faces Sinister, the murderer of Forge and his creator. Sinister reveals his hand in Nate’s creation and Nate’s purpose – to destroy Apocalypse. Enraged, Nate keeps on attacking Sinister, finally apparently killing him. He then decides that Sinister had one thing right; Nate needs to destroy Apocalypse. He says goodbye to his surviving friends, Sonique and Soaron, and leaves. Sinister was faking his death but the final laugh is on him, for his injuries are worse than he anticipated, and so he dies for real. With no idea where to go, Nate tries to link up with Magneto again and finds out that he is Apocalypse’ prisoner. He heads to Apocalypse’s citadel where he finds chaos as the prisoners are trying to escape the mass extermination and they are being helped by Cyclops and Jean Grey. When Nate meets his “parents,” he and Jean inadvertently link psychically. Jean asks Nate to come with them. He promises to return but first has to kill Apocalypse. And so Nate leaves to confront his destiny…

Full Summary: 

The palace of Apocalypse: What exactly does he mean, Domino has failed? the displeased monarch demands of his pet telepath, the Shadow King. The telepath explains that the telepath Domino was meant to retrieve still lives and is sending out a wave of energy on the astral plane which he has distributed among his many host bodies Is she dead? Apocalypse demands. It does not appear so, he only senses that she is somehow… empty, as if her soul had been extinguished.

Apocalypse seethes. He has never known Domino to fail at any task he appointed her. She has the innate ability to have situations turn to her advantage. He did warn him of the enormity of the telepath’s power, the Shadow King begins. Enough! Apocalypse booms and angrily blasts at the room around him Has he forgotten to whom he speaks? He is the Lord Apocalypse! This planet fears his very existence! And yet, the Shadow King points out, the telepath still lives.

Apocalypse calms down, admitting this is a clear example of survival of the fittest. Thus Domino was proven unfit and this telepath has become more of a nuisance than he expected. He will deal with that personally. But now he has more pressing matters which require his undivided attention. He walks down stairways into a dungeon and announces to the imprisoned Magneto that they will continue…

Elsewhere, Nate attacks the man he knew as Essex, who has now revealed himself as Sinister and has murdered Nate’s foster father, Forge. As far as Nate in concerned, he is going to die!

Even while falling back, Sinister is gratified to witness the boy’s astounding power and admits to himself that might prove challenging.

Nate rants that he trusted Essex, stood up for him and was betrayed. He killed Forge, the most important person in his life! Sinister gets up, the telekinetic blast forming a hole in his torso. Does he want to know why? he asks. He has no intention of fighting Nate. If for no other reason that the boy might get hurt.

He reshapes his body to mend the hole. And neither of them would get what they want, he continues. What he wants? Nate snarls, he wants him dead!

It is understandable he is angry about Forge’s death, Essex continues undeterred. He’d become a father figure to him; but Forge only found Nate, the way people find money. It’s good for the person who finds it and bad for the one who lost it. He does not deny that Nate may have the power to destroy him and, if they take that as given, why not indulge himself in hearing about his past before he chooses to obliterate the only one who knows the truth?

More of his lies! Nate snarls. He scanned Essex when he first came. If he could fool Nate then, why would he believe him now? Fair enough, Sinister agrees. But why not make that choice after hearing the facts? There are things he knows Forge couldn’t have told Nate about… his parents. Look inside him with his telepathy. Nate does so.

Sinister’s mind:

They return to a memory of a hidden lab that Sinister kept from Apocalypse. Nate sees himself slumbering, younger. How he labored, Sinister remarks, for centuries he waited for such a magnificent combination: the prelate Cyclops with a wondrous telepath named Jean Grey. He waited for the two of them to come together and, finally, with a slight touch of growth acceleration the result was more than he could have imagined. That’s a lie! Nate retorts. He was taken from the Pens, tortured, but he escaped. Really? Sinister asks sardonically.

Shift to a different scene: Cyclops reaching out to Nate, telling him: “Come with me if you want to live.”

He hopes Nate appreciates the irony as he does, Sinister remarks. His own father aided his escape, though he didn’t know of their connection. Sinister wasn’t there when it happened, Nate replies. But he was, Sinister claims, in the shadows, powerless to stop Nate as he fled on his own.

He couldn’t risk Apocalypse learn of Cyclops’ treasonous actions and it was far too soon for his legion to lean of Nate’s existence. He thought he’d lost him.

Back to reality:

Can he now understand Sinister’s dilemma? Apocalypse and he once shared a mutual interest, the evolution of Homo superior. But where Sinister was posed to bring life up to the next rung on the genetic ladder Apocalypse now embraces only death. He has to be stopped. Why tell him all this? Nate asks. He wants him to fulfil his destiny to kill Apocalypse!

Suddenly, Sinister is hit by a blast. Nate’s friends Soaron and Sonique have arrived to defend him. They intend to hold Sinister off so Nate can flee. He telekinetically wraps them in a bubble and forces them to leave, because what follows is going to be ugly….

He hits Sinister in the face, telling him to listen. He is not and never has been his puppet! Sinister begins to grin. Nate may have had some adventures with Forge which allowed him some autonomy. But make no mistake about it, this is something he has planned for a very long time and he has no intention of allowing Nate to stray from his original purpose. He is nothing more than a weapon for Sinister to point at Apocalypse.

Liar! Nate screams and hits him with another telekinetically reinforced blow. He continues shouting he has memories and dreams and hopes and loves! Doesn’t matter what he says or how he twists the truth! He is not anyone’s project! Sinister falls down. And now he is all alone, Nate pronounces. All right, Sinister has taught him something. It’s only a matter of time before Apocalypse comes for Nate, so he has to get him first, Nate flies away.

Sinister gets up, telling himself it doesn’t matter what the boy believes, as long as he succeeds. Curious, he notices, he is actually bleeding and stumbles down, realizing he is dying.

Later, all that remains are goodbyes. Where will he go? What will he do Theresa asks. Nate replies that Forge told him to find Magneto. And, before she asks, he can’t put anybody else in danger. Apocalypse won’t stop until he finds Nate. He has to do this alone. Theresa pulls Nate in for a kiss and promises to never forget him. Nate asks Soaron to watch over her. In his usual gruff manner, Soaron tells him to be careful himself. Whelp!

Nate flies off. He wonders about his life. Who will answer his questions, now Forge is gone? Maybe Magneto knows but how does he find someone who doesn’t want to be found. Maybe the times he psi-linked with Magneto weren’t an accident. Maybe Forge planned all along that he could contact him by just thinking about it.

That moment, Nate believes to see an image of Apocalypse torturing Magneto and he realizes where they are. He flies off and soon finds himself floating above what was once the island of Manhattan, at the palace of Apocalypse. Strangely, he senses something tugging him to come inside. He wonders if it comes from Magneto and decides to check it out.

Beneath the citadel, Apocalypse keeps hundreds mutants for genetic testing. Unspeakable horrors are committed in the name of the survival of the fittest. Unknown to Nate, the pens are in an uproar. The order has been given to exterminate the lot. The prisoners are fleeing from the guards that shoot at them. Nate telekinetically takes out a guard. A moment later, he finds himself facing two special escapees, the source of the tugging, namely Cyclops and Jean Grey, his parents.

Both Nate and Jean draw back in pain as the merest touching of minds creates a devastating psionic backlash and Cyclops fires his optic blast at Nate. Jean tells him to stop. He doesn’t understand! She explains that the young man is a friend… and, she suspects, much more. She’s only talked like this with one other person and he’s gone. She can tell Nate is special, and now he is alone. Would he like to come with them?

Nate refuses. Seems like his whole life someone’s been telling him about his destiny and for just as long he’s been running away from that. Too many good people have died already. Too many people that he’s loved and he owes it to them and maybe to himself to do what he’s supposed to do. Cyclops agrees. The time has come to finish this fight. He wishes Nate good luck. Nate promises when this is over to find them if he can.

Jean urges Scott they need to go. He admits he remembers that kid. Years ago, he helped him escape from the pens and, even then for some reason, the boy reminded him of himself.

Nate takes off to find Apocalypse for their final confrontation…

Characters Involved: 

Nate /X-Man
Soaron, Sonique (Forge’s resistance band)



Jean Grey



Shadow King

Story Notes: 

More of Magneto’s fate is told in Astonishing X-Men (1st series) #4.

Nate accidentally linked with Magneto in issues #1 & 2.

The order to exterminate the pens was given in Factor X #3.

Nate’s adventures are continued in X-Men Omega and then in the Mainstream Marvel Universe. He arrives in X-Men Prime and his adventures continue with X-Man #5.

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