From the grave to which all thought him consigned, Magneto has returned! Lorna Dane, he declares, is the flesh of his flesh and the blood of his blood. Hers shall be the power and the glory known to no other woman—for she is the daughter of Magneto! Turning to Lorna, he tells her she must now make her choice. Will she stand beside the X-Men—fools who are too blind and cowardly to use the infinite power with which they were born and could make them stand beyond all other men as gods—or will she heed the call of her own blood and, enthroned beside Magneto, rule all of mankind?
Cyclops cannot help but commend Magneto’s silver-tongued guile. He’s stacked the deck by tempting Lorna with a combination of the two most powerful human elements! “Verily,” Beast says in agreement. “Filial duty and the inner need for power! The girl has no option but to turn against us!”
Internally, Iceman disagrees. Lorna could have a choice if she knew the truth about Magneto. Although he’s not wild about telling the girl her father is an insane mass-murderer, he must—even if she hates him for doing it. He steps forward and defiantly challenges Magneto to tell Lorna the rest of the story: how he’s used his mutant powers to feed his own ego, about the lives he’s taken, the fortunes he’s stolen and the misery and misfortune he’s spread. “Tell her,” Iceman says, “that you’re offerin’ her a half-interest in a bloody empire that would make Genghis Kahn and Attila the Hun look like the Smothers Brothers!” Instead of waiting for a reply, Iceman lunges at Magneto, intent on taking him out himself. He can’t suffer a man who would con his own daughter into joining his pillage and plunder act! The X-Men, however, restrain Bobby. Is he crazy? He can’t go turning their situation into a private barroom brawl, Beast says! Presuming he knows how Iceman must feel, Angel takes Bobby’s side. He, too, would get a heap of satisfaction from cleaning the floor with the magnetized menace. Cyclops reiterates Beast’s warning to not make the fight a personal matter. This is no time for individual ax-grinding—and that isn’t what the X-Men represent anyway.
Their warnings are lost on Iceman. He doesn’t care about any of that stuff. He only cares about getting even with anyone who would turn a sweet kid like Lorna Dane—a kid with a heart and a soul and a clean, fresh spirit—into Queen of the Ghouls! Cyclops asks him if he’d throw away his life, as well as the extraordinary gift he was given to benefit all mankind, for the sake of one solitary girl. Surprisingly, Lorna agrees with Cyclops. No matter what her decision, Iceman must not waste his life on her!
Realizing his teammate’s fate might rest in his hands, Cyclops asks Iceman if he’s determined to attack Magneto. When he confirms that he is, Cyclops decides to put his patriotic pitches aside and join him in the fight. They might as well make it one, big, family donnybrook! Now turning to Magneto, Cyclops informs him the youngest member of their team won the day—which means Magneto loses!
Scott lunges at Magneto and strikes him across the jaw, the force of his attack knocking him to the ground. He doesn’t know how a super-rogue like Magneto produced a top-drawer girl like Lorna, but he refuses to let it influence him. The man is still number one on his rat list!
Lorna, meanwhile, grips the sides of her head and focuses her concentration.
Magneto recovers from the attack. The X-Men had the first blow, he says, but the death blow shall be his! He calls out to Mesmero, the most loyal of all his servants, and commands him to put an end to the noxious fools, the X-Men! Magneto promises a fortune and his undying gratitude to whichever of his servants brings him their heads.
Iceman realizes he needs to get Lorna out of there—and fast. She’s caught in the middle of a battle between her old man and his sworn enemies! She’s bound to get hurt, but Iceman refuses to wait for that to happen. He slides over to her, scoops her up in his icy arms and heads for the exit. Along the way, he apologizes for his cold hands; he didn’t have time to put on his mittens. Besides, he claims he needs the icy protection against a warm hunk of a woman like her. As they head to safety, Lorna asks the man of ice why he is doing this for her. What did she do to earn his special attention? And why does she feel so strange in his arms?
From nearby, Beast calls out to Iceman and asks him to snap out of his nauseating trance. They need his help! He asks him to get into his frigid routine before the army of misfits clobbers them all. On demand, Iceman turns his attention toward the Demi-Men and freezes them to the floor with his potent ice powers. With the Demi-Men immobilized, the airborne Angel declares the battle theirs for the taking. Beast advises him to still use caution; although the pedal extremities of the enemy combatants are frozen, the rest of them can still pack a wallop! As if to demonstrate, one of Mesmero’s soldiers fires at Angel with his rifle. The blast singes his wing.
Angel happens to look toward his teammate, Cyclops, and spies another squad of Mesmero’s guard sneaking up behind him, carrying some sort of metal helmet. Although he tries to warn Cyclops, the men are too quick, and they plant the impenetrable helmet over Cyclops’s head. Not even his vaunted optic blast can pierce it! Bemoaning his sloppiness on the battlefield, Cyclops calls out to Beast and Iceman for help. Beast wishes he could help, but needs to focus all his concentration on dodging the grenade mines Magneto sends his way. Similarly, Iceman is in no position to help either. The strain from projecting such a large ice encasement momentarily weakened him and has left him exhausted in his human form. Marvel Girl devotes her energy to protecting her vulnerable teammate.
Still airborne, Angel watches helplessly as Cyclops struggles against the contraption around his head. Scott tries to forcibly remove the helmet, but he quickly discovers it was made with self-contracting rings around the neck. The more he pulls, the tighter it gets! As a last resort, Cyclops unleashes the totality of his optic blast against the interior of the headgear. Mercifully, his blast triumphs and shatters the metallic encasement. The enraged Cyclops confronts Magneto and tells him the X-Men have taken it long enough; it’s time they started giving a little of their own. “Indubitably, mon capitan,” Beast says. “It is not only better to give than to receive—it’s safer!” Angel adds that it’s also more gratifying—if one digs punishing enemies. Angel certainly does. However, Marvel Girl telepathically urges her teammates to refrain from attacking for just a few moments. In less than a minute, Iceman will be completely recovered, meaning the X-Men could attack in full strength!
Unfortunately for them, Magneto notices their hesitation and uses it to his advantage. That shall be their ultimate undoing, he declares. Using the mutant control of magnetism that dwells within every cell of his body, he turns every bolt and iron plate in the building’s walls into a missile. Together, these magnetized projectiles create a shrapnel tornado he intends to use to obliterate the X-Men.
Cyclops and Marvel Girl watch the approaching barrage of shrapnel in horror. Magneto’s as good as his word, Cyclops declares, and Jean’s the only one who can stop the wave of iron junk! Get to it, he shouts! Using her telekinesis, Marvel Girl throws up a shield that protects her, Cyclops, Beast and Iceman. Angel, however, remains trapped outside Marvel Girl’s protective wall.
Seeing his teammate in danger, Cyclops calls out to Warren and urges him to quickly fly toward his teammates. He intends to beat back the metallic cascade while Angel gets to safety. He turns his optic blast toward Magneto and fires it at him at full power. “It’s your power against mine—your will directly combating my own!” Cyclops shouts. “Let’s see which of us will crumble first!” However, Cyclops finds Magneto’s power overwhelming—even when split between himself and Jean. He soon finds the strain unbearable. Nevertheless, in keeping up with his tough-guy front, he asks Magneto if that is the best he can do. He must be losing his grip in his old age, he says! The gambit works: Angel manages to slip to safety behind Cyclops.
On the other end, Magneto takes the taunts with glee. As per Cyclops’s request, he declares he will crank up his mutant energy until the X-Men are crushed to dust! Behind him, Lorna’s eyes widen with dismay. Must the X-Men die? She asks her father if there is no other way. None, Magneto says. He cannot rest until he has wiped the X-Men from the face of the Earth. Were the situation reversed, they would do the same to him! He declares the X-Woman will fall first; he can already feel her psychokinetic power crumbling under his assault!
Sure enough, Marvel Girl’s wall of mental energy collapses, and she finds herself getting buried under a tidal wave of iron scraps. Cyclops begs for her to hold on as long as she can; they will find a way to take out Magneto if she can just stave off the incoming metal with her telekinetic powers. Desperate, Angel asks Cyclops how he plans on defeating these enemies; Magneto has a veritable army of power-loaded freaks to throw at them. He asks Cyclops to face it—they’ve never before been up against anything equal to these enemies. He suggests they beat an orderly retreat.
Much to the X-Men’s chagrin, they find the Demi-Men locking hands and blocking the exits. Looks like they won’t let the X-Men use their round-trip tickets, Angel jokes. Cyclops, however, declares that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Summoning his last ounce of strength, Cyclops throws a mighty punch, only to have it reflected back at him! His target laughs. He possesses the mutant power of negative energy, and any blow directed at him is returned—with twice the impact! On top of that, by linking hands, each of the Demi-Men gains the powers of all the others! There is no escape for the X-Men, he declares. One by one, they will meet their doom.
The Demi-Men turn their attention to Angel next and ensnare him within contracting steel cables. Slowly and inexorably, they shall squeeze the last breath from his body. Angel quickly learns they aren’t kidding. Wincing under the strain of the metal coils, he feels as if his ribs will collapse at any moment!
To save his friend, Cyclops decides to break Magneto’s concentration by bringing the entire fortress down on their heads. The X-Men will just have to take their chances when the roof falls in. He opens fire on the abstract structure, tearing a giant hole in its side and bringing steel girders crashing down on them all. Magneto runs for his life.
Somehow, Scott’s gambit saves Angel. The coils slacken from around his torso. Marvel Girl, meanwhile, watches as Magneto gets trapped under the falling debris. Another figure approaches the fallen Master of Magnetism, but Marvel Girl cannot make out its identity. However, from his superior vantage point, Iceman identifies the figure as Lorna Dane—and watches as she uses her own magnetic powers to free her supposed father from the rubble. He never figured she would turn completely against the X-Men, but on the other hand, Magneto does claim to be her father. She’s got too much class to desert even a father like him.
Iceman declines to fill in his teammates in on what’s taking place with Magneto. They decide to ignore it for now and focus on saving themselves. Beast suggests they return to their base and do some fancy cogitating, so that next time they encounter this army, they will be better prepared! Although Marvel Girl agrees, she points out that retreat will not be easy. She directs their attention to the dead end exit. To counter the blockage, Cyclops calls in their dead-end specialist, Beast. Tear a hole in that thing, he commands! Accepting the order with glee, Beast charges at the wall with the crown of his head thrust forward and hits it at full speed. Although he self-induces a king-sized Excedrin headache, he accomplishes the feat and creates a man-sized hole through which the X-Men can escape. Once all the X-Men pass through the escape hole, Cyclops seals it up so their enemies cannot follow. He realizes, though, that it might not hold them for long.
Cyclops, Angel, Marvel Girl, Beast and Iceman head to the landing field and find a ship awaiting their use. As they begin to board, Jean laments they had to leave Lorna behind in the base. Angel asks if she’s joking; Lorna sided with the bad guys! Maybe Jean thinks they should take a rattlesnake back with them too. A defensive Iceman tells Warren to shut up and move. He asks what choice Lorna had, anyway. Was she supposed to serve up her father’s head on a platter?
Inside the base, Magneto watches helplessly as the X-Men escape. He would go after them, but the falling debris paralyzed his legs. However, he declares the battle has not been lost. His strength will return in time—and so will the X-Men! After all, they can no more resist the urge to destroy him than he can turn a deaf ear to the voice within him that constantly echoes “kill the X-Men! Kill the X-Men!”
Several hours later, in their temporary headquarters in San Francisco, the X-Men dress down and debrief. Scott Summers tells his teammate Bobby Drake that he’s still too weak to jump back into action. That goes for all of them, and not just Bobby, he adds. Bobby asks why it matters if he’s a little pooped; he’s fought battles while exhausted in the past. He doubts this is what really bothers Scott.
Jean snaps at him. Watch it, she says—his assertion is tantamount to calling Scott a liar! “…and he’s right, Jean!” Scott admits. “I was lying! But there’s no point in that now. My real reason for wanting him off this case is that he’s losing objectivity! He’s emotionally involved with that girl—Lorna! And she just happens to be the daughter of our mortal enemy! There’s a conflict of interest!”
Bobby seems genuinely shocked to hear this. He lifts his head, lurches out of his seat and grabs Scott by the collar. However, Cyclops stands firm. Bobby is mixed up about that girl, and the X-Men cannot afford to have divided allegiances. Even if it only means a split second’s hesitation on Bobby’s part, that split second could cost them all their lives. Raising his fist, Bobby tells Scott to hold it. Scott may be their great leader and Professor Xavier may have turned over leadership to him—but that doesn’t mean Bobby has to stand for being called a traitor!
From behind them, Hank encourages them both to calm down; they don’t need mass dissension within their ranks. Hank restrains Scott while Warren grabs Bobby. Still, the argument continues. Scott states he never asked for special treatment just because he’s captain of the team. Therefore, if Bobby wants to have it out with him, he just needs to say the word. If he wants the right to make adult decisions, however, he needs to be ready to back them up with a man-sized fist. “My pleasure!” Bobby says. “Just get your stooge off my back and we’ll see who’s prepared to eat whose words!”
Jean, meanwhile, observes this quarrel with folded arms and stern resignation. She would never have believed it if she hadn’t heard it with her own two ears, she says: two X-Men acting like thugs in a grade-Z gangster movie! Is this why they gave up their lives? Is this why they sacrificed any normal existence they might have had to become X-Men? What about the months and months of pain and tension they underwent to perfect their mutant powers? What about the devotion Professor X lavished on them to make them the best fighting team ever? Is that all going to be blown to dust by a pair of hot-headed fools? Do they really want that to be the team’s greatest achievement?
Enraged, Bobby tells Jean not to whistle him the “Stars and Stripes Forever”. Scott started it, he says, with all that talk of calling him a traitor. However, he intends to finish it. Cyclops tells his teammate he must not have listened to a word Jean said; it must have gone in one ear and out the other. Throwing punches at each other isn’t going to solve anything, he reiterates to Bobby.
“Well, I’ll be!” Bobby says as he turns to leave. “You—you’re chicken! That’s what you are! I’d never have believed it!” Cyclops tells him he doesn’t get it and calls him a wet-eared pup. It does nothing to assuage Bobby. “I get it, all right! Our noble leader has lost his cool. I’m gettin’ out of here before you bust out in big wet tears!” He exits, slamming the door shut behind him.
Jean, Warren, Hank and Scott stare at the door for a moment. It is Scott who speaks first. He declares that it’s better this way. Bobby will return once he cools off—but by then, they will have dealt with Magneto. That’s assuming Scott’s plan doesn’t encounter any snags, though. Hank raises his eyebrow at Scott’s mention of a plan. He asks him to please fill in the lowly troops on the high command’s strategy.
Several days later, in the great wasteland that betrays only a small clue to the fantastic world that lies beneath it, an approaching figure sets off a submerged R-scope. Beneath the surface, the Demi-Men monitor the incoming signals with anticipation. They confirm the R-scope gives positive indication of an intruder, while their M-detector reveals said intruder to be a highly developed mutant.
Suddenly, the ground beneath them rumbles and splits. They flee as a chasm opens in the ground, declaring that the very earth trembles beneath this mutant’s awesome power. “Ho!” the figure—a man in an alien suit of crimson armor—says. “It is useless to try to escape me! Nor have I come to do battle with any feeble as you!” He directs his armored hands toward the ground and unleashes a fiery bolt of energy from each palm. “Go then, and bring this word to your great leader! Let Magneto know that there stands one who can match his mutant mastery—and more! Let him know of the coming of—Erik the Red!”
Hank McCoy was never an ordinary boy. Growing up, the attention his physical powers attract proves flattering—but nearly fatal. For instance, while a million fans throughout the state watch as he leads his high school football team to the championship, one pair of maddened eyes looks on and sparkles with malevolence. These eyes belong to El Conquistador—and he has big plans for Hank McCoy.
Watching the game through a hemispherical screen, El Conquistador tells his assistant, Chico, that he knew he would someday find the final human tool for his plans of world domination. He never suspected that final tool would be a mere boy! Chico assures his master he knew his great scheme was fated to succeed. The two watch the screen as the football team hoists Hank on its shoulders. See how they cheer for the young hero, El Conquistador remarks. He declares their joy will soon turn to terror.
To get away from his adoring fans, Hank climbs the scoreboard and escapes. A nearby reporter laughs. He’s never before seen such hero worship! It’s fantastic! Still watching through the screen, El Conquistador tells Chico that Hank isn’t even half as fantastic as he will be, once they harness him to their engine of complete destruction. He tells Chico to summon the rest of the men; they are ready to move. Once the troops assemble, El Conquistador, dressed in his Spanish armor and a green cape, tells the men the time has come. Once they have the boy, nothing will be able to stop—El Conquistador!
That night, as Hank wends his way home from the gay victory celebration, El Conquistador and his men ambush him in an alley near a construction site. They find the conditions perfect for the trial they want to run. Once Hank wanders about halfway down the confined alley, one of the men starts up his dump-truck and hits the gas. The truck roars to life and charges at the trapped Hank McCoy. “Watch it! Have you gone stark raving non-compus-mentus?” Hank shouts. With nowhere else to go, Hank jumps straight up into the air. He clears the top of the truck, repels off a brick wall and vaults himself across the alley and into the submerged construction site. Fortunately, he manages his trajectory and bounces off the top of a large industrial crane. Although it’s not the world’s best trampoline, beggars can’t be choosers, he says.
El Conquistador has seen enough. The boy has more than surpassed his expectations. With the trial over, he commands his men to commence Operation Snare—and to bring him the boy instantly. The men take action right away. They accost Hank on the grass near the construction site and attempt to ensnare him in a net.
Hank, however, eludes them, thanks to his extraordinary agility. “For the love of Pliny! It seems there’s more danger afoot than a mere runaway truck,” Hank says as the net falls, “—like these two errant birdnappers who seem to have mistaken me for an oriole!” The two men collide after Hank jumps out of their way. Regardless, they grab him by the ankles and try to drag him into captivity—after complimenting his impressive, if unsuccessful, attempt at a getaway. Hank plunges his fingers into the dirt to resist their pull. “Anybody ever tell you that you have a talent for denoting the obvious?” Hank asks them. He flips around, pulls their legs inward and brings them to the ground. They must also have a talent for computing their poultry before they’ve been fully incubated, he adds.
With his men defeated, El Conquistador decides to face young Hank himself. He arrives on the scene and commends Hank for defeating the best of his most trusted men. However, he came to demonstrate to Hank that even he is no match for El Conquistador! He draws his sword and, to Hank’s surprise, the gleaming blade converts into a three-pronged weapon that sends a surge of electricity through the young mutant’s body.
Later, outside Hank’s home, a silent figure waits patiently for some sign of life. Stealthily, he begins to advance. Inside the house, he finds the McCoy dinner table freshly set and signs of a struggle. It’s enough to raise alarms in his head. He turns around, heads out the door and generates an ice-slide to carry him home. When Professor Xavier dispatched Iceman to this location to investigate a new mutant signature on Cerebro, he probably didn’t realize he was sending him into the thick of a first-class mystery!
Iceman returns home and reports the strange scene to Cyclops, Angel and Professor X. Xavier realizes someone else must have detected the power within this new mutant—but who, and how? He decides to take a more direct role in this enigma.
However, it may be too late for the X-Men to help, for elsewhere, El Conquistador presents Hank with an ultimatum: cooperate, or watch his captive parents die!