X-Men (1st series) #59

Issue Date: 
August 1969
Story Title: 
Do or Die, Baby!

Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (scripter), Neal Adams (artist), Tom Palmer (embellisher), Sam Rosen (letterer)

Brief Description: 

Having identified Larry Trask as a mutant, the Sentinels seize him and intend to execute him, as well as other mutants in the vicinity. For the moment, though, they simply put Larry in suspended animation, much like they did with the other mutant captives. Meanwhile, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Beast infiltrate Trask’s base. Inside, they happen upon a Sentinel ship that has just returned with three new captives: Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Toad. The three X-Men free the captives and masquerade as them, reasoning that the Sentinels will mistake them for the three other mutants and adapt their attacks accordingly, to the advantage of the X-Men. After a series of battles, only Cyclops manages to infiltrate the control room, where he is attacked by Number Two, the leading unit. Judge Chalmers, horrified with the Sentinels’ actions, intervenes and is caught in a blast meant for Cyclops. Distressed over having inadvertently harmed a human, the Sentinels reassess their priorities and tend to Chalmers. Finally, appealing to their logic, Cyclops argues that all humanity is the result of a mutation – thus, the Sentinels ought to find a way to eradicate this source. His bluff works: convinced, the Sentinels fly into the heart of the sun, pinpointing this as the source of mutant-inducing radiation. In the aftermath of this ordeal, Havok is badly hurt as a result of his own powers. Wishing to get a doctor for him, Cyclops calls Dr. Lykos, an old colleague of Professor X, unaware of the new troubles into which he’s getting the X-Men.

Full Summary: 

The X-Men are flying on a mini-jet, with Beast is using the mini-Cerebro to track down the mutants who were captured by the Sentinels. Cyclops is puzzled by Hank’s startled fawn. Still no sign of the missing mutants? On the contrary, Hank reveals. Their mini-Cerebro indicates they’re right on top of them! Marvel Girl exclaims that’s wonderful news. “Is it, Jean?” Cyclops incredulously retorts. Wary, he asks Hank what he’s holding back. Beast admits that the way that blip appeared so abruptly can only mean that their foes planned it that way. They wanted them to find them… so they could destroy them!

“Y-you were right, Hank!” Jean exclaims as their plane is suddenly shot down by a beam. She urges the X-Men to jump! As they begin to freefall to the ground, a terrified Marvel Girl realizes they’re too far apart; she can’t levitate both her and Scott… and Hank’s with further away. Scott urges her to forget about Hank! He instructs her to use her powers to slow them down. “Just us, girl…” he emphasizes again. Reluctantly, Jean does as he says. But what about Hank? She alerts Scott that Hank will die! She quickly realizes her pleas are no use; Scott just stares downward.

She suddenly realizes Scott is saying something to her. “Did you hear me, Jean? I said… now!” Cyclops repeats. He urges her to project a levitational field beneath Hank now. “In the aphoristic nick, Miss Grey!” Beast quips as he is rescued from being splattered on the ground on the nick of time. He’ll readily admit, even he was beginning to doubt their dauntless leader!

Coming down with Scott, Jean admits she should’ve guessed. Now there’s time to slow their descent again. Ashamed with herself, Marvel Girl tells Scott she’s sorry… She… Scott postpones this conversation for later! Beast replies he’ll pay his regards later, as well! Right now, they’re nearing Target Zero!

Inside Larry Trask’s base, Larry, who is currently seized by a Sentinel, teeters on despair. If those X-Men died in that plummeting ship, then he killed them, as surely as if he’d pulled the trigger himself! Addressing him disdainfully as “mutant,” the Sentinel notes that he substitutes emotion for logic. Trask angrily wonders why the robot keeps calling him a mutant. He’s Larry Trask, its human master! His father created the Sentinels! The robot notes it is unfortunate for Larry, then.

Larry bursts out that this is sheer madness! If he were a mutant, the Sentinels would have attacked him long ago. Unit No 2 invites him to ask Judge Chalmers why they did not. Shaken, Judge Chalmers reveals it was Larry’s medallion – the one his father made him wear. Larry has forgotten how, at age five, he predicted the very hour of his mother’s death! Somehow, Larry’s father shaped this medallion to erase that memory, and erase Larry’s unholy power of clairvoyance! Later, fearful that some other mutant would learn Larry’s secret, Bolivar Trask tried to have them all imprisoned. After Bolivar’s death, Chalmers went on, through a misguided belief that he could protect Larry forever. But when Chalmers ripped off Larry’s medal, the Sentinels knew the truth at once: “Larry Trask… you are a mutant!”

Larry finally realizes: that’s why the Sentinels wouldn’t obey him when he cancelled his previous orders! The Sentinel confirms that they must act on the last command Larry gave them… as a human. And that command was: “secure all mutants in area… and destroy them!” Chalmers is appalled: “Destroy them?” No, they mustn’t! Larry tries to explain to Chalmers: the Sentinels’ logic… they can’t… Before he can explain further, the robot emits a gas from its palm and anesthetizes him. Trask has said enough; it is no longer necessary for him to remain awake! He shall be caged like the others, while they prepare for execution! As for Judge Chalmers, he was one of the humans the Sentinels were created to protect. He may leave, or stay and be cared for, but they are not programmed to obey him!

A fellow Sentinel tells Unit No 2 to observe the monitron. Their brother Sentinels are enjoying unparalleled success at this very moment! They report the imminent capture of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, plus the easy apprehension of the mutant called the Toad. Elsewhere, Unus has not proven completely untouchable, Mastermind’s illusions were useless against them, and the momentarily massive Blob was moved by anti-gravity devices. But these are yet miles away! They shall first destroy those at hand – the others, as they arrive! Hearing this, Judge Chalmers ponders in despair that he shall be murderer of them all. He seized Larry’s medallion to shock him to his senses, but managed only to doom all mutants!

“Hold!” one of the Sentinels suddenly signals. A new mutant presence has just been detected in this sector. Its power dwarfs any single mutant. Thus, logically several mutants must be near! The robots realize their detector has been neutralized – but not before they pinpointed the source on the south side of the cliff! One of the Sentinels orders its peers to mobilize all unassigned units at once!

At that exact moment, the X-Men are climbing on the mountain the interior of which houses Trask’s secret base. Grabbing Cyclops’ hand to get up on a ledge, Jean pleads him to not let go. She’s too tired to levitate herself down again. Further to the right, Beast urges them to make it quick. He’s located a fissure that might just be their in!

As the three X-Men infiltrate the base, Cyclops notes that all’s quiet on the northern front. Still, there must be somebody guarding this section. He then utters an exclamation, as he sees a Sentinel close to them. Marvel Girl warns Scott it’s one of them and tells him to get back. Too late, Beast adds – the robot’s seen them!

The unit in question, R7, alerts the leader-unit of the Sentinels, Number Two: southern alert was false alarm! It needs aid here without delay! It is not programmed for response to these mutants’ specific powers! Repeat: it’s not… “Save the instant replay, Horatio!” Beast banters and proceeds to strike the robot; this bridge-buster heard it the first second! Cyclops alerts Jean that Hank can’t face the Sentinel alone; he instructs her to use her telekinetic powers on it… fast! Marvel Girl promises she’ll try. If only she has energy enough! Much to her surprise, she manages to stagger the robot. But not before it swats Hank like a foul ball!

Indeed, the Sentinel sends the helpless Beast flying. Hank realizes he’d be up that far-famed tributary, but for a congenially convenient paddle, onto which he grabs with acrobatic dexterity. Nice save, Cyclops congratulates Jean. He urges her to get back now, because he’s giving the Sentinel all he’s got! Blasting the unit at full force, it breaks it down!

Beast observes that Cyke’s all was apparently quite sufficient! Seeing them moving away as fast as possible, Jean asks why the rush now. Cyclops explains he heard a hatch opening to receive some kind of craft – out of sight, quickly!

A Sentinel’s voice – that of Number Two – addresses all units and announces the delivery of two cargoes of captives by Sentinel ship. Vehicle containing mutants Quicksilver, Toad and Scarlet Witch will unload first, while second vehicle circles.

Hidden with Scott and Jean, Hank exclaims that Wanda and Pietro are apprehended like the others! Marvel Girl wonders what they can do. Cyclops tells them to wait and listen. The voice of Number Two alerts the arriving Sentinel that unit R7 does not report from guard duty – it is to investigate at once! “That’s it!” Cyke exclaims and shakes his fist – their ticket to the nerve center of this dead anthill. He starts explaining his plan.

The Sentinel piloting the arriving ship, unit C6 proceeds as ordered and disembarks from the ship. Number Two admonishes it not to leave the mutant cargo unattended any longer than necessary. Possibility exists of uncaptured mutants in the area!

Indeed, these three mutants, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Beast sneak inside the ship, right behind C6’s back. Inside, they discover Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Toad in shackles. The three mutants are surprised to see them. Pietro notes that this is the north sector; the alarm was sounded for the southern face. Jean replies they know nothing about that. Scott explains they’re just here to free them… and all they have to do is vow to keep out of the X-Men’s way, Beast rather rudely adds.

Unit C6 returns to the ship and reports as directed. R7 has been demolished… obviously by mutants. Number Two commands it to proceed to processing area with the cargo and then place itself on condition alert. R7 opens up the rear of the ship, where its captors lie. “And now, hapless mutants, here in the processing area, you shall be…” It suddenly ceases, as it realizes that, despite their costumes, these are not those mutants whom it captured!

Indeed, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Beast have masqueraded as Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Toad respectively and feign being shackled. “An astute observation, big brother!” Hank remarks and jumps up against the robot, battering against its head with his feet. Though these weighted boots he wears might stifle the hopping powers of the Toad, to him, they are the equivalent of boxing gloves! And in case the robot hasn’t guessed, Cyclops adds, there’s an even greater difference between Quicksilver and himself!

After Scott blasts C6, the robot is down for the long count. However, Scott spots a couple more metal mourners coming. He hardly has time to slip on his protective visor. The two Sentinels immediately spot him: a mutant free! They must destroy him, before he can escape! Beast notes that they threaten in the singular, but their troubles are definitely in the plural! He throws some fuel barrels against them, but quickly realizes that some of them are going to be decidedly off-target! “Not while I’m here, Hank!” Jean intercedes and telekinetically redirects them against the Sentinels. “Attaway to earn your Marvel Girl title, Jean!” Hank quips. The three X-Men take advantage of the distraction to slip away from the battlefield.

As the Sentinels destroy the barrels, one of them, Z2, reports temporary delay on sector P.CI. Three mutants at large are heading towards detention area. It orders it Sentinels brothers to intercept them there and execute without mercy!

Elsewhere in the base, Larry Trask has a vision of Havok collapsing in agony. Larry thinks this can’t be the future he’s seeing… it can’t! He’s Larry Trask… not some murdering mutant! He never meant for anyone to die – never! Opening his eyes, he realizes he was only dreaming… or was he? That was his mutant power, they said – to see the future. Looking around, he realizes he’s in a tube, like the others. He can’t move anything but his eyes. Outside the tube, the Judge is looking at him with a terrified expression. Larry thinks he’s got to tell him something…

Outside the tube, the desperate Chalmers stares at Larry, who’s contained in stasis. Even though he doesn’t expect an answer from Larry, Chalmers queries him what to do. He can’t tamper with these controls, without risking an explosion. And yet, if he does nothing…

He suddenly discerns that Larry’s eyes are staring hard, but not at him. They’re staring past him, at some strange sort of gun, left on a metallic surface. But Chalmers quickly deduces it isn’t a gun; when he pulls the trigger, aiming it at the tubes where the mutants are kept, nothing happens. The mutants are still imprisoned and that Sentinel still ignores him. But Larry’s eyes were staring at this useless weapon, just as they now seem riveted upon the one he calls Havok! He wonders if that’s what Larry wants, even now. For Chalmers to somehow kill that mutant? Chalmers retorts that he won’t do it!

Only a few steel-plated yards away, Cyclops and Marvel Girl run right past a Sentinel. The robot immediately identifies them as mutants. It recognizes their configuration form visual programming: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch! Beast, standing higher than the robot, throws a heavy piece of equipment on it and damages its head. He quips that the Sentinel overlooked the terrifying Toad, who, he might juxtaposed, never looked better than when portrayed by the bit-playing Beast! However, he quickly realizes the robot is already repairing itself. He tells Scott and Jean he’ll stay here and impede its progress. He urges the two of them to toddle along with all deliberate speed.

Scott and Jean escape. Jean tells Scott to wait, though: how can they leave Hank behind? Cyclops insists they’ve got to; can’t she see? Only by reaching the others do they have a chance! Seeing two Sentinels guarding the entrance to the control room, Cyclops points at them, recognizing them as their last huddle. If one of them can just get past those two… One of the Sentinels sneers that that they shall never do! They are prepared for both his speed and his sister’s power!

Feigning to be Wanda, Marvel Girl loudly asserts that no one can be prepared for her hex power – no one! Cyclops realizes what Jean did. The Sentinels adapted themselves for Wanda, and Jean scored a telekinetic 7-10 split! Scott slips right between the two attacked robots and enters the control room. He realizes Jean’s now got to keep them down, so they don’t hit him from behind. Jean and Hank both sacrificed themselves so he could get through. And he won’t let them down – he can’t!

“All right, Sentinels! This is the pay-off!” Scott angrily roars as he bursts in the inner chamber. Observing him, Number Two self-queries: shall it deal with him, or stop the human from…? The human, Judge Chalmers, retorts it’s too late to stop him – because now he knows where to aim this device he holds! Surprised, Scott recognizes the man as Judge Chalmers – and the dark-suited figure he’s firing at is his brother, Alex! The ray released from the gun seems to penetrate Alex’s chamber and get right at the center of his headgear. Number Two argues that Chalmers’ misguided efforts have merely awakened the mutant Havok. The plasti-cell still absorbs most of the rays which would empower him! Aiming at Cyclops, it remarks that there is time to deal with him later, after he has destroyed the mutant.

Chalmers screams he won’t let it and jumps in front of Cyclops to protect him – only to get the full brunt of the blast himself. “Judge Chalmers!” Cyclops cries out and blasts Number Two. The robot responds rather strongly to what happened: “Disaster! Disaster!” A human has been harmed by a Sentinel! It orders all Sentinels to adjust priority systems accordingly! Cyclops realizes the robot is ignoring him at the moment – but there’s plenty more where it came from. His optic power is almost exhausted, but he realizes he’s got to free Alex. Then, it will be all up to him!

Scott manages to free Alex from his tube by smashing it with the last reserves of optic power he’s got. “Scott… look out!” Alex shouts at him as soon as he jumps at of his tube. He motions at a Sentinel coming through a panel behind Scott. Cyclops turns around and sees another Sentinel – and really travelling! He’ll never dodge it in time! “No need, brother of mine! Just cry… Havok!” he gloats and now fully in charge of his power, blasts the assaulting Sentinel away.

Three Sentinels gather around the injured Chalmers and tend to him. One of them notes that Havok’s violence was, for the moment, unwarranted. The Sentinels’ first law is to protect humans, not to battle mutants. Even mutants cannot comprehend their sense of logic! Chalmers feebly admits that now he sees… defeat them through logic… Hearing this, Cyclops exasperates. “Defeat whom, Judge… whom?”

Alex warns Scott that something’s wrong… there’s too much energy building up inside him! Cyclops asks the Sentinels if they heard that. Even they can’t halt this process now! One mutant will destroy them all – because of the Sentinels. The robots assure him he shall precede them in oblivion, then, as per their last orders! Again that unholy logic, Scott puffs in disgust. And yet…

“Wait!” he suddenly has an epiphany. He asks Number Two to answer this before it destroys him. Are they not programmed to protect human life from mutants? The robot affirms that. Scott points out that all life forms, even humans, are the result of mutation. Thus, they can only protect human life by finding and neutralizing the source of that mutation!

“Scott… I… Too many lives at stake!” Alex groans in pain. Maybe he can do what no outside source can by destroying himself before he destroys others! Seeing Alex race towards the control panel, Scott begs him to hold it; that apparatus is delicate! He…

A massive explosion ensues. “Good Lord! Alex!” Cyclops cries out. Meanwhile, Number Two notifies its peers. They are to assemble at once for the ultimate resolution of the mutant question! Turning to Chalmers, who is now feeling better, it informs him he will swiftly recover. But they must leave now. Leave to go where? Chalmers wonders. To that place where leads the siren call of logic, Number Two replies. They must seek out the source of mutant-inducing radiation, though their quest leads them to the most inaccessible place of all – to the very heart of the raging sun itself!

The Sentinel units collectively take off for the Sun. Blazing its path through space more than 93 million miles from Earth, the Sun possesses a diameter of 865,000 miles; its surface temperature is 6000 centigrade; its mass almost 700 times that of all other bodies in the solar system. On the surface of this world, Sentinels will make the most imperceptible of ripples…

Back on Earth, Cyclops admits he didn’t know what would happen, where the Sentinels might go. He just gambled that he could strike a chord in their logic-bound brains – and he won! However, he finds Alex buried under rubble, badly hurt. Beast and Marvel Girl join them, as the Sentinels released them before going. Alex begs Scott to help him. The X-Men realize that, though alive, Alex is in a state of shock. They decide that, as soon as they get him out, they’ve got to get him to a doctor.

Soon afterward, in Manhattan, a man is bound to a wall, struggling impotently. Watching this a short distance away is a man, sitting in a chair. Nonchalantly, the gaunt hand of the sitting man reaches to silence a ringing telephone and confirms to the party on the other end that he is Dr. Lykos.

Lykos greets the other party, pleased that he is speaking to students of his late colleague, Charles Xavier. No, he tells them, he is doing nothing at the moment. At least… nothing of importance. By all means, Scott can bring his brother at Lykos’ office at once. He shall be waiting for him…

Almost in punctuation, the man on the makeshift cross slumps, his head dropping low…

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Men)

Havok, Lorna Dane (X-Men allies)

Larry Trask

Judge Robert Chalmers

Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Toad (all former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)

Blob, Mastermind, Unus (all Factor Three and former Brotherhood)

Sentinels (Number Two and other units)

Dr. Karl Lykos

Lykos’ captive

Story Notes: 

First appearance of the nefarious Dr. Karl Lykos aka Sauron, although his face is not shown. He fully appears next issue.

Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Toad have been traveling companions since Avengers (1st series) #53.

Five of the Sentinels that were damaged beyond repair by the X-Men in this issue will later reawaken, merge into a uniform robot, and have another confrontation with the X-Men. They will be permanently taken down by the young mutant Ashley Martin. [X-Men: The Hidden Years #8-11]

This is not the last appearance of Number Two and the other Sentinels which flew into the sun. They will return in Avengers (1st series) #102-104 and then again in Marvel Super-Heroes (2nd series) #6-8. For a full account on the final fate of the Sentinels Mark II, read the article Sentinels: Engines of Evil.

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