X-Men 2099 #22

Issue Date: 
July 1995
Story Title: 
Gauntlet of Pain!

John Moore (writer), Ron Lim (pencils), Harry Candelario (inks), Ken Lopez (letters), Tom Smith (colors), The Wolf Pack with Salvador Mancha (computer colors), Joey Cavalieri (editor), Bobbie Chase (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Xi’an Chi Xan is about to be tested by the Theatre of Pain. If he passes the test, Xi’an can officially join the group. Xi’an finds the Theatre to be more of a cult and, with that not lying in his interest, Xi’an wants to walk out on the villain group. But Brimstone Love proceeds with the procedure and attacks Xi’an, making him relive the worst times of his past. Xi’an gets attacked by Chainlink, a person from his past. Chainlink makes Xi’an remember how he was pulled away from his parents at their request and brought to Death Valley, a slave camp. Meanwhile, Tim, Shakti and La Lunática try to find a way to bring Xi’an back to normal and free him from the Theatre of Pain. They pay a visit to Broken Haiku, who gives Shakti information about Brimstone Love and the Theatre of Pain. Meanwhile, Xi’an’s trial goes on. He faces his former friend Jimmy, who has returned from the death as Quickdeath and wants to take revenge on Xi’an. Before Xi’an can deal with Quickdeath, he gets teleported away again and has to confront Noah Synge! Noah laughs at Xi’an that he too turned to evil like he did, and that he is no longer the big star he used to be. An exhausted Xi’an feels Brimstone Love’s presence and demands him to stop his games, wanting no further part of it. Xi’an faints. Brimstone Love and his followers step out of the shadows, and are content that Xi’an passed their test with flying colors. After Xi’an survives to be buried alive and refuses help from his good self, he is fully accepted into the Theatre of Pain. Meanwhile, President Doom and Morphine Somers scout the area of New Mexico. There, they find the destroyed body of Junkpile, and want to put him back together to use the tin man in their own plans…

Full Summary: 

The Sangre de Cristo mountains, New Mexico…
A helicopter flies over the deserted area. The helicopter lands and Morphine Somers steps out of it. Morphine believes that an explosion has taken place and asks a lieutenant if there are any survivors. The lieutenant reports back that there are no life forms to be found in a five-mile radius. Morphine isn’t happy to hear that.

Meanwhile, at an unknown dark and evil place…
Xi’an Chi Xan steps forward, with a serious look on his face. Fire spreads itself across the room he stands in, and a giant hand comes through the red-hot flames. A voice tells Xi’an that he has led a shadow life and was caught between light and dark, between good and evil and even between heaven and hell. Now, the voice concludes, the time has come for Xi’an to discard the detritus of his past, and transcend the moral conflicts that divides him.

The voice demands Xi’an to step into the fire and to be reborn! The speaking man introduces himself as Brimstone Love, and he promises Xi’an this: once he is initiated into the exquisite mysteries and dark truths of the Theatre of Pain, he will emerge transformed! If he survives. Brimstone Love’s female servants tell Xi’an that the Inner Circle waits for him.

Brimstone Love reveals to Xi’an that thus far they have only shown him a small portion of the Theatre’s magnitude. Brimstone Love claims that they provide twisted entertainment for an audience of the world’s rich and jaded, and that by manipulating those viewers’ deepest and most decadent fantasies, the Theatre can control them. Xi’an proudly tells Brimstone Love that his flame tricks don’t impress him and that he can stop performing them.

Xi’an tells Brimstone Love that he was the one who brought him the Chosen and Master Zhao and Xi’an wants to know why, because Brimstone Love never told him. Brimstone Love promises Xi’an to explain that to him, but in due time. Brimstone Love says that trust and rank must be earned in the Theatre of Pain. Brimstone Love reveals that his partner Cheron did not attain the position of Controller Prime overnight, nor was his other partner Felicity given command of the Norns without proving herself first.

Before one can truly become part of the Theatre, one must surrender his pride. An uninterested Xi’an walks out on Brimstone Love, telling him that he is looking for opportunity and not cultism. Brimstone Love attacks Xi’an with fire, who then disappears. Brimstone Love tells Xi’an that he doesn’t understand it. The villain says that once the curtain is raised, no one ever leaves the Theatre of Pain!

Xi’an wakes up and believes that the place he is in is one of Brimstone Love’s theatrical flourishes. Xi’an realizes that Brimstone Love didn’t put him on fire, but instead teleported him. Xi’an recognizes the place, since this is where he grew up. But the place is worse than Xi’an remembers it. Xi’an remembers how the Mutt-town plague cleared out most of the town in the ‘90’s, but… Xi’an stops thinking when he believes that he isn’t alone. Xi’an knows that he is being watched.

A noise comes out from inside a storefront. Xi’an calls out and asks if the person who watches him is Brimstone Love. A chain attacks him and Xi’an falls down on his knees. An evil voice tells Xi’an to pay attention. But, the man adds, Xi’an never did before and that was his biggest problem.

Xi’an can’t believe it, but he easily recognizes his adversary: it’s Chainlink! But that’s impossible to Xi’an, because he thought that Chainlink was dead. “You wish,” Chainlink says while continuing his attack, and tells Xi’an that he can’t play his ice-cold attitude on him. Chainlink tells Xi’an that he was there when he was nothing but an embarrassment to his parents. Chainlink asks Xi’an if he remembers that time. Xi’an remembers how he was, as a thirteen year old boy, taken away from his home by some genetic lab employees.

Chainlink attacks Xi’an again with his chains, but Xi’an can dodge the attack. Chainlink asks Xi’an what his parents told him: that he would be better off with the lab? Xi’an confirms, and remembers how he called out for his parents, but that his father instead told him that he was an embarrassment for a man of his position. His mother agreed, believing that Xi’an would be better off with people who knew how to take care of him.

Xi’an realizes what Chainlink tries to do to him. That Chainlink wants to distract him by bringing up bad memories so that he can defeat Xi’an. Xi’an remembers how the lab employers told him that he was going to the Grove, and that Xi’an would love it there because all the people there were freaks like him.

Xi’an cried that he wasn’t a freak, but nobody wanted to believe him. Chainlink laughs at the facts, but finds it a hard way for Xi’an to have found out that life isn’t fair on a way like that. Xi’an remembers how he promised to show who’s a freak around here, and to make everyone pay when he comes back. Xi’an can’t stop thinking about his past and gets almost hit by an attacking Chainlink.

Xi’an suddenly jumps out a car, but as he hits the ground another chain grabs his leg. Chainlink steps forward and tells Xi’an that he hasn’t changed, and is still the little baby Chainlink remembers him by. Xi’an remembers how he first met Chainlink. He landed before Chainlink and his followers, the Massive Cur’s ground, and they weren’t happy to see him.

Chainlink remembers the moment as well, and wishes that he had killed Xi’an when he had the chance, instead of giving him a second chance. Xi’an tries unnoticed to destroy Chainlink’s chains using his powers, but the chains aren’t affected by the mutant trick.
As Chainlink tries to kill Xi’an with a final strike, Brimstone Love and Charon show up. Brimstone Love orders Charon that this scene is played and to move on. The woman does as told.

Xi’an knows that he was teleported again. But this time, there’s a weird buzzing noise in his head which he can’t turn off for some reason. Xi’an focuses on the situation he is in now, but… oh, no, Xi’an thinks. He is attacked by the cyborg Gearbox! Gearbox informs Xi’an that there is a bounty on his head and that he intends to collect the money. Xi’an can’t believe that he is back in the Glass Eye cantina, like he was when he was five years ago when he was still a member of the Lawless. Xi’an remembers how Gearbox attacked him, Victor Ten Eagles and Haiku at the time.

The trio couldn’t believe that they were attacked at the time either, because they believed that they had lost Gearbox in Phoenix. Xi’an dodges an attack of Gearbox and recalls that he is as fast as he remembers him to be. In the past, Gearbox told the Lawless trio that for crimes against the Elysium Biomedical Corporation and their subsidiaries, he has been authorized to bring them all in, dead or alive. Gearbox opened fire and shot Haiku.

In the present, Gearbox tells Xi’an that he escaped from him once, but not this time. Gearbox grabs Xi’an in his claws and Xi’an can’t help but to think about the past. Xi’an remembers how he asked Ten Eagles to run, because he knew they weren’t a match for Gearbox. Victor didn’t want to leave Haiku behind, but Xi’an told him to leave her. In the present, Xi’an tries to use his powers to destroy Gearbox, but he threatens to rip Xi’an’s arm of if he does so.

Xi’an remembers how Ten Eagles begged him no to leave Haiku behind, but Xi’an instead told him to move or else they would be killed as well. Back to the present, Xi’an shouts out that he knows that Brimstone Love is watching and asks him why he is doing this to him. But Gearbox strikes his claw through Xi’an’s body, and blood flows out of it. A pleased Brimstone Love says that now that blood has been drawn, the sting of the past becomes the pain of the present. Still, he adds, it is too soon to conclude this nostalgic revue, and so he commands Charon to once more move over to the next scene.

Death Valley, California…
Hundreds of mutants get lured into the Valley. The guards inform them that all incoming “subjects” had to proceed to the White Room for initial examination and evaluation. And that after that, if they had been classified as useful, the inmates were given color coded armbands meant for identification and sector transfer. The colors mean the following: reds has to go to Genetics, blues to Research, greens to Labor, yellow to Entertainment and black to Recycling. Quiver, one of the inmates, hates it. He has made up a nickname for the slave prison: the Slaughter House. Quiver doesn’t care anymore about the guards, or any of the food that has been promised to them: he simply wants to escape. Quiver begins to activate his seismic powers. His friend Sham notices it and tries to calm him down, warning him to remember what the guards will do to him if they find out about anything weird.

But Quiver can’t help it; he’s scared. His powers go out of control and blast everyone around him away! Quiver runs to the exit, with Sham trying to hold him back. The guards see it all happening and shoot Quiver down. The guards realize that Quiver must be a mutant and decide to call the lab for advice what to do with her. Sham notices Quiver shaking, and begs her not to use her powers again, no matter what happens.

El Paso…
Tim, Shakti and La Lunática enter the big mall and argue about what happened to them. Luna can’t believe that Shakti still doesn’t believe that Xi’an has turned evil and believes that Xi’an doesn’t deserve their help. Tim remembers Luna that she once was part of the Theatre of Pain and escaped from it. He and Shakti want to give Xi’an the same chance. Shakti explains that, before they can determine whether Xi’an is beyond help, they’ll have to find him first.

They enter the mall bar and walk over to the bartender, Ulysses. Ulysses gets compliments from his customers about the fine drinks he made for them. Shakti approaches Ulysses and asks him to speak to the owner of this bar. Ulysses tells her to go away. Luna gets angry and wants to attack, but Shakti holds her down. Ulysses tells Shakti that there is no need to do that; he isn’t scared of Luna. Shakti understands Ulysses’ caution, but explains to them both that there is no need for action. Shakti again asks Ulysses to inform Haiku that she is here to talk about Xi’an. Haiku overhears them and invites Shakti in, but Tim and Luna have to wait outside.

As Ulysses brings her to Haiku, Shakti asks him if Haiku was monitoring their conversation. Ulysses reveals that, sometimes, Haiku patches into the security feed to watch the counter. Ulysses makes it clear that Haiku doesn’t talk to her customers, but most certainly knows who they are. They enter the lab where the Broken Haiku is in. Shakti notices how different Haiku is since they last saw each other in Seattle. Haiku asks Shakti if she is shocked about that. Shakti finds it curious that someone who has ridden with an outlaw gang like the Lawless would retreat from the material world in such an extreme manner. Haiku doesn’t call her current position a retreat, but rather a release from physical limitation.

Ulysses informs Shakti that Haiku suggest to discuss further matters on the Net. He asks Shakti if she wants cybersim shades, but Shakti denies. She explains that she had a neural jack implant during the time she spent in Hong Kong. She shows it to Ulysses and tells him to plug her in. Ulysses does so, and Shakti and Haiku meet each other on a beautiful virtual landscape on the net. Shakti is surprised to find herself in such a serene place. Haiku explains to Shakti that she conducts her business with the tourists here, the shallow divers who still need the recognizable iconography to help them navigate the net. Haiku knows that real gliders prefer the wild abstractions of true cyberspace.

Shakti knows that Broken Haiku glides in information. Shakti tells her that she also knows that people say that Haiku even knew about the White House takeover before Doom left Latveria. Haiku confirms that rumor.

So, Shakti asks Haiku, “help me find Xi’an.” Haiku doesn’t see the point to that, because she is sure that Xi’an will only betray Shakti like he did to her. Shakti tries to explain to Haiku that she didn’t know the Xi’an who came back from Saigon. Xi’an was a different man at that time – stronger and compassionate. Haiku doesn’t believe that, because at her last meeting with Xi’an he was as arrogant and amoral as she remembered him to be. Shakti hopes that state is a regression she hopes to overcome. But to be able to do that, Shakti explains that she needs all the information there is about Brimstone Love and the Theatre of Pain. Hearing Shakti call the Theatre’s name, Haiku says that group shouldn’t be named lightly, not even in cyberspace. Haiku promises that providing that information to Shakti will be dangerous and therefore costly. Broken, Haiku asks Shakti if she is prepared to pay that price.

Xi’an has been teleported again further down his memory. Xi’an notices his side bleeding and he has a numb leg. Xi’an thinks that his mind is playing tricks with him. There is too much happening at the same time and Xi’an can’t think straight. All Xi’an knows for sure at the moment, is that wherever Brimstone Love had send him to so far, he had to face an enemy from his past. Xi’an believes that if he is in Saigon now, he will have to face… No, Xi’an rethinks. That can’t be… he killed him for sure! But suddenly Xi’an is attacked by a masked man from behind. The villain sadistically reveals to Xi’an that a little thing like a mortal wound couldn’t keep him in the grave. The villain introduces himself as Quickdeath, and says that he came back from the dead to meet Xi’an there. While knocking Xi’an down with a blast, Quickdeath tells Xian that it’s cold on the other side.

Xi’an remembers how he told his friend, Jimmy, that he couldn’t allow the Cartel to find him. At the time, Xi’an knew that the Cartel thought that he sold them out to Stark-Fujikawa Hardware. Jimmy told Xi’an that the American Cybernostra has no jurisdiction in Vietnam. But Xi’an didn’t need to worry, because the park has been closed for years now. Jimmy told Xi’an that he would be safe there and promised to arrange a new identity for Xi’an as well.

Quickdeath attacks Xi’an with an electric-like blast and says that he has been able to plan this moment in detail while he was dead. Quickdeath promises Xi’an that his death won’t be quick and painless. Quickdeath knows that the only thing that defines life is the pain. Xi’an remembers how Jimmy suddenly was stabbed in the back after he promised his safety by an unseen assailant, who told Xi’an that his time was up. Xi’an tries to move up from Quickdeath’s attack, but can’t and realizes that he is teleporting once more.

The Nuevo Sol Archeology…
An exhausted Xi’an realizes where he is. A voice from behind pities the state Xi’an is in. Xi’an turns around to see the person who dares to mock at him and finds out that it is… Noah Synge! Xi’an jokes that the gates of Hades must be wide open. Noah tells Xi’an to stop his whining and to realize that he isn’t a star anymore. That nobody is cheering for him anymore because he is no longer telling his beautiful promises about a new world. Xi’an remembers all the mutants he gathered back when he was “good” and who all proudly cried out his name. Xi’an asks Noah why he is here. Noah tells Xi’an that it is because he deluded himself into thinking that he was the one time successor to Xavier and Magnus. Noah laughs at that fact. Noah tells Xi’an that Xavier and Magnus were real mutants: worthy of respect and fear. They counted for something. And Xi’an did count for nothing!

Xi’an tells the old man to go away from him. Noah doesn’t know why he should, because these days there isn’t a difference between him and Xi’an. They are both walking death now. Noah tells Xi’an to give up. With his final breath, the exhausted Xi’an notices Brimstone Love staring at him in the shadows. Xi’an tells Brimstone that he knows that this is one of his games, and doesn’t want any part of it anymore. With that said, Xi’an faints.

Charon teleports in front of the unconscious Xi’an and compliments him for holding the test out for so long. Charon is surprised that Xi’an even managed to survive a battle with a None, even though he was holographically disguised as a ganger, a bounty hunter and a mob assassin. Felicity and Brimstone Love too step out of the shadows and Brimstone compliments his two servants for a job well done. Brimstone knows that both physically and emotionally, they have changed Xi’an to the edge of despair.

Felicity says that Xi’an’s mind is fragmented and weakened by his own inner conflicts. She found it simple to use her psi-talents to extract those moments of physical danger and emotional vulnerability. And it was even easier to make Xi’an believe the sweet and demure felicity was each of his antagonist’s, who had returned from to past to abuse him further. Charon finds Xi’an to be a strong fighter. He congratulates him for not falling down until the very end. She asks Brimstone to give Xi’an to her and she promises that in return she will make him the most vicious of the Theatre’s Bloodfighters.

Brimstone Love refuses to waste Xi’an in the deathsport of the Splatterheads. Brimstone notices that Xi’an has a wild and cruel side that goes beyond mere physical violence. Brimstone commands Charon and Felicity to teleport away now, and they do as asked. Alone, Brimstone Love grows an angry look on his face. He says that the initiate is broken. The time has come to rebuild Xi’an into the Theatre of Pain’s image!

Some time later, Xi’an wakes up in a coffin and finds out that the Theatre buried him alive! Brimstone Love, Charon and Felicity all sadistically look at him crying out for help. Suddenly, their image disappears into that of Xi’an’s former good self. The good self offers Xi’an to let him take over, so that he can help defeat Brimstone Love. Xi’an refuses that and rather dies. His vision turns black.

Brimstone Love and all the many followers of the Theatre of Pain have gathered in one group, wearing red hoods over themselves. Brimstone Love begins to read the official ritual words: “This way for the sorrowful city. This way for entering eternal suffering. This way to join the lost people. Abandon all hope, who enter. You stand now in the Theatre of Pain - ONE OF US! “Yes,” a serious Xi’an says. He takes a final look at Brimstone Love, and puts a golden mask on.

Southern Arizona…
An unseen man standing in the shadows of an airship asks where the other mutants are. “Scattered to the winds,” a joking Morphine Somers replies. So much for the unified strength of the so-called X-Men, he says. But Morphine is content that at least they were able to scrape one of them out of the garbage he was buried under. The mysterious man asks Morphine if he thinks that this mutant will be enough to serve their needs. Morphine is confident that after a little attitude adjustment, the mutant will suffice. But of course, they’ll have to put him back together first. Morphine opens a container tank and reveals Junkpile inside! President Doom steps out of the shadows, and allows Morphine by all means to reassemble the tin man…

Characters Involved: 

Cerebra, Skullfire (all X-Men 2099)
La Lunática

Desert Ghost, Junkpile (both former X-Men 2099)
Brimstone Love, Charon, Felicity (Theatre of Pain Inner Circle)
Broken Haiku
Ulysses Colosio

President Doom 2099
Morphine Somers (all Doom’s Black Cabinet)

Quiver, Sham and various other captives at Death Valley
Lieutenant working for Doom (unnamed)
various bar clients of Ulysses (unnamed)

During Xi’an’s trial throughout his memories:
Nguyen and Ann Chi Xan (Xi’an’s father and mother)
little Xi’an (as a thirteen year old boy)
Broken Haiku (still Haiku), Desert Ghost, Victor Ten Eagles (all the Lawless)
Jimmy (former best friend of Xi’an)
Gearbox (bounty hunter)
Noah Synge
Xi’an’s good-self

Story Notes: 

Xi’an indeed brought, as now revealed, himself, Charon and Felicity (who were disguised at the time) to Zhao’s X-Men base, where the Theatre of Pain kidnapped him and his other remaining Chosen X-Men, as could be seen in X-Men 2099 #18.

Xi’an’s father and mother don’t get named in this issue, but their names were revealed by Brimstone Love when he read Xi’an’s file in X-Men 2099 #12.

During the battle against Zhao, Xi’an let his evil-self take over his body to be able to defeat Zhao. Now, his good self is revealed to be trapped inside the mind. [X-Men 2099 #9]

Ulysses’ middle name (Renaldo) and last name are revealed in this issue. Broken Haiku earlier met Xi’an in X-Men 2099 #11, when he came to ask her about information about Avalon and the Driver.

Junkpile was destroyed in X-Men 2099 #13 after the fight with the Driver and Brimstone Love. However, Xi’an restored him using his powers, but Junkpile needed time to fully recover. Junkpile betrayed Xi’an to the Synge’s in X-Men 2099 #1.

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