X-Men (2nd series) #104

Issue Date: 
September 2000
Story Title: 
Painted Ladies

Chris Claremont and Leinil Francis Yu (Script), Mark Morales (Inks), Liquid! Graphics (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFTS (Letters), Mark Powers (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

In Hong Kong, the five remaining X-Men attack the local Hellfire Club branch in search of another lead to find the Crimson Pirates and the Goth. Phoenix mentally finds their next lead, who is a waitress spying on the Hellfire Club. Wolverine stalks the women to her meeting point with the Goth. The others return to their villa and discuss how their reputation is being hurt by their hit and run tactics on major crime families. They decide that they must do everything in their power to stop this new slave trade, no matter how bad they look. Elsewhere, the captured X-Men make an escape attempt, thanks to Gambit and Storm, but find themselves neck-deep in a giant slave-processing center, where hundreds of kidnapped people are being packaged for transport. They encounter the leader of the Goth, who is appropriately also called the Goth. To evade being recaptured, Gambit proposes a deal to the Goth. Rogue absorbs Phoenix’s telepathy and attacks Killian and the Crimson Pirates at their Hong Kong headquarters. There, she meets Kymri, a friend of Nightcrawler’s who has been converted into a personal Hound for Killian. Rogue escapes and the X-Men head out to face the Pirates and the Goth in final confrontation. In Hollywood, after learning more about Senator Kelly’s plan to use mutants as his presidential campaign topic, Mystique vows to stop Kelly, no matter what. With volume 7 of 13 of Destiny’s diaries, she may very well be able to do so.

Full Summary: 

Since its return to Chinese sovereignty, everything about Hong Kong life in the area was expected to change, yet nothing has. The surface is different, but when you scratch the surface you will find people doing business the same way as before. There are still fortunes to be made by those ruthless enough to try. Once, Hong Kong was founded on the opium trade, now it is microchips. Today’s generation believe nothing can stop them. They think no one can touch them. They are wrong.

A party is on at the Hellfire Club branch in Hong Kong. People are having fun and are happy and waiters are making sure everyone stays that way. Suddenly, the doors are blown open by Wolverine and Rogue. The security staff of the Hellfire Club, which is considered the best in the world, quickly reveals their weapons and stands ready for the fight. They are trained to tackle human and superhuman threats. It makes no difference in the end, however.

Wolverine and Rogue attack without mercy, tossing guards to the ceiling or just punching them in the faces. Rogue is the new leader of the X-Men, but she is not in Hong Kong on a social call. A group of guards pile on top of her, but she simply tosses them aside without a second thought. Wolverine jumps onto a pile of guards with his claws unsheathed, ready to draw blood from anyone who is foolish to get in his way.

One of the partygoers, an elderly man named Liu Wo-Han, begins to yell at Rogue and Wolverine. He asks them what are they doing and says that this can’t be happening. He goes on to say he has protection when, from behind him, someone says that he has no protection from the X-Men. Everyone turns around to see Phoenix, Beast and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler and Beast snarl and everyone quiets down. The guards decide not to resist anymore.

When Phoenix was younger, she thought that the thoughts of others would drive her mad. Fortunately, Professor Charles Xavier taught her to control her telepathy. He showed her how to “mute” the thoughts of others from her head and also to control what she could project. Phoenix does a mental sweep of everyone in the room. She then accesses Wolverine’s mind and makes everyone in his vision disappear except one woman, a waitress.

Phoenix asks Wolverine if he can see the woman. Wolverine verifies that he can. Phoenix tells him that she is working for the slavers and is the spy on the Hong Kong elite. She will be the next link on the chain that will lead to the Crimson Pirates and the Goth, as well as their missing teammates and the thousands of captured people.

Liu begins to yell at Phoenix and calls her mad for attacking him. He asks if the X-Men dare evoke the wrath of the Mandarin. Phoenix introduces the X-Men to him and tells him that they are looking for the Goth. Liu is obviously surprised, but lies and says that he does not know what Phoenix is talking about. Phoenix approaches Liu, who cringes in fear of the woman. She tells him that she knows he is lying, even without using her telepathy. She continues and says that the X-Men know that Hong Kong triads are working with the Goth and the Crimson Pirates. “That was a mistake,” says Phoenix.

She tells Liu that he is dealing with forces and powers that are out of his league. When this is all over, the X-Men will remember who their friends were and who were not. Liu pleads to Phoenix to have mercy but the X-Men vanish. As the guards wonder how the X-Men disappeared in a blink of an eye, Liu orders his guard, Chung, to close the club and report to Beijing. Liu says that if China wants to rule Hong Kong, they can deal with its enemies.

The club is evacuated and the rich and poor alike are rushed onto ferries to the main land. Once there, the rich head to the limos waiting for them, while the poor walk or take public transportation. The woman that Phoenix sent Wolverine after boards a bus. Wolverine stands on top of a building and hopes the woman knows what a dangerous game she is playing. The Hellfire Club doesn’t take kindly to spies and they are nothing compared to him.

On the island named Peak, the X-Men set up a base of operations in the home of one of Wolverine’s old friends, who has loaned them the villa. As the X-Men relax, Rogue updates the team on the mission. The Hellfire Club was the last major crime family in Hong Kong. Beast points out that, in Moscow, the slavers used local mobsters as their fronts, much like in Hong Kong.

Nightcrawler interrupts and asks the others if he is the only one who thinks the X-Men’s reputation is being hurt by their tactics. Rogue asks him what is more important: their image or bringing back their friends. Rogue tells him that the X-Men don’t have much of a reputation to defend. Nightcrawler is unsatisfied by the answer and asks if the ends justify the means. Rogue says that they are not going to sacrifice everything they stand for on this mission. They need to simply show the bad guys that they have muscles and are not afraid to use it. The X-Men will turn their enemy’s response against them. Rogue points out that those tactics work for the Punisher. When Nightcrawler asks if the man is her role model, Rogue just says that the tactics get the job done.

Beast says that the X-Men have always strived for something better. Rogue says that if they don’t adapt to changing times they won’t survive. She goes on to say that the locals won’t be part of a superhuman battle, so they will call in the Goth and the Crimson Pirates. Beast asks if she is sure. Rogue says she knows how criminals work, because she used to be one. Without any room to maneuver, the locals will help the X-Men or get squashed.

Beast begins to give Phoenix a back rub and asks Rogue if she has no faith in miracles. He says the enemies may still release the X-Men. Phoenix enters the conversation and says it would be great for the X-Men, but lousy for the civilians. The X-Men must bring everyone home. Rogue tells them that, since they are heroes, the bad guys know that they will play by the rules, which makes them predictable. Rogue says that the X-Men have to change the rules, because too many bad guys are taking them for granted.

Rogue realizes that Nightcrawler has been staring at her the whole time smiling and asks what is going on. Nightcrawler says that he was thinking that Rogue is a better leader than he expected. Rogue replies that, since everyone keeps on saying it, she should go out and prove it.

In Hollywood, California, a party goes on for Senator Robert Kelly. As the fundraiser continues, Kelly walks up to Dr. Valerie Cooper and says that it is a pleasant surprise to see her there. He asks if she is there to contribute to his fundraiser. Cooper says that she has come as a friend, and also that she has a lot of questions for him. Kelly and Cooper walk arm in arm towards the entrance of the building.

Kelly automatically realizes that Cooper wants to know why he is running for president. Cooper adds on to that question and asks why he is making mutants the core of his campaign. She tells him that he is scaring people. Kelly is happy to hear that and says his campaign is not about hatred, but about fear. He brings up an example of how bad guys rise up and heroes come to fight them. Kelly continues and hypothetically asks Cooper what would happen when the heroes aren’t there to protect humanity. Who will? The human race is already second-class in their own world. The laws and the police don’t matter to mutants.

The two leave the building and Kelly escorts Cooper to her limo. Cooper gets in as Kelly tells her, “The future depends on it.” The limo leaves and, inside, Cooper takes out a diary. Suddenly, Cooper shape-shifts back into her true self; Mystique. Mystique speaks to her dead lover, Irene, and says that everything her diary foretold is happening. She says that she should have killed Kelly the first time she had the chance. Mystique puts down the 7th volume of Destiny’s diaries and says that Kelly must be stopped. “The future depends on it,” she says.

Elsewhere, in an unknown location, are the missing members of the X-Men: Gambit, Psylocke, Cable, Colossus, Archangel and Thunderbird. All of them are chained to a wall in the same teal and purple uniforms. All have cowls over their faces and a slaver collar around their necks. The door to the room opens and Storm is thrown in. Beldame walks into the room, wearing a large armored suit and walks up the Gambit. She tells Storm that her life force is exquisite, but it is a shame the Goth cannot keep her. She orders two guards to put Storm back on the rack. She says she is looking for more spice as she pulls back Gambit’s cowl. Gambit tells Beldame that some spices burn.

Suddenly, Storm leaps at Beldame and kicks her in the chest. She tells her captor never to turn her back to Storm. Storm then kicks Beldame against a wall. However, Beldame leaps forward and grabs Storm by the neck. She then sends electricity through Storm’s body to end her rebellion. Beldame tells Storm that she admires the courage, but it counts for nothing.

Beldame tosses the near dead Storm back to the guards and tells them that they should have no trouble with her now. One guard punches Storm in the face and she goes flying towards Gambit. Gambit criticizes the guard for hitting someone who cannot fight back. The guard tells Gambit to be quiet or he will get the same. He then puts Storm back with the other X-Men and dares her to pick the locks and escape.

Storm tells Beldame that she would be surprised as what she could do. Beldame says she admires the heroism, which makes the X-Men delicious pets. However, the suits that they wear deny the team the use of their mutant powers as long as their cowl is over their faces. Beldame covers the face of Storm, who begins to scream, but no sound is heard. Beldame and the two guards leave, all of them forgetting to recover Gambit’s face with his cowl.

Gambit says that Beldame is not as smart as she thinks she is as he pokes out a piece of metal from his mouth. Storm purposely started a fight so she would get tossed towards Gambit. That is when she put a piece of the guard’s armor in his mouth. Gambit is able to muster enough strength to charge of the piece of metal. He tosses it at the chain that keeps his left arm on the wall. The chain explodes and he uses his free hand to explode the right arm chain, which sets him loose.

Gambit asks “Stormy” is she is all right and takes off her cowl. Storm asks him if he must call her that nickname. She tells him that Beldame is hers, and Gambit does not object. Storm asks what they have to do now. Gambit tells Storm that she had her plan, now it is time for him to have his.

Shortly later, Colossus uses his strength to push open the door to their cell. The X-Men exit the room. Thunderbird asks the others why they aren’t hearing any alarms. If he captured the X-Men he would have every type of security monitoring them. Psylocke agrees, saying that the escape is too easy and the Goth are not that careless. Cable sarcastically tells the others that, when he is the voice of reason, something is wrong, but goes on to say that they should make a line of communication with the other half of the team. Gambit tells Cable that if he wants prudence, he won’t find that in Gambit. All Gambit wants is trust from Cable.

Gambit asks Storm if she remembers a certain caper in Gulf City. Storm remembers and with a sly grin tells Gambit that she will follow his lead. Gambit spots two guards and tells Psylocke and Cable to use their telekinesis to knock them out. The two grab the guards and Colossus knocks their heads together. Psylocke and Thunderbird put on the armor of the guards. When Thunderbird asks if the masquerade will work, Gambit says they won’t know until they try.

Thunderbird turns to Psylocke and tells her that he wants to talk about what happened at Harry’s Hideaway. Archangel was right when he said that Thunderbird was a rookie. Neal tells Betsy that he is afraid of making a mistake and killing someone. Psylocke asks him if he thinks she is any different. She tells Neal that she can smash a wall, but can’t pick up a dime. She tells Neal that she admires his innocence and prays he never loses it.
The group emerge into a cave where before them is a giant Chinese stronghold, which they assume to be a thousand years old. Cable points out that it could hold an entire army. The X-Men continue their exploration and emerge into a room that appears to be a cargo hold. Colossus says the room is definitely not a thousand years old. The team looks at the room, which is filled with tanks, each tank holding one person. The tanks are stacked atop each other to the ceiling and stretch forward farther than they can see.

From behind them, someone tells the X-Men that it is best to pick the crop when it is ripe. The X-Men turn around as a flash of light appears. Standing before them is a large Chinese man and two guards. The large man calls himself the Goth. He thanks the X-Men for delivering themselves to the processing center. Gambit tells the Goth that they are both thieves. He asks the evil man if he wants to cut a deal.

In Hong Kong, the Crimson Pirates, minus Bloody Bess, stand ready for battle in their villa. Killian introduces himself for the X-Men, whom he has not yet met. He also introduces Broadside and the Sea Dogs. He then tells the X-Men to surrender or die. Before the pirates are the quintet of X-Men who evaded capture. Rogue tells Killian that the X-Men don’t surrender. Killian, happy with Rogue’s answer, tells Broadside to fire.
Broadside shoots and the X-Men dodge the bullets except for Rogue, who catches them all and sends them right back. She throws them at Killian, who is not affected by the bullets. Nightcrawler teleports in front of Broadside and kicks the man back. He teleports behind the pirate and flips him into the air. Beast, hanging from a chandelier, catches Broadside with his feet and chucks him into an advancing line of Sea Dogs.

Killian attacks Nightcrawler, who immediately teleports away. Killian is surprised that Kurt could teleport but, before he can regroup, he is attacked by Wolverine. Wolverine’s claws shatter Killian’ armor as he cuts the pirate. Killian says that this cannot be happening as he sends energy blasts at the Beast. Beast tells Killian that as an X-Man he has heard that phrase many times, but he has never tired of it. Beast flips Killian through a wall and outside. Rogue flies up to Killian before he can recover and punches him in the face. She asks him if he is ready to call it quits and surrender. Killian says to kill him, for he won’t ever quit. Rogue punches Killian again and tells him that after a few more punches and he won’t have a choice.

From behind, Rogue does not notice a female Hound sneaking up on her until it is too late. The Hound ignores the rest of the X-Men and comes straight for her, to the young mutant’s surprise. Before Rogue can move, the Hound makes skin-to-skin contact with her and Rogue’s absorption powers act on cue.

A memory immediately makes itself into Rogue’s mind. Rogue discovers the identity of the Hound as a pirate princess named Kymri that Nightcrawler had met in a parallel dimension. Later, Kymri became the Captain Britain of that dimension and pledged to defend it. That is when Killian and his Crimson Pirates came. They conquered her world and enslaved her people. Kymri herself became Killian’s personal Hound.

Rogue snaps back to reality as Killian yanks Kymri back by her chain. Killian stands unharmed and tells the Sea Dogs that the whole fight was a telepathic illusion. Rogue was the only X-Man there the whole time. Rogue takes pride in tricking Killian, who walks towards her and tells her that she will pay. Rogue, realizing that she has overstayed her welcome, flies off. Killian stares at her as she leaves and swears that he will get her the next time they meet.

One of the defining characteristics about Hong Kong is that life is cheap. A slum can stand right next to the wealthy. Everyone minds their own business. So, that’s why nobody “noticed” when the Crimson Pirates set up shop, or when the X-Men took it.
Inside a rundown store, the X-Men stand by the unconscious Sanguine, who is held down onto the ground by pieces of metal. Beast holds the unconscious Phoenix and the woman who spied on the Hellfire Club leans against the wall in fear. Nightcrawler says that they should not have let Rogue fight Killian on her own.

Phoenix wakes up and tells Nightcrawler that the plan was the only way. Rogue had to absorb her telepathy and make the Pirates chase illusions. Being by herself, Rogue did not have to worry about the rest of them and could cut loose. She could trust her own abilities. Rogue walks in just then and tells Phoenix that letting her borrow her powers – and consequently the memories of Jean – was no small thing. Rogue thanks her friend. Phoenix makes nothing of it and says it comes with the territory. Rogue goes back to business and tells the team to get ready. As the team heads out on motor cycles, Rogue tells them that they have one more score to settle.

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Beast, Cable, Colossus, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Phoenix, Psylocke, Rogue, Storm, Thunderbird III, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Beldame, Goth, Sanguine (all Goth)
Broadside, Killian, Sea Dogs (all Crimson Pirates)
Liu Wo-Han, Chung


Senator Kelly
Various Hellfire Club partygoers, waiters, and guards
Various captured slaves
Crimson Pirates spy

Story Notes: 

This issue is continued from Uncanny X-Men #384 and is concluded in Uncanny X-Men #385.

The citizens of Salem Center were kidnapped in X-Men (2nd Series) #103. In the same issue, Rogue became leader of the team and half of the X-Men were kidnapped.

Mystique first tried to kill Senator Kelly in Uncanny X-Men #141-142.

Nightcrawler met Kymri in Excalibur (1st Series) #16-17.