X-Men (2nd series) #52

Issue Date: 
May 1996
Story Title: 
Collector’s Item

Mark Waid (story), Andy Kubert (pencils), Cam Smith (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins (colors), Malibu (enhancement), Bob Harras (editor)

Brief Description: 

Gambit, Bishop and Dark Beast (posing as this reality’s Beast) are aboard a train, full of passengers infected with a mutating virus – a train that heads straight into the heart of New York City. In a last ditch attempt to stop the train, Gambit charges it with kinetic energy, which Bishop absorbs and re-channels. The kinetic backlash works and the train comes to a standstill. Before they have time to celebrate, though, they are knocked out and abducted by the perpetrator, Mr. Sinister. Later, they wake up in his lab in St. Louis. Sinister informs them that the effects of the virus were only temporary, although he already plans to develop a new, more formidable strain. Sinister also admits being intrigued by Bishop, since he is a time-traveler from the future, which entails he is not included in Sinister’s collection of data of every known mutant. Fascinated, he pries into Bishop’s head and examines his memories. Terrified, Dark Beast realizes that Sinister, through his investigation of Bishop’s memories from his time in the Age of Apocalypse, is going to discover McCoy also hails from that reality. He fears that discovery could instigate unpredictable reactions on Sinister’s part. Before this happens, though, Bishop and Gambit manage to break free and smash up Sinister’s lab and equipment, causing him to flee. Meanwhile, a mysterious man known as Bastion examines the train wreck, while Rogue sets up a new home in Pine Bluff, South Carolina, trying to leave her life as an X-Man behind.

Full Summary: 

Bishop and Gambit have a train to ‘catch’: a runaway commuter train filled to the brim with pain-wracked humans believed to be carrying a mutating plague, rocketing down the rails toward Penn Station in the heart of Manhattan… and closing fast. If Bishop and Gambit – aided by the Beast – don’t find a way to stop the train, the collision alone will kill hundreds… and the plague will carry unchecked.

Fortunately, Gambit has a plan: fill the entire engine car with explosive energy. As he proceeds to do that, Bishop, aghast, asks him what he’s doing: is he insane?! He’s got them riding a twenty-ton bomb straight into New York City! What kind of suicide run is this? “Dat’s up t’you, mon ami,” Gambit retorts. He argues they’ve got to try a brand new trick and instructs Bishop to climb down to the front of the train… now. “Down the front of…?” Bishop repeats, at loss. “Now!” Remy cuts him short.

As Bishop reluctantly complies, he protests to Gambit that they’re going over a hundred miles an hour! Maybe not for long, Remy retorts. Bishop can absorb and re-channel any kind of power, right? “I don’t think I like where this is going…” a chilled Bishop admits. “Tough,” Gambit scoffs at him. In a stringent tone, he reminds Bishop he is loading this train with kinetic energy; that’s his job. It’s going to be up to Bishop, though, to ride the rails and suck that energy in. “Do it!” he screams at him.

Bishop, now on the front of the train, struggles hard to contain Remy’s kinetic energy, Gambit keeps encouraging him: “That’s it! Push! Load up on my power till y’wanna pop!” He cries at Bishop to hold it in and get ready: when he has enough, he’s going to let go it go in one big burst and maybe – just maybe – they can cancel this train’s momentum with a kinetic backlash!

You’re… kidding,” Bishop faintly mutters, taxed to his limits by the colossal effort. “You’re… not,” he immediately realizes. “Now?” he asks Remy, eager to release the amount of energy from his system. “Not yet! You need more power!” Gambit wails. He urges him to hold on! “Now?” Bishop again impatiently asks. “Not yet!” Gambit insists. “NOW?” Bishop utters in desperation. “Now!” Gambit finally tells him.

Amidst blinding energy signatures and thunderous noises, the train crashes on the Penn Station… it screeches along the rails… and then, it finally comes to a standstill! “You did it…?” Gambit mutters, unable to believe it. “I mean… you did it!” he realize with a sense of triumph. “How’s dat for teamwork, mon ami? Nicely done!” he laughs as he hops down the train. An understandably exhausted Bishop leans on Gambit’s shoulder and asks him how many times he has tried that trick. “Counting dis one? One,” Remy admits. He knows they’re both wasted but hopes Bishop doesn’t collapse on him. After all, the crisis isn’t over! They’ve got to find the Beast…

Suddenly, they are both zapped by an energy blast and rendered unconscious. The culprit, Mister Sinister, makes his entrance, dragging the senseless Beast. “I wouldn’t worry about him,” Sinister addresses the two X-Men. He assures them he’s taken care of the Beast – just as he will take care of them for interfering with his plans. “So swears Sinister…”

Pine Bluff, South Carolina

Signing a rental agreement, Rogue tells Mrs. Watkins she can’t thank her enough. To rent an apartment to a new girl with no real references… Mrs. Watkins, holding her son in her arms, tells Rogue not to worry about it. She thinks she’ll fit right nice around these parts. And Stevie and she will be right here upstairs if she ever needs anything! “You’re so kind. And your little boy is darlin’,” Rogue thanks her. “Isn’t he? Here… would you like to hold him?” Mrs. Watkins suggests. “She seems like a nice girl, doesn’t she, Stevie?” she purrs to the little boy. “Got your nose!” little Stevie excitedly screams and extends his hand, trying to feel Rogue’s face.

No! Get away!” Rogue howls in terror. “You don’t like children?” Mrs. Watkins chuffs, visibly disapproving Rogue’s reaction. Rogue assures her it’s… it’s not like that. She’s just not… feeling like herself. She doesn’t want to… give Stevie anything. Like a coma, she contemplates. All it’d take is a touch; that’s what makes her different. That’s what makes her Rogue. And she’s sick of it. Sick of the power… sick of being an X-Man… sick of not having a normal life. She knows Mrs. Watkins can’t imagine what she’s been through. That’s why she hightailed it outside Xavier’s. She deserves a chance for once to forget that she’s a…

…Mutant,” the radio reports just then. “Eyewitness claim one or more derailed an Armtrak Metroliner in New Jersey today. Kent Brockman reports…” Absorbed to the news, Rogue fails to listen to what Mrs. Watkins tells her. “… I said,” Mrs. Watkins repeats, “…don’t those mutants just give you the creeps?” Suddenly weary, she hopes she’s not done rented to a mutant lover. Rogue sighs. “Not hardly, ma’am,” she allays Mrs. Watkin’s suspicions. She reassures her… mutants can sure mess up a life…

Penn Station

The train wreck is evacuated. One of the passengers gives her account to the police. She tells them it was horrible, horrible! Something was changing them into monsters… into mutants! An officer asks her to stay calm. Whatever happened, they’re all okay now. “Okay? Okay?” she chugs. How do they know? There were real mutants all around them! She’s sure of it! She saw that one they call the Beast… and a few others… She suddenly gasps: they don’t think they’ll come back here, do they…? The officer admits they don’t know. The feds have investigators inside the wreck to nose around…

Indeed, two investigators, Ralph and Jimmy, are inside the train wreck, examining it. Jimmy is videotaping, when Ralph suddenly cracks a joke: what do you call a train with three mutants aboard? Jimmy promptly replies: Scrap metal. He tells Ralph he’s got all the footage they need.

“Good. Then cut. That’s a wrap,” a mysterious man in a trenchcoat suddenly appears and snatches Jimmy’s camera, telling the two men he’s taking this to the home office. “Hey! I don’t think I know who you are, fella…” Jimmy protests. “Umm… I do, Jimmy. Let it go,” Ralph intervenes. As the man in the trenchcoat walks away, Ralph tells Jimmy that this man is on their team… kind of. Actually, he’s more a team all his own. He’s got his own methods and his own agenda. Buzz is… you don’t ever want to cross Bastion.


Dark Beast (posing as Beast) wakes up in Sinister’s lab, apprehended through various manacles and devices… and a dull roar with a Cajun accent thunders through his skull! It is an equally shackled Gambit who rants and raves. For the last time, he demands to know what Sinister was doing on that train! “Demand? You amuse me,” Sinister cackles. If he must know… Sinister, as a mutant geneticist, finds himself too quickly running out of subjects upon which to experiment. To that end, he believed he created a virus that would spontaneously mutate humans… who are, as Gambit knows, in tragically great supply. Apparently, however, the effects of the virus are temporary, lasting only hours.

“No matter,” he effaces his failure. Once he uses the facilities of this laboratory to re-engineer the virus, he’ll have a world of subjects at his disposal. In the meantime, while they thwarted his efforts on the train, purely by coincidence, they delivered him a great prize: Bishop. He points at the still unconscious mutant who is also manacled. “Prize? What makes Bishop so fascinating?” Remy asks in disbelief.

Sinister invites him to look and see. A good geneticist is also a historian. So it is with him. Throughout his long existence, he has collected every shred of information about Homo superior… every scrap of data. Who’s who… who begat who… and most importantly, whose genetic codes are ripe for mingling and what the probable results might be; it’s his life’s work. Names of mutants catalogued in his vast collection are shown: Namor McKenzie, Peter Rasputin, Sean Cassidy and Teresa Rourke. He knows all mutants intimately. Each and every one of them… save Bishop. For some reason, he has no record of his birth or existence. He finds this troublesome but now that Bishop is in his grasp that is easily remedied… with a psi-scan.

The Dark Beast sweats. He knows Sinister is mistaken. Not about Bishop but about knowing all mutants intimately. For he is not the Hank McCoy of record but, rather, an alternate version… a refugee from a parallel timeline. A world of which an alternate Sinister was this McCoy’s cruel master and overlord. This alternate Beast replaced the Beast of the present reality in hopes of hiding from Sinister… but since Bishop’s unconscious holds the secret of this alternate world and his existence, the Dark Beast wonders if his charade will be over before it truly begins…

Reading the psi-scan of Bishop’s mind in a monitor, Sinister exclaims it’s delightful. Evidently, their Bishop is a time-traveler from the future and who came to their era to… to… to capture a traitor to the X-Men? How interesting, Sinister remarks. Fearing the “traitor” bit refers to him, McCoy turns to Gambit and urges him to extricate himself while Sinister’s not looking! He – they – haven’t much time! Remy retorts he can’t. His bonds dampen his powers; he’s stuck.

“What’s this?” Sinister exclaims as another memory from inside Bishop’s head is displayed on the monitor – the image of an older Bishop, next to Magneto and his little son. Sinister realizes Bishop holds memories of another world. “This bears investigating…” he thinks.

Perspiring, McCoy knows Sinister is close… too close. Once Sinister sees who McCoy is and learns how he fled that world… how long will it take him to track him down? If McCoy’s lucky, Sinister will settle with enslaving him to learn his secrets. If. He pleads Gambit to try harder… and then, Gambit shrieks!

Sinister asks Remy what could possibly be causing him pain. Better question, McCoy thinks. Why is Sinister taking an interest in Gambit’s health? “Agony… through my body… I… AIEEE!” Remy again screams in pain. “Ah, of course,” Sinister remarks as he examines him. The mutate virus: Gambit must have contracted it. He encourages Remy to stand free before him. While he certainly wouldn’t have chosen him as a test subject, he admits he’s curious as to what effect the virus will have on a born mutant.

Gambit replies they’ll never know and startles Sinister by jumping free and charging one of his cards with kinetic energy. He sends it across the room where it explodes, thus demolishing Sinister’s equipment. “What? You tricked me?” Sinister gasps, unable to believe. And he fell for it, Gambit tells him. All the yelling and hollering… so much for Sinister’s mutating virus experiments. He doesn’t see Sinister gathering much research data out of this mess!

As fires begin consuming his laboratory, Sinister mourns the destruction of his equipment: “Gone… it’s all gone…” He suddenly snaps and blasts Gambit: “How dare you strip me of my life’s work?” This is not at all what he’d expect of him…

“Do tell,” Bishop suddenly intervenes and unleashes a titanic amount of energy on Sinister. Grabbing him by the throat, Bishop tells him that he knocked him down at the train because he was completely spent. He doesn’t have that problem anymore: now he’s riding the electrical power of his entire lab! Enraged, he asks Sinister to tell him why he shouldn’t shove a billion volts down his throat. “Because I refuse to give you the chance,” Sinister replies. “Farewell, Bishop,” he tells him. They may have destroyed his virus… but he has many other plans in motion. He promises their paths will cross again… sooner than he’d expect… and then teleports away.

Gambit realizes Sinister’s vanished and suggests they do the same. They’ve got to get out of this place before it burns up altogether! Bishop thinks it’s a good plan and asks if anybody knows exactly where they are. Gambit explains they’re about ten miles out of St. Louis. They can get word to the Professor from there to bring them home. “Let’s go,” he tells them and all three proceed to abandon the burning lab.

St Louis? McCoy ponders. He wonders: did Gambit see that firsthand as they arrived… or did he know for some other reason? And what was that Sinister said about “what he’d expect of Remy?” The more he thinks about it, the clearer it is that Gambit and Sinister share some sort of secret connection. Smiling wickedly, he thinks he could tell the X-Men… but why give knowledge like that away when he might be able to do something with it…?

Characters Involved: 

Bishop, Gambit (both X-Men)

Rogue (former X-Man)

Dark Beast/McCoy (posing as Beast)

Mister Sinister


Mrs. Watkins and her son, Stevie

Jimmy and Ralph (federal investigators)

Train passengers, police officers and other visitors at the train wreck

In Bishop’s memories revealed in Sinister’s psi-scan:

Bishop, Malcolm, Randall (all X.S.E.)

Magneto (AoA version)

Charles Lensherr (Magneto’s son)

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Bastion, albeit his face is not shown here. He is fully seen in his next appearance, in X-Force (1st series) #54.

Rogue quit the team in X-Men (2nd series) #45.

Gambit and Sinister’s connection is revealed in Uncanny X-Men #350.

The Dark Beast replaced the Marvel Universe proper version of the Beast in X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #10.

Sinister is mistaken: Bishop came back in time in order to capture the fugitive Trevor Fitzroy. [Uncanny X-Men #282] However, he had, indeed, found out about the ‘X-traitor’ prior to his time-travel. [Uncanny X-Men #287] The traitor among the X-Men is revealed in Onslaught: X-Men.

Issue Information: 
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