X-Men (2nd series) #85

Issue Date: 
March 1999
Story Title: 
A Tale of Two Mutants

Joe Kelly (Writer), Alan Davis (Artist), Mark Farmer (Inker), Liquid! Graphics (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT’s EM (Letters), Mark Powers (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Xavier and Magneto both have a mild crisis of faith. In Manhattan, the X-Men enter a burning hospital to save its residents when they find a room full of babies. Despite their efforts, they are met with hostility from the police, making Xavier wonder if his dream still holds true. Xavier gives up and is going to telepathically take over the minds of the police to save his students, but Storm steps forward and reasons with the authorities, who listen, much to Xavier’s surprise. Thanks to his students, Xavier knows his dream still lives. In Los Angeles, Magneto topples a building and disguises himself as a board member of the company that owns the building. He beings to talk to Bill Jones, head of the construction crew, though is intent is to learn from an everyday man what the opinion on mutants is, as Magneto must be sure that what he is doing is right before he unleashes his latest scheme. Magneto eventually drops his guise and forces Bill to say hateful things in the heat of the moment. Though his “proof” of humanity’s evil is ill-founded, he makes his judgment and heads to the North Pole, where his robotic lackey, Ferris, has completed his new base. There, Magneto sends out the call to his followers.

Full Summary: 

The Earth is dying of a cancer. It is a stupid, smiling cancer that feeds upon both the Earth and itself, with remarkable appetite and efficacy. This disease is humanity. If humanity is left to its own machinations, then the Earth will be consumed. However, like a surgeon with a scalpel in his hand, he hesitates to remove the foe. Magneto, master of magnetism, must run one final test to make sure that this is the only solution.

In Los Angeles, a group of construction workers and businessmen stare in awe and the turned-over Center for Humanitarian Excellence. One suggests that the toppled building was an accident, but the others dismiss him. Others think it was the work of mutants. The head of the construction team, William Jones, comforts Walter, the owner of the building, who is left in utter disbelief. The building was to be earthquake, hurricane and riot proof. She was meant to stand for a thousand years. It was a masterpiece. William tells Walter that he is going to send his men home and perhaps he should go home as well. It doesn’t seem that they are going to flip the building over today.

William is an average man with an average education level with an average job. His wife and children are all average and he lives in a typical suburban area. He reads the sports section before the metro and pays special attention to world events that frighten him. He eats steak and potatoes twice a week and drinks a beer every night with the nightly news. William represents the average citizen of the United States. To be honest, Magneto would have liked William in another world. However, that is why Magneto has selected William, so the experiment can be objective. Bill Jones will determine the fate of humanity today.

As Bill prepares to leave, thinking that perhaps mutants were responsible, he is approached by a businessman in a very nice suit. The man introduces himself as Magnus, from the board. He is looking for answers. Bill smiles and tells Magnus that, if he is paying for the coffee, then he can to his best to make up some answer for him. “Excellent,” replies Magnus, as they shake hands.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, the X-Men find themselves in a burning hospital that is collapsing. Colossus, who uses his strength to support the upper three levels, tells Wolverine that it is heavier than it looks so he must hurry. Wolverine sniffs the air and tells Colossus to hold on a little bit longer. He then picks up a scent through the fire and tells Storm that he has found some little ones. As the other X-Men evacuate the rest of the hospital, Storm tells them to stand clear so she can make a path through the fire to the children still trapped.

Rogue grabs a few more people and tells Storm that she is taking them out. Storm orders Rogue to send Shadowcat in to replace her, before telling Colossus and Wolverine to take deep breaths, as the air will be thin in a few moments. Wolverine holds onto Colossus, as Storm calls forth hurricane winds, which wipes out the fire in front of them. Colossus smiles and jokes that they wouldn’t want their littlest X-Man to get blown away by the winds. “Go rust yourself,” replies Wolverine.

Suddenly, a voice asks if they can crash the party. All three turn to see Shadowcat and Gambit phasing through the wall. Kitty tells Storm that the rest of the hospital is empty and then asks why they don’t leave. Storm informs her that Wolverine has found more survivors and they need her phasing powers to reach them. Storm asks Logan if he has their scent. Logan replies that the medical chemicals are interfering, but he is sure that they are behind this wall of debris.

Shadowcat phases through the debris and then comes back. She informs them that they need to move eight feet of collapsed ceiling, but there are oxygen tanks in the middle that could blow if tampered with. Shadowcat then makes a box with her hands and tells Gambit to strike the area she is showing him. He cannot miss. Gambit tells her that he never misses a girl with a pretty face and then throws a card, which safely removes the debris.

The X-Men charge into the next room, which is full of newly born babies, all crying and terrified. Against impossible odds the X-Men saved the day in the name of a dream, Xavier’s dream.

On a nearby rooftop, Marrow asks Xavier, addressing him as baldie, if the X-Men found the sausages. Nightcrawler, annoyed, tells Marrow that his name isn’t baldie. Xavier, not caring for Marrow’s incredulous nature, informs her that the X-Men were successful. Nightcrawler gets into Marrow’s face and tells her that she would not like it if he called her bonehead. Marrow tells him to try and call her that so he can see how fast she pins his lips shut. Xavier interrupts the squabble and reminds them that they have work to do. He asks Nightcrawler to teleport down and help the X-Men get the babies out. He will telepathically guide them through.

Nightcrawler grabs Marrow and tells her to make sure her table is in the upright position. Marrow begins to tell Kurt that she doesn’t like being teleported by him, but he disregards her complaints and teleports anyway. Xavier looks at the two sadly as they leave and tells himself that he should be the proudest man on Earth. However, recently, he has begun to wonder if he still believes in his own dream.

Back in Los Angeles, Magnus thinks to himself on how ridiculous this is for him to be slumming with human beings who do nothing but reproduce and die. However, he must make sure his choice is the right one. William and Magnus sip their coffees and William tells Magnus that the sight of the toppled building was something he has never seen before. Magnus asks him why he doesn’t really seem bothered, to which William replies that he is quite bothered, but someone must keep brave in front of the men, who are mostly immigrants and new to the country. Besides, no one was hurt and that is all that matters. Magnus thinks to himself that this is why he is there. There is to be a culling soon and, unless Bill gives him reason not to, a large portion of humanity will die.

Magnus tells Bill that he thinks dirty, filthy mutants were responsible for this attack of human achievement. Worse yet, he feels that the mutant is one of Bill’s men. Bill is shocked to hear this and a bit concerned. Magnus smiles, as he feels that he has trapped Bill into revealing his true colors. Bill, however, surprises Magnus, and tells him that, with all due respect, if he is going to accuse one of his men of being a mutant terrorist, he is not interested as witch hunts aren’t his style. Magnus is confused and asks Bill how he can react to learning that one of his men is a mutant. Bill smiles and tells Magnus that he has been through Desert Storm and L.A. freeways. Does he think a mutant will scare him? Sure, he won’t lie and say that mutants don’t scare him, but there are bigger things to worry about.

At the North Pole, a group of robotic beings led by the being known as Ferris glide through the frigid area. Suddenly, the robotic Ferris stops his minions and orders the drones to carry out Magneto’s wishes. “Magnus Rex,” states Ferris, “Now.” With that, a blinding blast of light envelopes the area.

Back in Manhattan, Xavier thinks back to his self-imposed exile and his time with Bastion, who kept on telling him that mutant kind would be eliminated soon. Xavier never believed it, but there now he has found the world worse off than when he left. No matter what his X-Men do, it seems the authorities below are not affected. Below, an officer tells Commander Rhodes that he refuses to send his men into a hospital with muties inside. Rhodes, angry, tells the man not to be scared of a few freaks. This is the fifth arson case dealing with a hospital on the east coast in a month. This ends now.

Suddenly, Colossus breaks through a wall with a baby in his arms. The other X-Men appear behind him, following the path that Colossus has cleared for them. All hold babies. The authorities, however, all aim their guns straight for the team.

In L.A., Magnus tells Bill that everyone hates mutants, so he doesn’t have to lie to him. Bill asks Magnus if he is trying to recruit him for a cult. Magnus replies no, but he just wants to know how the man truly feels. This won’t affect his job standing. Bill tells Magnus that he won’t want to meet a person who can lift a building of its foundations and twist it around, but he personally has no problems with mutants and thinks that they are unfortunates who were shafted by genetics. Magnus is intrigued and thinks to himself that perhaps there are those in humanity who see beyond blind hatred. Is this the face of humanity that Xavier has always seen?

Magnus, wishing to learn more, asks Bill if he can imagine the anguish of being discovered by family and friends, or being hunted by Operation: Zero Tolerance all because he was born different. What if the mutants struck back? What if there was one who could kill him now with one thought? Concerned, Bill stops and grimaces. Did Mr. Magnus just threaten his family? Magnus tells Bill that he is asking a hypothetical question, but Bill does not take this lightly. He tells Magnus that if he is trying to get at something then he should just get at it. Magnus smiles and replies that it is just a question. Is he afraid of how he might answer it?

The two make it back to the construction site and Bill asks Magnus if he doesn’t just want to talk about the building. Magnus tells Bill that they will in time but first he wants to know about his feelings on mutants. Bill replies that Magnus is not being fair, as he is bringing in a man’s family, thus preventing him from thinking straight. If he wants to figure out someone with a question he must be more subtly. For example, if you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you do it?

Magnus, clearly showing discontent, does not answer. Bill smiles and tells Magnus that the answer isn’t simple when it’s not black and white. Magnus, angry, tells Bill that it is not a difficult question at all. Yes, to save millions he would track down that child and smother him where he lay. Then he would destroy his family, and his family’s family. Magnus then unleashes magnetic energy forth from his body and in a rage screams that he would raze and entire city off the face of the Earth to wipe baby Hitler’s ashes away.

In the Arctic Circle, Ferris and the drones continue to bring forth Magneto’s work. As the metal citadel he creates is completed, Ferris looks upon the main energy chamber, which crackles with energy. He announces that it is done, and he now waits for his master’s word.

In Manhattan, Xavier’s head hurts, as he uses his recently dormant mutant powers, in part due to the dormancy but also because of the vile thoughts in the minds of New York’s finest. It always comes to this. The X-Men try their hardest, but they are reviled by frightened humans. Their blood boils and they are willing to put their children in harms way to vanquish the mutants in their sight. Below, Commander Rhodes is in shock and realizes that the X-Men are holding newborns. She pulls her gun and orders the mutants to put the babies down.

Colossus is in awe, as he realizes the police have gone mad to aim guns at them while they are holding babies. Wolverine tells the team to keep their bodies between the babies and the rifles. This may sting a bit. An officer asks his commander what they should do, but the man is unsure, as the X-Men hold babies.

On the rooftop, Xavier can hear Magnus asking him how good his dream is in front of reality. Xavier considers how much Magnus sounds like him today. The X-Men are pinned and there is no way for them to make a workable offense. They will die if he does not intervene and do what he swore never to do again. Xavier telepathically contacts Storm and tells her that he will take control of the minds of the police. Storm, however, tells the Professor not to.

Nightcrawler asks Storm if she is mad and Marrow prepares for battle, but Kurt tells her not to jump to action. Storm boldly approaches the police as they aim their laser pointers at her chest and head. She introduces them as the X-Men and they are there to save their children. Will they please lower their weapons?

In L.A., a terrified Bill asks Magnus what he is. Magnus drops his guise and reveals his true costume and asks Bill if the rules of the universe were twisted and a slug like him was given the power to destroy he who was superior, would he kill him? Would he kill Magneto, master of magnetism? Bill screams in terror and runs away, telling Magneto to stay away from him. Magneto is confused and sarcastically reminds Bill that he said mutants don’t freak him out.

In Manhattan, Commander Rhodes tells the X-Men not to move. Another officer tells her not to wuss out. They can take down the freaks. Rhodes approaches Storm and tells her to hand over the babies nice and slowly. Storm tells Rhodes that this was their intention, but first the police must end this pointless confrontation. Rhodes, however, tells Storm not to come any closer. Storm reminds Rhodes that the fire is spreading uncontrollably and quickly. The infants and all in the area are in danger, but she can do something about it. However, she does not want her acts misinterpreted as hostility. She asks Rhodes to have her men lower their weapons, as tragedy has no place there.

In L.A., Magneto chases down Bill, who asks him what he wants. Magneto tells Bill that he just wants to talk. It is a normal talk between two men on a philosophical debate. Magneto explodes a truck and Bill is sent flying, though Magnus catches him with his powers. He reminds Bill that he was willing to chat when he was just his boss. What happened? All he has done was reveal his true self.

In Manhattan, Rhodes tells Storm that she cannot do that. How can she trust her? Storm asks Rhodes how she can refuse when Storm has allowed nothing between them save the barrel of her gun, trusting that Rhodes won’t pull the trigger. They both want the same thing. For this once, cannot they put their differences aside and work together for the future?

In L.A., Magneto tells Bill that all he has done is shown his true face, which is the face of pain and sacrifice. He is merely one of a legion that refuses to cower in the shadows, waiting for acceptance that will never come. Magneto tells Bill to face the truth, mutants for meant to rule. As Bill begins to cry, Magneto asks him if he still wants to share a coffee and a dirty joke. Bill snaps and yells that he wants Magneto dead.

Magneto smiles and drops Bill, thanking him for his honesty. He has his answers. Even an everyday man with a kind heart turns into a beast when he sees that which he cannot understand. It is human nature. Bill, crying, tells Magneto that he did not mean it like this. Magneto could have just said something instead of attacking. He is just a man. What choice did he have after Magneto attacked him? He was scared, not because Magnus is a mutant… but because he is a monster. He is a sick and twisted monster.

Magneto looks back at Bill with his brows furrowed. He then takes the air and leaves Bill Jones for good.

In Manhattan, the rain falls and washes away the fire from the hospital. The sirens no longer shriek and the blood has stopped boiling. Everyone is overwhelmed with relief and joy, but Xavier is still able to telepathically eavesdrop. Below, a thankful Rhodes is surprised to be with the X-Men. She has never been this close to a mutant. Storm smiles and tells Rhode to get closer. They do not bite. Rhodes shakes Storm’s hand and thanks her, before remind the woman to get out as fast as possible. Storm thanks Rhodes.

On the rooftop, Xavier smiles. Part of being a teacher is learning from the students. His dream is alive. “Thank you,” thinks Xavier, “My X-Men.”

In the Arctic, Magneto arrives at his new base, where Ferris is waiting upon his master’s word. As Magneto descends, Ferris asks him for his will. Magneto sits in his chamber and looks at a globe of the Earth. He tells Ferris that humanity is a tragedy. A man held salvation in his grip, but was blind to see it. Given the chance, humanity would sweep mutants off the face of the planet. He does not want to do this, but they forced his hand. Magneto breaks the globe. “THERE CAN NEVER BE PEACE,” states Magneto, loudly, “GATHER MY ARMY FERRIS…IT BEGINS.”

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Gambit, Marrow, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Rogue, Shadowcat, Storm, Wolverine (X-Men)


Bill Jones
Commander Rhodes
Various N.Y.P.D., construction workers

Story Notes: 

This story is a lead-in to the Magneto War crossover, which starts in the prelude in X-Men: The Magneto War.

Xavier turned himself over to the authorities to atone for his crimes as Onslaught in Uncanny X-Men #337, and recently returned in the Hunt of Xavier crossover.

This Issue has been reprinted in: