X-Men: The 198 #1

Issue Date: 
March 2006
Story Title: 

David Hine (writer), Jim Muniz (penciler), Kevin Conrad (inker), Randy Gentile (letterer), Matt Milla (colorist), Sean Ryan (asst. editor), Nick Lowe (assoc. editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Juan Doe (cover art)

Brief Description: 

The aftereffects of M-Day continue to be felt on both a societal and personal level. Magma lost a new love on M-Day when his powers disappeared as the two explored a live volcano. The loss drove her into a rage-induced state of madness. Mutant Town has become a place where mutants live in fear where they once enjoyed a sense of safety and community. Toad pays a visit to the Wildkat Klub in the hopes of finding some mutants in the once prosperous mutant ghetto. What he finds is a scared community of former mutants who are now the targets of Purity, an anti-mutant group whose members are violently “encouraging” mutants to go to the internment camp set up at Xavier’s estate. Toad rescues one of the remaining mutants in Mutant Town, an exotic dancer named Lorelei from their aggression and sees her safely to Xavier’s. Meanwhile, Mr. M visits his friend Hanna Levy and helps restore her mental equilibrium following the loss of her mutant powers. She encourages him to use his powers to help the other mutants who are left and he travels to the Xavier Institute himself. The Institute has become an impromptu refugee camp surrounded by walls and barbed wire and monitored by manned Sentinel units. Already the “refugees” are feeling restless and have erected a flag bearing the number “198” as an ironic symbol of their unity. 198 is the number of mutants estimated to have survived the worldwide powerless among mutantkind and while an inaccurate number, it has become a symbolic number both to those like Purity who wish to see mutants eliminated altogether and to the remaining mutants who see it as a sign of defiance to claim the number proudly for themselves. Mr. M joins the wayward mutants there, disabling one of the Sentinels with a mere gesture in order to save an endangered caterpillar. His arrival adds to the air of uncertainty that already pervades the camp outside the mansion.

Full Summary: 

“Where were you on M-Day?” Like many historical events, the wave of energy that de-powered the vast majority of mutants on the planet has become a benchmark event. For Amara Aquilla AKA Magma, she spent the days leading up to M-Day on vacation in Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Here, she met a young mutant named Antonio who appeared to flame-based powers and began a new romance. Mere days before M-Day, the young couple were dining together and dealing with the inevitable parting that lay ahead for them.
Antonio urges Amara to extend her vacation so they can spend more time together. She in turn invited him to join her at the Xavier Institute as a teacher. He replies that he’s not interested in being cooped up with the “cocky, inattentive, self-obsessed adolescents” that she herself described to him. Instead, he suggests that she stay with him and see if his chosen field, vulcanology might appeal to her. As he says this, he draws the flame from the candle on the table and shapes it with his power into a heart shape and sends it across the table to her. She smiles and agrees to stay a bit longer.
The fiery pair takes a helicopter to La Cumbre, an active volcano in the Galapagos Islands. As they near the crater, they each assume a fiery form and dive into the crater. Antonio appears to have the ability to fly as well as control fire. Side-by-side, they surf the magma flow before exploring the volatile interior of the volcano. There, Magma realizes that in Antonio she has found her soulmate and a lasting passion born out of fire. The young lovers reach for each other as the wave of energy hits them. In an instant, Antonio’s mutant powers are stripped away and he reverts to a merely human form. In seconds, the heat and gases of the volcano take effect. Amara reaches out for him, grabbing his forearm which dissolves to ash in her hand. She cries out in anguish and La Cumbre erupts, a reflection of her primal emotions.
In the famed Wildkat Klub in the area of New York known as Mutant Town, Mortimer Toynbee AKA The Toad sits at a table with one of the many former mutants that now populate the area. He notices the arrival of three fierce-looking humans clad in black leather and t-shirts bearing a stylized symbol: a crimson letter “P” inside a red circle. He asks his companion who they are and she tells him they are members of Purity. He wonders when they got bold enough to venture into Mutant Town and she replies that since M-Day they go wherever they like. She asks where he’s been and he tells her he was in Genosha, which has gone to hell since M-Day. The few remaining mutants have scattered for safer parts. She asks if he was once a mutant, too and he tells her he still is and flicks his prehensile tongue at her and introduces himself as Toad. She tells him to be careful so that the Purity gang doesn’t see him.
The club’s bouncer, Patch approaches the Purity crew and asks if he can help them. They make it clear they are there to find the exotic mutant hostesses the Wildkat Klub is famous for. Patch lets them know that all their girls have lost their mutant powers but the Purity members insist on looking around. Patch lets them in.
Toad boldly asks a Purity member if it’s suddenly become illegal to be a mutant and says that he expected to find survivors in Mutant Town of all places. The Purity member replies coldly that they don’t call it “Mutant Town” anymore and states that there are allegedly only 198 mutants left worldwide. His female compatriot adds that that’s two million down and one-ninety-eight to go. Toad asks just what these Purity thugs do with mutants when they find them. They note that the Office of National Emergency has set up an internment camp at the Xavier Institute and that they encourage mutants to go there. Toad mentions that he thought going to Xavier’s was a voluntary thing to which the Purity leader replies that it’s for their own protection really and they should all stick to one place. His female colleague adds that there should also be a good strong fence around them. She begins to question Toad’s interest but is cut short as the third member of their group calls out that they have a runner.
As these two were talking with Toad, this third Purity member noticed Lorelei and her unique hair. This spooked her and she made a run for it. The woman that Toad was original talking to is alarmed as they pursue Lorelei and asks Patch to go and help her. Patch just stands there silently. Seeing that Patch isn’t going to take the risk of helping Lorelei, she asks Toad to intercede. He reluctantly agrees to “play hero” and goes outside.
In the alleyway adjacent to the club, he sees Lorelei being attacked by the Purity gang. He thinks twice about helping since it’s really not his concern. But something compels him to jump in and help. He quickly dispatches Lorelei’s attackers but not before they’ve managed to cut off all of her living hair. She is stunned and her scalp is covered in tiny cuts. Toad asks if she’d like him to take her to Xavier’s and she says she doesn’t want to since all her friends are here in Mutant Town. Toad says “Yeah. Right,” referring to Patch’s unwillingness to stick his neck out for her when she needed it most.
At Bellevue Hospital, Absolom Mercator AKA “Mr. M” goes to visit his friend and neighbor Hanna Levy. At first the nurse refuses to let him see her stating that only immediate family is permitted to see Hanna given her fragile state. Mr. M touches the nurse’s hand and asks nicely to see his friend and she relents.
Hanna is pleased to see Mr. M and she tells him immediately that they’re putting insects in her food. She tells him she doesn’t want to eat them as she is no longer “The Lizard Lady” and now has a normal human tongue. Mr. M assures her that they aren’t hiding insects in her food. He places his hand on her forehead and tells her she no longer has to worry. She can go back home because he’s cleaned her apartment out and there are no more bugs. She seems as if a weight has been lifted from her and her head has cleared. She thanks Absolom and notes that he’s not wearing his shoes again. She tells him that he should help the others. He asks if she means the ones who have changed and she clarifies that she meant those who are still mutants. She believes that they need him, just as she did.
As he leaves the hospital, Mr. M asks the nurse where the Xavier Institute is located. She points it out on a map and he begins his journey, bare-foot across the state of New York somewhat oblivious to the world around him or perhaps so in tune that he seems unaware of the distance he has walked or the time that has passed during his trek.
At the Xavier Institute, a chopper approaches the interior courtyard. Inside the headmasters’ office, Cyclops and Emma Frost discuss the new arrivals: Lorelei Travis and Toad. Emma notes that Lorelei took a beating from Purity and Scott expresses concern that they can’t even protect their own from common thugs anymore. Emma clarifies that Lorelei was rescued … by Toad. Scott can hardly believe it and is dismayed that they have to deal with Toad as well. Emma reminds him that it was he who promised a sanctuary for all. He reluctantly agrees and asks if any more have turned up.
Emma reports that they’ve found Magma who surfaced in Guatemala and now appears to be psychotic and is terrorizing the locals. Emma adds that she sent Empath to retrieve her and bring her home. Scott wonders if this is such a good idea given the history between Amara and Manuel. Emma reminds Scott that they’re low on resources and dealing with a lot, leaving her with limited options.
Outside, Toad and Lorelei descend on ropes to the grounds, which have been filled with tents to accommodate the newly arrived mutant refugees. Among those on hand to witness the new arrivals are Erg, Mammomax, Fever Pitch, Peepers and Jazz. Scott and Emma greet the newcomers and Toad clearly has a grudge against his former adversary, Cyclops. He notes that the “Big House” has clearly been reserved for the “A-List” and Emma lets him know he’ll be sharing a billet with Fever Pitch for the time being. Karma arrives and escorts Lorelei to her quarters and offers what words of encouragement she can.
Emma notes that a flag bearing the logo “198” has been raised in the courtyard without any authorization. Scott wonders what it means. Erg steps forward and explains that it was his idea. His uncle was a Hells Angel and that when some bikers caused trouble in a small town the media noted that only 1% of bikers nationwide had been involved. Some Angels like his uncle took to wearing badges that said “1%ers” to note their involvement. Scott wonders what this means and Emma explains that it means they’re looking at trouble brewing. Erg just smiles with satisfaction.
Suddenly, one of the three Sentinels on patrol signals an intruder alert. On the southern perimeter, Mr. M arrives and easily passes through the walls around the estate which are now topped with barbed wire. As he passes through, the Sentinels move forward aggressively and issue verbal warnings that he is trespassing and to place his hands behind his head. With a mere wave of his hand, Mr. M topples the Sentinel before it can take a step forward. An armed foot soldier approaches, leveling his gun at Mercator.
Cyclops and Emma rush over and Cyke commands the soldier to stand down and let them handle it. Scott asks Mr. M what he just did and Mr. M explains that the Sentinel was not watching where he tread and was about to step on a rare caterpillar. Cyclops notes that Mr. M must really like caterpillars. Mr. M says that he doesn’t really but does like butterflies, as he looks at the caterpillar in his hand. Emma looks dumbfounded by the mysterious and powerful mutant.

Characters Involved: 

Erg, Fever Pitch, Jazz, Lorelei, Mammomax, Peepers, Toad and several unnamed mutants (all refugees at the Xavier Institute AKA “The 198”)
Cyclops, Emma Frost, Karma (all Xavier Institute staff)
Mr. M/Absalom Mercator, Hanna Levy (citizens of Mutant Town)
Sentinel Squad O*N*E* team and unnamed military personnel
Patch and other unnamed staff and patrons at the Wildkat Klub
Unnamed Purity members
Staff at Bellevue Hospital
Unnamed waiter and townspeople in Guadalupe

Story Notes: 

The inker, colorist and letterer for this issue were not listed on the credits page. The identity of these contributors was obtained from the Marvel Comics website.
The Wildkat Klub first appeared in DISTRICT X #1.
Purity is an anti-mutant organization that first appeared in X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001. Their purpose is “the preservation and the freedom of the human species.” The group made prominent appearances in X-Men Unlimited (1st Series) #36 and the MEKANIX Limited Series.
Hanna Levy (sometimes spelled Hannah) was a denizen of Mutant Town whose mutation gave her a prehensile tongue and an appetite for insects. After losing her powers on M-Day, she was attacked by the bugs in her apartment building. This drove her to a state of paranoia and led to her hospitalization. These events were depicted in DECIMATION: HOUSE OF M - THE DAY AFTER.
Magma and Empath have a significant history between them. Amara original left the New Mutants and joined Emma Frost’s Hellions to explore her attraction to Manuel in NEW MUTANTS (1st Series) #57. The two eventual moved to Amara’s home in Nova Roma. It was later revealed that Nova Roma was an elaborate contrivance of the ancient mutant Selene and the citizens of Nova Roma had all been kidnapped and mind-wiped into believing themselves to be part of this hidden and anachronistic society. When this illusion began to break down, Empath used his powers to tentatively maintain the illusion out of fearing of losing the happiness he had found there with Amara. When the truth was revealed, the two parted ways and Magma (who’s given name was apparently Allison Crestmere) was enraged at Manuel’s role in manipulating her (NEW WARRIORS (1st Series) #31). Since returning to the Xavier Institute, Magma has returned to being called Amara Aquilla but it has yet to be explained why and what this means regarding the truth behind Nova Roma.
For more information about the Hells Angels and their history, visit their website at http://hells-angels.com.

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