X-Men: The 198 #4

Issue Date: 
June 2006
Story Title: 

David Hine (writer), Jim Muniz (penciler), Conrad & Glapion (inker), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Matt Milla (colorist), Tom Valente (production), Sean Ryan (asst. editor), Nick Lowe (assoc. editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Juan Doe (cover art)

Brief Description: 

Tensions among the 198 escalate when Jazz is found dead and Mammomax reports being “disabled” by the tracking tags mandated by O*N*E. Valerie Cooper herself was in the dark about this feature and finds herself struggling to maintain control of the anxious and volatile mutant encampment assembled at the Xavier Institute. Even the X-Men cannot help but question the ethical lines that the government has crossed in their efforts to “safeguard” the surviving mutant population. Things reach a boiling point as the “guests” in the 198 openly rebel after the truth about the tags is revealed. Their concerns are met with defensiveness by O*N*E staff but the situation is defused when the enigmatic Mr. M uses his powers to remove the tags. He offers those who wish to leave the opportunity to join him in departing the next morning. Johnny Dee destroys the evidence of his involvement in Jazz’s death and plots his next move. Half of the assembled mutants follow Mr. M who leads them on an exodus to a nearby island where they set up camp. Val Cooper sends Cyclops to persuade them to return but things erupt into violence. Mr. M intervenes once more and forcefully announces that no one will bring harm to his people.

Full Summary: 

Lorelei lies naked in bed as Mr. M gently strokes her cheek. She smiles and tells him he was amazing and that for a moment she thought she might dies from pure pleasure. She asks him if he thinks that’s possible as she caresses his chest and wraps her hair around his neck.
In the X-Men’s infirmary, Hank McCoy is performing an autopsy on Jazz. As he does so, Cyclops is asking Val Cooper how this happened and reminds her that she’s supposed to be keeping the 198 safe. She says if they had all just stayed on the grounds they would be. Kitty Pryde asks if it was the tags and Val says it wasn’t, but it is clear from her answer that she’s not 100% convinced.
In an adjoining room, a doctor is examining Mammomax who has reported his own experience being shocked by the tag. Val tries to defend herself by explaining that she didn’t know the tags’ full capabilities and thought they were merely tracking devices. Kitty lays into her and asks how the deputy director of O*N*E didn’t know such a thing. Valerie replies that she’s as angry about it as Kitty is to which Kitty smugly tells her that she doubts that.
Scott asks Val to confirm that there’s no possible way that the tags were responsible for Jazz’s demise. Val assures them that the devices are non-lethal. Cyclops reminds her that this same device took down Mammomax and asks how something that powerful could be considered non-lethal. Val shares with them that General Lazer assured her they were safe. Kitty interrupts and asks how she could trust him after he lied to her about the tags to begin with. Val says that Lazer didn’t lie and that she just wasn’t fully informed. Kitty glares and utters the words “Just following orders…” As Kitty gets in yet another barb in her debate with Dr. Cooper, Beast concludes that Jazz died from strangulation not as a result of an electroshock from the implanted tag.
Outside, the 198 have reached their own conclusions about Jazz’s death. Erg announces that the government has placed lethal weapons inside them and suggests they take this to the X-Men who have promised to provide them with a safe haven. He wants to see them make good on their promise.
Arclight suggests that the Beast is genius enough to find a way to remove the devices. Toad simply laughs at the notion and notes that while they’re camping out in the mud, Valerie Cooper has made the mansion her new home and the X-Men are clearly on her side. He suggests that the X-Men have sold them out.
Val calls General Lazer and warns him of the potentially volatile nature of her situation as her ability to create dialogue with the 198 continues to be diminished. She explains that the only reason they’ve lasted this long is due to the X-Men’s trust in her. He affirms that this is the case and that this is why he did not tell her about the disabling protocols built into the tracking tags. He knew that if she knew the complete truth she would feel compelled to tell the X-Men and they would have rejected the idea of the tagging altogether. She tells him he is probably right and he interrupts and assures her that the tags are safe.
He explains that they were developed for federal penitentiaries but abandoned due to civil rights concerns not safety reasons. She highlights that they found it unethical to use the devices on convicted murderers and rapists but had no qualms about using them on mutants and treating them as little more than animals. Lazer says that they’re acting like animals and tells Cooper to look out the window.
The 198, led by Erg, are moving aggressively towards the X-Mansion. Lazer tells Valerie that if she doesn’t think she can reason with them, his finger is on the trigger and ready to immobilize them via the tags. She asks about those who are not tagged and Lazer responds that eventually they will all be tagged. As Val strides off to deal with this latest insurgence she states her opposition to this tactic and tells Lazer that she will take her complaints straight to the top. He informs her that these orders came from the top to begin with. He tells her to keep her opinions to herself and do her job.
Cooper, flanked by the X-Men, Colonel Reyes and the Sentinels asks the assembled mutants what the problem is. They are angered and sarcastically ask if she failed to notice that one of their members came back from their day trip in a body bag. Beast confirms that Jazz was murdered but that O*N*E was not the culprit. Val jumps in and tells them that Jazz was killed during an illegal drug deal.
Toad claims that this is all a cover-up. Erg tells asks if they honestly think they believe that someone human street punk could have killed Jazz without O*N*E knowing given the tags, all their troops and their Sentinels watching over them all the time. He points at Cyclops and again says that it had to have been the tags. Outlaw says that they want them removed. Cyclops tells them all right but this isn’t the way to get what they want.
He asks them to calm down at which point Col. Reyes levels his gun at Erg and tells him to back it up. Erg says that he’s not about to go back to his tent like a good little mutant. He grabs Reyes’ hand and disarms him. Seeing this, Lazer orders the tag inside Erg to be activated. Erg falls to his knees and cries out in pain. Lazer tells Cooper via her headset that this is exactly why the tags are necessary, as they enable them to take down a target without risking any lives.
Seeing Erg disabled by the tag, others leap into action. Sack reaches into his protoplasmic shell and tries to remove his tag but finds that he can’t. Lazer orders Valerie to tell Sack why he can’t simply pluck it out. She informs the gathered mutants that the tags are surgically bonded to their skull and in order to be removed they would have to cut out a chunk of bone from their skull.
As she announces this, Mr. M and Lorelei emerge from their tent and Mercator offers to help. He approaches Sack and reaches into his gelatinous form and easily plucks the tag from his skull with no apparent harm. He then does the same for Erg by phasing his hand into his flesh. He smiles softly and asks if anyone else wants his help.
Lazer is angry and demands to know what is happening. Cooper tells him that the issue of the tags has been resolved and Lazer demands that she do something to stop Mr. M. She tells him that she doesn’t think that’s a good idea since nothing that Mr. M is doing violates the law and he is simply returning government property.
As she says this, Lorelei whispers to Mr. M. He announces that the two of them will be leaving the estate in the morning and that any who wish to join them should gather their belongings. Cyclops tells him he shouldn’t be doing this with the Sapien League and others out there hunting mutants. Mr. M tells Summers that they are no safer in here and that if this is truly not a prison that he and those who choose to follow him should be free to go.
Cyclops tells Dr. Cooper that this is a mess and she says it will only be worse if these mutants are scattered across the globe again. She orders the gates locked down.
As Lorelei and Mr. M pass Johnny Dee his second face hisses horribly as he wonders how Mercator has so quickly established himself as a mutant Moses. Johnny Dee then goes to the men’s bathroom and flushes the lifeless mini-clone he created of Jazz down the toilet. As he exits, he runs into Leech who asks if he’s going with Mr. M. He introduces himself and Leech does the same, explaining that he has the power to take away powers.
Johnny teasingly suggests that it was Leech who depowered all the mutants and Leech denies this vehemently. Johnny says he was just kidding and touches Leech’s shoulder to show he’s not afraid. He asks how Leech’s power works and seems very interested. Johnny says that he won’t be leaving as he has business to attend to there. He smiles and looks at this hand as Leech leaves.
The next morning, Jake Slayton reports in that half the inmates are waiting to depart with Mr. M. Colonel Reyes corrects him in his word choice and suggests “residents” instead. Slayton tells him they’re ready to walk out en masse but Reyes notes that there’s no wall in the area of the grounds where they’ve gathered. Slayton responds that there is now as Mr. M raises his hands and the wall divides and creates a large enough passage for the assembled mutants to pass through.
As they are about to leave, Empath reaches out to try to stop Magma who has joined those preparing to leave. She tells him to take his hands off her and he tries to assure her that there is still a place for her there as a teacher. She tells him there aren’t any students left to teach and this place has become a prison camp. Empath adds that “we” know nothing about Mercator. Amara tells him that there is not “we” and that where she goes is none of his business. He tries to tell her that he feels responsible since he brought her here and she once gain tells him to stay out of her life and threatens to fry him where he stands if he tries to use his powers to make her stay.
From the control room, Valerie Cooper confers with General Lazer who asks if she really intends to let the mutants leave. She tells him she does, at least as a temporary measure and hopes to try to persuade them to return. She asks Cyclops to try to talk to them and convince them to return. She tells him that the Sentinels will have to accompany him or she’ll be perceived as having lost control of the situation. This would lead to her being replaced which would certainly make things worse.
Mr. M leads a band of mutants away that includes Lorelei, Toad, Leech, Peepers, Mammomax, Fever Pitch, Outlaw, Empath, Magma, Erg, Arclight and Caliban off the mansion grounds. He leads them on a walk for hours until they arrive at a lake with a small island in the center. He then begins to walk across the others and encourages the others to follow. Even the hardened and cynical Erg is astonished by this feat.
On the island, the travelers rest and eat. Amara notes to Outlaw that Empath followed her and she has a bad feeling about him. As they talk, the X-Men arrive in their jet. Mr. M greets Cyclops who tells the self-styled mutant messiah that they both know this can’t last and asks where they will go from here. He explains that the others will need a purpose and won’t be content just camping out and existing in the wild.
Arclight tells Cyclops that he wasn’t invited and to go back to his estate and leave them alone. Emma mentally warns Cyclops that something is afoot and that some form of mind control is at play. As she shares this, Erg removes his eye patch and shoots a blast of energy at Scott. Iceman steps forward to challenge Erg but Mr. M intercedes.
Cyclops orders Bobby to back off and let Emma handle this Emma telepathically informs Scott that she can’t control Erg and that he’s a mental blank, as if his mind is elsewhere. Cyclops takes matters into his own hands and fires an optic blast at Erg which is deflected by a force field. They all look up to see Mercator hovering above them projecting the field around Erg as he declares that “No one will harm my people!”

Characters Involved: 

Arclight, Beautiful Dreamer, Caliban, Diamond Lil, Empath, Erg, Fever Pitch, Jazz , Johnny Dee, Leech, Lorelei, Magma, Mammomax, Mr. M, Outlaw, Peepers, Sack, Toad and many unnamed mutants (all refugees at the Xavier Institute AKA “The 198”)
Beast, Bishop, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat (all X-Men)
Dr. Valerie Cooper, General Lazer, Colonel Miguel Reyes, Jake Slayton (all Sentinel Squad O*N*E* team members)
Unnamed Sentinel Squad O*N*E* team members and military personnel

Story Notes: 

Mr. M’s ascent to leadership draws heavily on religious allegory with obvious parallels to both Moses and Jesus. In Biblical scripture, Moses was the leader of the Jews and led them from captivity by the Egyptians who had enslaved the Jews. He led this “exodus” which included the famous parting of the Red Sea. The image of Mercator creating a division of the wall of the Xavier Estate could be seen as a direct parallel to this event. Mercator’s final words of “No one will harm my people!” are similar to Moses declaration of “Let my people go!” When they arrive at the island, Mercator walks on water as Jesus did. The pairing of Mercator with the former prostitute Lorelei could be seen as a parallel to Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

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