X-Men: The 198 #5

Issue Date: 
July 2006
Story Title: 

David Hine (writer), Jim Muniz (penciler), Don Hillsman II (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: 

The X-Men, backed by the Sentinels, try to convince the 198 to return to the Xavier Institute from the island that Mr. M has led them to. The conflict quickly devolves into fisticuffs and Mr. M steps in to put a stop to the fighting. Johnny Dee cuts a deal with General Lazer to deal with Mr. M. When Lorelei prevents an angry Scalphunter from harming the Beast, he punches her. This sends Mr. M into a rage and he lashes out at all those who insist on resolving this with violence. Johnny Dee acts at this moment and seizes control of Leech to negate Mr. M’s powers. Once powerless, Johnny Dee manipulates Magma who unleashes a magma blast that kills Mercator instantly. The 198 are demoralized by Mr. M’s death and agree to return to the refugee camp at Xavier’s. Many believe that Empath was responsible but the X-Men suspect an outside influence. Johnny Dee confers with General Lazer and the issue of what Johnny wants in return for his “services” remains unresolved. Lorelei and Leech watch over Mr. M’s body, which mysteriously vanishes. In the wake of this disappearance is a flurry of butterflies like those Mr. M created to entertain the 198 days earlier. The message is that Mr. M has not truly died but merely evolved.

Full Summary: 

Mr. M hovers menacingly in the air surrounded by a field of crackling energy. He warns Cyclops that he will not allow any harm to come to the 198 who are under his protection. Cyclops tells Mercator that he has no choice and that they need to come back to the estate with them. He adds that he’s asked the Sentinels to keep their distance and doesn’t want to have to use them against him.
Mercator reminds Cyclops that the Sentinels pose no real threat to him. Cyclops tells him that it won’t end there and there will be more Sentinels and soldiers. Kitty chimes in and tells him that they don’t like how O*N*E is operating either but running away isn’t the answer. She encourages him to trust them and help them to find a solution together. Lorelei voices her agreement but Erg and Fever Pitch both say no.
Back at the Institute, Johnny Dee kneels on the floor of his tent and echoes the sentiment. He is surrounded by his mini-clones of Fever Pitch, Magma, Leech and Erg.
Emma senses Johnny Dee’s mental manipulation and utters words of warning just as Fever Pitch attacks. Iceman blocks the blast of flames with an ice shield as Erg unleashes a bolt of energy that passes harmlessly through Shadowcat. Iceman retaliates by sending chunks of ice flying at Erg.
Seeing this, Mercator tells them that they just wish to be left in peace. Using his powers, he shatters Iceman’s shield and sends shards of ice hurtling at Bobby Drake. Fever Pitch recovers from the mental hold that Johnny Dee had him under and has no recollection of what transpired during his “possession”. Lockheed blasts him with flames and Fever Pitch merely laughs it off. Beast wrestles with Erg as the former Marauders, Arclight and Scalphunter weigh their options. Scalphunter takes a gun he has assembled out of his duffel bag.
The Sentinels report in to O*N*E regarding this skirmish and asks for orders. Val Cooper reluctantly agrees to allow the use of force to stop the fight but with minimal force. She reminds Colonel Reyes that they are still charged with protecting these mutants for the time being.
The Sentinels activate and move closer to the fray calling for an immediate end to hostilities. Cyclops suggests that Emma try to mentally calm things down but when she enters Mr. M’s mind she is repelled. She describes the effect as filling her head with white noise and explains that his mind is vast, confused and unfinished somehow.
The Sentinels order Scalphunter to drop his weapon and fire on the assembled mutants. Lorelei pleads with Mr. M to make it stop and he waves his hand and utters the single word: “Stop”. The Sentinel goes inert and the inside of the cockpit begins to melt, much to the surprise of the Sentinel’s operator. Simultaneously, O*N*E loses all radio and video feeds from the Sentinels.
Val orders all remaining Sentinels and ground troops sent in as she’s sure that Mr. M is behind this. Before these orders can be executed, a soldier comes in to inform her that a mutant resident named John Dee has requested to speak to General Lazer on a matter of vital importance. Johnny Dee speaks to Lazer via a viewscreen and offers to handle the problem with Mr. M. Lazer asks how and Johnny says that’s his business but he wanted them to know that he was the one responsible to prove his loyalty to his country. He asks Lazer if he wants Mercator dead and the eyes of the face embedded in his chest glow menacingly.
Lorelei smiles as she notices the immobilized Sentinels. The 198 announce the fight to be over and Scalphunter points his gun at the Beast’s head. He demands that Cyclops and his team leave the island immediately or he’ll blow Beast’s brains out.
Cyclops tells Emma they never should have given a psycho like Scalphunter amnesty and Emma reminds him that it was his doing. Lorelei steps in and uses her hair to grab Scalphunter’s wrist and force him to drop his weapon. She cries out that this is not the way things should be. Angered, Scalphunter punches Lorelei which sets off Mr. M. He surrounds Lorelei in a force field that repels both the X-Men and the 198. He asks the assembled mutants if violence is the only thing they understand. Lorelei tries to assure him that she’s okay as Empath tries to diminish Mr. M’s anger levels. Magma sees this and looks suspiciously at Manuel.
Elsewhere, Johnny Dee grabs the mini-clone of Leech and manipulates the young mutant to cancel out Mr. M’s mutant powers. As Leech touches Mercator’s feet, he falls from the sky and lands forcefully. He asks why Leech would do this to him as Johnny Dee takes up the mini-clone of Magma. He tells Mr. M that he doesn’t know the meaning of pain yet. On the battlefield, Magma’s eyes glow and the ground beneath Mr. M erupts with a blast of lava that rips through his chest. Outlaw asks Magma what she’s done and Amara replies that someone was in her head. She turns and looks accusingly at Empath, convinced that he’s to blame.
Following Mr. M’s death, Val Cooper and Colonel Reyes debrief the conflict. Val notes that the actions of Leech and Magma are completely out of character. She also mentions that she discovered a standing order that Mercator be eliminated at the first sign of hostility. For now, the standing belief is that Empath was responsible but that Emma Frost has already reported and external and as yet unidentified mental influence was at play. Regardless of the currently accepted rumor, the 198 are demoralized and have returned to the encampment following Mercator’s death.
Magma and Empath have been moved to the mansion for their own protection. The Sentinels and outer wall are both being repaired. Reyes notes that this whole affair has made them look incompetent and Mercator should have been dealt with earlier. Valerie asks if he means that they should have killed Mr. M sooner. Reyes snidely clarifies that “they” didn’t kill Mr. M. Dr. Cooper quotes Henry the Second “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” a phrase he uttered in front of his knights in regards to his enemy, Thomas Becket. His soldiers heard this as an order and killed Becket. Val notes that this is one of the earliest examples of “plausible deniability”. Reyes causally replies “Whatever works.” Val notes that Becket’s death made him a martyr and nearly led to a civil war in England.
General Lazer pays a visit to Johnny Dee and asks what it is that he wants in return for his services to his country. He bluntly asks if he wants money and Johnny replies that he wants money and power. He quickly takes it back and apologizes for his crudeness. He tells Lazer that when he’s decided what he wants, he will let him know and that until then he can just consider him a good patriot. Johnny extends his hand to Lazer who refuses to shake it and promises to keep in touch. As Lazer leaves, Johnny clenches his fist in anger at the missed opportunity to gain control over Lazer as well.
Lorelei and Leech keep silent watch over Absolon Mercator’s body the night before his funeral. Lorelei is still in shock and has tried to reassure the shaken Leech that what happened was not his fault. They promised each other they would stay awake and watch over Mr. M together. Lorelei eventually dozes off and drops Mr. M’s distinctive hat. When she and Leech wake up, they instantly know that something has happened. The casket is open and Mr. M’s body is gone. Cyclops and Emma frost are also instantly woken. They look out at the encampment where the 198 have gathered in amazement. A jubilant Lorelei and Leech stand before the sunrise surrounded by a flurry of multi-colored butterflies just like the ones Mr. M created to entertain al of them days earlier. Though he never appeared to anyone, he left a clear message of hope to the 198: “Some things do not die, they evolve.”

Characters Involved: 

Arclight, Empath, Erg, Fever Pitch, Johnny Dee, Leech, Lorelei, Magma, Mammomax, Mr. M, Outlaw, Peepers, Sack, Scalphunter, Toad (all refugees at the Xavier Institute AKA “The 198”)
Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Iceman, Lockheed, 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: 

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” was one of many possible quotes attributed to Henry the Second that inspired the murder of Thomas Becket.

Mr. M’s ascent to leadership and downfall in this issue draws heavily on religious allegory with obvious parallels to both Moses and Jesus. Mercator’s betrayal by Johnny Dee is similar to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and clearly Mercator’s death and mysterious disappearance and implied resurrection are meant to create a Christ-like feel to the character as a pacifist, spiritual leader of mutantkind. Again in this issue, the pairing of Mercator with the former prostitute Lorelei parallels the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was one of the women who watched over Christ after his death and prior to his resurrection.

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