X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #44

Issue Date: 
May 2003
Story Title: 
Can They Suffer?

Chuck Austen (writer), Romano Molenaar (penciler), Mizuki Sakakibara (cover), Danny Miki (inker), Dean White (colors), Randy Gentile (letterer), Stephanie Moore (assistant editor), Ralph Macchio (consulting editor), C. B. Cebulski (associate editor), Brian Smith (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

In a pond on the Xavier Estate, Carter and his friend, Sammy, swim with the fish. After their swim, they meet up with Annie, Kurt and Cain, who are waiting on them to dry off. Cain notices some dead fish near the pond and Sammy is greatly angered, as he notices the fish were murdered. Cain laughs at Sammy, telling him that they were just fish and that’s nothing to get upset about. Sammy does get upset, however, and storms off in search of answers. He first goes to Jean, who tells him to consult Xavier about his wants. Sammy, still determined, does just that. Sammy busts into one of Xavier’s meetings and demands him to find out about who killed his friends. Just as Xavier tries to explain his way out of doing a mind-scan, Annie walks in with Carter; holding onto a dead dog. Jean uses her powers to pry the last memories from the dog’s mind and they are able to ascertain who the delinquent boys are that are causing such a ruckus. Scott notices Logan missing and the team heads off to find him. They find him threatening the boys, trying to scare them into stopping their delinquent actions. Cain, still not understanding why the others seem so upset over the deaths of a few dumb animals, finds himself learning alongside the children, feeling what pain the animals went through. After Jean’s display of power, the X-Men are confronted with a very angry father, who tells them to leave his child alone and to get off his property. The X-Men do just that and the man orders the children into their houses. Later that day, the one child who seemed to be the leader throws a dead cat through one of the windows at the school of Xavier’s. Xavier presses charges and the child is thrown in jail. Back at the school, Cain apologizes for his stubbornness. Cain and Sammy decide to go for a swim and, as the fish come closer to Cain, he smiles, because he finally has learned about the emotion of empathy.

Full Summary: 

On the grounds of Xavier’s Institute, two friends, Sammy and Carter, are swimming in the estate’s pond. Sammy is able to breath under water, while Carter is not. Carter does not seem to mind, though, because under the water the two friends seem to come closer to another civilization and his friend Sammy seems the happiest there. Sammy swims towards the fish and smiles as bright colored schools of fish float by. In Sammy’s mind, he thinks about how their day is starting out so normal.

Above the water and on land, Sammy and Carter surface to the sound of Annie, Carter’s mom, scolding him for being under to long. Just like a mother hen, Cain Marko voices his complaint to Sammy, as well about his length of time out of his sight. Kurt Wagner stands by Cain and tells his new friend about how motherly he sounds. Carter, continuing to act like he wasn’t in the wrong, tells Kurt that next time he should join them for a swim. Kurt jokingly tells Carter that he doesn’t want to swim, because of the fowl odor his fur becomes. Cain looks at the ground and asks if Kurt’s smell is what killed the fish he is now seeing. Sammy hurries to the fishes’ side and tells the others that it looks like somebody has stepped on them. Cain tells Sammy that it was probably some local kids just being young and impetuous. Cain looking at Sammy tells him that they are just… fish. Looking like he just stuck his foot in his mouth, Cain sees the glaring stare coming back from Sammy. Trying to save face, Cain tells Sammy that he didn’t mean it bad and that Sammy doesn’t look like a fish. Sammy takes his towel and begins to walk to the mansion, without saying a word to Cain or the others. Cain calls after his friend to understand that the fish in the pond have no nerve endings so they can’t be like him. After Sammy is gone, Cain states aloud about the sensitivity of kids these days. Kurt, taunting Cain, tells him that it seemed like Sammy was being incredibly constrained for not kicking him where it counts, like he should of.

Walking into Jean’s study, Sammy asks Jean for a moment of her time. Jean, her book hovering around her, tells Sammy that her door is always open for the students of the Institute. Jean, floating the books down onto her desk, turns to look at Sammy and tells him that she has heard a lot about him from the others. Sammy tells her that he has heard a lot about her and it all is great. Sammy tells Jean that he knows of her powers and wonders if she could use them to find someone for her. Jean tells Sammy that her answer depends on the reason and who it is he is looking for. Screaming out in anger, Sammy tells her that it is someone who killed a bunch of his friends.

Storming down the hallway, Sammy seems determined to go somewhere for something important. Cain, still in his swimming trunks, follows close behind. He tells Sammy that he heard he went to Jean to ask about the kids that killed the fish. Sammy tells Cain that the school seems to be a large gossip factory. Cain, getting closer to Sammy, tells him that the entire school thinks he’s… Sammy interrupts; finishing his sentence; he tells Cain that the others think him crazy! Cain tries to calm Sammy down, but he only makes him angrier. Sammy walks away from Cain, as Cain calls out to him that he needs a reality check.

Bashing into Xavier’s office, Sammy tells Xavier that he needs to talk to him. Wolverine, Scott and Bobby all are in the room and Scott tells Sammy that the four of them are having a meeting. Bobby eases Scott down and tells him to let Sammy have his say. Sammy calls Bobby “ice-head” and tells him about the fishes’ death and how he asked Jean, who told him to ask Xavier about finding the killers. Iceman urges Sammy on to talk to Xavier and it works. Sammy tells the others in the room about what Jean said about invasion of privacy. Xavier tells Sammy that if he asked her to read someone’s mind, then he knows why she said no. He explains that most telepaths find going into someone’s mind without that person’s knowledge wrong. Sammy angrily tells Xavier that they do have the right, because that someone has invaded their property and killed members of the estate. Xavier tells Sammy that his worries still don’t justify a mind-scan, because the matter isn’t that important.

Coming into the office, Carter holds onto a dead lapdog and Annie, Carter’s mother, comes in right behind him. She tells Xavier that something hideous has happened and she explains how Carter found the dog beaten near a nearby fence on their property. Jean, who suddenly appears, touches the dog and tells the others that the death was recent and the dog still has residual memories stored about the events. Touching the dog, Jean begins to feel its pain and how the three boys tortured the dog. She feels how helpless the dog was and how the only need of the dog was to get back to its guardian and sit on her lap. Feeling more of the pain, Jean begins to lose control. Scott, worried about his wife, screams at her to let go of the dog’s memories. Calling for Bobby’s help, the two friends pull Jean off the dog and, with Xavier’s coaching, Jean comes back to reality, still visually shaken from the experience. Pleading for Scott, he comes to her side and the two embrace as he tries to comfort her. She tells the others how the dog was in so much pain and how the boys seemed to get more excited as they tortured the animal. Near the door, Cain interrupts everyone, as he states about how insane they’re all acting over a stupid dog. Immediately, everyone goes silent and they stare at Cain. Feeling uncomfortable Cain asks the others why they seem to question him? Scott interrupts the silence with the revelation that Logan is no longer with them.

Elsewhere, in a tree house, three children hold down a squirrel as they try to vivisect it. Around the tree house, animals hang nailed to the wall, with a picture of a gun and empty soda cans lying near the floor. The squirrel, still alive, squirms in one of the boy’s hands. Another boy asks the others if they should really be hurting the squirrel in the tree house? They’re going to get blood everywhere. Behind them in a window, a shadowy figure pops his claws. He tells them that he was thinking the same thing, but he was thinking it would be their blood. The children scream in horror as they see Logan baring his claws before them. The one child holding the squirrel screams out in pain, as the animal frees itself from its captures and bites the boy as it departs. Logan shadows his face with his claws, telling the boys that he knows it must have hurt, being bitten by the squirrel, but they should just imagine how it will be like losing a leg! One of the children tries to jump out the window, but Logan pulls him back in, throwing him into a nearby wall. Logan tells the children that they are going to talk about manly behavior and how they’re actions are… “Hey,” Logan exclaims, as he is lifted into the air by one giant hand.

That hand is Cain Marko, also known as the Juggernaut. In their X-Uniforms, the X-men stand around the tree house. Juggernaut, in full armor, asks what the fuss is about the others wanting to talk to the children? He tells the others that it is just boys being boys and none of the X-Men belong there, meddling in the children’s lives. Xavier tells Juggernaut that he disagrees with him. Xavier tells Juggernaut that what the boys were doing is considered torture and they must be stopped. Suddenly, the children begin to float out of the tree house and Jean tells them to remain calm. Juggernaut argues with Xavier telling him that humans are the top of the food chain and that gives them the right to do whatever when it comes to animals. Jean tells Juggernaut that she can now see how once he considered Mutants in the same way.

Logan tells Jean that Juggy’s feelings have always been obvious to him. Sammy looks at Juggernaut hurt and confused. Cain tells him that the others are twisting his words and what he said wasn’t meant to be insulting. He tells Sammy that he knows he isn’t an animal. Sammy tells Cain that he is an animal and that they all are animals. Telling Cain that even that doesn’t matter, he goes on to say that it’s about empathy; how the animals feel the joy and the pain everyone brings to them. Juggernaut tells Sammy that he does just not understand the real world. With that said, Jean uses her powers to levitate Cain and the children off the ground, penetrating their thoughts and sending horrible pictures of the sins they committed throughout their minds. Cain is shocked to see that Jean can enter his thoughts even through his helmet, which up until now was impossible for any telepath to do.

(astral plane)

The experiences of every animal the children slaughtered rush through their minds as each one of them are forced to feel the pain through the animals’ mind.

(back in reality)

One of the children’s parents rushes up the hill, with his shotgun in tow. He tells the X-Men to get off his property and leave the children alone. Cain, still huddled on the ground in a fetal position along with the three delinquents, cries out that he wants his pain to end. One of the X-Men tells the father that the children were caught torturing animals. The father tells the X-Men that he doesn’t care why they are there, but he wants them to leave, NOW! The father, realizing to whom he is talking, tells them that he should have smelled the Mutie on them and he asks what they did to the children. Jean tells the father that she could show him, but Xavier places his hand on her shoulder and explains that they were just showing the children the error of their ways. The father cocks his gun and tells the X-Men that he is giving them ten seconds to leave his property before he shoots. Suddenly, the X-Men disappear and the father stands shocked at the events that have just transpired. The three boys stand to their feet and the one boy is scolded for not acting like a man. The dad tells the child that he is embarrassed of him and tells him to get back inside their house. The boy stands outside his house as his father walks in, disgusted and angered by the way the X-Men treated him.

In the infirmary back at the school, Cain lays on a gurney and tells Sammy that he doesn’t think he’ll ever be okay again. Cain tells Sammy that his dad used to make him feel like the way he used to treat animals, small and defenseless. Holding his eyes shut, Cain cries, stating how no one should ever have to feel that pain and he wonders what he has done? Sammy lays his and on Cain’s and tells him that he knows… he knows.

In the Recreation Area of the mansion, the students argue over what they are going to watch. Suddenly, their day is shattered when a brick, with a dead cat tied to it, comes flying through a nearby window.

At the local jail, a police officer tells Xavier that there are pretty harsh penalties these days for animal cruelty. Behind Xavier, the young child sits in a cell as his two friends stand outside the bars with their fathers. Their fathers tell them that they better be glad, because what they done was wrong and they never want to hear about them hurting animals again. Two kids tell their fathers they won’t hurt another animal and, inside the cell, the lead boy just glares back in anger.

On the grounds of the Xavier Institute, Sammy sits and stares at the pond that began their day. Behind Sammy, Cain holds a ball and glove in front of Sammy’s face and asks him if he wants to play catch. Cain tells Sammy that he is jus trying to say he was wrong, in his own way. Sammy tells Cain that he doesn’t want to play catch, because he has something better in mind.

Under the water, Cain swims with Sammy and, as a fish swims in front of Cain’s face, it stops to look at him. Cain smiles, realizing that maybe he was wrong about animals all along.

Characters Involved: 

Charles Xavier, Cyclops, Iceman, Juggernaut, Nightcrawler, Phoenix IV, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Nurse Annie Ghazikhanian

Carter Ghazikhanian

Officer Algera and other officers of the Salem County Police

Students at Xavier’s Institute

The three Dads of the Juvenile’s
Three Juvenile Delinquents

Story Notes: 

A portion of one of Jeremy Bentham’s published writings was used on the opening page to illustrate the views of the comic story. Jeremy Bentham was an English utilitarian philosopher and social reformer, who lived 1748 to 1832. Bentham's campaign for social and political reform is considered today’s utilitarianism. His views are expounded upon in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, a book written in 1780. In the book, Bentham formulated the principle of utility, which approves of an action in so far as an action has an overall tendency to promote the greatest amount of happiness. Bentham believed that happiness was the absence of pain.

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