X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #7

Issue Date: 
December 1994
Story Title: 

Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Matt Webb (colors), Kelly Corvese (edits), Bob Harras (group edits), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Storm, Jean and Gambit travel to Cairo so Storm can have one final visit with her dying mentor, Achmed El-Gibar. While there, they meet some of Achmed’s current protégés, as well as members of the Street Urchins, Jamil and Karima. Achmed worries that Jamil may be traveling a dark path, and as his dying wish, asks Storm to ensure Jamil follows a righteous destiny. Also vying for the loyalty of Jamil is Candra of the Externals and her servant Bond. They succeed in seducing Jamil to their side, and also capturing the young thief Karima. Storm, making due on her promise, challenges Candra to a duel. Candra agrees, and the women battle. While they are equally matched in terms of power, Storm manages to use her street experience as an advantage, and sucker-punches Candra, winning the duel. Jamil, however, decides he wants to go with Candra anyway, and leaves with his new mistress. Storm and the X-Men return to Achmed with Karima. Achmed assures Storm that by rescuing Karima, she has succeeded in her mission. As Achmed dies, he indicates that Karima will be the new leader of his gang of the Street Urchins.

Full Summary: 

Cairo, Egypt:

Storm steps off an airplane and takes a look at the city of her youth. She has returned to Cairo to say goodbye to her ailing, former mentor, Achmed El-Gibar. Unfortunately, she hasn’t prepared herself for the oncoming deluge of bittersweet memories. She apologizes to her traveling companions, Jean Grey and Gambit, for her moodiness. They assure her that it’s fine, and that they came along for support, not entertainment. Storm regrets the fact that she is powerless to save Achmed, but Jean tells her that her presence is all Achmed could ask for.

Gambit tries to perk Storm up by changing the subject. While lighting up a cigarette, he asks Storm about her childhood, specifically how she wound up living the as a thief in Cairo.

After noting that he’s already heard the story many times, she retells her tale. She tells of how bombs dropped over Egypt, killing her parents and burying her in rubble. Only six years old at the time, she emerged from the rubble and wandered the streets by herself. The young Ororo Munroe was certain that she would die until she met a group of kids she calls the Street Urchins. These kids took her to meet Achmed El-Gibar, who allowed Storm to become part of his clan. Achmed trained her in the art of thievery, an art at which the young Ororo excelled. She survived her childhood because of Achmed, whom she viewed as something of a father figure.

Storm cuts her story off here, and reminds her teammates that they need to go meet with Achmed.

Meanwhile, forty miles outside of Cairo, a private jet lands on a small airstrip amidst a violent sandstorm. A large, dark man named Bond rests on the bumper of the limousine, waiting for the airplane. The sand in the air flies at dangerously high velocities. Bond does not notice or care, somehow being impervious to pain.

As the plane ceases moving, the stairs open up and a stern-looking, blonde-haired woman steps out. Her name is Candra, of the group the Externals. She doesn’t waste any time making small talk with Bond. She asks right away if the old man still lives. Bond informs her that he is indeed still alive. Candra then asks about a boy, and whether or not this boy has been prepared for her arrival. Bond tells her the boy has been contacted, but remains loyal to the old man. “If I were to eliminate Achmed El-Gibar, the boy would be ours,” Bond adds.

Candra’s eyes suddenly glow red, and she telekinetically lifts Bond into the air. “Do not presume to think for me, Bond,” she says. “Cunning and guile are not your strong suits. I have given you your powers with no more than a passing thought. I can take them, and your life, away!” She releases Bond and he crashes to the ground. She reminds him that if they were to kill Achmed directly, the boy would view him as a martyr. Candra wants the boy to be loyal to her alone, for only she has the means to exploit his latent power.

She steps into the limousine, and once again orders Bond to bring her the boy. The limo speeds away.

Back in Cairo, Storm, Jean Grey and Gambit move through the crowded market streets. Just as Storm reminds her teammates to proceed carefully in this dangerous area, a small girl sneaks up and snatches Jean’s purse. By the time Jean can scream “thief”, the girl has dispersed herself amongst the crowd. As she runs, she repeats to herself her dogma of theft: run, don’t look back, look no one in the eye, say a prayer to the Saint of All Thieves, calm breathing, leave the crowds, find an empty alley to disappear into…

The girl is almost free when a large bolt of lightning appears in her path. “Halt!” a voice booms. The frightened girl stops in her tracks and falls to the ground, covering her head. As a storm of rain and wind whirr around her head, she prays to the saints to protect her. Just as quickly as the storm started, it stops. The confused girl looks up, believing the saints have heard her prayers. Instead, she sees Storm, Gambit and Jean Grey staring down at her, their arms folded and stern expressions written across their faces.

Realizing she has been caught, the thief child immediately starts spouting a story about why she has Jean’s purse. She tells Jean that she saw her drop her purse, and tried to return it to her, but got lost in the busy crowd. “But now, you are here!” the girl says, returning the purse. “No reward is necessary, beautiful lady!”

Jean remains silent. The girl keeps on rambling. She nonchalantly drops that she is a starving orphan, and then showers Jean with compliments as she takes a bow. The girl turns to leave, but Storm taps her on the shoulder. “The money, urchin,” Storm demands.

The girl feigns ignorance at first, but then whips out a wad of bills from her pocket. “Forgive the hunger that has taken control of my mind!” the girl says. “I had taken the money from the purse for safe-keeping.” She returns the money and then once again tries to leave, this time mentioning that she needs to find some milk for her hungry younger brother.

Storm smirks, and summons a gust of wind which suspends the child in the air. She approaches the thief and demands that she notify Achmed of her presence. “Take word to the master thief of Cairo that Ororo, now known as Storm, has returned as his command,” Storm tells her. The child recognizes the name Ororo and agrees without hesitation. Then, Storm asks if the child has forgotten about something. The child begrudgingly pulls out a wallet and hands it back to Storm, who in turn hands it to Gambit.

“You would be well advised to remember that you, too, are a stranger in this city,” she tells her surprised teammate. “Thieves have different ways around the world.” Gambit looks at the wallet with a stunned expression on his face. Jean laughs, and jokingly asks Gambit if he would like for her to hang on to his wallet.

As the thief runs away, a smile appears on Storm’s face as she remembers her own childhood. Jean comments that it is nice to see her smiling again. Storm responds that she has lacked the ability ever since hearing of Achmed’s condition, but the overwhelming nostalgia of returning to Cairo has lifter her spirits a little bit.

Elsewhere in Cairo, a teenage boy named Jamil runs across the rooftops. While Jamil is also a pupil of Achmed El-Gibar, he has recently sought out other teachings and methods. He’s been studying the dark arts in response to the ever-growing dangers of the city, and wishes to take control of the Street Urchins. This is the boy who has drawn the attention of Candra and Bond.

The X-Men finally reach the door which leads to the Street Urchins’ hideout. The entrance is a small door in the back of a dark alley. Gambit comments that he feels uneasy standing in such a vulnerable position. Just then, Jamil leaps down from the roofs, bearing a large knife in each hand. He tells them to leave, but Storm refuses. She tells him she has come seeking Achmed El-Gibar. Jamil doesn’t care and summons his peers, who emerge from the shadows. Gambit prepares for a fight, but Storm orders him not to interfere.

Suddenly, the door opens, and the young girl from earlier yells for Jamil to stop. “That is Ororo! The one now called Storm!” she says. This name draws the attention of all the Street Urchins, who now recognize Storm as one of their own. Jamil refuses to acknowledge her status, and tells her she can meet with Achmed in the afterlife. With that, he lunges at Storm with his knife. She swiftly steps aside, and then Jean hammers Jamil with a telekinetic blast, pinning him against the alley wall.

Gambit makes a condescending comment to Jean, saying he didn’t know she could handle herself on the streets. Jean, fed up with his elitist street attitude, snaps back. “Don’t speak down to me, Gambit. I was an X-Man while you were still robbing houses for a living.” Gambit jokingly asks for a truce. Storm interrupts their bickering and asks them to follow her inside.

As the X-Men enter the hideout, the young girl consoles Jamil, adding that his temper always leads him into messy situations. She asks him to come inside and see Achmed. Jamil refuses and runs away, shouting that he’ll let Achmed be alone with his “precious Ororo”
. He runs through the alleys and almost immediately encounters the imposing Bond. Jamil pulls out his knife, intending to kill him, but Candra steps forth out of the shadows. She tells Jamil that they are friends, and such gestures are unnecessary. She offers him some new clothes as assign of goodwill. Stunned, Jamil accepts the gift from his new friends. Candra wraps her arm around Jamil’s shoulders and leads him out of the alley. She tells Jamil that his true powers are being wasted with the Street Urchins, which reinforces his belief that he is meant for something grander. After tempting him with allusions to the power he wields, she asks to meet with Achmed. “There are things I wish to discuss with him,” she says. “Plans I have for the future of the Urchins, and for you.”

Back at the Street Urchins’ hideout, Storm stands by the death bed of Achmed. Tears roll down her cheeks as she gets a good look at her former mentor. She barely recognizes his frail body. What she does recognize is that Achmed is lingering on the brink of death, and clings to life only out of obligation to tie up his life’s loose ends.

Achmed wakes up and sees Ororo standing over him. He perks up and begins speaking with her. While his body is decrepit and worn-out, his mind is still sharp. Achmed comments that the mind is a thief’s greatest tool and the “lifeblood” of a thief. He asks Ororo to talk to him about their times together in Cairo, and then tell him some stories of her time as an X-Man. She seems surprised that he knows about her involvement with the X-Men, but Achmed assures her that he has paid attention to her life ever since she left Cairo. “My heart has ached every day since you left us, my urchin,” he says to Ororo while brushing her cheek.

Achmed is about to make a final request of Ororo when Bond crashes through the wall. Candra and Jamil follow in his wake. Gambit recognizes Candra immediately and shouts her name. She tells him to back off, as her business is not with him this time, but Achmed. Achmed orders her away, saying that he has no business with a witch like her. Jamil interjects and tells Achmed that Candra comes with an offer of help. “Someone will need to lead the Urchins after you are gone,” Candra says.

Achmed again demands that she leave. Gambit steps in and tells Candra to leave. She takes Gambits order as a threat, which cues Bond to take in. He slaps Gambit away from Candra, but Gambit executes a roll in the air to absorb the impact. As he lands against the wall, he throws a handful of charged cards back at Bond. The cards explode on Bond’s chest, an attack which Gambit follows up with a flying kick.

With Bond occupying Gambit’s attention, Candra proceeds to talk to Achmed. This time Storm steps in, once again ordering Candra to leave. Candra’s refusal leads to a temporary stand-off. Candra backs down first, however, saying that she will leave, but will take Jamil with her. She boasts that Jamil is her follower now, and she intends to prepare him for leadership of the Street Urchins.

After Candra, Bond and Jamil leave, Achmed asks to speak with Ororo alone. Everybody else leaves the room so Achmed can deliver his final request to Storm. He begins by telling her that Jamil is one of the most special children he has ever encountered. He possesses some unique, indefinable quality, which makes his corruption by Candra all the more heartbreaking. “Ororo, save him from her. Save the children. They must have a leader in my place,” Achmed says as tears pour out of his near-lifeless eyes. “Do this thing before I die.

“I swear, teacher, it will be done,” Storm tells him.

Later that night…

Storm stands alone and watches the stars over Cairo. Gambit catches up with her and senses that she plans on going after Jamil by herself. He invites himself along, but Storm refuses, saying that time is of the essence. Gambit insists, adding that he knows how Candra operates. He adds that they should leave before Jean finds out and wants to come along too.

“Still you underestimate Jean’s abilities, Remy? You have much to learn about her,” Storm tells him. “I go alone, Gambit. Do not follow. And do not tell Jean of this.”

Storm begins to fly away, but quickly finds she is unable to move at all. Jean holds her in a telekinetic grip, and tells Storm that she shouldn’t underestimate her either. The three of them finally accept that they have to go together. They head into the streets of Cairo to gather information on Candra’s whereabouts. Storm and Gambit use some very shady methods of extracting information from people they meet, much to Jean’s disappointment. After only a short time, the three X-Men stumble into an alleyway that is under heavy scrutiny. They look up and see an entire army of street thugs watching them. Jamil approaches the X-Men from behind with his own group of thugs. He tells Storm she shouldn’t have come, and then moves in to kill her.

Storm preemptively attacks Jamil and his gang with a surge of lightning. She requests that her teammates be gentle with their attackers, but Gambit declines. He doesn’t want to show mercy to common street assassins who would kill him without hesitation. Jean reminds him that their assailants have no powers, and orders him to stand down if he can’t behave. The matter is quickly resolved, however, when Storm sweeps all the thugs away with a powerful gust of wind. She turns and once again asks Jamil to return with her to Achmed. Jamil refuses once again.

“Please, Jamil. Come with us,” a voice says from behind Jamil. He turns and sees the young thief girl from the Street Urchins laying a hand on his shoulder.

“Karima…” Jamil says as he turns around. “Stay out of this!” he shouts as he slaps her across the face.

Gambit flips out after seeing Jamil act this way. He lurches forward and grabs Jamil by the hair. Gambit begins to tell him that Candra is a bad influence and a traitor, but he is struck down by a telekinetic attack. Candra comes forth and mocks the fallen Gambit. Meanwhile, Bond sneaks up behind Jean and punches her in the back of the head before she can counterattack. Storm moves in to aid her injured teammates. Candra, sensing an opportunity to rid herself of all three X-Men at once, telekinetically destroys one of the alley’s walls. A giant stack of bricks begins to crash down on Gambit, Jean and Storm. While she would normally have time to flee, Storm finds herself frozen as she looks at the walls collapsing around her. She has a flashback to the time she was buried by rubble in Cairo, and watches motionless as it happens all over again. When the dust settles, Candra stands over the tomb of the three X-Men.

“A crude, but effective conclusion,” Candra quips. “But I never got to say goodbye to my beloved Remy. Oh well.” Karima then springs forward and attacks Candra. However, Candra has nothing to fear from the child, and orders Bond to capture her without doing her any harm.

Meanwhile, under the rubble, Jean manages to protect herself and her teammates by forming a telekinetic shield around them. The combination of the blow to her head and the strain of holding up all the debris quickly wears on her. She comments to Gambit that she won’t be able to sustain the shield for long. It’s up to Storm to get them out.

Unfortunately, Storm is in no condition to even respond to Jean’s psychic pleas. Her harrowing flashback continues, and she once again relives the moment of a plane crashing into her home in Cairo, burying her family in rubble. The child within Ororo’s mind screams in terror while Jean tries to pull her out of her traumatized state. She cradles Storm’s head in her arms and gently speaks to her, coaxing her out of her panic. Jean tells her that they may be under some rubble, but the open, starry sky lies directly overhead, and she is the only one who can reach it. She reminds Storm of her promise to Achmed, and the dangerous path Jamil walks.

Suddenly, a powerful lightning bolt pierces the sky and finds its way down to Storm. She bursts out of the rubble, declaring that Candra’s time has come. Gambit commends Jean on her revival of Storm, clearly in admiration of how she got Storm so riled up. Jean responds that they need to catch up with her fast. “In her current frame of mind, I’d hate to think of what she may do to Candra,” Jean adds.

On the outskirts of Cairo, the sun rises behind Candra’s enormous palace. Inside, Candra sits in a throne in a large chamber. Bond and Jamil stand at her feet, while Karima kneels on the floor, bound by ropes. Candra asks a favor of Jamil as proof of his loyalty to her, and of his willingness to explore the extent of his powers. “You only have to ask,” Jamil answers.

“Kill the girl,” Candra coldly demands. Jamil whips out his knife without a moment’s hesitation. He grabs the frightened Karima by her hair and holds the knife to her throat as she pleads for her life.

The X-Men arrive just in time to prevent Karima’s murder. Storm orders Jamil to step away from Karima, while Gambit and Jean launch a dual attack at Bond. They hit their target, knocking him to the floor, unconscious.

Candra, seeing that he bodyguard is out of commission, steps down off her throne and challenges Storm to a duel. Gambit interrupts and insists that he be the one to battle Candra. Storm tells him to back off, adding that this is her battle, not his. After accepting Candra’s challenge, she sets the terms of the duel: if Storm wins, she gets to take Jamil with her, and Candra has to give up her control of the boy. Candra accepts the terms.

The women convene for their duel a little while later in the desert near the pyramids. Bond, Karima, Jamil, Gambit and Jean watch the duel, and are awe-inspired by the powers each woman wields. Storm attacks first, sending a gale of wind and sand at Candra. Candra defends herself behind a telekinetic shield. “I am impressed, Storm,” she tells her opponent. “With powers such as these, there is no wonder you were once worshipped as a Goddess.” Candra then begins her telekinetic counterattack, which Storm diverts with her electrical field.

“I am not a Goddess, Candra, nor do I pretend to be so any longer,” Storm replies while slowly advancing on her opponent. “I am simply a woman. A woman who intends to keep her word to an old friend, and in doing so, save the life of a child!”

Candra keeps pushing against the advancing Storm, but loses a lot of ground. “Admirable, though futile goals,” Candra responds. “Your teacher will die, the boy will be mine, and your powers will get you nowhere.”

“They have taken me far,” Storm moves to within only a few feet of Candra, who continues to push against her with all her might. “Far enough to finish this battle like so!” Storm then reaches out and punches Candra in the face. Candra falls to the ground, defeated.

Their boss defeated, Bond and Jamil begin attacking Gambit and Jean. Jamil hurls a knife toward Jean’s face, but she easily stops it in mid-air. She tells Jamil to stand down, hoping he’ll obey after witnessing her power. He doesn’t, and instead lunges forward in an attempt to stab her with his other knife. Jean simply punches him in the face, sending him to the ground.

Gambit sidesteps the approaching Bond and trips him. The two men exchange a few blows before Gambit hits Bond with some charged cards. Bond shrugs off the attack and taunts Gambit by asking whatever Candra saw in him in the first place. While beating him with his bo staff, Gambit explains to Bond that he had a good time with Candra until he realized she was entirely self-centered and completely lacked sympathy for other human beings. He finishes by telling Bond that he never once regretted betraying her.

Having already defeated Candra, Storm interrupts these peripheral skirmishes. “It is finished. The boy comes back with me…back to Achmed,” she announces. Candra, meanwhile, builds up a powerful psionic charge in her hand. She rises off the ground and moves to attack Storm, whose back is turned, with this concentrated charge.

A knife sails through the air and pierces Candra’s charged hand before she can hit Storm. Candra screams, and Karima steps forward, bearing another throwing knife. She tells Candra that if she makes another move, the next knife will land in her heart. “Hold your anger, Karima. She’s not worth it,” Jean tells the child.

With the battle over, Storm once again asks Jamil to come home with them. Surprisingly, he still refuses. He states that he has no desire to follow Achmed’s teachings, and instead craves the wealth and power Candra offers. Storm tells him that Candra will lead him down a dark path, and dispose of him whenever she desires. Yet Jamil still insists on the path he’s chosen.

“I will pay any price to get away from this life, Ororo. You left Achmed. What price did you pay? Was it worth it?” Jamil asks. “Perhaps we will meet again and then decide who chose the right path. Until then, I am free!” With that, Jamil walks off into the desert, supporting the injured Candra as he goes.

Later that night, Storm and Karima kneel by Achmed’s death bed. Even though she failed to bring Jamil home, he tells Storm that she hasn’t failed her mission. “When you were one of my pupils, I would send you out for some small treasure and you would return with a greater one,” he says, gesturing towards Karima. He tells Storm that the Street Urchins still need a teacher, a role which Karima is perfectly suited fill. Achmed El-Gibar finally passes away. Storm weeps while Karima buries her face in her hands.

Shortly after their master’s death, the two women convene outside. Storm tells Karima that she has much to learn if she is to lead the Street Urchins. Karima seems surprised at this news, not understanding that she is now their leader. Storm rests her arm on the girl’s shoulder and walks her through the streets of Cairo, sharing with her all the secrets of Achmed El-Gibar. Overhead, Storm conjures up a fierce sandstorm as her final tribute to her master.

Characters Involved: 

Gambit, Jean Grey, Storm (all X-Men)

Achmed El-Gibar

Jamil (a young Street Urchin)

Karima (another young Street Urchin)

various Street Urchins

Candra (an External)

Bond (Candra’s servant)

in flashback

Young Ororo Munroe

Ororo’s parents

Achmed El-Gibar

Story Notes: 

Candra first appeared in Gambit (1st series) #1. She is an immortal being, and one of the Externals.

This storyline concludes later on in X-Men #60 and 61. These issues contain revelations about the true nature of Jamil and Karima.

The Karima in this issue is not to be confused with Karima Shapandar, aka Omega Sentinel.

Storm’s origin was originally depicted in Uncanny X-Men #102.

Issue Information: 
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