X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #8

Issue Date: 
October 1995
Story Title: 
First Contact

Howard Mackie (writer), Dan Lawlis & Tom Grummet (pencilers), Iam Akin (inker), Matt Webb (colorist), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters), Adam Pollina & Ian Akin (cover), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Teenager Chris Bradley manifests his mutant ability one day before school. His power, which gives Chris control over electrical charges, attracts the attention of the X-Men. While Chris tries to go about his daily life, which includes building up the nerve to ask out his crush Donna, the X-Men track him down and try to recruit him to come to the Xavier Institute. Chris initially resists, but when his friend Jeff rejects him for being a mutant, he decides to give the school a try. He becomes good friends with the X-Men, learns to control his powers with the help of Charles Xavier, and develops an especially strong relationship with his mentor, Iceman. However, after conducting some blood tests, Beast discovers that Chris has the Legacy Virus, and the X-Men break the bad news. Chris freaks out and runs away, but Iceman tracks him down. The two friends have a poignant heart-to-heart, which leads to Chris accepting himself and his fate. Chris realizes that the X-Men are truly his best friends and promises to keep in touch. He decides to return to his home in New York and live his life as best he can. His friend Jeff rejects him once again, but surprisingly enough, Donna approaches Chris and tells him that she doesn’t care if he’s a mutant and wants to go out on a date with him. Donna accepts Chris even after he reveals his terminal illness, and the two decide they want to be together. Chris returns home and makes an excited phone call to his true friend, Iceman.

Full Summary: 

“Sometimes being a teenager stinks,” high-school freshman Chris Bradley says to himself while looking in the bathroom mirror. He grips his throbbing head and grinds his teeth while tears involuntarily spill out of his eyes. What started as a normal day for Chris has progressed to the point where he feels like his head is going to explode. Chris’ kid sister Cathy pounds on the door and demands her turn in the bathroom. Chris, however, is in too much pain to leave. As he yells at her to cut it out, his body begins generating a visible electrical current.
The current quickly grows in power and overloads, short-circuiting every appliance in the Bradley residence. Chris’s parents, Bill and Marion, come running to the bathroom door, and find him sprawled out on the floor with tears running down his face and electricity jumping between his fingers. “Dad…help me,” he says. His parents refuse to let him go to school that day, so he reluctantly stays home.

The next morning, Chris once again examines himself in the mirror before leaving for school. Today he feels fine physically, but he still has anxiety, as he plans on asking a popular girl named Donna on a date. This thought occupies his mind as he walks to school, and he barely notices that he is being watched by a gorgeous red-haired adult woman.
Chris brushes the event off, and then meets up with his friend Jeff. After a misunderstood attempt to explain the previous day’s strange event to Jeff, the two hurry off to school. A bright red sports car intersects their path at a crosswalk. Once again, Chris sees the red-haired woman, this time in the passenger seat. He doesn’t recognize the driver, however. The car speeds off, and Jeff asks Chris if he knew the passengers. “Yeah right,” he responds, brushing the comment aside. However, this second encounter disturbs Chris, and he wonders who those people really are.
At school, Jeff tries to nudge Chris into finally asking Donna out. Chris tells him to shut up, most likely because Donna stands within an earshot, talking to her friends. Chris is about to comment that he’ll ask her when he is ready, when the red sports car pulls up across the street. The red-headed woman and the tall man with red pupils draw his attention. Chris decides to run, believing there to be some connection between his electrical incident and these stalkers. However, he trips over a stray backpack and lands right at Donna’s feet. Her friends giggle at Chris’ misfortune. Donna, however, casts him a sympathetic glance and says hello.
“Er, hi, Donna,” Chris says, taking advantage of the opportunity Donna has provided. “Just getting in some practice worshipping the ground you walk on.”
Somehow, Donna isn’t repelled by this pick-up line, and the two begin chatting. Chris asks her if they can talk after class, and Donna replies that they should walk home together. Chris maintains his composure, but he can barely contain his internal excitement. As the two enter the school, he barely notices that his stalkers have departed. He builds up the confidence to ask Donna out on a date, and she accepts his offer. With that off his chest, Chris starts noticing once again that his head hurts.
Later on during class, his electrical powers start acting up again, and he has to flee to the restroom to hide his mutant ability. Things seem to calm down at first, but then Chris’ hair stands on end, his pupils turn white, and electricity starts pouring out of his body. He screams, setting off a full discharge that blows out the school’s windows.
Gambit and Jean Grey, who are discussing how they are going to tell Chris about his mutant manifestation, witness this event from the street. They rush into the high school, pushing their way through crowds of frightened teenagers.
They trace the source to the men’s room toilet, but Chris’ power holds the door shut. Gambit charges a playing card and blows the door open. They see Chris inside, completely out of control of his power. He loses consciousness and collapses on the bathroom floor. Instead of waiting around to explain about Chris’ mutant manifestation to the authorities, who are currently heading towards the bathroom, Gambit decides that a better course of action would be to simply flee. He blows out a window, and Jean carries Chris, Gambit and herself to safety, courtesy of her telekinesis.
Jean and Gambit take the barely conscious Chris to his home. Chris’ mother Marion phones her husband Bill, who comes home from work to see his son. Chris lies down on the couch, and drifts in and out of consciousness while his parents demand to know what is happening. Jean formally introduces herself and Gambit.
“Mr. LeBeau and I are from the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning,” she says. “We work with Professor Charles Xavier.”
“Charles Xavier? Who’s he?” Bill asks.
“He’s an expert…on mutants,” Jean replies, not noticing that Chris is awake and listening to this exchange. Chris doesn’t take this news well, and his powers start acting up again.
“Why are you saying these things about me?! It’s not true,” he shouts, capturing the attention of his parents and the X-Men. Chris feels very guilty for becoming a burden on his parents all of the sudden. When his mom reaches out to embrace him, Chris tells her to stay away. He then runs out the door and tells everyone to leave him alone.
He ends up running over to his buddy Jeff’s house in need of a friend. Jeff meets the frantic Chris outside, who cowers behind a tree. Chris proceeds to explain that he has been augmented by the strangers they saw earlier that day. Jeff asks what he’s talking about.
“They say I’m a…mutant,” Chris says, stepping out from the cover of the tree. His eyes no longer have discernible pupils, and a strong electrical charge emanates from his body. Jeff doesn’t take the news well. Instead of providing the support Chris needs, he freaks out, calls for his dad, and tells Chris to get away. Chris doesn’t need to be told twice. Already paranoid about hurting people he loves, he runs. He runs until he collapses from exhaustion. Jean and Gambit eventually find him, panting and crying in the street. They offer their help, and a desperate Chris finally accepts.
A few days later, Chris’s parents drive him to the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Chris feels anxious about coming to the school, and wonders if he really belongs there. His parents assure him that he needs this sort of help, and if it doesn’t work out, he can come home.
Jean greets the family at the door. She assures Chris that they are glad to have him at the institute. Chris still has his doubts, but momentarily sets his reservations aside so he can ogle the figure of Jean Grey.
“A penny for your thoughts, Chris,” Jean asks, possibly sensing his prurient interests. Chris is visibly embarrassed, but Jean assures him that she would never invade his thoughts without permission.
As Chris observes the exterior of the mansion, he catches glimpses of all sorts of unique people. He sees a winged man flying overhead, a woman flying in the center of a storm, and a blue-furred man in a second-story window. He tries to convince himself that these were all hallucinatory visions, and even goes a step further by trying to convince himself that maybe the past few days have been nothing but hallucinations as well! Jean interrupts this thought process and takes Chris to meet the professor.
The fact that Charles Xavier is crippled catches Chris off guard, and he begins to comment on this out loud. However, he catches himself mid-sentence, and instead notes that although Xavier is bound to a wheelchair, he still seems incredibly powerful. While looking into Xavier’s eyes, Chris feels transparent, as though Xavier can see right into his soul. Instead of feeling scared, however, Chris feels comforted, and for the first time since manifesting his mutant abilities, he also feels understood. Xavier proceeds to take Chris on a tour of the institute.
Their first stop is the Danger Room. From the viewing room, Chris and Xavier observe Jean Grey, Gambit, Archangel, Beast, Storm and Iceman partake in a training session. Charles explains that the Danger Room provides mutants with a controlled environment in which they can practice and hone their abilities. Chris watches this extraordinary display of power, precision, teamwork, and most importantly, control. The display is awe-inspiring, and Chris finally realizes that his own powers may not be a curse after all; they may actually be a blessing.
The next stop on the tour is the med-lab, where Chris undergoes a physical examination. Chris can barely sit still because of the exciting things he just saw in the Danger Room. Xavier assures him that being an X-Man is not all fun and games, and in what could almost be a deliberate attempt to demonstrate Xavier’s point, Hank McCoy whips out a gigantic needle and draws some blood for testing.
After his physical, Chris’ parents leave, and Chris settles into his room at the mansion. He is woken early the next morning by Bobby Drake, but refuses to get out of bed. After some gentle persuasion, he gets up and heads to the Danger Room for his very first training session. It doesn’t go as well as Chris hopes. His powers rage out of control, and he accidentally zaps his trainer, Iceman. He reassures his discouraged protégé that he will learn to control his powers eventually, and points out that he is already improving. Chris begins believing in himself, and states that he wants to work at improving.
Over the following days and weeks, Chris becomes very close with several of the X-Men. Various team members help him hone his powers. He undergoes therapeutic training sessions with Xavier, who helps him control nullify his throbbing headaches. He even goofs around with various X-Men on his free time. In short, he grows comfortable with his newfound family. His relationship with Iceman grows especially strong, as Bobby seems to really take Chris under his care and tutelage.
Eventually, Chris reaches such a level of control over his powers that he no longer poses a threat to anyone. Chris decides that he would now like to return home, and Xavier agrees with his decision. However, in order the celebrate Chris’ remarkable progress, as well as his graduation from the institute, the group decides to go out to Harry’s Hideaway in the Salem Center.
As the X-Men and Chris set out, Xavier receives an urgent mental message from Hank, who asks to meet him in the lab. Hank has finished analyzing Chris’ blood tests, and has some alarming results to share with Xavier. They decide to let Chris enjoy his time out at Harry’s Hideaway and not bother him with these results immediately. “The coming days will be hard enough on everyone,” Xavier says. Instead, they contact his parents and tell them to come to the institute right away.
Chris returns home from his night out with the X-Men, smiling with the satisfaction of the direction his life is headed. To his surprise, he finds his parents waiting for him in the mansion with Hank and Xavier. He begins to share everything he has learned with them, but his excitement is put on hold when he realizes that his parents are crying.
“Chris, we need to sit down and talk,” Xavier says to him.
“Why? What’s Doctor McCoy doing with my medical file?” Chris asks, sensing bad news. Xavier wants to disclose information to Chris in private, but the impatient Chris demands to know right away.
The team tells Chris that his blood tests show he has contracted the Legacy Virus. Chris immediately understands what this means, and loses control of his emotions. His outburst sends electrical charges through the room, and he runs out of the mansion in a panic.
“You all told me it was going to be alright! All I had to do was learn to control my powers and it would be alright! Well,” he screams into the night, “…you were WRONG!”
Bobby chases Chris as he heads into the woods. Chris shatters his ice slide with an electrical charge, and menacingly stands over his injured mentor while glowing from the power that surges through his body. Bobby talks him down, explaining that it was a million-to-one shot that Chris would have the Legacy Virus. “Lucky me,” Chris sarcastically replies. He seems to calm down though, and Iceman asks if they can just chill out for a while.
The two friends sit on a hillside and stare at the starry sky for a while. Chris finally interrupts the silence by stating that life is unfair. Bobby agrees. Chris then reveals that his primary motivation for controlling his powers was so he could go back to living his normal life. He tells Bobby about the horrible reaction he got from his buddy Jeff when he revealed he was a mutant. Chris also tells Bobby about his crush on Donna, and that he didn’t think she would date him if he were obviously a mutant. Learning that he has the Legacy Virus pretty much condemns him to life as an outcast, he explains.
“Chris, excuse me for saying this, but Jeff doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you’d want to keep around,” Bobby responds. “A real friend…a true friend…accepts you no matter who or what you are…or what’s happened to you.”
After another pause, Chris asks Bobby what happens after he dies. “I wish I could tell you buddy,” Bobby replies. “I really do.”
“Just thought I’d ask,” he says back.
Chris eventually leaves The Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters and returns to his home in Duchess County. Upon leaving, he remarks that he has found true friends in the X-Men, because they are the only people who will ever accept him for who he truly is. The fact that they support him and will continue to do so as he battles the Legacy Virus provides comfort for Chris. Upon leaving, he wishes wouldn’t feel so sad, a truly touching testament to Chris’s selflessness and empathy.
After being home for about a week, he tries to reconnect with Jeff. Perhaps a bit unsurprisingly, Jeff continues to shun Chris. However, not everything is so gloomy: Donna calls out Chris’s name as he walks down the street. Chris turns around with an expression of surprise written all over his face, and tries to deflect Donna by telling her that he is a mutant. Donna doesn’t care, though, and actually already knows.
“Jeff told everyone at school, but we’re not all Jeff. We’re not all afraid,” she says. Chris cannot believe what he’s hearing, and he and Donna gently lock hands while staring into each other’s eyes.
“So…I was wondering,” Donna continues, “you still want to go out or what?”
Chris then explains that he has the Legacy Virus, once again expecting Donna to shy away. However, she is completely sympathetic and doesn’t seem at all deterred. Even after Chris gives her an easy out, saying that this news will make him an outcast, Donna persists. As the sun sets behind them, the teenagers embrace, and Donna tells Chris that her feelings for him overpower whatever fears she has.
Later that night, an excited Chris makes a phone call to his friend and mentor Bobby Drake, hoping to share the events of his amazing day.

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Beast, Gambit, Iceman, Jean Grey, Professor X, Storm (all X-Men)
Chris Bradley

Bill, Marion, and Cathy Bradley (Chris’s family)

Jeff (Chris’s friend)

Donna (Chris’s love-interest)

Story Notes: 

For some reason, Bobby Drake reveals the news to Chris about his infection with the Legacy Virus. However, Hank only revealed the results to Professor X because the rest of the team, Bobby included, were in town with Chris. It is possible that Professor X telepathically informed Bobby about Chris’s condition and instructed him to break the news, as he was already Chris’s mentor and most-trusted adult figure.
Chris’s story continued in Maverick, New Warriors (2nd series) and Weapon X.

Issue Information: 
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