X-Statix #16

Issue Date: 
January 2004
Story Title: 
Back from the Dead - part 4

Peter Milligan (writer), Mike Allred (penciler), J. Bone (Inker), Laura Allred (colors), Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit (letters), Warren Simons & John Miesegaes (assistant editors), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Across America more people die at the hands of the random killers, now by more than just a sniper’s bullet; by car and letter bombs and rush-hour stampedes caused by pranks. As the death toll mounts, Henrietta, the United States’ newest secretary of homeland defense, begins to bear the brunt of negative public opinion, as people blame her for not stopping the killings. As her popularity drops, the team’s spirits begins to rise. Meanwhile, Reggie from Europa grows every more concerned with Henrietta and directs his aide and confidant, Dicky, to remove secret documents from his office and give them to Lacuna in the US for public release. These are Reggie’s last orders, however, as the random killer, under orders from Spike and Mister Code, ends Reggie’s life in the Europan hospital. Back in the States, having been freshly rejected by Guy in her latest romantic advances, Lacuna receives the documents from Dicky, which prove that both Spike and former X-Forcer, Edie Sawyer, helped sell chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein. Conflicted on whether to release them, Lacuna informs Guy of the seriousness of the documents and Guy, in turn, confronts Spike. However, when Spike insinuates that he’s already taken care of the situation by directing the random killer to kill Lacuna, Guy becomes incensed and breaks Spike’s neck, killing him. Subsequently, he rushes to Lacuna’s TV studio but is too late, as a sniper’s bullet finds its mark and makes Lacuna his latest victim.

Full Summary: 

Somewhere in America, three friends make a hasty dash across the parking lot of Park Bowl bowling alley. Having finished their game, they are trying to return to their car alive. Calling out to his slower friends, one man hurries them on, pointing out that the place could be swarming with snipers. When one of the others notes that he doesn’t see anything, the first replies that that’s the point. You don’t see them. Understanding, the second adds that you don’t hear the bullet that kills you.

Once inside the station wagon, the first man asks if everyone is in. Rick? Rick replies that he’s there. Hearing his name called out, Sam replies with a “yo.” Good, replies the first. They’re safe. Then, with the turning of the ignition key, the automobile explodes in flame and death.

Reporting from Channel 7, Tracy announces that the random killers terrorizing America seem to have changed their tactics. No longer content to incite panic with bullets, they’ve resorted to nitroglycerine and letter-bombs… and a very sick form of what passes for humor. As images show emergency personnel carrying two filled body bags, Tracy reports that four died in a New York subway train when a suspected sarin gas attacks sparked a rush-hour stampede. The “gas,” was later found to be a harmless, if unpleasant, product called “stinky pants,” which is available for four dollars from all good practical joke stores. Illustrating this, Tracy holds up a box of the product in question for the camera.

Watching this from their home, an American family hears Tracy ask the “big” question: where is Secretary of Homeland Defense Henrietta? Agreeing with the question, the family’s father asks the larger question: where are the heroes?

On a fashion runway, the team known as X-Statix displays their latest costumes. All are of a more futuristic and avant-garde nature, replete with soft, solid colors. Describing what the audience is seeing, the announcer declares that the team is wearing stunning ethnic lycra with bold highlights, playfully evoking spandex nouveau, all created by “Henrietta and friends.” Replica X-Statix costumes, continues the announcer, are now for sale at all X-Statix Megastores, available in sized baby, kiddy, teen, adult and underactive thyroid.

The announcer then draws the audience’s attention to El Guapo and Jesus Diaz, asking for a round of applause. As the young Jesus makes his way down stairs, with only his crutches, the likewise legless El Guapo sails through the air on his flying skateboard. The announcer declares that these two youths show that amputees don’t have to miss out on the fun.

Elsewhere, Lacuna interviews Henrietta. Holding the microphone for the team’s leader, Lacuna asks Henrietta if she really thinks that now is the right time to launch a new clothes line. People are dying; people are scared. Replying absolutely, Henrietta states that it’s all part of her plan. They’re showing those horrid random killers that they’re not scaring them. Maybe it will make them come out in the open and fight. Turning to the camera, Henrietta then adds that, more importantly, if they cancelled the show now… it would mean the terrorists have won!

Suddenly, Henrietta hears her name called out. Turning to the voice, she sees a photographer capturing her image. Later, that image becomes a cover shot for Time Magazine. Under Henrietta’s photo, the caption “More Than She Can Chew?” is printed.

In Europa, a copy of the Time Magazine is thrown with such force that it breaks through the hospital window and begins the long fall to the ground. Lying in his hospital bed, Reggie is hooked up to an IV but is still strong enough to have thrown the magazine. Spitting his words with bile, Reggie tells Dicky that Henrietta killed him, just as sure as if she’d put a bullet through his heart.

Now, he continues to Dicky, he must grant a dying man his final request. Leaning in closer, Dicky tells his old friend anything. Hearing this, Reggie asks Dicky if he remembers his secret place. Seeing a smiling Dicky wink and ask how could he forget, Reggie gets flustered. Correcting himself, Reggie states that he meant secret place in his office. He tells Dicky he will find documents there. Documents that will destroy that awful uncouth America upstart.

Hearing this, Dicky asks Reggie if he means George W. Bush. Again correcting himself, Reggie states Spike Freeman, team-owner of X-Statix. The documents prove that he supplied restricted chemicals to Saddam Hussein. Dicky is to use them to destroy Freeman and that upstart rabble of mutant freaks he associates with… X-Statix. He just needs to get the documents to the “chat-show” girl who interviewed Henrietta - Lacuna. As Dicky departs, Reggie tells him to be careful. Freeman, he says, has people everywhere.

With Dicky gone, an orderly appears, his hat on backwards and menacingly holding a pillow, and asks Reggie where the documents are. Defiant, despite his disadvantage, Reggie replies that he may be ancient, with a cranky heart and galloping Alzheimer’s but he will not be intimidated by someone who can’t even put his cap on the right way. In response to this, the faux orderly places the pillow on Reggie’s face, suffocating him. As the old man dies, his murderer cracks that it’s a fashion statement… old fool.

Somewhere in the US, Henrietta stands atop a building with the rest of X-Statix, instructing them all to keep quiet. Watching over the side incredulously, the Anarchist asks Henrietta what in the hell they are doing there. Chiming in that she knows the answer to that one, Dead Girl states that they’re wasting their time. Not true, Henrietta rejoins. They’re looking for the random killers, of course. If they keep moving around the country, they’re bound to stumble upon them eventually. As Henrietta continues her vigil from the roof, the rest of the team takes a moment to process the logic of this statement.

Finally speaking, Vivisector tells Henrietta that he’ll let her in on a secret: America has fifty-one states, dozens of cities, several million square miles and over three-hundred million people. The chances of them just stumbling upon the killers is… well… pretty remote. With a shocked look of revelation, Henrietta tells Vivisector that he’s right. Proud of himself, Vivisector replies obviously and then adds that they need is a system. Nearby Venus Dee Milo announces that what she needs is one of Professor Xavier’s special baths. If she ‘ports any more today, her molecules will evaporate.

Later, back at X-Statix Tower, Henrietta stands before a map of the United States with the rest of the team. Holding a dart, Henrietta tells the team that this is how her ex-mother-in-law used to pick her horses. When Vivisector asks if she means random chance, Henrietta replies that it’s maybe not as much as he thinks. She has returned from the dead, she reminds him. She still has some pretty good contacts over there. So maybe, she continues, unseen hands from the spirit world will guide her.

Nearby but out of earshot, Tike tells the others that he’s just had a scary thought: could this work? Prompted by Guy, Dead Girl guesses that it’s a possibility. Hearing this, the Anarchist asks what happens if the spirits do guide her… and she ends up stopping the random killings? Simple, replies Guy, she’ll be a national hero and they’ll be stuck with her forever. Slapping her forehead, Venus asks him to “say it ain’t so.”

Putting his arm around Dead Girl, the Anarchist asks her to listen; this is her gig. Henrietta’s trying to contact the spirits. Her job is to stop it from happening. Nearby, Henrietta continues her incantation, asking the spirits of the other side… telling them that she is their sister and she commands them… to guide her hand towards… the random killers… As she does so, Dead Girl mutters a counter-incantation, telling the spirits of the other side that she is Dead Girl and she commands them to keep their deceased spirit butts outta this. Dig?

This is America today, Tracy of Channel 7 announces, while showing the image of an empty playground, guarded by a policeman. It is a country where parents are afraid to send their kids to school. In just a few weeks, they’ve been turned into a paranoid, twitchy, fearful people. Now showing the image of a casket, about to be lowered to the ground, Tracy states that, as the body count grows, they wait… for a reason, for some political or financial demand from the killers.

Meanwhile, she continues, they wonder… who are the random killers? Al Qaeda operatives? Communists? An urban militia sect? Watching this in X-Statix Tower, Dead Girl guesses aloud black separatists. Phat, in turn, supposes white supremacists. Hearing both theories, Vivisector announces that that is the problem with living in a melting pot. There are so many people who might hate you.

Back on television, Tracy tells her audience that, there, in the studio, is someone who might have the answer. Secretary of Homeland Defense… and leader of the mutant super-team X-Statix… Henrietta! Now formally introduced, Henrietta is immediately booed and jeered from the studio audience, some of whom tell her to go back to Europa. So, begins Tracy, what is she doing to protect them… besides designing clothes? Doing her best to answer, despite the array of items being thrown at her by the audience, Henrietta replies that she’s trying to fight the random killers… if only they’d fight fair.

Back at the team’s HQ, Venus raises a glass, announcing that that’s it. She’s cracking up… and on prime-time TV. Adding to this, Spike tells the group that her q-rating’s going through the floor. Making his own toast, the Anarchist tells them to just pray that the killings don’t stop. Having said this, he turns to Doop and, with a wink, tells him to not quote him on that.

Sitting next to Guy on a couch, Lacuna tells her guest that it’s almost like… they planned it to work out like this. When he counters, asking how she can say that, Lacuna replies that she knows him. He never liked Henrietta. They were railroaded into having her on the team… she knows that. Because, Guy rejoins, she eavesdropped on their private conversation. To this, Lacuna replies that she’s an investigating journalist, doing her job!

Leaning closer into Guy, Lacuna suggests that they don’t argue like this. They’ve got so little time together. Recoiling from the advance, Guy asks Lacuna what she’s doing. Leaning in even closer, whispering in his ear, Lacuna tells Guy that she’s addressing the sexual tension between them. One of them has to. It’s eating away at her, burning her…

Acting quickly, Guy grabs Lacuna’s wrists, stopping her. As he begins to protest, Lacuna declares that they want each other and there’s nothing stopping them… now that Edie’s gone. When Guy asks what about a certain Venus Dee Milo, Lacuna replies that she knows he’s not happy with her. He knows she could never take the place of Edie… not like she could. They argue about Edie all the time. She knows they do and she can make him forget about them both.

Having had enough, Guy throws Lacuna onto the glass coffee table, calling her crazy. Looking down at her arm, Lacuna sees that she has been cut by a shard of the shattered glass table. Horrified at the sight, she tells Guy that he assaulted her! As he tries to protest an apology, Lacuna asks if he thinks he can go around attacking whomever he wants, just because he’s in X-Statix? Before Guy can finish another sentence, Lacuna disappears, having slipped between the moments of time.

Walking down the sidewalk, her arm now bandaged, Lacuna thinks how she doesn’t care if she made an idiot out of herself. She’s sick of not being taken seriously by those mutants, particularly Guy “the Orphan” Smith. He treats her like a kid. Arriving at her studio, she notes that the crowds are down again. Before all the random killing craziness started, they’d be around the block. Now, only die-hards and lunatics hang around in the open.

Suddenly, Lacuna hears her name called. Turning, she sees an elderly man with a file tucked under his arm. It is Dicky from Europa. After quickly telling the man that if he does anything funny she’ll call security, Lacuna is told that he has something that she can use on her show. Documents that will destroy the reputation of Spike Freeman and, with him, the mutant team known as X-Statix. Taking the file, Lacuna rhetorically asks if he does say…

Behind her anchor desk, Tracy reports that a remarkable video has been sent to the station from a person calling himself… Mister Code. The explanation made, Tracy allows the video to speak for the rest. Now playing, the audience sees a man in a business suit, whose face is obscured by a tight, white mask that covers his head, save for his ears. The mask itself is featureless, except for the partial bar code printed on the front.

What are you? Mister Code asks. What are your lives? If not messy, unhappy compromises. You are miserable trade-offs between your desires and your fears. Grubby ideals, plea-bargained by your instincts with your conditioning. Your forefathers, he continues, lived with death. They carved America out of danger. You, their descendents, have grown fat and complacent. But you are coming alive. The current state of emergency is quickening your spirit and hardening your flesh. That’s why the random killings are good for you. That’s why they will continue… until we have changed America.

Reclining by his swimming pool, Spike Freeman receives a personal update from his operative, the backward cap-wearing orderly from Europa. Speaking bluntly, he informs his employer that he came all the way back to America to warn him. He couldn’t get a hold of those documents. They might have already been passed on. Apologizing, the operative departs, wishing Mr. Freeman good luck. Addressing the operative as Joe, Spike replies that he doesn’t need luck… he’s got forward planning.

Picking up a phone, Spike makes a quick call. Answering the phone, a young girl calls out to her father that it’s for him. When he has his intended party, Spike tells him that it’s he, Spike… his old business partner. He needs a little favor and it shouldn’t be a problem for a man of his… influence. On the end of the phone, Mister Code inquisitively states the name of his target: Lacuna?

On a pier stretching out into the Pacific at sunset, Guy tells Lacuna that he knows she’s angry about last time but… Lacuna stops Guy, informing him that this has nothing to do with last time. Though he was a pig… and a liar. A pig and a liar that she desperately needed to see? Guy rejoins. Getting to the point, Lacuna informs Guy that she’s come into possession of some documents; they’re dynamite. They link Spike Freeman, the owner of X-Statix, to – get this – Saddam Hussein!

Taking this in, Guy asks Lacuna why she’s telling him this. When she replies that they’re friends, Guy replies that he thought he was a pig and a liar. Sniping back, Lacuna states that makes exceptions for people she’s in love with. Taking Lacuna’s hand, which she had placed on his chest, Guy tells Lacuna that she’s not in love with him. Infatuated maybe but not… Hurt by this, Lacuna asks Guy if he doesn’t think she’s old enough to be in love.

Wishing to change the conversation, Guy asks where the documents are. With her lawyer, the tear-filled Lacuna replies. If anything happens to her, they’ll be released to the authorities. So release them, Guy says. Destroy Spike Freeman – see if he cares. Now bawling, Lacuna tells Guy that it’s more complicated than that. If the documents are made public… Spike Freeman is not the only one whose reputation will be destroyed.

Edie? yells Guy at Spike. My Edie? My Edie Sawyer, Guy proclaims, would never have agreed to… to sell chemical weapons to… to… Saddam Hussein! Leaning away from the clearly incensed Guy Smith, Spike bluntly informs him that she had a very expensive lifestyle. Pharmaceuticals. Therapy. Cosmetic procedures. This gig, he tells Guy, didn’t always pay the bills.

When Guy immediately tells Spike that he’s lying, Venus chimes in, suggesting that maybe not this time. She tells Guy that she knows she’s turned Edie into some kinda saint but she was only human. As human as any of them, the Anarchist adds. Taken aback, Guy asks Tike if he has too. Speaking softly, Tike replies that he doesn’t know. He made a few deals, had some properties to buy in Jamaica - didn’t really look at the small print.

Zeitgeist! yells out Spike – did he know how to spend! This place… do they have any idea how much the rent is? And that’s not all, he continues gesturing to the floating Doop, who yelps out a response – everyone’s favorite talking blob requires regular and very special medical treatment that costs an arm and a leg. Welcome to the world of high-finance, Spike continues. He made sure that they were all implicated up to their holier-than-thou eyeballs. If he does down, he drags them all screaming with him.

Reeling from the revelations of the past few minutes, Guy haltingly informs Spike that she thinks he can persuade Lacuna to hand over the documents. When Spike replies that that won’t be necessary, Guy asks what that’s supposed to mean. Let’s just say, Spike grins, with all these random killings going down, no one’s safe. Sensing Spike’s meaning, both verbally and with his extra-ordinary senses, Guy loses control. With reflexes honed by countless hours of combat, Guy leaps into the air and kicks Spike in the head, twisting his neck and killing him instantly.

For a few moments, the rest of the team is dumbstruck by what happened. Eventually, however, Dead Girl moves to Spike’s inert form and take his pulse. With a wide-eyed glare at Guy, she informs him that Spike is dead. He’s killed him. In stark opposition to Dead Girl’s shocked demeanor, Guy Smith glares down stone-faced.


As a figure shrouded in shadows on a rooftop outside of Lacuna’s TV studio crouches unseen, Guy Smith desperately searches for Lacuna within. After learning from an aide that she has gone out for a walk, as she said she had some stuff to work out, Guy races down to follow her.

Exiting her studio, Lacuna’s face is downcast, her eyes looks at the few feet in front of her instead of the path and life ahead. Asking herself if she does or doesn’t, Lacuna wonders if she takes down X-Statix… what will be her reasons? Silly girlish anger because Guy didn’t reciprocate her feelings for him?

Lacuna is brought out of this train of thought by the sound of her name being called out. Looking back at the studio entrance, she sees Guy, racing out after her, telling her to wait. With a fresh grin on her face, Lacuna thinks to herself that she knew it. She knew he felt the same way. This is the last thought that goes through her mind before the sniper’s bullet rips through her body and causes her to collapse on the hard concrete at her feet.

Characters Involved: 

Anarchist, Dead Girl, Doop, El Guapo, Henrietta Hunter, Mister Sensitive, Phat, Venus Dee Milo, Vivisector (all X-Statix)

Spike Freeman, X-Statix employer
Jesus Diaz, honorary X-Statix team member


Mister Code

Mister Code’s two daughters




Tracy, the X-Statix reporter for Channel 7

X-Statix paparazzi

Unnamed media reporters & cameramen

Unnamed bowler



TV viewing family (father, mother, son and daughter)

X-Statix costume show attendees

LA pedestrians

Overweight TV watching couple

Three female guests at Spike Freeman’s swimming pool

Joe, Spike Freeman’s operative

Lacuna’s aide


On television

Tracy, the X-Statix reporter for Channel 7

Tracy’s studio audience


Playground policeman

Mister Code

Story Notes: 

Sarin gas is a poisonous gas used as a nerve agent in chemical warfare.

Jesus Diaz is the Latin youth who lost in legs from a mine in X-Statix #14. He was made an honorary X-Statix member in X-Statix #15.

George W. Bush is the 43rd president of the United States and sitting president at the time of this issue’s publication.

Vivisector’s comment that there are fifty-one states in the United States is a little confusing as, at the time of the issues publication, there are only 50. The latest addition was Hawaii, which was added in 1959.

Doop Translation:

When Spike points to Doop, talking about expenses incurred by the team, Doop gives out an “Eep!”

Issue Information: 

This Issue has been reprinted in:

Written By: