Young X-Men #10

Issue Date: 
March 2009
Story Title: 
Who the Hell is Cipher?

Marc Guggenheim (writer), Ben Oliver (artist), Ulises Arreola (color artist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Billy Tan & Brian Reber (cover artist), Irene Lee (production), Daniel Ketchum (assistant editor), Nick Lowe (editor), Jose Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

As Ink questions Graymalkin about the identity of the mysterious girl known as Cipher, Cyclops tells Moonstar and Sunspot about her as well. It is learned that Cipher was a mutant girl who was discovered by Jean Grey during a riot in mutant town. Her real name is Alisa and Cyclops and Jean were the only ones who knew about her for a long time. Cipher later met Blindfold during Cassandra Nova’s psychic attack on the X-Mansion and met Graymalkin after the sentinel attack of Messiah Complex unburied him underneath the mansion. She also saved Blindfold from Moonstar, encouraged Graymalkin to fight and freed Magma from her cell when Pierce was manipulating the Young X-Men. Cyclops advises Cipher to make herself known to the team which she agrees to but is still afraid that a certain someone will come after her. Meanwhile, Beast regrettably informs Dust that she has less than a week to live due to her cell degradation, which is turning her body into glass. During her usual talks with the imprisoned Donald Pierce, he informs her that he can and will save her if she lets him out of his cell.

Full Summary: 


During a riot in Mutant Town that Cyclops, Jean Grey and Xorn were sent to deal with, Jean Grey vaguely senses someone with invisibility powers. Jean has a tough time communicating with her, due to the person having virtually no psychic profile. Jean instructs Xorn to tend to Professor Xavier so she and Scott can be alone with Alisa…


“Who the hell is Cipher?” Ink impatiently asks Graymalkin at the Young X-Men’s San Francisco quarters. Cipher appears to tell Ink that her identity is none of his business and then phases through the floor. Left behind, Graymalkin explains to Ink that Alisa is complex and that she befriended him at the ruins of the mansion.


After the events of the mutant messiah’s birth, the mansion was reduced to rubble from a sentinel attack. Cipher found Graymalkin buried beneath the ruins and helped him to the surface.


Cyclops tells Moonstar and Sunspot that Ciphers real name is Alisa Tager. Even though she’s an X-Man in training, Cyclops is practically the only one who knows of her since Jean’s death. Dani and Roberto are understandably unnerved by this news and ask him who else knows about her, to which Cyclops tells them Blindfold.


During Cassandra Nova’s psychic attack on the X-Men, Blindfold hid in the girl’s bathroom from Beast, who was reduced to a savage animal rampaging through the mansion. Cipher comforted Blindfold during this troubling time and tried to send Armor away to safety as well. Beast eventually broke into the bathroom, chasing Wolverine, who was reduced to having a child-like mindset, but Armor managed to protect Blindfold and unknowingly, Cipher as well.


In the X-Men’s medical bay, Dust calmly asks Beast how long she has before dying. Beast informs her that such a process is hard to understand, even for him, and her condition is so unpredictable that he’s still getting a handle on it. Occurring after Magma turned her body into glass and then back again, Beast calls her condition that’s slowly turning her body into glass “cellular degradation.” Beast assures the young mutant that he is working on it day and night but Dust still wants to know how long, to which Beast regrettably answers that she has roughly a week to live. Dust walks out hopelessly and asks Beast that he keeps this between the two of them.

Meanwhile, Sunspot and Moonstar are still uncomfortable with the idea that Cyclops has been keeping Cipher, whom they have learned has phasing and invisibility powers, a secret kept from everyone. Scott says that they’re not the only ones who have a problem with her and says most of the other X-Men are peeved about it too, including Wolverine, Beast, Storm and Angel. Even Emma didn’t know about her and isn’t pleased, especially since Cipher is psychically invisible. When Dani says that the whole situation is something she’d expect from Professor X, Cyclops jokingly accuses her of holding a grudge because Alisa knocked her out…


When Moonstar gained the upper hand against Ink and Blindfold when the two were sent by Pierce to apprehend her, Cipher intervened to rescue her friend and swiftly knocked Dani out with a blow to the head.


Anole and Rockslide train in the danger room as they discuss Ink’s phoenix tattoo and his status on the team. Rockslide says he’s okay with having that kind of firepower on his side despite Ink being an “@$&-hat.” Anole is less than okay with the situation and accuses Rockslide of beginning to like the guy who’s only been out for himself and now has power that Jean Grey herself couldn’t even handle. Rockslide and Anole agree that Dani and Roberto don’t seem worried about it but they do seem worried about something or someone else. During all this, Cipher has been eavesdropping from above…

Cyclops, Sunspot and Moonstar continue their discussion as Scott informs them that not only did Cipher interfere with the attack on Moonstar but she was also the one who freed Magma from her cell. Sunspot claims that he’s been wondering why things went south for Pierce, especially since he was disguised as Cyclops and alone in the mansion with a comatose Dust and an imprisoned Magma. Cyclops corrects him and says that, while that’s all true, Pierce still wasn’t quite alone…


Graymalkin watches silently from above as Pierce, disguised as Cyclops, conducts his plan. Cipher tells Graymalkin that, even though he’s not an X-Man, he’s the only one left that can save them. Cipher pleads with Graymalkin to “man-up” and save her friend, Blindfold. She claims to know how the repressed mutant feels as she also hides in the shadows and watches but, while watching is fine, there are moments when you can’t just look anymore. Graymalkin understands what she’s saying and tells her that he will kill Cyclops.


Cipher confronts Cyclops and tells him that she can’t do it; she can’t reveal herself to anyone. Cyclops tells her that she outed herself but Alisa claims it was only because the team was in danger. When asked why she went to Ink for help instead of coming to him, she goes silent.

When asked for his theory why, Cyclops tells her that a part of her wants people to know about her and tells her that she will have to trust the X-Men, just as she trusted himself and Jean. Cipher seems to accept her new situation but is still worried that “If he finds out I’m still alive, he’ll come after me.” Cyclops promises that he’ll have to get through the X-Men to get to her. Cipher says that that’s what she’s afraid of but that she’ll just have to get over her fear.

Dust walks with Donald Pierce in a simulated park that his virtual jail-cell creates for them. Pierce tells her how sorry he is to hear about her fatal condition but Dust accuses him of patronizing her since, being a mutant-hating bigot, one less mutant would only delight him. Although she makes a fair point, Pierce claims that he’s grown to value Dust’s company, since he’s been imprisoned and will miss her companionship. He offers to help Dust, telling her that, while Doctor McCoy is one man, he had at least a dozen top geneticists and biologists at his disposal and he devised a way to reverse her cellular degradation when Magma first turned her into glass. When Dust states that she isn’t naive enough to think there won’t be a price for his help, Pierce smiles and states the obvious: he wants her to get him out of there.

Characters Involved: 

Dust, Ink, Anole, Graymalkin, Rockslide (Young X-Men)

Sunspot, Moonstar, Cyclops, Beast


Donald Pierce


Beast, Phoenix IV, Wolverine, Xorn (all X-Men)
Armor, Blindfold (Xavier Institute students)

Story Notes: 

Jean Grey first discovered Cipher during the mutant town riots, which were depicted in New X-Men (1st series) #127, in a story titled “Of Living and Dying.”

The Mansion was destroyed after the events of the X-Men Crossover, Messiah Complex.

The events of Beast’s rampage and Cassandra Nova’s psychic attack were depicted in Astonishing X-Men (3rd Series) #13 – 18, in an arc titled “Torn.”

Ink and Blindfold’s assault on Moonstar occurred in Young X-Men #2.

After being encouraged by Cipher, Graymalkin attacked Pierce, who was posing as Cyclops, in Young X-Men #4.

Dust was turned into glass by Magma in Young X-Men #3 and turned back to normal by her in the following issue.

Coincidentally, X-Force (3rd Series) #11 was released the same month as this issue with the similarly titled story, “Who the Hell is Eli Bard?” Both stories shed some light on mysterious characters that were influencing events for some time.

Issue Information: