Young X-Men #4

Issue Date: 
August 2008
Story Title: 
Extinction Agenda

Marc Guggenheim (writers), Yanick Paquette (penciller) Ray Snyder (inker), Rob Schwager with Protobunker (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Will Panzo (asst. editor), Nick Lowe (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Terry & Rachel Dodson (cover art)

Brief Description: 

Ink requests new tattoos that will make him smarter but winds up with telepathy instead. The Young X-Men team nervously anticipates their impending battle against the new Brotherhood, unsure of their ability to take on the former New Mutants. The attack goes fairly well until Sunspot is seriously injured by Wolf Cub and Cannonball threatens to kill them all. Meanwhile, Cyclops is attacked by Graymalkin who claims to know his tricks and secrets. Graymalkin proves to be more powerful in the dark and uses this advantage to disable the image inducer used by “Cyclops” revealing that Donald Pierce was the true architect behind the formation of the Young X-Men.

Full Summary: 

In La Jolla, Ink has gone to visit his regular tattoo artist. Since leaving for California, he has shaved his head to the shock of the proprietor of Ink, Inc. who notes that he lost all his hair! Ink explains that he shaved it because he needs a new tattoo that will make him smarter. His pal tells him that he totally “pulled a Britney”. Ink asks him to focus on what kind of symbol would help him. Thinking aloud, the tattoo artist suggests an IQ symbol and a graduation cap but reminds Eric that his power only works with symbols that are iconic in nature. He gets around to asking why Ink needs to be smarter (beyond the obvious reason). Ink looks down and replies that he needs to figure out how to help somebody, a friend. He is clearly referring to Dust who is trapped in a crystallized state after a super-heated encounter with Magma. His friend warns him that he may be the first guy in history to get brain damage from shaving his head. Ink replies dryly “Thanks. You’re a helper.”

The tattoo artist pulls out a sketch pad and doodles what appears to be a lightning bolt. He tells Inks that he isn’t sure what kind of symbol would make him smarter but this might help. Ink assumes that this symbol will give him electrical powers. The artist explains that if they work the way he thinks, then he’d be able to read minds. He pulls down an X-Men comic book featuring Professor Xavier on the cover. Xavier has his hands to his head which is emanating lightning bolts to provide a visual representation of his mental abilities. Ink is hesitant to tattoo his head with something from a comic book but figures he can grow his hair back if it looks bad. As Ink settles into the chair for the new tats, the tattoo artist asks if he’s still “kicking it” in New York. Ink says he is and that he got a ride out here. He adds that he’s double-parked and there’s one more thing he needs inked while he’s out in California. Outside the tattoo parlor, traffic is chaos due to the X-Jet Ink has parked in the middle of the street.

Back at the Young X-Men’s headquarters, Graymalkin lurks about and overhears a conversation between Wolf Cub and Rockslide. Santo puts out there that they are all going to die. Nick thanks him for the vote of confidence and Santo points out that three of them got trounced by Magma and that she may have taken Dust out permanently. He asks what’s going to happen when the two of them take on Cannonball and Sunspot. Nick adds that Moonstar will likely me there as well. This is hardly reassuring to Rockslide. Wolf Cub reminds him that they’ve been up against heavy hitters before. Rockslide tells Nick that they’ve “never been up against X-Men” to which Wolf Cub replies, “They’re not the X-Men, Santo. We are.”

Outside, Cyclops and Ink are sparring. Ink notes that the odds are even: three against three. Cyclops says that this sparring session is one on one but Ink meant the upcoming fight against the new Brotherhood. He suggests that the odds would be better if Cyclops came with them. Cyclops replies “And who backs you up if things go south?” Ink throws a punch which Cyclops easily dodges. He asks “What do you mean “if”?” and then stops and grabs his head. Cyclops asks if he’s okay and Ink tells him he’s getting a headache from his new tattoos… a pair of lightning bolts above each ear. Cyclops asks if they’re working and Ink replies that he can’t read his thoughts so he doesn’t think they are. He points out to Cyclops that if he could read his mind, he “wouldn’t be getting my butt kicked so badly.” Cyclops points out that he has Xavier-established psi-shields and suggests he try his new power out on Santo or Nick. Ink says that they still don’t trust him, prompting Cyclops to ask if they have a reason not to. Ink says “Maybe” and says that maybe they can talk about it when he gets back. As Ink leaves, Cyclops smiles.

A short time later, Ink, Rockslide and Wolf Cub are on a jet heading to the Hellfire Club. As they mentally prepare for the battle ahead, Ink asks Santo what he’s thinking and notes that he looks nervous. Santo plays it off and reminds Ink that this isn’t his first time facing heavy hitters. Ink smiles and Rockslide asks “What’s so funny?” Ink says “Nothing, cuz” and simply puts his hand to the new tattoo on his temple and says that it’s just good to know that they work. Wolf Cub asks what they do and Ink projects his answer telepathically. Santo says “Sweet” but then adds that it’s kind of rude not to mention to people that you can read their minds. Nick asks if he thinks he can use them to locate Blindfold and Ink tells him that he doesn’t think the new “Brotherhood” has her. Nick asks what makes him say that and Ink says he just has a hunch. In reality, he knows exactly whose hands Blindfold is in since he’s the one who delivered her to him.

At the Hellfire Club, Roberto asks Sam if he’s playing a hunch or if he knows for sure. Sam assures him that this is no hunch. ‘Berto asks what they are going to do about it. The first part of Sam’ plan is to get Magma back. Sunspot asks what they’ll do about the other X-Men and Sam tells him that they have to face the fact that they are “off the reservation here” and that they don’t know who they can trust.

At the Young X-Men’s headquarters, Cyclops arrives via some form of teleportation. He makes radio contact with the team and asks if they’re ready. Each replies that they are in position. Wolf Cub reports that the Club is fairly empty and Cyclops says that they may be expecting an attack after the team’s very public capture of Magma. Santo says that if that means they’re ready for them then that’s just swell. Cyclops tells them that they’re ready and to remember their training and that they’re X-Men. Ink chimes in to verify that Cyclops will be right behind them if there’s trouble. As Cyclops begins to reply in the affirmative, he realizes that someone is behind him. He cries out, to the dismay of his team who can hear his distress through the comm-link.
Wolf Cub wonders if the Brotherhood has attacked Cyclops and Rockslide asks if they should abort. Ink tells them it’s too late for that as he has already moved in on the guard he was assigned to take down. As Ink’s biohazard tattoo touches the man, he doubles over in a violent bout of vomiting. He then makes his way inside and subdues a waitress with a powerful punch from his “armored” hand. Wolf Cub crashes through a window and Rockslide launches an aerial assault by jumping from the X-Jet and through the roof of the Club. The trio of Young X-Men smashes their way into the office of the Lord High Imperial all at once taking both Sunspot and Cannonball by surprise.

In Westchester, Graymalkin has attacked Cyclops and accuses him of being a “turncoat” and a “brigand”. Cyclops fires an optic blast which Graymalkin deftly dodges. He tells Cyclops that he knows who he is and calls him a “deceiver”. As he kicks an electrical panel, he tells Cyclops that “Eventually everything comes to light… in the dark.” This is said as the lights go out. Cyclops replies coolly “You’re insane. And you’re dead. So it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

At the Hellfire Club, Sam declares “Ah’ll take care of the big fella!” leaving Sunspot to handle Ink and Wolf Cub. Santo says tauntingly to Sam that that’s what he said the last time. Sam points out that there was no “last time” and Rockslide quotes George W. Bush and says “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you’re not gonna fool me a second time!” Santo punches Cannonball as he blasts towards him, sending Sam careening into a wall. Sam recovers quickly and is puzzled by Santo’s reference to a “second time”. He decides these kids are crazy. Ink tries to read Sam’s mind but cannot penetrate his psi-shields. Santo says they’ll just interrogate him the old fashioned way to learn where they’re holding Blindfold. He grabs Sam by the shirt and slams him against the wall. He asks Sam “Who calls themselves evil mutants anyway?” and notes that even Bin Laden doesn’t call himself “evil”. Sam is clearly confused by Santo’s line of questioning and declares that it’s the Young X-Men who are the bad guys in this situation. He then raises his feet to Rockslide’s face and ignites his blast field, knocking Santo to the ground.

In Westchester, Cyclops is in pitched combat with Graymalkin. As he fires an optic blast he asks if Graymalkin thinks he’s some kind of hero coming to the rescue of “these kids”. As he dodges the blast, Graymalkin tells Cyclops that Cypher told him everything and that he knows about the inducer and his opponent’s “witchcraft”. He claims to know the truth as he grapples with Cyclops and tears his visor off, revealing his glowing red eyes.

At the Hellfire Club, Sunspot tussles with Wolf Cub and tells the younger mutant that he should be on their side. Nick asks what kind of dental plan the new Brotherhood offers or whether it’s all going through the Hellfire Club. Sam advances towards Ink and Sunspot tries to convince these kids to listen to him by powering down. Wolf Cub tells him to stop calling them “kids” as he slashes Roberto with his claws. ‘Berto collapses and Sam rushes to his side. Seeing his best friend nearly gutted, Sam turns on the kids and threatens to kill every last one of them.

Back at the Young X-Men’s lair, Cyclops tells Graymalkin “You’re a dead man, freak”. Graymalkin replies that he doubts that very much since “in the dark, there is none stronger than me. Even someone who is half-machine…” As he says this, Cyclops’ image inducer fails, and his true identity is revealed to be Donald Pierce!

Characters Involved: 

Blindfold, Dust, Ink, Rockslide, Wolf Cub (all Young X-Men)

“Cyclops” / Donald Pierce


Cannonball, Sunspot (both former New Mutants)

Unnamed tattoo artist at Ink, Inc.

Unnamed staff at the Hellfire Club

Bystanders in La Jolla, CA.

Story Notes: 

“Pulling a Britney” is a reference to the real life personal upheavals of pop singer, Britney Spears. In early 2007, Spears had a series of public antic that indicated a steady deterioration of her judgment and mental health. This included a messy divorce, child custody hearings, public partying and multiple attempts at drug rehabilitation. These dramatic moments culminated in a widely-publicized incident in which Spears publicly shaved her own head in a hair salon. Thus the reference here when Ink shaves his head and appears to be acting a bit erratic.
The comic that the tattoo artist references to create Ink’s telepathic tattoos is X-Men (1st Series) #27.
Santo references an infamous quote by US President George W. Bush. During a press conference in Tennessee, President Bush mangled the popular saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Instead George W. said “…Fool me once, shame on –(pause)- shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again.” President Bush was known for his frequent mispronunciations and verbal flubs during public speaking.
Santo mentions Bin Laden, a reference to the infamous Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.
Graymalkin mentions Cypher once again in this issue. He is likely referencing Doug Ramsey, a member of the New Mutants team who died saving the life of his teammate Rahne Sinclair. Doug died in NEW MUTANTS (1st Series) #60. Exactly how Graymalkin is communicating with Cypher has yet to be revealed.
Since this series’ launch, Cyclops’ presence and behavior have been suspect. Online speculation ranged from a Skrull doppelganger tied in to the SECRET INVASION storyline to guesses that he may be Donald Pierce or Sebastian Shaw in disguise. The final page of this issue reveals that the Cyclops who formed the Young X-Men team was actually Donald Pierce, as suspected. Readers were hardly surprised by this big reveal having guessed Cyclops’ true identity shortly after YOUNG X-MEN #1 was released.
Donald Pierce has a history of tangling with newly forged teams of young mutants. His villainous attacks against mutants played a pivotal role in the formation of the original New Mutants team as seen in MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #4. He was also an early foe of the New Mutants training squad as depicted in NEW MUTANTS (2nd Series) #5-6.

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