X-Force (3rd series) #7

Issue Date: 
November 2008
Story Title: 
Old Ghosts: Part 1 of 4

Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost (writers), Mike Choi (artist), Sonia Oback (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Jacob Chabot (production), Jody LeHeup (assistant editor), John Barber (editor), Axel Alonso (executive editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

A Japanese businessman hires the Vanisher to steal a sample of the Legacy Virus from one of Mr. Sinister’s labs. Warpath, no longer able to talk with his friends, takes a leave of absence from X-Force to return to his former home at Camp Verde in New Mexico. Agent Young of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives Agent Morales a lead on the Purifier massacre case: a file about X-23. X-Force tests the extent of Wolfsbane’s brainwashing and Warren’s regression into Archangel—with disastrous results. Elixir realizes he is a liability to X-Force based on what he has seen, and X-23 confirms his worst fears about what Cyclops might do to him. To save his life, X-23 summons the Stepford Cuckoos to erase Elixir’s memories. Before they have the chance, Warren interrupts and turns on the TV. On live television, the recently resurrected Graydon Creed gives a stirring anti-mutant speech—orchestrated remotely by Bastion—to a national audience. X-Force deduces that all the recently resurrected villains must now be active in their former roles. Before X-Force even decides which target to eliminate first, however, Cyclops receives a tip about the Legacy Virus and sends them after the Vanisher.

Full Summary: 

Kyoto, Japan…

Two men meet in a dimly lit diner. The first man, a Japanese businessman with pierced ears, says he brought everything. The other man, who wears a fedora hap that casts a shadow over his face, asks about Sinister. The first man informs him there has been no activity at the target location for weeks; they say Sinister is dead. “Yeah, sure he is,” the man in the hat says.

Moving on, the businessman says his buyer requested Lot 146, Specimen Five. Once again, the man in the hat casually asks for the identity of the buyer. The businessman deflects the question by telling his agent to first get the item, then call the number on the card—and that is all he needs to know. He reminds the agent he could have brought this job to any number of operatives.

Suddenly, the man in the hat begins to vanish with the phone number in his hand. The business man screams as his client leaves; what about the money?!

San Francisco…

The phone rings. Hepzibah, the Mephistoid ally of the X-Men, answers. “Hello? Hello?” she says into the phone. “You should be speaking now, yes?” Continuing to hear nothing, she shouts at the phone, commanding it to increase its volume. “Phone! I am talking to you!” she yells. “Idiot machine! I am talking to you!”

On the other end of the line, James Proudstar, the X-Man known as Warpath, hangs his head in silence. The call goes on for 43 seconds before Logan, dressed in his full X-Force garb, arrives and interrupts James’s odd ritual. Time to go, Logan says. James hangs up his phone and asks Logan what he wants. Eyeing his duffel bag, Logan asks if James plans on taking a trip or something. As James walks toward the door, he tells Logan he was right; he told him to walk away, and James didn’t listen. Now, he can’t talk to his friends, he can’t talk to the X-Men and he can’t even talk to Hepzibah. So, he’s going to talk to the one person he still can. He asks Logan if he has a problem with that. Nope, Logan tells him. As he takes a sip from his beer, Logan asks James to say hi to his brother for him.

Angel’s Aerie, Colorado…

Elixir knows what is happening. He reveals this to X-23 while at the breakfast table one morning. He has seen and heard enough to figure it out. He also knows that they’re keeping the truth from the other X-Men. So, the question is, what are they going to do with him? He refuses to use his powers to kill. However, they cannot just imprison him in Angel’s Aerie; Alani and the others will notice his absence.

Laura takes a bite of her pancakes. She tells Josh that, given his age and current romantic relationship, there is a 98.2 percent chance he will tell someone what he has seen. The only tactical resource Cyclops has is to kill him, she says.

Elixir sits still for a moment. On the wall behind him hangs “The Scream”, the Norwegian impressionistic painting of a terrified, golden-tinged man. The man in the painting stands on a bridge and clutching his face in utter terror. Suddenly, Elixir’s jaw drops, mimicking the painting behind him. “Seriously?!?” he cries. Laura begins an addendum to her statement, but Logan interrupts. He tells the punks to follow him; they have work to do. Elixir doesn’t drop the issue, however. “But what? Cyclops should kill me but what? Laura? Laura!!”

Elixir and X-23 follow Wolverine to the Aerie’s racquetball court. As they enter, X-23 offers a warning to Logan: she is highly proficient in racquetball. Good for her, he says in response to her quip. Behind the glass partition stand Rahne Sinclair and Scott Summers. Logan asks Scott if he is ready. Although Scott says they’re ready, Rahne begs them not to go through with this. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone. They have to know the truth, Logan tells her.

With everything in place, Scott gives Angel the signal. Warren Worthington III solemnly emerges from the corridor at the top of the viewing area and trudges down the stairs, his snow-white wings folded behind his back. There’s got to be a better way to do this, he sighs. Logan reminds him X-Force likes the direct approach. He grabs Rahne by the shoulder and orders her to look at Warren. Rahne resists—they don’t know the evil in her, she says—but Wolverine insists they need to see it for sure. “Look at him!” he barks.

Rahne lifts her head and looks as Warren unveils his wings. Rahne makes eye contact and mutters the word “angel” before suddenly shifting into her lupine form. Her irises grow larger, her fangs emerge and she growls at him, while a single tear rolls down her cheek. Wolverine cannot contain her. She breaks free and lunges at Angel, who stands safely behind the glass. Wolfsbane crashes into the glass with an unexpected WHAM! Despite the protection afforded by the glass, Warren gets nervous. “Get back,” he says through clenched teeth. “Everyone…get…” he continues, his skin turning blue. Warren shifts fully into his metal-winged Archangel form. “DIE!” he shouts as he fires a flurry of wing fletchettes at Wolfsbane. The poison-tipped projectiles lodge themselves in the glass.

Wolverine dives at Wolfsbane and tackles her to the ground. While trying to restrain her, he shouts for Cyclops to stop Archangel before he breaks through the glass. He speaks just a moment too late. Archangel shatters the glass wall between himself and Wolfsbane. Without hesitation, Cyclops hits him in the chest with an optic blast that sends Archangel crashing through the window. Wolfsbane, meanwhile, chows down on Wolverine’s arm, repeating her orders to kill the angel and take his wings. Wolverine screams; he tells Elixir to hurry up and stop Rahne.

While Logan grabs her by the jaw, Elixir presses his fingertips to Wolfsbane’s forehead, immediately soothing her rage. She drifts off to sleep. Archangel, however, has not let the fight go yet. He circles around over the Rocky Mountains and charges back at the Aerie with murder in his heart. Cyclops runs to the window, urging Elixir to get Wolfsbane out of the way as he goes. As Archangel dive-bombs through the broken window, Cyclops leaps into the air and wraps his arms around the murderous mutant’s torso. “Warren! Look at me! Warren!” Cyclops shouts in his face. Archangel shouts back that he is not Warren, but Death. “This isn’t you, Warren!” Cyclops says. “This is him talking.” Archangel insists that Rahne must die for taking his wings, but Scott reminds him he is stronger than his master. Finally, Warren yields. He lands on the ground and falls to his knees.

“Anyone else wanna flip out now?” Wolverine asks after they get a handle on the situation. Scott tells him to shut up. He approaches Warren and asks if he can control this. Warren believes so, but he wonders aloud what exactly Apocalypse did to him. Admitting this situation doesn’t exactly fill him with confidence, Logan asks Scott to summon his girlfriend to deprogram their two teammates. Scott refuses; he wants Emma to stay out of this. “Right, ‘cuz this is X-Force. No X-Men allowed. So we’ll just keep Angel-Killer Sinclair and the Fourth Horseman here as ticking time bombs,” Logan says. “Good call.” Scott says he trusts Warren; he will find a way to beat this. In the meantime, they must find a way to help Rahne. Elixir, however, is a problem, Cyclops says; they will have to deal with him somehow. X-23 overhears this and takes his words to heart.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Administrative Offices. Washington, D.C….

Agent Morales knocks on Agent Young’s door. He asks her to have a seat. She apologizes as she enters; have they met? Agent Young, a tough-looking black man with a shaved head, tells her no, they have not yet met. His office deals with unsolved cases, while Agent Morales has never had one—until now, that is. He asks her about the Purifier massacre. Morales lowers her head and glares at him from behind her long, black hair. The Purifier case is not closed yet, she reminds him. Agent Young tells her one of her reports raised a red-flag in his office; he may be able to help her. “Apparently, you and I are after the same target,” Agent Young says while presenting a top-secret field report on X-23 written by none other than Captain America.

Just beyond the shadow of the Rocky Mountains…

Warpath heads down a highway road toward New Mexico in his pickup truck. In the backseat, his hunting knives rest in his duffel bag.

Angel’s Aerie…

The next morning, Logan walks through the mansion in search of his teammates. He finds Cyclops and X-23 in the living room alongside the three Stepford Cuckoos and a vacant-looking Elixir. Elixir lifts his hand, waves at Logan and says good morning—but says it like it’s a question. Although confused at first, Logan immediately figures out what is happening. He grabs Cyclops by his collar and thrusts him up against the wall. This is who he is now? He brings in the Cuckoos to wipe Josh Foley’s mind? This is exactly the kind of thing that caused them to stop trusting Professor X! Killing their enemies and protecting the public is one thing, but how could he do this to one of their own—even a stupid snot-nosed kid like Elixir? Cyclops asks if he is finished yet; Logan tells him to go to hell. “How far are you willing to go? We’re crossing a line, yeah, but how long until we’re no different?” Logan asks. “How long until we don’t even see the line?”

X-23 interrupts and says Cyclops did not call the Cuckoos; she did. She did it to help save Rahne Sinclaire. The Cuckoos are loyal to Cyclops over Emma Frost, X-23 reminds Logan; they won’t talk. To emphasize, the Cuckoos state that while Emma can read their minds individually, together they can block her. If that’s the case, Logan asks, then why are they jacking Foley? Josh steps in and admits he asked them to. He doesn’t want to know about this. If he knows whom they’re going after, he may want to kill again, just like he did with Reverend Stryker. He doesn’t want to be that person. However, he doesn’t want to stop X-Force from doing what needs to be done, either.

“Well, now I wanna keep him,” Logan chuckles. Since Logan is the one keeping them honest and all, Cyclops asks how he knows he didn’t just have the Cuckoos plant that answer inside Josh’s head. Logan folds his arms. What, does he want an apology or something?

“I haven’t gone evil,” Scott Summers says. “I haven’t been taken over, I haven’t been replaced. We’re entering new territory, and it’s dark. But we’re still the good guys.” Warren suddenly enters the room. He tells Cyclops that is great news, because the bad guys are making their move.

On the television screen, X-Force watches as a news reporter introduces a live speech from former Presidential candidate Graydon Creed, who was once believed to be the victim of an assassination plot. The program cuts to Creed’s in-progress speech. He states that because he had once been marked for death by mutant terrorists, the U.S. government and S.H.I.E.L.D. placed him and several other high-risk targets into protective custody and replaced them with decoys. However, they cannot hide anymore, Creed says. They could not sit idly by and watch mankind ignore the greatest threat it has ever known.

“This is bad, right?” Elixir asks.

Creed’s speech continues. Many people believe the danger posed by mutants is a thing of the past, but it is not, he declares.

Meanwhile, in the Department of Defense, Steven Lang and Bolivar Trask meet with high-ranking U.S. government officials.

They believe that because mutants have gone into hiding, that we are safe, Creed says. We are not. The question is not if they will strike again, but when. And we must be ready.

Elsewhere, Donald Pierce holds up three photographs of his next targets: Rockslide, Dust and Wolf Cub.

Genosha destroyed? 16 million mutants dead? Creed asks rhetorically. It takes only one mutant to kill millions of humans.

Reverend William Stryker, standing at his pew, raises his fists as he preaches a fiery sermon. Sister Mary and another Purifier stand at his side and smile.

The mutants have been confined to a government camp? Creed asks. I>Think again. They walk among us.

In an underground meeting area, the Leper Queen meets with an eager crowd of anti-mutant bigots.

They don’t want you to know that Magneto is alive and on the loose. They don’t want you to know that mutant terrorists are creating training camps right here in the United States. They don’t want you to know that a new war is coming.

Elsewhere, Cameron Hodge and his men enter an old storage facility. They pry open the crates inside and reveal the sinister smiley-faces that adorning the body armor of the Right.

“Mutantkind must defend itself. We must be ready,” Graydon Creed says with utmost sincerity. “And if humanity is to survive…”

Bastion’s Control Center…

“…I will need all of your help,” Bastion continues, finishing the sentence he’s feeding to Creed. His arms outstretched, he simultaneously monitors the TV screens that display the visual feeds from his pawns.

Angel’s Aerie…

Cyclops receives an incoming call. The rest of X-Force watches the TV with dread. Logan tells Foley that yes, it is bad indeed. Warren deduces that if Bastion has planted Creed back in Washington, then he must have put the others back in place as well. That means Trask and Lang must be back at the Department of Defense. That means they should expect Sentinels. If that’s the case, Wolverine says, which target do they hit first?

“None of them,” Cyclops says. He closes his phone. “We’ve got a new target. The Vanisher.” Clearly confused, Logan asks him to repeat that. “It’s not him we’re after Logan—it’s what he’s taken.”

Japan. Seven hours earlier…

Inside a darkened lab, a small orb of light appears. A moment later, a man covered in darkness stands in its place. He walks over to a storage freezer and pulls open its doors. Inside, behind the escaping mist and eerie green glow, stands row after row of various test tubes. The Vanisher grabs the first one he sees and pulls out one of the vials. “Well, that was easy,” he says as he eyes the vial clearly labeled LEGACY VIRUS.

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Warpath, Wolverine, Wolfsbane, X-23 (X-Force)

Cyclops, Elixir, Hepzibah, the Stepford Cuckoos (X-Men)


Graydon Creed, Cameron Hodge, Steven Lang, the Leper Queen, Donald Pierce, Reverend William Stryker, Bolivar Trask (all techno-organic pawns of Bastion)

The Vanisher

Japanese businessman

Agent Morales, Agent Young (S.H.I.E.L.D.)

News reporter

In photographs only:

Dust, Rockslide, Wolf Cub

Story Notes: 

Mr. Sinister was murdered by Mystique, as revealed in a flashback in NEW X-MEN (2nd series) #46.

The Vanisher first appeared in X-MEN (1st series) #2. A former member of Factor Three and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and the founder of the Fallen Angels, the Vanisher is one of the X-Men’s oldest nuisances. He was last seen in UNCANNY X-MEN #408-409 as a distributor of the designer genes—a business venture Angel stopped by buying the Vanisher’s business out from under him while he was in a pheromone-induced haze.

Hepzibah, formerly of the Starjammers, has been hanging around with the X-Men since arriving on Earth in UNCANNY X-MEN #486. Officially, she and Warpath have been romantically involved since UNCANNY X-MEN #491.

The “Alani” to whom Elixir refers is the mutant Loa.

The “him” to whom Cyclops refers is Apocalypse, the ancient mutant who transformed Angel into Death.

Captain America, along with Daredevil, interrogated X-23 during X-23: TARGET X #1-6.

Elixir killed Reverend William Stryker in NEW X-MEN (2nd series) #27.

Graydon Creed’s story about SHIELD placing him in protective custody to prevent his assassination is obviously a lie to the public to explain his sudden reappearance. He was assassinated by his mother, Mystique, in X-FACTOR (1st series) #130.

The panel of Donald Pierce holding photos of Dust, Rockslide and Wolf Cub reveals that both this and the previous arc take place before YOUNG X-MEN #1-5. In that series, Pierce disguises himself as Cyclops and tricks the three young mutants, along with Blindfold and Ink, into an assignment to assassinate the former New Mutants Cannonball, Sunspot, Dani Moonstar and Magma.

Most of the world believes Magneto dead since an imposter of his attacked New York City and killed thousands of people in NEW X-MEN (1st series) #146-150. The true Magneto, however, laid low in the ruins of Genosha with Charles Xavier in EXCALIBUR (3rd series) #1-14. After the events of HOUSE OF M, Magneto was depowered, but became repowered when he absorbed the powers of the Collective in NEW AVENGERS #16-20. S.H.I.E.L.D. detained him, but Magneto later disappeared, only to resurface in UNCANNY X-MEN #491, where it was hinted he may regain his powers. Magneto makes a very public—and depowered—appearance in UNCANNY X-MEN #500.

Stryfe unleashes the Legacy Virus, a disease that only targets mutants, upon the world back in X-FORCE (1st series) #18. The disease was finally eradicated when Colossus sacrificed his life to unleash its cure, which had been developed through the combined efforts of Dr. Moira MacTaggert and Beast, in UNCANNY X-MEN #390. Although a strain of the virus shows up in the X-Men’s possession in SECRET INVASION: X-MEN #3-4, that series takes place well after this arc.

The identity of the person who tipped Cyclops off to the theft of the Legacy Virus is revealed next issue.

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