X-Force (1st series) #115

Issue Date: 
June 2001
Story Title: 
Epitaph, part 2

Ian Edgington (writer), Jorge Lucas (artist), VLM (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Frank Dunkerley (assistant editor), Matt Hicks (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

X-Force kidnap Alistaire Stuart in London, and he tells them they have sent the spook world into a spin. X-Force want information from him, but he is reluctant to give it up, until they reveal that two days ago a British mutant tried to kill them, and that she was sent by Romany Wisdom. Alistaire reveals that Romany is the project director of a black ops initiative so far above conventional government she was impossible to touch. Thanks to the alien device that she took from X-Force during an earlier encounter, X-Force are able to track her down. They take out her arm with ease, before Romany confronts them. She explains that her facility stretches far and is fueled by a geothermal reactor, and that there are six thousand workers and their families present, suggesting X-Force don’t kill her. Romany reveals that after the way X-Force dealt with Agent Corben she has considered recruiting them, but X-Force aren’t supportive of that idea. Bedlam realizes that the facility is made of the same alien technology as the creature that latched itself to Domino, and Romany shows them a lab where psychopaths, murderers and rapists are being bonded with the alien device. Romany explains that they are building the technology to generate the tools needed to commence reconstruction of the world, improving the human race, and eradicating diseases and other problems that plague humanity. X-Force don’t agree with what she is doing, and learn that Romany’s body is comprised of the alien technology herself. X-Force refuse to join her, and are attacked by the symbiote creature. Realizing the base was made up of the device, and that the device was alive, Bedlam gives it a aneurysm, and the facility is destroyed in a massive explosion, which kill X-Force, save for Domino who is thrown clear. Recovering from her injuries, Domino is interviewed by Alistaire Stuart, and she relays X-Force’s story to him. Alistaire isn’t alone, however, as Pete Wisdom is listening in, and he suggests that Romany probably isn’t dead, after all, he was believed dead himself. Alistaire asks Wisdom if this game of his was worth it, to which Wisdom points out that X-Force saved the world. Alistaire asks about X-Force, and Wisdom is sure they will back when you least expect them.

Full Summary: 


London, security guards surround a black car, while the driver waits for an important person. The car then makes its way down a busy street, packed with other cars and buses - and suddenly, James Proudstar drops from the sky on top of the car, causing it to lose its wheels and drop down. ‘Take him out!’ one of the guards exclaims as they exit the vehicle and begin firing their guns at him, but Proudstar’s teammate - Jesse Bedlam - is on hand to assist. ‘Fall down!’ Bedlam exclaims as he fires electromagnetic bursts of energy at the guards, causing them to, indeed, fall down. Proudstar rips one of the doors off the car, ‘Alistaire Stuart?’ he asks. ‘Yes, what’s the problem?’ Alistaire replies. ‘No problem’ Bedlam tells him as he knocks Alistaire out with an energy blast. Proudstar grabs Bedlam and Alistaire, and takes flight, just as police officers arrive on scene, unable to do anything.


Domino sits at a table, a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray in front of her, her body bruised and battered, her arm in a sling. ‘Looking back, snatching Stuart - head out of the British intel outfit the Department - was the beginning of the end, though we didn’t know it at the time’ Domino remarks. She picks up the packet of cigarettes - Lucky Strike - and takes one, remarking that with all the twists and turns and blind alleys they had been down over the last year or so, they didn’t realize the enormity of what they were getting into, didn’t recognize how out of their depth they really were. She lights the cigarette and blows smoke out of her mouth, sitting in the dimly lit room, she adds ‘If we had, we would have run like crazy in the other direction…least that way the others might still be alive today’.


At a dock, ‘He’s clean. No implants, no tracers’ Bedlam reports as X-Force stand around Alistaire Stuart. ‘Who are you people?’ Alistaire exclaims, when suddenly, ‘Peter Wisdom!’ he gasps, looking at Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, who introduces himself to Alistaire - who cannot be blamed for thinking Sam is Wisdom, considering his change in appearance. ‘Guthrie? Then you’re all X-Force?’ Alistaire asks, adding that he head they died somewhere in Russia six months ago. ‘That’s what everyone’s supposed to think’ Sam confirms. Meltdown a.k.a. Tabitha Smith explains that they just dropped out of sight for a while, and went underground.

Alistaire Stuart smiles and declares that it all adds up - ‘You’re the ones who’ve sent the spook world into a spin! You’ve got Wisdom’s bloody files, haven’t you? You’re finishing off his damned crusade for him!’ Alistaire tells X-Force that he has to hand it to them - they have handled it like pros, changing their MO with each mission, hitting soft and hard targets in random order. ‘We had a good teacher. Which is why you’re here’ Cannonball replies, informing Alistaire that they need his help, as they need inside information on British intelligence. ‘No. Forget it’ Alistaire replies instantly. ‘We could make you tell us’ Bedlam warns him. Sam tells Alistaire that Pete said he was a good man, that he helped protect some mutant kids - Warpies - a long time ago, and explains that they have discovered something big, seriously big and bad, but they can’t tackle it alone. Alistaire frowns, and replies ‘Okay. Convince me’.


Domino announces that Sam did - he told Alistaire everything, chapter and verse, and she begins to tell the story:

Flashback images take place in X-Force (1st series) #102-113, narrated by Domino in the present:

‘About how Pete Wisdom culled a new X-Force from the stagnant ruin of the old’ Domino begins, explaining that they alone prevented Dr Niles Roman and his mutagenic bio-engine from triggering an all-out gene war in San Francisco, and how the “good doctor” put a bullet in Wisdom’s brain for having the audacity to interfere with his scheme.

And later, at Wisdom’s funeral, how Domino turned up with a price on her head, and a piece of bizarre alien technology grafted onto her side, and about how a mutant assassin named Tsung was sent to collect on both - as he failed.

Domino explains that it was Pete’s sister, Romany, who put Tsung down, as it turned out, she worked for British intel, and had been tracking him and the device for a while. Shortly, after, X-Force hooked up with Major Rychenko, an old friend of Pete’s, as she and her father were having some trouble with Russian sleeper agents, and things called Warborgs, and that led them back to Dr Roman’s door, except it turned out they read him all wrong, for in a backhand way, he was trying to save humanity.


Domino stubs his cigarette out, and reveals that they didn’t believe Roman, until the Major turned out to be an LMD packing a vibranium bomb. She reveals that Roman was killed, but Jesse Bedlam managed to shield X-Force somehow, and after that, they decided it was safer to drop out of sight entirely. ‘Stuart didn’t say a word, but you could tell we’d hit a nerve. He knew something and we need to know what - it was then that Sam placed our ace’.


Alistaire looks at Sam, shocked, while Bedlam announces that two days ago, a British mutant named Corben killed a planeful of people to get to X-Force. ‘She failed. She talked’ Sam declares, revealing that Corben was sanctioned by British intelligence, given the kill order by a high-ranking spook-show officers - Romany Wisdom!


Domino reveals that Stuart then told them everything, it wasn’t much, but it was enough. He said that Romany was a director on a black ops initiative so far above conventional government that she was as good as sitting at the right hand of God. No one knew what she was doing, or where she was doing it, but that wasn’t a problem. ‘If she still had the alien device that she’d removed from me, Jesse could lock onto its bio-magnetic signature and get a trace’ Domino explains revealing that it wasn’t that simple, and they didn’t stop to consider the consequences.


Romany stands behind an agent called Michael, while others mill about behind them, doing their jobs. Michael and Romany watch a monitor, when an alarm suddenly sounds. ‘Incursion alarm! Perimeter sensors grade them as five above-the-line mutants’ Michael exclaims as he activates the defense net - but Romany smiles, and tells him to let them pass, and to deploy conventional deterrents only. ‘This will be interesting’ she muses.

There is an explosion, ‘Stand ready! Get into position!’ a soldier shouts. ‘Lock and load! Pick your targets, go for the good kill!’ the soldier adds, while another shouts ‘Here they come!’, as five shadowy-figures appear at the gaping hole in the wall - Cannonball! Meltdown! Proudstar! Bedlam! Domino! ‘FIRE!’ a soldier orders, and his comrades do as they are told. X-Force leap into action, with Meltdown releasing plasma surges as that take her opponents down. Cannonball blasts through a group of soldiers, knocking them over like bowling pins. Domino punches a soldier in the face, while Bedlam fries his with an energy charge, and Proudstar storms his way through a pack of soldiers, taking them down with ease.

‘Good work everyone’ Cannonball tells the team once all the soldiers have been taken down. He asks Jesse which way they need to go, to which Bedlam replies that it is hard to say, and explains that the trace from the device is all around them, that he can’t focus on any one single source point. ‘So what do we do now?’ Proudstar begins, when suddenly, Romany Wisdom appears before X-Force, hands on hips, she tells them that they surrender, or die, that it is their choice. ‘Then I choose kick your skinny British ass back into a previous life!’ Meltdown shouts, pointing a finger at Romany, whose appearance has changed once more, now appearing as a youngish grey-haired woman. ‘And then what? You’ll play this out like the end of a James Bond movie and bring the whole place crashing down?’ Romany enquires.

Romany explains that this installation stretches five miles in either direction, that it is fueled by a geothermal reactor tapping directly into the Earths core, and that six thousand men and women work here, and they all have children, families. ‘Are you prepared to kill them all and tear a hole in the world simply to satisfy your sense of comic book logic?’ she enquires. ‘There’s still you’ Bedlam points out. ‘Kill me, by all means, but the work will still go on, if not here, elsewhere. Very little will have changed except you’ll be dead too’ Romany replies. ‘Isn’t that what you wanted?’ Cannonball asks her. ‘Initially. But after your handling of Corben, I wondered if it was worth attempting to recruit you’ Romany explains. ‘Like that’ll happen’ Meltdown snaps.

‘Never say never, Miss Smith’ Romany responds, and offers to show X-Force something first, beckoning them to follow her into the complex. ‘This is so not a good idea’ Meltdown declares as she and the others follow Romany through the facility. Bedlam announces that he has just figured out why he couldn’t pinpoint the device’s bio-EMP signature - because they are standing in it, that this entire place is the device, or at least made of the same stuff. ‘Don’t you ever have any good news?’ Proudstar mutters, while Romany tells X-Force that she expects the late Dr Roman enlightened them as to what they are trying to do here. ‘Creating spontaneous mutations in humans so they can be harvested for spare parts for some alien ship…yeah, y’could say he told us everything’ Cannonball replies.

‘If that’s all you know, then you don’t know anything at all!’ Romany replies as she keys a code into a panel on the wall. ‘Are you saying he wasn’t telling the truth?’ Cannonball asks her. ‘Yes. But only as he saw it’ Romany explains, as doors slide open, ‘It’s really all just a matter of perspective’ she states, while X-Force gasp in shock, for al around the room, people are held together with technology and the strange alien life form. ‘Those…those are people!’ Cannonball declares. ‘Technically, yes. They’re psychopaths, serial murderers, rapists, death row fodder culled from around the world, finally doing something good for their fellow man’ Romany reveals. ‘Yeah, by helping some alien nightmare turn our world into its new vehicle!’ Meltdown exclaims.

‘A blinkered view from a narrow mind’ Romany replies, before asking X-Force if they have given a second thought to the families of the office workers in the Gentechnik building they destroyed in Buenos Aires. ‘It’s still wrong!’ Cannonball exclaims. ‘Is it? To fully rebuild the world engine will take half a million years. It’s like trying to construct a computer with a stone axe. We simply don’t have the technology’ Romany announces, adding that they are making the technology instead. Romany explains that they are growing the technology required to generate the tools needed to commence reconstruction, that it is a long process, but the rewards will be worth it.

She continues, announcing that they are subtly improving the human race to make them more compatible symbiotes for the world engine. ‘We’ll rewrite the human genome over thousands of generations, eradicating disease, genetic disorders, genetic pre-disposition to crime and gender disorientation. The benefits will be enormous’. Cannonball frowns and clenches his fists as he asks ‘What happened to choice? Free will?’, to which Romany frowns and replies that those are luxuries they can no longer afford. She continues, stating that the way the human race is going, they won’t last another thousand years, let alone a million. ‘Except you’re not quite human anymore are you?’ Bedlam remarks. Proudstar asks him what he means, to which Bedlam reports that, this close, he detecting a whole bunch of alien junk crammed inside Romany, where her vital organs should be.

Romany reveals that it is true, that she elected to become the interface between humanity and the world engine. ‘Even I am prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. Are you?’ she declares, adding that they need to recruit visionaries like X-Force, mutant advocates for the survival of the species. ‘At any cost? I don’t think so’ Cannonball replies. ‘Is that your final decision?’ Romany asks, and Sam replies that it is. ‘Pity’ Romany remarks, before raising her arms.


And with that, all hell broke loose. They came pouring out of the woodwork…the symbiotes…the ones that weren’t grafted into the walls’ Domino explains, another cigarette in her mouth. She adds that they were the equivalent of white corpuscles, set to kill any invading organism. ‘We didn’t stand a chance. It was like the last reel of the wild bunch’ she adds, recalling how X-Force was overwhelmed by the creatures. ‘I saw five of those things pull Tabitha down…I didn’t see her get up again. Sam screamed like an animal…dove into save her. Then he was gone, too…our only hope was Jesse’. Domino explains that Jesse figured since the base was the device and the device was bio-organic, he could give it a kind of aneurysm, or brain storm - it was their only option, and it worked, resulting in a massive explosion.

Domino explains that Proudstar threw her clear somehow, and the next thing she knew, she was being evacuated in a medicopter. ‘None of the others made it…or so I’ve been told’ she adds, before looking straight ahead at the reflective screen ahead of her, ‘That’s it. I don’t know what else to tell you’ she adds. ‘That’s fine, Domino. Thank you for your cooperation. You can go now’ a voice calls out from the other side of the screen, where two men are in a darkened room. ‘Well?’ Alistaire Stuart asks his companion, who lights a cigarette. ‘Ties in with what we know. That there’s a crater in the Oxfordshire countryside you could lose St Paul’s in’. Alistaire turns to his companion, ‘And no survivors?’ he asks. ‘Maybe…but don’t write Romany off just yet. I’ve been dead too, remember. If anyone’s made a contingency plan it’s my nasty sister’ Pete Wisdom remarks.

Alistaire asks Pete, who has shaved his beard off, if it was worth it. ‘This great game of yours you got us all playing?’ Pete grins and replies that the saved the world, and asks Alistaire what more he wants - jam on it? Alistaire asks about X-Force, to which Pete tells him not to worry about them. ‘They’ll be back, you mark my words…back when you least expect them!’

Characters Involved: 



Pete Wisdom

Alistaire Stuart


Bedlam II, Cannonball, Domino, Meltdown, Proudstar (all X-Force)

Alistaire Stuart

Romany Wisdom


Police officers

Michael and other agents



In Flashback images:

Bedlam II, Cannonball, Domino, Meltdown, Proudstar, Wisdom (X-Force at various times)

Dr Niles Roman

Marcus Tsung

Major Valentina Rychenko

Constantin Racal


Transformed civilians

Children of Russian agents

Story Notes: 

X-Force were believed to have been killed in the Ural Mountains, in Russia, in X-Force (1st series) #113.

Corben tried to kill X-Force in X-Force (1st series) #114.

Romany took the alien device in X-Force (1st series) #109.

Cannonball, Meltdown and Proudstar, along with Domino, return in X-Force (1st series) #117, where they confront the new X-Force team that took their team name. No explanation was given for their return. Bedlam does not return that issue, next appearing in Uncanny X-Men #423, after being captured and crucified by the Church of Humanity. He does not survive, and that makes his final appearance.

X-Force (1st series) lasts until #129, but with new characters as focus of the book.

There’s no explanation given for Wisdom’s return. He next appears in New Excalibur, working both with Excalibur and MI13.

Issue Information: 
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