|Wolverine (2nd series) #309|| || |
Issue Date: September 2012
Story Title: Underneath
Staff: Ivan Brandon (writer), Rafael Albuquerque and Jason Latour with John Rauch (art), VC’s Cory Petit (letters), Jeanine Schaefer and John Barber (editors), Nick Lowe (group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer), Esad Ribic (cover art)
Months ago, Josh Foley, the mutant called Elixir, came up to Logan while he was drinking in a bar, trying to figure out what makes him tick. As they begin to talk, Logan’s attention turns to an attractive young woman with whom he spends the night. In the morning, the young woman convinces Logan to take care of something for her. That same day, Logan informs Cyclops that he’ll be taking the day off, which angers Scott. As he leaves the complex, Josh tags along for the trip. Upon reaching the Salton Sea, Logan and Josh are confronted by monstrous creatures – de-powered former Morlocks, now calling themselves “Dregs.” After disposing of them, Logan and Josh continue to make their way into the complex. Josh stops to help some of the inhabitants who are deathly ill but finds he is unable to do so. Eventually, Logan and Josh find themselves face to face with an old adversary of Wolverine’s called Meltdown. After explaining to Logan how he had died, and then slowly came back to life draining the life forces of animals, the young woman, Eva, appears and explains that Meltdown manipulated her and used the other Morlocks who lost their abilities as energy sources. Intending to do the same with Wolverine, Meltdown drains the powers of the remaining Morlocks present and attacks Logan. Using his immense power, Meltdown has the upper hand until the intervention of Josh, who proceeds to use his powers to cause Meltdown to grow in size and then releases said power. The result of this causes all the sickness to come with it back onto Meltdown. After Logan finishes Meltdown and the building burns to the ground, Josh tells Logan he understands where rage comes from but he doesn’t want to be a killer. He also asks Logan how he continues on, knowing what he has done in his past. Logan tells him that he fights with that every day and goes to bed regretting what he’s done. He then wakes up the next day, determined to do things right.
Sometime in the past…..
Logan remembers a time since past. One night, inside a seedy bar, he sits at the bar enjoying his drinks while he looks around. He remembered the place smelled. And he’s the guy who’d know. Couple years back, they’d banned smoking inside o’ places like this. On the last legal night, the smokers chaining through packs with a vengeance, the non-smokers pictured the next day’s bar like a field full ‘a daisies, finally free of the clouds and filth.
Joke was on them when the smoke was gone but the bars all smelt worse than ever before. What no one’d realized was that the smell from those filthy clouds o’ death hid a lot underneath. In this place, it woulda hid where the guy blacked out on the pool table and pissed himself. Woulda hid where the sorority gal’s body decided it was no longer a one-way trip for cheap champagne. For a guy like him, it didn’t hide much. He has senses sharper’n a pack o’ dogs. He smelled cold sweat. He smelled hormones from people too drunk to be picky anymore. And he smelled fear.
Barely turning around, Logan grits his teeth and asks Josh Foley why he’s there. They called him Elixir, back when they were on X-Force together. Back when they were all one team. He had the power to heal, just not himself.
The bartender gruffly asks Josh (calling him kid) what he thinks this is. Logan remarks that he just asked him that. Josh tells Logan that he doesn’t know. He just wants to see him tick. After Logan asks that so, the bartender angrily shakes his finger in Josh’s face and tells him they don’t serve no kids in there. Grabbing the bartender’s hand, Logan sternly tells him don’t serve ‘im. But he keeps shouting near his face and he’ll spoil his relaxation. And he’s a real bad guy to spend time with when he’s tense. Once Logan lets the bartender’s hand go, Josh tells him he’s sorry. He just wants to talk to his friend. He won’t drink and he won’t cause any trouble. Handing him some money, he tells him here’s his tip just for letting him use the seat. He guesses he probably wants to bring his friend more moonshine or whatever.
Logan recalls that Josh reminded him of what he was. Or maybe what he’s trying not to be. When Logan asked Josh what’s on his mind, Josh told him he guesses he figures he’s about as far from what he wants to be as one can get. No offense. He’s probably killed more people than he went to high school with. Downing his alcohol, Logan replies that it ‘pends on the high school. Josh adds that Logan makes jokes. About people whose lives he’s ended. He should hate him. Why doesn’t he hate him? Logan replies that he doesn’t know. He’s not always his own biggest fan.
Josh says he wants to understand him. Is that weird? When Logan asks how he plans to make that happen, Josh answers that he doesn’t know. He only got as far as staring at the back of his head, so far. When the bartender starts opening up another bottle, Logan gives him a menacing look. Pointing over at a young, attractive red-haired woman, the bartender informs Logan that the lady bought another round. Logan recalls that the whole night was full’a wrong turns. Getting up from his seat, Logan grabs the new bottle of alcohol, straightens his hat, and tells Josh that the back o’ his head might have to do for now.
Seemed like they sat right there for days and then somewhere else. As Logan sits in a room next to a bed with the young woman, she says to him that he didn’t ask her why she sent that bottle over. Logan tells her that mama always said he had nice eyes. Figured it was that or she’d poisoned the bottle. When the young woman points out that he drank it anyway, Logan tells her that her mama also told him he’d only get a couple chances at romance in this life. He figured this might be the last, but it might be the best. After he gives her a kiss on the cheek, the young woman says that he’s is a mutant that can’t be killed. Logan calls her sugar and tells her not to spoil it. His senses told him what she was from the minute she walked in that bar. He knew she ain’t hidin’ under them clothes for the sake o’ vanity.
Shocked, the young woman asks how could he… he knew? Logan tells her that he knew she was there for business. He hoped business’d wait. When the young woman asks him how, why would he want to be with something like her, Logan tells her cause what he’s hidin’ underneath is prob’ly worse. With that, the two lovers embrace. Sometime later, the young woman with shiny stony skin all over her back asks Logan if he’s awake. Logan tells her he’s there. The young woman proceeds to tell Logan she’s sorry. Logan tells her to say her piece. Tell him what she’s there for. The young woman says she doesn’t know anymore. She doesn’t want him to go away. Logan asks but? The young woman tells him there’s something terrible she came there to tell him about. And he’s a man who puts an end to terrible things.
Maybe I saw it all coming. But me and Slim changing roles, maybe I didn’t wanna believe. I didn’t figure he had it in him. Maybe I just hoped he was better. During a training session with a young mutant, Cyclops blasts a floating orb. When he tells the young mutant to do the same, he says he can’t. Pointing his finger at him, Scott tells him lesson one – he’s the one who tells him when he can’t. Right now, breath deep, aim and destroy.
Walking up, Logan laments leave it to the X-folk to take alien tech and try to shoot at it with lasers. Blasting the orb, Scott states that the Shi’ar designed these spheres for target practice. They’re built to be invulnerable to damage. Scott then proceeds to ask Logan what he needs. When Logan tells him he needs a day, Scott replies that he has a day coming up at the end of the month. Til then, they’re knee deep in… situations. He can’t spare anyone, least of all him. Walking away, Logan tells him sorry, Slim. He needs this day. Those situations’ll keep ‘til tomorrow. He can’t go creepin’ in the dark for him til then.
Clenching his fists, Scott starts to tell Logan this isn’t the place for that kind of… Stopping mid-sentence, Scott asks Logan what this is about. After Logan tells him it ain’t the place for that either, Scott unleashes an optic blast and destroys the training sphere. Maybe Logan hoped he wasn’t like him.
As Logan makes his way through a hallway, Josh comes up behind him and tells him that he wants to come with him. Logan says this ain’t official business and it ain’t his kinda field trip. It’s a private affair and he ain’t gonna like how he gets his satisfaction. Sit this one out. Josh says he won’t tell anyone about this, it’s gotta be real bad if even X-Force can’t know anything about it. Josh adds that he wants to see this part of things. He wants to see the worst in him. He wants to understand. Turning towards him, Logan says if he wants to get himself killed, he get right to it. He ain’t his daddy. Just so long as he stays out of his wake. With that, Logan dons his yellow and brown costume, hops a bike and takes off down the road with Josh in tow.
Sometime later, Logan and Josh, dressed in their X-Force costumes, find themselves in a barren area. Looking around, Josh asks where they are. Logan informs him the Salton Sea. She said it’d be about there the alarms would kick in. Noticing some creatures watching them intently, Josh asks Logan what they are. Mutants they didn’t know about? Logan says they ain’t mutants anymore. A few who got caught in the wrong state when everyone’s powers went away. They’re stuck this way. These guys were Morlocks. Mutants with physical manifestations that made ‘em feel they had to hide from the world. Now they’re powerless, hidin’ even from that. Now they call themselves the Dregs. When two of the large creatures approach Josh and Logan, Josh asks what do they do – run? Logan tells him no, kid. They never run. At that moment, Logan pops his claws.
When Logan finds himself face to face with one of the creatures that looks like a spider, Josh tells him not to hurt the creature. He’s probably more scared of him. After the creature slashes him across the chest, Logan tells Josh he’s sorry but he doesn’t like the way he expresses his fears. With that, Logan slices one of the creatures arm off. Jamming his other arm into Logan’s chest, the creature tells him he can feel his spine against his wrist. Does it tickle? Logan says lemme show you and proceeds to slice the creatures head off.
Just then, a very large creature approaches the duo. Upon seeing him, Josh tells Logan to get out of there. This doesn’t have to keep getting worse… Standing up to face the creature, Logan tells him to go ‘head and take the first shot. After the creature tells him what a gentleman, he punches Logan with great force. Smashing up against a tree, Logan feels his head fill with noise, his insides fill with blood. Looking down at his fist, the creature tells Logan that he has hard bones but the rest of him breaks. It takes Logan a second to think of anything at all that’s not the organs crushed inside of him; takes less than that to decide to take that arm away from him. But he’s faster than he looks.
Punching Logan to the ground again, the creature asks him how the healing comes X-boy. He stitching up pretty good? Ripping off a nearby tree branch, the creature pins Logan to a nearby tree with his hand around his neck and asks him how does one kill a thing like him. Silver bullet? Stake through the heart? Touching the creature on the elbow, Josh tells him “you don’t.” No one ever kills him. As the creature falls to the ground, frothing at the mouth, Logan recalls that he said Josh heals. But it can go the other way. Making his way over to Logan, Josh offers to heal him. Logan tells him no, picks up the broken tree branch, says he’s feelin’ better already and jams it into the creature, killing him. It never sat right. To help him out, Josh had to hurt someone else. Wasn’t natural to him, but everything gets easier.
Entering one of the buildings, Logan and Josh see a number of individuals inside. Logan tells Josh there’s nothing he can do here. Looking over at a woman covered in sores with octopus legs, Josh asks how he knows that. Making his way over to her, Josh asks her what happened there. The woman answers that they lost their powers. Little by little, they get weak. Only the Russian helps. Only the Russian tries to make them whole again. But she is too far gone. Even his touch only leaves her cold. When Josh asks “what Russian?” the woman tells him that he helps everyone. He helps them get their powers back.
Josh tells her he’s going to try to help her. Don’t be scared. The woman states that she is at peace. Nothing scares her anymore. When Josh squeezes the woman’s hand, he begins to feel ill and sores appear on his body. The woman tells him that he cannot help her. He is ill. The Russian will make him better. Logan asks Josh if he’s all right. He looks like his insides are fightin’ to get out. Josh remarks that it doesn’t work. And he feels like… he feels nauseous now. Logan says he told him he can’t fix this mess. All they can do is end it. Josh defiantly states that he can’t just leave her… all these people in this state. He then says “you do what you do. And I do this.” Turning towards another Morlock, Josh holds out his hand and tells him it’s okay. He’s there to help. When he does, however, he starts to feel ill again and exclaims no, this isn’t right. Picking Josh up, Logan tells him it ain’t his fault. Helping him down the hall, he asks him if he ever heard of a mutant getting sick from losing their powers. There’s something else going on there.
From a room down the hall, a man wearing a long trench-coat asks if anyone can hear him. He’s spent all this time within his head; he scarcely knows the sound of his own voice. Turning around to face Logan, the man points out that Logan is the same. He is old and dry and he is young and unchanged. Upon recognizing the man as Meltdown, Logan pops his claws. Meltdown greets him hello and asks if he’s there to kill him again. Josh asks “Meltdown?” What’s his thing, starting fires or something? Logan replies that he’s a nuclear reactor. The last time he saw him, a lot of years ago… he almost killed a city. Almost killed him too, and Alex Summers. Meltdown says yes, Logan had a different friend then. Hello, new friend. Remembering back, Logan snarls that he swore he saw him die.
Meltdown remarks yes, he saw it too. His sight, his memories and mind… dissipated. And then ceased to be. Where his life was, now was only silence. But then with time, his eyes reopened in Siberian desert. He was born again. But in the sand, he was reborn to nothing. No energy around to feed him, old and dying like a joke. From that first day, he felt measureless pain. He envisioned his death as one might a wedding. He fantasized. In his sickness, he discovered something that allowed him to live, but in shame, he could steal the life of tiny things; of lizards, of birds. Every life sent him one more kilometer. Eventually, in America, in the subway, he would steal the lives of rats. Stealing everything they were, to gain minutes. He stumbled weeks below New York, dying every day a few minutes less. Until he learned there was more below the world than rodents.
Just then, the young woman with whom Logan had relations with earlier walks in and states that Meltdown found the Morlocks, the Dregs and her. Turning around, Logan says “Eva.” Meltdown says to her that she came back to him. He thought that he had lost her. Eva continues that they’d all lost their abilities at the wrong time. They were all deformed, desperate. Till they all lost their powers, she’d change into this dark liquid stone and it was perfect. She felt immaculate. No one could hurt her. No one else could be what she was. And then one day she’s changing back and right in the middle, something happens.
Not just to her. All over, people can’t do the things they used to do. There’s a guy that looked just like a dragon. He could fly, he spoke fire… it sounds scary but he was magnificent. He was flying when that day came and he fell out of the sky. Broke his legs, his spine, he was powerless even to change back to human form. They didn’t even turn him away at the hospital. They evacuated, they thought they were under attack. His heart stopped before they could shoot him. Internal trauma, she guesses. He was seventeen. There were more that died. Some in their bodies that couldn’t support themselves without the strength or abilities they were made for. Those that didn’t die, when he found them, all he saw was desperation. He promised to heal them, to give them back their powers. He used his radioactivity to kick start mutation like setting their cells on fire so he could drain them at their brightest. She helped him lie to them. He took to her, treating her like the queen of this festering mess. Making them steal anything they wanted in exchange for him “saving their lives.” One lie leads to another. Most of the lies she told herself. She was happy. She thought she’d be alone forever and then… So she pretended she didn’t know they were all getting sick as he claimed to be making them better.
Meltdown puts his hands on Eva’s shoulders and tells her they gave them hope. They were sad and scared and they gave them purpose; they took away their insecurities. Gritting her teeth, Eva exclaims they took away their lives. Pulling away from Meltdown, Eva adds that they were decomposing on a cellular level, their bodies riddled with this sort of cancer… He told them it was their bodies reacting to the loss of their abilities. Said they needed more treatment. The more they died, the more they killed them… The more he spoke the sounds of emergency, the more he told them they had no time to lose. And she fed into it. She rationalized to them, she talked them out of all their doubts so she could keep on bleeding them inch by inch so she could keep what she had, she held their hand and she talked them out of living. She brought Logan there to end this. Looking out the window with glowing eyes, Meltdown remarks by all means, let them end it.
At that moment, Meltdown uses his powers to suck the life-forces out of the Morlocks on his compound. As he does, he tells them he’s sorry, his little helpers, but he has many more kilometers to go today. After Eva tells him what is happening, Logan leaps into action and begins to hack and slash away at Meltdown. Gaining size, Meltdown knocks Logan to the ground and tells him that it’s like old times. He couldn’t hurt him then, does he remember? It was his friend who had to hurt him. But his friend isn’t here.
Walking up to Meltdown, Josh states that he’s there. Those people, he’s never seen such trust in anyone as he saw they had for him. A parasite who made them pay him to kill them all. He understands now. As Josh uses his powers, Meltdown begins to grow in size. Josh proceeds to tell Logan that he understands where rage comes from. And what it feels like to want to kill… to want to stop a person forever. Logan tells Josh that he’s nuclear. He lets him blow and everyone dies for miles. Josh continues with his powers but then it all stops. As Meltdown grows to immense size, Logan tells Josh to snap out of it. This ain’t him, think about what’s about to happen.
When Logan grabs his arm, Josh tells him to take his hand off of him. Once Logan lets go, he falls to his knees. Josh asks him if he can feel it. That’s what he felt when he tried to heal them. That’s what they’ve got inside of them. Logan tells him there’s something wrong with his head. This cancer they have inside them, it’s made him sick. Push it back. Looking on, Eva says she’s sorry and starts to run away. Stopping her, Josh tells her that she doesn’t get to escape this.
As Josh holds Eva close, Meltdown says he knows the look on Josh’s face, the power of death, the total power over everyone around him. It is glorious. He never thought he would see it in someone else. Josh tells him he doesn’t want it. At that moment, Meltdown shrinks to a severely weakened state. Meltdown then asks Josh what he did with his power. Josh informs him that he gave it all back. All that sickness he spread, now it’s his. Standing amidst the burning room, Logan mentions to Josh that he coulda killed him. There ain’t ten men in the world he’d say that to. Lowering his head, Josh tells him that he doesn’t want to be a killer again. As he walks away, Logan turns towards Meltdown with his claws at the ready.
Later, outside the burning building, Eva states that she doesn’t deserve to survive this. Let her stay. Logan tells her they all have shame for things they’ve done. He has more than most. Josh says and yet he keeps on. How does he keep going, knowing what he knows? What he’s done? Logan replies that he doesn’t know any better than he does what makes him tick. He fights every day with what he has inside. And every night he goes to bed regretting all the things he’s done wrong in this world. And when he wakes up, he decides today to try and do things right.
In the Past:
Cyclops, Wolverine (both X-Men)
Unnamed young mutant being trained by Cyclops
Eva and various other unnamed Morlocks/Dregs
Various unnamed patrons and bartender
Elixir hasn’t been seen since X-Force (3rd series) #25 when he faced off against Wither and left Wolverine’s X-Force team after the events of “Necrosha.”
Many mutants lost their powers after the Scarlet Witch uttered “no more mutants” in House of M #7.
Meltdown was last seen being killed by Havok and Wolverine back in Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #4.
The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California and is located on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California's Imperial Valley.
Issue Summary written by: Wendigo (David M.)