|Marvel Fanfare (1st series) # 55|| || |
Issue Date: September 1990
Story Title: The Battle of PS87! (first story)
One Life to Die, part II: Death in the Dark Woods (second story)
Staff: First story: Terry Austin (writer), Colleen Doran (penciler), Bob Wiacek (inker), Ken Lopez (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)
Second story: Richard Howell (story, art, letters, colors)
Al Milgrom (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
Jack Power is being bullied at school, and isn’t sure what to do about it. The school janitor knows what is going on though, and keeps an eye on Jack. Jack meets up with his siblings and they walk home, with Alex telling Jack that it would be wrong to use his powers on the bullies. But, that night, Jack dreams of doing just that, but even in his dream his plan backfires, and he wakes up crying. The afternoon, Magik and Warlock of the New Mutants are walking by the school in disguise, while Jack sees the bullies, and is too scared to go back into school, so he goes into an old fallout shelter, and hides out. Magik takes Warlock into the gymnasium, while Jack’s siblings are waiting outside for him. A young girl enters the gymnasium, but she is revealed to be an Asgardian creature sent by the Enchantress. She destroys the gymnasium, so Magik and Warlock start to battle her, and Alex, Julie and Katie come to assist. The creature was sent by the Enchantress to bring Magik back to Asgard. Police cordon off the area surrounding the school, and Gus the janitor tries to help, but the police tell him to go away, and kids make fun of him, unaware that he possesses a strange strength. The battle in the gymnasium continues, with the young heroes using their powers effectively together, to eventually send the demon back to Asgard. Magik and Warlock soon depart, leaving their friends in Power Pack, who are soon reunited with Jack. They return home, but Katie and Jack argue about Jack being scared of the monster, which is why she thinks he went and hid. Jack leaves in the middle of the night, and goes back to the fallout shelter, where he finds Gus the janitor. Gus reveals his story to Jack, of how he developed powers back in the war, super strength, and even thought about taking up a career as a super hero, but settled down with a family instead. There is a rumble, and part of the gymnasium begins to collapse into the fallout shelter, however Gus is able to protect them both. The next day, Jack is confronted by the bullies once more, and they physically attack him. He doesn’t use his powers on them, and his siblings are proud of him, although Katie threatens the bullies - who are later drenched in dirty water when Gus “accidentally” tips a bucket of water out a window.
Wolverine and several campers are captives of a mad scientist who thinks Wolverine is actually a half-human half-wolverine, and wants to use his genetic makeup in the secret for combining humans and animals, although he already has some of those experiments on hand. The human campers plead to be released, and Wolverine eventually challenges the mad scientist, chasing him into a chamber where more of the strange creatures are kept. A battle between them ensues, and one of the creatures falls into a pit where more creatures are - and they begin to eat it. Wolverine is knocked over into the pit as well, but he manages to hang onto the ledge. The mad scientist eventually falls in, and is eaten by his creations. One of the creatures them activates a toxic gas, which fills the chamber, with the intention of killing the creatures. Wolverine frees the humans, who try to understand what has transpired, and he leaves them to it.
‘Okay, Jack - stay cool. The last bell rang a long time ago and everyone is already home. The door is just ahead…a few more steps and you’re home free’ Jack Power thinks to himself as he walks nervously down a corridor at school, making his way towards a door. Suddenly, a voice shouts ‘Lookit! It’s our old pal, Jackie-Boy!’, and Jack looks scared, as three bullies approach him.
‘Hey, stupid - didja think you was gonna sneak outta here without saying goodbye to yer buds?’ a larger kid with orange hair asks. ‘Oh, heck! Not again!’ Jack tells himself as he is cornered by the boys. ‘Yeah, you mighta hurt our feelings, moron!’ a boy in a blue jacket declares. The boy with the orange hair grabs Jack’s books from his hands, while Jack asks them to cut it out. ‘What did I ever do to you?’ he enquires. ‘Oh, I dunno, squirt - maybe it’s your bad attitude…of course, it could be your dumb face!’ the boy with orange hair replies as he throws Jack’s books in the air, and the other two boys grab his arms.
‘Stop it, you jerks!’ Jack shouts, angrily. ‘Maybe it’s just that you’re a skinny, sawed-off little twerp!’ the boy with orange hair laughs, while Jack struggles to break free, ‘Leggo, or I’ll -’ he begins, ‘You’ll what, bucket head - bust out crying?’ the orange-haired kid asks, when suddenly, an elderly man, the school janitor, approaches: ‘You kids! Knock off that tomfoolery and leave Jack be!’ he shouts. ‘Yo! It’s old Gus the janitor - we better scram before he swats us with his dust rag!’ the orange haired kid mocks. The kid with the blue jacket calls the orange-haired kid Vinnie and tells him that he cracks him up.
Jack wipes his face, while the kids run away. ‘Gol’danged smart-mouthed punks!’ Gus mutters, before turning to Jack and asking him if he is okay. ‘Sure, Gus - I’m just great!’ Jack replies as he leaves, slamming the door as he goes. Gus places an arm on a nearby staircase banister, and for some reason, the banister breaks. ‘Shoot, Gus - now look what you went and done. You‘re gonna have to replace that before morning!’ he tells himself.
Outside, Jack’s siblings - Alex, Julie and Katie - are waiting for him. ‘Why do you suppose Jack is late this time?’ Julie asks. ‘Let’s hope it’s not because Vinnie’s gang was picking on him again’ Alex replies, adding that Jack is real sensitive about that, so nobody should bring it up unless he does. ‘Here he comes - and he’s in a baaaad mood!’ Katie exclaims as Jack approaches them, kicking an empty soda can along the ground.
Alex, Julie and Jack walk along the sidewalk, while Katie skips alongside them and tells Jack that if any mean old bullies picked on her, she would use her Starstreak powers on them. ‘Katie! Ix-nay on the ullies-bay!’ Julie warns.
But Katie continues, ‘Before they knew what hit ‘em, I’d fly them to the tippy top of the Empire State Building - and leave them hanging there!’ Suddenly, Jack spins around and shakes his fist at his younger sister: ‘You dumb girl! What do you know about anything?’ he shouts. Alex tells Jack to take it easy, pointing out that Katie doesn’t understand the situation the same way they do. ‘Remember how Johnny Rival used to give me grief all the time? I knew it would be wrong to use my super-powers against an ordinary kid, Katie’ Alex tells his youngest sister, adding that it is not fair, as it would have blown Power Pack’s secret identities. ‘I still don’t get it, Alex. Those bullies are bigger and stronger than Jack, plus there’s three against one’ Katie points out, asking if that isn’t a kind of super power they have against Jack, she wants to know why it isn’t fair for Jack to use his powers on them.
Later that night, Jack is fast asleep…
In Jack’s dream:
‘Leave me alone you creeps, or else I’ll -’ Jack begins as Vinnie and the bullies toss him about . ‘You’ll what, bucket head? Bust our crying?’ Vinnie asks, only for Jack to break free from them, ‘Nahhh. But I might just bust out laughing!’ he exclaims, before going over a large truck, ‘Watch this, you lowlifes!’ he calls out. ‘Think you still want to mess with me, weasels?’ he asks as he holds the large truck up over his head. ‘Gosh, no, Jack - your gravity power must make you the strongest guy on Earth!’ Vinnie calls out. ‘I’m sorry I dissed you, man!’ the boy in the blue jacket shouts as they watch Jack hold the truck up.
‘And that’s not all I can do. I can negate the force of gravity on myself to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”!’ Jack exclaims as he begins to hover over the three bullies. ‘If you guys don’t start showing me the proper respect, I might have to -’ Jack begins, when suddenly, he loses balance, something is wrong, his power isn’t working properly. ‘Yo, Vinne - catch!’ one of the bullies shouts as he grabs Jack and throws him to Vinnie. ‘Ha! Once an air-head, always an air-head!’ Vinnie replies as he grabs Jack. The bullies begin attacking Jack, and the one in the blue jacket boasts that he is going to kick a field goal with this “wac dude” - clear to the moon. The third bully begins to laugh, while Jack calls out for help from his mother and father.
‘Holy!’ Jack thinks as he sits up in bed. ‘Swell…I can’t even beat those guys in my dreams…’ he tells himself as tears stream down his face.
Late the next afternoon, disguised as an adolescent male thanks to an image inducer, Warlock follows his teammate in the New Mutants, Illyana “Magik” Rasputin, past a school and thanks her for using her day off to show him around New York City. Noticing something is wrong with Illyana, he asks her why the sight of small humans at play causes her much sadness. ‘It’s nothing really, Warlock. I was just thinking…’ Magik begins, looking into the school playground, she explains that if it wasn’t for what Belasco did to her, she might still be at her proper age, playing with these kids, instead of at a school for “special children” - mutants. ‘Then self-friend Magik would never have met Warlock - and self would have been very sad’ Warlock smiles.
Hanging around by the school gate, Jack Power walks past Magik and Warlock, ‘Take it easy…’ he thinks to himself, while Magik tells Warlock not to worry, as she is just envying these kids and their carefree existences.
‘Soon the bell will ring and you can head for home - having made it safely through another day’ Jack thinks to himself. Suddenly, the bell does ring, and Jack sees Vinnie and the other bullies by the door. ‘Gotta hide - until they leave!’ Jack decides, and he runs along the side of the school building, eventually coming to a doorway to a cellar. He recognizes a symbol on the door from his history book - a nuclear symbol, meaning this is a fallout shelter. Jack remembers that these were built back in the 50’s when the threat of the atomic bomb panicked the country. ‘Nobody’d ever find me in here!’ he decides.
Jack uses his degravitizing power to manipulate the lock, and forces the door open. He creeps inside, and finding a torch, turns it on. He examines his surroundings and going by all the junk inside, decides that Gus the janitor must use it. He sits down on a box, flashlight shining in his face, Jack realizes that it is very damp and cruddy in here, but decides that it is good enough for a dumb coward like him, unaware that, up above the cellar is the gymnasium, which Magik and Warlock enter.
‘Ohhh, this place is like New Mutant Danger Room, yes?’ Warlock enquires. ‘Human children are sent here to practice life preservation skills in the face of perilous hazards?’ the alien remarks. ‘Well, not exactly…this is the place where children play games and have fun’ Illyana explains.
Outside, Alex, Julie and Katie are waiting for Jack. ‘All the kids have left and still no sign of Jack…’ Julie points out, asking Alex what he thinks happened to their brother. ‘I bet he depravities old Vinnie, Zack and Hughie up to the top of the Empire State Building like I told him to!’ Katie exclaims. ‘I hope not, Katie…’ Alex replies.
Back in the gymnasium, Warlock is having fun bouncing a basketball around, while Illyana thinks to herself that there hasn’t been a lot of time for fun and games since she joined the New Mutants. ‘Observe, self-friend Illyana! Self is engaged in typical Earth-child fun-type activity!’ Warlock exclaims. ‘Swish! Two points!’ he shouts as he dunks the ball through the hoop. Magik wonders what it would be like to be seven years old again, with a soul untainted by Belasco’s instruction in the dark sorcerous arts.
A young girl enters the gymnasium, dressed remarkably like Illyana. ‘Self-friend Illyana - a visitor has arrived!’ Warlock calls out as he spins the ball on his finger. ‘Greetings, diminutive Earth-female! Self’s human guise is meant to forestall causing alarm in your kind - effective, is it not?’ Warlock smiles.
Illyana looks down at the girl and tells her that she is sorry about her friend, explaining that he is not from around here. ‘He’s goofy’ the little girl replies, before remarking ‘And you’re sad’. She asks why that is, while Magik suddenly realizes that the girl standing before her is herself, at seven, yet somehow marked by the sorcerous power she holds in check within her now. ‘You only traded away your worthless innocence for a deliciously heady taste - of arcane power!’ the little girl declares. Raising her hands, she causes the gymnasium to explode.
‘The gym - it just exploded!’ Julie shouts as she shifts to her cloud-like Molecula form. ‘Costumes on!’ Alex orders as he and Katie think-up their costumes, and Katie takes to the air as Starstreak, while Alex, as Destroyer, rushes long after them. ‘We’d better get over there and see if anyone is hurt!’ Molecula declares.
At the remains of the gymnasium, the little girl hovers over Magik, who barely had time to raise a sorcerous defense to keep herself and Warlock from getting splattered. ‘Who are you?’ Magik calls out to the little girl, who suddenly begins to transform, while telling Magik that she might remember her malevolent mistress - the Enchantress. The little girl is gone, replaced by a hideous pig-wolf-like creature. The Asgardian creature lunges forward, announcing that the Enchantress sent her along as a reminder of the kind of power that could have been Illyana’s, if only she accepted her offer to succumb to her own dark side and become her companion and pupil. ‘More likely her slave, you mean!’ Illyana replies, before summoning her Soulsword and eldritch armor from Limbo with the hope of taking the demon out fast, before he does any more damage.
From out of the smoke and dust of the collapsed building, Warlock sees Power Pack rushing forward and alerts Illyana to more self-friends having arrived to aid the conflict. ‘It’s self-friend Starstreak, self-friend Molecula, self-friend Destroyer -’ Warlock begins, while Illyana raises the Soulsword to the demon who leaps towards her, and tells him to save the introductions for after she disposes of the pug-ugly. ‘By “pug-ugly”, I suppose you’re referring to me, you repulsive insect?’ the demon retorts, while releasing a blast of energy down to the ground, knocking Magik aside. ‘Everyone scatter!’ Molecula calls out, while Alex is knocked backwards by another burst of energy. Illyana supposes that the demon means to prevent them from mounting an attack by throwing the bolts of mystic energy around.
Meanwhile, outside the school playground, police officers have arrived and are keeping the curious onlookers at bay. ‘Hey, Freddie! Come and look! The gym blew up and everything!’ a boy screeches at the top of his lungs. Another boy tells him to forget it, though, as there is so much smoke and stuff that you can’t see anything. Gus the janitor crosses the police barricade, he introduces himself to one of the officers and explains that he thought he saw some kinds in there. ‘Our orders are to leave this up to those super-guys until our captain arrives’ one of the officers replies. ‘But…but the kids!’ Gus exclaims, pointing at the smoke-covered war zone. ‘Sorry, pops’ the officer replies.
This causes Gus to crush the toolkit he was holding with his bare hands, and thinks to himself that he is gonna do it, gonna go in there and save the kids. But as he moves towards the demolished gym, but the police officers promptly stop him. ‘Where you going, grampa?’ one of them asks, pulling Gus back. ‘Gee, lookit ol’Gus!’ one of the boys shouts. ‘There’s nothing an old geezer like you can do in there’ the police officer tells a dejected Gus, who hangs his head and holds his crumpled tool kit. ‘Yessir officer’ Gus whispers, which causes the kids and others to begin laughing.
At that moment, Warlock shifts his alien body into a large force field to protect Magik, Alex and Julie from another energy blast. Magik asks Warlock how he is holding up, to which Warlock replies that the impact of occult energy on his technological form is producing much tickling with his circuitry. The demon continues to hover overhead and throws more energy bolts, while asking ‘Why do you not cower in fear like your brethren, foolish little gnat?’ to Katie, who is darting about around the demon, while thinking to herself that it is because she is supposed to be testing a theory of Alex’s - not that she will reveal that to the Asgardian demon.
‘How was that, Destroyer?’ Katie asks her brother as she flies back down to the others, whom Warlock is now shielding in the form of a semi-circle. ‘Just fine, Starstreak. It confirms what I thought I noticed earlier’ Alex begins, explaining that the debris kicked up by the demon’s blasts is somehow being deflected before it strikes back at the demon. Magik suggests that the next test should involve the transmission of energy fields, and Warlock announces that he is ready to proceed as ordered. ‘Swell’ Magik replies, before asking Destroyer if he is ready. Destroyer is crouching down and explains that he will be, as soon as he disintegrates some rubble in order to “power up”. He does so, and Warlock extends his body, wrapping a hand around Destroyer, they move towards the Asgardian creature.
‘Pardon me, sir, but self-friend Illyana informs self that your mistress chooses to attire herself in “army boots”. Is that now the preferred mode of dress in Asgard?’ Warlock enquires. The creature just growls in response as it hovers mid-air, while Destroyer releases a power ball towards it - but Alex’s power is deflected as well. He quickly tells Warlock to retreat as fast as he can, while the demon shouts ‘You humans try my patience’ and demands that the self-styled sorceress meets him in final battle. Warlock drops down and returns Alex to the others, and the young hero explains that they were correct - the ogre is protected by some kind of invisible barrier. Katie asks what that means, and Magik tells her that the creature is composed entirely of magical elements, that he is shielded no to much from us as from his coming into contact with earthly elements which would destroy him.
‘You mean he’s even shielded from contact with the air itself?’ Julie enquires. ‘That’s correct’ Magik tells her, explaining that if she can remove the protective envelope so that air reaches him, and if Power Pack were able to hit him with the three other earthly elements - water, fire and earth - all at once… ‘Here’s the plan’ she begins.
Shortly, ‘At last you emerge from hiding behind the enterprises of mere mortals!’ the ogre exclaims as he drops down towards Magik, adding that he does not know what qualities the Enchantress ever saw in her. ‘Perhaps it was a similar penchant for guile, monster!’ Illyana thinks to herself as she raises her Soulsword, giving the signal. The eyes of the Asgardian creature are riveted on Magik, all across the field of battle, the others prepare for their part in the monster’s undoing. Warlock dives into a pile of dirt, Alex disintegrates some rubble, and Katie and Julie prepare a fire hydrant. ‘I’ve a message for your mistress, construct! Tell her I much prefer the friendship of “mere mortals” - to that of a living cur such as herself!’ Illyana shouts as she fires energy from her Soulsword, aimed directly at the force field, which begins to shatter.
Magik is pleased with her plan, ‘Julie - now!’ she calls out, and Julie shifts her form into that of her eight foot size to make opening the broken water pipe easy - water begins to gush from it, and she tells her sister to get going. Star streak “catches” the water in her slipstream, and flies towards the creature. ‘Come on, Warlock!’ Katie exclaims on her way, and in the form of a bulldozer, Warlock pushes dirt towards the creature, who screams as the air begins to burn it. ‘How about a nice cold bath, you big stinker!’ Katie shouts. ‘Here’s mud in your eye, self-enemy demon!’ Warlock declares as he tips the dirty on to the confused demon. ‘Alex! Don’t goof up!’ Katie calls out to her brother, as he steps forward and releases the final element to their earthly “stew”, as a fiery power ball explodes against the demon. An instant later, the Enchantress’ demon vanishes. ‘We did it! He’s gone!’ someone exclaims.
Down blow the ruins of the gymnasium, however, the basement begins to collapse. ‘Holy! Maybe that old A-bomb finally went off!’ Jack thinks to himself, wondering if Vinnie and his gang got blown to bits. ‘And I’m “Jack Power: Last Boy on Earth”!’ he decides, but realizes that he would never be that lucky.
Outside, Warlock has transformed himself into a rocking horse, which Katie is riding, while Magik thanks Alex and Julie for their help. ‘We couldn’t have beaten that creature without you’ she tells them. Alex tells Magik that she is welcome, and asks her to say hi to Sam, Dani, Rahne and the rest of the New Mutants. ‘Will do’ Magik replies, before pointing out that it is time that she and Warlock headed home. Katie says goodbye to Warlock and asks him to come back and play with her sometime. ‘Okey-dokey’ Warlock replies as he transforms himself into a helicopter, announcing that he likes human school, and wishes he could go have fun like that every day. ‘Oh, brother!’ Illyana smiles as they fly off.
A moment later, Jack emerges from the rubble. ‘You guys - what happened? Where’s the gym?’ he asks his siblings. An excited Katie tells Jack that he missed the big fight between the “scary monster, the magic lady and the silly mister pretend guy”. ‘I knew it - my sister has bean-dip for brains!’ Jack thinks to himself as his clothes convert into his team costume. Alex informs Jack that they will tell him later, and suggests that they get going, as the smoke is clearing, and he doesn’t want any of the onlookers to recognize them. Julie creates some additional mist to cover their departure.
And so, ‘ - and now you know everything that happened to us!’ Julie tells her brother as she flies behind them in her Molecula form, while Katie carries her brothers across the sky. ‘Yeah. What we want to know is what you were doing in that hole in the ground’ Alex tells Jack. ‘I bet I know!’ Katie exclaims as they young heroes drop down into an alleyway near their home. ‘First Jack was too scared to use his powers on the bullies - then he was too scared to use ‘em on the monster - so he ran off an hid!’ Katie declares, smiling. Jack tells her to shut up, shaking his fist he shouts ‘You better just shut up!’, before walking away from his siblings. ‘Way to go, dunderhead’ Julie mutters, while Alex tells Katie that she had best apologize to Jack.
That night, despite Katie’s apology, it is a restless Jack that arises from his bed. He gets dressed and slips out without waking Alex up. Before long, Jack is standing alone in the schoolyard of PS87. Rubble is strewn all around, and he wonders if Katie is right, if he is just a stupid chicken. Suddenly, he notices a light coming from a hole in the ground that leads don into the basement. ‘I heard ya up there - who is it!’ Gus calls out. Jack climbs down the hole, ‘It’s just me, Gus’ replies, while asking the elderly man what he is doing. Gus greets Jack and replies that he is just thinking. ‘This is where I do all my best thinking’ he explains.
Gus tells Jack that a body can do a powerful, lot of thinking alone in here, of course that was until the big ruckus today. ‘I guess that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Curious about the big ruckus this afternoon’ Gus remarks as they sit down. ‘Or maybe you just come here to do some thinking about the personal ruckus you been caught p in lately’ Gus suggests, adding that when he was a young boy, like Jack, everything seemed so important.
Flashback illustrations, narrated by Gus:
When World War I came along, Gus lied about his age and joined right up - deciding that nobody would call Hus Mustin a coward. He was proud to serve his country, too. He had just about settled into soldiering when, in the midst of his first battle, the enemy sprung some sort of experimental gas warfare onto them and he landed smack in an army hospital. Eventually, he was discharged, and after some months of bed rest, Gus began to suspect that the gas had a peculiar effect on him - he tossed the tractor over the barn - and his father told him that he might be the strongest fella in the whole world, but he was afraid that if people found out, he would be locked up, so Gus stayed on the farm, doing chores like his father told him.
Gus’s father eventually passed on, and Gus moved to the big city, wondering what to do with his gift, when World War II broke out, and suddenly there was all kinds of folks in shiny suits using gifts like his to help people. He decided that was what he wanted to do, after watching a newsreel of some of those folk - Captain America, Namor and the Human Torch. He stayed up all night to sew himself a fancy suit, but he was so fired up that he ran the scissors through his hand and it took 48 stitches at the hospital to stop the bleeding. It was then that he realized that having the gift of strength alone wasn’t good enough in a profession where a man could get killed once the bullets started flying. So, Gus ended up taking an ordinary job and got married, but down through the years, it kept eating at him - why was he given this gift in the first place if he wasn’t meant to use it?
Eventually, Gus decided to share his secret with the smartest woman he knew, and asked his wife, Opal for advice. But by demonstrating his strength, he scared his wife so much that it was days before she would talk to him again, and she made Gus swear on the Good Book that he would never do any such thing again.
Gus tells Jack that Opal was a fine woman, and that he kept his promise to her for as long as she lived. ‘But now I’m just an old man still wondering what good it is to have a gift like mine if you can’t sue it when you want to. Like this after noon, I - eh?’ Gus begins, as suddenly, the ceiling begins to collapse. ‘Get down, boy - the whole blamed ceiling is coming down!’ Gus shouts at Jack, who dives to the ground. A large slab of concrete lands on Gus’s back, but he manages to hold it up, telling Jack to stay low. Dust fills up the room. Jack thinks to himself ‘Hang on, Gus! Counterweight’s gravity power is on the way’ as he starts to use his power to lighten the load. Gus announces that he seems to be having trouble lifting it off, and coughs as the dust enters his lungs. ‘I guess I’m not as all-fired strong as I used to be. Still, I can’t hold this thing up all night’ he decides, announcing that on the count of three, he will heave-ho it off him.
‘Anytime you’re ready, Gus - I’m disintegrating the slab’ Jack thinks to himself, as he continues to use his power on the slab of concrete, which Gus suddenly heaves backwards. ‘Bu juniper! I did it! We’re safe!’ Gus exclaims as the slab hit’s the ground. Jack barely manages to get back to the ground before Gus notices that he is gone, and as Gus pulls Jack from the rubble to the safety of the open space outside, Jack thanks Gus. ‘I should be thanking you, son! At last I know why I was given my gift all those years ago - it was so I could save your life this very night!’ Gus exclaims. Gus announces that he can live the rest of his days content. ‘Because knowing what you’re capable of, knowing that you’re special, even if no one else realizes it, is a pretty satisfying thing’ he declares. ‘He’s right’ Jack thinks to himself, before promising Gus not to tell his secret to anyone. Gus thanks Jack, before telling him they need to get him home.
The next day, after school, Jack rushes over to his waiting siblings, and Katie tells him that today a lunch, Joey Chiodo laughed and shot milk out of his nose. ‘That’s great, Katie, I -’ Jack begins, before Hugh, Vinnie and Zack approach him. ‘Hey, shrimpy Jack - I bet I can make blood shoot out of your nose!’ Vinnie calls out. ‘I’m sick of this’ Jack mutters, before telling Vinnie that if he wants to fight, then come on. ‘Jack?’ Alex calls out quietly. ‘Maybe if I’m quick’ Jack thinks to himself, and he lands a punch right in Vinnie’s fae. ‘One lucky punch is all you get, pygmy!’ Vinnie snaps back. ‘Take that! And that! And this!’ he adds, as he punches Jack, causing him to fall to the ground.
‘Yay, Vinnie! You handed that dude a righteous defeat!’ one of Vinnie’s friends calls out. Jack’s siblings rush over to him, and Alex congratulates his brother for standing up to the bullies. ‘We’re very proud of you’ Julie adds. But Jack asks them what they are talking about, pointing out that he lost. ‘Maybe so, but you did it as Jack Power, not Counterweight!’ Julie explains. ‘You may not be ready to realize it yet, but that’s a victory for you’ she adds. ‘Hey, that’s right…’ Jack exclaims as they start to walk home. ‘You coming, Katie?’ Julie calls out to her younger sister, who is standing with her hands on her hips, poking her tongue out at Vinnie and the bullies, warning them that when she gets big, they are dead meat. ‘I’m the only one allowed to pick on my dumb brother!’ Katie thinks to herself.
Vinnie and his cronies continue on past one of the school buildings, with one the bullies asking Vinnie who they are going to pick on next. ‘How about that new kid - all the time reading books and drawing pictures -’ Vinnie suggests, when suddenly, the trio are absolutely drenched by water that seemingly falls from nowhere. But, up above, ‘Look out below!’ Gus calls out as he holds up the now empty large bucket. ‘Oh, hi, young fellers. Nice day if it don’t rain’ Gus calls out, before slamming the window closed. Sopping, the boys are shocked. ‘Eeyeew - dirty mop water!’ one of them exclaims. ‘Ick’ Vinnie complains. ‘Totally disgusto, man!’.
Wolverine a.k.a. Logan finds himself caged, in a room where several humans are also in cages. A mad-scientist type stands before him with some strange creatures at his side. Logan thinks to himself that in his time with the X-Men he has seen a lot of looney-tunes situation - Brood aliens, evil mutants, instant goddesses, vampires - but decides that this takes the cake, as the doctor - LeSeig, does recombinant surgery, and he is wanting to graft animal parts on to the four captive travelers. ‘They are definitely not happy campers’ Wolverine decides, while knowing that he is very important to LeSeig’s plans - as Wolverine is the guinea pig. ‘Once I’ve dissected the human Wolverine, I’ll know the secrets for combining human and animals!’ LeSeig boasts.
‘Human Wolverine? Erika, do you know who that looks just like? That X- -’ The older man remarks to the older woman in one of the cages. Erika calls him Ritchie and tells him to shush. ‘Don’t volunteer any more information!’ she exclaims. The younger man addresses Ritchie as his father and tells him that the bars may look slim, but that they are solid. ‘We’re corralled here - but good!’ he declares, while the younger woman in the same cage tells everyone to look at the Wolverine-man, as he is collapsing, so he must be sick.
Wolverine recalls that he was brought into LeSeig’s lab unconscious from some toxic injection that his hirelings had slipped him, so decides that the least he can do is act more helpless than he is. At least, it seems like it is worth a try. ‘My prize falls. Can I have overdosed him?’ the doctor remarks, while deciding that an examination is in order. He calls out to his associates, one resembling a moose, the other… a large walking reptile, pink with a goofy expression. Calling them Fisher and Thidwick, he tells them that Wolverine is too weak to be a threat, and they need to bring him into the examination chamber. ‘Playing dead sure beats being dead’ Wolverine tells himself, waiting as the two jigsaw creatures shamble into the cage, then he pops his claws, spins around and lets them have it, knocking them aside with ease.
Wolverine knows that the creatures aren’t to blame for what their master foes, though, so he just scratches them enough to keep them at bay, but wonders whether Dr LeSeig senses he is holding back, since the doctor is not spooked by the sudden attack at all. In fact, LeSeig grins and boasts that he controls all the creatures here in his cavern. ‘Your rebellion is a petty matter’ he exclaims. ‘This guy’s been sniffing loco weed!’ the young male prisoner mutters, while the young woman mutters that she knew they should have gone to Paris. Wolverine realizes that he should have guessed that any place where monsters regularly run wild would have built in security - but he didn’t figure on how built-in it would be: ‘What the -?’ he calls out as a tube falls from above and traps him inside.
‘In this chamber, my fine, feral friend, I can raise these isolation booths anywhere - with just the press of an encoded button’ LeSeig explains, adding that he can subdue any recalcitrant creature with a selection of special gasses - in Wolverine’s case, the toxin with which stealth, incorporated felled him, would seem the best choice. Wolverine tries to cover his mouth as the gas fills the tube. The civilians look on in shock. ‘This is insane - some hallucinatory nightmare! We’ll offer you anything to let us go!’ Erika calls out. Ritchie reveals that they run the Pittsburgh Standard, and tells LeSeig that if he wants recognition for his discoveries, they will see he gets it. LeSeig ignores them, and orders that Wolverine be brought to the operating theater.
‘Ah don’t think he’s buying it, Dad. Ah don’t think he’s even hearing you!’ the young man calls out. The young woman with him addresses him as Johnny, and tells him that he has to try. ‘We can’t just give up’ she adds. LeSeig tells Thidwick and Fisher to strap him down, and exclaims that discovering his psychological intricacies may take many hours, so they can’t count on his sleeping through it all. ‘I’ll need extra anesthetic, oh yes, yes!’ LeSeig exclaims excitedly. Wolverine decides that it is funny what you think of at times - realizing LeSeig seems so intent on learning his body’s patterns, that he misses a more obvious pattern, or, perhaps, he never considers that Wolverine will try the same trick twice.
Indeed, Wolverine leaps up out of the arms of the strange creatures, and just in case they won’t believe that his healing factor resists a second exposure to the demented doctor’s toxin, Wolverine flashes his adamantium claws to convince them that he is back on the offensive. ‘Fooled me again. I acted conked so much, you’re going to start thinking I’m the human possum!’ Wolverine exclaims. ‘Drop the scalpel - that’s a good madman’ Wolverine exclaims as LeSeig moves backwards, shouting ‘Shamming again? I’ll not brook such dissembling’ and boasts that he has ways of controlling unscientific behavior.
LeSeig begins to run, fast, too, Wolverine notes, as he rushes after him, while Johnny calls out ’Hey! Hey you! Don’t just race away - let us out of these cages first!’, but doesn’t suppose Wolverine heard him, and mutters to his family that now they are stuck. But, Wolverine does indeed hear him, only he decides that with all the monsters rambling through this high-tech house of horrors, the “Pittsburgh Family Robinson” will be safer in their cages until he does what he has to do. The kind of thing he does best. ‘I’m coming for you, Doc’ Wolverine snarls, following LeSeig up a flight of stairs to a heave door. Wolverine decides that this place is like the Castle of Frankenstein. Wolverine wonders what sort of workman would come here and do his housing renovations, and as he enters the other room, decides that it is the weirdest yet, as inside it looks like a hanging bridge, with fences each side, and the doctor is halfway across.
Wolverine cannot describe the sounds or scents in the room, before he sees that the mad doctor isn’t alone - there are more of his creatures on the bridge, some of them real winners. The doctor holds a torch up, filling the room with light, and boasts that this chamber has his most extreme recombinants, and that they will subdue Wolverine in a trice. If Wolverine was sure what a “trice” was, he would surely have a snappy reply, so, as it is, he plays it strong and silent. Wolverine hears more screams, while LeSeig sends two of his creatures - Kukula and Richard - to attack. Wolverine notes that they don’t look as docile as the ones he encountered earlier, and as a large blue, furry creature with wings on its head attacks, Wolverine knocks it back with ease. A purple dragon-like one falls over, too, and the fence on the bridge breaks in the process.
There are more screams, and Wolverine looks over the electrified fence, seeing something he doesn’t want to - the mad doctor’s crowning achievements, in their own native habitat. ‘The ugliest ones, too’ Logan thinks to himself, He is shocked as the strange, bizarre creatures turn on the purple one who fell in, and start eating it. Wolverine recalls how LeSeig said that these extreme recombinants were insane and doomed to die in extreme pain. He supposes that the one who fell into the pit has been let of lightly. He forces his eyes away, and sees that LeSeig has found a weapon, some sort of big blaster. ‘Resign yourself, creature! Either you bend to my will, or you must die!’ LeSeig shouts. ‘I gotta hand it to him. Though - he never even twirled his mustache’ Wolverine thinks to himself, before LeSeig fires the weapon, and three jab-bombers screech towards Wolverine. He does a fast cartwheel, but that maneuver has an instant drawback - he crashes into the fence, on his way to become tonight’s entrée.
‘You’re not worth your keep, creature’ LeSeig calls out, while Wolverine clings to the edge of the bridge. LeSeig adds that he cannot afford to lose any more of his experiments, and declares that Wolverine must die. Some creatures below try and reach out for Wolverine, who keeps hanging on, he is not about to let go, as he knows what is waiting below. LeSeig holds up a large syringe which he tries to stick into Wolverine. ‘Hold still, you, I -’ LeSeig calls out, before screaming, as he loses his balance and falls through the broken fence, towards the creatures below, who roar, and then begin to chomp down on him. Wolverine tries hard not to look, and harder not to listen, as that is no way for anyone to die. He tells himself that those creatures tortured appetites are the product of the doctor’s mistreatment of them.
All Wolverine wants to do is get away from this charnel house, the distorted, destroyed creatures, condemned to a short life of horror and pain. He has a handle on the situation, except for two things - that the recombinant animals might agree with him, and that they might be smart enough to do something about it. As Wolverine leaves the chamber, indeed, one of the creatures slams its paw against a panel with the note: “Danger. Fail-safe toxic gas jets”, and the slamming of the paw against the panel activates the jets - and toxic gas starts to fill the chamber.
The next act of business for Wolverine is freeing the campers. He finds the electronic circuit which deactivates the cages, and Wolverine jokingly tells them that he hopes they return to this little theme park. ‘Oh, I can’t believe this! Did you save us? What went on here?’ Andy exclaims as Johnny helps her out of the cage, suggesting that it might be best if they didn’t ask any questions. Andy declares that she thinks they should be told what is going on, to which Wolverine tells her that if he was her, he would want to forget all about what went on here. ‘My advice is for you to pack up and return to the big city’ he adds. Ritchie announces that he doesn’t think they can just forget about what happened here. ‘That doctor may have been inside, but his techniques can be used for the good of mankind’ he explains.
Erika states that with their connections on the Pittsburgh Standard, they will be able to put this information in the right hands, while Johnny turns to Wolverine and asks ‘What about you, man - and that doctor? Where is he?’ Wolverine explains that the doctor got “swallowed up with his work”, while Andy tells him that they are so happy he rescued us. ‘We knew you weren’t like those creatures of his - despite your claws. We knew you were just as human as us!’ she exclaims. Wolverine heads for the exit, and the humans watch him as he calls back ‘Lad…you don’t know how wrong you are’.
Magik & Warlock (both New Mutants)
Counterweight / Jack, Destroyer IV / Alex, Molecula / Julie, Starstreak / Katie (all Power Pack)
Gus Mustin (school janitor)
Hughie, Vinnie, Zack (school bullies)
in Gus’s flashbacks
Gus at various stages
Opal, his wife
Andy, Erika, Johnny, Ritchie
Fisher, Kukula, Richard, Thidwick and other creatures
The first page of this issue features a rather nice pin-up of Magik, Warlock and the Power Pack kids.
This story takes place between New Mutants (1st series) #66 and #67, and between Power Pack (1st series) #39 and #40.
Johnny Rival gave Alex grief in Power Pack (1st series) #29, among other issues.
Magik actually sort of replaced the Enchantress, and later refused her offer to stay in Asgard, in the classic New Mutants Special Edition #1 and Uncanny X-Men Annual (1st series) #9.
Warlock met Power Pack in Power Pack (1st series) #33.
Issue Summary written by: Daytripper (Steven Bishop)