Issue Date: March 2013
Story Title: Forever Endeavor
Staff: James Asmus (writer), Pasqual Ferry with Devid Baldeon and Clay Mann (pencilers), Pasqual Ferry & Scott Hanna with Jordi Tarragona & Clay Mann (inkers), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Clay Mann with Rachelle Rosenberg (cover), Jennifer M. Smith (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum, (editor), Nick Lowe (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
After receiving a distress call from an E.S.U. professor, Gambit heads to the Forever City, former home of the High Evolutionary. Wearing a suit designed by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four which negates evolutionary energies, he enters the city and soon discovers the evolution engine, which is still operational. He also notices some pretty large claw marks on the wall, which gives him cause for concern. He manages to gain access to a room that one of the creatures there was trying to get into and finds the professor and some of her students. Turns out, the evolution engine has been operating and turned not only some of the local wildlife into evolved versions of themselves, but also some of the students. Gambit introduces himself and tells them that he will try to get them out of there. With a creature at the door, he figures the roof is the best option. They head up there, but one of the student’s sneezes on the face of another and Gambit realizes that her bacteria has evolved. As more creatures arrive, alerted by the sound of the sneeze, they make a run for it. Gambit orders them to get to the edge of the city whilst he stays behind and deals with the pursuing creatures. Once he’s dealt with them in his own inimitable fashion, he finds the others and tells the professor that he’ll contact Hank McCoy to help sort out the mess there. Something the professor says then reminds him of Joelle and he calls Fence to ask him to tell him where she is, should he manage to locate her. He just hopes she hasn’t got into any more trouble. Meanwhile, Joelle finds herself at a club where super-villains hang out. She asks the doorman for his boss. She has someone in her pocket he might be interested in.
Gambit turns up at the Forever City and enters an E.S.U. vehicle. On a screen inside, he brings up his contact, Fence, who informs Remy that the city was built by the High Evolutionary; a mad genius who built it to hyper-evolve those within its walls. However, the results were not what he envisioned. From what he can determine from the records he pulled, it looks like the Evolutionary soon abandoned the city. Gambit says it sounds like these E.S.U. kids thought the place was a safe site for their next excavation. Fence agrees. It probably was until something started devouring them.
He warns Remy to be careful. From the sound of their distress calls, the creatures stalking them are bad mamma jammas. Remy asks why he’s had to dress like he has in a body-hugging black and white number. Fence informs him that the suit was developed by Reed Richards to negate the Evolutionary’s energies. The field it creates will keep him from evolving any unwanted gills. Remy asks if this is what his generous donation to the cause paid for. Fence replies that, as he recalls, he never donated that night. He just stole from the host. Remy wonders how many times that night is gonna come back and bite him in the ass. Remy then exits the vehicle and enters the city proper.
A large statue of the High Evolutionary dominates the landscape as he walks cautiously to his target location, thinking about how all he wanted was to take a break from a life that didn’t make sense anymore. Teacher, super hero, just another sucker waiting around for something to happen. He missed the thrill of the steal and the freedom of going it alone. Now, here he is in future spandex rescuing students. He can’t wait to see what’s next.
He finds an entrance and drops down into a damp room, informing Fence that he is inside. He tells Remy that the last satellite images had the E.S.U. students near the center of the city. He adds that, for as much as he likes to help him, it’s much better for his business when these escapades net something he can sell. Remy replies that he always tries. Fence asks Remy not to give him that malarkey. He had his run of MI: 13’s and Cich’s vault. All he got out of either occasion was a two-hour sob story about how he traipsed around exotic ruins with a beautiful woman.
Gambit asks if he’s kidding him. Joelle nearly killed him several times over, unleashed a bunch of alien dragons, sucker punched him and then ran off home with both plane tickets! He tells Fence that, if he finds her, he should get S.H.I.E.L.D. to lock her up in that Negative Zone prison. Fence says he’s pretty sure that Obama shut that down, but he’ll keep looking. But, he adds, from the way Gambit tells it, he still thinks she’s more wayward soul than global threat. He tells her he’s pretty sure she could be her Bonnie to his Clyde.
Gambit comes across a large blue/white machine that it clearly operational and, when he gets in close, the communications system between the pair of them begins to crackle. He tells Fence that the evolution engine is back online and cutting into their signal. As he speaks, the link between them is severed completely. Remy leaves the room, thinking how because his eye in the sky is now gone he’ll just have to stay sharp. He figures that at least if there are man-eaters in there they’ll be big enough for him to see them coming, right? Unseen by Remy, a flying creature is grabbed by something much bigger and uglier that emerges from a walkway high above him.
Gambit soon finds a lab and notices some broken equipment lying on the floor. It’s not what he was hoping for and he doesn’t fancy running into the thing that did this to these poor kids. He then looks at the wall and sees large slashes running across it. They look like Wolverine’s claw marks, only much larger. He figures something sure wanted what was behind that wall badly. It was probably chasing after dinner, which, he guesses, is a somebody. He takes a closer look and notes that the High Evolutionary designed some fancy security. It might almost be fun to try and crack it. He pauses and then recalls an old saying. Looking around, he reckons that just ‘cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t a giant future creature out to get ya. Maybe he should skip the delicate approach and try to convince himself that he’s doing this to save these kids a little faster.
He charges up a card and uses it to blow a small hole in the door. He knows that the sound will definitely alert the local wildlife to the fact that he’s there. He then uses his bo-staff to try and prize the gap a little wider and he slowly begins to slide the doors open. As he hears a loud growl behind him, he figures his paranoia is well founded. He quickly leaps inside and lets the doors slam shut as a creature makes a grab for his leg. Inside he finds five people, one of whom is the professor who made the call for help. “You made it!” she cries. Remy replies that he’s just got a real sense of why they needed rescuing. She recognizes him and says they can’t being to tell him how grateful they are. Another asks where the rest of his team is. Remy admits that they’ve just caught him coming from a solo mission.
He asks if everyone’s here. The professor informs him that there were more of them. “Three of my students ran off, and… and…” She finds herself unable to finish her sentence but one of the others finishes it for her. She tells Remy that they got eaten. “Morons.” Remy asks if they’ve any idea what that creature is. The professor informs him that their working hypothesis is that the evolution engine, which was thought to have been decommissioned, has been firing up at random. A student adds that nearby animals must have made their way in and got mutated a few millennia into the future. “But,” the professor points out, “It’s not just animals.”
Gambit looks around at one of their number who has changed in their physical appearance, exhibiting pointy ears and longer arms. “Mon dieu…” he exclaims. They explain that, according to Reed Richards’ initial notes on the city, with limited exposure the effects are supposed to be temporary. But, in reviewing the data, their window for recovery is rapidly disintegrating. Gambit says that they don’t have time to waste. They have a critter circlin’ their doors which means they aren’t watching the roof. The professor points out that the buildings are protected from the evolution engine but, once they’re outside, they’re not. Remy replies that they will have to move fast in that case.
As they begin to ascend a staircase, the professor thanks him. No one would help them, - the local authorities, federal agencies… they all said that they couldn’t send anyone because technically this is a sovereign nation. Remy tells her he learned that from the black ops agency that dropped him off but who wouldn’t stick around to lend a hand. She replies that when they get out of there there’ll be hell to pay. Remy asks her that if she does go arguing with the authorities, not to mention him, or Cich for that matter. There’s a chance that they’re both currently considered international terrorists.
As they reach the roof, he then tells them all to keep quiet. Any sound could give them away to whatever’s out there. He pops a girl’s bubble before it cracks. “Geez,” she sighs. “I guess Wolverine’s the cool one.” The mutated student asks if she didn’t hear him. They should not make a sound. As he speaks, she sneezes and covers his face in green slime. The slime then begins to stick together and the other students struggle to pull it from their skin. Gambit realizes that her bacteria must have evolved, so he knocks the mutated one to the floor and warns everyone to stay back. The girl who sneezed screams which has the undesirable effect of alerting every creature within the vicinity to their location.
One of the students wonders whether they may not have heard that. Gambit picks up the mutated one and starts running. “They did,” he replies. “Run!” As they dash across the roof, two monstrous creatures begin to follow on foot as well as a flying pterosaur-type monster. He orders them to get as far to the edge of town as they can. He’ll beat them back and if there are any others, at least they’ll see them coming. “What about you?” asks the professor. He asks her to relax. He wrestled alligators before he could write his name. This just feels like goin’ home.
He turns and heads towards the monsters. He wishes he could say he was kidding about that, but being raised in the Thieves’ Guild wasn’t exactly a normal childhood. His first memory is being handcuffed to somebody’s porch rail, which they tied up some gator to just a few feet away. Folks in the guild meant it as some kind of test. Seeing how he was stolen, not born, into the life, some folks had doubts that thieving was really in his blood. They figured a natural thief should figure out how to slip his chains before some dumb, brutal animal thinks to chew through his ropes. He was two years old!
As two monsters charge him from either side, using his amazing agility Gambit leaps onto one of them and somersaults, causing them to crash into each other. He lands on the beak of the pterosaur-type creature and quickly uses his staff to wedge it between its hard palate and the floor of its mouth. He then clicks it and the staff extends, forcing its mouth wide open. As he battles the flier, other creatures simply fight each other.
Gambit thinks back to his time in the guild once again. He got himself out of that situation of course, but that ain’t when he learned about picking locks. He reckons that’s when he learned about life. From then on, he knew even folks you trust could turn on ya for what seems like almost no reason. But, he still catches himself sticking his neck out when he ain’t got nothing to gain. He has to ask himself, is that ‘cause the world ain’t always so bad or just ‘cause he ain’t learned his lesson?
Meanwhile, the professor and her students try to get the green gunk off the mutated one’s face. She tries spraying an antibacterial onto it but it does no good. A blonde named Neko recommends nail polish remover. Before they can try that, one of the creatures appears behind her and wraps its tongue around her, lifting her off the ground and away from the rest. “Help, Jackson!” she cries. Another student tells Jackson that hethrew her at that thing. Jackson assures her that he didn’t mean to. He panicked! The monster would have killed them both.
Gambit sees what’s going on. Monsters, he thinks. Freak science, deadly mutations, girls always in need of rescue… If this is college, maybe he would have enjoyed getting a degree. He leaps onto one multi-armed creature and forces it to the ground. He then grabs one of the nasty pieces of gum left over from the sneezing girl and leaps from the creature’s back towards the one carrying the girl. As he passes it in mid-air, he throws the gum into its mouth and it immediately expands. It reels backwards as the gum expands in its mouth and drops the girl. Gambit catches her, admitting that he didn’t know if that would work. She asks if he’s always that lucky. “Funny,” he replies. “You the second girl ta ask me that this week.” Neko asks if she saved her, too. Gambit isn’t so sure about that. He saved her from the dragons at least.
When they reach safety, he puts her down. She tells him that he saved her while her boyfriend only saved himself. He replies that he understands her being upset and all, but plenty of folks make bad choices when something has them scared. She says she knows that, but you never pull away when a girl’s in trouble. Remy thinks back to Joelle and wonders if maybe he missed a cry for help when she told him that next time he should let her die. He wonders if he missed it because he was already pulling away.
Remy tells the girl that they oughta get the rest out of there before that engine does its work. They join the others in a safe place and have a little downtime. Jackson and Neko argue, with Jackson telling her she’s probably just in shock. Neko tells him she realized something back there. She’s just more into mutants. Remy tells the professor that he’ll pass word about what’s going on to his buddy Hank McCoy. He and some of those super heroes probably want to know about this. She asks why he says it like that - like he’s not a hero. Remy replies that it’s ‘cause he ain’t. He asks if she knows what he did at her little fundraiser at Cich’s place. She says that she does. She heard talk, anyway. But, she also knows what he did here today. Most people wouldn’t and fewer people could. She hates to think what would have happened if he hadn’t come to save them when they needed him.
Remy then realizes something and asks for her phone. He then calls Fence and tells him he wins. “When you find Joelle, don’t turn her in. You lemme know where she’s at an’ I promise I’ll try and talk some sense inta the girl.” He just hopes she isn’t mixed up in any more bad business.
Joelle is at a club dressed in a sexy skin-tight dress. Around her are several super-villains, some in costume. She asks the doorman where she can find the big boss. She has a guy in her pocket that he might be interested in.
E.S.U. professor and her students including Jackson and Neko
ViIlains including Agents of A.I.M., Batroc the Leaper, Piledriver, Puff Adder, Thunderball and Tiger Shark
Club doorman and clubbers
The Forever City, created by the High Evolutionary, first appeared in Fantastic Four (1st series) #575.
The host that Remy stole from was Borya Cich in the series’ first issue.
Bonnie and Clyde were two American anti-heroes who evaded capture in the early 1930’s but were killed in a Louisiana ambush in 1934.
On the last page it says Next: 99 villains and (Cich ain’t one). This paraphrases the 2004 Jay-Z track 99 problems from The Black Album.
In the scene where Gambit and the students are running across the rooftop, Gambit is carrying the mutated student in one panel and Jackson in the next. Presumably he handed her over quickly in order for them to get her to safety on the edge of the city.
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex