Issue Date: August 2003
Story Title: Assault on Weapon Plus - part 1: Brimstone & Whiskey
Staff: Grant Morrison (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Warren Simons (assistant editor), Mike Raicht (associate editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)
In the new Hellfire Club, which is now an upscale “gentlemen’s club” that caters to mutants with money to spend, Cyclops tries to drown his sorrows in a bottle of sparkling wine. Cyclops attempts to drink in solitude but is interrupted by the arrival of Sabretooth. Creed is driven off by Sebastian Shaw, the club’s owner, but he too cannot resist making snide remarks at Cyclops’ mood and drink of choice. Finally, he decides to join Wolverine, who shows up with a “serious” drink: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. The two proceed to match shot for shot and talk about Cyclops’ relationship with Jean, Emma and even Wolverine himself. With the arrival of the enigmatic Fantomex and a mission involving the uncovering of the equally enigmatic Weapon Plus program, Wolverine offers to bring Cyclops along, but is rebuffed. As Cyclops tries to leave, however, the whiskey takes effect and Cyclops finds himself unconscious on the club’s floor. Draining his last shot, Wolverine tells Fantomex that it is like he said: there is nobody he’d rather have in his corner than Scott Summers.
Seductively, the woman leans against the wall, exposing her leg, which is covered in the jet-black boot that go up well past her knee and up her thigh. Wearing no pants, the woman wears jet-black panties and a matching corset, which is molded to her slim figure and pushes up her bosom, proudly exposing cleavage. Her shoulders are bare but, just below them, black opera gloves follow her limbs to her hands, which tenderly clutch the woman’s black cape, which extends to the floor. In contrast to her outfit, the woman herself has fair, light skin. Her hair, as red as ruby quartz, is worn up, wrapped in a bun. Her lips are a dark red that matches her hair and her green eyes look on in smoldering passion. Thusly attired and dripping with self-confidence, the woman is the perfect embodiment of the Hellfire Club.
Looking on with sensual eyes, the redhead asks her client why he chose her. Is it because she reminds him of someone? she asks, dropping her cape to the floor. Someone who doesn’t look this way anymore? Someone who wouldn’t dare do anything like this? As she speaks, the redhead begins her dance, crossing her hands across her body. Grasping a long whip, which matches her attire, she plays with it suggestively. Or, she continues, it there someone else she could be? Someone who would… do anything? Dropping to her knees and arching her back, the redhead asks her client again, who does she remind him of? She could be anyone.
Slowly, with methodic movements, the redhead removes her opera gloves. As she does so, she tells her client that she knows what he’s thinking… she knows he’s thinking how good it is… how good it is to just call the shots once in a while… Is she right, she asks… Mister X-Man? Still clad in his uniform, sporting an unshaven face and a matching, disheveled head of hair, Cyclops replies that, actually, he was thinking about how weird and sexless and unarousing this is.
Immediately, Cyclops apologizes for his words… he didn’t mean for it to come out like that. He tells the redhead not to get him wrong; she looks beautiful. It’s just… not real, is it? It’s just her job to create a fantasy… she’s not his girlfriend and all they’re really sharing is some weird financial transaction which is helping her through college. Turning away, Cyclops tells her that he knows she probably has jeans and a sweater to change into backstage and a boyfriend back home. He can’t fool himself that there’s anything more to this. So she’s just making him feel a little self-conscious and embarrassed to tell the truth.
Ignoring her client’s words, the redhead silently unties the strings of her corset and opens it up, revealing her bare chest. Not receiving the typical reaction from this maneuver, the redhead lets out a wow and rhetorically tells him he knows how to murder a nice, romantic mood, doesn’t he. Looking away, Cyclops replies that, yeah, he guesses he does. It might be his mutant power.
Cyclops sits at a booth table, which faces the stage. Sitting on the opposite side of the table in a chair, Cyclops’ back is to the stage and the performer dancing upon it. Leaning over his table and lost in thought, Cyclops absentmindedly fingers his drink, poured in a flute glass. Approaching the X-Man from behind, Sabretooth asks aloud what is he looking at. Already having the answer, Sabretooth addresses Cyclops as “X-Boy” and asks him when did he start to drink?
Leaning in closer, Sabretooth sniffs the air. “Sparking wine?” he asks. What kind of a gay drink is that? Adding that Cyclops used to be such a Boy Scout, Sabretooth begins to recount a memory but is shut down by Cyclops, who tells him to get out of his face. Rhetorically asking the X-Man if knows what he thinks, Sabretooth tells him that he looks like he has serious issues. He’s been through tough prison therapy about a dozen times. He knows issues when he sees them. Continuing, Sabretooth bets aloud that if he tore Cyclops scalp off with his teeth he’d soon get his priorities in order.
A voice announces that it is enough and its owner clutches Sabretooth's wrist with a forceful grip. Informing Sabretooth that he knows the rules, Sebastian Shaw reminds him that the Hellfire Club is a haven for mutants with money to spend. If he intends to harass his guests, he continues, he will not be made welcome. Is that so? Sabretooth replies. And who’s gonna throw him out? Him? Undeterred by the implied threat, Shaw tells Sabretooth to not toy with him or he will gleefully destroy that ugly wheezing engine he calls a mind. He will then be flayed and dissected by expert sadists over a long period of months. Stick to what he does best, Shaw tells him, or risk ending his days as an amusing carpet in the club vestibule.
With a loud growl, Sabretooth makes his exit. Watching his guest exit, Shaw leans back to Cyclops and tells him that, in the face of such wit, he’s all but speechless. After extending his apologies for the incident, Shaw picks up Cyclops’ bottle and looks at the label. Declaring it hardly the “connoisseur’s choice,” Shaw tells the X-Man that he’d have anticipated a little more sophistication from one of Charles Xavier’s lackeys. Moving to a little bit of levity, Shaw hopes aloud that this isn’t some kind of raid. Xavier’s been… overzealous, shall they say…
Interrupting Shaw’s rambles, Cyclops informs him that he’s not a connoisseur and he doesn’t belong with the X-Men anymore… he’s just trying to get drunk. Why does everyone seem to have an opinion about him tonight? Drunk, Shaw repeats, taken aback at the idea. Bravo, Mister Summers, he states.
Changing the subject, Cyclops eyes a nearby booth with a reserved sign and asks who’s sitting there. Taking a moment to examine it, Shaw replies, as the sign says, that it is reserved… A little like himself, he tells Cyclops. Turning away and changing the subject, Shaw tells Cyclops that Emma Frost… hurt him too. And he hurt her in return. Immediately, Shaw asks Cyclops to forgive his little telepathic rummage, but he smelled her on him.
The heart craves the securities of the battlefield, eh, he continues. All their dancers are telepathic tonight. Regarding one, Shaw tells Cyclops that she is 200 lbs overweight and looks like a peeled prawn, but she can make a man see whatever he wants to see. They’re all victims in the same brave world, he concludes. Welcome to the slippery slope.
Draining the last of his wine from his glass, Cyclops hears a gruff voice declare that that’s it; his pride can’t take anymore. Cyclops is making the X-Men look like losers. Turning to face the voice, Cyclops asks Logan how the hell did he track him down. Sitting at a nearby booth, Wolverine, also clad in his X-Men uniform, smiles wryly. Just luck, he guesses, he tells Cyclops. Showing an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and sitting before two shot glasses, Wolverine asks Cyclops if he wants to join him for some serious drinking.
Even as he rises, Cyclops asks aloud why they can’t all just leave him alone. As his teammate sits next to him in the booth, Wolverine replies that he’s got his own business there tonight. This is the last place he’d have expected to find him, he tells Cyclops, but he’s glad he ran into him. So, Cyclops begins, picking up his first glass, the Professor sent him to talk him out of leaving the X-Men, right? This isn’t going to work, he informs Logan. Pouring his own glass, Wolverine replies to his teammate that Emma got shot right after he took off. He’s the prime suspect. Now, here’s how it works… they drink, they talk. Whoever’s left standing is the winner. Cyclops wins and he can go lose his mind and his dignity. But, Wolverine, concludes, if he wins… well, he’ll tell him about that when he gets back from the V.I.P. urinals. With this, Wolverine downs his shot.
At one of the wall urinals of the checkerboard-floor covered men’s bathroom, Wolverine regards the wall picture which is hung at eye level. It is of a pig-tailed young woman standing next to a machine, which vibrates a cloth that is wrapped around her bottom. Her lips are pursed in an innocent, yet seductive manner. Speaking to the image as if she were real, Wolverine asks her, who she is looking at? Speaking lower now, he tells her that she’s got the same color eyes as that girl in Arnhem Land in 1943 and swears that she must have been her great-grandmother.
The present floods back to Wolverine as a scent alerts him to a new arrival. Easing up to the urinal next to Wolverine, Sabretooth declares that the toilet must be overflowing… the crap’s going everywhere. Funny, Wolverine retorts, he was thinking much the same thing. Who’d have figured they’d have so many things in common? They should start a club.
Look at him! Sabretooth mocks. Swaggering around and standing there like he’s so great or sumthin’! Addressing Wolverine more directly, Sabretooth sneers that he’s got every skill he ever had and then some! And then some! Leaning over and peering down Wolverine’s urinal, Sabretooth asks aloud what’s it all about? What’s he got that he doesn’t? Sabretooth is quickly rendered moot by his surprise, causing Wolverine to grin and ask for Sabretooth to tell him. Changing the subject, Wolverine tells Sabretooth that he’s lucky they ran into each other at the club. If this had been anywhere else, he’d have him gutted and his skin hung up to cure by now. Exiting the men’s room, Wolverine tells Sabretooth “next time.”
As the redheaded dancer continues her performance onstage, Cyclops and Wolverine are lost in their new ritual of pouring and downing shots of whiskey. Recounting his memories, Cyclops tells him Wolverine that, when he was with Emma, it was like flying… he could say any outrageous thing. There was no pressure. She had no expectations. She just accepted everything about him… he could just let go. Pouring another round, Wolverine asks if Jeannie is different. Lifting his new glass, Cyclops replies that Jean and he have known each other for so long… every time he looks at her he sees this teenage girl he met… and he feels like a teenage boy. After he and Wolverine down their shots, he then adds that he’s not anymore.
After another round, Cyclops asks Wolverine how could anyone think he could shoot Emma? After all this time, how can they still think so badly of him? What does he have to do? Well, Wolverine replies, it might have been one of his inner demons, who knows? Running his hand through his hair, Cyclops replies that the whiskey’s doing absolutely nothing to him. He’s totally lucid and he’s not going back to the mansion… Clasping him hands and staring deep into Cyclops, Wolverine tells him that he always gets the best girls. He watches these smart, interesting, beautiful women going nuts trying to crack through the shell of the Summers cool. And all he does is whine.
Hit with this comment, Cyclops informs Wolverine that he hates him. Nah, he doesn’t, Wolverine replies. See, Wolverine continues, all he’s ever wanted was what he’s got… the nice girl, the steady life… What he wants to do is to throw it all away and run a little wild with that sexy White Queen. And the worst thing is that he thinks Jean wouldn’t understand? She’s been praying for him to come out of his shell for a zillion years! Ending his diatribe with a cheap shot, Wolverine asks Cyclops if he doesn’t catch too many glimpses of the obvious through that visor, does he?
Changing subjects, Cyclops notes another patron of the club. Identifying him as the “weird guy with the phone,” Cyclops asks Wolverine if he is a friend of his… because he keeps winking at him… Picking up the table’s phone, Cyclops hears the man’s voice on the other end. The man informs Cyclops that he’d like to order some medicine… for headaches… Tylenol… whatever. Clad in an all-white ensemble, the man wears white gloves, suit, coat and cowl, which exposes only his eyes, eyebrows and the surrounding skin.
Recognizing the man, Wolverine tells Cyclops that he calls himself Fantomex. He’s his contact and he’s going with him to find out who he is and where he came from. Asking Cyclops if he thinks he’s got troubles, he’s got a lifetime piled up. He’s been… haunted by this woman, flashes from his past before they turned him into a living weapon… He wakes up at night, forgetting her name before he gets a chance to say it. But this Weapon Plus setup, he continues, kept copies of all this old Weapon X files after the programs diverged. And Fantomex is looking for a backup team to help him smash the Weapon Plus operation wide open.
Forget it, Cyclops tells Wolverine. His mind beginning to swim from the alcohol, he tells him that he’s just so sick of having “missions” and trying to be some kind of perfect mutant soldier-teacher or whatever it is they are today… Leaning in to his friend, Wolverine informs him that he’s trying really hard but, God help him, he can’t forget it. This is important to him, he adds. How many times has he been there for him? Feeling the proximity of Wolverine’s face to his, Cyclops tells him to not try to threaten him. And as for his stupid drinking competition, he concludes, he won. Drink for drink. So much for his healing factor giving him an advantage. Watching Cyclops get up and walk away from the table, Wolverine asks Cyclops if he really thinks so and then adds that he’ll soon be wishing he had one.
Punctuating Wolverine’s statement, Cyclops does a nosedive and falls unconscious on a table, which overturns from the weight. Lifting another shot glass, Wolverine tells Fantomex that Cyclops is one of the best. Trust him, he adds, it’s like he promised… there’s nobody he’d rather have in his corner than Scott Summers. As Wolverine downs his final shot, Cyclops manages a sickly hiccup from the floor of the Hellfire Club.
Cyclops, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Black King / Sebastian Shaw
Hellfire Club dancers, waitresses & patrons
From his speech, it is implied that Sebastian Shaw has telepathic abilities now. The possibilities are either that he is lying, he has somehow managed to tap into or “borrow” the abilities of his supposedly telepathic staff, they served as a conduit for him or it is the result of a Secondary Mutation. Since such abilities were not demonstrated in his subsequent appearances, it is most likely that his telepathic staff was aiding him.
Sparkling wine refers to any type of effervescent wines, such as champagne.
Jack Daniels’s Tennessee Whiskey is one of the most famous whiskeys in the world and is manufactured in Lynchburg, TN.
Arnhem is a city in Holland.
The woman Wolverine refers to is most likely Rose, a young woman he met in his youth who helped him survive in the first years after discovering he was a mutant. [Origin miniseries]
Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw had a complicated relationship and a lot about it is unknown. However his comment that she hurt him might refer to Emma taking Selene's and Magneto's side and voting Shaw out of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle a long time ago [New Mutants (1st series) #75]
This Issue has been reprinted in:
New X-Men Vol. 3 (HC) (Trade Paperback)
New X-Men Vol. 5: Assault on Weapon Plus (Trade Paperback)
New X-Men Omnibus (HC) (Trade Paperback)
New X-Men By Grant Morrison Ultimate Collection Book 3 (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Douglas Mangum