Issue Date: November 1998
Story Title: Old Friends
Staff: Joe Harris (writer), Phil Jiminez (penciler), Keith Aiken (inker), Shannon Blanchard (colorist), RS & Comicraft/EM (letterers), Frank Pittarese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)
Piotr Rasputin embarks on a trip back to his home in Russia accompanied Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Upon arriving in Russia, they run into a little trouble at a local pub where some con artists try to scam them. These petty criminals didn’t count on facing the X-Men however, and are easily thwarted in their attempts to rob the foreign travelers. They continue on by train on their journey, unaware that not all is well in the former Soviet Union. A largely deserted government facility called Province 13 was established to collect and study mutants born on the Brutal Plain region of Siberia. The program has fallen largely to the wayside and become a target of ridicule. Its commanding officer has grown bitter and disillusioned. The alleged mutant children are largely disappointing and he has grown to hate them. However, he remains there to hide a secret: a monstrous mutant with a death touch. This mutant escapes, killing several guards in the process. The general orders that he be found immediately. The monstrous mutant is making his own trek home to the very same village that produced a young mutant named Piotr Rasputin.
Colossus recalls how once he and his friends were heroes. All new --- they were uncanny, the best that they could be. The best there was at what they did. Friends. Heroes. X-Men. Once upon a time…
Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus are waiting anxiously on the Danger Room floor. In the observation booth above, Professor Xavier, Storm, Sprite and Angel are watching.
Kitty expresses some concern over whether or not her teammates will be all right during the training session. Storm assures her that Professor Xavier would not push them beyond what he believed they were capable of. The Professor informs those below that they must neutralize all threats as he initiates the sequence.
The Danger Room springs to life and drops energy bolts and metal rods from the ceiling above the three waiting X-Men. Nightcrawler teleports to safety and Wolverine suggests they end things quickly and get some brews. Colossus throws Wolverine towards their target in a “fastball special”. A loud screech is heard as an enormous metal pressure plate drops from the ceiling above Colossus. Kitty questions the Professor, clearly worried that it is more than her Russian teammate can handle. The Professor tells her to be patient and watch. Below, Colossus holds the metal plate up with ease.
A plane above the Atlantic:
Colossus notes muses he has only been back in America a few weeks but is already returning to his homeland in Russia. His parents have died and returning home is a journey he has to make. With him are his friends, the only family he has left.
Piotr Rasputin’s trip down memory lane is interrupted as the flight attendant asks if he would care for anything from the serving cart. She offers him coffee and tea before suggesting something a bit stronger. A voice from behind suggests root beer. It is Wolverine who takes a beer from the cart before climbing over Piotr to take the empty seat by the window.
In the back of the plane, a young girl heads towards the lavatory. She knocks and the door opens to reveal Nightcrawler in his natural, blue-furred state. He smiles and asks for a moment to make himself ‘dashing’ as he activates his image-inducer. Kurt suddenly appears to be a Caucasian man with dark hair and a goatee. The girl hurries into the bathroom and slams the door shut behind her. She returns to her seat and her mother tells her not to stare. She tells her disbelieving mother that the man was all blue and furry.
Nightcrawler returns to his seat, tells Piotr he’s looking a bit green and asks if everything is all right. Wolverine suggests it must be the root beer.
Province 13 – A Siberian military installation:
A high-tech military installation is nestled among the snowdrifts of the Siberian Plains. The narration reveals that this camp is now mocked and ridiculed but was once an important operation serving Mother Russia. Guards are stationed at the fence, which is lined with barbed wire. Inside, a nurse makes her rounds while the Director, Sergei walks down the hallway to a room where half a dozen children are laughing and playing. The walls of the room are decorated in bright colors and the children play with simple toys. Sergei thinks to himself that these children were once his ambition but that he now hates them very much.
A nuclear explosion can be seen in the distance by some Russian farmers. It was the time of the Cold War and the people should have been afraid but were oblivious to what occurred around them. Years passed and the peasants of the Brutal Plain had children, some of whom grew big and strong.
Standing over the ruins of a smashed tractor, Piotr Rasputin’s gleaming steel form cradles his sister Illyana. Some children of the Brutal Plain, like Piotr, are something else entirely. A camp is built and a search for these “gifted youngsters” begins amidst ridicule and laughing.
General Sergei makes his way down a corridor to an isolated part of the base where a secret is kept. The soldiers guarding this area are surprised to see him, though he comes there each and every night. He slides open the small window to look into a special cell. Inside, a shadowed form shuffles in the darkness. Sergei stares for a moment and then laughs before closing the window.
Elsewhere Piotr, Kurt and Logan arrive at the Moscow airport. Piotr feels like a stranger coming home to a nation he no longer recognizes. He is glad to have his friends with him on this adventure. Logan has a bit of a problem at the metal detectors but successfully pretends that it was only his watch and not the adamantium that laces his bones.
Later that night, the trio of X-Men visits a nearby pub while they wait for their connecting train. Piotr is uneasy due to an unsavory element in this local haunt. The local villagers stare at the newcomers but Logan assures Piotr that he and this “element” have an understanding between them. Kurt senses that Piotr may no longer feel as if he wants his friends there with him. The villagers take an aggressive posture and Wolverine smiles as the tension comes to a head.
Back at Province 13, there is a changing of the guards outside the cell visited by General Sergei earlier. Valerie, the younger of the arriving guards, looks a bit skittish, as it is his first night assigned to this duty. The older soldier, Andrei assures him that the “monster” has already been fed. He continues to tease the boy a bit and wonders why he is so curious when he peers into the darkness that contains the misshapen mutant.
Meanwhile, at the pub Logan has made a bet with a local named Boris for a round of vodka. The wager: that he can’t beat Piotr in an arm wrestling match. Boris is overconfident, but Logan assures Piotr that he has faith in him. While most eyes are on the arm wrestling, a wily patron tries to steal from the X-Men’s bags. He is confronted by Nightcrawler who teleports above him in his true form. This distracts Piotr and Boris says that lack of attention will cost him. Then he calls him “farm boy”.
Piotr transforms into organic steel, punching Boris and smashing the table between them as he accuses Boris of being a thief. Logan comments that Piotr’s actions were a bit over the top and Piotr admits that he enjoyed the wrestling match after all. Boris realizes they are mutants, which is confirmed by Nightcrawler teleporting all around him. Logan says that they are mutants and that they don’t like being scammed or scam artists. He pops two claws around Boris’ neck and tells him that he messed with the X-Men and lost… big time. He then reminds Boris that he owes him a drink.
Outside of the mutant’s cell, Valerie wakes Andrei from a pleasant dream after the tray of food from the “monster” comes back with all the food intact. Valerie is a bit panicked by this and Andrei strides over to the door and opens the window to look inside. He cannot see anything and grumbles that the Army does not pay enough for this. He takes out a special key much to Valerie’s dismay. Valerie suggests that they just report this to General Sergei but Andrei insists that nothing will go awry on his watch. He plans to teach the mutant a lesson for hiding from him.
Andrei enters the mutant’s darkened cell. He proclaims that he is not afraid as something drips onto his shoulder. A malformed limb clamps around his mouth, muffling his cry. Outside, Valerie raises his gun in fear as Andrei’s withered hand reaches out. He runs away in fear as the monstrous mutant drags Andrei back into the cell.
In the now moderately wrecked pub, Logan tosses a roll of American dollars to the barkeep. He makes it clear that this is to cover the damages, but drinks are on Boris. The three mutants look around before departing. Piotr wonders why he chose to come there. Kurt suggests need or perhaps guilt. Logan suggests roots.
As the three X-Men leave, the guards Dimitri and Nikolas make their way to the pub through the snow. They have already been drinking some as they near the establishment. Suddenly, they hear something behind them in the snow. One of them stops to look at the footprints left by the X-Men, one of which has three toes.
From behind them, the mutant lunges towards them. It is very large and misshapen with a large hunchback that melts into a lopsided face. Its skin is covered in fleshy mounds with excess skin hanging off of its limbs in tatters. Dimitri is thrown back by the mutant and when he looks up, his face and hands have withered away after being touched by the creature.
Later that night, General Sergei receives the report of the mutant’s escape. He angrily orders his soldiers to find him. He becomes enraged at the thought that his peers and superiors are somewhere laughing at him for his incompetence. He vows he will make them stop.
Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are boarding a train. Logan pauses momentarily when he catches the scent of something strange. He tells the others it’s nothing and they board. Nearby, the escaped mutant has seemingly sinister thoughts of heading home to his mother and father.
Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Unnamed mutant detainee
Andrei, Dimitri, Nikolas and Valerie (all guards of the unnamed mutant)
Soviet military personnel
Children in Province 13
Boris and other patrons at the pub
Flight attendant and airline passengers
Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Sprite, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Illyana, Nicolai, and Alexandra Rasputin
Russian farmers and peasants on the Brutal Plain
Based on the roster depicted, the initial flashback in the Danger Room occurred sometime between Uncanny X-Men #138-148.
Colossus’ parents were killed in X-Men (2nd series) #18-19. His sister Illyana succumbed to the Legacy Virus in Uncanny X-Men #303.
According to the crack team of researchers at the Marvel Chronology Project, the events of this Limited Series take place immediately after Uncanny X-Men #361 and X-Men #81.
Issue Summary written by: Binaryan