Issue Date: September 2010
Story Title: Stolen Lives!
Staff: Chris Claremont (writer), Tom Rodney Buchemi (penciler), Greg Adams (inker), Wilfredo Quintana (colorist),) Tom Orzechowski (letterer ), Grummett & Quintana (cover art), Irene Lee (production) Charlie Beckerman & Michael Horwitz (editors), Mark Sumerak (consulting editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (Exec. Publisher)
Moira MacTaggert and Sabretooth are abducted by Morlocks led by Masque. They want to force Moira to find a cure for Burnout and torture Sabretooth as an incentive. In the meantime, one X-Men team returns with their new guest Mystique, who is immediately held for questioning. Jean, Nightcrawler and Rogue stay behind to help, while another team led by Cyclops searches the Morlock tunnels. ‘Ro is ordered to stay behind. The X-Men find the Morlocks. However, when the X-Men are diverted by ‘Ro who tagged along, Masque uses that opportunity and horribly changes Cyclops and Gambit. In the meantime, Trask’s SHIELD agents have become aware of mutant activity in the Morlock tunnels and are getting ready to attack. Back at the mansion, Fury’s agents have no luck questioning Mystique. To make matters worse, she hints that she and Fury were old friends during World War II. Even Jean Grey cannot simply read her mind and therefore prepares for a more in-depth scan.
The site of Xavier’s school:
Lieutenant Daisy Dugan has become interested in Sabretooth in the past few weeks. Still on the fence on why she is attracted to him, she is bringing a book to read to him (Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”). However, when she enters the infirmary where Sabretooth and Dr. MacTaggert should be she finds it thrashed and empty.
Elsewhere in the tunnels under Manhattan, Morlocks led by Masque are leading the tied up Mora and the unconscious Sabretooth away. Moira demands to know how the Morlocks found them or got through the barrier. Masque scoffs that some of the Morlocks’ powers put those of the X-Men to shame. The X-Men may be able to hide from the flatscans and their toys, but not from them!
In the meantime, the X-Men’s raptor in stealth mode is on its way home from Manhattan. The X-Men are uneasy, due to their guest Mystique, who notes they aren’t going much faster than a car. To this, Rogue points out they are flying cloaked through the most crowded airspace on Earth.
As they begin to land, Rogue asks why Mystique is here. Looking away from her estranged foster daughter, Mystique replies she is paying a debt, balancing the scale. Debt to whom? Rogue presses. Her, Mystique replies, and Kurt. Day late and a dollar short, Rogue scoffs. How harsh and unforgiving, Mystique states. Did she learn that from the X-Men?
Rogue snarls she has no right to judge her! She sent her away! And she abandoned her son, the day he was born, Mystique adds. She has a lot to atone for. Today is when she starts.
The Raptor lands at the base which is an eyeblink out of phase with reality. In the hangar, Scott Summers and Nick Fury are already waiting, wondering what Mystique is up to. Are his people ready? Scott asks Fury. They can handle her, comes the reply. Scott reminds him that she’s been hiding in plain sigh for years. The only times she’s ever been caught is when she decided to let it happen. And the moment she changed her mind, she was gone, Fury adds. He knows what she can do.
When the X-Men exit the jet, Scott takes Rogue aside, asking her what she was thinking. She wasn’t, she admits. Just going stir crazy. She wanted to get out and then all of a sudden she was. One bamf, she was out; another, she was out of the estate. After that, she just kept going. She apologizes. Surprisingly smiling, Scott reminds her that Jean dealt with the Sentinels and they can trust Spider-Man, so minimal harm, no foul. But they should work on her teleporting so this won’t happen again.
How supremely rational, comes a new voice, as Mystique is the last to leave the plane. She’s good at keeping secrets too. He’s willing to trust Spider-Man. Care to extend that consideration to her?
The only consideration she’ll get is the size of her prison cell! Nick Fury snarls and orders his people to take her into custody. How predictable, Mystique sighs, addressing him as “Nicholas.” Reports of his death certainly haven’t improved his disposition.
Nightcrawler steps between them, stating there is no need for this. Now Mystique is surprised at her defending him. He calls things as he sees them, Kurt replies and reminds everyone Mystique came to their aid in Manhattan and put herself on the line to divert the Sentinels. Kudos for her, Fury, retorts, he isn’t convinced. Kurt admits he doesn’t entirely trust her either but is willing to give her the chance. Mystique thanks him. Fury points out he is older and a lot more cynical. Mystique has lived her life as a lie for so long she probably doesn’t even know what is reality anymore. He has a point, Kurt admits.
Mystique states that honor has to be earned, nevertheless thanks Kurt for trying. She is here by choice. She knows what she has to prove. She’ll give her word to behave. Fury is almost inclined to believe her. Almost. True she admits, as she is led into custody. She lies nearly as well as he does.
Fury orders Kurt to stop glaring at him. He knows Fury’s right. Problem, is, so is she, Kurt replies. Fury wants guarantees, Kurt prefers faith.
Daisy Dugan interrupts their argument shouting that they have a problem. Sabretooth and Dr. MacTaggert have been kidnapped!
In the Morlock Tunnels, Masque explains to their prisoners who they are. He mocks the chained Sabretooth, stating life has treated him cruelly. No eye, only one hand. Isn’t he supposed to have a healing factor? He touches the stump and a new hand grows. Another few seconds, he announces, and the healing will be permanent… or not. The new hand slides off the stump.
Enraged, Sabretooth announces he has Masque’s scent. He can never hide from him. Scary, Masque mocks. They haven’t forgotten what he did to them during the Mutant Massacre. He tried to exterminate them. Consider this righteous payback!
Moira asks them to stop and asks why bring them here and leave them alive. Masque wants something. So stop playing and make his offer! Sabretooth interrupts: they aren’t making a deal unless it’s paid in blood! Theirs!
Their blood is exactly what this is about, Masque states. They’ve been following MacTaggert’s and Xavier’s research and know about Burnout. When the Marauders attacked their tunnels months ago, they learned about it firsthand. They saw some of the oldest among them – the strongest – literally consume themselves in their defense. They know she is using Sabretooth’s healing factor as the basis for a cure. They are not even close, Moira protests. And they are desperate, Masque insists. From the look of things Sabretooth isn’t healing like he used to. But he guarantees she will stay transformed forever. So save them or suffer!
At the mansion, Jean is using Cerebro to search for their missing friends. Noting that she is tight-lipped, Fury asks what is wrong with her. Cyclops explains that when they were still with X-Factor she and Banshee were captured by Masque. He assumes it wasn’t pretty. She’s never talked about it and he’s never asked.
Fury wonders if she can find them with Cerebro. The Morlock tunnels are shielded. Jean explains that she has a flash-link with Sabretooth. He and Moira are in the tunnels. No sense though of Masque or who grabbed them.
They have to be good, Cyclops points out, and possess powers to cross the tesseract wall. Jean wants to go. Her telepathy can track their friends and she knows the tunnels. Then they may have a problem because he needs Ms. Grey here, Fury announces. His interrogation can wait, Scott protests; they have people in danger! And limited resources, Fury shoots back. Suppose Mystique is connected? They need her to talk. They need a second telepath, Scott announces. How about the next best thing? Daisy suggests. Jean stays to help Fury and Cyclops goes with the away team. They are always in psychic synch. Anything goes wrong, she’ll know and the rest of them can come to their rescue. The team she suggests consists of herself, Cyclops, Shadowcat and Gambit. ‘Ro offers to help and Gambit forbids it. Her powers are too unstable and it’s dangerous. They get to have all the fun, she sulks.
Elsewhere in the building, Mystique is tied to a chair and guarded by SHIELD agents while an agent is questioning her. Behind an observation window are Rogue and Kurt. This is going nowhere, Nightcrawler sighs, she is just playing with him. Did he expect differently? Rogue asks. He had hope, he sighs. She’s been dancing that waltz before the two of them were born. Listen to her; she’s the one getting all the answers. Kurt admits she is good, but he wants to believe her. Does a kid good when his mom steps up to the rescue, Rogue points out. Doesn’t she mean “their” mom? Kurt asks. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, Rogue point out. Familiarity breeds contempt
Fury enters the interrogation room and the men salute. He asks how well it is going. About as well as one might expect, Mystique chimes in, when you put the farm team against the pros. Is it really so hard to trust her? He doesn’t know her, he replies bluntly. So why should he even try? That’s what happens when you judge by appearances, she replies, changing her voice. A voice he recognizes. Mystique adds the face that belongs to the voice, that of a middle-aged black-haired man. Think back, she urges him, to 1942. Raven! he exclaims. There was him and her and Logan and Seraph, she reminds him… and, of course, Nazis. She saved his life, remember? She was Logan’s friend, but she fought side by side with Sergeant Fury. She earned his confidence. He remembers, Fury admits. She’d like the chance to do so again, Mystique continues.
Back in the Morlock tunnels in what passes for a lab there, Moira angrily announces Masque is expecting a miracle and she’s fresh out. Charles and she have been working on Burnout for year with the best resources imaginable and they’ve found nothing! What makes him think she can do better here?
Perhaps he’s not providing the proper incentive, Masque muses and touches the chained Sabretooth’s chest. Flesh begins to change in horrible ways and Sabretooth screams, a scream that is heard some distance away by Cyclops’ rescue team. Daisy realizes Sabretooth is giving them a marker and urges them to go. She runs off and they have to follow, even though they are aware trouble expects them. What they are unaware of is ‘Ro sneaking after them.
Far above the tunnels in a plane, new SHIELD Director Sigrid ‘Ziggy’ Trask is informed of an alert. They have been reactivating the subterranean sensor web in the Cold War tunnel network beneath Manhattan, she is told. They have some metahuman activity down there. Does she want them to dispatch a Sentinel patrol to investigate? No, just make sure they have access to the appropriate telemetry links. She orders to notify the heli-carrier and dispatch an alpha strike team to the location, fully armed with R & D’s latest toys. She’d like to see what SHIELD can do on its own…
Back at Xavier’s, Fury tells Mystique he’s tired of hearing about their so-called past. He wants answers. He wants the truth. She’s been giving both all along, she replies mildly. Fury accuses her of playing them. Again she replies evasively. Angrily, he walks out off the interrogation room.
He confesses to Jean that she could be right. She could be a friend. For all he knows, she could have been his old lady! Jean reminds him of what Kurt said. She wants them to take her on faith. Fury has none and orders Jean to get inside Mystique’s head and tell him what’s real.
As Jean prepares, Mystique warns her to be careful. She was thinking the same thing, Jean begins flippantly, but then cries out. Mystique’s mind is utter chaos. Jean breaks off the contact. And she thought Rogue’s mind was a mess. It’s going to take all her concentration, she tells Fury. She’ll need some time to prepare.
Meanwhile in the Morlock tunnels:
Masque demands results from Moira, who again reminds him there are no guarantees the concoction will work – quite the opposite! However, they don’t listen and so she is forced to inject a volunteer with her antidote. Moments later, the Morlock begins to wildly and painfully mutate. The other Morlocks react with anger and Masque threatens that if she likes to see people transform into monsters and cause them pain, she should be prepared to take the consequences.
Before they can grab her, an optic blast levels the firs attacker. Cyclops, Gambit, Kitty and Daisy have arrived. They don’t look too friendly, Gambit remarks. They thought they were safe down here till the Marauders nearly wiped them out, Kitty explains.
First the Marauders, Masque snarls, now Burnout! Always the surface world tries to make them extinct, but still they survive. This is the Morlocks’ domain and the X-Men are not welcome here!
Displaying her claw, Kitty reminds him the Morlocks started this by stealing their friends. Suddenly, they hear a noise from behind. Believing it to also be attackers, they turn around to find ‘Ro. Angrily, Cyclops and Gambit argue with her; even Kitty has turned around. Masque uses the opportunity and jumps through the phased Kitty to touch Gambit’s and Cyclops’ faces and transform them. They scream in pain and next reveal terribly changed faces, much to Ro’s horror.
Cyclops, Gambit, Jean Grey, L’il ‘Ro, Nightcrawler, Rogue Shadowcat (all X-Men)
Dr. Moira MacTaggert
Colonel Nick Fury
Lt. Daisy Dugan
Fury’s SHIELD agents
Sigrid ‘Ziggy’ Trask (commander of SHIELD)
Trask’s SHIELD agents
Masque and other Morlocks
Raven / Mystique
There’s a continuity error here (the same one as in X-Treme X-Men). If Mystique sent Rogue away to Xavier, as she claims here, several of the following plotlines no longer make sense: Why then would Mystique have attacked the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #177-178, believing Xavier took Rogue away from her?
Sabretooth killed many Morlocks during the Morlock Massacre. As we (unlike Masque) have learned by now, that Sabretooth was a clone.
Jean had a traumatizing adventure in the Morlock tunnels alongside Banshee and Forge in Uncanny X-Men #261-262.
Mystique’s Raven persona was already shown in the “X-Men: True Friends” limited series when Kitty and Phoenix (Rachel Summers) ended up in the past. However, the looks of the character were based on Basil Rathbone, an actor with very sharp features (who was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes), whereas this Raven here has a rather rotund face and a small nose.
Issue Summary written by: Ruth