This is Super Reads once again and I'm ready to delve deep into Uncanny X-Men #2.
For the uninitiated:
There are SPOILERS ahead.
Before we get going, let's look at some things you might want to know.
The Dark Riders once served under the mutant, En Sabah Nur. Apocalypse. You know. The guy who's REALLY hung up on survival of the fittest.
Best of all, most of the Dark Riders aren't even mutants. They're INHUMANS. Since we're living in an Inhuman world that's threatening to overtake the mutant population (and get the X-Men books cancelled or something), they're the PERFECT bad guys for an X-Men book.
Why haven't they appeared before this moment? Mostly because they're a product of the nineties and people tend to ignore that entire decade. They've also spent most of the last couple of years being dead but that doesn't stop a comic book character from making more appearances. Everyone was brought back to life during the Necrosha event, anyway.
Since the group still loves the idea of survival of the fittest, they REALLY don't like dudes that can heal the weak. That's why they're targeting healers.
They probably don't like hospitals very much, either.
Speaking of dudes that can heal other dudes, here's Elixir!
Josh Foley started off his comic book career as a member of the anti-mutant hate group, the Reavers. It was VERY inconvenient when he developed his own mutant abilities. Foley was ostracized from the Reavers and abandoned by his own family. Left with few options, Elixir started attending the Xavier Institute. He also started dating an older woman. Rahne Sinclair. Wolfsbane.
This got even more awkward when she became a teacher.
But that was years ago.
Elixir has the ability to heal but he also has the power to hurt and kill. In a nutshell, Josh is an Omega-level mutant with complete biological manipulation powers. Meaning he can do whatever he wants with your biological structure but it helps if he KNOWS what he's doing. If you want to know what he's focusing on, you just need to check his skin tone. If it's gold, Elixir is in a healing state of mind. If it's metallic black, you might want to steer clear because Josh is thinking about murder.
And then we have the Uncanny X-Men themselves. Magneto! Psylocke! Archangel! M! Sabretooth!
Do they seem more like an X-Force squad to you? Because they seem more like an X-Force squad to me.
This team of mutants (and they don't call themselves X-Men in the comic-- so far) are out to survive in a world that increasingly wants them dead. They also want to help other mutants do the same. But maybe not all of them.
After "freeing" a group of mutants from the evil clutches of Someday Enterprises, Magneto left them alone in the world. Meaning, he probably sent them off to certain death. I put "freeing" in quotes because these mutants had actually paid that company to put them on ice until such a time came that the Terrigen Mists stopped threatening their very existence and maybe the world stopped unreasonably hating them so much.
Magneto found that attitude offensive. He also knew that Someday was acting less than altruistically. So the mutants were freed, given a stern lecture, and sent off to be killed and/or hated. Yay.
Uncanny X-Men #2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Penciler: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Joe Caramagna (from Virtual Calligraphy)
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
X-Men Group Editor: Mark Paniccia
In this issue: Mystique's cover is blown as she investigates Someday Industries and the X-Men fail to save Elixer from the Dark Riders.
• While investigating Someday Industries in San Francisco, California, Mystique is discovered and has to fight her way out of the building.
• Once outside, Mystique meets up with a car full of Hellfire Club goons.
• Magneto visits the dead body of the healer he let go into the wilds of Detroit last issue.
• Psylocke prepares to send teams out to protect any surviving healers and gets a telapathic visit from Archangel.
• Sabretooth and M head to Cooper's Mountain in Vermont to look after Elixer.
• The Dark Riders mask their approach from detection and attack the X-Men and their target.
• Elixer is lured out onto the lawn where he uses his healing powers to bring his friends back to life RIGHT before he's shot by Gauntlet.
• The Dark Riders leave, having fulfilled their mission.
Our story begins in a cubicled office in San Francisco, California. A blonde lady, Clarice Kenner, is walking off to take her lunch. A coworker stops her and invites Clarice to some after-work drinking and she happily accepts. Before she can ever get to her lunch, Clarice is stopped by two members of Security Services. They just want to talk to her.
Clarice knows what that means.
Or, rather, MYSTIQUE knows what that means. The blonde switches to her more typical blue skin and red hair, lamenting the loss of Clarice's "social life." And then she kicks a little ass. Sort of.
The first two guys are easily dispatched. When back-up arrives, Mystique deploys a stun baton to help her clean house. Office supplies go flying during the fight, ensuring that the clean-up team is the true victims of this workplace violence.
Some time later, Mystique exits the office building as a guy going his best Tony Stark impression. The sign on the building is "Someday" and we learn that the shapeshifter has been spying on the business. For the Hellfire Club. She enters a car and has a conversation with a man named Reeves who is fully decked out in Hellfire Club henchman gear, including the mannequin-like face mask.
When Mystique wonders how her cover was blown so quickly, it might be because two Hellfire Club goons were casing the building in full costume. That's... that's less than subtle.
In Detroit, Michigan at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's office, Magneto is investigating a dead body and noticing the identification numbers on all the corpses. Clearly, he's already thinking about the Holocaust.
Those butterfly wings around his head indicate that he's in telepathic communication with Psylocke who is still aboard the X-Men's Blackbird, flying overhead. Betsy Braddock is wearing one of those funky Cerebro helmets so it's possible she's communicating from further away than I think or that her telepathic abilities aren't as powerful as they have been in the past. The Cerebro helmet amplifies telepathic abilities.
If you're wondering what body Mags is looking for, it's the healer who died at the end of last issue. When the body is found, it doesn't reveal much. The healer was shot "by a concentrated ENERGY BLAST." So there isn't much to examine.
What it helps prove is a PATTERN. This isn't the only healer that's been killed in recent days. Back on the Blackbird, Betsy pulls up files on other healers that have found themselves dead. Sister Salvation (healing nun), Doctor Marc Dale (intimate touch healer), and an unknown third person have all been killed.
Psylocke has two mutant healers that are known to the X-Men that need some immediate protection. Elixir (Josh Foley) and Triage (Christopher Muse). As she's talking about them, Archangel's head pops up on her displays. Like he's playing peek-a-boo. As soon as Betsy notices him, he's gone.
That's a troubling thing that'll have to be dealt with later. For now, there are mutant healers that need saving. Psylocke sends M and Sabretooth after Elixer, leaving Triage to her and Magneto.
When we catch up to Victor and Monet (Sabretooth and M), they're already driving down the lonely roads of Cooper's Mountain, Vermont on their way to Elixer's current location. Sabretooth is driving and he's not going SLOW. M jokes with him about how fast he's going but Victor misses the subtle amusement and just comments on how they'd both survive any car wreck that might accidentally happen.
Happily, the two arrive at a nearby church quickly. Sabretooth sniffs at the air and doesn't pick up any hostile scents. This also leads to him telling Monet about who smells BETTER than her. "Rogue. Polaris. Lady Mastermind. Cable smells like OLD SPICE and GUNPOWDER... which is NICE."
Getting off THAT awkward conversation, Victor asks Monet what she knows about Elixir. "Off the chart" healing mixed with the darker elements of his power. It's the power to hurt others that probably led Josh to take up sanctuary at this church. She expects Sabretooth to have some familiarity to with the more violent aspects of Elixir's powers but Victor doesn't see it that way. All he could do is hurt people and he doesn't think a church would have ever let him in the door.
When the two get up close to the church, they ask one of the guys outside about their "friend," Joshua Foley.
Man, NO ONE knows how to dress for the occasion in this book!
Anyway, this guy was prepared for costumed people to come looking for Elixir and he sends them towards Josh. When they reach him, Elixir thinks that they're trying to recruit him into one of the various mutant X-Squads running around the world and he declines the invitation before it can even be offered. He's working on some stuff and even though he's made some progress, he's got a long way to go before he's right with himself. And even if he DOES "figure out who he is," he's pretty happy with the life he's got going right now.
Monet breaks his delusion and tells them that they're REALLY here to protect him from OTHER killers who are hunting healers down.
Elixir isn't really buying that. After all, SABRETOOTH isn't really the kind of guy that you send to protect someone. He goes on about how he doesn't really trust his own power set. There's more talk about how Josh needs to be protected and then in the time it takes Sabretooth to sniff the air, they're under attack.
The Dark Riders have arrived.
Leading the charge is Barrage. I always thought this guy had a pretty cool look. Both his arms end in cannons. That's just how they did in the nineties. I don't think his return to life is properly explained but I literally don't care. Guys with guns for hands shouldn't be killed off, anyway.
Victor senses the attack coming RIGHT before it strikes and does the stupidly noble thing of pushing Elixir out of harms way. While doing that, he also manages to tackle M. Good job, guy.
At any rate, Elixir survives this initial strike. Sabretooth is upset that he didn't smell Barrage before the Dark Rider started shooting and even NOW M isn't picking up any telepathic thoughts. They're being shielded.
Before the X-Men can properly confront Barrage, they're faced with a second Dark Rider, Spyne, who slashed M in the back and... maybe... steps on Elixir. Something goes "SNAP!" on Josh but it's off panel so we can't tell what it is.
Monet takes Spyne out of the church, leaving Sabretooth to deal with Barrage and look after Elixir. As she's flying through the air with her Dark Rider in tow, M is shot out of the sky by a few well placed blasts. When she hits the ground, she lands in the midst of a whole lot of dead bodies. M is horrified. Everyone on the church grounds has been killed.
The skeletal killer stands before her. It's another Dark Rider. Deadbolt. He explains that while he isn't HERE to kill her, he'll do it just the same. That's the price of standing in the Dark Riders' path.
Monet doesn't believe Deadbolt's hype. She takes him out with an uppercut. That done, M shouts to Sabretooth inside the church, telling him about all the dead people. Victor is still fighting Barrage and tells Elixir to make a break for it. Instead of running AWAY from danger, Josh Foley walks out onto the church lawn and brings all of his friends back to life.
Because that's what a hero does. I mean... if they have super-healing powers. I'm mostly talking about the "running into danger" part, though.
This is a level of healing that Elixir hasn't previously displayed and it shows just how amazing a healer he could be. Y'know. If he lived past the next thirty seconds. But, as Victor Creed points out, Josh Foley just did EXACTLY what the Dark Riders expected of him. He walked right into a trap.
Elixir's chest explodes as it's hit from the church rooftop by Gauntlet. With their mission accomplished, Gauntlet tells his traveling companion, Psynapse, to "black them out so they can make their exit." He has no intention of sticking around to kill more mutants. Instead, he's letting them grieve.
Gauntlet also makes mention of "Akkaba." Apparently, the Dark Riders are doing all of this killing to get "Akkaba's" attention. Akkaba was Apocalypse's birthplace back in ancient Egypt and it is also used to refer to "Clan Akkaba," a cult made up of Apocalypse's followers and descendants.
Sabretooth isn't aware of Gauntlet's... ahem... BENEVOLENT nature and rushes out on the lawn, intent to get M to safety before Gauntlet starts firing again. It's only after he gets out in the open that he realizes that the Dark Riders have already departed. A mournful Monet isn't surprised.
"They did what they came to do."