Immortal X-Men #8

Issue Date: 
November 2022
Story Title: 
The Curious Case of Dr Essex and Mr. Sinister

Kieron Gillen (writer), Michele Bandini (artist), David Curiel (color), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller and Jay Bowen and Kieron Gillen (design),Mark Brooks (cover artist), Phil Noto (Quiet Council cover), Sergio Davila & Federico Blee (variant cover), VC’s Clayton Cowles (production), Laure Amara (associate editor), Jordan D. White (editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

In 1943, Mystique breaks into Alamorgodo to snoop into what her partner Destiny is working on there. She is somewhat disgusted at what she learns, especially that she is working with Nathaniel Essex. She wonders how he survived and thinks back to their first meeting. In the late 19 century, she was working as a consulting detective with Irene at her side. They were asked to investigate a new string of murders in the East End and talk to one surviving witness, one Nathaniel Essex. They meet Essex, a sickly man who is unpleasantly misogynistic and unhelpful. Mystique goes hunting in the East End by pretending to be a prostitute. She actually hears someone else crying for help and finds a pale, naked, super-strong madman who relishes murdering a man. He tries to kill her too but she shoots him, forcing him to flee. Mystique gives chase, following him to Essex’s home (where Irene has been waiting for her all along) and they witness the creature changing back to Essex. They reveal their own powers to him and he tells them of how he was altered by Apocalypse and cannot control the changes. He begins talking about his fears for the future and how the machine brains will eventually rule everything. He describes four ways of fighting them: Essex men (mutants), magic, science and alien science. The two women are unimpressed. They overwhelm him and put him into a mental hospital, telling him he will either learn control there or die. During the night, he has a strange vision, during which he dies. Mystique makes sure his death is kept a secret, while Irene enters his home and finds a secret lab with four man-sized test tubes, which are broken. Whatever was in them gone. Over each tube is a symbol of a card suite…

Full Summary: 

Fate is the word cowards use to describe the things they are too weak to change.” Nietzsche (?)

Alamogordo, New Mexico, 1943:
Mystique muses that, even when they were together, they were often apart. They trusted one another, but there was always her curiosity. She couldn’t stand it when Irene locked her out. She couldn’t stand not knowing.

Two guards find themselves distracted when, suddenly, a blonde bombshell stands in front of them, claiming to be lost. She gets close enough to knock them out quickly and takes one of the guards’ clearance. She changes her shape to look like a guard and enters the facility.

There, she is shocked to learn that Irene is helping experimentation on mutant children. Irene shows up behind her with a smile and hopes she didn’t kill the poor guard.

They find a room to talk alone. When Raven tells her the two guards are unconscious in a cupboard, Irene is relieved and asks her to leave. Mystique wants some answers first. Cloning vats? Eugenics? What is she thinking? She could never stand mysteries, Irene sighs. She can share a little. The project head is one Amanda Mueller but the power behind her is a certain Dr. Milbury.

Mystique doesn’t get it. First name Nathan, Irene adds. The man isn’t being subtle, he rarely is. Their friend Nathaniel and she disagree on everything but one single point: that mutants are important. That they are ultimately on the same side. Sinister is gathering crucial information on the mutant genome. This work is an abomination but it will ultimately be for her benefit, she tells Mystique, and the benefit of them all.

Mystique follows her up the stairs. Can she really trust Mr. Sinister? Of course not, Irene replies, but being here lets her watch his games. She can eavesdrop on nearby futures. She’s learning a lot about what’s a problem and what isn’t. For example, he’s going to hide his DNA in certain individuals. Families with names like Shaw, Marko, Sullivan, Xavier, Ryking. When he dies, he’ll try to take them over. A psychic broadcast.

She likes how she says when he dies, Raven replies wryly and asks if it will work. Irene replies, not as far as she can see. The methods prove insufficient to overcome his primary target. A powerful, annoying bald psychic thrashes him while quoting German philosophy. That does sound annoying, Raven agrees. But she figures Sinister will find a way back from death.

As she hugs Irene, she wonders how he did it the first time. Somewhat enigmatically, Irene tells her equally enigmatically. It’s something she never worked out.

Raven recalls that, even when she was the great detective, her love was always better than her…

London 1895, Baker Street, 221b:
A sharp-featured man in a deerstalker assures his client he will take the case. His assistant will accompany him out. The man is a genius, the client marvels on his way out. Wrong on all counts, Irene smiles as she accompanies him out. She turns back into the flat, where the sharp-featured man has change to his real form -- that of Raven Darkholme.

Why are they going out in this awful weather this time? Irene demands. The game’s afoot, Raven replies. Surely, she has read the paper. Of course, she hasn’t read the paper! Irene huffs. Raven is wicked and cruel to mock a blind woman, and yes, she does love that. For that, Raven will have to do this one without tips.

Raven explains the article about a series of East London murders, apparently not connected to Jack the Ripper. There has been one survivor, one Nathaniel Essex…

And so, in a stormy night, the great detective and Irene Adler arrive at Milbury House. A pale and sickly-looking Nathaniel Essex answers the door. The detective wishes to speak with the master of the house. Essex introduces himself, adding he is alone with his work since the passing of his wife. He must miss her, the detective remarks. Essex replies, not anymore. He took steps to purge himself of such weaknesses. Regrets are for foreigners, lesser men and women. He only regrets his wasted years.

He leads them into the living room, continuing that his work on the Essex-Factors would be much more advanced if he could be returned the years he wasted on fripperies like love. He coughs blood.

Irene announces she is aware of his work and his Essex-factors. Lord Darwin said it was a monstrous misunderstanding of his work, and she agrees. Has he read Nietzsche? His talk of superior beings echoes him. His work also ended in madness. It is not too late to turn back.

Essex sniffs, he doesn’t know what intrigues him more - that a blind woman claims to read or a woman claims to have sufficient mind to read him.

The detective changes the subject to the attack Essex suffered. Essex replies curtly. He was walking and attacked from behind. The brute was disrobed, Essex survived. He can be of no further help to the great detective.

Of course, Raven was suspicious but he looked like a man about to die of tuberculosis, too weak to be the killer.

The two women leave. Irene offers Raven a clue, which she refuses.

Instead, Raven walks the street as a prostitute, an arsenal hidden under her morphed petticoats. She hears a scream and morphs to her true form, rifle in hand. She met Essex earlier. Now she meets Mr. Sinister, a muscular, naked being with white skin, red eyes and a red diamond symbol on his forehead. He just smashed a man against a wall killing him. She looks interesting, he leers. He bets her blood would look super smashed against the wall. Raven grabs her elephant gun and fires. She bets his will, too! Oh yes, he grins, still standing. Abuse him like a French impressionist abuses paints!

He crawls up the wall with inhuman speed. She follows over the rooftops, far enough to see that he heads to Milbury House, where Irene is already waiting for Raven. Raven tells her she found him all by herself. Well done, Irene replies.

Raven, again in her male form, kicks in the door. Don’t look! a weak voice pleads from inside, as Sinister transforms back into a weakened Essex, who immediately lectures them that this is beyond their understanding. They look beyond the realms of daylight into the awful demimonde of life.

Unimpressed, Raven interrupts his rant by displaying her shapeshifting ability. They are locals in the dark, she informs him, he is but a tourist. They are Essex-Men! he realizes Irene agrees and asks what is happening to him. I He should never have trusted the Egyptian, he sighs and tells his story.

He tells them how an ancient Essex-Man came to him and gave him great power. Essex tried to escape him but, without the Egyptian’s tight leash, his gifts are running wild, killing him. The passions and joys he wanted to get rid of are there. Out doing things at night. He cannot live without what Apocalypse gave him, yet he cannot live like that! With what he did to him, Essex may not outlive this century. And he cannot die yet, he must be ready for the battles the future holds! The 20th century… the bonds of civility between civilized men will be over, he predicts. He sees war on a scale unimagined.

Irene reveals he sees probable futures and fears he may be correct. She sees wonders and horrors. She sees some wonders on such a scale they may become horrors. But there is a way through. Good, Essex continues, he figures the following century will be the real trick. Then, by his math, Charles’ monsters will be upon them… Darwin? Irene asks. No, Babbage! he clarifies. Another idiot Charles! Will he never be free of annoying men called Charles? Irene fears not.

She steers the topic back to Babbage, the engineer. The mechanical brain? she asks. Yes, he rants, and Byron’s daughter who tried to draw a map of mathematics to make it think. She is a genius, as is he, but the machines they are birthing… they will be grander geniuses! And those grander geniuses will create even grander geniuses and in time the gears of clockwork minds will crush them all! He has looked for escape, has divined the different routes. They must never forget that mankind is capable of great things. Even the fortunes of war she hints at suggest that much. What else could humanity do?

He hears of plans to fire a manned bullet to the moon, and that holds promise. What can they find there waiting? He thinks, the science of the stars the Egyptian used on him… Perhaps there are worlds who have defeated the mechanical brains. Or tamed them somehow. They must consider all possibilities.

There are men of science trying to touch the beyond. A path he has barely skirted. A golden dawn for reason and unreason - new alloys of thought. Science-tamed superstition? The machine-brains couldn’t handle that. And, of course, the Essex-men… he has to plan for the long game, despite his current predicament. The monster in him will be tamed and he will see the 20th century’s wonders. And the next, and the next and the next… Raven asks why he is telling them this. He replies, one day there will be war between people like them and people who aren’t people. They must be on the same side!

Irene hits him and pronounces she will never be on the same side as men like him!

A little later, they have brought him to Bedlam, in South London. They explain they are giving him a chance. He will stay here until the gifts from the Egyptian settle. He will be fed and watered and roll in his own soil until he is either better or dead, and no more will be murdered on the streets of London. Irene wishes him good luck. When next they meet, she hopes he is a better man.

Alone, in his cell, in his straitjacket, Essex shouts he will live! Suddenly, he seems to see something in the distance. Transfixed, he begins to grin and rants: “red and black, red and black, red and black and red and black and…” Suddenly, he looks horrified, whispering “You’re a ghost,” several times.

The next day, the great detective and Irene are told by a guard that he died in the night. The detective asks if a payment could make him claim Essex was released safely. He agrees, which means she swiftly kills him, because he isn’t trustworthy. Is he dead? she asks Irene, who crouches next to the body. That remains to be seen, she replies enigmatically.

Raven wonders today how much Irene knew back then. Irene told her that Essex’s impact stretched to the future. That he was needed to reach the paradise on the hill on the horizon. Raven doesn’t know how Essex came back and she doesn’t know if Irene knows…

In the past, Irene listens to a last recording of Essex talking about how Darwin was right. The solution is survival of the fittest. She walks down into a cellar, where there are four-man sized broken tubes. Whatever or whoever was inside has long escaped. Above each tube is a symbol of a card suit: spade, club, heart and diamond…

Characters Involved: 

In 1943:
Destiny, Mystique


In the late 19th century:
Destiny, Mystique
Nathaniel Essex

Story Notes: 

While the Nietzsche quote was used in X-Men Legacy #214, there is actually no source showing it is really by Nietzsche. Nor does it really fit with his overall philosophy.

The title refers to R.L. Stephenson’s classic novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

The issue’s POV character is Mystique.

While Chris Claremont had hinted at Mystique being a detective in the past, this is the first time she is actually shown to be the Marvel universe’s version of Sherlock Holmes.

Nathaniel Essex was transformed by Apocalypse into a superpowered being in The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, which is also when his wife Rebecca died in childbirth.

Saucy Jack was another nickname given to Jack the Ripper.

Nietzsche is misspelled “Neitzche” here.

The story Destiny refers to about Sinister’s seeming death in the Black Womb facility can be seen in X-Men Legacy #214.

Charles Babbage, a mathematician who was working on the Difference engine, the first prototype of a computer.

Ava Lovelace (daughter of Lord Byron) was in close contact to Babbage and developed the first computer program.

The four Essex clones are:
Dr. Stasis (club): human science
Mr. Sinister (diamond): Essex-men/ mutants
Orbis Stellaris (spades): outer space
Mother Righteous (Heart): magic

It is interesting to note though that Essex’s original alter ego already had a red diamond on his brow.

Golden Dawn: probably refers to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret magical order founded in 1888. Its most famous member was Aleister Crowley.

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