THE X-MEN PROJECT: CHAPTER 28 – OPERATION: ZERO TOLERANCE

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Chaper 28

“Operation: Zero Tolerance” has to be the best aged crossover from the late 1990s. Directly following up the events of Onslaught, the U.S. Government is now willing to listen to people like Henry Peter Gyrich and Bastion. The mutants are seen as a direct threat, as Professor X went nuts and turned into Onslaught. As Onslaught, he is directly seen as responsible for the deaths of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Avengers and Captain America. Public opinion of mutants is at an all-time low, so Bastion and his Prime Sentinels are given carte blanche to hunt down all active mutants. As a result, they bum rush the X-Men and their related teams. The only one left spared by the attacks is Iceman because he’s lying low taking care of his father.

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Bastion began life as two different entities. One part was the futuristic super sentinel dubbed Nimrod. The other was the Master Mold unit that was active during the late 1980s. Nimrod spent most of 1985 and 1986 attacking the X-Men and slaughtering a bunch of The Hellfire Club. During the Mutant Massacre, Nimrod went dormant and started hiding out in his human cover identity. While working as a construction worker, Nimrod struck a command module from the Master Mold. This caused both units to merge their programming and start transforming into the eventual Bastion entity. The merging entity fought the Outback era X-Men and was sent through the Siege Perilous alongside the team.

On the other side of the Siege Perilous, Bastion emerged as a human looking force that was quickly taken in by the Friends of Humanity. Using his racist mutant hating ties, Bastion quickly rose to power through the U.S. government. After Graydon Creed was killed and the public assault of Onslaught, Bastion talked the government into launching his campaign dubbed Operation: Zero Tolerance. Very quickly, he captured the main X-Men while Iceman was left to form a temporary team to fight Bastion. Bastion attempted to activate the Xavier Protocols (tactical maneuvers to kill the X-Men originally created by Professor X) and be done with the mutants once and for all. But, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the X-Men were urged by the President to stop him.

Bastion would later try to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. through various tech maneuvers, but this was stopped when Wolverine decapitated him. Slowly learning that he wasn’t human, Bastion reached out to the Purifiers and other groups to come to his aid. Bastion stole the Transmode Virus and began using its tech capabilities to rebuild a body and give new life to several of the X-Men’s enemies. Most of them were dead, but they were not tech powered zombies who did Bastion’s bidding. Bastion uses his new team to assault the X-Men and kill Hope Summers. Nightcrawler fatally injures Bastion, but dies in trying to stop Bastion.

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Dr. Cecilia Reyes works as an ER doctor in Hell’s Kitchen. She first learns that she’s an active mutant, while watching the internationally broadcast takedown of the main X-Men team. Through no fault of her own, she’s pulled into Iceman’s world after being attacked by Prime Sentinels. Reyes is reluctant to go along with everything, but she fears that she has no choice due to Bastion’s strict orders to eliminate all mutants. Dr. Reyes spends the next few issues running around with Iceman and trying to stop Bastion. They’re saved by the timely intervention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Bastion is shut down. Dr. Reyes joins the X-Men after all but being pushed out of her old job.

For a long time, Dr. Reyes functions as the medical help for the team. Her powers weren’t that far removed from Skids, as all she can do is make force fields. But, Dr. Reyes uses her expertise to work for the X-Men in a way that no other mutants have ever pulled off. Reyes explains anatomy issues that allowed Marrow to survive her first death, she heals others and she helps the X-Men to function without having to head to NYC to see Night Nurse. Eventually, Dr. Reyes is written out of the books as she loses any direct purpose. I liked the character, but secondary powers don’t tend to stay in the main books for long.

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Marrow is a Morlock that has survived a great deal in her short time on Earth. As a child, she was spared from the Mutant Massacre by the timely intervention of Mikhail Rasputin. While in the dimension that Mikhail spent years hiding in, Marrow grew to be the strongest of the young Morlocks. Callisto sought to raise her, but Mikhail forced her training at the cost of the others. Eventually, she would return to Earth as the leader of Gene Nation. Gene Nation was a Morlock splinter cell designed to make humanity pay for the Mutant Massacre and all other tragedies bestowed upon her people. Storm cut out her heart to stop Marrow from destroying innocent people.

During Operation: Zero Tolerance, we find out that Marrow has two hearts and survived the trauma that Storm caused. Joining up with Iceman at Callisto’s request, Marrow would help fight Bastion and join the X-Men. She tries to put the moves on Cannonball, but it doesn’t work. Eventually, she leaves the X-Men and goes through a ton of events. She survives the Neverland camps created by the Weapon Plus program. Then, she becomes a sleeper agent that attacks the LMDs of SHIELD. Marrow loses her powers during M-Day, but the physical deformities caused by the bone growth remain. While pregnant, Marrow accepts an offer to have her powers returned. The process kills her unborn child, but brings her back to Marrow mode. That’s when she’s discovered by Cable and X-Force. They create a means to save her from the returned powers, but she is forced to wear an inhibitor collar created by Dr. Nemesis.

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Joseph is almost indicative of the state that the X-Books were in during the late 1990s. Originally appearing as a deaged Magneto, he couldn’t remember anything about his prior life. This gave the X-writers a chance to build into the Age of Apocalypse romance between Magneto and Rogue. The Acolytes, Exodus, The Avengers and many others wanted to believe that Joseph was Magneto, but Joseph had nothing to do with that old life. Joseph thanks Rogue for helping him by finding a way to negate her powers, so they can kiss and be intimate. Unfortunately, this all comes apart when the X-Men arrive in Antarctica for the Trial of Gambit. There they find out that Magneto is still alive, but Joseph hides this fact from the others.

Eventually, Joseph would be found out when hidden Brotherhood member Astra reveals that he is a clone of Magneto. Joseph is hurt by this, but uses his powers to fight the original Magneto. Magneto destroys him during the Magneto War and the world gives him Genosha as a prize. Astra makes another clone of Joseph and they attack Utopia to make Magneto pay for what he has done. Magneto working with the X-Men fights back and imprisons Joseph within the X-Brig. There he sits, because nobody cares about this character. There were a ton of characters like that from about 1996-2001.

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Maggott is one of the X-Men low points. But, he didn’t start out terrible. If anything, I’d say that his origin issue was one of the better told stories from the era. Unfortunately, it was about a kid learning that his guts turned into sentient maggots during puberty. All the while set against a backdrop of Apartheid South Africa. Fearing that he was a burden on his family, young Maggott ran away from home. He was found near death by Magneto, who used his magnetic powers to release the slugs that were living inside of Maggott’s stomach. From that point on, the slugs would be sent out to feed and then bring nourishment back to Maggott. The nourishment would turn Maggott’s skin blue, but he would gain great power from the transference.

Maggott met up with the X-Men, as he made his way to Antarctica to find Magneto. Maggott would later join the team and have a few adventures. Later, he would be sent to the Neverland death camp by Weapon Plus and killed. He was later resurrected by the Transmode virus and attacked Utopia. He was defeated, but his fate after that point remains unknown. The reason being is that nobody cares about Maggott. I don’t care if you’re the biggest Marvel or X-Men fan…you don’t care about this guy. His super power is magnetic maggots digest food for him.

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