The code-name “Weapon X” was first mentioned in connection with Wolverine’s first appearance in 1974’s “The Incredible Hulk” #180 by Len Wein and John Romita Sr. Since then, Weapon X has been notorious as a sinister and secret program that’s driven most of the human experimentation in the Marvel Universe.
Weapon X is almost pure evil, performing horrible experiments on helpless victims for decades. It’s grown, been shut down, and evolved into different programs like the Facility, and its origins go all the way back to the dawn of human life on Earth. With a new “Weapon X” series by Greg Pak and Greg Land being launched on April 12, CBR wants to remind you of why everybody hates this program by detailing the 15 most WTF things it’s ever done.
15. TOOK THEIR INSPIRATION FROM NAZIS
One of the worst evils ever seen on Earth have been the Nazis, so it’s probably not much of a surprise to find out the foundation for all of Weapon X’s research was laid by the Nazi scientist, Nathaniel Essex. The Nazis were obsessed with creating the perfect Aryan race, so it makes sense that they would be into a program to make better human beings. In the 1940s, Essex drove a lot of the Nazi eugenics program, and his experiments were the starting point for Weapon X.
There’s more to it, though, because Nathaniel Essex wasn’t just a Nazi scientist. In 1996’s “The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix” (by Peter Milligan and John Paul Leon), we found out that Essex was born in the 17th century, and made a pact with the supervillain Apocalypse to live forever as the evil Mr. Sinister. Even though he hasn’t been working directly with Weapon X, Mr. Sinister has kept trying to manipulate humanity up to the present day, and has been one of the X-Men’s worst enemies.
14. CREATED CAPTAIN AMERICA
Pretty much the only good thing you can say about Weapon X is that they were behind Captain America, the super-soldier who’s been one of their biggest success stories. First seen Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s “Captain America Comics” #1 in 1947, the young Steve Rogers was used in a secret government program called Operation: Rebirth. After being given a special serum and hit with Vita-Rays, Rogers got speed, strength and stamina, and became the hero Captain America.
Behind the scenes, Operation: Rebirth was part of the Weapon Plus program that started in World War II and kept on going. Rebirth was run by Professor Abraham Erskine, who left Nazi Germany and took his research with him. After making Captain America, Erskine was killed, and all his research was lost. In a way, Weapon X has been trying to copy and improve on Captain America ever since. The world is better off with Captain America, but worse with Weapon X around.
13. MUTANT KILLERS
One of the worst things about the Weapon Plus program is that it uses mutants with the goal of killing mutants. When the program was developed in the 1940s, only a few people were aware of human mutants developing unusual powers, but some decided mutants were a threat to normal humans. They came to believe a war would come between humankind and mutantkind, and wanted to make sure humans were the winners. Some of them worked together to create what would be known as Weapon X, a program with the goal of developing living weapons to wipe mutants off the face of the Earth.
Ironically, part of that goal involves capturing, modifying and controlling mutants. Weapon Plus has tried to turn normal humans into super-soldiers, but it’s also experimented on mutants to try to enhance and control them. Some of its most famous creations have been Deadpool, Sabretooth and Wolverine. They use mutants against other mutants. That’s kind of hypocritical, the attitude of “if you can’t beat them, use them.”
When most people in comics talk about “Weapon X,” they usually think of Wolverine, the program’s most famous creation. When Wolverine first appeared, he was actually referred to as Weapon X, but later the name applied to the program that made him. For years, no one knew where Wolverine came from, but a five-part series in 1991’s “Marvel Comics Presents” starting with #72 by Barry Windsor-Smith revealed the dark and twisted process.
Weapon X kidnapped Logan and forced him through a brutal process of bonding the indestructible metal known as adamantium to his bones, but they didn’t stop there. With his healing factor, they made him almost indestructible, but they wanted him under their control, too. By erasing his memory and installing implants, they turned him into a remote controlled slave, stripping him of any will of his own and forcing him to obey. Logan turned on them and escaped, thankfully. We can only imagine what they would have done if he had stayed.
11. FAKE MEMORIES
Weapon X doesn’t want the past lives of its victims ruining their combat effectiveness or reveal the existence of the program, so they tend to erase their memories. However, the program isn’t satisfied with just erasing the memories of its victims; sometimes, it makes new memories, too. Weapon X has implanted memories into all its agents to control them. At first, Weapon X used movie-style sets to make new memories, but later recruited the mutant Aldo Ferro (codenamed Psi-Borg) who could change people’s memories and perceptions.
For instance, Wolverine had memories of a beautiful Native American woman named Silver Fox who was murdered by his archenemy, Sabretooth, but that turned out to be a false memory planted in his mind. They also made memories in Silver Fox to make her hate Wolverine. It’s pretty messed up for Weapon X to go to all the trouble of creating a memory of Wolverine in love with a woman, just to take her away, but that’s how Weapon X rolls.
With all the living weapons the Weapon X program has created, there’s always the threat of them turning on the creators or revealing the existence of Weapon X. That’s why Weapon X also created a failsafe called Shiva, a robot assassin the program could send to find and kill test subjects. 1992’s “Wolverine” #50 (written by Larry Hama and penciled by Marc Silvestri) introduced the robot as part of the system to protect the project’s secrecy. If anyone revealed Weapon X, Shiva would be sent to tie up any loose ends.
Shiva itself is an artificial intelligence housed within a robot body, but the robot can be destroyed and Shiva would still survive. Not only can it transfer itself into one of several robot copies, but also it will learn and adapt to whatever killed it the last time, making it that much harder to fight. Wolverine and others have destroyed Shiva’s body several times, and it just keeps coming back, making Shiva a very effective tool of Weapon X.
9. BLACK AND WHITE
In 2003, the miniseries “Truth: Red, White and Black” (Robert Morales and Kyle Baker) revealed a horrible chapter in the Weapon Plus program. After the death of Captain America’s creator, the U.S. government tried to recreate the Super-Soldier serum, and tested its new version on several hundred of its own African-American soldiers. They killed hundreds of other soldiers just to cover their tracks and told the families of the soldiers they were killed in action. As for the ones who were tested, the results were nightmarish.
Most of the soldiers literally exploded from the serum. The ones who survived had enhanced strength and speed, but were horribly disfigured. Only one soldier, Private Isaiah Bradley, came out stronger and looking relatively normal. After a covert black ops mission, only Bradley survived, and he used his new powers to destroy the Nazi super-soldier program. Weapon Plus made sure he was court-martialed and kept in solitary confinement to keep from ever revealing what they had done to him.
8. EXTERMINATION CAMPS
Weapon X doesn’t just capture and experiment on mutants. Ultimately, the program wants to wipe mutants off the face of the Earth, and it’s gone to some extremes to do it, like taking a tip from its Nazi roots and making its very own concentration camps. In 2002’s “Weapon X” #1 (Frank Tieri and Georges Jeanty), Weapon X began working on and ultimately opened a camp called Neverland. Under the guise of jailing “mutant terrorists,” Neverland was really about recruiting and murdering mutants.
When mutants arrived at the camp, they would be mind-scanned and sorted according to their powers. Mutants with powers Weapon X wanted would be sent into the camp to be experimented on or turned into agents for Weapon X. All others with powers that were too dangerous or useless to the program would be killed immediately. Ultimately, thousands of mutants were slaughtered in the camp, especially right before it was exposed and shut down. Neverland was one of the darkest actions of Weapon X, but far from the last.
7. ORGAN HARVESTING
Weapon X likes to harness the power of mutants for its own purposes, but the ultimate goal is to get rid of mutants, so it can’t keep that up forever. Weapon X has also worked to give normal humans powers at the expense of mutants, and that’s where the U-Men come in. In “New X-Men Annual” #1 by Grant Morrison and Leinil Francis Yu, the X-Men first uncovered a trade in the harvesting of organs from mutants. The plan turned out to be run by a guru named John Sublime who wanted to transplant mutant organs into humans in order to steal their powers.
Sublime turned out to be the hidden force behind all of Weapon X, but we’ll get more into that later. The point is that mutants became nothing more than livestock to the U-Men, who captured and killed mutants to make themselves more powerful. The X-Men fought and defeated the U-Men, but Weapon X continued their insane experiments in upgrading humans.
6. PREDATOR X
As the Weapon Plus program continued to evolve, its weapons became more and more brutal, but the government program was shut down. It continued to survive in the form of the Facility, which led to Predator X, introduced in 2007’s “New X-Men” #34 (Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and Paco Medina). Predator X was actually a project commissioned by an anti-mutant cult led by fanatic William Stryker to kill the mutant “antichrist.” The Predator X creatures were given huge claws, liquid metal skin, super-strength and the ability to detect mutants, who they would pursue and eat.
After the birth of the first new mutant since all mutants were de-powered in “M-Day,” the Predator X creatures were drawn to it. Though the first batch were ultimately beaten, the Facility continued to produce more Predator X creatures, some specifically to hunt and kill targets like Wolverine and the Punisher. Predator X is pretty much the ultimate predator, the natural enemy of mutants.
5. HARVESTED WOLVERINE’S DNA
As if kidnapping Wolverine, forcing adamantium into his body and brainwashing him weren’t enough, Weapon X also held onto some of his DNA and have been using it for decades to try to duplicate his power to heal quickly, and pass it on to others. Their experiments led to Garrison Kane (who called himself “Weapon X”), Slayback, Sluggo, Wyre, Wildchild, Ajax and Deadpool. It took them a while to get the process right, though, producing a lot of mutants that failed, especially in experiments by the cold-blooded Doctor Emrys Killebrew.
The cycle of mutants being ground through Weapon X was nightmarish, but it didn’t stop there. The Facility moved on to trying to clone Wolverine using his DNA. As shown in 2005’s “X-23: Innocence Lost” (Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Billy Tan), that turned into a cycle of failures because the DNA had degraded, until someone decided to try creating a female clone, X-23. That turned out to be a success, and she took over for Wolverine when he died.
4. THE WORLD
Weapon Plus is obsessed with evolution and improving the species, and its greatest and most twisted attempt at evolution was a project called “The World.” First mentioned in 2002’s “New X-Men” #130 by Grant Morrison and Igor Kordey, the World was a secret laboratory using radiation and nanotechnology to mutate any species they put inside, and could slow down and speed up the World’s time to cause generations of evolution in seconds. It’s called the World, because the humans raised in it are led to believe it’s the entire world.
The World had its own culture, history and even religion within its walls. It was successful in that it created several new weapons like Fantomex, but was thought to be demolished when A.I.M. attacked it for using its tech without permission. The World survived, became self-aware and continued to make its own weapons after that. Weapon Plus created an entire world just to make weapons, a project twisted in its ambition.
What’s more twisted and ambitious than creating their own world? How about creating a new and deadly religion? Weapon XVI, also known as Allgod, was nothing less than a living religion that could think and control its victims. First appearing in “Dark Reign: The List – Wolverine” #1 in 2009 by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic, the Allgod was a virus that attacked the religious centers of the brain. When it was released into the World as a gas, it infected almost every living thing, and put them under its control. Mutants, soldiers and genetically engineered creatures alike all began worshiping it and did its bidding, which involved killing Fantomex and others who tried to fight it. Basically, it turned them into zombies.
The Allgod had the ability to spread exponentially, possibly to the point of taking over the entire world. Fortunately, Fantomex and the Kree soldier Noh-Var were atheists, making them immune to Allgod. The Allgod was shrunken along with the World facility, rendering it harmless.
Behind all the madness we’ve talked about with the Weapon Plus program, one of the most bizarre things is the program’s creator, John Sublime. That’s because Sublime isn’t really a person at all. The man known as John Sublime turned out to be the host of a strain of ancient bacteria that had formed a group mind and become super-intelligent. Sublime existed on Earth before multi-celled organisms even formed, and lived within humans for generations until mutants appeared. It turned out that mutants were immune to Sublime, so the bacteria targeted them for destruction.
Sublime has been secretly controlling humans, causing them to hate and fear mutants. It also inspired the creation of the Weapon X program, leading to generations of misery for mutantkind. It also created a powerful drug called Kick that boosted mutant powers, which was really a concentrated form of the Sublime bacteria that could infect mutants. An evil bacteria, that’s what Weapon X boils down to.
1. WEAPON II
Before Predator X, Allgod and even Wolverine, one of the earliest and weirdest experiments was Weapon II. After the failure of human testing with the African-American subjects, Weapon X began experimenting on animals. With Weapon II, it was a squirrel who went through the treatment later used on Logan, producing a talking squirrel with claws, an adamantium skeleton and a healing factor.
Weapon II showed up in 2016’s “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” #6 Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North and Erica Henderson when Kraven the Hunter was hired to hunt down human-animal hybrids like Howard the Duck and Squirrel Girl. Weapon II turned out to be a ferocious fighter with a berserker mode, just like the real Wolverine. Yes, Weapon II is a joke, but he’s a great joke. Having a squirrel running around talking and acting like Wolverine just makes a weird kind of sense, and is absolutely the most WTF thing that Weapon X has ever done.
Are you looking forward to the new Weapon X series? Let us know in the comments!