SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers for multiple Marvel Comics stories ahead!
SHIELD. AIM. Hydra. It’s safe to say Marvel has gotten into bed with some pretty shady characters throughout its history. Dedicated to manipulating world events from the shadows, these vast, militant entities have had an undeniable impact on the course of world events in the Marvel Universe.
As one of the most insidious of these clandestine organizations, the Weapon X program’s reach technically extends back to the Golden Age of Comics. Originally conceived as the black ops unit responsible for bonding adamantium to Wolverine’s mutant skeleton, over the years, retcons revealed a far more extensive Weapon Plus that spun out of Project Rebirth – itself responsible for creating a certain Star-Spangled Avenger.
As Marvel gears up for ResurrXion with a new “Weapon X” ongoing series, we thought it was appropriate to dust off the old cap and gown and celebrate the names of these notorious graduates of Weapon X.
Our first entry is a long-time X-Men foe, who was snatched up by a reborn Weapon X to help control the unpredictable Sabretooth. Mesmero had always been something of a control freak. Initially, his mutant power to control minds relied as much on meticulous planning and the level of his self-confidence, as it did on innate ability. That is, until Weapon X sunk its hooks into him.
Weapon X increased the scope of his powers so that he could control vast crowds of people in exchange for his services. Mesmero 2.0 proved surprisingly effective in the field, with the success of many missions hinging on his powerful mass hypnotism. At one time, considered to be one of the most powerful mutants on the planet, Mesmero was de-powered during the events of M-Day, his days of forcing entire armies of soldiers to commit suicide long over.
A pale shadow of himself, Mesmero was last seen on the receiving end of a potentially fatal beating from his girlfriend’s pimp, learning a lesson about real control.
Like Mesmero, this former member of the Mutant Liberation Front was recruited into Weapon X and given a substantial power upgrade. Born with the ability to manipulate the human nervous system and slow movement down to the point of paralysis, Reaper nonetheless had the disarming tendency of losing body parts whenever he fought Cable’s X-Force team (two hands to Shatterstar and a leg to botched teleportation). You can’t keep a good mutant terrorist down, though.
Eventually he would turn up in Neverland, Weapon X’s mutant death camp, where he underwent drastic modification, regaining his lost organic limbs. As a member of Weapon X, Reaper posed as a mutant terrorist in an attempt to instil public confidence in Weapon X’s mutant policing activities. This would once again bring him into conflict with Cable, who shut down his brain and put Reaper into a coma. Depowered by M-Day, a homeless Reaper was found by Quicksilver and exposed to the Terrigen Mists, regaining some of his lost powers.
13 Weapon II
Paws down, the rascally rodent known only as Weapon II, is the cutest, most adorable little berserker on our list. A product of Weapon X’s early days, when the program was still experimenting on animals rather than humans, this superhuman squirrel was first glimpsed in Howard the Duck #1. He would later appear in the company of Squirrel Girl and Howard as one of prey of a mad cosplaying huntress.
Clad in a miniature classic Weapon X visor and accessories, Weapon II also possesses the same claws and healing factor as Wolverine. Even his speech patterns and mannerisms mirror Logan’s, forcing one to wonder if the two were ever in contact during their time in the Weapon Plus program – and if so, who’s copying who?
Whatever the case, Weapon II’s adventures have only begun to be recorded. Wonderfully ridiculous in the same way Krypto and the other Super Pets are, Weapon II’s existence in this secretive and dangerous corner of the Marvel U brings a little levity to an otherwise grim collection of graduates.
12 Weapon X (Garrison Kane)
The man who succeeded Logan as Weapon X debuted as a young operative in Cable’s infamous Six Pack mercenary group. When a mission in Afghanistan goes south, Cable is forced to abandon Kane, who is dismembered in a massive explosion. Kane somehow survives long enough for Weapon X to scoop him up and rebuild him as a super-powered cyborg. Featuring arms that contained an extensive array of hidden weaponry and monitoring systems, Kane was sort of like weird '90s comic book version of Inspector Gadget in a red Guy Gardner vest.
Over the years, Kane’s cybernetic systems would receive multiple upgrades, the final batch coming courtesy of a reborn Weapon X program. Unfortunately, those upgrades also cost him his sanity and for a time he acted as the program’s hitman, until Cable freed him from his brainwashing. Kane would make the ultimate sacrifice by downloading all of Weapon Plus’s toxic tech, a process that effectively killed him and saving his mentor’s life.
11 Wild Child
Kyle Gibney was born with mutant abilities similar to those of Wolverine: enhanced senses, claws and a healing factor. He would also endure the same struggle between his human and feral side throughout his career. Despite these similarities to their star pupil, Weapon X would have to wait several years before inducting Wild Child into the program. First he would serve as a member in several iterations of Department H’s Flight program, where he would for a short time tame his wild side as Wildheart.
Kyle eventually reverted back to his feral nature and after a brief stint with Valerie Cooper’s X-Factor, joined Weapon X, whereupon he devolved further into a near-mindless animal. Although he was supposedly depowered during M-Day, he turned up fit as a fiddle in the service of Romulus, who sent both Kyle and Omega Red to kill Wolverine. The two would-be assassins turned on each other before they could do the deed and Omega Red settled for killing Wild Child instead by throwing him into the vat of molten steel meant for Wolverine.
10 Maverick/Agent Zero
A long-time ally of Wolverine, Christoph Nord’s association with Weapon X ended up costing him both his humanity and his honor. Nord served with Logan and Sabretooth during the 1960s in the CIA-sponsored Team X, where his ability to absorb kinetic energy came in handy during several missions. The clandestine unit eventually became subjects of Weapon X, who provided Nord’s cohort with their extended lifespans. It was Logan’s explosive escape that allowed Nord to escape his captors and set him on the path of a high-priced mercenary.
Maverick’s transformation into the silent killer Agent Zero occurred after he refused an offer from Sabretooth to join the new Weapon X program and was thrown off a roof for his trouble. As Agent Zero, he was the perfect assassin to dispatch Wolverine but managed to purposefully sabotage the hit. He would subsequently endure extensive brainwashing and act as Weapon X’s most-feared enforcer. After M-Day depowered him, he would sink even further, using his contacts to sell Weapon X’s files on the black market and facilitate the creation of Strikeforce X, an enhanced assassination squad designed to take down Wolverine.
Designated Weapon XIII, the being called Fantomex was grown in an artificial world built by the Weapon Plus program to create super-soldiers using hybrid Sentinel technology. This bizarre brainchild of Grant Morrison possesses a wide array of abilities including illusion-casting, enhanced senses, a healing factor and an external nervous system that also acts as a sentient transport vehicle called EVA, which he belches into existence when needed.
Since his first appearance during Morrison’s classic “New X-Men” run, Fantomex has enjoyed a checkered past with various X-teams. During one mission with Cyclops’ mutant black ops incarnation of X-Force, Fantomex sacrificed his life to save the team during a battle with a newly-reformed Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Thanks to the wonders of his redundant physiology and EVA’s clone technology, Fantomex was reborn as a trio of separate beings, each grown from one of his three brains.
All three clones operated independently of each other prompting the core personality to join Cable’s X-Force, hoping to find a way to become whole again. He eventually turns on the team and suffers a mental breakdown induced by Hope Summers, whereupon his former flame Psylocke effectively skewers his brain with one of her psychic daggers.
8 The Stepford Cuckoos
Another of Morrison’s bizarre contributions to X-Men canon is the Stepford Cuckoos, a hive mind of five identical sisters grown from the ova cells of Emma Frost. They are designated Weapon XIV by Weapon Plus director John Sublime and have thousands of unborn siblings housed in the same artificial World that grew Fantomex. All five girls possessed the same bundle of telepathic abilities as their mother, as well as her ability to transform her body into organic diamond.
As they matured, the sisters discovered a need to carve out their own separate identities, free from each other’s influence. This caused no little strife among the Five-in-One and eventually led to the deaths of two sisters, Sophie and Esme. The appearance of a time-displaced Jean Grey also caused discord amongst the remaining sisters, with Celeste taking an extreme dislike to the teenaged X-Man, while Mindee and Phoebe got along with her just fine.
Although they no longer possess the same level of power they once did as quintuplets, the Three-in-One remain powerful, if unpredictable, telepathic weapons in the X-Men’s arsenal and often serve as an early warning system for impending threats.
Frank Simpson possesses as convoluted a back story as anyone on this list: a hallmark of the Weapon Plus program’s frequent behavior modification and physiological upgrades. Designated Weapon VII, Nuke was a product of Project Homegrown, an offshoot of Weapon Plus. His conditioning was overseen by a brainwashed Wolverine, who served as his handler on black ops missions during the Vietnam War.
After the war, Simpson was inducted into the final phase of the Weapon VII program and given a variety of physical enhancements, including super-durable artificial skin and a second heart. A regimen of psychoactive drugs was used to rein in the schizophrenic’s ultra-violent tendencies.
After several encounters with Captain America over the years, Nuke would once again come into conflict with Wolverine. Hired by Madame Hydra to fulfill the bounty on Logan’s head, he would track his former tormentor to a bar in British Columbia, Canada. Using his adamantium-laced skull to bash him into submission, Wolverine left Nuke alive to serve as a warning to other assassins looking to collect on the bounty.
6 Isaiah Bradley
One of the most respected heroes in Marvel’s pantheon, particularly amongst its African-American community, Isaiah Bradley received his abilities during early attempts to replicate the super serum that produced the original Captain America. The only survivor of experiments on hundreds of African-American test subjects, Isaiah would eventually become the progenitor of both Josiah X and his grandson Elijah, the second Patriot. Despite a successful mission to shut down the Nazi’s super soldier program, Isaiah was courtmartialed in 1943 and imprisoned by the American military until President Eisenhower pardoned him 17 years later.
For years, Isaiah quietly served as a symbol and inspiration for many prominent black politicians, celebrities and heroes the world over, including Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela and Angela Davis. Over time, the super serum ravaged Isaiah’s mind and body, in a manner similar to the effects of advanced Alzheimer’s disease. He was last seen in attendance at the wedding of Storm and Black Panther, a personal guest of the Wakandan king.
Although most of us know Victor Creed as Wolverine’s mortal enemy, he originally debuted as an Iron Fist villain in 1977. It wasn’t until Chris Claremont retooled his creation into a bestial mutant killing machine that his long and complicated relationship with Logan was revealed in numerous retcons and subsequent stories.
Their shared history is convoluted to say the least – an unintended side effect of all those retcons – but Sabretooth remains Wolverine’s ultimate villainous foil. While Logan fights to retain his honor and strives for balance between the civilized and feral sides of his personality, Victor refuses to go against his animalistic nature, celebrating his savagery with obvious relish, not to mention countless acts of brutal violence. The pair have severely maimed or killed each other multiple times over the years, although Sabretooth’s last dirt nap was revealed to have been taken by a clone created by Romulus.
During the events of “AvX”, Victor’s personality was permanently inverted and he now serves as a productive member of Magneto’s X-Men, filling the void left by his old nemesis Wolverine.
4 Captain America (Steve Rogers)
The Weapon Plus program traces its origins back to the early days of World War Two and Project Rebirth. Designated Weapon I, Steve Rogers has long been considered the program’s only real success, free of grotesque physical and psychological side effects that would mark later attempts. Although Rogers himself remains unaware of just how insidious the Weapon Plus program’s reach has been over the intervening decades since his creation, he’s encountered several products of different Weapon programs, including Wolverine, Nuke and Isaiah Bradley.
In what was arguably the most controversial in-continuity revelation of the last several years, Steve Rogers was unmasked as a deep cover Hydra operative recruited in his youth. Most recent developments revealed that the abrupt about-face was a result of his restored youth and vitality, at the hands of Kobik, a human incarnation of the Cosmic Cube. Thanks to the Red Skull’s subtle manipulation, the naïve Kobik reset reality for Rogers, ensuring he was a loyal Hydra operative and no longer a threat to her “friend” the Red Skull.
The most recent media darling of the X-Men franchise, Deadpool’s journey to superstardom didn’t happen overnight. Originally created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld as a villain for X-Force in the early 1990s, it wasn’t until writers such as Joe Kelly and Christopher Priest started exploring the character’s potential for comedy and metafiction that the Merc with a Mouth we all know and love came into being. Known for breaking the fourth wall in ways no other character had done before, Wade Wilson’s self-awareness as a fictional character became his most distinguishing trait, affecting plotlines and punchlines in roughly equal measure.
His connection to Weapon X comes via Department K, the same offshoot of the Weapon Plus program responsible for Garrison Kane. Cursed (or blessed, depending on your POV) with regenerative healing factor that puts even Wolverine’s legendary abilities to shame, Wade might just be effectively immortal, having survived 800 years into the future, in one potential timeline. We’re not sure about eight centuries, but with a burgeoning movie franchise looming in his future, thanks to the record-breaking success of his first foray into film, Deadpool will no doubt remain a household name for the foreseeable future.
2 Wolverine (Laura Kinney)
The young woman who eventually took up the mantle of Wolverine was cloned by a mutant geneticist named Sarah Kinney using a damaged sample of his DNA. As the 23rd attempt, the clone was designated X-23. After years of training and experimentation, X-23 became an expert assassin for the Weapon Plus splinter group called the Facility. While attempting to escape the Facility’s captivity, X-23 unintentionally killed her surrogate mother, who named her Laura before dying in the distraught girl’s arms.
Eventually, Laura would track down her Wolverine and became a welcome member of the X-Men. Logan took the young woman under his wing, teaching her how to control her feral side while embracing her human side as both an older brother and father figure. She participated in several missions for the X-Men and X-Force, proving on several occasions she was just as willing to make the hard choices as Logan.
Upon hearing the news of his death, Laura fell into a deep depression, losing her only real family and the only person who truly understood her conflicted past and constant inner turmoil. After a period of soul-searching, Laura claimed the mantle of Wolverine, committed to preserving her father’s legacy.
1 Wolverine (Logan)
Before all of the retcons, before the brainwashing, and before his memory was returned to him in full, there was only Logan: the Wolverine. Bursting onto the scene in the now-classic “The Incredible Hulk" #180, Wolverine was a super-powered operative of the Canadian government, attached to Department H. After Professor Charles Xavier recruited him to rescue his X-Men, he would stay on with Marvel’s merry mutants, becoming its most popular member for years, even after they stopped being so merry.
Although Marvel has been guilty of over-saturating the market with everyone’s favorite Canucklehead over the decades, he is undeniably cash in the bank for the publisher. Even after killing him off in his final showdown with the Weapon X program responsible for his creation, Marvel can’t seem to shake Logan completely, filling the void with his daughter Laura and an older, ravaged version yanked from Mark Millar’s popular “Old Man Logan” cycle.
With a third solo movie starring Hugh Jackman lighting up the internet thanks to a killer trailer, it seems extremely likely that, old or not, Weapon X’s most popular graduate will be along for many years to come.
What did you think of our Weapon X honor roll? Did we overlook any top performers? Let us know in the comments!