Operation: Zero Tolerance was the big event after the last big event and before the next one, in 1997. It started right where the Onslaught Event left off—with mutant hatred at an all-time high as the world blamed the X-teams for the death/disappearance of the biggest non-mutant heroes. It actually wasn’t the fault of THESE mutants—it was all Franklin Richards’ fault, as he put them in a pocket dimension. (Why didn’t he just put Onslaught in the pocket dimension? Then everything would have been fine!)
Then, after Onslaught, Presidential candidate Graydon Creed was assassinated by Mystique and marrow, making things worse, in X-Factor #130.
And so Bastion created a unit of rebooted Sentinels called Operation: Zero Tolerance. It spread over five monthly series, covering these issues:
- Cable #45-47
- Generation X #29-31
- Uncanny X-Men #346
- Wolverine #115-118
- X-Force #67-70
- X-Men #65-70
Thankfully, each series mostly told a single story (even though they did interlock), making continuity much easier to follow.
Back in Generation X #27, Bastion captured Jubilee and used her to figure out where the X-Men were hiding. Once he has that, Bastion attacks the X-Men in X-Men #65, captures Storm, Cyclops, Cannonball, Wolverine and Phoenix, and broadcasts the offensive on television—to publicly launch his Operation: Zero Tolerance.
Before they’re caught, Jean Grey makes psychic contact with Iron Man, who is still busy being “reborn” by Franklin Richards. That might have made for an interesting issue, but instead Bastion’s troops crash their plane.
While his troops are getting the X-Men, Professor X–alone at the Institute–is captured by Bastion himself.
They’re taken to the abandoned Hulkbuster base, along with Professor X, who voluntarily turned himself in. Jubilee is also being held there…
…And Bastion uses the capture of her teammates to try to weaken her will, making her more susceptible to mind probes. Bastion. Dude. You hit a young girl. Uncool.
And speaking of young women…
Marrow and Callisto continue their Gene Nation efforts as terrorists and attack Henry Peter Gyrich in response to his capture of the X-Men. Spider-Man briefly guest stars to prevent the mutants from killing Agent Gyrich and help the innocent.
At the same time Iceman—who has been caring for his injured father—decides to join the fight. In an interesting, unusual turn of (ahem) “events,” Uncanny X-Men focuses on Iceman for all of its event-tie-in books. I like that Uncanny X-Men took this point of view—it helped to personalize the event. Also, Iceman is the founding X-Men member who is most ignored in terms of big moments and character development.
He’s able to persuade Doctor Celia Reyes to join the team.
As this is going on, the pro-mutant organization Mutant Liberation Front (to which Dani Moonstar now belongs), have taken hostages at a facility they believe is being used to torture mutants but, in fact, it’s a cancer research facility—part of Bastion’s master plan was to make the MLF into terrorists. O:ZT arrives and frees the hostages, further cementing the view that they are the heroes and mutants are the villains.
X-Force also joins this scene, and the upshot is the capture of most of the X-Force team, and the revelation that Dani is actually an undercover SHIELD agent.
And also that the new Prime Sentinels look like people!
Agent Elena Gryaznova manages to snag Domino and, it turns out, has a secret vendetta against her—so Domino, while captured, is not taken with the rest of her team but instead is secretly deposited in another prison by Gryaznova who is actually a Prime Sentinel.
Gryaznova does some experiments on her, and the next time we see Domino she is wandering around Oklahoma with a shaved head…
…Unable to reach her teammates (who were captured, above) or Cable (who is on the run—see next paragraph), and eager for revenge.
Back at X-Mansion, Bastion attempts to hack files and gain intel, while Cable is told by G.W. Bridge (of S.H.I.E.L.D.) that many of his teammates have been captured. True to the character of a SHIELD leader, Bridge can’t stand Bastion having more power or information than he does. Bridge is a double agent throughout this story, working with Dani Moonstar.
Caliban has been bedridden at the mansion during this story due to a mysterious illness causing seizures. He’s visited by Ozymandias–foreshadowing Apocalypse’s return. Because we can’t get through one event without the promise another.
Cable manages to save Caliban from the O:ZT invasion of the school, and then begins hunting Bastion. Ultimately, we learn from this that Cable’s mind-control powers can’t affect Bastion, and Bastion and his troops take everything of value from the school.
The Generation X tie-ins only tangentially relate to O:ZT. The team are missing—after Black Tom invaded their home. Emma, Banshee and Penance are trying to find them and the O:ZT events make it more difficult both for the searchers and for the missing. For example, Monet, Synch, Chamber and Husk try to hide out in California but a civilian turns them in to O:ZT.
You gotta love Chris Bachalo, eh?
We do learn that Monet is actually two twin sisters, and they “split” into their own bodies during these issues: Nicole and Claudette St. Croix. It’s not clear why they were posing, in a single body, as their older sister.
All three sisters are able to merge into various identities with various powers, just to make things hard for bloggers who want to tag their appearances.
Overall, the adventure happens throughout the O:ZT event and is mostly a standalone story. Gen X continues to be one of the best series of the late ‘90s X-line of books.
Similarly, the event issues of Wolverine tell the story of the X-Men who were taken by Bastion. In terms of balls-out action, it’s the most fun of the tie-ins.
Over the course of the story, Bastion’s Prime Sentinels become increasingly savage and brutal, which leads Henry Peter Gyrich, the long-standing mutant hater Senator Kelly, and others to gradually disfavor O:ZT. Even Daria, Bastion’s assistant, begins to sympathize with the captive Jubilee more than her master.
And helps her escape!
Israel’s super-agent Sabra even comes to the U.S. to help the mutants.
SHIELD comes after Bastion’s Hulkbuster base after the White House de-funds O:ZT, the various mutants begin to win their individual quests and battles, and most importantly Bastion is revealed to be a tech-based life form similar to Nimrod.
In the end, Bastion and his Prime Sentinels surrender to SHIELD custody.
X-Force is so disillusioned by how the government turned against all mutants that they disband connection with Xavier’s dream…
…And Cable dissociates from the team, telling them they’re on their own now. Moonstar joins them in their coming road trip.
Xavier is missing in action after all the other mutants are freed, so I’m sure that will be a future thread.
X-Mansion is completely looted by Bastion’s men, and Juggernaut tries to move in (but the X-Men fight him off)
A bunch of newer mutants (including Marrow—whose role against O:ZT was to be a terrorist) move into the bare mansion with Storm, Beast and some other established X-Men. One of them, Dr. Cecilia Reyes, removes a bomb from Cyclops’ chest. To give himself time to heal, he and Jean take a leave of absence from the team.
In all, this is one of the better X-events, in my opinion. It mattered, it was fun, and it wasn’t unnecessarily complicated.