X-51 #1-3 (1999)

Mike Higgins and Karl Bollers (writers), Joe Bennett (penciler

It’s really interesting that Marvel’s “Tech” line produced this comic and Deathlok’ 1999 series both at the same time and telling a very similar story (albeit in a very different way).  Both stories have to do with the connection between identity and body, a topic that invites a revisit in the 2023 world where these things are being reexamined and broken down in new and fascinating ways on a daily basis.

The X-51 series begins after we’ve seen Machine Man in several other stories.  An FBI agent has been tasked with recovering the living robot and over the course of his investigation we get a recap (with some gaps filled in) of Aaron Stack’s “Pinocchio” origin as a robot treated like a human son by its creator, the work done on him by Bastion, etc.  The trail leads him to a scrap yard where he happens to arrive at the same time as the Brotherhood of Mutants, who also want to find X-51’s remains.

Mystique shoots agent’s head off—literally–but the agent’s headless body picks up X-51’s head and puts it on.

And becomes the new Machine Man.

Turns out, the Fed was a life model decoy.  We get a big battle against the Brotherhood, where Machine Man now has the power to access the FBI’s database and has combat skills and powers greater than what we’ve seen before—presumably because he’s merged with an LMD for the FBI.

After humiliating the villains, Machine Man leaves the battlefield.

This is a terrific reboot of this character into a powerfully augmented cybernetic warrior who still has self awareness as Aaron Stack, on the run from people like Sebastian Shaw and the U.S. Government who want to exploit him.

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