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John Sublime with Martha Johansson in New X-Men #119. Art by Igor Kordey.
|First appearance||New X-Men Annual 2001|
|Created by||Grant Morrison|
Leinil Francis Yu
|Team affiliations||Weapon Plus Project|
|Notable aliases||John Sublime, Dr. Sublime, Michael Grand, Kick|
Regenerative Healing Factor
Sublime, also known as John Sublime, is a fictional supervillain (a sentient bacterium), appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is usually depicted as an enemy of the X-Men. Sublime first appeared as John Sublime in the New X-Men Annual 2001.
Fictional character biography
Sublime is the self-appointed name of a sentient bacterial lifeform that arose during the beginnings of life on Earth. With the rise of multicellular lifeforms, Sublime found endless numbers of hosts it could infect. However, mutantkind, some of whom were immune to Sublime's infection, eventually arose and multiplied, becoming the first threat to Sublime's domination.[volume & issue needed]
It was hinted that the very hatred and fear of mutants was caused by Sublime itself. But the bacteria took more direct actions in order to ensure that the mutant population would be held in check, if not exterminated, in order to keep them from becoming the dominant species of the planet.
The first step was the Weapon Plus Project, Sublime took over a human body, dubbed Dr. John Sublime, and became the director of the Program, overseeing the creation of living weapons created by each installation of the program, from Captain America (Weapon I) to the Super-Sentinels – Fantomex, Huntsman and Ultimaton (Weapon XIII, Weapon XII and Weapon XV), passing through Nuke, Wolverine, and Deadpool, the latter two originating in the Weapon X Project, seemingly the most prolific living weapons producer.
For many years, Sublime remained behind the scenes, manipulating the Weapon Plus Project and installing Malcolm Colcord as the director of Weapon X, which would eventually lead to the so-called War of the Programs between Colcord's replacement, Agent Brent Jackson, and Sublime, as Weapon X became an independent organization.[volume & issue needed]
As millions of mutants were born worldwide, Sublime, still under the identity of John Sublime, took other steps to ensure the extermination of mutantkind. One of these steps was the creation of the TransSpecies Movement a.k.a. Homo Perfectus, a cult of humans that sought to empower themselves by grafting mutant body parts to their own bodies, but outwardly a group of 'mutants born in human bodies'. The militant faction of this group, the U-Men, refused to have any sort of contact with the world, which they considered impure, for which they sealed themselves in containment suits.
During a trip to Hong Kong's new office of the X-Corporation to investigate the murder of Risque, the X-Men discovered Sublime's farm of mutant prisoners. They were being harvested for mutant body parts which could give the U-Men powers. Sublime, who was in the country on a book tour, thus became aware of the X-Men's immediate threat to his plans. Sublime also tried to purchase the mutant healer Xorn in one such prison in China.
Although Xorn was rescued by the X-Men, he was a mole. Xorn, who was revealed to apparently be Magneto, became addicted to the drug Kick (which was Sublime's bacterial body in concentrated doses high-enough to finally enable the infection and possession of a mutant). Xorn dealt the drug to Quentin Quire, thus placing Quire under Sublime's influence, which would cause the Open Day Riots made by the Omega Gang, and which led to the death of Sophie of the Stepford Cuckoos and Dummy, the bodiless, gaseous-form student of Xorn.
Meanwhile, Sublime and the U-Men spread their influence to New York City, where they kidnapped the telepath Martha Johansson, harvested her still-living brain, and used it as a weapon against the X-Men. Cyclops and Emma Frost, the White Queen, were kidnapped and tortured. They were sent off to be dissected but escaped and confronted Sublime in his office. Emma, angry, held Sublime off a high ledge. Johansson forced Sublime to fall from Emma Frost's grip to his apparent death. The Sublime organism survived, regenerated its host body, and returned to actively overseeing Weapon Plus, as always, from the shadows.
Sublime suffered a setback in its plans with the destruction of two of Weapon Plus' Super-Sentinels (Huntsman/Weapon XII and Ultimaton/Weapon XV) and the defection of Fantomex (Weapon XIII). Sublime had envisioned a team of mutant-hunters with scripted actions operating from a space station (a section of Asteroid M) in order to make the genocide of mutantkind look like a "Saturday morning cartoon come to life". Weapon XII had already been destroyed during its test-drive; Fantomex, intended to be the smart, cool member of the team refused to be anybody's weapon. Only Ultimaton remained, and even though he followed the direction of Weapon Plus operatives, he had begun to question his role as a slaughter machine but was ultimately killed by Wolverine.
Under the influence of Sublime via Kick, Xorn revealed himself to be Magneto, and assembled a new Brotherhood of Mutants to lay waste to the Xavier Institute and then New York City. They were defeated by the X-Men, but Xorn-Magneto, under Sublime's influence, killed Jean Grey, who was manifesting the powers of the Phoenix Force. Unbeknownst to all, the Phoenix was the ultimate threat to Sublime's plan. In retaliation for Jean's murder, Xorn-Magneto was beheaded by Wolverine.
Later, Chamber, an X-Man who had infiltrated Colcord's Weapon X organization, was ordered to assassinate Sublime by Brent Jackson, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned Weapon X field leader. Chamber incinerated Sublime, but Sublime again regenerated. At the same time, Sublime was also responsible for sending Sabretooth against Mister Sinister in order to obtain Sinister's latest creations, the Children (not to be confused with the Children of the Vault, a thematically similar team of characters but different in origin).[volume & issue needed]
With the massive depowering of mutants following the House of M, mutantkind's threat to Sublime has been greatly diminished. However, it remains to be seen if the depowered mutants lost their innate immunity to the Sublime infection. In any event, Sublime appears as a computer-generated image and personality in X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong where he greets the remaining Stepford Cuckoos at The World, the base of operations for the Weapon Plus. He confirms that the Cuckoos are part of the larger Weapon XIV, the "Thousand-in-One," a telepathic gestalt of one thousand cloned daughters based on the ova of Emma Frost, taken by John Sublime years earlier when she was comatose. He facilitates the transfer of the Phoenix Force into all one thousand clones and uses robots to stop the X-Men, though "he" is defeated.
X-Men: Nation X and X-Men: Quarantine
Later, a team composed of five superpowered individuals, named as Lobe, Verre, Burst, Thug and Bouncing Betty, came into conflict against the X-Men. Their true motivation remained a mystery, but they claimed that they wanted to save the world's mutant population.[volume & issue needed]
To that end, they kidnapped a clone of the Marauder known as Scalphunter, and forced him to deliver five Predator X's which Lobe had previously created and modified. Although all the Predators were successfully delivered to Utopia, they were killed by the X-Men, however, unknown to the X-Men, upon dying, the Predators would release trillions of microscopic devices made to spy on each mutant and learn all about them, their powers, and anything else they could.
When Wolverine, Psylocke, Colossus and Fantomex find and defeat this mysterious team, they claim to be working for Sublime before they send a virus in the air forcing the X-Men to retreat from their facility.
During the X-Men: Quarantine story arc  it is revealed that the virus was a mutant-targeted flu, codename "HX-N1" or "mutant flu" designed to dampen mutant powers and force Cyclops to put Utopia under lockdown, leaving the few mutants on the mainland to form an ad hoc X-Men team while a cure was researched.[volume & issue needed]
Making their move, the villains, with Lobe in the position as CEO of the Sublime Corporation debut their own "X-Men", a group of normal humans bearing the powers of the original five X-Men (Beast, Angel, Jean Grey, Iceman, and Cyclops). The powers were temporarily introduced by a special drug, "Xperience", designed with the data gathered from the Predator X feint. The false X-Men serve as poster children for the company's attempt to commercialize mutant powers and sell the drug, an initiative titled "You, X-Men" (a riff off of John Sublime's own "U-Men"). At a demonstration Lobe drinks a dose, gaining the optical blasts of Cyclops, and distributes free samples to a crowd of investors in order to fight off a strike team of X-Men, and demonstrate the product in action. "Wolverine" and "Deadpool" (though Deadpool is not technically a mutant) prove most popular.[volume & issue needed]
The group's plan fails when Cyclops breaks the quarantine to confront Lobe in person. Lobe activates the virus' life-threatening "Ebola plus" function, nearly killing the X-Men, as well as Lobe himself and the gathered guests. As it turned out Lobe and the guests' imbibing of Xperience temporarily made them mutants as well, and thus vulnerable to the now-deadly virus. Lobe is forced to deactivate his disease and is captured.[volume & issue��needed]
Sublime returns in the first issue of volume 4 of X-Men. He willingly surrenders himself to the X-Men as they have been the greatest threat to him before and as such he sees them as the best hope of stopping his twin sister Arkea, from invading and taking over Earth. Sublime also revealed that one of his first acts was to battle Arkea and was able to send her into outer space. While Sublime evolved on Earth, Arkea evolved on a different planet and gained the ability to control machinery, as opposed to Sublime's ability to possess people. Sublime shares a mutual attraction with Rachel Summers while he is a guest at the X-Mansion but their relationship remains unconsummated due to Rachel's refusal to take it to the next level as she reveals to him that she and other X-Men would always see him as a villain despite his self-proclaimed moral reformation. An extremely disappointed Sublime reluctantly accepts this as he reasons that as an immortal being, he has already lived countless lives, with the luxury of being able to start over again each time, something which an ordinary mortal could never understand. Sublime later helps the X-Men eventually kill Arkea with finality. A guilt-stricken Sublime then suddenly departs for parts unknown for while he acknowledges the killing of Arkea by the X-Men was inevitably necessary, she was still his sister after all and part of him would never forgive the X-Men for her death. A heartbroken Rachel watches him leave via a computer monitor and quietly reproaches him for abandoning her when she talks to herself, revealing that she knew all along that he killed her mother Jean Grey when he possessed Xorn during Planet X.
Powers and abilities
Sublime is not a typical sapient but a sentient gestalt microscopic bacterial colony that can possess the body of any living organism and manipulate both psyche and physique however he sees fit. Other abilities he has access to are mass mind control, personal genetic manipulation which allows for his accelerated healing, along with cellular shapeshifting, as well as performing any number of power enhancements upon any genetic "X-Gene" mutants he possesses, provided that they have taken his inhalable form as the power-boosting drug Kick.
List of hosts
- John Sublime: Sublime's main host body, which the bacteria uses as its cover identity. This body has appeared a number of times even after being killed.
- Kid Omega: Sublime came into possession of Quentin Quire after he began to consume the drug Kick and influenced him into causing the Open Day's riots.
- Tattoo: Influenced after consuming Kick.
- Glob Herman: Influenced after consuming Kick.
- Radian: Influenced after consuming Kick.
- Redneck: Influenced after consuming Kick.
- Xorn: Xorn's rampage through New York and the murder of Jean Grey were caused by Sublime's influence.
- Beast: The most powerful life-form he could find in the same dystopian future.
- Fantomex: In the alternate Days of Future Now timeline.
- Empath: Elias Bogan provided Empath with Kick in order to enhance the latter's powers to serve his bidding. Empath did not exhibit the same aggression as Sublime's other hosts.
Here Comes Tomorrow
In the Here Comes Tomorrow storyline (Earth-15104), it was revealed in flashbacks that after Jean's death and Xorn's apparent death that Professor X left the Xavier Institute to rebuild the island of Genosha, and a broken Cyclops declined Emma's offer to jointly run the Xavier Institute. Beast became the new headmaster and faced many troubles in his attempt to teach new generations of mutants and to fight for the Dream. The stress resulted in Hank consuming Kick and, subsequently, becoming the new host for Sublime. In this new host body, Sublime waged a war against mutantkind and the X-Men, destroying the Xavier Institute in the process.
150 years after Jean's death, Sublime was still making war, and Earth was filled with new species that were fighting for an ecological niche in the world including homo sapiens superior and homo sapiens sapiens (which was on the verge of extinction). Sublime longed to wipe out all other species, thus bringing evolution to halt, and replace it with the stagnation of his own mass-produced minions, including the Crawlers, genetic constructs made from the DNA of Nightcrawler and empowered with the genetic codes of Multiple Man and Cyclops. Sublime was aided by his champion, Apollyon, the last of the U-Men and the result of the separation of Fantomex from his biomechanical symbiotic ship, E.V.A.
Sublime stole the Phoenix Egg, in which a merged Phoenix/Jean Grey creature awaited her resurrection in order to bring "the judgment of the Phoenix". After emerging from the egg, the partially amnesiac Jean/Phoenix became a minion of the Sublime (who she believed was the Beast), exterminating the race of sentient termites dominating the "Panafrikan Basin" (killing the Xavier Institute ambassador, the mutant Bumbleboy in the process) and later attacking the mutant population of "Megamerica" on his orders.
Soon after, Sublime managed to duplicate Jean's DNA and obtained her Phoenix-level telekinetic powers. The nearly all-powerful Sublime fought and defeated each of the X-Men, who were buying time (with their lives) in a plan to restore Jean to her senses, which she did after being confronted by Wolverine, who informed her of everything that happened since her death, including the fact that "Magneto killed [her] on orders he never understood".
Her memories regained, Jean Grey was now ready to convey the judgment of the Phoenix, to "Burn away what doesn't work", and purged Sublime from the Beast's body, destroying the bacteria once and for all. As it turned out, "what doesn't work" according to the Phoenix is what doesn't evolve, such as Sublime, which posed a threat to evolution itself.
Sublime's host, the Beast, was then beheaded by Apollyon, who did not realize that his former master was no longer inhabiting the Beast's body, and considered himself betrayed when Sublime refused to give him the power of the Phoenix.
Jean then transcended into the M'Kraan Crystal, and from there into the mysterious White Hot Room, the higher plane of existence where other hosts of the Phoenix converge and psychically reached backwards in time to encourage Cyclops to "live", to accept Emma Frost's love and thus remain at the institute; as a result, the original timeline that led to Sublime's possession of the Beast has been negated.
Days of Future Now
In another future timeline, seen in the Weapon X: Days of Future Now miniseries (Earth-5700), Malcolm Colcord, Sublime, and Weapon Plus waged war with Wolverine for years, until Wolverine found the means to go back in time and stop the whole timeline from occurring, by preventing his destruction of Colcord's face. Unfortunately, Sublime followed Wolverine back in time by possessing him in the future, and in the past, Sublime made Wolverine ravage Colcord's face once more, and when Logan rejected Sublime, he found his host body for the first time. This occurrence marks the beginning of the bacteria possessing the original John Sublime (a normal human scientist of the Weapon Plus Program), which then begins his ascendence to become the leader of the program, thus converging to the 616 timeline.
In other media
- Sublime appears in Marvel Anime: X-Men voiced by Troy Baker in the English dub. This version is a white-haired human with a mechanical eye that is associated with the U-Men. He and the U-Men member Kick were abducting mutants in order to harvest their organs. After the X-Men had killed Kick, Sublime later ambushes them in the mountains while piloting a robotic armor that can use the X-Men's powers against them. Beast manages to find the robotic armor's weak point, allowing the others to defeat him. They discover that he has a mutant detection device before Sublime self-destructs himself.
- John Sublime appears in the video game X-Men: Destiny voiced by Joel Spence. John Sublime is shown to be associated with the U-Men. He transforms into a gigantic monster after injecting himself with a serum of concentrated "X-Genes" that grants him mutant powers. Sublime presumably dies in the ensuing fight.
- New X-Men #154
- New X-Men #145
- New X-Men Annual 2001
- New X-Men #137
- New X-Men #120
- New X-Men #146
- New X-Men #150
- X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong #1 - 5
- Uncanny X-Men #515 - 519
- Uncanny X-Men #520 - 521
- Uncanny X-Men #530-534
- X-Men vol. 4 #1
- New X-Men #151
- New X-Men #152
- New X-Men #153
- Weapon X Days of Future Now #1