District X #12

Issue Date: 
June 2005
Story Title: 
Underground - part 6

David Hine (writer), Lan Medina (penciler), Alejandro ‘Boy’ Sicat (inks), Digital Rainbow (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letters), Tom Raney (cover), Sean Ryan (assistant editor), Nick Lowe (associate editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Bishop and Izzy have found the victims of the Worm’s latest attack - all tunnel rats. Nemesio Pietri shows them where he actually lives, and there they discover that Winston’s been trying to create an atmosphere where, at least, he gives himself the impression of being human. Coming across cannibalized bodies disgusts everyone and, as they hold their noses, they hear Melek’s telepathic cries from elsewhere in the tunnels. They discover him being attacked by the Worm. His companion is already beyond help. Bishop can’t use his powers on him, as Melek is too close, so Nemesio uses his flaming torch to force Winston back. Unfortunately, Winston reacts by plunging his clawed hand into Nemesio’s chest, wounding him badly. Bishop then floors Winston, but he’s caught in the eye with some of Winston’s venom. As he lies on the ground with Winston standing above him, Bishop calls for Izzy to shoot him. Thoughts flash through Izzy’s mind but, ultimately, he does the right thing and unleashes six shots into Winston, killing him. Melek’s companion, Sarah, is dead, and Melek disappears into the darkness with her. Nemesio hands Izzy a painting he did of his death, which he asks to be given to Laline. Nemesio then dies also. Izzy departs and hooks up with Lara the Illusionist. They sleep together, and Lara lets it be known that she is in love with him. Izzy then goes to the where the transit cops have found Gregor Smerdyakov. He fell asleep and grew roots. This time, there is no coming back.

Full Summary: 

(New York City - the tunnels beneath District X)

Bishop, Izzy Ortega and the artist, Nemesio Pietri, have come across some of the Worm’s victims. Everyone there is dead, but Nemesio tells them he can lead them to the Worm’s burrow. Izzy asks if they should put out their lights so he doesn’t see him coming, but Bishop reminds him that Winston is used to the dark. It’s better they at least see him coming.

They come to a hole in the wall, and Nemesio removes a large piece of material covering it. The smell that emanates is appalling, but they enter the lair and discover what appears to be Winston’s home. It is decorated with furniture plundered from above ground, including a chair, table lamp and chessboard. It’s as if he’s been trying to live like a human being.

They discover piles of children’s books including The Cat in the Hat, Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh. Izzy figures they’re probably the books his parents read to him, before they dumped him at St. Jerome’s. Bishop shines his torch inside an adjoining room, and says he should take a look in there before he starts feeling sympathetic. Inside the room are the remains of several people in various states of decapitation and decay. “Looks like we can add cannibalism to the rap sheet,” exclaims Bishop.

Izzy covers his mouth as he feels nauseous and the smell is truly disgusting. Before they can look around the rest of the place, they hear a telepathic cry. ‘Leave her!’ it says; ‘Don’t touch her.’ Bishop realizes that it’s Melek, and he’s in trouble. They run through the tunnels and discover the Worm attacking Melek. His companion, Sarah, lies beside them, motionless. Melek manages to smash the Worm with his staff, and Izzy asks Bishop if he can’t just zap Winston with a power beam or something. Bishop replies that Melek’s too close.

Winston fights back, and Melek is knocked to the ground. Bravely, Nemesio steps forward and waves his flaming torch in Winston’s face. The intense heat forces him backwards and Winston’s light sensitive eyes are unable to cope with the bright light. Reacting defensively, Winston thrusts his clawed hand forwards, and it plunges straight into Nemesio’s chest. Izzy rushes to his aid, as Bishop takes his opportunity to attack.

A burst of power throws Winston flying to the ground, and Bishop stands over him, preparing to deliver the killing blow. Despite Izzy warning him about the Worm’s venom, he fails to avoid being caught by his spit, which splats into his eyes, causing him considerable discomfort. Winston then slashes him up the back, leaving Bishop floundering.

As Winston rises and stands over Bishop, he calls for Izzy to shoot him, but for some reason Izzy hesitates. He recalls Nemesio’s paintings, both of this event and of the one he painted with blood on his hands. He recalls finding Bishop with Armena in his arms, and his ex-partner Gus lying dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He thinks of his son firing the bullet that almost killed his sister. Izzy has to make a choice. He raises his pistol, and delivers six shots before being called to stop.

Winston Hobbes is almost dead. He leans against the wall, struggling to speak, with goo pouring from his eyes and mouth. He soon dies from his wounds. Bishop stands and asks Izzy to get the crud out of his eyes. Melek manages to come round, but he holds Sarah in his arms. She wasn’t so fortunate. He picks her up and heads for the exit. Bishop calls after him to wait, but Melek turns and asks what he wants to do. Arrest him? Punish him? Without another word, he turns, and disappears into the darkness.

Izzy goes back to help Nemesio who’s bleeding badly. He knows death isn’t far away, and he asks Izzy to give a rolled-up painting of his to Izzy’s sister, Laline. He’s sure she’ll get a good price for it. It’s his last work. Izzy opens up the painting and sees that it’s a painting of Nemesio being fatally wounded by Winston. Izzy asks why he came down here if he knew this would happen. “Why did you?” replies Nemesio. Nemesio’s face suddenly looks startled, and Izzy asks what wrong. “What are you seeing?” Before he can respond, Nemesio dies, leaving Izzy none the wiser.

Izzy blames himself for the deaths of all these people, but Bishop assures him this is all about Winston Hobbes. Izzy then bows his head, and admits to Bishop that last night, he had Winston down cold. He had him in his sights, but couldn’t shoot. He also admits that he’s never fired his gun outside of a shooting range. Bishop again reiterates that this isn’t his fault. He shouldn’t have involved him. Bishop’s used to this, and says Izzy is just an ordinary, decent guy who shouldn’t have to deal with this. He adds that he did good when it counted and saved his life. He won’t forget that.

He suggests that Izzy go home as he’s in shock, but he replies that he can’t. Armena threw him out. Bishop tells him any idiot can see how much she loves him, and will take him back. A tear edges its way down Izzy’s cheek.


Izzy is reunited with Armena, and that night they cuddle together as they sleep. How can this be so, when Armena subconsciously creates a forcefield when asleep? The answer comes in the morning, as Izzy sits up and stretches. His wife is gone, and lying beside him is Lara the Illusionist. She wakes, and asks if she should revert to Armena’s form, but he gently touches her cheek and tells her to be herself. No more illusions. She smiles and hugs him.

They head into the kitchen for breakfast, and Lara asks if he’s going to see her today. Izzy replies that he’s taking his kids to see a movie; to do all the dad stuff. Lara asks if Armena will go with him. He doubts it - just him and the kids. He pulls on his jacket and says he’ll see her that evening, if she’s not working. They kiss as he departs and, as Lara watches him head off, she offers herself a warning. “Careful girl. That guy is going to break your heart.”

(epilogue - flashback)

Izzy makes some notes in his journal. After leaving Lara, he stopped to see Gregor Smerdyakov. The transit police had found him. He must have been wandering around, lost in the tunnels for days, and he guesses he stopped to rest. As always when he fell asleep he put down roots. He’d done it a hundred times before. Izzy met Mikey, Gregor’s nephew, who was saying his goodbyes. He was reading his uncle a passage from Alice in Wonderland, and said hi to Izzy when he arrived. Gregor had fallen asleep one last time. With no one to wake him, he had become part of the flora in the tunnels. If the cops had tried cutting his roots, it would have killed him.

Izzy looked up at Gregor who was now a motionless living statue, with greenery blossoming around his appendages. Poor Gregor, Izzy wrote. He’s more plant than human now. He was even growing some strange kind of fruit. He offered to take Mikey home, and so he waved his uncle goodbye. Unseen by both, a bug enters Gregor’s mouth.

Characters Involved: 


Izzy Ortega

Nemesio Pietri

Winston Hobbes

Victims in the tunnels

Melek the Telepath


Lara the Illusionist

(in flashback)


Armena, Esteban and Izzy Ortega

Winston Hobbes

Gus Kucharsky

Gregor and Mikhail ‘Mikey’ Smerdyakov

(in painting)

Nemesio Pietri

Winston Hobbes

Story Notes: 

With Gregor’s death, Ismael has something else to weigh upon his conscience. He was told about Gregor’s disappearance by Mitya in District X #9 and forgot to follow up on this information. Izzy knew about his condition, and the consequences of him falling asleep alone.

Esteban almost killed his sister in District X #5. Bishop was found (innocently) with his arms around Armena in District X #8. The scene where Bishop calls for Izzy to shoot Winston Hobbes was shown as one of Nemesio’s paintings in District X #9. The painting showing Izzy with blood on his hands was first seen in District X #9.

The scene with the fruit and the bug seems to imply that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Gregor.

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