District X #7

Issue Date: 
January 2005
Story Title: 
Underground - part 1

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

Brief Description: 

It’s evening in District X, and the Falcone boys are trying to sell the vermin that their father creates. They don’t have much luck, and run when they spot Izzy Ortega’s patrol car. As they run, Matti trips and one of the rodents escapes. He tries to fish for it in the sewer, but it has already been grabbed by an underground-dwelling mutant named Winston Hobbes. The boys head home and Izzy takes his new partner, Nancy, through District X. As they chat, Nancy mentions the fact that Izzy and Armena appear to be the definition of happily married. Izzy isn’t so sure these days. Later, as he reads to Esteban, Armena leafs through his journal, and reads her husband’s description of Gus Kucharsky’s death, which Izzy almost appears to blame her for. They argue, but have to leave for the gallery when the babysitter arrives. Bishop joins them at the gallery, featuring an exhibition organized by Izzy’s sister, Laline, and there they see a painting of Mr. M. It shows his destruction of Mutant Town, painted long before they even knew him. The artist, it emerges, has visions, and paints what he sees. As he goes to shake hands with Izzy, he sees a vision of blood all over his palm. Before he can mention this, Bishop distracts him and they discuss the future, and how it is not a fixed path. Standing before a painting of Winston Hobbes over a body, the artist asks if that’s the case, can he prevent this. They leave the gallery and Bishop says hi to Dzemal who appears to be sleeping rough. He is also on drugs, supplied by Jazz. His life has taken a downturn and he now resides in the tunnels. As they drive away, Mr. M’s case comes up in conversation, and Bishop informs the Ortega’s that they’re keeping an eye on him. Meanwhile, Mr. M meets a woman in Daniel’s Inferno and, after downing some scotch, she takes him for a drive to the East River. There, for reasons unknown, she shoots him several times.

Full Summary: 

In District X, a young boy named Primo Falcone and his brother, Matti, are trying to sell mutated vermin for twenty bucks a pop. The creatures are inadvertently created by their father, Arturo, and they figure they can make a few dollars. The rodents are gross; like rats but with glowing red eyes and hair along their back. They are kept in small cages so they don’t escape. It’s evening and quite chilly, but the boys persist in trying to hock them to disgusted passers by. Suddenly, Primo spots Izzy Ortega in his patrol car, and the two boys make a run for it.

As they sprint along the sidewalk, Mattie trips and a rodent manages to escape, fleeing into the sewer. Matti isn’t giving up this one, and he reaches his arm inside the hole to try and retrieve it. Something inside the sewer grabs the rodent, but remains silent. Ortega and his new partner, Nancy, are soon right next to the boys.

Inside the sewer, unseen by Matti, is a mutant named Winston Hobbes. He has ultra sensitive eyes, adapted to seeing in near darkness. His hands and feet are equipped with strong claws for tunneling, and he subsists on insects and small mammals. He is also able to consume and digest soil. Winston is ideally suited to the world he inhabits, and in many ways he is content. Yet, he is drawn to the surface world and dreams of the time when darkness will fall upon the city. Until then, he watches and waits.

Izzy pulls Matti to his feet and asks what he thinks he’s doing. There could be anything down there; including rats or needles. “You want to get AIDS?” Izzy asks. Nancy asks him to lighten up as he’s scaring the kid. She enquires as to what these things are anyway. Matti then recognizes Izzy as the cop who nearly busted their pop. Izzy asks after Arturo, wondering if he has a job yet. Primo says he’s pretty much the same. Matti adds that he still gets mad sometimes. Izzy introduces the boys to Nancy, and explains that their father creates the vermin as physical manifestations of his current emotional disposition. Nancy stares at one of the caged creatures. “Nice.”

She asks if they shouldn’t be home now. It’s gone ten ‘o clock, and Primo replies that they’re on their way now. As they leave, Primo asks Izzy to thank Bishop for the TV. Mattie adds, “Yeah, 42-inch plasma flatscreen with digital stereo. It’s awesome.” Nancy is surprised at this, and says Bishop must be a generous guy. Izzy agrees, but his demeanor seems less than friendly. Nancy asks him why he’s been such a grouch and if it’s because he’d rather be playing detective with Bishop than patrol the streets with her. Izzy replies that Bishop has bigger fish to fry. He was never going to stick around here.

They climb into their patrol car and Nancy asks about Gus. From what she’s heard, he was truly one of the good guys. Izzy turns and informs her that he’s not great company right now, but he can tell her that she’s a better cop than Gus was, and a heck of a lot prettier. Nancy tells Izzy that, firstly, she doesn’t go out with cops. She once dated a cop and spent the entire evening discussing the grossest corpses he ever found. He said it was good to go out with a girl he could empathize with. Secondly, Izzy’s married, and she knows he’s just teasing. She knows he and Armena are the definition of ‘happily married.’ “Right?” Izzy looks away. “Right.”

(the Ortega apartment, later)

Izzy is filling in his journal, when Armena asks him to leave it. They have ten minutes before the babysitter arrives and he promised to read to Esteban. Izzy rubs his eyes and wanders off to Esteban’s room. The inquisitive Armena picks up the journal and takes a look inside. In it, Izzy describes events surrounding Gus Kucharsky’s death.


The journal explains that Gus had lay on his couch for three days and nights, before the mailman figured something was wrong. Izzy writes that he wishes he’d let him come round that evening. He should have heard the desperation in his voice. If only he hadn’t listened to Armena. She never liked him; too rough around the edges. Gus just didn’t fit in with the politically correct crowd of pseudo-intellectuals she like to hang out with.


As she reads, Izzy returns and finds her leafing through the journal. Armena turns and says that there she was, thinking Izzy was blaming himself for Gus, when it looks like it was all her fault. Izzy is furious that she has read his private thoughts and tries to recover it. Armena reluctantly gives it back, and their row is halted when Chamy appears to inform them that Carrie’s arrived. Armena points her finger at her husband, and tells him they’re going to talk about this. She wanders off to greet Carrie, a fellow mutant. She explains that she and Izzy are going to the O-Zone gallery, and she has the number if she needs them. She asks the kids to do as Carrie says, and then take a taxi to the gallery.

As they arrive at the O-Zone, Armena says she can’t believe that Izzy’s sister is putting an exhibition on here. They’re in spitting distance of Mutant Town. That’s the point, replies Izzy. It gives that edge of authenticity. She’s promoting this guy named Pietri as a man of the people. Apparently, she found him living on the streets. A voice from across the street causes them to turn. Bishop wanders over to them and tells them he was waiting for them to show up. He thanks Izzy for the invite, but Izzy replies that it was Armena’s idea. He never figured Bishop was a connoisseur of the arts.

They enter the gallery and Bishop hands his coat to an attendant. Izzy quickly spots a painting on an opposite wall. “Oh my, that painting. Is that who I think it is?” Bishop turns and sees a painting of Absolon Mercator, better known as Mr. M. Bishop thinks it’s too close to what Mercator almost did to Mutant Town. It shows him, arms outstretched, with buildings leaning away from him and what appears to be energy extending outwards from his body. Izzy checks the signature, and sees that it was painted months before they even heard of Mr. M. Armena cuts in, and introduces Izzy’s sister, Laline, to Bishop. She organized the exhibition. Izzy asks to meet the artist. Laline is surprised by this request, as Izzy normally doesn’t show much interest. She figures it must be the subject matter. She guesses all that violence and disaster brings out the policeman in him.

Laline calls to Nemesio, and Izzy offers his hand. As Nemesio extends his own hand, he sees blood covering Izzy’s palm, and pulls his own hand back. Before he can explain, Bishop motions to the painting of Mercator, and asks what he knows about the man featured. Nemesio replies that he saw him once, here in the city. He has the power to destroy them all, or save them. Laline explains that Nemesio has visions. Everything he paints actually happens. Bishop replies that this didn’t. Not yet, says Nemesio. Bishop tells him that the future is not a fixed path. They can alter their destiny. Nemesio offers him a challenge. Standing in front of a painting of the underground-dwelling Winston Hobbes crouching over body, he asks, “Do you think you can prevent this?”


The guys leave the exhibition. Laline tells her brother that Bishop and Armena seem to get on well. She guesses he has a lot in common with her. This angers Izzy, and he grabs his sister. “And I don’t?” Laline asks when he became so sensitive. She just meant with them both being mutants. Bishop asks if he can give them a lift. He’s parked just round the corner. Laline tells them she has a limo ordered. She has to keep up appearances. As they head to the car, Bishop spots someone he recognizes across the street.

As he approaches the man and his companions, one of them, the drug-dealing Jazz, turns his head away and tries to look inconspicuous. Bishop asks Dzemal if he remembers him. Dzemal does, of course, and the two men shake hands. Bishop asks how things are with him, and he replies that things are very good. Bishop eyes the two juicers next to Dzemal, and knows full well that Dzemal is just fronting. He says it’s good to see him and returns to the Ortega’s. Armena asks if he knows the boy, and Bishop replies that he helped him out a few weeks ago. He got in some bad company, but he’s a nice kid. He kind of set him up so he could get away from them. “Ever the good Samaritan,” says Izzy, with a hint of sarcasm which Armena picks up on. He tells Bishop that Dzemal doesn’t seem to be doing so well. It looks like he’s sleeping rough. Bishop thinks it’s just that he’s a grunge.

As they round the corner, Jazz puts his hands around Dzemal’s throat, and enquires as to how come he’s so up close and personal with the cop. One of the juicers tells him to forget it. They’re hurting and need some juice. Jazz informs him that as he said before: there is no more Toad Juice. It’s gone forever. The source doesn’t exist. He’s got some rock, some dust, and can let them have some whiz real cheap. That should hold ‘em. As he hands over the drugs, Dzemal asks if he can owe him, assuring Jazz that he’s good for it. Jazz replies that he used to good for it. Dzemal begs, and Jazz reluctantly hands over a bag, but says that this is the last time.

Dzemal ushers away, and Jazz tells the two juicers that he’s on his way down. He doesn’t have a crib to call his own. One of the juicers adds that they heard he’s living in the tunnels now. “The tunnels?” replies Jazz, “Man… that is all the way down.” Dzemal indeed makes his way to the tunnels, using the flaps of skin under his arms to glide to the rail tracks. He heads towards the tunnel. The graffiti on the wall reads ‘All hope abandon ye who enter here.’ Waiting in the shadows are all kinds of scary looking creatures.

Meanwhile, Bishop reaches his car and asks Izzy how things are at the precinct. He tells Bishop that things are pretty quiet with Toad Juice now off the menu. Filthy Frankie’s looking to pull twenty-five to life for first degree murder, and most of his boys will be keeping him company. The same goes for Shaky Kaufman’s goons. The only one walking away is Shaky himself. He wasn’t armed, and says he was an innocent bystander. They can’t find any witnesses to say otherwise.

They get in the car and Izzy adds that Mr. M is back home too. The D.A’s office took their word and dropped all charges. Bishop replies that he wishes he could be sure about him. Izzy points out that he saved Chamayra’s life, and Armena says she wishes she’d listened to him, instead of just waving the knife around. She feels really bad about that now and says they should go and make sure he’s okay. Bishop tells her not to worry. They’re keeping an eye on him.

(Daniel’s Inferno)

Mr. M returns to the Inferno. He notices a poster for the Amazing Merwoman on the way in without her name on it. The place is almost deserted. The barman says hi, and Absolon seats himself at the bar. He enquires about Patricia, who he enjoyed seeing perform. The barman informs him that she doesn’t work there anymore. The place has gone down the toilet since Mr. Kaufman fired Lonnie. If he wants to see the Merwoman, he should head to Lonnie’s new place. He’ll find most of the Inferno’s clientele there too. Absolon asks where it is, and the barman informs him that it’s a couple of blocks east on Calley Avenue. It’s called Shakespeare’s. Original, huh?

Mr. M stands and prepares to leave, but a woman sitting beside him asks him to stay and have a drink with her. Absolon agrees, and gets a double scotch. He tells the barman to give the lady whatever she’s having. She is attractive, with short blond hair swept back from her face. The barman says that’s water with a lime twist, right? This surprises Absolon, but the woman says she never drinks when she’s working. She then laughs at herself, and assures him it’s not that kind of work. He shouldn’t worry. He doesn’t have to pay for her company. As Absolon drinks his scotch, he soon forgets who he’s talking to. In the stranger’s place, he sees both Patricia’s face, and Hanna Levy’s too. She hasn’t visited him since he went crazy and almost blew up Mutant Town.

She says his first name, and asks if he’s okay. He hasn’t told her his first name, but appears too drunk to register this fact. She grabs him around the waist and leads him outside to clear his head. She leads him to her car, and says they can take a drive down by the river.

(the East River)

Lit by the moonlight, the riverside is quiet. Absolon and the woman stand looking at the river. She tells him she loves to watch the river by moonlight. Absolon tells her she’s very beautiful. Yes, she smiles. She wanders to the car, explaining that it’s colder than she thought. She asks him to wait while she gets her gloves form the car. When she returns, she doesn’t say a word. She points a silenced pistol at the back of Absolon’s head, and pulls the trigger. Absolon falls onto his stomach, and the woman kneels down behind him. “Did you really think I was going to let you put your filthy mutant hands on me?”

She stands again, and releases several more bullets into her victim. Absolon lies still. He hears her footsteps on the jetty as she walks to her car. He hears the sound of the car door opening and closing; the purr of the engine. Music and laughter drift across the water from a rich man’s yacht, growing fainter. The warmth of the whiskey is wearing off, and he is growing cold. The moonlight is fading. Darkness falls.

Characters Involved: 


Izzy Ortega

Armena, Chamy and Esteban Ortega

Matti and Primo Falcone

District X residents


Winston Hobbes


Art lovers


Nemesio Pietri and gallery staff



Two juicers

Sewer dwellers

Absolon Mercator (Mr. M)

Daniel’s Inferno barman

Female assassin

Izzy and Armena Ortega

Gus Kucharsky


(in paintings)

Mr. M

Winston Hobbes and victim

(Mr. M’s visions)

Patricia Hamilton

Hanna Levy

Story Notes: 

Izzy and Bishop met the Falcone family in District X #2.

Gus appears to have committed suicide almost immediately following his phone call with Izzy in District X #5.

The painting that Nemesio is presenting of Absolon Mercator is different to that shown in District X #6. In that issue, Absolon is naked and wearing no hat. In this issue, he is clothed. He has probably had the vision on several occasions, and this is simply an earlier work.

Bishop met Dzemal in X-Men Unlimited (2nd series) #2.

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