District X #8

Issue Date: 
February 2005
Story Title: 
Underground - part 2

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

Brief Description: 

Izzy Ortega witnesses Mr. M’s remarkable recovery, before meeting up with Bishop at the precinct. He wants to know who ordered the hit, and Bishop assures him that he’ll sort it out. He visits his boss, Colonel Alexei Vazhin, at his headquarters and threatens the Colonel. He reminds Vazhin that he is a cop, and works within the law. Murdering innocent people is not in their remit. He is escorted out, and Vazhin orders his security to maintain surveillance on Mr. M, but nothing else. Izzy is out at the park with his kids and Mr. Mercator. He feels obligated to Absolon for saving his daughter’s life. He meets Gregor Smerdyakov in the park and reveals that the people he is with are known as Tunnel Rats. They live underground, and possess guns and explosives. This clearly alarms Izzy. Bishop goes to Izzy’s apartment to await his return, but he gets talking to Armena, and she breaks down as she speaks about the problems she and her husband are facing. Bishop puts his arm around her to comfort her, but is caught by Izzy, who returns at that precise moment. He is furious. He physically threatens his wife and then heads outside to speak with Bishop. Their chat results in Izzy punching Bishop in the face. He storms off, and goes to the Wildkat Club to find Lara the Illusionist. Meanwhile, the Tunnel Rats are gathered together by Melek the telepath, who tells them the time is right to plunge New York into darkness. His explosives shut down the power grid, and the city’s lights go out. Winston Hobbes takes this opportunity to leave the sewers and visit St. Jerome Children’s Hospital. He breaks in, and takes out a security guard who tries to stop him. His purpose there is unknown.

Full Summary: 


Hanna Levy welcomes Absolon Mercator from his sleep with a smile. Watching them through the window is Izzy Ortega and Absolon’s doctor. The doc can’t believe Mr. Mercator survived this assassination attempt. He received three shots to the head from a 40mm handgun at point blank range. He explains to Izzy that a projectile passing through the brain creates a tract up to three times the diameter of the bullet, not to mention secondary injuries from the shockwaves. Even a single gunshot could be expected to produce acoustic injury, facial nerve paralysis, vascular injury and cerebrospinal leakage. He places x-rays of Absolon’s skull on the lit display, and adds that, apart from a mild sporadic aphasia, Absolon appears to have suffered no ill effects whatsoever.

He shows Izzy what happened to the bullets. They seem to have stopped as soon as they entered his brain. An x-ray taken two hours later shows the bullets being spontaneously expelled. A third shot taken five hours later shows that the wounds are almost completely healed. The doctor says he has no idea what long-term damage their subject might suffer but, frankly, they have no idea how his brain is functioning in the first place. He’d love to keep him under observation. Mutants, he finds, are fascinating. Izzy responds, with a hint of sarcasm, that it must be so frustrating for him, what with mutants having civil rights just like the rest of us. Izzy heads into the corridor and calls Bishop. He wants to meet up, and doesn’t care how busy he is.

(Eleventh precinct, later)

Izzy informs Bishop of his findings in the Mercator case. He explains that rifling on the slugs reveal that this was a professional hit. He wonders who they know who might want him dead. There’s Shaky Kaufman, of course, but he’s a hair away from doing jail time. There’s no way he’ll risk drawing more heat onto himself. Bishop listens, but appears a little distracted. Izzy says that he doesn’t know who Bishop reports to, but he’s willing to bet that he told them that Mercator came close to blowing up a chunk of Manhattan into dust. “So who do you think gave the order?” Bishop doesn’t answer. Izzy adds that this guy saved his daughter’s life. He owes him. Bishop finally speaks, assuring Izzy that he’ll sort it out.

(somewhere in New York City)

Bishop arrives at a secret covert operations headquarters, somewhere in the Big Apple. Two security guards allow him in to see Alexei Vazhin. Facing away from Bishop, he asks him to take a seat and hope this is important. He’s had to reschedule a meeting with Homeland Security, and asks what the problem is. Bishop twirls his chair around and, pointing at his own chest, replies that, right now, he’s the problem. He shoves his face close to Vazhin’s, and tells him that he ordered the murder of a United States citizen. Vazhin, stumbling over his words, replies that Bishop made the report and, in it, he stated that Mercator is volatile, unpredictable and a danger to national security. He’s a rogue element.

Bishop grabs Vazhin by the throat and lifts him clean out of his chair. He is furious. He explains that he is a policeman. He works within the law. His remit, as previously explained to him by Vazhin, is to maintain stability in District X. That does not include the unjust and illegal suppression of so-called ‘rogue mutants.’ He warns Vazhin that if Mercator is harmed again, in any way, he’ll first go to the media and blow the lid off the entire operation and, secondly, he’ll be back for him.

He hurls his boss back into his seat and Vazhin clicks an alarm hidden under the chair arm. His security guards come rushing in, weapons drawn. They are surprised by these turn of events, and ask what they’re going to do now. Bishop stands behind Vazhin’s chair, and tells them that they’re going to fetch his gun, and then show him the door. As Bishop departs, he warns Vazhin not to mess with him.

Once he has departed, one of the guards asks Vazhin what they’re going to do with Mr. Mercator. He replies that they do nothing; they don’t touch him. They will maintain surveillance - end of discussion. Vazhin crams a handful of red pills into his mouth, and washes them down.

Once outside, Bishop makes a phone call to Izzy, but Armena is working at her computer, and picks up. She explains that Izzy is out and left his phone behind. Bishop is close by, so she asks him to come up and wait for him. Izzy’s gone to the park with the kids and Absolon Mercator. He won’t be long.

(Tompkins Square Park)

Izzy chats with Hanna as Absolon and the kids chat on a park bench. Izzy asks her how he is, and she replies that he doesn’t say much, but then he never really did. He’s still a little unsteady on his feet, but on the whole, she thinks his recovery is going pretty well. Izzy reckons his wife would call it a miracle. Hanna asks, “And you wouldn’t?” Izzy informs her that Armena’s catholic. His parents brought him up to be a rational humanist. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Having said that, he adds, there are times when nature can be pretty damn miraculous.

Hanna spots Gregor Smerdyakov in the distance with a group of people. “You know Gregor?” asks Izzy. Hanna tells him that everybody knows Gregor. He approaches Izzy and Hanna, and says hello. Izzy asks who the guys are that he’s with. Gregor says they are Tunnel Rats. That’s what people call them. They live in the tunnels under the city. The Tunnel Rats are clearly mutants and, without exception, look like they lead pretty hard lives.

Izzy enquires about the tunnels. Gregor explains that they’re old subway tunnels that no one is using anymore; service tunnels, things like that. Izzy knows that a few people sleep in the subways, but is Gregor saying that those people live underground permanently? Sure, he replies. There’s whole communities, but now the transit police are getting heavy with them and breaking up their homes. Izzy can’t believe this, and asks if they live there with children. Gregor wonders if he’s asking him as a policeman, but Izzy says he’s asking him as a father. He wishes to speak with them.

Gregor grabs Izzy’ arm and tells him that they are very sensitive about this. The police and social services take their children away from them and, although they are not bad people, and he shouldn’t really be telling Izzy this, but they have weapons. “Guns?” asks Izzy. Gregor says guns, yes, and also explosives.

(The Ortega apartment)

Armena and Bishop are sat chatting over a hot drink. Armena reveals to Bishop that Izzy feels responsible for Gus killing himself. Not only that, but he’s also frustrated that he wants to be a detective, yet he never has the time to study. This makes him angry, and their relationship is suffering as a result. She stops herself, and apologizes, saying Bishop doesn’t’ wish to hear about all this. Bishop is concerned and asks her to continue. Armena says she is worried. Izzy has all this rage building up inside him and, sometimes, she catches him looking at her, and she feels like he hates her.

Armena’s emotions finally get the better of her and tears begin to roll down her cheeks. Bishop quickly puts his arm around her shoulder, reassuringly. Outside the apartment, Izzy and the kids have returned. Esteban asks his father not to ring the bell. He wants to sneak up on his mom. They quietly enter and Chamy throws a toy bird into the living room as they try to surprise Armena. She is certainly surprised. As they enter, they see Bishop with his arms around her, and Bishop suddenly realizes how bad this looks.

“This isn’t… I was just… Armena was upset.” Izzy’s face conveys his anger. He orders Bishop out of his home. Armena stands, and asks him not to be so stupid. Bishop tries to say what he came here for, but Izzy isn’t interested. He replies that he’d like to talk to his wife. He can wait downstairs. He then turns and shouts at the two children to get to their rooms; now!

Armena tries to explain to Izzy that it isn’t what it looked like. Lucas was just trying to show he cared. Izzy reminds her that caring happens to be his job. Armena replies that he doesn’t seem to be doing that job too well lately. Izzy is becoming increasingly agitated, and the past few weeks of emotional turmoil are catching up on him. Armena says that all she gets these days is hostility. Izzy asks if she wants to know what hostility feels like and grabs her around the neck, shoving her against the wall. He puts his face right up to his wife’s, as tears roll down her cheeks. “This! This is hostility!” he cries, “Are you feeling it?”

Fortunately for Armena, Chamayra comes to the rescue, as her voice breaks the tension. Izzy releases his wife and Chamy runs to give her mother a hug. Izzy rubs his head, and leaves the room without saying another word. He wanders outside and finds Bishop sitting on the car hood. He asks Izzy if he’s okay, but he replies that he’s far from okay. Bishop tries to assure him that he wasn’t putting any moves on Armena. She was just worried about him. He promises it won’t happen again. Izzy says that’s real magnanimous of him; passing up having an affair with his wife just because he’s his buddy.

Bishop asks if he wants to hit him or what. Izzy asks what he’s saying. “I hit you and everything’s cool?” Bishop says he was just offering, but, without a pause, Izzy punches him in the face as hard as he can. Bishop isn’t really hurt and rubs his chin. “Man! You are mad.” Izzy walks away, and Bishop tries to persuade him to come back, but realizes it’s hopeless.

(Wildkat Club)

The newly refurbished Wildkat Club is lively, with several scantily-clad dancers performing on several stages. Izzy has bandaged his hand up. Bishop’s chin was harder than he realized. The pink-haired Lorelei collects a couple of glasses from his table, and he asks her if Lara the Illusionist is there. Lorelei goes over to her friend and informs her that the cop has arrived; the one she has the hots for. Lara goes over and sits with Izzy, who tells her that he’s afraid he can’t afford her prices. Lara says it’s okay. It’s her night off. Izzy just want to talk. Lara replies, “Sure you do,” before making Izzy see a more exotic form. She asks him who he wants to talk to. Izzy pulls out a photograph of Armena from his wallet, and shows it to Lara. “I want you to be her.”


The mutants living in New York City’s underground tunnels, huddle around makeshift fires in an effort to keep warm. They suddenly turn in unison as a voice inside their heads calls them. Melek is calling them. Deep in his burrow, Winston Hobbes: the Worm, hears his voice. He watches as the underground dwellers answer Melek’s call. He does not join them. Even there, Winston is an outsider.

These people have no written laws. They have no elected leader but, if anyone speaks for them, it is Melek; the telepath. Melek stands on a stony platform, holding a crook and assuming the stance of a man who wishes to be heard. Mutants are lit by flaming torches as Melek begins his speech. He informs his friends that the so-called Social Services have raided their communities. Once again, they have taken children from them, and promise that the children will be returned when they leave the tunnels, and find ‘acceptable’ occupations. He tells them that they know how their song goes; they know how often their promises are kept. Their world rejected them, but they never leave them alone.

He continues to say that they will be back again tomorrow and the day after that until they have destroyed their communities. They could go deeper underground but, sooner or later, they will follow. He feels that they give them no choice. They stop running. Today they stand and fight. Melek informs them that he has already talked about this with many of those present. They know that explosives have been placed at strategic locations; junctions in the power lines that supply the city above. When he gives the command, those explosives will be detonated, and those who live above will know what it feels like to live without their machines; without light, heat, without power. They will learn how fragile the structure of their so-called civilization truly is. There is no anger in Melek’s voice, only the suggestion of an immense sadness. His eyes close, and the silent, telepathic command is given. “Lights out.”

New York City, a city inhabited by millions, all heavily reliant on electricity, suddenly goes dark. Nemesio is painting in his apartment when the lights fade. He wanders onto his balcony, and looks across the city as the snow falls. “It’s coming! He gasps.

Far below him, Winston Hobbes crawls from the sewers and leaves a trail in the snow as he approaches St. Jerome Children’s Hospital. It is a place where children with genetic disorders are treated. He sees his fearsome reflection in a window, before smashing through it. Nearby, a security guard descends a stairway carrying a torch. He is on the radio to his partner, Willy. He wonders what’s happened to the lights. He’s heard what sounds like a break-in, and is going to investigate. He asks him to send backup to records, if he hears him.

He calls out into the darkness, asking if anyone’s there. He tells the intruder not to be stupid. He’s in the records department and there are no drugs there; nothing worth getting shot for. He points his torch into the room, and sees movement. He calls for the intruder to raise his hands but, as Winston approaches, he gasps. In a flash, Winston knocks the gun away and grabs the security guard by the face with his sharp claws. The gun goes off harmlessly, and then all is silent.

Characters Involved: 


Izzy Ortega

Armena, Chamy and Esteban Ortega

Mr. M / Absolon Mercator

Hanna Levy

Doctors and nurses

District X residents

Alexei Vazhin and his security guards

Gregor Smerdyakov

Tunnel Rats


Lara the Illusionist

Wildkat Club dancers and customers



Winston Hobbes

Nemesio Pietri

St. Jerome’s security guard

(in photographs)

The Ortega family

Story Notes: 

The Wildkat Club was blown apart in District X #5, so it has clearly had extensive and rapid renovation work done.

Colonel Alexei Vazhin is an occasional ally of the X-Men, first appearing in Uncanny X-Men #194, and seen most recently in X-Treme X-Men #35, asking Storm to infiltrate The Arena.

Gregor Smerdyakov was first seen in District X #1. His unusual mutation means that, if he remains in one spot long enough, roots begin to grow from his body, meaning he has to be cut free.

Nemesio has had a premonition of Winston Hobbes’ arrival. His painting of Winston was displayed at a gallery in District X #7.

Winston Hobbes’ codename, the Worm, is mentioned for the first time. He is not the same character as Worm; one of the Savage Land mutates who first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #250. Similarly, these underground dwellers shouldn’t be confused with the Morlocks, who also dwell beneath New York City.

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