Rom #31

Issue Date: 
June 1982
Story Title: 
West Virginia Reel

Bill Mantlo (writer), Sal Buscema & Joe Sinnott (artists), R.Parker (letterer), Ben Sean (colorist), Al MilgRom & Ann Nocenti (editors), Jim Shooter (editor-in chief)

Brief Description: 

Clairton’s local hero, Torpedo, an ally of Rom, witnesses the rebirth of the wraith / human offspring Hybrid and is injured in a battle against the monster. Elsewhere in the blizzard, Rom saves a group of convict from being run over by a prison transport. The savvy convicts make him believe they are innocent slaves and, believing them, Rom frees them and decides to help the other “innocents” held in Winhust prison. In said prison, the new arrivals – four members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – are freed by the two free members of their team, Mystique and Rom. However, between them and freedom stands Rom. Thanks to Rom and Avalanche’s injuries, the male members of the Brotherhood are taken out and only Mystique, Rogue and Destiny can flee. Rom realizes his mistake and promises to return the prisoners. The three women, in the meantime, look for shelter in an old mansion to find it inhabited by Hybrid.

Full Summary: 

When Rom departed from Clairton to cleanse the rest of Earth from Dire Wraiths, he left the titanic Torpedo to safeguard the town he had come to love. Like any other human, Torpedo possessed no power to penetrate the Dire Wraiths’ human disguise… until Rom energized his Torpedo-visor.

So one day, Torpedo sees an eerie shape manifesting out of the snow over the old Marks farm. Moments later, the shape solidifies, turning into the horrible shape of the Hybrid. At last he is home, the monster announces. Torpedo flies at it at full speed but Hybrid easily swats him aside. Even the protective Torpedo-suit barely protects the hero from the impact. As the hulking horror closes in on him, Torpedo grasps for a weapon and finds a pitchfork buried in the snow. He throws it at Hybrid at full jet-power. The pitchfork flies faster than the eye can follow, but not as fast as the speed of thought. Hybrid notices the irony. Attacked with the same weapon he used to slay his father. His attempt at destroying him was as pitiful as Torpedo’s. And both shall end with the same result.

Torpedo realizes with fear that Hybrid stopped the pitchfork in midair with his mind. Who or what is he? He is hell on Earth, Hybrid boasts. He shall be the death of him.

Elsewhere, a snowbound West Virginia Highway is being reluctantly cleared by a prison crew. The guard tells them to hurry up. The warden wants a transport through that night.

The transport in question is a Stark Industries super-criminal conveyor, designed by Tony Stark himself. Within it, held in holding tubes, are four members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: The Blob, Avalanche, Pyro and Destiny. They are to be sent to Windust prison after almost tearing New York apart. Thankfully, they were stopped by the mighty Avengers.

The prisoners working the road begin to slip in the storm. The transport can’t stop in time, threatening to roll over the chained prisoners. That moment, the spaceknight Rom arrives and uses his strength to make the transport shudder to a halt.

Inside, the guards are ready for a possible attempt to free the prisoners. One of them presses a button and the cabin begins to take off into the air. Lifted skywards with her companions, the blind Destiny experiences a momentary twinge of disappointment.

Outside, the guards aim their rifles at Rom, demanding to know who he is and what he is doing here. Rom replies that he wants to know what manner of people put their fellow man in chains, if they are men at all. Rom summons his energy analyzer from subspace. The guards believe that he is pointing a weapon at them and react with fire… to no avail. Panicked, they flee, leaving only Rom and the convicts.

Curious, Rom asks who they are and why they are imprisoned. One of the smarter ones quickly explains that they are slaves, forced to do manual labor for Warden Windust.

Rom is disgusted at the concept of slavery, though he was not aware that this custom still existed. Japes, the smart prisoner, explains that their masters are evil and would have let them die beneath the truck. Convinced, Rom shatters the chains that bind the convicts together. Rom leaves for Windust prison to free the other “slaves.” The convicts take that as their cue to disappear as well.

Miles ahead, the conveyor lands in Windust Maximum security prison. A little later, the guards are in for quite a sight, as they find their main gate demolished by the newly arrived Rom. Horrified, the men sound the alarm.

Moments before, the four imprisoned members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – Blob, Avalanche, Pyro and Destiny – were ushered into the presence of the Warden of Windust Prison. Thanks to Tony Starks inertia-discs, they are quite helpless, the warden explains to the young woman next to him, addressing her as Dr. Kellogg, a psychologist here to study the psyche of the superhuman criminals.

The warden explains the functions of the discs and a guard shows her the device that controls them. The woman examines the device. The next moment, a heavy southern accent creeps into her voice, as she remarks they can dispense with the charade now. The real Dr Kellogg never made it trough the snow, just as the real Warden Windust is trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey. With a smirk, she deactivates the control device and reminds the guards that the Brotherhood is a sextet.

Free to move, the Bob strikes the guard. The warden transforms into Mystique and takes out he other guards – thankfully with non-lethal bullets. However, there is dissent in the ranks, as Pyro demands to know why Mystique left them to rot for months on Ryker’s Island. Blob chimes in, reminding Mystique that, even when Avalanche busted loose, she didn’t help him. Impatiently, she replies that his acting as a free agent jeopardized her plans.

Suddenly, the alarm is sounded. Pyro fears they have been discovered, but Destiny chimes in that there is another danger to which the guards are reacting outside. Looking through the window, Blob sees a metal man through the snow. Wondering if it is Iron Man, he fears they will have to face the Avengers again. Instead, it is Rom. As he is being fired upon by the guards, he feels all the more that the men he freed were right and that atrocities must be taking place behind those walls.

Inside, Mystique chides the precog Destiny for not anticipating this, before deciding that it doesn’t matter. They will still escape as a team. She orders Rogue, Bob and Pyro to clear a way to Tony Stark’s transport. Wondering who the mechanical warrior is, the Brotherhood members still obey.

Avalanche asks what he is supposed to do. Mystique snarls that he should get down on his knees in eternal gratitude that she even deigns to take him with them after he disobeyed her orders and escaped prison on his own. Destiny reminds her that Avalanche paid for his disobedience when the Hulk shattered both his arms. Which means, Mystique adds, that his earth-moving powers are useless right now.

As the Brotherhood members move out, the other prisoners beg them to free them too. Blob seems willing, until Rogue points out that they are human while the Brotherhood members are Homo superior. Besides, Mystique would skin them for deviating from the plan. Blob snarls back that he won’t take orders from Rogue as well. As the three bicker, they step outside to find Rom.

The space knight introduces himself and asks who they are. Pyro replies that they are the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and he is the only thing standing between them and their means of escape. Will he step aside or must Pyro melt him were he stands?

On the watchtower, the guard fears that Rom is there to assist the Brotherhood, and his colleague intends to shoot the mutants. Rogue notices and alerts Pyro to the danger. His living flame attacks the men and melting weapons drop from blistered hands.

Rom begins to understand: The Brotherhood referred to this place as “prison” and to themselves as evil. According to his memory banks, humans house criminals in prison. Well, ain’t he the smart one, the Blob mocks. What did he think he’d find in there – elves? Rom realizes that the men he freed on the highway duped him.

Rom attacks the Blob, only to find him the proverbial immovable object. The Blob himself is also in for a surprise, as Rom stands up to his blow. Pyro interjects, telling his teammate he is achieving nothing apart from wasting precious time. The Blob reacts annoyed and Pyro blusters his strength is nothing to Pyro’s living flame. To demonstrate, he creates a fireclaw, which he uses to attack Rom, intending to melt him.

The space-knight marvels at the living flame, so similar to that of his fellow spaceknight Firefall. How can the human wield a Galadorian weapon or is this a similar fire of earthly origin? While the Blob nurses his anger about Pyro burning him, Rom becomes desperate, the fire beginning to fuse his circuitry. Despite his pain, he summons his neutralizer from subspace and trains it on Pyro. The mutant is in for a shock, as his fire is snuffed out and he suffers agonizing pain. Rogue runs to her teammate’s side, while Blob just makes a crude joke.

In the meantime, Rom has replaced his neutralizer with his analyzer, intending to check out whether these odd beings are in fact Dire Wraiths. However, he finds them human,… and more than human, reminiscent of the X-Men.

The mutants have no idea what he is doing, but consider it a trap. Rogue, the team’s youngest member who recently permanently absorbed the powers of Ms Marvel, brutally attacks and very quickly finds out that Rom isn’t an armored man, but all machine.

In that moment, the rest of the team exits the building. Mystique orders her foster daughter to finish the robot, as they must reach the air van. Avalanche marvels that he overheard Tony Stark saying the bus was top secret. How does Mystique know about this? Destiny advises him not to delve too deeply into Mystique’s secrets – for his own peace of mind.

Destiny turns to her leader, informing her things won’t go as planned. Before she can explain any further, Avalanche already acts. Despite his shattered arms, he tries to use his powers to move the earth. Due to his lack of control, he ends up attacking Pyro and Blob. Mystique orders him to stop and he collapses from agony.

The effect of Avalanche’s power has caused to hurl Pyro against Rogue and Blob against Rom. The spaceknight reacts quickly. Now that the Blob isn’t standing, he is by no means immovable and Rom’s blow indeed finishes him off. Pyro as well is unconscious. Rogue anxiously asks Mystique what they are supposed to do. Destiny chimes in, announcing that the real warden has been found and untied. Soon, the entire correction force of the prison will be here.

Mystique swears, then announces that they have to cut their losses and run, leaving their male teammates behind. Mystique orders Rogue to carry her and Destiny away. When the girl hesitates over leaving their unconscious teammates behind, Mystique blames their own inability for that and suggests they brood in prison over what it means to be a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Taking off, the teenager wonders wryly whether they shouldn’t just rename themselves the Sisterhood.

Only, when the three women have gone, Rom recovers from his surprise and can’t help but wonder if there is some connection between Mystique and the X-Man, Nightcrawler. But the silver spaceknight gets no chance to pursue that thought before a voice orders him to stand where he is. It is the real warden, whom Mystique impersonated before. While his men are trigger-happy the warden wants to deal with Rom himself. He announces that he has seen some strange things today: a woman who made herself look like him, another woman who flew, a man who hurled fire and more, but none is so strange as Rom. First he frees his prisoners, then he breaks into prison and lastly he prevents a breakout by half of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Just who is he?

Rom introduces himself and explains his earlier mistakes. The other guards ask the warden what to do with Rom. How could they hold him? He reminds his men that thanks to Rom they still have half the Brotherhood. Turning back to Rom, the warden announces that he doubts they could hold him here against his will and he senses that the spaceknight means no harm, so he will let him go. Rom promises to attempt and undo the wrong he caused as he takes off into the still-falling snow.

Many miles away, a still-flying Rogue complains about the snow. Mystique orders her to find shelter, as Destiny is old and easily tired. The precog announces that they will find shelter soon, but they must beware. That moment, Rogue sees a mansion. They land before it and Destiny remarks that there is no one there, and yet… there is someone. Her “sight” has never been so muddled. Still, they must escape this blizzard, Mystique decides. Rogue reminisces that she grew up in a place like this, farther south of course. Is Irenie seeing anything yet? Yes, no. Horror! Horror! the old woman replies.

What horror is there that they can’t face? Mystique ventures. Rogue agrees and reminds the others that she still has the powers she stole from Ms. Marvel, after all. And she fought the Avengers and the metal man at the prison to a standstill. With all that power, what is there for her to be afraid of? she asks as she smashes the door. That, my child, Destiny replies calmly.

The three women are in for a sickening sight, as their senses are overwhelmed by the unholy being that stands before them. Mockingly, the creature asks Destiny if she can guess his name and pronounce it without going mad. Yes! Yes! Horror, they name is Hybrid cries the precog.

Characters Involved: 



Warden Windust

Jail guards

Avalanche, Blob, Destiny, Mystique, Pyro, Rogue (all Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)



Story Notes: 

Hybrid was believed to be destroyed in Rom #18. He murdered his father with a pitchfork in issue #17.

The Brotherhood (with the exception of Rogue and Mystique) were captured after their fight with the Avengers in Avengers Annual #10.

Firefall is another Galadorian spaceknight last seen in Rom #19.

Rom met the X-Men in issues 17 & 18.

The similarity between Mystique and Nightcrawler Rom noticed is explained (kind of) in X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #4.

Rom last fought Hybrid the Wraith / human mutant offspring alongside the X-Men in issues #17-18.

Issue Information: 
Written By: