X-51: The Machine Man #6

Issue Date: 
January 2000
Story Title: 
A view to a kill

Mike Higgins & Karl Bollers (writers), Joe Bennett & Bob Wiacek (artists), Benchmark (letters & colors), Ralph Macchio (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

In space, no-one can hear you scream. X-51 has set himself up as an orbiting satellite to get away from the pressures of being on Earth and the dangers others pose to him, and he to others. On Earth, his old friend, Jill Spalding, finds the home of her and her estranged husband, Peter, in ruins, and finds a computer disk as she enters the garage. Inside the house, a Japanese warrior called Otomo stands over Peter, who sports a black eye. He tells Peter that, as long as he does what he is told, he won’t be hurt. He reports back to Sebastian Shaw and, as he swallows a pill, informs him that everything is going well and he must be patient. In space, X-51 hears a cry for help from Jill Spalding and, feeling he has little choice, he returns to Earth and finds Jill. He reads the disk she carries from a distance and understands what’s going on. Inside the house, Otomo suffers a seizure and Peter altruistically gives him a pill. Recovering, he tells Peter of his origin as the son of one of the Japanese super-soldier experiments, his career as a robot destroyer and his need for the pills. He recalls how Shinobi Shaw synthesized the pills before disappearing, transferring his honor-bound debt to Shinobi’s father. Despite not being evil per se, X-51 is forced to attack Otomo and the pair battle hard until X-51 finally overcomes him. Suffering another seizure, it is X-51 this time who gives him a life-saving pill, knowing Otomo won’t attack him again. Meanwhile, Dr. Valerie Cooper visits the Mimic in his cell and he provides her with a lead, the name Jack Kubrick which she gives to her boss, Agent Gyrich.

Full Summary: 

The scene is of total destruction. Iron gates lie twisted and torn, a family car’s engine smokes having being well and truly trashed and the garage door is in pieces while inside, shelves teeter on the brink of collapse. This is the home of Jill and Peter Spalding, which lies in a respectable residential suburb. One thing that still works is the answer machine, which receives a message from Jill Spalding, who is trying to contact her estranged husband. She tells him that she has been gone for weeks now and isn’t coming back. He has to accept that their marriage is over and it’s time they moved on with their lives. She tells him that it isn’t because she doesn’t love him; she always will but they’ve grown apart. There is always something going on in his life that is more important than she is. She says that he better not be standing there listening to her and not picking up; she knows him too well, she knows he is there. She sighs and asks him to give her a call anyway; they need to talk. Peter Spalding is indeed home but is in no position to reply. He lies unconscious as his costumed assailant looks at a computer disk before dragging his victim inside the house.

In outer space, X-51 uses his new status as an orbiting satellite to receive radio signals from Earth. A baseball match commentator describes a home run while Elton John’s Rocket Man plays on another channel. Adverts and news stories are beamed to X-51, who doesn’t react to the story of his battle in Central Park with the Avengers. He is content to be alone, away from the horrors that his life has become. No one will be a threat to him but, more importantly, he will be a threat to no one else. Space isn’t really silent; the world cries out all round him but he simply chooses not to hear. Everything has faded to black.

On Earth, Dr. Valerie Cooper of the Commission on Superhuman Activities opens a door leading into a dark room. Inside, sits Calvin Rankin, the Mimic, who shields his eyes from the light. He has shackles on his wings and what appears to be a ruby visor covering his eyes. Val closes the door and tells him that they’ll just talk. She apologizes for everything that has been done to him but Calvin replies, “Why should you care? Who are you anyway?” She introduces herself and kneels down before him. She empathizes with him, telling him that she knows about some of the things he has had to go through simply because of the way he is. However, she thinks he’s one of the good guys who just fell in with the wrong crowd.

She says that maybe they can reach an understanding, maybe get him out of there but she can’t do it alone. For her to help him, he is going to have to help her first. Val needs information. Calvin replies that she has a pretty voice and guesses that he can trust her, asking what she wants to know. “Everything,” she replies. Later, she meets with Henry Gyrich and informs him that the Mimic didn’t appear to know much and she doesn’t think he was hiding anything. He did, however, give her a name; an F.B.I agent called Jack Kubrick. He is the man Gyrich has to find. He congratulates her on her excellent work.

Meanwhile, Jill Spalding continues her call, speaking on her mobile while driving her jeep. She tells Peter, via the answer machine, that, if this is the way he wants it, she’ll just have to call round in person. Upon her arrival at the house, she is surprised to find a tree lying across the road and wonders how come there’s so much storm damage, when there haven’t been any storms. As she walks over the broken gates, she sees the damaged car, which shocks her as she realizes something’s really wrong. She calls Peter’s name and asks where he is but receives no reply. She does, however, spot a computer disk inside the garage and picks it up.

Peter, meanwhile, slowly awakens, the darkness of his unconsciousness slowly giving way to an Asian face. He asks, “Who?” and the powerful looking man replies, “I am Otomo, do as I say and you will not be hurt.” He is tall and muscular and wears a black and yellow outfit, complete with sections of armor. He is bald, except for a black pony tail. Peter points to his aching black eye and sarcastically replies, “Won’t be hurt? What do you call this?” Otomo apologizes for the injuries he has suffered. Peter, still sitting down, asks why he has broken into his home and kidnapped him.

Otomo doesn’t reply because his laptop computer informs him that he has a call waiting. He opens it up and Sebastian Shaw’s face appears on the screen. Otomo asks what he wants and Shaw replies that he thought it was time he checked on his progress. It isn’t like Otomo to keep him waiting. He asks if the information he provided wasn’t adequate. Otomo says that it was more than enough while swallowing a tablet from a green container. Shaw asks, “Have you found him?” and Otomo tells him that he must be patient; he has done everything that is necessary to ensure that he, instead, will come to him. The matter will be resolved in no time at all. Spalding looks shocked, thinking about who he means. Shaw says that, one way or another, he’s certain it will be. Behind him, several engineers working for Shaw Industries are working on huge Sentinels, whose eyes glow menacingly.

In space, Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ is now playing. Normally, they say that in space, no one can hear you scream, but as Jill Spalding calls out for Aaron, today is an exception. She says that if he is receiving this, if he is anywhere out there she needs help, his help. For a fleeting moment, Aaron had found peace but, as Jill says that it’s about Peter and that he’s in real danger, Aaron realizes that choosing not to hear is no longer an option. He uses his thrusters and heads towards the Earth’s atmosphere. As he enters it, his body begins to burn but at the same time, his optic sensors reveal that it is simultaneously undergoing a transformation, the nanotechs putting his body back into the humanoid form he is familiar with. They are a cold reminder of all that he has become; of the insidious programs of the Master Mold, which are now part of him, constantly battling for control of his very being. Once through the burning atmosphere, his body begins to cool and he drops the few thousand metres to the ground. He thanks God that he is possession of all his faculties now, when his friends need him.

In a flash of energy, he transforms into his human appearance as Jill Spalding drives towards him, waving and calling his name. He focuses on her and reads the disk she is carrying even though he is some distance away, and begins to understand the precise nature of the problem.

Inside the Spalding household, Otomo suddenly screams in pain, falling backwards and clutching his head in terrifying agony. Peter is shocked and asks him what’s happening before stopping himself and thinking why he should care? Otomo rolls around, saying he has pain tearing through his skull. Peter thinks for an instant that this is his perfect opportunity to escape but, finding himself unable to, changes his mind and grabs Otomo’s pill bottle. Otomo is helpless as Peter opens the bottle and gives him one of the pills, saying that now he has helped Otomo, maybe Otomo can help him understand what’s going on. “It is simple. It is a question of honor,” he replies before explaining his background.


The days of World War Two were rapidly drawing to an end and Japan knew that it could not stave off defeat at the hands of the allied powers. However, its scientific community was on the threshold of creating its own super-soldier, similar to Captain America but unfortunately the process had not yet been perfected. A young soldier at the time was involved in the creation of the super-soldier and, when the United States forces stormed the hidden laboratories where the experiments were taking place, he consumed the experimental serum rather than allow it to fall into enemy hands. From that day forward, he waited, and worried. However, as days turned into months and months into years, he seemed to experience no effects whatsoever. He married and had a daughter and the tale appeared to be heading towards a happy ending.

Unfortunately, the daughter later tragically died giving birth to her son, a child who was to pay for the sins of his fathers. The child was taken away by Japanese authorities and it was under their watchful eye that the child grew to boyhood, and began to manifest powers that were his birthright. He became a hero, wearing a red and white costume and relishing his power. He worked for the government primarily as an operative employed to destroy cybernetic organisms and giant robots became his speciality. However, there was a price to pay. The same peculiar factor that endowed him with his special abilities also threatened to take his life away, until an antidote was discovered by Japanese scientists who used it to ensure that he would do their bidding at all costs. The boy, Otomo, grew into adulthood, now with a blue and yellow costume. Freedom finally came when a man named Shinobi Shaw was able to synthesize a form of the drug. Shinobi, though, is now gone and he now, honor bound, works for his father.


Otomo rests against a wall as Peter Spalding asks, “And this is what you call freedom? How are you any better off as a pawn of Shaw’s than you were as the pawn of some group of megalomaniacs with grandiose schemes?” He continues to point out that Shinobi was no better than the Japanese authorities who used him for their own purposes all those years and neither is his father. Otomo replies that it matters little and stands, telling Peter that, as he said, he will not harm him unless he is forced to, but X-51 is another matter entirely. He says that what is most difficult to comprehend is his strange emotional attachment to a mere machine. No matter how human it may appear, he assures Peter that it is nothing more than state of the art equipment and sophisticated programming. Peter replies, telling him he is wrong; he doesn’t know him like he does. Before the argument can progress however, the floor begins to crumble as something comes smashing through it.

Out of the mass of splintered floorboards strides the powerful figure of X-51, fists clenched and looking really determined. Peter is surprised to see Aaron, who uses his thrusters to attack Otomo and take him out of the house and high into the air. Otomo looks at X-51 and tells him that it seems he underestimated his system of logic; he anticipated an attack from above, not below, but it is of no concern as despite a certain element of surprise; he has been expecting him. With a deft right footed kick, he sends Aaron flying back to the ground and falls after him, his powerful body easily taking the impact as he hits the ground. Otomo then snaps a tree trunk in two and uses the trunk to take a swipe at his opponent. However, as X-51 points out, he has a trick or two of his own. His defensive forcefield prevents the tree from hitting him and he moves towards Otomo who reins a punishing series of blows on his forcefield with his fists, all to no avail. He says he is impressed and his creator is to be respected, but a mere forcefield will not be enough.

Peter shouts at them both, pleading with them to stop. They both turn and look at him and Otomo realizes that he is correct. There is no reason for his action when he can easily attack Peter instead. A look of horror comes across Aaron’s face and he lowers his defenses which allows Otomo to land a powerful blow which sends X-51 hurtling into a pool of sludge. He doesn’t emerge from the sludge and Otomo wonders where on Earth he has gone but he quickly finds out as X-51 emerges, none the worse from the attack. He takes control of a large mechanical digger and uses it to grab Otomo, who begins to suffer due to the pill’s effects wearing off. He grabs the digger and effortlessly spins it around, twisting it like it was rubber as he hurls it towards X-51, who tells him to take his best shot. Using his chest blaster, he pulverizes the digger and tells Otomo that, for his sake, he hopes that wasn’t it.

Otomo is in a rage and says that X-51 is a mighty robot, but that’s all he is. The machine has not yet been constructed that he cannot stop dead in its tracks. Jill arrives on the scene in her jeep and spots Peter. She shouts to him, thanking the heavens that he is all right. He says that he wouldn’t go that far but now she is there he is beginning to feel better. He hugs her as she points at the battle and says, “But what about, what about him?” Peter replies that Otomo is ripping the straps right out of X-51’s head and it looks like he’s literally slashing him to ribbons.

X-51 is struggling against his ferocious opponent and pieces of his body fly in every direction like he is caught in a massive shredder. However, as they think that nothing could survive that kind of attack, they find to their surprise, and to that of Otomo, that the pieces begin to reform themselves. X-51’s nanotechs work at incredible speed, reforming his body and once again making X-51 intact. He moves towards Otomo and tells him that he says he ought to thank him. His little tirade pointed out an area or two which needed a little adjustment. The microcomputers which work on his molecular structure took care of things a little differently this time; they put him back together but they also did a little streamlining. “What do you think?” he asks.

His body is similar to how it was but looks slightly more modern and almost resembles Otomo’s uniform in its design. Otomo reaches out, telling X-51 that it will take more than mere cosmetic adjustments to dissuade him from his goal. As he touches X-51, his forcefield zaps Otomo, who cries before falling to the floor, smoke rising from his body as he struggles to find his feet. X-51 asks for him to end this now and Otomo submits, telling him that he sees now that he has at last met his match. He says that he bows before him who has triumphed over him in battle but, suddenly, as he speaks he has another attack and clasps his head in his hands before collapsing again.

With his opponent downed and helpless, X-51 uses his sensors to locate the bottle of pills in Peter’s shirt pocket. He removes it and places the bottle in Otomo’s outstretched hand. Jill asks what he’s doing and Aaron replies that he’s saving Otomo’s life. She asks, “But won’t he just go after you again?” Aaron turns away from Otomo who swallows a pill and replies, “No Jill, I don’t think so. When all is said and done, I think it just comes down to a matter of honor.”

Characters Involved: 


Jill and Peter Spalding


Dr. Valerie Cooper

The Mimic

Henry Gyrich

Sebastian Shaw


Shaw Industries engineers

(in photograph)

Jill and Peter Spalding

(on laptop computer)

Sebastian Shaw



Otomo’s mother, grandmother and grandfather

Japanese military scientists, surgeons and government officials

Giant Japanese robot

Shinobi Shaw

Story Notes: 

The disk Otomo carries is presumably a copy of the disk Tessa provided to Sebastian Shaw in X-51 #4, which contains information about X-51.

Only a minor point but the lyrics to Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ are slightly wrong in the issue. They should be “I’m not the man they think I am at home,” not “back home,” as printed.

The line, “In space, no-one can hear you scream” was used as the tagline for the movie Alien (1979).

X-51 fought the Vision, Justice and Firestar in X-51 #4 - 5.

The Mimic was injured by Post who was under X-51’s control in X-51 #2 and presumably arrested by the military.

The microscopic robots in X-51’s body are called nanite assemblers here, but Aaron called them nanotechs in X-51 #2. Regardless, they’re the same things.

Shinobi Shaw is the son of Sebastian Shaw. He was missing presumed dead following events in X-Force #62 though a body was never seen.

Issue Information: 
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