X-Man #17

Issue Date: 
July 1996
Story Title: 
One Step Forward

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud LaRosa & Rob Hunter (inkers), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters), Mike Thomas (colorist), Malibu (enhancement), Jaye Gardner (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Nate Grey continues his battle with Holocaust on a Greek beach. He uses Threnody’s powers against him, which sends him rocketing into the sea. He then tries to help the survivors, but Holocaust soon returns and once again tries to use Threnody as leverage to get him to join Onslaught willingly. Nate decides it is time to teach Holocaust a lesson once and for all. He creates a telekinetic bubble and raises them above the beach. Despite his best efforts, he is unable to breach Holocaust’s psi-shields, provided by Onslaught, but he reverts to using physical force instead, which works. Holocaust’s armor is breached, forcing him to flee. As he does so, he warns Nate that his victory is pyrrhic at best. He has shown Onslaught what he is capable of, and his potential. Onslaught himself will surely come for him in person. Threnody suggests they get some help and, when she mentions the Avengers, Nate’s interest is piqued. Meanwhile, in London, Trevor Fitzroy is after some information on Charles Xavier. He meets Madelyne Pryor and uses his best seduction techniques on her. She isn’t interested, but her beauty has him hooked and he follows her into the open, where he kisses her. Her lips are cold and hollow and, as she is thrown away, she asks him if he doesn’t want her anymore. She slaps him and Fitzroy armors up. However, despite the armor enhancing his power, he is unable to cope with Madelyne’s ferocity. She smashes his armor and drops him to the floor. Her employer, Selene, then appears and wishes to return the treatment Fitzroy gave her, in kind.

Full Summary: 


Holocaust holds Threnody in his powerful fist, an act which has forced Nate Grey to surrender to him. He kneels before him but, in this briefest of opportunities, he tries to communicate with Threnody, telepathically. He wants her to free herself, but his attempts are met with a wall of silence. Holocaust knows that he is too quiet and tells him that his surrender simply appears to be a bluff. If he doesn’t break this ‘psi-lence’ and cast his mind open for all to hear, by the count of three, Threnody will die.

Nate can’t stall him any longer and tries one last time to prompt a reaction from Threnody. It’s no use; he has to act alone. He carefully threads his way through Threnody’s fragile psyche, through the delicate chaos and pulls a few strings; hits a few buttons. He manages to access her mutant power and release the death charge already built up in her system. Her fingertips press against Holocaust’s armor and, in a burst of energy, Holocaust is sent hurtling towards the open sea, screaming as he does so.

Nate grabs the weakened Threnody. She was an orphan and outcast since the earliest manifestation of her mutation. She has known more than her share of death and despair, and today is no exception. Death, she has come to learn, can sometimes be an empowering experience. Nate Grey on the other hand is power, pure simple power. He is psionic to the nth degree, limited only by the potential price to his psyche, the deadly damage done with overexerting his powers.

Threnody opens her eyes and says she thought they agreed, indeed he promised, not to overdo things. He replies that he promised to try. Holocaust’s appearance in this Greek paradise changed all the rules. As soon as the blood-spawn of Apocalypse caved in the hillside, cutting off the cove from the rest of the island and turning the beach into a battle zone, he had little choice. Threnody is surprised that he is the son of Apocalypse. Nate explains that Holocaust is from his own Earth. For so long, he assumed he was the only survivor, exiled here alone. With plenty of injured people still on the beach, Nate flies towards them as, unseen by the pair of them, ripples in the water hint at unfinished business.

A man holds his wife, Marie, in his arms and pleads with someone to help her. Threnody kneels beside them and assures the man that she will live; and she should know. The woman, however, does need a hospital, fast. Nate tries to calm everyone down, telling them he’s here to help. Behind Threnody, the beach now shakes as the sand is displaced. Nate creates a telekinetic net and lifts the injured innocents. The man thanks him, but the woman whose husband died, thanks them for nothing. Tears stream down her cheeks as she thanks them for hiding among them, for fighting another mutie monster in the midst of normal people, a monster who killed her husband on their honeymoon.

Nate doesn’t respond as he concentrates, but Threnody knows that was her doing. She had no choice. Suddenly, she finally notices the movement behind her and turns, finding the towering Holocaust standing before her. He is a living powerhouse of bio-plasmic energies that defy definition. He is the once and future heir to the mantle of En Sabah Nur, the mutant Apocalypse; death himself. He is another fugitive of a world that was once Nate Grey’s reality. It was a stark and barren realm of ruthless mutant supremacy, unchecked by the conscience of a solitary man: Professor Charles Xavier.

(London, England)
In a large bar, seated in a discreet snug, Trevor Fitzroy chats with a man named Craken, asking what he and his people have heard of Xavier. Craken informs Fitzroy that, recently, they’ve heard nothing much, now that he mentions it. His underground and theirs haven’t had much contact since the Hellfire incident a few years back. Fitzroy says that, whatever it takes, he wants information at any cost, and he wants it yesterday.

Elsewhere in the bar, Madelyne Pryor is beginning to catch the eyes of all around her. Her past remains a question best left unasked. She remembers nothing before meeting Nate Grey in the Swiss Alps several months ago. She is playing darts and, having scored three darts in the bullseye, wins another round from Shorty. She asks the barman, Oscar, for a Remy. Trevor Fitzroy notices her and finds it fascinating that her darts are nowhere near as precise as she would have people believe. He wonders if it was an intentional illusion of some kind. Maybe she is a minor manipulator of more modest minds. There is also the very distinct possibility that they are all simply mesmerized by the undeniable presence of this incredible creature, as he himself is.

She has hair like the fires of dawn, fanning and flaming the smoldering spark in her burning eyes. Fitzroy cannot resist and approaches her, asking Oscar for a carafe from his private stock, and two goblets. He introduces himself to Madelyne and apologizes for taking the liberty of presuming her appreciation for the finer things in life. She leans against the bar, as Fitzroy tells her that he thinks she looks familiar, yet he cannot imagine forgetting such an exquisite young woman, no matter how passing their acquaintance. He offers to raise a toast, “To an exploration of all the possibilities…” Madelyne cuts him off, and replies, “Thank you, no. I’ve had my fill.” She wanders towards the exit and heads out into the evening. She is a hunter amongst hunters.

Holocaust offers Threnody two choices, one more chance. She can surrender Nate Grey to him and watch him walk willingly into the fold of the newborn Onslaught, or witness him being dragged, broken and bleeding over her own torn and tattered corpse. Nate sees the threat and flies towards them, just as Holocaust prepares to kill her. At the exact moment Holocaust discharges his blast, Nate places himself between them and uses another telekinetic bubble to shield them both from his attack. Holocaust taunts Nate that, in a one-on-one, it’s no contest and never was. Nate replies that he’s about to learn a lesson for once and for all, the hard way!

In the blink of an eye, Nate telekinetically lifts himself upwards, creating a nigh-impenetrable TK sphere around both himself and his foe. “You wanted me, butcher. You dogged me across two worlds like some lousy bloodhound. You got me!” Holocaust likes it this way and says, “Let’s dance.” Threnody watches them rise higher and higher, and wonders what Nate has gone and done now.

Madelyne peers over a bridge at the mist drifting across the water. She’s in a beautiful old city, on a simple foray for a mistress who’s been good to her. All she can do is wonder. She wonders if she’s ever been here before or, indeed, if she’s ever been to the Americas, Asia or Africa for that matter. Her train of thought is interrupted by Trevor Fitzroy, who tells her that he decided to accept her gracious invitation after all.

Fitzroy is not the modern gentleman he appears to be. He is a mutant refugee from a future that must never happen, a long night to come when Homo sapien and superior alike have both fallen victim to their own worst instincts. Power today is for his asking. Madelyne replies that he imagined his invitation. She looked only to find him, for someone else. Fitzroy never asks for anything. He holds her by the cheeks, and informs her that this is her first stalemate. Could she truly believe it might end with such a tantalizing encounter, without the slightest taste of much more to come once he had found her? He kisses her, but her touch horrifies him. He throws her to the ground and asks what in the world she is; such a cold, hollow fire, with no natural flame to speak of. Madelyne stares back at him. “What’s the matter, Fitzroy; you don’t want me anymore?”

Energy skitters across Nate’s TK sphere. Nate asks Holocaust to tell him, before they destroy each other above a world they never got to know, who is this Onslaught he serves? Holocaust is enigmatic in his reply, replying that the answer would hardly surprise him. Onslaught’s final gift, the selfsame tele-screen that allowed him to ambush Nate in the first place, still serves to protect him from Nate’s crude psi-probes. He adds that if Nate would really know the truth, if he is finally man enough to face the newlord of the millennium, “Join us…” Nate and Holocaust go at it, with Nate refusing to bow down, to never kneel to this nightmare his opponent promises. His attack finally ends when he cracks Holocaust’s armor which allows Nate to use his fists on Holocaust’s face itself.

Madelyne slaps Trevor Fitzroy down. He knows who sent her, and that Madelyne is only there to lure him out into the open and expose him to the witch of all witches. Suddenly, a crackle of energy allows Fitzroy to don his armor. His omnium mesh armor is impervious to all known forms of energy. It’s cyber-linked to his central nervous system, which is hyper-simulating his strength and speed. Endorphins, even now, make him that much faster and stronger than she. As Nate and Holocaust battle in Greece, Madelyne explains to Fitzroy that he misjudged her. She attacks him and, amazingly, she manages to smash his armor, allowing her fists to make contact with his chin.

With Fitzroy on his knees, Selene makes her appearance, carrying a strange creature on her arm. She informs Fitzroy that he has ever suffered a weakness for the woman he would use, and a dangerous habit of underestimating them. Fitzroy is petrified at the sight of the witch. “Y-you. It is you…” She smiles and replies, saying it is indeed; the same woman he watched unravel, quite literally, over and over again before his very eyes. An immortal left to an eternity of mortal agony. Much as she relished the irony of witnessing, from afar, the eventual betrayal of his own mutant powers, his long, slow recovery was torture for them both.

Selene thanks Madelyne, adding that vengeance is a grand and glorious first offering, with so much more to offer. She leans forward and kisses Fitzroy, who screams into the night.

Holocaust, his armor broken and having lost his upper hand, decides to depart. As he flies away, he informs Nate that his victory was pyrrhic at best. He has bared his all now, his possibilities and his potential, as well as his limits and his liabilities. Nate’s own power will be the death of him, and Onslaught himself will surely come for him now, in person. He flies into the night sky, as Threnody expresses concern for her friend. She tells him that he can’t keep doing this to himself. Every time he falls into battle, lives are put at risk. They have to find help.

She suggests reaching Muir Island in order to contact the X-Men. Nate cuts that idea off at the root. He has no reason to trust any who wear the colors of Xavier; she knows that. She then suggests other heroes in the city of New York. There’s a place called Avengers mansion, or he could start with the Fantastic Four. Nate’s listening, and asks her to tell him more about these Avengers.

Characters Involved: 

Nate Grey

Sunbathers including Marie and her husband

Trevor Fitzroy
Madelyne Pryor

Bar customers and the barman, Oscar

Story Notes: 

Trevor Fitzroy tortured Selene in Uncanny X-Men #301, using a ‘spooling’ machine that literally ripped her to shreds and put her together again, continuously. Fitzroy’s mutant powers betrayed him in X-Force (1st Series) #33, part of the ‘Child’s Play’ crossover with the New Warriors.

Nate Grey meets the Avengers in Avengers (1st series) #400.

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