X-Man #19

Issue Date: 
September 1996
Story Title: 
Shades of Grey

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters), Mike Thomas (colors), Malibu (enhancement), Jaye Gardner (editor), Bob Harras (chief)

Brief Description: 

Now that Mister Sinister has Nate’s attention, he informs him that X-Force is presumably back in Westchester, recovering from their ordeal. He didn’t harm them unnecessarily, as he can hardly afford to waste mutants, not with the imminent threat of Onslaught. Nate asks what he has to do with anything, and Sinister replies that it could mean the end of everything. He explains how he had Threnody get close to him, and then used her neuro-locks to provide him with a map of Nate’s brain, which he can now switch off at will. Onslaught, meanwhile, now has Franklin Richards at his disposal, and the boy is compelled to send out a telepathic cry to Nate Grey. Sinister creates images of Nate’s own reality and tells him he knows all about his world. He asks if Nate ever thought there could be anything worse than Apocalypse. Nate replies that there is: him. He creates his own images and explains that he’s been hunted from one world to the next, and simply wants to find a degree of normalcy, instead of being used as a weapon of war. He hears a faint whisper and Sinister realizes what it might be, warning him to shut the voices out immediately. Nate opposes Sinister, who creates tendrils to hold him. Nate knows that Sinister’s power over him is a sham and proves his point by destroying the tendrils and subconsciously locking his mind up tight. No one controls him, only himself. Suddenly, unseen by Sinister, a portal appears behind him with Franklin Richards inside it, reaching out for help. Nate offers his hand and, before Sinister can tell him it’s a trap, Nate is grabbed by Onslaught and pulled into the portal. Reality ripples in its wake. Meanwhile, in New York City, Threnody uses the energy of a rat to escape from Scalp-Hunter and Arclight, but they soon catch up with her. As they gloat, a mysterious figure appears behind them.

Full Summary: 

His name is Sinister. His motives are less clear. He has focused his lifetime’s work in mutation genetics on a single bloodline and, as he asks Nate to come to him, he feels his destiny has finally been delivered. Nate is all too acquainted with Sinister’s alternate from his own reality, a place now gone, but not forgotten.

Kneeling at the bottom of a small flight of stone stairs, Nate defiantly replies, “Never, murderer.” He will never take his hand no matter what the threat. He adds that Sinister should have killed him before he had the chance to recover from his psionic ambush. Sinister tells him that was a necessary evil. Nate’s own power backlash offered the simplest solution to the problem of X-Force - his would-be protectors and peers. Nate asks about Teresa, Domino and the others, and Sinister informs him that they’re probably recovering back in Westchester, ultimately unharmed for the most part. Considering the onslaught upon them all, he can ill afford to waste mutants before their time.

Nate asks what Onslaught has to do with this. Sinister sits in a stone-built throne and replies, “The end. The end of everything.” He relaxes, and tells Nate that, by the time he learned of his existence, he already knew that he would need him. He thought it impossible he didn’t know about him earlier, knowing of the blood that Nate bears in his veins. He finally recognized in Nate the culmination of all that he has ever sought and strived for. He wanted Nate and he got him, by simply being aware that he was of an age which tends to prove more susceptible to certain obvious charms. He was equally confident that Threnody would provide the most direct route to him.

Upon hearing her name, Nate leaps towards Sinister, but he casually stops Nate in his tracks using a mental punch. Nate reels, as Sinister explains that he knew that the sheer force of Nate’s will was beyond even his considerable ability to penetrate. To this end, he created Threnody’s neuro locks, which, when Nate ventured inside Threnody’s mind, unwittingly opened a direct channel back into his own mutant brain. A psi-path was therefore mapped for Sinister, which he ruthlessly took advantage of.

Nate groans as he recovers, and asks where she is. Sinister tells him that the poor child was quite foolish to have separated herself from Nate once he reached New York. Evidently, she is smitten as well. She is safe, he adds, perfectly safe in New York City.

(New York City)

The big apple is overrun with giant Sentinels, leaving the common man in fear for his future. They’ve cut off the bridges and tunnels, surrounding Manhattan. Every moment, Onslaught grows with each and every psi-lord it gathers inside its void. The shadow of the beast deepens and darkens, moment by moment, eclipsing the last of the light.

Threnody is no stranger to the labyrinth of sewers underneath the city. It seems like merely yesterday, to her, when her own mutant ‘gift’ initially surfaced with the taste of another’s death still lingering on her lips, threatening to erupt from every pore. This was a secret sanctuary and shelter to the scared and lonely child. But, nothing lasts forever. She sits alone, chained to the wall with Scalp-Hunter and Arclight sitting on another wall nearby.

They taunt her by telling her that no one escapes from Sinister, and asks if the name Malice rings any bells. “Maybe she wasn’t able to escape him, Scalp-Hunter,” replies Threnody, defiantly, “But the Cajun’s still out there isn’t he? Nate will be comin’ for me soon enough, you’ll see, soon as he figures out…” Arclight replies that it’s too little, too late. According to Sinister himself, they might just be living at the end of the world as they know it. She and Scalp-Hunter look into each other’s eyes, and, despite being cloned over and over again, they find they still have feelings for one another. They’re only human.


Onslaught, on the other hand, defies all such description or definition. Both mutant and mortal once, this creature is no longer either. It is the dream of one man, tainted by the schemes of another. It is a culmination of the frustrations and failures of Professor Charles Xavier and the defeats and disappointments of Eric Magnus Lensherr; the doom and despair of man’s inhumanity to mutant-kind. It will remake the world in its image, as any god would. But to build, one must burn, and deep in the heart of the beast that is Onslaught, flickers the flame that feeds the hellfire.

Harboring the latent ability to manipulate reality to his will, to reshape the very laws of time and space, young Franklin Richards is a largely untapped mutant of the highest possible potential. He is also yet another victim of the psi-lord, Onslaught; a pawn in truth. He is compelled to send out a siren call to Nate Grey, the next victim of Onslaught’s twisted machinations. As Franklin’s call is forced to roar above the blare of the sweeping blaze, he is secretly learning how to whisper. ‘Mommy,” he utters.


Nate is still on the floor, and hears the faintest of calls. He turns and asks Mister Sinister what he just said, but Sinister ignores it, telling him he mustn’t let his mind wander whilst he is speaking. He creates images of Nate’s reality with a motion. The visage of Apocalypse appears over a mound of dead bodies as Infinites patrol around them. He tells Nate he is well aware of Apocalypse’s reign in his parallel world, but asks Nate if he did not think there could be even worse than Apocalypse? Nate replies that he knows there is - him.

He tells Sinister that his ‘familiar’ killed everyone and everything he held dear, long before his world fell to the ageless one. He creates his own telemorphic manifestations; theoretically impossible according to Sinister, but nevertheless there. With the images of Onslaught, Cable, Dark Beast and Sugarman amongst others appearing, he informs Sinister that he’s been hunted on two worlds now for power that is rightfully his, and his alone. Now, he’s just looking for a life, trying to find some version of normalcy. All he ever wanted, really, and he would take that away? To use him as a weapon of war?

Sinister replies that he is a weapon, make no mistake about that. He dismisses the manifestations, adding that he is the most wondrous, enchanted and limitless weapon this world has yet to see wielded. And this is a war to end all wars. He promises he will not have Nate fall on another’s battlefield. He will see him steeled for the final conflict to come, first tempered and tutored by the finest of all. Nate holds his forehead, as he can hear some kind of hum. Sinister asks what he’s talking about, before realizing what it might be. “Stop listening, boy, immediately. Shut it out now!”

(New York City)

Back in New York, Threnody knows that Nate might need her now, more than ever. She spots a rat scuttling through the sewers. She is able to reach it, and absorb the bio-energy that is released as she snaps its neck.


Nate tells Sinister that he is a weapon indeed; a human weapon, with his own calling to follow. Sinister turns him around, insisting that he is a mutant weapon. He tells Nate that he cannot deny his place among homo superior, apart from Homo sapiens. Nate takes to the air, swooping graciously above Sinister. “Your distinction, Sinister, your labels…not mine. A distinction that more and more escapes me in fact.” Nate is once again shown a glimpse of Mister Sinister’s power as his opponent motions towards him. Nate grabs his head and informs Sinister, “That hurt! For the last time…”

Sinister creates long, winding tendrils, which emerge from the ground and arc upwards towards the young mutant. He tells Nate that it did not have to be this way, but he cannot allow him to go to Onslaught. It’s all about control; who controls what, and who. His tendrils wrap themselves around Nate’s body, locking his arms and legs into position. He tells Nate that he must control himself before he can even begin to control his powers, before they kill him or, worse, kill us all.

With Nate helpless, Mister Sinister looks up at him with his deep red eyes and offers him that control. For all the immeasurable might of Nate’s mind, he tells him, he cannot deny Sinister’s ability to switch it off with a mere thought. Nate pulls at a tendril around his neck, and replies that it was simply an opening gambit. If Sinister truly had the skills to cut his powers off again, or to limit them in any way at all, he would have used them by now. This show of force would hardly have been necessary. Nate bets that it was a one-time trick only. His brain has already rerouted synaptic links, neural relays and whatever else it takes to shut Sinister out. Some kind of automatic psionic defense mechanism, guesses Nate. Now back in control again, Nate shreds the tendrils with his telekinesis and aims his fist towards Sinister below. “And you know it,” he adds, “Because you never stopped trying to pierce through those defenses.”

(New York City)

Having escaped her chains, Threnody scampers through the tunnels, knowing that, despite her familiarity with them, she’s seen Scalp-Hunter track a snowflake through a blizzard. She thinks she’d rather take her chances topside. Suddenly, Scalp-Hunter and Arclight are upon her, and posing. Hunter tells her there’s nowhere left to run, while his female companion informs her that they’ve had their little fun at least, but it seems like love hasn’t been kind to Threnody. Threnody replies that Nate cares about her, and he will come for her. He’ll destroy them like he did before. Arclight tells her to get real. “If your big bad boyfriend cared a hoot ‘bout his little tramp…” Her sentence remains unfinished as a figure appears behind them. They both turn and Threnody exclaims, “Y-You…!”


Nate returns to the ground and taunts Sinister that he took everything he had and then some. He stands before his foe, and says that the web he weaves leaves little room to maneuver, but he gave it his best shot. He places his hand on Sinister’s shoulder, and adds that he’s right. It’s all about control. Control of him. He adds that Sinister can’t help him achieve this control; that much is obvious. No one can. No one but Nate Grey can offer anything but an illusion of control over Nate Grey. He can start picking and choosing his own battles. Nate’s attention is then diverted from Sinister by a strange kind of portal, which appears behind him, unseen by Sinister who warns him not to turn his back on him. Nate informs Sinister that his way with words is undeniable but, right now, a child’s voice speaks to him from a place he’s come to know so well.

Through the portal, the frightened face of Franklin Richards peers at Nate. He reaches his small hand out and says, “Help m-me… p-please mister…help me…” Nate reaches out his own hand, as Sinister realizes the awful truth about what’s going on. He tries telling Nate it’s a trap but, by the time he’s finished his sentence, Franklin’s hand becomes that of Onslaught. It grasps Nate’s arm and pulls him into its claws. “Yes,” Onslaught tells Sinister, “It was.” As Nate vanishes from sight through the portal, all of reality ripples in Onslaught’s wake. Sinister knows when he’s beaten.

Characters Involved: 

Nate Grey

Mister Sinister


Residents of New York City


Arclight, Scalp-Hunter (both Marauders)



Franklin Richards

(images created by Mister Sinister)


Dead humans

Infinite Soldiers

(Nate’s telemorphic manifestations)


Dark Beast



Professor Xavier




Story Notes: 

Malice was killed by Mister Sinister in X-Factor (1st Series) #105.

Mister Sinister found out about Nate’s reality from Bishop’s memories in X-Men (2nd series) #52.

The mysterious figure is revealed next issue as the Abomination.

Nate defeated the Marauders before, back in X-Man #13.

Issue Information: 

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