X-Man #33

Issue Date: 
December 1997
Story Title: 
Blood Will Tell

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Roger Cruz (penciler), Bud Larosa (inker), Mike Thomas (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft / ST (letterers), Jaye Gardner (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Night-clubbers start to flee the trendy nightclub as Jack Knife confronts Nate Grey, declaring that he is a danger to all, and that he and everyone Nate has come in contact with must die. Nate has to protect the boy Roust as well, and throws a telekinetic field around them - but Jack Knife pierces it with his strange energy. He drops Roust, but Jam catches the boy. Jack Knife starts unleashing his power on the innocent night-clubbers as Marita tries to evacuate them all. Nate tries a more direct approach with Jack Knife, attacking him physically, but Jack Knife strikes back with ease and Nate falls to the ground. Jack Knife drops down beside him, and reveals his history to Nate - about living on the streets, then with the Abomination, and how Nate showed up and his life changed forever. Nate realizes that Jack Knife is totally insane, blaming him for his psychotic tendencies. The old church converted into the night club is destroyed in the battle, but Nate survives. Rain starts to pour down as Nate and Jack Knife battle each other outside. Jam, Marita, Bux and Roust watch on, as do many civilians, who Nate has to try and keep out of harm’s way as well. He does the best he can, but Jack Knife is furious and dangerous - until Nate wraps his opponent in power cables from beneath the street, then he is struck by a blast of lightning, overloading his mind. His allies look on, concerned, before the police arrive and aim their weapons at Nate. Marita and the others come to Nate’s defense, coming between him and the police, explaining that Nate saved their lives.

Full Summary: 

Something’s in the air tonight. An electricity charged tension that these first sheets of autumn rain have done little to dampen. Night like this, city like New York, anything can happen. Lightning crackles in the sky as the rain beats down. At the Limelight, a particularly trendy club, frequented by more out-of-towners than down towners every day, this barely-converted church is still considered the place to be. But not tonight, as night clubbers race out of the exit, ‘Freaks!’ someone shouts. ‘Flying freaks!’ another declares. ‘Flying #^&*%^ freaks!’ two exclaim at the same time.

Something is in the air tonight, as Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man hovers in the air above the once-packed dance floor, holding the frightened boy called Roust, while a skinny man in tattered clothes and a hooded cloak hovers nearby, ‘I’m called Jack Knife!’ he declares, before calling out to Roust, telling him that thanks to the other mind in his very midst, outcast of a world that never should have been, this Nate Grey is an insult to all realities - a danger to them all - mutants and humans alike and that once he is finally dead at his feet, returned to the nether that spawned him, he will be able to do the same for Roust and every other lost soul Grey has already touched in this tainted and cursed hellhole - across the whole cursed planet if necessary. ‘Listen to me, Grey, listen - ya can’t stop this psycho. I swear! Ya can’t! Ya just gotta get us both outta here before -’ Roust begins, but Jack Knife tells him to save his breath, as it is the last he will ever draw, and from his fingers, energy-knives appear, which he extends lunging through the air towards the young hero and Roust.

‘No’ Nate declares as he throws up a telekinetic force field. He is a mutant, some say the ultimate mutant, born with powers and abilities far beyond those of any mortal man. Powers of the mind, wielded at the speed of thought. Outcast of a world too like our own, a world that failed to survive its own bigotry and prejudice… young Nate never faced a force on this Earth that could penetrate his fully-formed psionic shields. Until now. ‘Whoa!’ Nate gasps as the deranged Jack Knife slices through the force field with seeming ease. ‘HEEEYY?!’ Roust calls out as Nate drops him, and he falls to the dance floor below. He is a child of the streets, on the run from the bloodthirsty Jack Knife for weeks now. He lands in the arms of the blonde Jam, who along with her friends Marita and Bux, they are daughters of the night, looking for life in all the wrongs places. ‘Shut up kid, we gotcha’ Jam tells him as she catches Roust. Until this moment at least, these four shared nothing but a mutual… friend.

Nate sees that Roust is with the girls and tells himself that he is in good hands. He looks at his own hands and sees that Jack’s powers have cut him. ‘Everyone out! NOW!’ Nate calls out to the rest of the night clubbers below. ‘This way, personas - move!’ Marita urges everyone, encouraging them to get out of the night club. ‘MOVE!’ she shouts. Up above again, ‘Too many to touch by one, to trace your taint directly. Best to just kill them all here and now, x-ile…let last Heaven sort the dumb from the damned!’ Jack Knife calls out as he starts sending shards of energy town towards the remaining night clubbers, striking them, they cry out in pain. Nate realizes that they are psi-knives, exploding from Jack’s head which tears into the crowd.

Given that his telekinesis have already proved painfully ineffective against Jack’s attacks, Nate decides to take it straight to the source, instead, and flies towards the strange man, and slams his first against him. Jack is just a wild card. He grits his teeth, his blood-red eyes glare at Nate, and he telepathically declares ‘You’re right, of course, atrocity. Thank you for reminding me… first thing FIRST!’ as he slams Nate backwards, causing the young hero to crash into the ground. ‘Doesn’t make any sense…how could Jack be “immune” to my powers, I mean, while I‘m totally wide open to his every move?’ Nate asks himself, deciding that he cant take the time to deal with Jack until everyone else is out of harm’s way.

Nate looks around and sees that there are still hundreds trapped in the club, and from what he is picking up telepathically, mobbing the doors all at once. All he can do is follow Marita’s lead, as she smashes a window open - and he does the same, telekinetically shattering the stained-glass windows throughout the club, sending glass shards smashing to the dance floor. Jack Knife suddenly appears behind Nate, ‘Nicely done, chaos-bringer’ he tells Nate, adding that pulverizing the glass back to harmless sand buys a few more precious seconds of freedom for the contaminated…and condemned. ‘Who are you…what are you?’ Nate asks. ‘Something you can no longer touch’ Jack Knife replies, calling Nate a “mind worm”. ‘Inside or out…something you can no longer damage and destroy with or without a thought!’ Jack Knife tells Nate that all he had to do was ask, but no matter how he slices and dices it, or how he dishes it out - the truth hurts.

Flashback images, narrated by Jack Knife:

Jack Cole was homeless, hungry and talking back to voices that only he could hear, until a few friends of his - Roust and Joust and Watts, somehow hooked them up with the Abomination, finding them a place with his underground Forgotten - peace. If Jack had known then that the “voices” in his head were from others like himself, other low-level telepaths equally unaware of their mutations, might have made all the difference if he had been able to understand that he wasn’t so much crazy as confused - just the victim of a truly open mind, really - until Nate Grey came along, crashing the Abomination’s private party, throwing down over some old flame of his called Threnody.

Jack doubts that Nate even noticed him there, cowering in the background with the rest of the Forgotten - but he couldn’t miss Nate, there on the battlefield, larger than life. ‘Our eyes met in an unguarded moment, my mind unwittingly reached out to yours and…it felt like it had shattered to pieces’. Jack Knife recalls that Nate pretended to lose to the Abomination, simple as that, and the game was over - for the players at least, and for the death-drenched girl, Threnody, and her rutting stags who left without ever looking back. ‘But not for the pawns. Jack Cole was gone. Only Jack Knife remained’ Jack declares. He was broken in mind and spirit, and eventually lashed out at everyone around him, leaving them bloody messes.


Jack’s memories are like razors, tearing through Nate’s brain as the young hero realizes that his foe is totally insane. It was Jack that slaughtered them all - every single one of those lost, lonely people who touched Nate, who even saw him. ‘And he blames me. But for what, exactly?’ Nate asks himself. ‘For catalyzing his own latent powers, somehow…without even knowing it myself?’ ate wonders if he has bought the last of the bystanders enough time to evacuate the building, but it looks like he needs a few more seconds to clear his head. However, Jack doesn’t give up, ‘I am what you made me, Nate Grey…’ Jack calls out. ‘Like Madelyne. Madelyne Pryor. A dead woman reborn, from nothing more than my own stray thoughts’ Nate tells himself, wide-eyed.

Jack holds the inside of his cloak up, revealing a pattern of different pieces of cloth sewn together. ‘And these your victims! You are a cancer of the mind - an infectious virus among us - and I will see all traces of you erased from our reality…before you can poison a single other soul!’ Jack declares as he flies upwards, while Nate is shocked, ‘Everyone? Everyone I’ve ever come in contact with. And everyone they’ve ever come in contact with? Unless I stop this lunatic, here and now…’ he realizes. Outside, Jam, Marita and Bux look into the club, ‘Nate?’ Marita calls out. ‘What is he doing in -’ Bux begins ‘Once and for all’ Nate thinks to himself, when suddenly, everyone runs for their life, further away from the old church, as it collapses around them, and they stare in shock.

However, amongst the rain that beats down and the dust that rises from the rubble, Nate appears, inside a telekinetic bubble that has protected him from the fallout of his own implosion. He scans the rest of ground zero, no sign of any of the other survivors. ‘If I was forced to kill Jack to stop him…’ Nate thinks to himself, before Jack’s psychic voice exclaims ‘I will not die, psi-snake’ as his form materializes before Nate, ‘I will not abandon countless other innocents to the fate you sealed for me…to the blinding vision of the eyes you open, the psyche-shattering sights and sounds and smells of all the senses you expose!’

Jack Knife boasts that he is their only hope, now, their one last chance to perish free of Nate’s wicked, wicked whispers. The crowd that has remained nearby watch in awe. ‘Uh-oh’ one of them remarks. ‘Shimmering into focus over there, like a…’ another begins. ‘Like some kind of…’ another suggests. ‘Ghost’ someone concludes. ‘I been trying to tell ya - to tell Grey - nothing stops him…nothing!’ Roust exclaims as he remains with Marita, Jam and Bux, who suddenly screams at Nate to look behind himself. Too late, ‘I AM DIVINE INTERVENTION!’ Jack Knife booms as he attacks Nate at close range, slamming his strange energies into Nate, who screams as he is propelled through the air, and crashes into a bus across the road.

However, Bux’s warning did give Nate enough time to erect some forward shields to deflect the impact of his landing, although passengers start rushing out of the bus in fright. ‘Hurry it up!’ someone calls out. ‘C’mon already, c’mon!’ another shouts, while Nate is grateful that the bus took the brunt of the landing, but he telekinetically holds it back, not wanting to let a ton and a half of steel topple over on the people still getting out of the bus. ‘He touched you’ Jack Knife calls out as he approaches the scared Bux. Nate sees this, and knows that Bux is in danger simply because she called out to him. Thankfully, considering the nature of his powers and all, psionic generated by thought, not action, he is not exactly limited to one thing at a time, and using his formidable power, he hurls a car towards Jack Knife.

However, Jack Knife turns the car into shrapnel, and boasts that it is all the ammunition he needs to purge the impure. But as the shrapnel is shot towards the civilians, Nate uses his own power to sweep the civilians and make them fall down flat, causing the shrapnel to fling into the nearby buildings. ‘Too close’ Nate remarks, while Marita, Bux and Jam go over to him. ‘What is he? Bux asks as Jack Knife strides towards them. However, Nate causes the ground in front of Jack Knife to explode, but the lunatic tells him that telekinetically igniting subterranean gas-mains only endanger the people he pretends to protect. More civilians start to run in panic as the gas mains erupt in additional locations, while Jack Knife declares that this proves Nate to be every bit the threat he knows him to be.

‘You broke me months ago. Twisted me, inside out, maybe beyond repair’ Jack Knife declares as he walks through the flames caused by the erupting gas mains. ‘Made me into something you can’t hurt ever again’ Jack Knife snarls. ‘I…I’m dead’ a wide-eyed Nate thinks to himself as the rain continues to pour. He tells himself that Jack is relentless, a machine - a killing machine that won’t be stopped. Suddenly, Nate sees an electrical cable, and telekinetically latches onto it, wrapping it around Jack. ‘Power-cables from beneath the street now?’ Jack calls out, while Nate tells himself that Jack’s brain is the machine. ‘These will no more hold me than the -’ Jack Knife begins, before a bolt of lightning strikes him, and he screams. ‘An organic computer, effectively running on electricity… as vulnerable as any mind to an overload of electrical energies’ Nate thinks to himself.

Nate looks exhausted, and sees that Jack is alive, he is breathing, but that his head, for lack of a better term, is completely short-circuited. Nate picks up Jack’s limp body, ‘Here but for a thin veil of sanity I go…’ he thinks to himself as he carries Jack’s body towards the crowd. ‘Thought you told me you were tired, hombre’ Marita calls out as she Jam, Bux, Roust and others gather around. ‘I forgot’ Nate replies, as blood trickles from his nose. Marita asks Nate if he knows what just happened here. ‘What we saw - what we all saw’ Jam begins. ‘Sparks’ several others call out. ‘Shooting outta his head!’ someone declares. ‘Lightning’ another exclaims. ‘Out of thin air’ someone points out. ‘Flying!’ ‘Glowing eye!’ Suddenly, sirens sound, and a voice calls out ‘Nobody move!’

Several police officers have arrived on scene, ‘You - in the leathers - put your hands up and surrender!’ one of them orders Nate, while telling everyone else to back away slowly, out of the line of fire. But Nate holds up Jack’s body and tells the officers that this man needs help. He makes his way towards some paramedics who have also arrived on scene, ‘More help than I can offer’ he explains. One of the medics examines Jack, ’Second-degree burns over the upper torso, pulse dipping radically, no retinal response…’ and instructs his colleague to set the tourniquet around the shoulder, while the EMS is already prepping the emergency room. ‘He needs life support, stat!’ one of them declares. Marita stands beside Nate as the officers all ready their guns, cocking the triggers.

‘And we don’t need to repeat yourselves again, punk!’ one of them calls out. ‘You’re coming down to the station-house with us, right now…’ another begins, but the bar tender from the Limelight rushes forward in front of Nate, ‘He saved my life, officer!’ he calls out. ‘And mine!’ another woman declares. ‘Mine, too!’ someone else shouts. ‘Ditto!’ another exclaims. ‘Same here!’ two people tell the officers. ‘What they said!’ others agree as more and more people gather around Nate. ‘Nate Grey saved all our lives, blue-boys…and it looks like he ain’t going nowhere he don’t want to!’ Roust exclaims as the rain continues to beat down, and the officers lower their weapons. Something is in the air tonight. An electricity, a charged tension, quite different from the energy of the earlier evening. And, even if young Nate doesn’t know it yet - every crackling erg belongs to him….

Characters Involved: 


Bux, Jam & Marita


Jack Knife

Bar tender

Night clubbers


Police officers


In Jack Knife’s memory



Roust, Joust, Watts, Jack Cole


Story Notes: 
Issue Information: 
Written By: