X-Man #34

Issue Date: 
January 1998
Story Title: 
Messiah Complex, part one: The Ride

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

Brief Description: 

Jam rides on a motorbike and at the same time, a mysterious man gets out of a cab. He has some sort of mind-control power, and as he orders the cab away, the cab crashes into the motorcycle. Jam is alive, but with severe injuries. Nate Grey arrives at Washington Square Park, to an adoring gathering of fans, who want him to perform various acts for them. Marita arrives at the Park, informing him of Jam’s accident and they teleport away, unaware that the mysterious man from the cab has been watching him. Nate, Marita and Bux visit Jam in hospital, her left arm amputated from the elbow down. Nate wonders if there was something he could have done to prevent this tragedy. Dr Arlington and nurse Laura Lanning enter the room where Jam is resting, and during the subsequent discussions, Dr Arlington and Nate Grey come into physical contact, while Nate is sitting at Jam’s side. When Nate, Marita and Bux are instructed to leave the room, Arlington discovers that Jam’s arm has mysteriously re-attached itself. Later, nurse Lanning goes to a large house, where the mysterious man resides. He asks nurse Lanning to drink with him, but she is reluctant to do so, so he uses his powers to coerce her into doing so, and as a result, her complexion turns purple. Back at the hospital, Dr Arlington goes to check on another patient, and finds that his wound has vanished. Nate hovers outside Jam’s room, and watches her. Shortly after he leaves, Jam wakes up. Nate checks out a possible location where Threnody could be, before running into Roust again. Roust tells Nate that he heard about the miracle at the hospital, although Nate isn’t sure what Roust is referring to, until Jam, Marita, Bux, Dr Arlington and a large crowd of people confront him at the park, all wanting him to help them in some way. This is recorded and broadcast, as the mysterious man watch from his room and realizes his plan to use Nate Grey is coming together, and soon the Purple Man will have everything he wants!

Full Summary: 

A blonde woman, her face obscured by a helmet, gets onto the back of a motorcycle with a long-haired man. She knows it is a bad idea, as Gregg has been drinking for one thing - he has been drinking as long as she has known, him, as long as she has been playing bass with his band. Gregg has been drinking as long as he has been drumming, or so she is told.
‘Helmet’s all yours, babe. Never wear it myself, anyway… plays havoc with the hair and all, y’know!’ Gregg declares as he motorcycle makes a lot of noise as he tears down the street. He is still a raging drummer, and a New York State law requires bars in Manhattan to shut down for the night by four AM. Other cars honk their horns at him as Gregg darts in and out of their way.

Nearby, a man in a trench coat and a wide-brimmed hat gets out of a cab. ‘Thanks, bud! Tip like this is gonna make for a lot merrier Christmas around the Brannigan tree, believe me!’ the cab driver calls out. He adds that between the grandkids, the second set of twins - but the passenger interrupts him. ‘Yes, yes’ he mutters, then with a strange voice, orders the cab driver to leave - now.
The driver speeds off, while Gregg is nearby on the motorcycle, and tells his female companion that they will hit the after-hours joint up on St Marks, when suddenly, the cab driver speeds up alongside him, causing Gregg to lose control - and the cab driver swerves into a lamp post, while Gregg and the blonde woman fall off the motorcycle. ‘Hang on, J-’ Gregg calls out, while the motorcycle crashes into a store window.

A crowd of onlookers starts to gather around, ‘Call for an ambulance!’ someone calls. ‘Already on the way’ someone replies. ‘Too late’ another declares. ‘No seat-belt’ someone points out. ‘Cabbie’s dead’ another announces, as the cab driver lies through the taxi wind-shield. ‘And the biker’ someone else reports. ‘Oh, God - dead. But the girl with him, her injuries are so severe!’ another announces as the woman lies on the ground, covered in blood. People move in closer as ambulance sirens can be heard approaching.

Dawn, at Washington Square Park, a strange, strange place. At the best of times, it serves as a downtown oasis for all New Yorkers of all types and all ages seeking more of the same. A crowd has gathered, they are excited, for Nate Grey was once more rumor than reality here. An urban legend in the making, more often spoken of than sighted, word quickly spread of this young man with a voice… a powerful, penetrating voice, and much to say. ‘Is it…?’ someone asks, eager to see Nate. ‘It’s him!’ another shouts. ‘Where’d he come from?’ someone asks. ‘Check it out, check it out -’ another declares, before they start chanting his name over and over. ‘A new look!’ several people call out when they see Nate in jeans and a tight black t-shirt.
Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man smiles and waves at everyone. In the wake of his recent return to the streets of the city, however, heralded by his very public defeat of the psionic psychopath known as Jack Knife, the oasis is now nothing less than a mecca, for those seeking something only found here.

‘High five man!’ someone shouts, and Nate “high-fives” him. ‘What’s with the new duds, dude?’ another person asks. Telepathically, Nate speaks to everyone, ‘What are you talking about? I just changed my shirt, like every -’ he begins, before someone asks him how it feels to be a hero. ‘Hurts, tell you the truth. Jack got in a few good shots -’ Nate replies, before someone asks him if he is going to join the Avengers now. ‘I wish’ Nate mutters, as he is riding high at the moment. As a telepath, arguably the strongest mutant mind of his kind already, he can’t help but respond to the crowd’s response to him - what they ask, he tries to answer, as the chants keep coming. ‘Any advice for us, pal?’ someone asks. ‘Depends what you need to -’ Nate begins to reply, while someone asks where their nephew is. ‘Who’s your nephew?’ Nate asks.

As a telekinetic, wielding limitless unseen energies with his thoughts, he commands the power to telekinetically clear his own path, as gently as possible, with as much force as necessary, he pushes people away from him, and hovers above them.
‘Kiss my baby!’ a woman calls out. ‘Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me!’ someone else shouts As a relative newcomer to this planet, to this Earth that somehow still survives the mutant-human bigotry that destroyed his own, the boy has a lot to learn. Nate points towards something. ‘What’s he pointing at over -’ someone calls out. ‘My purse!’ a woman shouts as a man snatches it from her - the man that Nate is pointing at. ‘My cash!’ an elderly man exclaims, as another man steals his cash. ‘Pick pockets!’ someone shouts, as the crowd surrounds the two thieves. ‘Uh-oh’ one of the thieves utters.

Nate fears he may never understand, for instance, the importance of mere money to this humanity - the value placed on their currency of trade here, their thing paper of promise, over and above the lives it seems to lead. The crowd begins beating on the thieves. ‘Stop!’ Nate orders as he hovers in front of a water fountain. ‘Hang on - hang on everyone -’ someone exclaims. The two thieves make a run for it. ‘After ‘em!’ someone suggests, but Nate tells the crowd not to bother, as he has already called their mother and told her what her boys have been up to. ‘Their troubles haven’t even started yet, in this case. Trust me’ he assures everyone. ‘“Called”?’ someone asks. ‘Mind to mind, like this’ Nate explains telepathically. A man asks Nate if he can tell what he is thinking now. Nate points out that he just said it out loud. ‘How about now?’ the man thinks to himself.

Nate ignores the question and declares ‘Okay, this is getting a little -’, before a woman asks him to fly. ‘Isn’t there something more important we could -’ Nate begins. ‘My arthritis, it’s crippling…’ someone calls out. ‘… you a mutie, Nate?’ someone asks. ‘Or maybe you got your powers from some kind of radioactive lightning bug-bite or something?’ another inquires, before someone asks Nate where he is from. ‘That’s an easy one. I come from another place - another world, really - where…’ he begins, before someone shouts ‘AN ALIEN! They’ve come!’ ‘Just like us. Only better!’ others call out. ‘Knew it!’ some of the crowd boast. ‘No, no, no… listen to me! Listen up, please!’ Nate calls out.

Nate tells them all that he needs to try and explain - to help them understand, maybe help them all understand, why he is here, and why he alone of all those fighting the good fight, walks among them now. ‘The world of my birth wasn’t so much another physical reality, see, as it was… home. A place where I could be with one who was like a father to me, only more. So much, much more’ he tells everyone. He adds that it was also a place that suffered for the ambitions of one, evil, an evil like no other.
Before he can explain further, his companion Marita pushes through the crowd, ‘NATE!’ she screams. ‘Finally, amigo! I checked your loft first, but…it’s Jam - Nate, there’s been an accident…she was taken -’ Marita begins, but Nate knows his new friend’s thoughts before she can voice them, and Nate Grey acts without a second thought, as he and Marita suddenly vanish.

Outside the park a purple car is parked nearby and am an in the back seat thinks to himself, in Serbo-Croatian, ‘Teleportation. Or just the appearance of it’ while asking himself who he is to judge either way. ‘I care only that this strange boy should prove able to do what I hope - what even I myself have never been able to accomplish - now that his true test begins’.

Only a few short weeks ago, Marita, Jam and Bux found Nate at his worst. From the very brink of death, they nursed him back to health without any questions. Now, at Empire State Hospital, in a darkened room, that is what he appreciated the most, probably, freedom from the burden of answers, just connections without expectations. Nate sits on the edge of Jam’s hospital bed, while Marita stands nearby and Bux sits in a chair, chanting quietly to herself, searching for rays of hope in the light of her crystals and incense. She finds it often - but not always. Marita is never quiet for long - until now. ‘Barely got to know you yet, girl’ Nate tells Jam as he reaches out and touches her, hospital equipment beeping continuously in the background.

‘Just seen pieces of you so far, I guess, through your music - the songs you were belting out at the Limelight the other night - that pounding baseline you were pumping out. But now... it feels like we’ve all lost something here’ Nate remarks. Marita announces that Jam has lost an arm - her left arm from the elbow down, and that the doctor can’t tell when, or if, she will come out of this coma, or even if Jam can hear them right now. ‘She’ll never play bass again, that much they can say for sure’ Marita adds. Bux continues to chant, while Marita tells her that all the “chakra self-actualization” in the world won’t change that. Nate agrees, but doesn’t tell Bux, and thinks that bio-organic reconstruction is major and beyond even his abilities. Even if he had the medical skills and experience, it would require a surgeon’s working knowledge of human anatomy, but he doesn’t even have the actual arm itself, so there is nothing left to reattach.

Nate wonders if there is something he could have done to prevent this nightmare - could he have been there for Jam before it was too late somehow, someway - if he wasn’t off hanging in the park, indulging in a little head-trip of his own? He asks himself if in responding to the needs of strangers was just his way of avoiding his responsibility to those around him now - if all this newfound guilt he is feeling has anything to do with that broader sense of responsibility his buddy, Peter Parker, keeps talking about. ‘I’ll do what I can now, what I do best’ Nate tells himself. He dives straight into Jam’s sleeping mind to rouse her with a telepathic nudge - but realizes that her mind isn’t asleep, it is simply “off”.

Suddenly, the door to Jam’s room slams open, ‘Jasmine Archer. Motorcycle accident, trauma to the left arm and head…’ a nurse announces. A doctor in a wheelchair thanks the nurse and points out that, as it happens, he was the attending physician on duty in emergency when Ms Archer was admitted. The doctor announces that everyone else will have to leave until afternoon visiting hours begin, but that if they would care to wait out in the hall until after he examines his patient, he will be happy to answer any questions they might have. The doctor puts a hand on Nate’s shoulder as Nate replies ‘Thatwon’t be necessary, Doctor - Arlington, is it? We’re not about to…’ he begins telepathically, but Marita ushers Nate out of the room, stating that they are not about to do anything that is not in Jam’s best interest right now, and adds that this will give the three of them a chance to chat privately. “Jasmine Archer? Jasmine?” Bux remarks, surprised.

The nurse checks Jam’s stats and announces that her blood pressure is stabilizing and there is no change in her EEG. She adds that they are showing a spike in electrolyte activity a short while back, to which the doctor states that is a reaction to his prescription and fully expected. The doctor warns the nurse not to get her hopes up yet and remarks ‘Interesting company she keeps, though, wouldn’t you say?’ ‘If you say so, Dr Arlington. I tried not to notice’ the nurse replies matter-of-factly. ‘Well, if you don’t mind me saying so… you might want to stop by the lab before heading home, Laura - have them run a few tests on your own blood-oxygen levels - just something about your pallor, I think, something…’ Arlington suggests to the nurse, before he notices something under Jam’s sheet, where her arm would be. Arlington lifts the sheet up, and gets a very big shock when he sees that Jam’s arm is back.

Dusk, the rare purple Rolls-Royce is home, about to be housed in its even rarer private garage at one very unique estate on Long Island. Its owner is in for the night as well, even though he would not call it home. In an office, or library, a man stands beside the fireplace, flames flickering in the darkened room. ‘Everything. Everything I ever thought I could want is here at my fingertips, mine for the asking’ he thinks to himself. ‘Literally. Everything I ever thought I could want’. He tells himself that so much has changed, though since he first came to this country as a spy for the Soviet Bloc, he has changed so much, learned so much, seen his own power put to far greater use than he would have dared imagine himself, certainly. ‘And my beloved Yugoslavia runs red with its own blood. Civil war tears at the lush and generous land, threatening elegant Dionysian ruins that survived nature’s worst for centuries’.

He continues, ‘Pitting cousin against cousin, turning farmers and fathers into grave-diggers - making mourners of mothers…’ he looks at a photograph in a frame above the fire place and picks it up. A woman and a young girl are smiling in the photo, ‘Melanie, beautiful Melanie… and sweet Kara - the dangers I exposed them both to when I crawled back out of the grave in some kind of delusional state after…’ he thinks to himself. Suddenly, the nurse from the hospital enters, ‘Zachariah’ she calls out to him, before apologizing, adding that she thinks he wanted him to stop by. Zachariah addresses her as Nurse Lanning and tells her that she is a more than welcome interruption. He adds that he can hardly wait to hear all about her first day at the hospital.

He opens a bottle of wine, ‘But first… a toast’ he tells her. Nurse Lanning looks to the ground, ‘But… I can’t drink. Ever’ she tells him, explaining that she has been in Alcoholics Anonymous for six years now, “one day at a time” and all. ‘But it’s working for me so far - and I really don’t want one slip to…’ she explains. ‘An exception, Laura… I fear I must… insist’ Zachariah tells her, his eyes glowing purple in the shadows of the room as he hands her a glass of wine. ‘To reunions!’ the mysterious man calls out as he and Laura clink their wine glasses together. A downcast Laura appears to have a purplish hue to her skin as she sips the wine, ‘A full, supple, vintage - subtle, yet powerful in its way - wouldn’t you agree my dear?’ Zachariah asks.

Back at Empire State Hospital, Dr Arlington sits in his wheelchair, and thinks that he can see the headlines now: “Dr Marcus Arlington III, miracle witness or faith healer?” and decides ‘No thank you… I’m nowhere near ready for that kind of career crash-and-burn just yet!’, adding that he is not quite sure what to do yet, or who to tell about - he doesn’t even know what to call it yet. Arlington tells himself that he best just finish his rounds and use the time to pull his thoughts together, try and figure out how it is physically feasible for the Archer girl to have regenerated her arm like that, how she could just grow it back out of thin air. He wheels himself down to the next ward, a gunshot victim, Matthew T Barker, who took a bullet in the upper chest just a few hours ago, apparently defending his wife and daughter from a street mugger.

Arlington knows that surgery was touch and go and the prognosis isn’t exactly positive. Arlington checks the patient’s bandages, ‘Impossible as it all seems, I just can’t deny what I saw back there with my own eyes’ he tells himself, deciding that he has to explore the possibility, at least, that Jasmine Archer’s latest condition is the result of some mutation. He realizes that he also has to consider the possibility of influence of those friends of hers, particularly that intense Grey kid who is such a big hit downtown. Suddenly, Arlington retracts his hand, ‘OW!’ he calls out, feeling some kind of heat from the bandages. He goes wide-eyed in shock as he sees the patient’s chest is healed - the wound is gone.

Down the hall, past the elevators, third door to the left, right outside the room of Jam, Nate hovers in the night air, he can’t sleep. He decides that Peter and his old lady have probably been down and out for hours already, so that door is closed to him for the night. Nate decides that Mary Jane is all right, for a wife, but he is not about to push Petey’s luck for a midnight chat - not at four AM. He supposes that the hospital “visiting hours” are long over, but ie doesn’t matter, as a psi-scan of Jam’s room reveals no more of what he found earlier. Nate wishes that he understood enough about the physiology of the brain to know where to being looking for a mind that just isn’t there now, and supposes that he really should, considering the nature of his powers and all - but he doesn’t, not yet.

Suddenly, the monitor in Jam’s room starts beeping frantically, while Nate decides that there is something else he needs to do in the meantime - something that has already waited too long - someplace that needs checking uptown in the Bronx.

Minutes later, Nate flies away from a cemetery, specifically the grave of Judith Jacobs and tells himself that there is nothing here now, that this cemetery, St Raymond’s, is where he picked up Madelyne Pryor’s trail when she showed up out of nowhere a few months back, throwing around all his powers and then some, looking for him with a vengeance. This is also where he lost Threnody’s trail - at her mother’s grave. Hovering high above the city, Nate realizes that he only made that connection recently, when he was talking to Jam and the girls at the club the other night. ‘And Jam’s condition now, how quickly the situation changed for her - how quickly everything changed - just makes me want to act all that much more, all that much faster’ Nate realizes. He tells himself that he has to find Threnody once and for all, see for sure if there is really nothing let between them.

Nate drops down to Washington Square Park, deciding that the best place to start is here, for Threnody could have appeared here anytime in the last few weeks while he has been out of circulation. ‘For all I know, she might even be looking for me’ he realizes. Nate hopes that his little “fan club” has gone home for the night though, not that he didn’t enjoy the attention this morning, probably even more than he should admit, but that he is looking to talk to the regulars now, the vendors and park-rats that are here all the time, and the last thing he needs is for twenty-five or thirty autograph-hounds running after him. Suddenly, out of the bushes, ‘Hang on, Grey - wait up!’ a voice calls out. Nate turns around and sees the boy called Roust. ‘This is a pleasant surprise, short stuff’ Nate tells his young friend.

Nate admits that he figured he had seen the last of Roust when he put Jack Knife down for the count, pretty much eliminating the threat to Roust and his favorite tunnels, even if he had to flash-fry a man’s brain to do it. ‘See, that’s the thing, see…before he ever came upground in the first place, Jack killed so many of the Forgotten - not just my brother ya know - and I was thinking, Natey, after I heard about yer miracle at the hospital and all…’ Roust begins. ‘Miracle? What are you talking about Roust? Where’d you hear such a ridiculous -’ Nate begins to ask, before realizing that it must have been Marita and Bux. As a telepath, young Nate senses the answer long before he hears it from Roust, and he “feels” what lies just around the corner well before he faces it - and he is still not prepared. Not by a long shot.

Camera lights flash as people chant his name, smile and wave at him. Marita, Jam, Bux and Dr Arlington stand at the center of the crowd, smiling. ‘Advice on a car’ someone asks. ‘Small loan, just to start’ another calls out. ‘Ex-girlfriend’s old boyfriend’ someone else shouts, are among the many questions and comments thrown his way. A reporter introduces herself and asks Mr Grey if he has any wise words for their home audience. ‘Um…’ a wide-eyed Nate responds, before asking ‘Is that thing on?’

At the same time, The mysterious Zachariah sits on the bed in his room, while Nurse Laura can be seen in the shower. ‘Perfect’ Zachariah thinks to himself as he watches Nate on the television. ‘By this time tomorrow I will know if the boy’s very real charm - his unconscious…involvement in the emotions around him - is also “media friendly”. If so, if it proves not to rely on some kind of physical proximity - limited by pheromone-range for instance, like my own powers of persuasion, I’ll be able to use this Nate Grey in a way that Doom himself never even thought to use me’. Zachariah adds that without resorting to the boost of that tin-soldier’s “psycho-prism”, his sphere of influence will once again include the entire world - Melanie, Kara, his country, he will finally have everything he could ever want. The man steps into the light, his skin is purple. For the first time in a long time, this man, Zachariah Killgrave, this Purple Man, smiles a purple smile….

Characters Involved: 


Bux, Jam & Marita


Purple Man

Doctor Marcus Arlington III

Nurse Laura Lanning


Taxi driver


Matthew T Barker


In Photograph:

Melanie Killgrave

Kara Killgrave

Story Notes: 

Nate fought and defeated Jack Knife in X-Man #32-33.

Marita, Jam and Bux found Nate at the end of X-Man #29.

The Purple Man was believed to have been killed in Marvel Graphic Novel: Emperor Doom. His body was reanimated by the Dreamqueen in Alpha Flight (1st series) #62, but seemingly destroyed again in the same issue.

The Purple Man was revealed to have fathered a daughter, Kara, to Melanie, whom he mentally forced into marriage, in Alpha Flight (1st series) #41. Kara would later grow up to become Beta Flight’s Purple Girl, later Persuasion, and later still, an enemy of Alpha Flight, calling herself “Purple Woman”.

Nate encountered Madelyne Pryor in X-Man #25, and Madelyne was last seen in #29.

Although he is called Zachariah throughout this issue, the Purple Man’s real name is Zebediah Killgrave.

Issue Information: 
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