X-Man #36

Issue Date: 
March 1998
Story Title: 
Messiah Complex – part three: Falling Star

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Chriscross (pencils), Bud LaRosa (inker), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Nate Grey has fallen from grace, as the crowds that used to adore him now blame him for the recent bomb explosion. Scanning his friends, he learns that Bux is missing and traces her to a building, where he meets the architect of his recent rise and fall: the Purple Man, who suggests they should work together. Nate refuses and, in the ensuing fight, Nate leans how to escape the other’s pheromones. However, when Nate loses faith in himself, Jam loses her new arm, which had only been a solid projection of Nate’s. The Purple Man flees and nobody remembers him; people only remember Nate as a threat. He considers what to do, when he is visited by a surprising person.

Full Summary: 

Nate’s dream:

Nate Grey has been here before. Many times, truth be told, over and over again. An adoring crowd carries him on their shoulders, chanting his name. Screens in Manhattan show his image. This is the New York City of his dreams.

In reality, Nate has faced off with a monster or two of his own making in these streets. He helped a friend here as well, healing her because she needed him. Most recently he defended thousands of strangers against the unspeakable acts of terrorist violence. Because he could. And they worshipped him for it, all of them.

He tries to thank them but the chanting turn to questioning: “what about me?” Things changed when he made a mistake. Overlooked one deadly dangerous detail about the terrorists he delivered to the authorities. Bombs hidden beneath their skins, hidden even from the fanatical zealots themselves, and all hell broke loose.

Nate tries to get the aggressive crowd away, to flee. But more and more stumble on him dragging him down.


Screaming, Nate wakes up. Immediately, he chides himself. He should know better than to scream in his sleep. Forge taught him that much at least. He looks around. He’s been sleeping under newspapers somewhere on the streets.

He realizes that the explosion at the police station was only days ago. By the time he got there, everything was already chaos… confusion.

He begins to scrounge for food in a dumpster. He didn’t know who to help first, then the accusations started flying. He just didn’t know what to do… again. But he does know how to survive. Hardly an effort in this city with its waste. Perfectly good food thrown away.

He is surprised and gets ready to fight, but it’s only a waiter who suggests he take these morning leftovers, which are fresher. When he gets a look at Nate’s face, he panics and shouts “it’s the terrorist!” Nate stops him with a brain freeze, but it is too late; a crowd has heard them. They begin to recognize him when, a moment later, he vanishes. A woman shouts that she saw him run into an alley and the crowd follows. The woman left alone reveals herself as Nate.

He hides himself by bending light telekinetically and wonders what to do. He heads towards his loft but, outside, a crowd has gathered chanting: “Hey, Grey! Time to pay!”

Nate telepathically checks up ahead first and finds that, of his new companions, Jam is there. Hardly even a scar left to show on the arm she lost in last week’s motor cycle accident, the arm he regenerated together with the Doctor Arlington character. She is playing bass guitar. Her friend, Marita, is watching the news, hoping for some word about Nate.

The runaway boy Roust is pacing, announcing that Arlington has been gone since the explosion. Gone from his job. Quit the hospital the day after the explosion and nobody has seen him since. He mutters that he hasn’t gotten much satisfaction from Grey himself, not about bringing back his brother. And Arlington just wanted to figure out what to do with the power he glitched from Grey somehow that lets him revive the dead.

Marita interjects: Who cares about that? The glow worm-on-wheels was way too much of a preacher type for her liking and don’t get her started on Grey, she’s worried about Bux! Where has she been since yesterday? She’s been acting weirder than usual.

Nate figures he can find Bux. He tries to track her psi signature to the abandoned tenement on 5th where the girls crashed for months. There Bux sits meditating. He’s coming, she announces to and is thanked by someone, who tells her that her expanded awareness, combined with his own ability to bring out the best in those around him, has served him well.

Nate jumps in, shouting that he used her to get at Nate. What kind of monster is he? Zebediah Kilgrave, the Purple Man, he is told. A man he cannot touch; a mutant he will not remember as soon as he is out of sight. And he will be out of sight, as soon as he declares it to be so.

Kilgrave continues he’s had his eyes on Nate since the moment he first made his public appearance in Washington Square Garden. He had such great plans for his rise to power. And they were well on their way to achieving them. Together.

Nate realizes that his friends, his fans, the acceptance… all of that was manipulated. Angrily, he lashes out. Kilgrave replies he just did what he could to help. Bux groans.

And the police station? Nate asks. All those prisoners and reporters who died? A mistake, Kilgrave shrugs. Human error. It was not meant to happen. That is the problem with what they do, using people and all. Sue him!

Nate unleashes power at him again but cannot get a grip on him, mind or body. Instead, his psionics backfire. He realizes that Kilgrave caused the accident that cost Jam her arm. Kilgrave reminds him he replaced that arm with a nudge in the right direction. That moment, the arm disappears and Jam screams. Nate is nothing less than a force of nature. And this maelstrom is a well of that same power. Uncontrolled. Misdirected. But the storm can be harnessed. His energies put to uses he cannot imagine. There are things in the world that can be made right together, broken things that need fixing.

Bux shouts Nate’s name. Kilgrave orders Nate to stop fighting. He cannot touch him, he is all over him. How? Nate asks. Kilgrave doesn’t have the mind to control him. Nowhere near the will or psi-skills necessary to penetrate his mental defenses. Kilgrave agrees. His is a physical talent. Powerful mutant pheromones that catalyze hormonal responses and chemical compliance of others. Long before any involvement on the part of their brains. He can control whomever he chooses. The real question is what is Nate?

He uses his power to insist that Nate uses his own telepath to project his thoughts into Kilgrave’s mind. So he sees Nate’s past. His birth as Sinister’s test object. His youth in the slave pens, his life with Forge’s rebel troupe and his final battle against Holocaust. Death of reality… rebirth. Here alone. Again!

Nate shouts as he breaks contact. Why has he been using him? Kilgrave replies he used him no more than Grey used the city. He is an empathic engine, a living battery of power beyond his control, driven by and in return driving the emotions of those around him. Listen to him, Kilgrave replies. He may have refined his abilities but he cannot control his gifts. He has never been able to turn off his pheromones any more than Nate can suppress his own natural charms. What he says is fact because he says it. Does that make it wrong for him to ask what is right? He shows Nate a photo of a woman and girl. His family, Nate realizes. Some fantasy of getting his wife and daughter back? Maybe some grander delusion of uniting the entire country, the entire world by love. Nate’s force of will…

That’s what this has been about? Love, Kilgrave replies, no more, no less. A man’s love for his family, for his people, is reason enough for any…

Nate grabs him and accuses him of lying. Even to himself. He doesn’t know the first thing about love. It’s about lust ! Lust for power. Nothing more, nothing less!

Nate regains his control with a telekinetic body shield to screen out the pheromones. His body is only defenseless until his mind decides otherwise. He orders the Purple Man to undo it all. What? Kilgrave asks. The dead are dead. And influencing people outside his immediate proximity is something he cannot do. That’s why he needs Grey. And he could never do it on such a broad scale without the momentum they’ve lost. They have both lost here. The damage done is done.

Nate realizes he failed Jam. Her new arm was nothing more than a psionic projection. She is now armless again, being comforted by her friends. As soon as he realized that her accident was all part of Kilgrave’s plan, that he’d just used Jam for his medical “miracle,” Nate’s faith failed and damned them all.

Standing atop a bride, he figures it was sheer luck that no one was killed that morning during the fight. It shocked him to see how many lives they endangered. He lost his concentration for a single moment and the Purple Man was gone. Along with all the witnesses’ memories of him. But he remembers. And New York will never forget Nate now. A failure to be feared. A monster in their midst. He considers taking the next logical step.

Don’t, Grey!” a familiar voice orders him. “Don’t even think about it!”

Characters Involved: 

Nate Grey / X-Man

Bux, Jam, Marita


Spider-Man (off-panel)

Purple Man

Story Notes: 
Issue Information: 
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