X-Man #63

Issue Date: 
May 2000
Story Title: 
No Direction Home – part one

Warren Ellis (mastermind & co-writer), Steven grant (co-writer), Ariel Olivetti (artist), Christie Scheele (colorist), Richard Starking & Comicraft (letterers), Jason Liebig (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Special thanks to Tim Bradstreet for X-Man’s Counter-X look

Brief Description: 

An alien monster brutally kills members of a select circle of mutants. One woman witnessing this goes crazy until a vastly changed Nate Grey helps her. He informs her that the creature will kill them all, unless he leads her to the other members of her group, so that he can help. He considers this his job now, as he has become a shaman and they are all his tribe. Helen leads him to the group and, after a brutal fight with a sadistic telekinetic who acts as security Nate introduces himself to the group. Six months earlier on another Earth, the inventor Forge is murdered by orders of the Queen, so that he won’t be able to share his secrets.

Full Summary: 

A parallel Earth. It was done. The Ornithopter, fed by sunlight left no exhaust in the air as cruised towards his destiny. Despite the wars, the intrigues, all the delays, he had triumphed. He wasn’t a vain man. But he knew this day would be commemorated henceforth, until the end of time. And all the world would remember his name.

The ornithopter lands on the top of a tower and Mr. Forge exits, to be greeted by one Mr. Scratch. Scratch remarks that he was expecting an older man and welcomes him to New York.

Forge asks him for one moment before he will accompany him to the engines. He promised himself something. He looks down on New York. To come there is the summation of his life, he tells the other man. He promised himself a few minutes with New York City.

As they ride down an elevator, Scratch remarks that the way they speak about Forge in court he should be 200. The inventions alone that they ascribe to him… How old was he when he completed the interscope? 22, Forge replies. He invented the time lens on his 27th birthday, the spiral cannon before he was 30. And then… the war. He stares at his mechanical right arm.

How did he lose his hand? Scratch ventures. Alsatia, Forge replies. They force-bred genetic sports with cannibalistic traits and set them loose as wardogs. They held him down and made him watch as a French girl with red eyes ate his hand. And Scratch? He refers to the scar in his face. This must be a war wound, for a man of the court to wear so openly in these days of elaborate cosmetic procedures. Not, quite a war wound, Scratch replies. He intercepted a Canadian heretic’s assassination attempt on the Queen. He plunged knives into Scratch’s brain. Men such as they sacrifice much for Queen and Country, he remarks with a smirk as they finally arrive in the bowels of the Earth.

He adds that the injury left him changed, but no less effective in his constant defense of the Queen, nor in the performance of the special tasks she assigns him.

He leads Forge toward an odd train. Forge enthuses that they did it. They made it real! His final machine! His masterpiece. Hs father told him: “Be immortal, be a maker, the greatest of the Queen’s makers. If you cannot be an eagle, you have no place in the sky.” He will never die, so long as he is remembered. This will see him remembered forever!

Will it? Scratch asks slyly. There’s a tradition the Queen is fond of. The architects of the great pyramids were killed and interred with their pharaohs, that they would not communicate their secrets. He begins to brutally hit Forge as he states that this is the nature of his wound. He has brain damage. He exists in an unrelenting state of murderous rage. His strength is that of a homicidal mania. As he tears out Forge’s heart, he adds rather unnecessarily that he no longer understands pity.

Earth 616, Manhattan, six months after:

Idiots! Nate Grey states derisively, levitating a few inches above the ground. His look has changed rather dramatically. Sorting close-cropped hair and a black X-tattoo on the right side of his bare chest, he now only wears a pair of Jeans and a black trench-coat.

Elsewhere, a skyscraper, the office of Beckham technologies. This isn’t working, Beckham exclaims. One of his assistants, a man named Lau, points out that the geothermal deal with Reykjavik has been signed. Not that, Beckham replies angrily. He orders him to get Pope on the phone. To tell him Cox is gone and they need a Sun King’s Circle. He is to tell him exactly that. “Sir?” Lau asks. Wrong answer, he is fired, Beckham replies. He tells him to leave and calls his other assistant, Helen, a pretty African-American woman. Wryly, he congratulates her on being promoted. He gives her the same order.

As they enter the elevator, she inquires what happened to Cox. Hard to say, Beckham muses. Some of them are at his apartment, hunting evidence. He explains that they need to concentrate on getting undercover. The entire group is under attack. They can’t take chances. Why would anyone attack the group? Helen wonders. Beckham warns her to not make him fire her too. She presses the button to take them to the garage.

Beckham begins to cough and asks if she has any vitamin C. His cough quickly grows worse. Finally, he is unable to breathe. Suddenly, another’s voice comes from his throat. What did they expect? it asks. Beckham’s body convulses and rises into the air. That you could walk into our territory, and walk away free? Just like that? You watch us in our prison country and expect us to tolerate your ignorance?

Beckham’s face contorts as another monstrous face begins to push out of his skull. He’s sorry, Beckham exclaims frantically. Sorry? The other voice asks. That makes all the difference in the world, it adds sarcastically. No way out. No escape. No direction home. Beckham’s body literally explodes and a hysterical Helen is alone in he elevator.

Elsewhere, Nate Grey begins to float towards a skyscraper.

A still screaming Helen has arrived at the hospital where the bored staff just sedates with something to calm her. It doesn’t work. Her scream doesn’t stop, until Nate enters, telling her it’s okay. He touches her forehead and she begins to feel better.

Nate explains that he telekinetically moved around some of the chemicals in her brain and shut down a few secretors. She may feel sick, but it beats another injection. He tells her not to talk and introduces himself. He saw the power flow from whatever killed her friend at the elevator. If she could see things the way he does, to him it lit up half of Manhattan.
He wipes away one of her tears as he states that she is part of an organization that is connected to all of this. He knows that, if he doesn’t help them, if she doesn’t take him to them now, they won’t live to see Christmas. He doesn’t know them. What is it to him if they live or die, Helen asks. Six months ago he would have said “zip,” Nate admits. These days it’s kind of his job. With a smile he informs her that he is a shaman. Like it or not, they are his tribe. See?

Not even remotely, Helen admits. Good start, he replies. To be a shaman you need to be comfortable in a world you can’t explain, he explains. You need to trust yourself. Does she trust herself? Will she trust him?

A little later, a cab arrives outside an impressive building. Nate apologizes and tells Helen that she will have to cover the fare. He really doesn’t use money anymore. How does he eat? she demands. He doesn’t, Nate replies simply and asks if they are in there. Helen hesitatingly ventures that they are protecting themselves. It’s a procedure Mr. Beckham ordered… before he died.

Why did they even use the cab she wonders while Nate stares at the building. Did he need that ride? No, Nate explains, but it makes people more comfortable, when he does human things. Why didn’t she question it before? Helen wonders. Because he is dampening the curiosity-ideation-chains tattling around in her forebrain. He’ll be doing things like that now and then. She has taken in a lot in a short time. He doesn’t want her overloading. Helen agrees hesitatingly as they walk up the step and Nate informs her that it would be better for all of them if she didn’t start screaming again.

Inside the building, Nate observes that it’s a tesseract. Bigger on the inside than the outside. Neat trick. An aggressive white-haired man forbids them from entering. Helen ventures that he is Mr. Glass, temple security. She informs Glass that they need to see the group.

He forbids her from entering. She survived a manifestation and might be contaminated or turned. She isn’t, Nate states simply. He appreciates the other man’s position, but… Glass interrupts him, explaining his position. Helen he has known five years and she’s not getting in. Nate he has never seen before. He doesn’t even leave here alive. No shoes, no shirt, no service. Die! He points at Nate and telekinetic energy bursts forth.

The young man isn’t even fazed and admits that he should have scanned Glass. Glass brings him to his knee as he threatens to break every bone in Nate’s body. Is that why they assigned Glass to security? Nate asks. He’s killed 67 people in the last ten years using only his mind. “68!” Glass shouts, as he telekinetically strikes at Nate again. He’d enjoy that, Nate observes. He enjoyed them all. What is he doing? Glass screams as he begins to bleed from his nose and eyes. He is shutting him down, Nate replies. The idea that he shares a species with Glass, makes him want to puke. It’s people like Glass that make him glad he doesn’t have any friends. Bye now.

Nate takes him out and buries him under the rubble. With a gesture, he telekinetically creates an entrance to the room where the rest of the group are standing in a circle using their powers in an odd ritual. Nate demands they listen. He knows they are mutants. He knows they have stirred something up that wants them all dead. His name is Nate Grey and he is there to tell them just how wrong it has all gone.

Characters Involved: 

Nate Grey / X-Man

Beckham, Helen Burnside, Glass, Lau and other members of their group

Unnamed monster that wants them dead

Medical staff

on the other earth

alternate versions of Forge and Scratch

Story Notes: 

As all Counter X titles at the time X-Man jumped ahead six months and left the reader to deal with unexpected changes. Said changes are explained in the second storyarc in issues #67-70. Those issues will also explain the prologue with Scratch and Forge.

The 616 version of Scratch was a throwaway villain from Excalibur (1st series) #100.

Issue Information: 

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