X-Men (3rd series) #36

Issue Date: 
November 2012
Story Title: 
Human Being 1 of 2

Brian Wood (writer), David Lopez (penciler), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), David Lopez (cover), Jennifer M. Smith (assistant editor), Jeanine Schaeffer (editor), Nick Lowe (group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

It’s a mystery whether the proto-mutant situation is ended so Storm still has Sabra using her assets to find any lasting traces of the lost generation of mutants. When Sabra gets a hit at the JFK International airport she detains the proto, a perfectly human-looking male. When Storm’s team arrives they “interrogate” him, Gabriel Shepherd, trying to determine if he was involved with David Michael Gray. After deeming him a non-threat, an original proto-mutant who has survived the past 700 years, Storm is satisfied. He is offered a ride on their plane to make up for their interference. While en route to Chicago Shepherd asks who this David Michael Gray is they were asking about earlier. Since nobody will tell him he uses his psychic powers to get the answer from Pixie. After learning the ugly truth he’s furious about not being told of the horrors done to his people. When Colossus tries to keep him in check he gets thrown out the airplane hull for his troubles. Shepherd uses the newly made hole to escape as one of his powers is flight. Storm and Pixie follow soon after, first to rescue Colossus and second to stop Gabriel Shepherd.

Full Summary: 

JFK International Airport, New York City

It appears to be a just regular day at JFK airport, many people walking to and from their gates, most with luggage dragging behind them or hung over their shoulder. All of this is being closely monitored by Mossad agent and X-ally, Sabra. She’s in a control room pouring over monitors alongside some U.S. Homeland Security when she finally spots the man she’s been looking for.
The biometrics identified him when he came through customs, much to Sabra’s delight. She tells the tech sitting beside her to run his entire history, every move he’s made over the past six months, before he gets on any plane. The man in glasses asks if she minds filling him in on what the deal is, but Sabra does mind and tells him to contact major-general Ibrahim Zaid of the Mossad and tell him he’s inhibiting agent Ruth Bat-Seraph’s investigation if he’s got a problem with it.
Everyone in the room seems nervous about making that call and the man with the glasses says it won’t be a problem. He estimates it’ll take about 20 minutes. Thank you, Sabra responds angrily before exiting the room, slamming the door behind her. “Amateurs,” she complains, just loud enough for them to hear.
Like a bloodhound with a trail Sabra heads off toward the mystery man’s gate. She shows her ID and is waived through security. Once she arrives she begins scanning the area until her eyes lock onto him. She spies him sitting in the middle of a long row of chairs reading a newspaper.
Pressing the button on her ear transmitter Sabra asks how the information is coming. She also requests his flight being delayed for 30 minutes or so, but tells them not to make it obvious. Sabra then ducks behind a wall and gets out her phone. She marvels out loud at his good looks before punching in the number for Storm.
When the call connects she turns back, but finds the man no longer sitting there. Then, just as suddenly, he reappears right in front of her. Sabra drops the phone and draws her weapon. Standing their stoically, a gun now pointed at his neck, the man resigns to the fact that he’s finally been discovered and then asks her if they are alone in this world or are there others.
JFK, private field

The X-Jet is docked on a private runway. Domino is the X-Man tasked with staying with the plane, but that doesn’t stop her from flirting with one of the security guards down near the base of the plane. Sabra, who’s a bit further from the plane, yells at Domino to keep it in her pants. When Sabra is asked what she has against Dom finding happiness, Sabra responds, “Everything” and then tells Domino she’s seen better come-ons in wildlife programs.
Turning toward the HMMWV she’s standing beside, Sabra slides a tablet PC through the open window, handing it off to Storm. It contains the files the X-leader requested and she thanks Sabra for the help.
“Files?” the mystery man sitting between Colossus and Psylocke asks. Rather rudely, Storm tells him they’ll be asking the questions. As the situation is getting tense Colossus interjects saying it’s not an interrogation, but they do have a few questions. The first one comes from Storm and she asks if he knows the name David Michael Gray.
The man has no idea who that is and questions if he should. Psylocke verifies he’s not lying, saying he’s cool. A smile breaks out on the man’s face. He seems to take a liking to Psylocke calling him “cool” and says he’s enjoying the interrogation so far.
Storm promises that it’s no interrogation. As she reads the files she notes his name is Gabriel Shepherd. She asks Mr. Shepherd if he knows why they wanted to talk to him. He is correct in assuming it has to do with the difference in his genetic makeup from what constitutes a normal human. Storm says she’s glad they’re both on the same page about that, the only thing that bothers her was he was not known to them.
“I should hope not,” Shepherd replies. He goes on to explain how he does his best to stay hidden in plain sight. His life, as he calls it, is unremarkable. He’s not even sure how that female agent was able to identify him. He guesses biometrics, which is correct, but nobody in the vehicle confirms it. Then, abruptly, he asks again who this David Michael Gray is.
Storm assures Shepherd that Gray is nobody he needs to be concerned about. Gabriel doesn’t see it that way. He points out they led with that question. Storm cuts him off saying that Gray is irrelevant to their conversation. Mr. Shepherd relents and Storm continues with the question barrage.
“…do you know who we are?” Shepherd assumes they’re homeland security, but figures they’re mutants with some official status. He asks if he has guessed correctly and Psylocke says he’s wrong. They have friends in useful places is how she puts it.
Then the verbal conversation stops. Psylocke connects with Storm and asks what they should do with the guy. As far as Betsy’s concerned he’s the real deal, not one of Gray’s lab rats. She can barely get a read off the guy he’s got so many psychic walls up, but thinks he’s hiding something. Psylocke believes he’s an original proto-mutant.
This leads to Storm’s next question, when was Gabriel born, or more specifically, in what century. The smile on Shepherd’s face grows broader. He doesn’t answer her, but explains that’s his reason for keeping to himself and not raising any flags. Storm assures him they won’t tell anyone about him and are glad to have met him. Then, satisfied he’s no pawn of Gray’s, she offers to fly him to wherever he was headed.
They all exit the Hummer, their new destination being Chicago. As they walk toward their jet Storm hangs back to speak with Sabra. She hands the tablet back over and says there’s nothing substantial there. Sabra explains there’s nothing on him anywhere. Storm tells her to keep looking as a guy who is 700 years old has to have some history, somewhere. Sabra tells her once they get to Chicago he’s going to go back into hiding, and there’s probably another psycho out there who will find some way to exploit him. Storm assures her that’s not going to happen. “He doesn’t realize how important he is to us,” she finishes.

Most of the team is relaxing in the hangar, including Gabriel who is reading the newspaper, his briefcase off to the side on the floor. Pixie gets up from her seat and joins Domino in the cockpit. She hops into the co-pilot seat and the two girls begin gossiping about their new passenger.
Domino seems creeped out by him. She likens him to a guy you’d see in a horror movie that ends up wearing people’s skins. Pixie ignores Dom’s comments and wonders aloud what Shepherd’s powers might be. Domino says he doesn’t look like a monster like the other protos and guesses his power might be a complete and utter lack of charisma.
“Stop joking,” Pixie responds, and then scolds Domino for referring to the proto-mutants as monsters. She says Ister wasn’t a monster. Besides, she adds, since when are they the judging type. Seemingly tired of messing with Pixie, Domino suggests she does the most logical thing and go talk to him.
That makes complete sense so Pixie leaves the cockpit, passing Storm as she heads to the comms room. As Megan nears the steps to the hangar she finds Shepherd looking at her. He says hello and tells her how beautiful her wings are. She thanks him and takes the open seat to his right.
Getting right to the point Gabriel says he heard the conversation from the cockpit. Pixie is surprised, but Gabriel says it’s one aspect of his powers. Since she was interested in what he could do he goes on to tell her he is immortal, or maybe just ages slowly, stronger than most and is able to fly.
Pixie’s right hand creeps up to her mouth. She can’t believe it, Gabriel looks so normal. She apologizes for using that word. Mr. Shepherd isn’t offended as he admits trying to look normal is a constant effort on his part. He then states his admiration for mutants, though admits he doesn’t pay much attention to them as he lives a very, very solitary lifestyle.
This doesn’t compute with Pixie. She asks about his traveling. Shepherd says he’s playing his role as a boring businessman, visiting a few cities from time to time. “Mr. Shepherd--,” Pixie begins, but is told to call him Gabriel. You’re a mutant too, Pixie states, still confounded that he has no idea about mutants.
Gabriel denies this, saying he’s not exactly like them. Maybe not, Pixie agrees, but says he’s one of them and welcomes him to the club. Feeling that kindred spirit Gabriel tries once again to get the answer he wanted back during his initial “interrogation.” He wants to know who David Michael Gray is.
This catches Pixie off guard. “Oh,” she responds as her eyes dart off to the side. Gabriel leans in closer. He says nobody will tell him and he feels like it’s something important, something he should know. Pixie’s not sure if she should say anything, but it appears Gabriel is tired of being left in the dark.
As Gabriel reaches his hand forward his eyes begin to glow. He touches her lap and asks again. Pixie’s eyes light up in response and a wave of psychic energy coalesces around Gabriel, but nobody else seems to notice.
comms room

Ororo is seated at the videoconference desk and is connected to Scott Summers. Scott is surprised to hear from her and asks about her trip to Chicago. Storm asks if he spoke with Sabra, surprised he knows her itinerary, but Cyclops tells her he chipped her plane and is looking at a GPS signal of where she and her ten million-dollar plane are.
Before Storm can comment on his spying, Cyclops asks what they’re up to. Storm thinks he’d be tired of asking that question by now, but he assures her he’s not. Ororo defends her actions surrounding this whole debacle by telling Scott she did what she thought would be in the best interests of everyone.
And some grad student groupie friend of yours would, Scott bites back. Storm can’t believe he’s found Hunter. Scott says she’s safe, but surprisingly empty-handed. Ororo can’t help but smile. She tells Cyclops she’s tried to see it from his point of view and share what she felt she could, and then he interjects, saying they’re at an impasse.
Agreeing, Storm says she hopes Cyclops can continue to trust her, that she would never do anything to betray their kind. Scott says that’s not good enough and ends the transmission. It’s obvious Scott’s abrupt sign off bothers her. Storm wearily closes the lid on the laptop and begins reflecting on the terse conversation. Seconds later, she hears a loud Crash coming from the hangar, followed by the screaming of her name.
Racing toward the passenger area Storm finds Shepherd surrounded by her X-Men. He has ripped his chair from its bolted base and now holds it in his hands like a weapon. “Shepherd,” Storm calls out, and he turns, sneering at her. He accuses her of never planning to tell him what David Michael Gray did to his family, turning them into monsters only to kill them again.
Colossus holds up his hands in a calm matter and tells him to relax. Gabriel responds by smashing his chair into Colossus’ face. Then he turns to Psylocke and orders her out of his head.
Storm steels her way down the steps and toward Shepherd in those few moments of distraction. He holds up his hand for her to keep her distance and then questions if this is what humans do to mutants, if this is what the world is capable of. He says he hid himself for a reason and they had no business searching for him.
“Shepherd,” Storm tries again in a very composed manner. His reaction is anything but calm as his eyes begin to glow and he rips his button down shirt open. “That is not my name!” he declares.
Making his second attempt at defusing the situation, this time not as courteous, Colossus tells him to stand down. It’s not a chair to the face that Colossus receives this time. Instead, Piotr is thrown through the wall of the jet, into the outside world. Shepherd uses the gaping hole in the hull of the plane to make his escape, warning Storm to leave him alone.
Storm rapidly belts out a series of orders. Domino is told to land the plane, Psylocke is told to contact Sabra and Pixie is told to grab ahold of her. She wants Megan to follow Shepherd. Pixie disagrees with that and tells her they’re going after Piotr first. Storm doesn’t argue and out the hull they go, dive-bombing after their plummeting teammate.

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Domino, Pixie, Psylocke, Storm (all X-Men)

Gabriel Shepherd
via monitor


Story Notes: 

Two story arcs ago, David Michael Gray was using newly discovered proto-mutant DNA to recreate living mutant weapons. When his compound was discovered by the X-Men he killed himself and seemingly all of his test subjects.
Ister was one of the proto-mutants who was rescued by the X-Men. He became a short-lived friend of the team, but was killed with a push of a button by Dr. Gray. [X-Men (3rd series) #32]
Storm’s groupie friend is Dr. Hunter. Instead of trusting Cyclops with the proto-mutant DNA, Storm believed Dr. Hunter’s independent research group, one that has no personal stake in the discovery of the older mutant species, and no government ties, was a safer route for analysis of the specimen. She was introduced in X-Men (3rd series) #30.

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