New X-Men (2nd series) #23
unnamed mother, unnamed father,
X-Men, Wakandan Royal Court
• "Extreme strength" derived from mass-shifting
ability, increasing his height and musculature
temporarily in order to gain superhuman strength
and resistance to all manner of physical injury
• Physiology unable to cope with the stress
of his changes, risking his health each time
he uses his strength; Wakandan Vibranium
tattoos bonded to his flesh to draw off excess kinetic energy and
help mitigate the strain of his powers
Even before his mutant powers manifested, Nezhno Abidemi lived the life of an outcast. The offspring of a Russian traveler and a Wakandan woman, Nezhno was disowned by his mother and shunned by Wakandan society due to his mixed heritage. Nezhno grew up as a ward of the royal court and although he was shown kindness by King T’Challa, lived a very lonely life that only became more isolated when his mutant powers manifested.
Nezhno’s mutant gifts, which included superhuman strength, increasable size, and enhanced durability, came with a terrible cost. Nezhno lost all sense of touch and whenever he utilized his abilities, the strain on his body resulted in spasms and seizures. Wakandan doctors used the ancient technique of applying raw melted vibranium to the body to alleviate these side effects. The process worked but while the vibranium gave Nezhno greater control of his strength, it also permanently bonded with Nezhno’s muscles and his entire body was now covered with bright, silver vibranium tattoos.
A blessing in Nezhno’s life finally came in the form of Storm of the X-Men. Having begun a relationship with Black Panther, Storm was not only a fellow mutant but also a fellow outsider in Wakanda and quickly took notice of Nezhno. She convinced T’Challa to send Nezhno to the X-Men so they could teach him to use his mutant powers. With Storm as his sponsor, Nezhno left Wakanda to live as a student at the Xavier Institute where he took up the codename Gentle. Although he was assigned to Storm’s training squad, Storm was now spending most of her time back in Wakanda and Nezhno struggled to fit in with the more rowdy and drama-ridden X-Men student body. Instead, Nezhno preferred to keep to himself and spent most of his days mediating in order to keep his powers at bay. [X-Men: Divided We Stand #1, X-Men: Worlds Apart #1]
Nezhno’s life of solitude came to an abrupt end when M-Day occurred and robbed the majority of mutants of their powers. One of the few mutants left, Gentle was now part of a student body that consisted of a mere twenty seven students and it became increasingly difficult for him to steer clear of the chaos that erupted at the school. Although Emma Frost was kind enough to exclude Gentle from training exercises due to the harmful effects of his powers, his peers had a newfound interest in him, interrupting his mediation sessions and trying to unravel the mystery that surrounded him. Nezhno continued to push others away, leaving his powers and tattoos a secret to most. He also revealed little about his heritage and most of his fellow students only learned he was from Wakanda when he left to attend Storm and Black Panther’s wedding. [X-Men: Divided We Stand #1, New X-Men (2nd series) #23, 29]
Although it was inevitable that Nezhno was now going to be embroiled in the X-Men’s many conflicts, he couldn’t imagine his introduction would be a literal trip to hell. In an effort to find a recently resurrected Illyana Rasputin, Belasco dragged the entire student body to the demonic dimension of Limbo. While most of the students were imprisoned at Belasco’s castle and tortured for Magik’s whereabouts, Gentle found himself stranded in another part of Limbo with a smaller group. Attacked by hordes of demons, Gentle tried his best to refrain from fighting. It wasn’t until they were confronted by Darkchild, the soulless version of Illyana Rasputin, that Gentle powered up for the first time in front of his teammates to defend Pixie. Growing in size and strength, Gentle easily swatted away Illyana’s pet demon, N’Astirh. Unfortunately, Gentle’s body couldn’t handle the strain and he collapsed in agony. Despite his injuries, Nezhno managed to recover enough to participate in the final battle against Belasco’s forces before Magik teleported all the students back to Earth. [New X-Men (2nd series) #37-41]
Upon their return, many students were sent to the infirmary for their injuries to be addressed and monitored. After being pestered by Pixie about why he never uses his powers, Gentle opened up for the first time and explained to her that his powers were killing him. He also stepped in to correct Pixie’s ignorant remarks regarding Dust’s choice of wardrobe. Being from Afghanistan, Dust was also dealing with the cultural differences that came with moving to America and was grateful to have someone that understood her. [New X-Men (2nd series) #42]
Since M-Day, the school had become a prime target for mutant hate groups and the Office of National Emergency had placed a squad of Sentinels on the grounds to protect what remained of mutantkind. When the first mutant since M-Day was born, the X-Men found themselves at war with various factions, such as Sinister’s Maruaders and the Purifiers, over the fate of the baby. With the X-Men spread far and thin, the traitorous Bishop (who had his own plans for the mutant baby) secretly infected the O.N.E. Sentinel Squad pilots with nano Sentinels and turned them against the school. Gentle was one of the few mutants still at the mansion to defend it and joined the fray, single-handedly knocking back a Sentinel. Worried about the toll it would take on his body, Cyclops urged Gentle to stay back but the young Wakandan fought bravely until one of the Sentinels took him out of the fight.
Back in the crowded infirmary, Gentle was once again drawn into the conflict when a rogue Predator X came to prey on the weak and injured mutants. Pixie eventually teleported everyone to Muir Island where Gentle participated in the final battle to determine the mutant baby’s fate. In the end, the mutant baby was sent to the future with Cable for protection but with Professor X seemingly killed by Bishop and much of the mansion destroyed, a disheartened Cyclops disbanded the X-Men and closed the school. [Messiah Complex crossover]
Nezhno was sent back to Wakanda and despite being escorted by the queen herself, received a cold reception by the Wakandan people. His doctors, who were under the impression that the X-Men were helping Nezhno with his condition, were especially contentious after seeing that, due to using his powers, he was in far worse shape than before. They applied additional vibranium tattoos and hoped for the best. Nezhno returned to his calm and reclusive life, spending his days meditating and reflecting on his time with the X-Men.
One day, a young Wakandan boy named N’Baku approached Nezhno at a cafe. It was the first time someone had spoken to him since he arrived and Nezhno was pleasantly surprised at N’Baku’s friendliness. N’Baku questioned Nezhno about his tattoos and asked why no one spoke to him but before Nezhno could give him a proper answer, his mother frantically called him back to her. As N’Baku sprinted across the street back to his mother, Nezhno jumped in front of the boy and used his tremendous strength to save him from an oncoming semi truck. Despite saving her son’s life, N’Baku’s mother quickly pulled her son away and it was then that Nezhno realized that N’Baku’s mother was none other than his mother as well! Years of separation from Nezhno had not made her any kinder towards him and she coldly rebuffed him, warning him to stay away from N’Baku and herself. While this heartbreaking interaction left Nezhno shaken, he seemed to take some comfort in the knowledge that he had a younger brother who didn’t fear him.
Life as an outsider began to have an effect on Nezhno and he found himself longing for his days at the Xavier Institute for although the students there were a constant annoyance to him, they had accepted him like no one in Wakanda ever had. [X-Men: Divided We Stand #1]
When the psychic entity known as the Shadow King set out for revenge against Storm, he used Nezhno as a pawn. Preying on Nezhno’s resentment of the Wakandan people, the Shadow King took root in his mind and channeled his anger towards B’Chaku, a Wakandan mystic whom the Shadow King feared would be able to detect his presence. Caught on security cameras murdering B’Chaku with his bare hands, Nezhno was immediately imprisoned and Storm was called back to Wakanda.
Nezhno confessed to the crime and told Storm that he must have been consumed with anger over his treatment by the Wakandan people. Nonetheless, Storm refused to believe Gentle was capable of such an act and sensing something sinister was afoot, had him released. The pair didn’t make it far for the Shadow King was now infecting the mind of King T’Challa himself. Denouncing his marriage with Storm and blaming her for corrupting Nezhno, T’Challa pitted the full might of Wakanda against them.
Overcome with guilt, Nezhno surrendered and accepted execution but Storm, having realized that the Shadow King was pulling the strings, fought back and urged her pupil to do the same. Storm eventually swooped Nezhno up and they fled the city together. Storm explained to Gentle that the Shadow King was behind his actions and was not only making a play for Wakanda but was trying to destroy the X-Men as well, all part of an elaborate revenge plan that would force Storm to choose between her role of an X-Man and her duties as Queen. This information was a small comfort to Nezhno who knew that it was his inner darkness that made him an easy target for the Shadow King. When the Dora Milaje, Black Panther’s elite body guards, tracked them down, Nezhno once again refused to fight back. It wasn’t until Storm was on her last legs against the Dora Milaje’s relentless attack that Nezhno finally powered up and helped Storm defeat them. A grateful Storm tried to console Nezhno who was beside himself, convinced that his chances of ever being accepted in Wakanda were now gone.
When the Black Panther, still under the control of the Shadow King, hunted the pair down, Storm engaged him in a fierce battle. She triumphed over her husband and with Nezhno, infiltrated the temple of the panther god, Bast, whom she managed to contact and strike a deal with. With Bast on her side, the Wakandan people rallied to Storm. Undeterred, The Shadow King switched his focus to the X-Men and took over the mind of Cyclops, forcing Nezhno and Storm to race across the globe to the X-Men’s new headquarters in San Francisco. Once there, Gentle once again fell victim to the Shadow King’s influence and lashed out against Storm. Storm ultimately prevailed, tricking the Shadow King into entering her mind only for it to be consumed by Bast who was secretly residing there. The dust settled, the Shadow King was seemingly defeated, Wakanda’s royal couple reconciled, and Nezhno chose to move to San Francisco to be with the X-Men once more. [X-Men: Worlds Apart #1-4]
The X-Men’s early days in San Francisco were filled with acceptance and hope and Nezhno embraced his new home, taking on a more active social life with his peers. Unfortunately, this promising status quo didn’t last and the X-Men found themselves driven out of the city by Norman Osborn and forced to take residence on the floating asteroid known as Utopia. It was there that the X-Men and their students began to act as more of an army than a school and Gentle found himself defending mutant kind on the front lines against threats such as sentinels, vampires, and various mutant-hating factions. At odds with Cyclops’ willingness to use the students as soldiers, Wolverine decided to reopen a school Westchester. Nezhno jumped at the chance for a more stable lifestyle but not all of the students agreed and some chose to stay with Cyclops. When fighting broke out amongst them, it was Gentle who was the voice of reason, encouraging his fellow students to respect each other’s decisions. [X-Men: Schism, X-Men: Regenesis]
Gentle stood by the X-Men through turbulent times such as their war with the Avengers and the Terrigen Mist crisis. Needing a break from the X-Men's constant dramas, Gentle returned to Wakanda and resumed his peaceful lifestyle of secluded meditation. It wasn’t to last as the newly resurrected Jean Grey and her team of X-Men took refuge in the country after being framed for murder. Nezhno kept his distance from the X-Men but when Storm, infected by a mix of nano-sentinels and mind control, was sent to Wakanda to rid it of mutants, he found himself fighting alongside the X-Men once more. Upon realizing she herself was a mutant, Storm tried to kill herself but Gentle shielded his former queen, taking on a massive lightning bolt.
Storm and Gentle both fully recovered and Jean, impressed by Nezhno’s compassion and wanting to help him control his powers, invited him to join her new team of X-Men. Nezhno accepted and now lives in the underwater headquarters of Searebro, working alongside Jean and her team to discover the mastermind behind the nano-sentinels and stop the sudden rise in mutant hate crimes worldwide. [X-Men: Red #1-4]