Ever since I learned about the existence of this issue of X-Man (1997) and how it featured the return of the most fearsome foe ROM ever faced I knew I'd have to get the full story somehow. Well thanks to ~P~ from Sanctum Sanctorum Comics (see blog role) I now at least have the electronic version of this issue which gave me access to all the clip art I would need to put together a more complete review of this issues story line then I have seen online thus far. I'd like to open things up by mentioning that this issue had a dedication to the original creative team of ROM Spaceknight Bill Mantlo & Sal Buscema. The main character of X-Man is Nathan (Nate) Grey.
Nathan indeed is related to Jean Grey and is also a powerful mutant with telepathic and telekinetic powers. Nathan is haunted by a series of nightmares in which he is trying to protect a young boy form the X-Men who are not at all acting as the heroes they are. One day Nate randomly comes across an article in the paper about an explosion at an orphanage in Clairiton West Virginia which happens to feature a photo of the boy from Nate's dreams and who also happens to be the sole survivor of the blast. Knowing for sure now that something is up Nate travels to Clairiton and learns from the authorities that the boy prior to being sent to the orphanage was found on an empty road in a traumatized state of mind with apparently no identification or memory of how he got there. So next, Nate travels to up state New York where the boy was sent for psychiatric treatment. Once he finds the boy Nate speculates that he must be some sort of mutant and proceeds to find out more by entering the boy's mind which he describes as being "splintered" and seemingly containing duel personalities. At this point in the story the readers are treated to a flash back of the entire back drop story of Hybrid leading all the way up to the last time he was supposedly vanquished by ROM's neutralizer. It turns out that the boy in front of Nate was Hybrid who had again escaped Limbo but did so at the cost of not having been properly reformed in body and mind and so ended up manifesting himself as his Jimmy Marks persona with the Hybrid psyche marginalized in Jimmy's subconscious. The dreams that Nate was experiencing was the Hybrid psyche reaching out to him as a way to lure him to Jimmy. At this point Nate realizes he's made a big mistake by
probing Jimmy's mind as it has made it possible for Hybrid to pull his psyche fully back together and once again Jimmy Marks is replaced in body and soul by the horror known as Hybrid. Hybrid shape shifts into his true self and attacks Nate who quickly finds himself on the defensive against Hybrid's telekinetic and psionic assaults. Nate puts a up a valiant fight but Hybrid eventually gets the upper hand. It looks like Nate is all but doomed when he takes a different strategy to fighting Hybrid by going back into his mind but this time to find the psyche of what remains of the Jimmy Marks's persona. After some probing he finds Jimmy deep within Hybrid's subconscious and makes contact with him. Nate then rescues Jimmy by absorbing his humanity. This has the effect of causing pain and disorientation to Hybrid while adding to Nate's Power and gives him his second wind in a manner of speaking in regards to his battle with Hybrid. On top of this Nate is pissed and now the full realization of Hybrid's evil and the tragedy that was Jimmy Marks causes him to cuts loose with a powerful psi-blast that literally blows Hybrid away. Presumably for good this time. Although in the aftermath Nate speculates that it is plausible that Hybrid could reform his atoms again as he has done before through shear force of will thanks to his inherit mental abilities and unique physiology.
Something of interest in this issue also is that during the fight Hybrid mentions ROM by name which I thought Marvel was unable to do for legal reasons given the licensing issue with Parker Bros./Hasbro. I suppose it's possible the writers wanted to slip that one under the radar for the sake of making this tribute issue more authentic figuring it's hardly likely after all these years since ROM's regular series that Parker Bros./Hasbro is liable to go after Marvel for some minor infraction. For more clip art from this issue go to http://beholdthegeek.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html