SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for X-Men Red #2 by Tom Taylor, Mahmud Asrar, Ive Svorcina and Cory Petit, on sale now.
Jean Grey is back, and is looking to build a mutant nation unlike any other that has been seen before. Instead of being centralized in one (easily attackable) location, Jean Grey wants the mutant nation to exist around the world. Part of that dream involves giving their people a seat at the table at the UN, so they can work together with humans to make the world a better place.
Unfortunately, Cassandra Nova made it look like Jean killed the UK ambassador, so the recently returned mutant has sought political asylum in Wakanda, where she meets the Wakanda mutant Nezhno Abidemi, aka Gentle.
Gentle’s a character who has had a lot of potential for a long time without it being explored fully. His inclusion in X-Men Red will hopefully bring him more to the forefront of Marvel’s mutants, but a lot of people might not know who he is, how he joined the X-Men -- and why his powers put him at the risk of death every time he uses them.
Nezhno Abidemi was first introduced by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Mark Brooks and Paul Pelletier in 2006’s New X-Men #23, set during the Decimation of the mutant population post-House of M. Nezhno was one of the few students at the Xavier School to retain his powers following M-Day, and was often a background character just waiting to have more of his story explored. Later appearances expanded on Neznho’s background; as the son of a Wakandan woman and a Russian man, Nezhno was shunned by many of his fellow Wakandans for his dual heritage and his links to the outside world.
The fact that he was a mutant too didn’t help either. Having inherited the X-Gene from his father. Nezhno has a power set similar somewhat to Strong Guy of X-Factor; he can enhance his physical atrributes to gain great strength and power, but it hurts him as a result. While Guido is able to offset that pain by unleashing it in the form of kinetic energy -- hitting people really hard -- Nezhno isn’t quite that lucky. Every time he uses his powers, he risks seizures and even death as a result.
In an attempt to ease his pain, Nezhno’s body was covered in Vibranium tattoos that absorb much of the stress that comes with using his powers, but he still found himself an outsider among his own people. When Storm married Black Panther and became Queen of Wakanda, she advised her new husband to send Nezhno to America to attend the Xavier school where he could learn to control his powers and be among people like him.
A Gentle Touch
As a student of the Xavier Mansion, he kept to himself and didn’t bother with the adventures and hijinx his fellow classmates often found themselves in, but on some occasions it couldn’t be avoided. He was dragged to hell along with the rest of his class and while there was forced to use his powers in their presence for the first time to save Pixie, allowing his team and his friends a greater understanding of what he goes through on a daily basis. He later returned to Wakanda with Storm to get more tattoos to help him regulate his powers, but while there he was possessed by The Shadow King who used him to kill a soul reader. While he was ultimately vindicated of the crime, he still found himself an outsider in his homeland and returned to America.
This makes his presence in Wakanda in this week’s X-Men Red rather interesting. While he hasn’t joined the team fully, we know that he will from cover art and character design sheets, so we’ll hopefully learn more about what he’s been up to recently. Wakanda itself has undergone many changes recently, transitioning to a constitutional monarchy after an uprising against the royal family, so it’s possible that attitudes have changes towards the once ostracized mutant.
Hopefully the title gets a chance to really dig into who Nezhno is and why he joins an X-Men team despite the deadly nature of his powers, because he has so much potential as a character and could be a real power player for the future of the X-titles.