The mercenary known as Z was an ordinary inmate whose life was changed forever after he and dozens of other prisoners volunteered for a medical experiment in exchange for a reduced sentence. This experiment was secretly funded by the criminal geneticist Malleus who needed the volunteers to test his "organic nanobots," microscopic robots that theoretically would enhance human DNA. All Malleus asked in return was that the volunteers would occasionally serve him as his superhuman mercenary army, the Man-Melds.[1]

Agreeing to Malleus' terms, the volunteers submitted themselves to the nanobot injections. Most survived the experiment, gaining metahuman abilities and in some cases mutated appearances. Z was apparently in this latter group and from then on wore a full-body suit with a "smiley face" mask.[1]

Still, Z believed he got a great deal from the experiment. He was now free from prison and had steady income as Malleus hired out his services to clients ranging from national governments to organized crime. However, unknown to Z and the other Man-Melds, the nanobots that empowered them had a "failsafe switch" designed to kill them when activated. Malleus installed this switch as insurance against the Man-Melds rebelling against him or being convinced to do by his clients. Fortunately for Z, his loyalty to Malleus meant that the geneticist never activated this device.[1]

Z's most frequent client was Milton St. Cloud, a major figure in New England's criminal underworld.[1] Eventually, St. Cloud expanded his empire into the Midwestern city of Dakota City, where he joined the Coalition, an alliance of that city's most powerful crime families. In recent times, the Coalition invested heavily in Utopia Park, a multibillion dollar futuristic theme park established on Paris Island that would be a huge financial windfall for them.[2] However, construction of the park bred resentment among Paris Island residents, many of whom were evicted from their homes and placed into hastily built projects.[3] Realizing the potential backlash, St. Cloud and rival crimelord Pyre agreed to create a team of superhuman enforcers to protect Utopia Park.[2] To that end, St. Cloud selected Z and cyborg mercenary for hire, Halflife, to join the team dubbed Pyre's Brigade.[3]

Sure enough, on opening day, the superhuman gang called the Blood Syndicate led a crowd of Paris Island residents to the gates of Utopia Park to protest their mistreatment. With two more Man-Melds Cutlery and Lead Balloon as backup, Pyre’s Brigade ordered the Syndicate to leave or die. The Blood Syndicate refused, and the battle was joined.[3]

Reluctant Brigade member Flashback was once part of the Syndicate and begged both sides to end the fight before it escalated. Viewing Flashback as a traitor, Z fired an arrow past her head to remind her whose side she was fighting on. Z was then attacked by Flashback, who fled after Pyre broke up the scuffle.[4]

By this point, the tide of battle began turning against Pyre's Brigade. Filled with rage, Pyre unleashed his full pyrokinetic fury at the Syndicate, not caring that he was putting his teammates in peril. Z and Halflife would have died in the resulting firestorm if Syndicate member DMZ had not flown them to safety. Then, the invulnerable Wise Son of the Syndicate helped calm Pyre down to end his rampage.[4]

Z and Halflife thanked the Blood Syndicate for saving the lives. The gang's leader, Tech-9, responded by firing a bullet into the air. Z and Halflife took the hint and fled from the scene.[4]


Cybernetic Enhancement: Most Man-Melds have metahuman powers of some sort due to the organic nanobots in their bodies, but Z's abilities have yet to be revealed.


Firearms: Z is an excellent marksman.[4]


Like all Man-Melds, the organic nanobots in Z's body are equipped with a failsafe switch that Malleus can activate by remote. When activated, the switch breaks down the nanobots, causing their host to painfully disintegrate in the process.[1]

Hardware has developed a means to deactivate the nanobot failsafe, but it is unknown if Z has taken this "cure."[5]


Z's primary armaments are a pair of wrist-mounted repeating crossbows.[3] Unlike the medieval versions, Z's bows automatically load a fresh quarrel into the slot after the previous quarrel is fired.[4] Also, the quarrel magazine for each crossbow wraps around Z's forearm instead of being mounted on top. These features give Z's repeating crossbows a rate of fire comparable to semi-automatic handguns, making them devastating weapons for their size.[4]

Z also wields a pair of Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistols.[3]

Z carries the ammunition for his weapons in a pair of bandoliers slung over his chest.[3]

Enemy of the Blood Syndicate