Contributed by Mike McDermott
Jake is a transgender man whose birth name is Nita Young, and who is one of a group of people who used the armour and alias of “Trace”.
Nita Young was part of a paid medical research experiment being run by Dr. Seth Forrest that supposedly involved benign calcium treatments for women but which was taken over by Power Broker Inc. The study actually treated the subjects with one of four different formulae designed to cause the women’s children to develop one of four different superhuman powers (strength, metabolism control, energy field manipulation or incendiary power). Nita was already taking hormone replacements for months prior to joining the study, as part of a planned gender reassignment operation, but did not tell the doctors because they needed the money and were afraid they’d be kicked out of the program. Nita did not believe it would be any real problem, since they were told it was just calcium.
A percentage of the subjects started developing the powers themselves, including Nita and their girlfriend Melanie. Nita was the only subject to successfully develop the incendiary power. Some of the other subjects started becoming ill, and after at least seven deaths the project was shut down and everyone involved with it disappeared along with all of the records. Dr. Forrest’s death was faked in a fire set at his home, which was blamed on Nita in an attempt to draw out and capture her so they could determine what was unique about Nita that allowed for fire powers to develop.
Millie Collins and Toni Turner of the Hanover Modelling Agency helped Nita to establish a new male identity as Jake, and helped Jake and Mel to disappear. Jake and Mel joined with other test subjects Emi Ishida and Alicia Guzman to find other victims and investigate and expose the conspiracy. The group would not risk going to the authorities since Power Broker Inc. misled them into believing that Captain America had supported the program and that it was an authorized attempt to revive the super-soldier program. Calling in a favour from a friend, they stole the Trace armour from a private research firm to use as both a weapon and a disguise to help them in their quest.
Hawkeye of the Avengers stumbled into the conspiracy while investigating the death of Alicia’s brother. Although Jake and the others were hesitant to trust him, they agreed on the condition that he not tell any of the other Avengers. They “rescued” Dr. Forrest from Power Broker Inc–but realized that he was lying to them to lure them into a trap. Hawkeye figured out Jake’s previous identity, and came up with a plan for them to take down the Power Broker Inc. operation using Jake’s incendiary powers as their secret weapon.
Jake suited up as Trace and joined Hawkeye while Emi and Alicia allowed Dr. Forrest to lead them into the trap aboard a ship. Once the women had been taken to the hold with the other captured subjects, Hawkeye, Trace and Mel came to the rescue, fighting their way past the doctor’s mercenaries and mutated prisoner experiments. Jake incinerated the formulae to stop the program from continuing. Hawkeye also recovered the only copy of Dr. Forrest’s notes, which Jake and the others intended to use to find any other remaining test subjects before turning over all of their evidence to the police.
Jake possessed the ability to generate and project flame. The Trace armour provided protection from injury, and also was able to increase its size–when the women wore it, the Trace armour expanded to a larger and more masculine size, causing people to assume the person inside was male. It is unclear if the Trace armour possesses any other special abilities, as each person we saw wearing it also possessed their own individual powers.
Although it was never explicitly stated, it was implied that the hormone treatments for gender reassignment were the unique factor that allowed Jake to develop the incendiary powers.
Jake first appeared in Avengers Solo #2 (2012) by Jen Van Meter and Roger Robinson. The Trace armour first appeared and Nita Young was first referenced in Avengers Solo #1 (2012).
All rights reserved Marvel Comics.