X-Factor (1st series) #129

Issue Date: 
December 1996
Story Title: 
Playing with fire

Howard Mackie (story), Jeff Matsuda and Art Thibert (art), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s KF (lettering), Glynis Oliver (coloring), American Color (separations), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (chief) with special thanks to Jaime Mendoza

Brief Description: 

Val Cooper arrives at Fall’s Edge with a bunch of government troops, looking for the mutant X-Factor has been tracking. Forge and Polaris are both furious that they were sent to apprehend their old friend and colleague, Jamie Madrox. Val can’t believe that it was really Jamie they were chasing, and denies all knowledge of this. She adds that she needs to produce him, or the troops will attack. Mystique comes to the rescue, and morphs into Jamie to fool them. Sabretooth notices the deception but, having a hatred for the government, as well as X-Factor, he allows the ruse to continue. Once Mystique is aboard the transporter, she slips her shackles and gives them the slip with ease. Instead of returning to Fall’s Edge, she visits a church where her old friend, Pyro, is hanging out. She has something she wants to do, and requires his assistance. Jamie is at a safe house, being looked after by Wildchild and Shard, who Jamie is infatuated with. When Forge and Polaris show up, he explains to X-Factor how he came to be alive. It was a dupe that had the Legacy Virus, and he knew that, providing he remained separate from that dupe, the other bodies wouldn’t contract it. When the dupe died, he lost much of his memory. He adds that Havok eventually helped him escape government confinement and asked him to join his new outfit, the Brotherhood. Jamie declined and was then chased by X-Factor. Polaris is more interested in Havok’s whereabouts than Jamie’s story. Val Cooper calls Forge and informs him that Mystique has done a runner. They track her to the church, but find she is already gone. They also discover she is ready to assassinate Graydon Creed.

Full Summary: 

(Fall’s Edge)

X-Factor’s Virginia headquarters is hit by a heavy rainstorm, but an equally angry force is entering the compound on foot. Valerie Cooper storms in, and asks Forge just what he thinks he’s doing. Forge is sitting in the shadows, and says it’s a pleasant surprise. He was just sitting there playing dominos and wondering when she’d pay X-Factor a visit. Val tells him it’s not a joke, and asks where they are. He replies that they’re not there. Val is furious. “You were sent to apprehend…” Forge interjects. “You mean hunt.”

Val replies that she didn’t visit him to verbally spar. She just wants the prisoner turning over to her. Forge calmly says that she knew it was Jamie they were hunting. He suddenly smashes the table in a burst of anger, and tells Val that she knew they were sent to hunt down Jamie Madrox! Val realizes just how upset and agitated he has become, and fingers the strap on her gun holster. She asks him to calm down. She insists she doesn’t know what he’s talking about; Jamie is dead - everybody knows that. She suggests they relax and talk about it. “Sure,” replies Forge, and he says Val can start by telling him what the government really has in mind for their ‘mutant militia.’

Forge says that her gun isn’t necessary, but Val isn’t so sure after witnessing his bionic temper tantrum. Her gun then pops out of its holster of its own volition, surprising Val, but she soon notices Polaris who is using her powers to disarm her. “He said… the gun isn’t necessary!” Val asks them to take a step back for a moment. They’re all friends. The people she works for weren’t feeling so kindly after the stunt they pulled last night. She explains that she’s the only one standing between X-Factor and an arrest warrant. She warns Polaris to be careful when she flaunts her powers around her. She’s seen it all before, and she’s been impressed; but for now, they’re making a mistake.

Forge tells Val that she made the mistake when she thought X-Factor would be willing to hunt down mutants; their friends, for the government. And speaking of arrest warrants, he adds, how could she arrest Charles Xavier? He asks whose side she is on. Xavier is a man of peace and she knows that. Jamie was a friend and a valuable member of the team. Val looks surprised. She really didn’t know Jamie was still alive. She mentions an incident she’d almost forgotten about that happened a few months ago in Washington. She almost swore she’d seen Jamie, but when she ran up to him, a car cut her off and he vanished. “My god! It was him,” she gasps.

She figures that, if Jamie is still alive, there must be a logical reason why the government had X-Factor track him down. She rubs her forehead, and adds that Fall’s Edge is surrounded by four squads of government hardcases, who are ready to storm in, guns blazing, if she doesn’t exit with Jamie right now. Outside in the rain, troops prepare to enter, and they look like they’re prepared for a tough fight.

Forge explains that Jamie’s not there. Shard and Wildchild took him somewhere safe. They’re not turning him over until they get some answers. Val wonders what to do about the troops outside. Polaris suggests they bring Sabretooth from the basement and see just how good those shock troops are. Val says he’s already being utilized. A voice from nearby then suggests she may be able to help. Mystique transforms herself into Jamie Madrox. They have a solution.

(a safe house, twenty miles west of Fall’s Edge)

Jamie is being inventive, creating multiple dupes who pile on Wildchild with his blanket. While they have him under wraps, two of the dupes attempt to escape, but Shard is on hand to prevent them from doing so. A blast of energy stops them in their tracks, and she warns that the next one strikes home if they aren’t inside and Kyle is let loose by the time she finishes her sentence. The Jamie’s look at her, intrigued, but compliant. Wildchild is furious, but Jamie isn’t impressed with his show of temper. He reminds Kyle that he was part of X-Factor when he was still wearing his flea collar up in the Yukon… or wherever he comes from. They will escape at some point, eventually, he warns.

Shard assures him that they’re doing this for his protection, but Jamie doesn’t want it. He’s come this far without it. Shard says that she knows what he’s been through, and knows how hard it must be. Jamie glances back at her, and replies, “Really? You know? Tell me, did you ever watch yourself die?” Shard replies, in all honestly, “Yeah… I have.”

(Fall’s Edge)

Forge, Val Cooper and Mystique (disguised as Jamie), appear at the doorway before the waiting troops. Sabretooth is standing there, looking relaxed in his civvies. Forge asks what he’s doing there, and Val tells him that they had her release him in case she met with any resistance. Sabretooth grins, and tells Forge that he guesses he’s the only one the boys in Washington think they can trust. Go figure?

Suddenly, he slides to the left having smelt something unusual. He places his hand against Jamie’s chest and tells him to stop. He sniffs Jamie, and turns to Forge. “Cute, Forge. Very cute.” One of the shock troops asks if there’s a problem. Creed replies that he’s just earning his pay and making sure they’re getting the genuine article… and they’re getting exactly what they deserve. Manacles are snapped onto Jamie’s wrists and he is led away.

Once they’re gone, Val asks Forge to take her to see Jamie. She wants to see him with her own eyes. Forge says that’s not gonna happen. She then asks how much time he thinks Mystique will buy them. Knowing her, he replies, all the time in the world.

The truck carrying Jamie/Mystique motors along the dirt tracks, with an airborne escort as back up. Mystique makes small talk with her two guards, Austin and Tate, as well as their major, before revealing a small device in her mouth. She unleashes it towards the light, which shatters. In the darkness, the major asks his men to report.

Out of the darkness comes Tate. He informs the major that the prisoner used the device to slip his restraints and put them on him. Austin’s down. He asks the major to get him out of the shackles before he gets away. The major presses a star on the shackles and they fall off. Mystique immediately punches his lights out, asking him to make it a challenge next time. She tosses the shackles to the floor and thinks it’s too bad she can’t let Forge know how well his mini-magnetic pulse device worked. She’ll return it next time she gets back to Falls Edge. Right now, she has some personal business to attend to.

(the safe house)

Wildchild and Jamie are playing Super Mario on the N64. Forge asks where he might find Shard and the rest of the Madroxes. Kyle points to the kitchen, so Forge heads there, only to find Shard surrounded by four smitten Madrox dupes. She’s telling them how she came to this time as a hologram, but still has the memories of her life in the future, and even a form of her mutant power. She adds that her big brother, Bishop, is in the X-Men. The Jamie’s think she’s cool. Forge interrupts, and asks Shard if the Jamie’s are ready to talk. They reply yes, but only to Shard.

(Washington D.C.)

Inside the Church of the Sacred Heart, a long-abandoned building now serving a much darker purpose, a door creeks open in the semi-darkness and a female figure stands in the doorway. “I’m here.” Small skulls begin to form from the flickering flames coming from the candles. They build into a huge monstrous form with a nefarious grin and large claws. “Who dares enter my domain?” it booms. Mystique looks up at the creature and says, “Stow it. I’m not impressed.” She looks into a dark recess and tells Pyro that he’s looking pretty good for a dead man.

Pyro, her old compatriot from the Freedom Force days, coughs and splutters as he speaks. He’s wearing a long red robe, and his face is badly scarred. He takes her comment as a compliment, because he feels like he might as well have died back at the other church, instead of faking it. He thinks it’s funny that he’s developed a love of churches so late in life. Maybe he’s finding religion as death stares him in the face.

Mystique asks if he’s up for this. Pyro sure is. The ol’ Legacy Virus has got him down, but not out. He’s ready to make amends for every dog deed done in his black life. He asks her to point him in the right direction. He doesn’t have the strength in him to think about the right and wrong of what they’re about to do. Mystique replies that the plan is the same as it’s always been; it’s just that the time frame has been moved up a bit.

(the safe house)

Meanwhile, Jamie enlightens X-Factor on his recent experiences. Whilst still fawning over Shard, he explains that they should stop thinking of him as individuals. They are all one and the same. At the time of his death, he was in three different bodies. “So who died?” Jamie asks, “The real Jamie Madrox, or one of the duplicates?” One of the dupes sidles up to Shard, and tells her what happened.


He was infected with the legacy Virus a while back and, in an attempt to ‘cure him,’ a powerful mutant named Haven accidentally killed him. But, only the body with the virus was dead. Apparently, he must have known subconsciously that, as long as he stayed split into separate bodies, the virus wouldn’t be able to contaminate the others. The shock of his death caused a memory loss and, for a while, he didn’t know who he was, or even that he had a ‘twin’ running around.

Eventually, he found himself being drawn to Washington D.C., to the townhouse where X-Factor used to hang out. A blonde woman recognized him but, as he didn’t know her, he bolted. He now knows it was Val Cooper. That’s when things started getting a little more complicated.

He was taken in by some government agents. It seemed like a good idea at the time, figuring the government could only have his best interests at heart. They said they knew who he was, and that they were there to protect him. Unfortunately, he discovered that they wanted to train him as some sort of ultimate secret agent, a one-man army who could serve as many.

Around that time, his memory started to return, but the big cheeses decided to keep him away from X-Factor anyway. He was working on a plan to free himself, when a familiar face showed up. He doesn’t know how he found him, but he helped him escape. It was his old buddy, Havok. He was changed, and Jamie knew something was wrong with him, especially when he told him he wanted him to join a new group he was starting called… the Brotherhood.


Jamie continues to say that he declined his offer, and has been waiting for Mr. Ed to show up at the foot of his bed ever since. Alex warned him to be careful, warning him that X-Factor might come after him. He didn’t believe him. He knew the government was tracking him, but to use X-Factor? Suddenly, Polaris decides she has heard enough and uses her magnetic powers to levitate Jamie into the air. She tells him to rewind and go back to the Alex bit, asking where he is now. Jamie replies that he doesn’t know. He ran, they followed, they trumped up some charges against him and then X-Factor was sent after him.

Jamie insists that he doesn’t even want to be there. He doesn’t want their protection and, after he’s seen what they’ve become, he’s not sure he even wants their friendship. His one question is - where’s Guido, and why isn’t he here? Polaris puts her face right up to Jamie’s, and tells him that, if he helps her find Alex, he’ll help Jamie find Strong Guy. Suddenly, Forge’s wrist communicator lights up, and Val Cooper informs him that their little problem child has escaped again. Forge tells her they’re on it.

(a short time later)

Sabretooth and Wildchild kick open the door to the Church of the Sacred Heart. Kyle can smell her scent all over the place, but she’s long gone. Forge tells them that she’s beyond the range of her tracking device. Sabretooth blows some dust off a flyer. It’s one of Graydon Creed’s presidential adverts, and the word ‘Soon!’ is written over his face in red marker pen. Sabretooth says it seems like Mystique has got plans of her own. She’s going after Graydon Creed. Forge tells them that they’re going to stop her; no matter what.

Characters Involved: 

Forge, Mystique, Polaris, Sabretooth, Shard, Wildchild (all X-Factor)

Val Cooper

Government shock troops including Tate and Austin

Jamie Madrox


(in flashback)

Jamie Madrox




Val Cooper

Government agents

Story Notes: 

Val Cooper saw Jamie Madrox in the street back in X-Factor (1st series) #111.

Pyro appeared to die in a church in Uncanny X-Men #338.

Haven accidentally killed Jamie Madrox in X-Factor (1st series) #100.

Issue Information: 
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