X-Factor (1st series) #139

Issue Date: 
November 1997
Story Title: 
The enemy within

Howard Mackie (writer), Art Thibert, Whitney MacFarland & Hack Studios (inks), Richard Starkings/Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (chief) with special thanks to Duncan Roleau, the hottest new penciler on the block

Brief Description: 

Agent Vargas visits Mystique (as Mallory Brickman) and puts his concerns forward - that what she’s telling him doesn’t fit with what they know about Sabretooth. His persistence draws the wrath of Senator Brickman, who allows his wife to freshen up. Gloria asks her mother who she is. She doesn’t seem like herself, like she’s playacting. Mystique tries to explain and fobs her daughter off with a disguised story about her past. Later, she asks her husband to find someone other than Agent Vargas to hunt down Sabretooth. She suggests Val Cooper. Before her welcome home party, she visits Dr. Casey, who pulls out a strange tracking device from the base of her neck. She asks him to keep the news quiet and later has him killed so he can’t spill the beans. At the party, Mystique is introduced to Val Cooper, who promises to track down Sabretooth. Mystique visits the ladies room before rejoining her husband. Agent Vargas’ unwanted attentions force her to get her husband to do something about it. Vargas is posted to a remote Arctic station, where he wonders who he ticked off to deserve his fate. Meanwhile, Havok and Ever discover the Dark Beast’s secret laboratory, which shocks Alex. Ever warns him to be patient. They’ll discover McCoy’s secrets in good time, and then take him down by being smarter than he is.

Full Summary: 

(Washington D.C. - outskirts)

Inside the spacious home of Senator Brickman and his wife, Mallory, who is in reality the shape-changing mutant, Mystique, Special Agent Vargas is testing the senator’s patience. He doesn’t think Mallory’s story gels with the F.B.I.’s dossier on Sabretooth. He wishes to start again, but the senator doesn’t like the distinct tone of an interrogation that the conversation is taking.

Mallory’s daughter, Gloria, watches as Vargas tries to pry deeper. His insistence finally causes Mallory to break down in tears, and explain that, on the night of the campaign fundraiser, she was supposed to meet her husband at the Kennedy Center. She decided not to use the driver that night. This was a mistake. One of the tires blew out and she called for roadside assistance. She cannot say what happened next, and covers her face.

Her husband steps in and tells Mallory that she’s had a long day and should freshen up. Mallory disappears upstairs, and the curious Gloria follows, as Brickman, in no uncertain terms, orders Vargas to find Sabretooth or he’ll find himself on a career track to nowhere.

Upstairs, Gloria says she had so many questions to ask her while she was gone; questions she couldn’t ask her father. Mallory tells her she can ask her anything. Gloria replies that it’s just that sometimes she seems like a different person - like she’s somebody else. Mallory reminds her of her friends when they pretend to be other people… playacting. “So, who are you really?” she asks. Mallory looks in the mirror, smoking a cigarette. That’s a question that isn’t easily answered.

She tells Gloria that she knows things have been difficult for her, but mommy never wanted to go away. Sometimes these things can’t be helped. Because she loves her daughter, she explains; she’s going to tell her things she’s never told anyone else. She knows Gloria can keep a secret; like not telling daddy about mommy’s smoking for instance. She knows how he worries. Besides, girls need to have their secrets. It lends a certain mystique to them. She asks Gloria if she can trust her, and is assured by her daughter that she can.

Mystique begins to run through certain periods in her life. She says she’s always found it easier to talk to children than adults. They’re the only ones she’s ever been able to care about; ever been able to be herself with. Right now, there’s a little boy out there, another victim of Sabretooth’s. She worries for him, and it’s for Trevor Chase that she wants Sabretooth found. Her daughter listens to her tale.


Mystique, in her guise of Raven Darkholme, is relaxing with young Trevor at the computer.


She continues to say that she’s drawn to power and influence as a moth is to a candle flame. Before she was lucky enough to meet her father, she traveled the world and did all sorts of jobs. She spent time in the Soviet Union right before the iron curtain fell.


Mystique is in Moscow, carrying out clandestine dealings with a military officer.


She then spent some time in the Big Apple working as a reporter on a newspaper.


Mystique is working at the Daily Bugle, which gives her access to all kinds of information. J. Jonah Jameson and a young Peter Parker are having one of their customary fallings out.


After mommy got what she wanted from those jobs, she bounced from one place to another; from one organization to another.


Mystique is a member of Hydra at a rally and, as a repairman, possibly at Avengers Mansion.


She was always trying to find the answer to the same question Gloria just asked her. Who am I? Sometimes she doesn’t know. Sometimes it seems like each of those people was someone else; someone hiding from the world and from the pain of the live she’s created. But, they were all her. She guesses she is whoever is staring back at her from the mirror. She’s her mom, and she asks if that answers her question. “No… not really,” replies Gloria.

(Washington D.C.)

Valerie Cooper is in her vast office, relaxing with a hot drink and looking out of her window towards the Washington Monument. Now that X-Factor is no longer a sanctioned government operation, she ponders both her own future and that of the world. Her ex-husband, Major Edmond Atkinson, comes to visit and asks if there’s any fallout. Val says there’s not been a thing. It’s as if the whole incident never happened. She doesn’t know if it’s a good thing or not. What it does say is that there are fractious elements within the U.S. government right now, and the best thing she can do is her job.

Edmond asks what her job is, exactly. She replies that X-Factor was only a part-time job. She’s still an operative of the U.S. government with a specialty in mutant affairs. Until X-Factor resurfaces, she’s going to continue working on other things. For starters, she adds, she’ll investigate who killed Graydon Creed, track down his father, Sabretooth, and find out just how Mystique knew about the assassination before it happened. Edmond offers his services if she needs them and Val tells him it’ll be nice to have someone around she can trust.

(New York City)

Beneath the bustling city, where the Morlocks hid from the society that despised them, there exists an even more secluded domain than theirs. Living down there are Havok and his Brotherhood. He is caring for his injured friends. Forge lies in his hi-tech bed and asks Alex what the Brotherhood is all about. He knows him too well to know he’s comfortable in the role he’s created for himself.

Alex says that maybe he doesn’t know him as well as he thought. The Brotherhood serves a purpose. He’s sick of being a government patsy; of being everyone’s patsy. One morning he woke up and realized he really couldn’t trust anyone. It was a realization born out of hard experience. He adds that the government hates mutants. His brother and his X-Men are ineffective as far as he is concerned, so he decided to handle things on his own, especially after what happened with Onslaught. “You just can’t trust anybody.”

Forge raises his concerns over ‘this Black Beast’ and whether he can be trusted. Does Alex even know anything about him, or where he came from? Alex assures Forge he has everything under control. Polaris asks if that’s supposed to make things better, before smashing him in the face with left-handed jab. “Hello, Alex. So nice to see you again,” she adds. Alex accepts that he probably deserved that, and probably a lot more.

He begins to apologize, but Lorna freaks out and blasts at the floor around Alex, asking why he’s sorry. For betraying her love? For almost taking her life? As soon as she’s finished, she looks at the mess she’s made and apologizes herself. She could have killed him. She looks at her hands, and asks what’s happening to her.

(meanwhile, back in Washington)

Mystique, as Mallory, writes invitations out to a party. Ralph asks if she thinks that Gloria is okay. She’s been so distant the past few days. “You know little girls, dear,” she replies, but really she’s thinking of the little secretary of his that he’s been meeting on Friday nights. She stands and joins him at the window, telling him that Gloria’s reached that age when things are confusing. She’s sure things were no better with her being gone. Ralph admits he probably spoiled her a little, but figures she’ll grow out of it. Mystique says that having her mommy around will make things better. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy when they adopted her, but she needs them. She lives to be a mother.

She sidles up behind him and whispers in his ear. She doesn’t think Agent Vargas is up to the job, and makes a suggestion of her own. He tells her he’ll see what he can do. He has to head back to the office and reminds his wife not to forget her appointment with Dr. Casey. He wants her healthy as a horse for her welcoming home party. Mystique watches him leave. ‘I may have to shoot myself,’ she thinks.

Gloria comes in and informs her that she has a visitor. It’s Agent Vargas, and he needs to speak with her some more. Gloria knew she’d want to talk to him. Vargas mentions the whole “It just isn’t Sabretooth’s modus operandi” mantra again, and Gloria grins at her mom, and asks just how she does explain that. Mystique smiles and asks her to run along. She has homework to do.

(the tunnels beneath Manhattan)

Havok is looking for Ever, a member of the Brotherhood. Ever asks him how goes it with his former companions - with Polaris? Alex asks how he knows, and Ever replies that his psionic powers allow him to see things at a distance, amongst other things. Alex asks if they have let him see a way in. Ever replies that it is as they suspected, but asks if he’s sure he’s prepared for what he’s about to see. Alex says that’s why he’s here. Ever proceeds, and points through a gap to McCoy’s secret laboratory. “This is the underbelly of McCoy’s world,” he exclaims.

The room itself is vast. In the center is a huge, ovoid machine, with cables leading to and from it. All around the walls are small metallic eggs. Ever explains that this is the gene pool in which he stirs up his genetic soup. The ingredients are gathered from a thousand victims over dozens of years. This is why Ever first approached Havok. They alone have escaped the yoke of McCoy’s mind control. They alone can put an end to his madness. “There are bodies in them!” says Havok, astonished. “People! Still alive! We’ve got to break them out… now!”

Ever tells him that, if he does, he will be responsible for their deaths. They cannot be released safely, and he asks Alex to control himself. They’ve worked long and hard for the coming moment. They’ve conspired together ever since he was brought back by the Black Beast. He knew Alex would be the one to help these people, and the others who aren’t here. There are too many lives at stake, he adds, for Alex to allow himself the luxury of his pain.

He continues to point out that McCoy trusts in him. He believes in the Brotherhood and will reveal things to Alex. When they uncover his malevolent plot, they can free them all. He assures Alex that McCoy is the only one who can save them. He will not be threatened into doing so. His spies are everywhere; his ears and his eyes - even among those he trusts. Their day will come. Alex asks if they can save any of them now. Perhaps, Ever replies, but they must be discreet.

(Washington D.C.)

Mystique visits Dr. Casey (as Mallory Brickman). He discovers, implanted at the base of her skill, a weird, bug-like device (implanted by Forge). She asks if he’s any idea what it might be, but he doesn’t. However, he has a friend at the F.B.I. Pathology lab named Sculder. This is right up their alley.

Mystique can’t be having that, and she plucks the bug from the doctor’s hand, saying now she remembers why it was implanted into her. She drops it to the floor and smashes it under her foot. “Your kidnapper put that in you?” enquires the doctor. Mystique tells him that he did, but could he spare her husband from the grizzly details. He’s under enough pressure as it is.

(the next day - the Brickman residence)

The welcome home party is in full swing. Mystique searches for Gloria, and finds her chatting with Special Agent Vargas. Something has to be done about this. She asks her daughter to mingle. She can’t have her monopolizing Agent Vargas’ time with the idle fancies of a young girl. Gloria tries to complain, but Mystique wants her to meet with Mr. Stanley of the Westminster School board. It’s very exclusive, so she wants her daughter on her best behavior. “Yes, mother!” she frowns.

Mystique joins her husband, who informs her that he’s found someone well qualified to track down Sabretooth. He introduces her to Val Cooper, who she knows all too well from her former role as X-Factor’s Mystique. Edmond Atkinson is with her, sporting a sling on his right arm. Val says it’s a pleasure to meet her and asks if they’ve met before. There’s something so familiar about her. Mystique replies she was going to ask her the same thing, but she doesn’t believe she’s had the pleasure.

Miles informs Mystique that Val contacted her regarding the investigation into Graydon Creed’s assassination. He thought they might be able to scratch each other’s backs. Val tells him that she thinks Sabretooth might be able to give her some answers. Mystique asks if she really thinks they might be linked. Val replies that tracking Sabretooth and another mutant named Mystique is a top priority. “Mystique,” replies Mystique. “Even the name sounds dangerous.” She asks if Val thinks they might both be connected in some way. Senator Brickman thinks that the notion is nonsense. Graydon had no use for mutants. The only link might be that they’re the assassins. Mystique thanks Val for promising to help them, but excuses herself to the ladies room.

As she departs, Mystique wants to vomit. Being nice to Val Cooper and Senator Brickman isn’t her thing. She wants to snap their hypocritical necks and be done with it. She takes her frustrations out in the ladies room, looking in the mirror and changing from person to person as she thinks about the future. As Sabretooth, she tells him she’s coming for him. As Trevor Chase, she thinks he’ll be fine. She won’t let them hurt him. Back as Mallory, she figures it’s time to join the party and her loving husband.

As she steps out, she sees Agent Vargas watching her like a hawk. Does he suspect? He doesn’t appear to be that bright. She rejoins Senator Brickman, and says she needs to speak with him about Vargas. She tells him she doesn’t like the way he hangs round with Gloria. It just doesn’t seem… healthy.

(three days later)

Agent Vargas arrives at an extremely remote government listening post near the Arctic Circle. He is contemplating a very frosty future. The notice on the station reads, ‘Back in three months.’ Vargas wonders who he ticked off to deserve this!

(outside of Washington D.C.)

Dr. Casey likes to unwind from the stress of his day by flooring his 1977 Lamborghini through the hairpin turns of what is normally a mostly deserted road. Today is different. A tree blocks the road, and the doctor is traveling far too fast to avoid it. The crash kills him instantly. Another loose end is tied up.


Mystique puts Gloria to bed. The senator tells her it’s so good to have her back. He feels as if he’s been given a new lease in life. He feels everything is going to be fine from now on. Mystique agrees. She thinks everything is going to go just the way she wants it to.

Characters Involved: 

Forge, Polaris (all X-Factor)

Ever, Havok (both Brotherhood)

Mystique (in a variety of guises)

Senator Miles Ralph Brickman

Gloria Brickman

Agent Vargas

Secret Service agents

Dr. Valerie Cooper

Major Edmond Atkinson

Victims/prisoners of Dark Beast

Party guests

Dr. Robert Casey

(in flashback)

Mystique (in a variety of guises)

Trevor Chase

Soviet military officer

J. Jonah Jameson

Peter Parker

Daily Bugle staff

Hydra troopers

Captain America

Story Notes: 

F.B.I. Doctor Sculder is a merging of Agent’s Mulder and Sculley from the X-Files.

Issue Information: 
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