X-Factor (1st series) #201

Issue Date: 
March 2010
Story Title: 
The Invisible Woman Has Vanished

Peter David (writer), Bing Cansino (pencils), Jeromy Cox (colors) VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), David Yardin with Morry Hollowell (cover), Jody LeHeup (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

At their headquarters, the members of X-Factor watch as Longshot continues to use his psychic powers to read the past of a bobby pin belonging to the vanished Invisible Woman. In the process, Longshot is conversing with Layla Miller in the past, who is replying to Longshot’s side of the conversation, as he will tell her of it later. After she relays some cryptic information, Layla accompanies Sue’s unconscious body to Doom’s castle, as transported by Doom’s robots. The vision over, Shatterstar suggests that they use his teleportation powers to transport to Latveria to follow, to which Madrox agrees. As they prepare for the portal on the roof, the Thing arrives for revenge on the team’s earlier fight at the Baxter Building. Though she did not plan to go on the mission, due to her need to look for her missing father, Monet is knocked through the portal in the ensuing fight, leaving only Guido left behind. Arriving along with X-Factor, the Thing still disbelieves that Sue has been kidnapped until he sees an imprint of the Fantasticar on the grass, proving it had been there. Now believing Sue is in danger and wanting to attack Doom, he joins Monet and Shatterstar, each spoiling for a fight, on an aerial attack of the castle. Left behind with Darwin, Rictor and Longshot, Madrox suddenly recalls a cryptic comment of Layla’s relayed via Longshot’s vision and finds a missing person’s poster, which leads him to mother of the missing man. This in turn leads the group to a cemetery, where they find footprints that could only have belonged to Reed Richards. Following them, they come across a freshly dug grave, which they dig up. Much to their surprise, when they open the coffin, a nearly suffocated Reed Richards emerges, gasping for air.

Full Summary: 

In one of the upper floors of the Baxter Building, Reed Richards explains that he couldn’t restrain Grimm. He tried to convince him that X-Factor was not worth wasting time on, but he would not be deterred. In reply, the person with whom Reed is speaking, in fact a diminutive hologram of Doctor Dom which emerges from a device in Reed’s palm, replies that Grimm is a fool and orders Reed not to pay him any mind. X-Factor, on the other hand, he then notes, they could present a problem.

In reply, Reed counters not if Grimm destroys them. Perhaps his being unable to rein him in was unfortunate. Undeterred, Doom declares Reed a fool and adds that Grimm is all bluster and arrogance and easily wounded pride… but he is no killer. If Reed has difficulties, he will have to count on himself to dispose of them. Narrowing his eyes, Reed replies to Doom that it’s not his fault, though. Had Doom allowed him to do things his way… Interrupting and brandishing a clenched gauntlet, Doom rejoins that the fact that he attended to his wishes simply shows his own weakness of character. When Reed replies that he was being courteous to their mutual interests, Doom scoffs, telling Reed that he can’t be serious.

Suddenly, Reed turns his head, telling Doom to wait. A moment later, he informs Doom that he thinks someone is out of bed and deactivates the device.

A short distance away, Valeria Richards makes her way down the hallway, clutching her teddy bear and glancing over her shoulder. Unfortunately, she does not notice the thin mass of dark blue material which covers the floor until she steps on it. Half a moment later, the mass begins to expand as the rest of it seeps through the air vents and transforms into the form of her father. The coalescing Reed declares Valeria to be a very foolish. Rather than reply immediately or even attempt to wriggle out of his grip, Valeria’s teddy bear begins to crackle with electrical energy, forcing Reed’s tensile form to loosen its grip on her. Once free, Valeria informs her father that she agrees and then races off, leaving Reed to attempt to regain his composure and with a near whimper to declare that he’s really starting to hate that girl.

Back at X-Factor HQ, the group watches Longshot as he continues to use his psychic powers to explore the past of a bobby pin which had belonged to the missing Invisible Woman. Viewing this past, Longshot continues his conversation with a woman who has introduced herself as Layla Miller. Asking him to confirm that it’s really she in Latveria, Longshot does so – at least that’s what she’s telling him.

In the past, Layla talks to the psychic manifestation of Longshot of the future and asks if Jamie is asking if he’s talking to her. When he confirms, she instructs Longshot to tell Madrox that she says “hi,” which he does.

Having done so, Longshot returns his conversation to Layla and asks how she’s able to see him. To this, she explains that she can’t. This happened days ago. She just knows what he’s going to say. Asked how, Layla explains that he’s going to tell her and asks that he should be sure to remember it all so they can get this right. Layla then pauses for a moment to ask Longshot if he’s passing his hand through her head and, after being told that he is, she asks him to stop. It’s annoying.

In the X-Factor HQ of the future, the rest of the group see Longshot of the present mirroring his actions in the psychic vision. When one notices that his hand is a bit higher than it should be for a little girl, they ask about it, only to be reminded by Madrox that she’s taller now. Now addressing Longshot directly, Madrox begins to tell him that they need her to help… However, he is interrupted by Longshot, who emphatically shouts at someone to “put her down.”

In the vision, Longshot sees a robot picking up the unconscious form of the Invisible Woman. Turning to Layla, he tells her that she can’t just stand there and let this happen. Madrox says that they need her help. Replying that she knows, Layla rejoins that Madrox has become the missing person’s poster boy. As she begins to run after the robot, Layla turns back to Longshot and tells him to be sure to tell him she said so.

Elsewhere in the X-Factor’s HQ, Guido stands in the hallway outside of a room in which Monet is yelling on her phone. At a high volume, she tells the person on the other end that she’s been patient and all she’s gotten is the runaround. Now she wants answers! She’s already spoken to the state department! They’re stone-walling her! They’re her own damned embassy! She wants to know who’s holding her father! And, if they don’t tell her, she’s going to come down there and rip the information out of them!

If they’re lucky, she continues, she’ll do it psychically! Or else she may just tear their brain out and read it like a tea leaf! Does she sound like someone who cares if she’d be causing an international incident?!? Where the hell is my father!?!? A moment later, Monet finds the line dead, the party on the other end having hung up. In frustration, Monet curses loudly and crushes her mobile phone in her hand.

Taking this moment to step in, Guido enters the room and asks if there’s anything he can do. Still angered, she replies that he can just stay out of her way. Pressing, he asks if she wants him to help her find him. At first, Monet replies that there’s nothing he can do, but then thinks to ask how. Explaining, Guido tells her that, before her time, X-Factor was a government outfit. To this, Monet replies that she knows; Val Cooper was their contact, but she’s the one keeping mum about specifics. Continuing, Guido states that you don’t go to the big shots for stuff like this. He made some high friends in low places back in the day. Drinking buddies. He bets a call or two will turn something up. But, he continues, he wants something.

Anticipating his request, Monet tells Guido that she can give him a half million up front, double when she finds him. Then told that he doesn’t want her money, Monet crosses her arms and replies that she hopes he’s not suggesting… Interrupting, Guido replies with a “Jeez Louise, kid,” he explains that he just wants in on the mission! She and he, kickin’ terrorist butt. Receiving an acceptance, Guido begins to ask if he can borrow her phone to make the call, only to remember the crushed mobile in Monet’s hand. Having forgot it as well for a moment, Monet suggests that the use one of the company cell phones.

Back in the other room, Madrox tries to understand Layla’s statement of “missing person’s poster boy.” Replying that he doesn’t know, Longshot adds that he wasn’t about to gave her clarify it because the vision ended… probably because they must have set the Fantasticar to auto-return.

Considering what they’ve learned, Rictor wonders aloud why the hell Layla is working with Doctor Doom. Told by Madrox that they don’t know for certain that she is, Rictor rejoins that she’s in Latveria. She sure ain’t working for the Peace Corps.

Stepping directly before Longshot, Shatterstar asks him if he has a clear vision of where he saw Layla. Receiving an “absolutely,” Shatterstar informs Longshot that, if he can see it, he can bring them there. When Darwin then notes aloud that he still doesn’t get how that transport thing of his works, Shatterstar replies that he generates the energy and the swords focus it. But he always requires another mind to envision the destination. It serves as sort of an anchor. With that, he risks getting lost between. Which would be very bad, he then adds, after Darwin asks.

Calling out through the house, Madrox informs Guido that they’re heading out and to meet them on the roof. As they all gather, Madrox recalls Shatterstar’s previous explanation that the energies released when he transports pretty much requires they be outdoors. Otherwise, they could blow up whatever structure they’re inside, which would be – to quote Darwin – bad.

All gathered, save Guido and Monet, Shatterstar stands before Longshot and instructs him to close his eyes and see it clearly. As Longshot replies, Darwin inquires if anyone can be his “anchor,” which Shatterstar denies. It has to be someone he’s connected to. When Madrox begins to question “connected,” Rictor tells him not to ask, to which Madrox asks back for him not to tell.

Seeing Guido and Monet entering from the stairwell, Madrox begins to tell Guido that it’s about time, but stops to remind Monet that she said she wanted them to give her some distance. However, if she wants to come with… Interrupting, Monet explains that she wanted to suggest that Madrox send a dupe on this mission while he goes to Ireland and set things right with Terry. Chiming in, Guido announces that he’s staying there with Monet. He made some calls about her dad and he thinks he can help.

At first, Madrox begins to protest, but he is interrupted by a voice from over the edge of the building, announcing that he can see them up there. Looking down, the group sees the Thing bounding toward the building. In baseball metaphor, he tells them that if they wanna be in the major leagues, then they gotta stick around to play all nine innings. With this, he leaps as high as he can and then claws into the side of the structure, beginning the two-story climb to the rood. Continuing his threat, he tells them to stay right where they are, especially “sword boy!”

Still standing before Longshot, his swords crossed and an energy portal beginning to coalesce behind him, Shatterstar announces that the Thing has issued a challenge. He cannot run from that! To this, Madrox rejoins that right now they need Shatterstar more than he needs to show the Thing he can beat him a second time. Turning to Monet, he asks her if she can run interference. At first, Monet replies that she can absolutely. She can use something large to hit and this is perfect… Her voice trails as she sees the Thing emerge from over the edge of the roof looking, in her words, really pissed off.

Seeing the portal finished, with Rictor, Darwin and Longshot already walking through, Madrox orders Monet not to try to slug it out, but use her telepathy. Slow the Thing down enough for them to get clear and then fly aw… Madrox’s words trail as Guido tackles the Thing and orders everyone else to go. He’s got him. Unfortunately, for Guido, the Thing grabs him in a headlock and flings him away, telling Guido to keep on thinking that.

Seeing the tossed Guido knock over Monet, knocking her through the portal, Madrox laments that she’s going to kill him, only to have the enraged Thing announce “Not if I kill ya first!” With this, the Thing barrels into both Madrox and Shatterstar, knocking them over and through the X-shaped portal Shatterstar had created. After the light of the portal has subsided, Guido finds everyone gone, save himself and Monet.

Complaining to no one in particular, Guido stops to answer his phone and finds Franklin Richards on the other end. In mid-flight with his sister, Franklin explains that they’re on their way over because their father’s trying to kill them… and he hopes that won’t be a problem or anything.

Somewhere below Franklin and Valeria’s flight path, a little girl spies them out of her window. Sitting a few feet away in a chair, the girl’s mother reads from a large book the story of Peter Pan.

Emerging through the other side of the portal, Rictor, Longshot and Darwin find the other side in daylight and their location is at a clearing at the edge of barren trees. Immediately, Rictor asks Longshot if it looks like the place he saw, only for Longshot to reply that it doesn’t, as he saw it at night. Rictor’s annoyed retort is halted when Monet comes flying through the portal, an event deemed by Darwin has being bad. Then, as Madrox, Shatterstar and Madrox come flying through, he announces it to be worse.

Beginning to rise to his feet, the Thing tells Shatterstar that he doesn’t get to chuck him through the wall and drop him fifty stories and get away with it. Asked “really,” Shatterstar brandishes a sword tip and asks what about putting out his eyes. Does he get away with that?

Before the two can return to blows, Monet knocks them both back with simultaneous blows. Brandishing fists and teeth, she tells them she doesn’t give a damn what the two do to each other. Pummel each other into mulch for all she cares, but first the human pigstickers has to send her back. When Shatterstar begins to counter that he’s not exactly human, Monet yells back that she doesn’t care if he was hatched from a Fabergé egg. He needs to send her back!

Still returning to his feet, Shatterstar replies that he cannot. Asked why, he explains that he needs time to regain his strength! His focus! If he tries it too soon, he could wind up killing himself… and her as well. Interrupting during the explanation, Monet counters that she’s okay with him dying, but less so with her dying. But still… Ignoring her words, Shatterstar explains that he needs three to four hours at least to recharge his energies…

Nearby, the Thing turns to Madrox and asks what does “energies” even means, to which Madrox replies that he doesn’t know but, if it makes sense to her, that’s good enough. Returning to his feet, the Thing tells Madrox that it’s all his fault, he and his pack of… Interrupting, Madrox asks the Thing if he doesn’t care that she’s in trouble. To this, the Thing rejoins that she ain’t. She and Reed just had a squabble, izzall. So, she took off for awhile to cool off. Asked “to Latveria?” the Thing admits that of course she wouldn’t go to…

Stopping in mid-sentence, he sees Doom’s castle and asks if that’s where they are. Informing him that it is, Madrox adds that Sue is as well. The Fantasticar brought her there, yanked through a vortex of some kind. At first, the Thing is incredulous until he’s instructed by Madrox to look down. Doing so, he sees an indenture in the grass the exact shape of the bottom of the Fantasticar.

Continuing his explanation, Madrox states that the Fantasticar was there and she was in it. Doom brought her there for some reason and he thinks it’d be best if they found out what it was. Doesn’t he? Still dumbfounded, the Thing replies that Doom said he was one with the FF. Gee, Madrox remarks sarcastically. A villain lied. He’ll go alert the media.

Returning to their situation, Madrox notes that, since this is Doom’s territory, they shouldn’t go off half-cocked into… Interrupting, the still-irate Monet tells him to forget it. She’s there with four hours to kill, then by God she’s going to kill something. At first, Madrox begins to protest, only to have the Thing announce that he’s in. Addressing the Thing, Shatterstar asks if this “Doom” is dangerous. Told “worst of the worst,” Shatterstar announces “fantastic.”

As the Thing and Shatterstar move grasp Monet’s hands and are lifted in the air, Madrox tells them to wait. However, she ignores him, telling him to wait. She then asks the Thing if that is Doom’s castle in the distance and, being told “yep,” she flies the three of them toward it, suggesting that they go knock it down and see if the Invisible Woman is in it. Now airborne, the Thing tells Monet that he likes her style, to which Shatterstar agrees. Now speaking to Shatterstar himself, the Thing informs him that he’s still gonna clobber him with this is over, to which Shatterstar replies that he eagerly awaits his efforts.

Back on the ground, Madrox buried his face in his palm, lamenting so much for the element of surprise… or the subtle approach… or… Interrupting, Rictor asks if they go after them. Of course, Darwin answers first. Monet isn’t thinking clearly. Who knows what she could get into?

Suddenly, struck with a thought, Madrox turns to Longshot and asks him what did Layla say about him. Reminded that it was the “missing person’s poster boy,” Madrox replies that that was it. Told by Darwin that he doesn’t understand, Madrox replies that that’s because he didn’t know Layla. She speaks two languages: English and Cryptic. And… he may have decrypted her.

With this, Madrox leads the group to a nearby tree, upon which a poster of a missing person has been posted. It’s a poster put up by a woman who lives in a village less than a mile away. They find her house in pretty short order and speak with her. She doesn’t ask what a bunch of Americans are doing at her door. She’s just that desperate. It turns out that her son is the groundskeeper at a local cemetery.

Resting her weight on her cane, she explains that they just had such heavy rains, just before the weather turned so cold. And one night Radu just didn’t come back. The police, they say he probably just wandered off after some woman. They say he’ll be back but… she doesn’t… Interrupting her trailing words, Madrox tells her that they’ll look into it.

In short order, the group finds themselves wandering around the cemetery. As they search, Rictor announces their luck if they’re looking for footprints. The rain made it muddy and the cold weather froze everything. Pausing at a footprint in the ground, Longshot calls Madrox over. Asked why, Longshot remarks that it’s just a hunch. Seeing the print, Madrox announces that it’s odd. Addressing his three teammates, he tells Longshot to stand at the footprint right behind this one, with Rictor and Darwin to stand next to the ones that follow it. Asking if they see, he points out that the average stride of a man is about two and a half feet. These are more and keep increasing with each stride.

When Darwin supposes that he was running, Rictor replies with a “no way.” Weight distributions even. Running guy would have more weight on the balls of his feet. Agreeing, Madrox realizes this means this guy was in a hurry… but he didn’t have to run to move faster. All he had to do… “Was stretch his legs,” Darwin finishes. Placing his hands on his head, Rictor realizes they are talking about Mr. Fan-freaking-tastic himself.

In short order, the group retraces the steps which leads them straight to a grave with newly turned dirt. Pausing a moment, they wonder who might be down there. Sue Richards? Or maybe Radu. Or both, Longshot suggests. One way to find out, Madrox replies, asking for them to find a shovel.

In a few moments, with duplication, one shovel becomes six and the work goes quickly, even though a couple of the dupes keep giving him dirty looks. Eventually, a shovel reaches something, much to the surprise of one dupe. However, Rictor quickly points out that, in the interest of fairness, isn’t there supposed to be something down there? Agreeing at the good point, Madrox promises that, if it’s a corpse they don’t recognize, they’ll apologize and put it back.

A few minutes later, the band of dupes has lifted the casket onto the ground above, with one of them noticing that it has been soldered shut or something. Not a crack in it. When Rictor then asks how they get it open, Longshot brandishes two fletchettes. Asked by Rictor if they can cut through metal, Longshot replies that they can cut through anything. “Cool,” Rictor replies.

As Longshot begins to cut a hole at the head of the casket, Madrox watches intently, noting that now they’ll see what Reed Richards thought was so important that he had to… hide it there… Madrox’s words trail as, though the hole Longshot has cut, Reed Richards propels himself like a spring-loaded coil, gasping desperately for air.

Characters Involved: 

Darwin, Longshot, M, Multiple Man, Rictor, Shatterstar, Strong Guy (all X-Factor)

Mister Fantastic, the Thing (both Fantastic Four)
Franklin & Valeria Richards

Fake Mister Fantastic

Old Latverian woman

via Hologram:
Doctor Doom

psychic vision :
Layla Miller

Story Notes: 

Madrox’s reference to Layla being “taller now” has to do with the fact that the last time the team saw her, she was a young girl. After being sent in the future during the Messiah Complex crossover, she lived in the future for several years and is now an adult.

The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization created in 1961 which sends American citizens to other countries for humanitarian aid projects. Though federally funded, it is legally independent of the US government since 1981.

Madrox & Rictor’s comments of “don’t ask” and “don’t tell” refers to the informal name for 1993 policy made by then President Clinton to curb the rate of expulsion by homosexuals from the US military as a result of their sexuality. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (abbreviated DADT) ostensibly prevents a commanding officer of asking a subordinates sexuality. The policy remains a highly contested and emotional issue in public policy debate.

Fabergé eggs were the creation of the Russian jewelry firm “the House of Fabergé” in the late 19th and early 20th century. Ornately decorated with precious metals, they are extremely expensive and incredibly rare.

The use of “Radu” as the name of the slain groundskeeper is interesting as it is the name of one of the characters from the Nickelodeon TV series “Space Cases,” which Peter David co-created in the mid-1990s with Bill Mumy.

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