X-Factor (1st series) #202

Issue Date: 
March 2010
Story Title: 

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

Brief Description: 

Still recovering from his captivity in the buried coffin, Reed explains that he had been replaced by a Victor von Doom from a parallel universe who had successfully transferred him mind into the body of that universe’s Reed Richards. Then getting the drop on him, the alternate Doom buried him in Latveria. Nearby at Doom’s castle, while the Thing, Monet and Shatterstar make short work of Doom’s robot guards, Monet finds Sue Storm, who has been plugged into a virtual reality machine, which allows her to act out her fantasies, particularly one with Namor. Once freed of the illusion, Sue joins her three rescuers in their escape, only to run into Doom, who is casually painting a portrait of his willing model, Layla Miller. After the Thing and Shatterstar begin to attack, and are easily held captive by a forcefield, Doom then explains that he had been contacted by his alternate reality self, whom Doom found repulsive. Doom then pretended to play along with his alternate self’s plans, knowing that it would conclude in the alternate’s failure. Meanwhile, the actual Reed Richards arrives with the other members of X-Factor, having used his elasticity to turn himself into a bouncing ball which traveled the distance to the castle. They are slightly shocked at the ease of which the robot guards seemed to have been dispatched but are even more surprised when they are greeted by Layla, who welcomes them. Together, she and Doom explain that Layla has been in Latveria for a year, serving Doom in an advisory capacity. Everyone reunited and there being no reason to fight, X-Factor and the FF prepare to return to New York via Shatterstar’s portal. Meanwhile, in New York, Guido has spent the day fighting the alternate Doom, still believing him to be the actual Reed. The alternate Doom continues to best Guido whenever they spar but, every occasion he is about to attack the Richards’ kids, Guido returns. Their fight ends with the appearance of Shatterstar’s portal, which distracts Doom-in-Reed enough for Guido to land a powerful right cross, propelling his head through the portal. After the rest of the team is through, Layla intentionally distracts Shatterstar, causing the portal to be closed, deliberately trapping herself, Shatterstar and the alternate Doom’s head in Latveria. Once again separated, Madrox cannot help but realize that the outcome of everything, including the alternate Doom’s death, must have been known in advance by Layla and wonders what that means for her.

Full Summary: 

(years ago)
In their dorm room, Ben Grimm takes a moment from practicing his putting swing to ask Reed what’s up, noting his preoccupation with something. At first, Reed is reluctant to reply, but eventually answers that it’s Victor. He’s worried about him. Asked why, Reed explains that he’s testing some sort of device designed to let him see into the netherworld, and he thinks Doom’s made some mistakes in key calculations. When Ben repeats the word “netherworld,” Reed agrees. It sounds fantastic.

Suddenly, the whole building shakes, with books falling to the ground. Immediately, Ben realizes that something blew up nearby but, before he can determine what, he hears Reed exclaiming about his face. Laughing slightly, not noticing Reed’s change in demeanor, Ben sarcastically notes Reed’s face is fine. Not a gorgeous mug like his, but still…

Getting up, Ben suggests that they go see what the noise is. Maybe they can help. Pausing to see if Reed is accompanying him, Ben turns just as the putter with which he was practicing a few minutes before strikes against his face. As Ben falls, Reed lifts the putter again and again, striking Ben repeatedly with sprays of blood spattering against Reed’s face. Calling the beaten form of Ben an idiot, Reed tells him to fall before the might of…

“Doom,” Madrox repeats, trying to understand the still exhausted Reed Richards. In a parallel dimension, he jumped into that dimension’s Reed Richards and killed Ben Grimm back in their college days? And now that Doc Doom…

Finishing with a weak voice, Reed states that he jumped over to this dimension, yeah. He told him his life’s story while he was busy interring him… and he doubts he was dissembling. He said he wanted him to know… so that while he struggled to survive with the rebreather he’d “generously” left him for air, his suffering would be more intense. When Madrox notes that he was “monologing,” Reed turns to him and states that, though he’s one of the smartest men on the planet… even he doesn’t understand him half the time. Silently, Madrox notes he is not sure whether to be insulted or flattered by that.

Speaking now with greater strength, Reed continues that the other Reed got the drop on him is his lab. All the security devices can’t keep out someone who’s basically him. Asked by Madrox “from another dimension,” Reed reminds him that they were virtually invaded by alternate versions of themselves a few months back. They thought they were all gone. It appears they missed one, Longshot notes.

Chiming in, Rictor states that he doesn’t get it. If Doom killed that world’s Ben Grimm… then who flew the rocket that resulted in the FF? How did he still wind up as “Mr. Fantastic?” To this, Reed replies that obviously it was under different circumstances, but apparently cosmic rays were in his future, no matter what. However it happened, it did and his family remains at risk.

At X-Factor HQ, Guido tells Franklin and Valeria to slow down so he can understand what they’re talking about. To this, Valeria retorts that she’s not sure she can speak that slowly. Pointing his finger at her, Guido informs her that she’s got a lotta lip for someone who came flyin’ there in her PJs lookin’ for him to bail her out. Hands on her hips, Valeria rejoins that they were looking for the whole team, actually.

Seeing the conversation continuing to devolve, Franklin tries to intervene, only for Valeria to blow up. She’s scared, she yells. Satisfied? Other kids get scared, they go fetal or cry or whatever. Her? She ups the sarcasm level. It’s nothing personal.

Rubbing his bald head, Guido asks if he’s got this. Her dad’s gunnin’ for her, ‘cause he ain’t her dad… Jumping in, Franklin explains to Guido that Valeria overheard him talking to Doctor Doom like they’re old friends. Now speaking for herself, Valeria adds that she figures either he’s a Skrull (Aw, not again, Guido laments), or a clone, or possibly an interdimensional duplicate. Even better, Guido remarks.

Entering the room, Reed Richards tells Guido that he doesn’t know what these children have been telling him… but he’s there to collect them. Sorry for the inconvenience. Now addressing the children with maniacal eyes, he tells them that they’re in a lot of trouble. Asked how he knew where they were, Reed explains that he took the liberty of putting trackers in their flight jackets.

Turning back to the kids, Reed tells them to come along. He informs Valeria that he’s wearing extra insulation, so her little bear trick won’t work again. Struggling against the grip of his stretched hand, Valeria reminds him that he gave her the bear. Or doesn’t he “remember” that, “dad?”

Attempting to step in, Guido tells Reed that the kids are obviously scared, only to be interrupted. Reed replies that that’s what parents are for. To make the world less scary. Now if he will excuse him… Closing the door and standing in the way, Guido replies that he thinks maybe they should wait until every gets back. She, they… Guido’s words trail as Reed forms his fist into an anvil and clocks Guido with a left hook.

In Latveria, the real Reed tells Madrox that he needs to get back. His wife, his children, the danger they’re in… Trying to explain, Madrox tells him that if his kids need help, they know who to come to. As for Sue, that’s why they came. Asked if she’s there in Latveria, Madrox replies that that’s what they’ve been led to believe.

Immediately, Reed suggests that they go to Doom’s castle. Nothing happens in Latveria without his knowledge. When Madrox replies that some his people are attacking the problem, Reed asks back if by “attacking” he’s not saying… They’re going in guns blazing, yes, Madrox admits. To this, Longshot notes that there are no “guns” exactly, at which point Rictor states on of them has swords.

Stretching to a great height, Reed tells Madrox that only people who are completely inexperienced with von Doom would think that a frontal attack was remotely advisable. When Madrox points out that one of them was the Thing, Reed corrects that only inexperienced people other than Ben would think that a frontal attack would remotely advisable. His stretching form now thin and wide, Reed tells Madrox that they need to go. There’s no time to wait. Not if he wants to see his friends alive.

Elsewhere, Shatterstar propels himself toward a robot, sinking his four blades deep into its metal torso. Pulling them out as the robot falls backwards, Shatterstar then somersaults to the next, slashing it from the back.

Having dispatched the first set of robots protecting the front gate of the castle, Shatterstar takes a moment before attacking the next line of defense. Behind him, Monet asks to be reminded why they didn’t stay airborne in their approach. Cracking his stone knuckles, the Thing replies that he figured Doom’s see them coming a mile away and just shoot them down. When Monet then asks that approaching on foot was better, Shatterstar rejoins that it… worked in theory. Now launching herself at the next set of robots, decapitating one and punching straight through another, Monet tells him not to worry about it. More things to hit are exactly what she needs.

Elsewhere, watching the fight on a monitor, one individual tells another that their friends fight well, and with much enthusiasm. In answer, the other party tells the first that they could be putting up more of a defense, though. Of course, the first party replies. But in this manner, their technology is able to analyze their combat style. Thus simplifying matters if they should decide to produce robot duplicates of them for infiltration purposes. Told that they’re always thinking ahead, the first person – in fact Doctor Doom himself – tells the other – in fact Layla Miller – that having her there has honed his ability in that regard. It’s been a mutually beneficial association she replies. “Just so,” Doom agrees.

Back in New York, the alternate Reed Richards, both Franklin and Valeria wrapped in his arms, makes elongated strides to his Fantasticar, which is blocking the way for various annoyed motorists. Noting drivers, the alternate Reed whimsically asks the kids if they are happy. They’re inconveniencing law-abiding citizens.

Ignoring her faux father, Valeria asks him what’s his endgame. What’s the evil plan? Smiling, Reed replies that he’s Reed Richards, admired by billions, trusted by the highest people in government. He has a beautiful and loving family. What more plan does anyone require than that? Appearing from the inside of the building, Guido grabs Reed. In answer to Reed’s question, he suggests “how about a medical plan… cause he’s gonna need it! As Guido pulls the alternate Reed’s arms back, Franklin and Valeria are freed and float away to safety.

As they approach the parked Fantastic, Guido yells for them to fly outta there. They grown-ups have to have a parent-teacher conference. When Reed notes that he is hardly their teacher, Guido quips back that the fake Reed that he ain’t their dad, but he figures a least he can teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. Unconcerned, the alternate Reed wraps Guido up with one of his arms, encircling him and lifting him off of the ground. He begins to remark that Guido’s not going to be in a position to teach him anything… but trails as he realizes that Franklin and Valeria have taken off in the Fantasticar. Reed begins to stretch after it, but is literally rear-ended as one of the irate motorists runs him down, yelling that he’s tired of super types always blocking traffic. He’s sick of it!

A quarter of the world away in Latvaria, a giant blue ball with the emblem of the Fantastic Four on it bounces down the street of Doomstadt, causing the citizens much panic. The bouncing ball stops short at a point a short distance from Doom’s castle, at which point the sphere, in fact Reed Richards, begins to unfurl and let out the three men riding within.

When Reed asks if they are all right, Rictor replies that it depends whether they are still bouncing. Told that they are not, he answers that he’s not all right. Seeming in better condition, Madrox adds that he now knows how a Pokemon feels. Asked by Madrox how he is, Longshot replies that he’s perfectly fine, at which point Rictor states that he hates him.

Ignoring the comment, Longshot points to the wreckage of robots at the drawbridge of the castle and notes that it seems the others have been through. Dubious, Reed replies that they couldn’t have gotten through there that easily. Ignoring Rictor’s comment of “That’s easily?” Madrox states that Reed’s right. If Doom wanted them stopped, they’d be stopped. Eying the Castle above, Reed adds that they need to get there quickly. If Sue is there, God only knows what sort of torture she’s being subjected to.

Within the castle, Sue Storm sits in a large, comfortable chair, glass of wine in hand, and giggles to herself. Asked if she’s all right, she replies with an “Ohhh yeah…” To this, the inquiring party notes that Sue’s had too much to drink. Smiling as she sloshes her wine, Sue replies that he always could see right through her. Get it? Get it? Told yes, that he does, Sue asks back why she can’t get him out of her mind, you sexy thing? Well, Namor replies, he is Imperius Rex.

When Sue asks back what that means, Namor replies that it’s an anagram for “I m pur sexier.” With this, Namor steps behind Sue, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her neck. Tilting her head to allow him to kiss it, she pulls him closer. Reveling in her intoxication, both alcoholic and sensual, she asks why she’s there. Why is she even considering…? Reed’s her husband. She loves him. By Neptune’s trident, Namor replies. Reed is not here and he is. And if she cannot be with the one she loves…

“Love the one you’re with?” a voice interrupts, to both Sue and Namor’s surprise. My God, the voice continues. Two-bit chat-up lines from Prince Namor. That’s just wrong. As he parts from Sue, Namor asks Monet how dare she. This is a private liaison and… Interrupting him, Monet suggests that he just keep “Neptune’s trident” in his shorts there.

Now turning to Sue, Monet tells her to take her hand. Told that she doesn’t understand, Monet informs her that this is all in her head, courtesy of von Doom. They found her, Monet explains, and her friends are keeping more of Doom’s robot goons at bay… while she projected her mind in there. She can’t seem to shut the machine down, and wrecking it could cause mental feedback that…

Pulling Sue away, Namor tells Monet that she speaks madness. Fluent, Monet rejoins. Now reaching out, Monet tells Sue that her husband and kids are in danger. If she doesn’t shake this off, then there’s no telling… Interrupting, Sue grasps Monet’s hand and says “Let’s go.” When Namor protests, asking if she’s really going to listen to this, Sue replies that she’ll listen to anyone who says her family’s at risk.

Back in the real world, Monet telepathically informs the others that Sue’s out. Sitting a short distance way in a sophisticated chair and wearing a virtual reality helmet, Sue asks where she is. Doom’s castle inside a lab, Monet replies. The guys are in the antechamber taking on all comers. Apparently, that contraption kept her in a state of…

Not letting Monet finish, Sue tells her that she knows where it kept her, and if she breathes one word to Reed… Rolling her eyes, Monet replies that she really doesn’t give a damn about Sue’s fantasies. She has her own problems. Removing the helmet, Sue replies “good” and suggests they get out of there. As she begins to get up, Monet tells her to be careful. To this, Sue replies that she knows her share of danger but Monet corrects that she meant there’s no telling how long she’s been lying there, so her legs might be kind of… weak. Unfortunately, Monet’s words come too late and she watches as Sue collapses. “A little help?” she asks, offering a hand.

In short order, the foursome race through the hallways of Doom’s castle, Sue being carried by Ben, with Monet and Shatterstar racing at their side. Running, the Thing tells the others it’s this way. Asked by Shatterstar if he’s sure, the Thing replies that he’s not, but what he lacks in being sure he makes up for in volume.

“Indeed” a voice agrees, as the foursome enter a room. They all stop in shock as they find the room occupied by Doctor Doom, who is painting a portrait of Layla Miller, who is modeling a short distance away. A lesser artist, Doom tells the Thing, would have been sorely distracted by his thundering about. Fortunately, he just finished the mouth after weeks of endeavor. Whatever challenges La Gioconda may have posed for da Vinci, he would have snapped his brush in frustration trying to capture the enigmatic smile of Miss Miller. Have a seat, Doom then adds. Just a few finishing touches…

Enraged, the Thing and Shatterstar launch themselves at Doom, only to find themselves held in place by an energy field. “Idiots,” Doom mutters. Holding up Sue, who is still weak, Monet eyes Layla and begins to ask if it is she. Greeting Monet by name, Layla notes that she remembers her being a lot taller.

Addressing Monet and Sue, Doom states that he hopes they will display more wisdom than their associates… to say nothing of gratitude. Incredulously repeating the word “gratitude,” Sue asks if he means for imprisoning her. For saving you, foolish woman, from the attentions of an imposter, Doom replies, setting down his brush. A Doom from another world, at the risk of sounding melodramatic.

The fool, Doom continues. He thought to combine resources with him, as if he was unaware that he would eventually set to betray him. He decided he would allow the game to run its course… but insisted that she be removed from the board. The alternate Doom’s plans for her were… distasteful. Life is a cheap commodity, but they should have some respect for the intimacies of man and wife, should they not?

“He’s Old World,” Layla states, changing out of her model clothes. Exiting the room with a wave of his gauntlet, Doom notes that the game will now conclude, in the only way such games ever conclude, namely: “to my satisfaction.”

Elsewhere, Reed stretches to the height of an upper floor of the castle, bringing Madrox, Darwin, Rictor and Longshot along with him. Asked by Madrox why they haven’t been attacked yet and whether that is good or bad, Reed replies that it certainly covers the range of possibilities. They’re almost to the rood, he then notes. They should be ready for…

Glancing over the side, much to the surprise of all, is Layla Miller, who asks the group if they could shake a leg. They need to get back in a hurry.

Back in New York, the alternate Doom-in-Reed bounds after the Fantasticar. Sarcastically, he tells them he’s going to turn this car right around! However, in mid-stretch, he is tackled by Guido, who propels him to another roof.

As the two wrestle, Doom using Reed’s elasticity to counter Guido’s strength, Guido demands to know what’s going on. To this, Reed replies that he doesn’t think so. Like a man dying of thirst in the desert just beyond the dune, out of his reach… he’s going to die knowing the answers are right in front of him, but beyond his grasp. With this, Doom uses Reed’s arms to stretch around Guido’s throat, choking him. However, the sudden appearance of a light gives Doom pause.

In Latveria, Shatterstar is in the process of generating a portal, as the Thing asks if that’s it. They just go home? No throwdown? No… Addressing him as “Grimm,” Doom asks him when is he going to realize that he has simply outgrown them?

Still confused himself, Rictor asks what Layla was doing there. What she needed to, Layla replies, in order to make sure that Jamie and she were able to come back via Doom’s time machine. In exchange for which… Interrupting, Doom explains that Miss Miller served him in an advisory capacity for the last year. Her foreknowledge, he continues, has been exceptionally useful.

Taking this in, Rictor asks that this means they’re bringing Doc Doom’s magic eight ball back with them? To be on their side? Looks like, Madrox replies.

Chiming in, Shatterstar instructs Rictor to please remain focused on their destination. Otherwise the results could be… Right, sorry, Rictor apologizes. This done, Shatterstar tells everyone to go.

As everyone begins to move, Doom leans in toward Layla and bids her farewell. And when she is willing to admit where lies her true destiny… he shall be there. Approaching the portal, Madrox takes note of the exchange between Doom and Layla and briefly waxes about good operating hand-in-hand with evil. After all, he is returning to a country that’s basically run by Norman Osborn. It’s hard to have a moral compass when every direction is north.

Back in New York, Doom-in-Reed informs Guido that he sees his associates returning via the portal. So, he’ll have to be quick if they’re to find Guido’s corpse when they return. However, before Doom can comply with his threat, Guido manages to raise one leg off of its knee and onto its foot, giving him the leverage to deliver a powerful right cross, propelling the alternate Reed’s head, though still attached, a prodigious distance away.

On the other side of the portal, Shatterstar, still in deep concentration, tells Layla that everyone else is through and that it is her turn. Much to his surprise, however, she kisses his cheek, breaking his concentration.

In New York, Rictor yells that the gate has collapsed and guesses that something has distracted Shatterstar! He and Laya got left behind! Asking who cares, the Thing notes that when he gets his hands on that fake… His words trail as he sees the gangly form of the alternate universe Reed lying inert on the roof of the building. Noticing that it lacks a head, the Thing asks where it is. Providing his own theory, Madrox states that, unless he misses his guess it’s in Latveria.

As the Richards family rejoices at being reunited, Madrox notes that Guido is clearly freaking out. He didn’t mean for the head to go flying through the portal. Didn’t intend for the portal to collapse, effectively becoming a guillotine. It spooks him because he’s one of the good guys. But Layla, Madrox then thinks. “The fight’s coming to a head,” she said. That was Laylaspeak. She knew. Hell, she probably made it happen. He doesn’t know what she’s turning into, Madrox thinks. And that’s bad.

Elsewhere, in Castle Doom in the kingdom of Latveria, while Shatterstar sits watching, Layla Miller poses for another portrait being painted by Victor von Doom.

Characters Involved: 

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

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

Alternate reality Doctor Doom in Reed’s body

Doctor Doom
Layla Miller
Doom’s robots

New Yorkers
New York motorists

(via monitor)
The Thing
Monet, Shatterstar (both X-Factor)
Doom’s robots

(via virtual reality)

(alternate reality, in the past)
Reed Richards
Ben Grimm

Victor von Doom in Reed’s body

Story Notes: 

Pokemon is a card game of Japanese origin, which spun into a popular animated series based upon the game. In the animated series, “players” of Pokemon would summon various types of monsters from spheres to fight on their behalf.

“Imperius Rex” is Latin for “imperial king.” It has never been adequately explained how Namor learned of Latin.

A “magic eight ball” is a popular toy shaped like an oversized version of the 8-ball of the game of billiards. Filled with a liquid in which floats a 20-sided die on which each side rests a cryptic reply, the Magic Eight Ball will supposedly provide a clairvoyant answer when shaken while asking it a question.
“La Gioconda” is better known as the world famous Mona Lisa.

Following the ending of the Secret Invasion mini-series and crossover, Norman Osborne has risen to power and authority in the United States government. This storyline, dubbed Dark Reign, later comes to a head in the mini-series the Siege a few months later.

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