X-Factor (1st series) #203

Issue Date: 
May 2010
Story Title: 

Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (pencils), Pat Davidson (inks), 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: 

Having survived the crash of their plane in South America, Guido has been looking for Monet, whom he did not find in the wreckage upon awakening. Questioning the locals leads him to the estate of a drug lord, who is purported to know everything that happens in the area. At first rebuffed, Guido uses his strength to gain entry but it is his surprising knowledge of 18th century furniture which gains the respect of the drug lord. She shows him proof that the jet of he and his companion was shot down by unorthodox means, most likely by some interlopers who have recently claimed possession of an ancient temple. No fans of these trespassers, she loans two of her men as guides. Meanwhile, within the temple, a mysterious, aged man, frail in health enough to require a respirator and oxygen tank, orders men who hold prisoner Monet’s father, Ambassador St. Croix. Monet is likewise a prisoner, but in mental bonds, as she is delirious and believes herself to have been transformed back into Penance. Though he has been draining her of her energy, slowly as not to kill her before he has finished, the man has not leeched enough by the time Guido arrives at the temple. As such, the man sends out two Mindless Ones to do battle. At first, thwarted by their strength and power, Guido eventually makes it past them. However, deep within the temple, the man – in fact the evil sorcerer Baron Mordo – has absorbed enough to counteract the cancer wreaking havoc with his health and is ready to face his new foe.

Full Summary: 

In the darkness, Monet repeatedly calls out for her father, telling him that she is there. Suddenly, through the black, she sees him, silently holding his arms out for her. Running to him, Monet tells him not to worry. She’ll get him out of there. She’ll… Monet’s words trail in shock as her attempt to embrace her father results in him shattering into shards of glass.

At first, Monet kneels at the shards which were once her father but quickly regains her composure. Returning to her feet, she finds herself in a chamber of reflective panes of glass, each projecting her image in dozens of locations. Sneering slightly, she states aloud that someone’s playing games, is that it? Whoever’s watching this, she tells them, they should know that when it comes to playing games, she always wins. Always.

Suddenly, in one of the reflective panes, Monet sees a trickle of blood at her temple and asks what the hell…? She’s invulnerable, she reminds herself. How is she bleeding? Examining it more closely and touching it with her glove, Monet quickly realizes that it’s not blood. There’s something…

To Monet’s horror, the cut turns out to be as tear, which when pulled reveals a second, blood-red skin beneath. As she begins to hyperventilate, Monet pulls a little more and her entire face and scalp come off… revealing the form of Penance below. Aghast at her reflection, Monet screams NOOOOO!!!

Meanwhile, in the land of the physical, rather than mental, a man peers through a door grill, informing his visitor that they know nothing there. Addressing the man from the other side, Guido holds up a photo of a skimpily clad Monet and replies that he is looking for this girl… and he’s told that the man’s boss is the one to ask. The one they call “Señora Piernas.” Aint’t nothing goin’ on in this godforsaken dump, he then adds, that she doesn’t know about. Least that’s what the villagers told him.

Resolute, the man within retorts to his visitor that he was then told wrong and orders him to be on his way. Refusing to back down, Guido informs the man that he didn’t ask t’be there. This is supposed t’be a rescue mission and it’s gotten totally fubared. Now he thinks the bad guys got his friend and…

Interrupting Guido, the man within wishes Guido good luck finding her and then slams the door grill. Yelling over the wall, Guido tells the guy okay. This is good actually. ‘Cause asking guys for info, that ain’t the way he usually does it in his neighborhood. They prefer t’beat it outta ‘em. With that, Guido knocks down the two swing doors with one blow. Finding the man cowering in the Spanish colonial-style courtyard within, Guido tells him not to get up. He’ll let himself in.

A moment later, Guido finds a small cadre of armed men rushing into the courtyard, yelling instructions to each other to get him. However, by the time they open fire with their automatic rifles, Guido has grabbed one of the large swinging doors by its grill and crouches behind it, using the door itself as a shield. Able to hold the door easily with one hand, Guido clenches the other into a fist and pounds the ground, vibrating to enough for the gunmen to lose their balance. The moment of distraction is all he needs and Guido uses the door as a gigantic flyswatter, knocking the men away.

As the men go flying, Guido remarks that he knows they Americas don’t got the best rep
‘round the world right now, but in their defense… if people didn’t keep shootin’ at them, they wouldn’t have t’keep opennin’ up a can of whup ass on them.

Continuing on his way across the courtyard, Guido opens the door to the main house and yells within, asking if anybody’s home. Quickly spying two men with assault rifles aimed at him, Guido quips that that’s a yes. Look, he then tells them, just for the record, he is bulletproof. Getting shot don’t thrill him ‘cause it kinda stings, but he can take it. The ricochets, he continues are gonna do some damage. Could hit them, could hit the furniture – and there’s some nice stuff in there. He means, thugs are a dime a dozen, but he’d hate t’see that Hepplewhite over there get ruined.

Now holding up the photo of Monet, Guido reiterates that he’s trying to find this girl. They were in a private plane that was shot down by… he doesn’t know what it was. When he came to, he was lyin’ in the jungle and God knows where she is. She thinks terrorist have her. He just wants to talk t’the woman the villagers call Señora Piernas.

From a different direction, a voice announces that that’s not her name. “Piernas” means “legs.” But the villagers… they do so enjoy their little jests. Seeing Guido’s eyes gravitate to her wheelchair, the middle-aged woman reminds him that her eyes are higher up. In case he’s wondering, she continues, the blast from an American land mine killed her husband and left her as he sees. So, the war on drugs killed one dealer and created another. Thank God for American ingenuity, wouldn’t he say, Señor…?

To this, Guido replies with his surname of “Carosella” but notes that folks call him Guido. Asked if he’s Italian-American, he replies that he’s New Yorker. They’re kinda like their own country. To this he adds an apology to the señora about her legs. Well, she replies, she assumes he didn’t set the land mine, so she believes in New York they’d say “fuggedabouit.” In some parts, yeah, Guido admits.

Changing subjects, the señora notes that he knew the cabinet was Hepplewhite, instantly. To this, Guido replies negatively, stating that he just likes saying “Hepplewhite.” Nervous habit. Undeterred, the señora rejoins that he jokes to cover his intellect. Interesting. She then notes that he was waving around a picture earlier. If he shows her his… she’ll show him hers. With that, she offers a sealed manila envelope.

Looking at the photo within, Guido sees his former plane, exploding in midair. Asked how she got this, the lady replies that she has cameras everywhere, watching the skies. One never knows when uninvited guests might be dropping by. Then asked what the hell the stuff is that’s blasting them, the lady replies that she was hoping he’s know. Triangulating its point of origin, she’d say it was from the interlopers.

When Guido then asks who they are, the señora explains that there is an ancient temple a distance from there, abandoned for centuries, said to be “accursed,” if you can believe such things. Some individuals took up residence there not long ago. He would probably characterize them as “terrorists.” Are they whom he seeks, she asks Guido. Handing the phots back to her, Guido replies that he’s betting, yeah. Monet’s dad was kidnapped. He’s got contacts with the feds that pointed them in this direction. One chartered plane later, here they are.

To this, the señora rhetorically asks that Monet is the girl in the picture, yes? Told that she is, the señora then notes that it’s not as if he’s conducting a missing persons search. He came with her. They simply got separated. Asked “so,” señora lady holds up the picture of Monet – a sexy one showing much of Monet’s skin – and asks how does he happen to have her picture with him? When Guido stutters, looking for an answer, the señora asks if he always carries it. Guido finds he can answer the second question no better than the first. Handing the photo back to Guido, the señora tells him that she cannot blame him. She is quite attractive.

Turning away, the señora yells into the house, calling for Marco and Paulo. Stunned for a moment, Guido begins to ask if she just said what he thought she said, but thinks better of it. When they two men who previously held Guido at gunpoint return, the señora returns her attention to Guido. She informs him that these individuals in the temple… these interlopers… their presence is disturbing her. But they were not infringing on her business and so she turned a blind eye to them. If he on the other hand, she emphasizes, referring to Guido, should destroy them, she shall shed no tears. Then asked by Guido if they should destroy him, the señora replies that she will shed a tear. Perhaps even two, if she’s feeling generous.

Continuing, the señora states that Marco and Paulo will lead him to the temple. What happens after that is up to him. Before Guido can begin to leave, the señora offers one more thought: if he has feelings for the young woman, keeping them to himself is foolish. Seize opportunities while he can. As he takes the señora’s hand to kiss, Guido retorts that a gal like her would never think of a guy like him that way, but he ‘preciates the thought. Don’t underestimate himself, the señora counters. Sometimes the obvious answer might be staring him in the face.

Elsewhere, Monet claws at her face, tears flowing from her eyes. Delirious, she cries aloud. “Oh, God! I’m Penance again! God, please, no…!

A short distance away, Ambassador St. Croix orders their captors to get away from his daughter or… Regarding the immobile ambassador, bound to the chair on which he sits, a voice from within the shadows of the temple ruins “what?” What forces will he bring down upon them? What empty threats will he hurl? Moving into the chamber proper, the shadowed, green cloak-clad figure pulls a wheeled oxygen tank, but does not let his weakness show. Rather, he points out the weakness of St. Croix, asking what does he thinks he can say that will be of the slightest consequence?

Now directly addressing his daughter, as she deliriously cowers in the corner, Ambassador St. Croix tells her to listen to him. She’s not Penance! That… that think that her brother transformed into so that… so that he could live off her… that’s gone. That’s in the past. That’s…

With a snap of his fingers the leader of the interlopers silences the ambassador. Come now, he then mocks. He knows better than that. Nothing is every truly in the past. They carry what they were with them. Always. Were that not the case, psychoanalysts would all be out of jobs. Now leaning over Monet and taking her chin in his hand, he notes to St. Croix that it doesn’t matter than his daughter isn’t actually Penance. She simply needs to believe that she is. Because she is conditioned as Penance to be an energy source for others. And he requires that energy, you see… because his life depends on…

The cloaked man’s words halt as Ambassador St. Croix makes a dangerous gambit. Shifting his weight to tip his chair, he impacts against the nearest gunman guarding him. Knocked off balance, the gunman accidentally pulls the trigger on his weapon, firing indiscriminately into the temple, one round of which grazes the leader in the right arm. Immediately, the man races to his boss apologizing, but the cloaked man calls him an idiot and, with glowing hands, manipulated an energy which seems to crush the former guard into a small ball.

Clutching his wounded arm, the man notes that if the bullet had hit the oxygen tank… next time he should keep the safety on the damned thing. Regarding the prone form of his fellow guard, another gunman reports to their boss, with all due respect, that he doesn’t think “next time” will be much of an issue.

Ignoring the implication, the cloaked man gazes upon his bloodied hands, stained by his own wound, and notes that if were not weak enough already… If only he didn’t have to drain Miss St. Croix so slowly. But too fast could kill her before he has everything he needs. Now turning his attention back to the ambassador, the man tells him not to think for a moment he’s going to let him off . As soon as he’s sure the ambassador has no further usefulness to…

Entering the chamber, one of the cloaked man’s soldiers reports that the girl’s companion is headed this way and is almost at the front entrance. He’s fairly sure, he then adds, that their weapons won’t be of any use against him. To this, the man orders his lacky not to worry. His will be.

Outside the temple, standing in the pouring rain, Guido asks his two guides if this is the place. Told that it is and that it’s as far as they go, Guido replies that that’s fine. He can handle it from… His sentence goes unfinished, ended by a powerful blast from within the temple’s entrance, which knocks Guido off of his feet and propels him back to the tree line.

Recovering quickly despite the blow, Guido yells to his two guides, that on second thought he could use a… Noting them scarpering back into the jungle, Guido quips that they can just head out. Hurry and sell drugs to second graders before they get too old. He’ll just handle this on his… What the hell…? Guido stammers, gazing upon the two humanoid rock monsters with glowing, cyclopean eyes which approach him. Taking in their visage, Guido asks what they are supposed to be, not recognizing them as the Mindless Ones.

When they do not reply, Guido quips that they are not exactly chatty, are they? He tosses a large rock at one, which knocks one of them off its feet. Figures, Guido continues, since they have the whole “no mouth” look going for them… Though able to halt one of them, Guido is lifted off of his feet by the second Mindless One, which promptly slams Guido into the ground.

Now finding himself being strangled, Guido yells that that’s it. Cause the more they hit him… the more the stores up… the kinetic energy… until he’s gotta release it… or bad stuff is gonna happen. As he speaks, Guido manages to push off the Mindless One enough to return to his feet. Once there, he delivers a right cross to the creature, knocking it off its feet and plowing it into its comrade.

Within the temple, the man on the respirator watches as the stone walls of the temple shudder and rain small debris to the floor. Taking in what has occurred outside, he wonders how in the world did the newcomer manage that.

Suddenly, the man returns his attention to Monet, who has begun to stir and weakly calls out to her father. Lifting her until she is upright, the man places his hand over her face, attempting to calm her. Telling her that that is quite enough of that, he finds his attempts to sooth her a success. She is quite the sweet thing, he tells her. Now addressing her father, the man informs him that his daughter is most delicious. He will savor the taste of her for quite some time. For the moment… she has provided him what he needs to battle back the cancer that is eating away at him. Indeed, he may not be the Baron Mordo that he was… but she has still provided him enough sustenance… to dispose of her oversized friend once and for all.

Characters Involved: 

M, Strong Guy (all X-Factor)

Baron Mordo
Mindless Ones
Mordo’s gunmen

“Señora Piernas”
Marco, Paul & unnamed guards of “Señora Piernas”

Ambassador St. Croix

In her mind

Story Notes: 

Monet lived for years in the form of Penance, following a cruel transformation by her brother, Marius.

Hepplewhite refers to a style of furniture created by the 18th century English cabinetmaker and furniture designer George Hepplewhite.

The names of Señora Piernas’ henchmen, Marco and Paulo, of course is a joke at the pool game “Marco Polo,” which of course in turn is named after the famed 13th century Venetian merchant of the same name.

While Guido possesses the ability to absorb kinetic energy and redistribute it as strength, any unused energy will result in a misshaped and distorted body. This has happened in the past and resulted in his current, ill-proportioned form.

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