X-Factor (1st series) #204

Issue Date: 
June 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: 

Reviewing the latest simulation regarding a theoretical military strike against X-Factor, Colonel Moran of the US Army is dubious both about the viability or even a reason for a move against X-Factor. Despite this, Doctor Bolivar Trask is adamant and exercises his authority over the colonel to order the mission forward. The colonel leaves to do as ordered, completely unaware that Trask has been controlled remotely by Bastion, pulling the strings from far away. Colonel Moran strategizes with others in his team about their mission and endorses a plan by one of his soldiers to use X-Factor’s status as a detective agency to lure the team away from the city and innocent civilians. So, some time later and much to their bewilderment, X-Factor finds the Absorbing Man in their HQ, seeking their services to determine if his wife, Titania if cheating on him. Though dubious, Madrox accepts the job, making sure that Longshot handles the cash payment given as a retainer. Soon thereafter, Madrox, Rictor and Longshot trail Titania’s car into the mountains to a cabin. Despite their attempts to observe undetected, they spy Titania waving them good-bye, just before the entire car and its occupants are attacked by a squad of soldiers, who kill everyone inside. Meanwhile, down in South America, a revitalized Baron Mordo is about to make short work of Guido when the two of them are attacked by a squad of soldiers who inadvertently save Guido by shooting Mordo. Despite brief resistance from both, the soldiers incapacitate each of them and prepare to finish the job.

Full Summary: 

Rictor screams in pain as burst of shots from automatic rifles knock him off of his feet. Viewing this from a distance, someone reports that they have gained entrance to X-Factor’s headquarters. Target “Rictor” is readily dispatched.

As the squad of heavily armed and armored commandos sweep into the foyer of the building, the non-present watcher notes that they have squads coming in from all directions. They should be able to sweep through and… The speaker’s voice trails as a hell of Julio!!! comes from above from “Target: Shatterstar.” After landing on the floor but before any of the commandos can react, Shatterstar unsheathes the twin blades of his right sleeve and cleaves two men in twain. Continuing, the voice notes that they open fire on Shatterstar but his agility is insane. How can he dodge that many shots at point blank range?

As Shatterstar deals with the three remaining units of the squad, a new player enters the room, Jaime Madrox, who picks up a rifle of one of the first two slain commandos. Leveling it at the remaining units, he asks them if they have any idea how screwed they are. A moment later, having created a host of dupes, all accompanied by duplicated rifles, Madrox ask them to let him rephrase the question… as a multiple choice.

As the squad of Madri open fire, the voice notes that that shouldn’t be possible. Their weaponry is Sentinel-based tech. A mutant shouldn’t be able to pick it up and fire it. And how the hell does Madrox produce multiples of whatever he’s holding? How is that even feasible?

In reply, a second voice tells the first that they don’t know how he does it. Which means they have to acknowledge the possibility he will indeed be able to fire their weapons, should he get his mutant hands on it. Fine, the first voice replies. Bring in the heavy loaders.

So ordered, a tank arrives on scene to confront the phalanx of Madrox dupes as they exit onto the street. Told by the second voice that they have a problem the first asks why, noting the source of concern, namely the arrival of an airborne Theresa Cassidy. Because they have members who have increased potency outside, such as Siryn? Banshee, the second corrects. She’s calling herself Banshee now. Like he gives as crap, the first rejoins. Either way… they can still take her.

As if in punctuation to his words, the tank opens fire, causing Banshee to make evasive action. Noting the destruction those blasts wreak on the nearby buildings, the second voice agrees on their ability to destroy her but adds that, once they’re out in the open, now they’ve got a throw-down in a dense section of Manhattan. Now they’ve got civilian casualties. Plus, other guardians of the population come crawling or bounding or flying out of the woodwork. And wherever they go, news cameras follow, and their covert operation is everywhere from CNN to Colbert’s show. And there’s investigations and suddenly the United Nations is second-guessing the MRD, and by the way… could they have given themselves an acronym that, when pronounced, doesn’t sound like the French word for “excrement?,” because that’s what they’ll be in when…

Ending the computer simulation, the first voice admits to the colonel, the second voice in the room, that he’s made his point. So what would he suggest then? The mutants have to die? Yes, sir, Colonel Moran agrees, he knows. However, each of the simulations the computer’s been running shows that dispatching X-Factor spills over into scenarios that don’t suit their needs. The problem is…

Interrupting the colonel from behind his desk, Dr. Trask – the first voice – states that X-Factor has situated itself squarely in the middle of a populated area in order to use humans as a shield against attack. How can that cynicism not fill you with outrage? Because, Colonel Moran begins, taking a moment to rub his heavily scarred left cheek, the last time he let himself get outraged, this was the result. Outrage gets people hurt or killed. He doesn’t mind getting people killed so long as it’s people other than he and his people. Nor is the problem their cynicism. The problem is that the Mutant Response Division is charged to address mutant acts of terrorism… and they’re not terrorists. There’s nothing for them to respond to. The X-Men and their friends have created an illegal nation for themselves. X-Factor is a business. They’ve broken no laws.

There are higher laws, colonel, a voice from elsewhere tells Dr. Trask, which he repeats. To start with, the laws of nature itself. Again, Trask repeats. Elsewhere, in a small chamber surrounded by dozens of monitors, Bastion feeds Trask his next line. They have abrogated their right to live by dint of their existence. When Trask begins to trip over the pronunciation of the word “abrogated,” Bastion attempts to break it down into syllables, which only agitates Trask more until he yells out Bastion’s name in exasperation, much to the confusion of Colonel Moran.

“Bastion… of hope…” Dr. Trask attempts to recover, “against the mutant threat.” Is what they are. He has intel that X-Factor is an information gathering arm for the X-Men. They’re spying on behalf of the most extreme elements of mutantkind. He needs to trust him, Trask tells the colonel. Replying bluntly that he does not, Colonel Moran rejoins that he needs to trust the chain of command and he does. If he says X-Factor needs to be taken out… then they take them out.

Later, having been told of their mission, one of the colonel’s troops, a redheaded, buzz-cut woman with a scar on her right cheek named Sylvius, asks what their crime is. Moran answers that they’re associating with known terrorists, i.e. the X-Men. Then asked if she has a problem with that, Sylvius replies no, although the colonel’s tendency to use Latin abbreviations in normal conversation kinda ticks her off.

Ignoring this, the other trooper at the table, a mop-haired, bespectacled young man notes that X-Factor is headquartered in Manhattan. There’s gonna be a lot of ancillary damage. Maybe PR blowback. After Sylvius replies “no,” she finds her word is repeated by both the young man and Colonel Moran. When Sylvius reaches into her vest, announcing that they’re going to use this against them, Colonel Moran jokingly asks if she means her bosom. He likes her confidence.

Sarcastically complimenting his humor, Sylvius produces a checkbook. After another round of confusion with everyone asking if she really means a checkbook, Colonel Moran gets it. With a smile, he notes that they hire them. They use a cat’s-paw and hire them so that they head to somewhere desolate, and that’s where they take them out. After complimenting her on the plans simplicity, which Sylvius notes are always the best, Colonel Moran asks who’s the cat’s-paw, though? Has to be someone convincing. Dismissing the question, Sylvius notes that she’s sure they can find someone to cooperate for a price.

Later, at X-Factor HQ, flanked by Darwin, Rictor and Longshot, Madrox sits on the edge of his desk and looks down at his latest prospective client, the Absorbing Man. Making sure he understand this, his wife is cheating on him. Is she insane? Crusher Creel wholeheartedly agrees, noting that he’s such a prize catch, how could any girl think of steppin’ out on him, right?

Well, no, Madrox replies, struggling to chose his next word properly. It’s because, he’s… “The Absorbing Man,” Rictor finishes. Right, Madrox agrees. There’s plenty of women out there who aren’t married to, y’know... A super-villain, Darwin chimes in. Right, Madrox agrees. He means, a cuckolded husband under any circumstances is problematic. One who can…

“Do this?” Creel asks, touching the blade of a letter opener and transforming first his hand and then his entire body into the metal of the blade. Responding “exactly,” Madrox questions who would be stupid enough… Interrupting as he returns to flesh and blood, Creel tells Madrox that that’s what he wants him to find out, obviously. Then asked what happens once they do, Creel replies that they tell him and he does the rest. Or do they have a problem with that? He hears they’re okay with working for guys like him if the price is right. True enough, Madrox rejoins. They’re an equal opportunity employee.

Satisfied, Creel produces a roll of bills and tosses it onto the desk, asking if it will cover it. More than, Madrox replies, eying the roll. Calling to Longshot, he instructs him to take the money. At first, Longshot is confused and begins to remind Madrox that Rictor usually handles that, but an adamant Madrox emphasizes that he is to handle it. Replying with an “okay, sure,” Madrox takes the roll of bills and exits.

Returning his attention to Creel, Madrox tells him that if he gives them an address, they can stake out and put a tail on her. To this, Creel states that Titania’s been a crook for awhile. She’s good at someone following her. In reply, Madrox counters that they’re good at following people, so that works out.

Elsewhere, now alone in his office, Dr. Trask is ordered by the far away yet still present Bastion not to ever do that again. Trask tries to explain that it was just for a moment, but Bastion rejoins no moments. Ever. Taking a different tact, Trask points out that X-Factor isn’t even joining the X-Men in Utopia. With their race fighting for survival, X-Factor is one the sidelines. Irrelevant, Bastion replies. Extermination is mandatory. Understood? His defiance at an end, Trask answers of course. He understands.

A voice brings Trask back to those actually present and finds Colonel Moran standing at his door. The colonel reports that Bravo Team has located targets St. Croix and Carosella in South America. When Trask then orders him to put them down, the colonel informs him that they’re on a rescue mission involving St. Croix’s father, a diplomat. The state department requests… Interrupting, Trask tells Colonel Moran that he doesn’t give a damn about state. Two less mutants is two less mutants. That’s just math. Take them. That’s an order.

At that moment in South America, Guido calls into the temple. Addressing any of the “interlopers” who might be inside, he instructs them to send out Monet and her dad, and he promises t’kick their butt only halfway to Mars.

Green flame erupts before Guido, causing him to squint as his pupils adjust from the night air to the light it produces. “Indeed,” Baron Mordo states, standing in the middle of the flame. Imagine his relief. Imagine how much he was trembling at the prospect of battling a malformed strong man. When Guido corrects him that he means “Strong Guy,” Mordo offers a sarcastic “whatever.”

Tell him, Mordo instructs Guido, as he raises his arms and produces a smile, does he have any clue how to thwart a simple binding spell? Yes? No? Need time to think? He’s wagering “no,” actually. Suddenly finding himself literally bound by a single, massive strap which wraps around his torso, negating the leverage of his massive arms, Guido asks the man who the hell he is. Gesticulating as he continues his spell, using it to lift Guido off of his feet and into the air, Mordo introduces himself as Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo. And, in case Guido is wondering, he’s using energies drained from his associate, Ms. St. Croix, to overcome the pathetic weakness that his body has inflicted upon him. He just thought Guido would want to know before he died, that Monet made it possible. If the two of them should eventually meet in hell… do thank her for him.

A moment later, Mordo’s taunts are cut short by three bullets, which slice through his torso, producing both wounds and a blood-curdling scream. The source of the shots, a cadre of armed and armored troops move into the clearing before the temple. One of their number announces that targets are acquired and orders the others to move in.

Mordo’s spell broken, Guido’s bonds disappear and he falls to the ground. Exasperated, he asks no one in particular who the hell these guys are.

Nearby, a trio of soldiers have their laser sites aimed at the torso of the still living Mordo, who uses what little breath he have to ask the men if they dare. When one of the soldiers asks the other if they guy is a mutant, the other replies that the big one definitely is and orders the first to take him. So ordered, he and other begins to open fire on Guido. Despite the initial lack of death, the troop leader orders them to concentrate their fire. His hide’s tough… but these rounds should be able to get through even…

Before their strategy can work, Guido bursts forward toward them, knocking all of the soldiers down. However, before he can turn his attention to any of the other attackers, one sneaks up from behind and uses a taser-like staff, which drops Guido off of his feet. Wasting no time, the soldier takes his free hand and places his rifle to the back of Guido’s head, opining that he thinks what they need is something at close range…

The theory is never put to the test, however, as the soldier erupts in a green flame, which reduces him to ash. Nearby, the still living Baron Mordo barely manages to voice his opinion that the soldiers have no idea… how dead they are. “Neither do you, freak,” one of the many still standing soldiers states.

Meanwhile, on a mountain road, one vehicle follows another from a safe distance. Speaking on his bluetooth headset, Madrox reports to HQ that they’re heading farther up into the mountains and asks the party on the other end of the line if they have their position tracked. Receiving confirmation and asked if the DR tech is working, Madrox replies “like a charm.”

This confirmed, Madrox wonders aloud whether he was the wrong person to send into this. Maybe a dupe would have been better… To this, the party on the other end replies nope, adding that it had to be him. Have some confidence. Madrox begins to reply with an appreciation, but halts his thoughts as he notes that Titania is pulling off the main road.

Hearing this, HQ instructs Madrox to hand back and not to engage her, if for no other reason that she’ll break them in half. Their job’s to see if she meets up with someone. Observing further, Madrox reports that she’s heading into a cabin. No signs of any other cards there. Probably means she’s alone. To this, HQ rejoins that it doesn’t mean that at all. Remember, they’re dealing with super people.

Continuing to narrate his actions, Madrox states that she’s pulling over. He’s killed the engine. No headlights. Asked if he has the camera out, Madrox affirms, adding that he’s got it trained on a window. Good view into the… Madrox voice trails and then reports that Titania’s spotted them. She’s looking right at them. She’s… Asked what she’s doing, Madrox replies that he thinks she’s waving good-bye.

In shock, Madrox lowers his camera and is unable to see the nine laser-sight points dotting his forehead. Half a moment later, the rifles containing those sights open fire, reducing Madrox’s face to a red mist. The gunfire continues as their vehicle erupts with bullet holes, perforating it and its other two occupants, Rictor and Longshot.

Eventually, the team leader of the attacking soldiers orders a cease fire. He then orders another trooper, named Gleason, to give him a sitrep. Though told to be careful, the order is unnecessary, as Gleason soon reports that the targets are eliminated. No sign of any backups, no breathing, no movement. Mission accomplished. Excellent, the squad leader replies. Now they nail the ones in South America and Ireland, and they can call it a day.

Characters Involved: 

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

Baron Mordo

Doctor Bolivar Trask

Colonel Moran
Army soldiers (unnamed)

Absorbing Man

computer simulation:
Banshee II, Multiple Man, Rictor, Shatterstar (all X-Factor)
Captain America (Bucky), Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Stature, Thor, Vision, Wasp II (all Avengers)
Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mister Fantastic, the Thing (all Fantastic Four)

US Army soldiers

on computer monitor:
Dr. Bolivar Trask
Cameron Hodge
Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine

Story Notes: 

This is a side story of the Second Coming crossover running through the X-titles.

Theresa decided to take her father’s codename of “Banshee” as her own in X-Factor (1st series) #200.

The reference to “Colbert’s show” refers to the Colbert Report, starring Stephen Colbert.

The French word for “excrement” that the pronunciation of MRD sounds like is “merde.”

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