X-Factor (1st series) #207

Issue Date: 
September 2010
Story Title: 
Lost Souls

Peter David (writer), Sebastian Fiumara (art), 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: 

Madrox accepts the case of a mysterious woman who goes by the name of “Halja.” Her case is for X-Factor to find a man named Gofern and retrieve a Norse pendant shaped like “Thor’s hammer,” which he stole from her. The tracking does not seem to be of great difficulty, due to the trail he leaves behind at various bars from which he is thrown out. Eventually, Madrox and Banshee track Gofern to a bar and, after saving him from an altercation with a jealous boyfriend, Banshee grabs the necklace from around his neck. To both her and Madrox’s surprise, the handsome Gofern transforms back into the diminutive and loathsome form of Pip the Troll, who warns the two that because of them a goddess will drag him to hell. Back at X-Factor HQ, Monet prepares to honor her promise to allow Baron Mordo to absorb enough energy from her to cure his cancer, much to the horror of her father, Darwin & Guido. Layla arrives just in time to voice her own thoughts, which include allowing Mordo to wither until he is like Doom of the future timeline, degenerated mentally until he believes the self-delusion that he is better off than he actually is. Inspired, Monet uses her telepathy to make Mordo believe that he is both cured and restored to vitality, at which point he departs to revel in his supposed victory. Exhausted, Monet collapses onto the pillow Layla had brought with her. Elsewhere, Rictor has taken Shatterstar to a gun range, both as a place for a lesson on firearms but also to talk. The exchange ends with Rictor learning both that Shatterstar can master a firearm in moments and that he needs Rictor, despite all appearances to the contrary, due to his inexperience at understanding his own desires and their appropriateness. Reluctant at first to accept Shatterstar’s needs, Rictor does so and the two return to headquarters a couple. However, just as they are about to consummate their relationship, a very pregnant Wolfsbane walks in on them, complicating everything for everyone.

Full Summary: 

“Mr. Madrox, I need your help,” she said. Standing in the doorway, she stands straight and tall, clad in a long, green dress, which is cut low to her navel, revealing ample cleavage. In contrast, both her head and eyes are obscured by a draping, wide-brimmed hat and dark sunglasses, the same shade of green as her dress. Taking all of this in, Madrox would later note to himself that she was tall and elegant, with a body that was eighty percent legs and one hundred percent trouble. It just didn’t come more noir than her.

Still regarding the lady from behind his desk, Madrox glances up to Longshot, who stands at his side. Normally, Madrox notes, whenever Longshot enters a room, women are taken with him. It’s hardwired into his genetics. This time around… he gets to see what it’s like. After waving his hand before Longshot’s vacant stare, Madrox returns to the lady in the dress and asks her to ignore Longshot, if she wouldn’t mind. He doesn’t get out much. Not to worry, she replies. She’s quite experienced with ignoring people.

Still sizing her up, Madrox notes that the woman’s voice is low and throaty, and she has a strange accent. Vaguely Germanic, but a hint of something else he can’t place. Playing it cautiously, he asks if she would care to sit down… miss…? After a pause long enough for him to surmise that the name she’s about to speak isn’t the one she typically goes by, the woman answers “Halja.” When Madrox replies that it’s unusual, Halja rejoins that it’s old. In contrast to her, he then replies. Oh, she’s older than she looks, she counters.

Detecting the contest of wills in their banter, Madrox notes aloud that she’s still not sitting. Told he’s very observant, he replies that he is a detective. Comes with the training. Plus you also get a certificate and a decoder ring. Finally emerging from his trance, Longshot introduces himself, however when Madrox notes that nobody cares, he replies with a simple “okay.”

Returning back to Halja, Madrox asks how can X-Factor be of service to her. In reply, Halja produces a simple, leather neckband, around which hangs a piece of metal shaped in a likeness of a hammer. After Halja asks if they know what it is, Longshot excitedly raises his hand and replies that he knows – it’s jewelry. Ignoring him, Madrox answers that it’s called a “Thor’s Hammer.” It’s an ancient style of Norse pendant.

Placing the necklace onto Madrox’s desk, Halja replies that it’s an exact replica of a far more valuable one that’s been stolen from her. Asked if she wants them to find out who took it, Helja informs Madrox that she knows who took it. He stole it from her dwelling in Las Vegas. She has reason to believe he’s there in New York. She wants them to retrieve it. Next asked if this guy has a name, Halja produces a photograph of a man and introduced him as Golfern. Told that that’s another unusual name, Halja rejoins that he’s a very unusual person.

Producing a small pouch, Halja tosses it across the desk at Madrox and states that she assumes it will cover his services. Opening it up, Madrox notes that it’s gold. Gold coins. Replying in the affirmative, Halja adds that it’s enough to hire a dozen of them. To this, Madrox replies that a dozen of him isn’t out of the question.

Nearby, a look of concern visible over his face, Darwin asks how is this not out of the question. As both Guido and her father begin to voice similar unease, Monet informs them all that if they’d just stop talking she wouldn’t have to listen to any of them and they’d all be happy. Regarding the inert and nigh-desiccated form of Baron Mordo lying on the table before them, St. Croix asks his daughter how are any of them supposed to be happy? She’s willingly going to allow this… this creature to use her to regain his healthy…

Growing irate, Monet turns to her father and repeats “willingly?” Does he think she’d do this if she had any other choice? When her father opines that Mordo would never have kept his word to her, Monet counters that the fact that she will keep her word is what makes her better than him. That and, of course, she’s rich and gorgeous and, well… her. Darwin next attempts to object, reminding Monet that he’s a bad guy who kidnapped her father, but again Monet interrupts. She knows what he did and she knows what he is. And she knows what she has to do.

With this, Monet twists to a newcomer in the room and asks Layla what the hell is she doing there. Told she thought she’d help, Monet notes the pillow Layla is holding and asks if she means with that. Next told “yup,” Monet asks if she means to smother herself with it. When Layla replies no, Monet notes that she doesn’t see the point then.

Attempting to diffuse the escalating conversation, Guido speaks up, only for Monet to turn on him. Pointing to Layla, Monet tells him she thinks he should spend less time worrying about her and more worrying about Layla. She was acting like von Doom’s apprentice and now she’s here? And they’re all okay with this? Still clutching her pillow, Layla notes that they’re not okay with her helping Mordo. As far as they’re concerned, Mordo should wind up like the elderly Doom Jamie told her about. Seeing himself as strong and vital instead of decrepit. But she doesn’t care, right? Taking in Layla’s words, Monet silently regards Layla for a few moments… before telling her to shut up and get out of her way. “Okey-dokey,” Layla replies.

Returning to the table, Monet takes off her glove and reaches out to Mordo and takes his hand in hers. A moment later, green energy ignites between the two. As Monet writhes in its glow, Mordo’s hand grows in strength and the skin covering it tightens. Very soon, Mordo’s hand grips Monet’s. Watching all of this, Guido and St. Croix begin to yell that it’s too much. However, before Guido can reach the table to end it, green-tinged lightening erupts from Mordo’s rising body, pushing Guido back off of his feet. Once again young and vital, a maniacally grinning Baron Mordo rises from the table to his feet and towers over the desiccated shell of Monet St. Croix and mocks her as being foolish. Her friends were right, he laughs. She should have let him die.

Stepping away from the table, Mordo revels in his new vitality. Projecting lightening to all present, he notes how easily he could destroy all of them. But there is no point. They are not worth wasting energy on. Instead, he will leave them alive to tend to Ms. St. Croix… or more precisely what remains of her. Generating an emerald portal in the shape of a doorway, Mordo instructs them all not to worry about him. He’ll show himself out. And he shall not rush his plans this time. Instead, he shall meticulously spin his web, crafting the schemes that will dispatch all of his enemies. And he assures them, the world has not seen the last of Baron Karl Amadeus…

“Mordo!” a still-ailing baron concludes, emerging from the other side of his portal. Though his skin is cracked and loose over his withered form, Mordo gazes upon a reflection in a window of a much healthier and vital self. Cursing in a jesting manner, he notes that he’s even more handsome than he remembered. Cancer will never get the better of one such as he! Laughing maniacally, he walks down the streets of New York in glorious personal victory.

Back at X-Factor HQ, a confused Dawin haltingly asks what the hell just happened? Why’d Mordo just get up and walk out of there without draining her of anything? Her arms crossed in self satisfaction, Monet explains that he was weak enough and her mind was strong enough, that she used her telepathy to create a false reality for him. He thinks she collapsed and that he’s healed. Asked by Darwin how long will that last, he replies that, with any luck, the cancer will dispatch him before it wears off. And he’ll never even realize he’s dying. It’s better than he deserves.

Grinning slightly, Guido notes that she got the idea from Laula, when she mentioned the elderly Doom… Spinning to face him, Monet yells that she was going to do it anyway! She didn’t need any… help…

Suddenly, Monet loses consciousness and falls to the floor. Luckily for her, a pillow is waiting on the floor to absorb the impact of her head. Regarding her now unconscious teammate, Layla notes that the effort took a lot out of her. She’ll probably need a couple of days to recover. When Darwin praises her save with the pillow, Layla rejoins that actually Monet’s skull’s pretty hard. She was more worried her head would damage the linoleum.

Elsewhere, at Mike’s Shooting Range, Shatterstar reiterates to Rictor that he doesn’t like guns. In fact, Rictor used to not like them either. Readying his handgun as he preps for his target, Rictor replies that he used to be able to make the ground shake. You gotta learn to change with the times. Holding his own handgun from the barrel with visible disgust, Shatterstar remarks that they’re not fit for a warrior. If you’re not close enough to see your enemy’s life leave his eyes, what’s the point? The point is, Rictor counters, that you don’t die. Turning slightly to regard Rictor, Shatterstar rejoins that it’s better to die in a worthy fashion than to live in an unworthy one. To this, Rictor quips that Shatterstar should write greeting cards for a living.

Returning his attention to the range, Rictor raises his handgun and tells Shatterstar to watch and learn. Firing off six shots, Rictor notes the close grouping to the center three rings of the target and says “not bad, huh?” When Shatterstar replies, as he eyes his own handgun, that it seems fairly simple, Rictor replies that she should give it a try. First, he needs to put on the protective gear, then using two hands he should brace… Ignoring all of Rictor’s suggestions, Shatterstar lifts his arms and fires six quick shots, all of which group within the center ring of the target.

As Rictor reels, Shatterstar places the gun down and begins to leave, declaring it a waste of time. And what about him, Rictor asks. Is he a waste of time too? When Shatterstar pauses, asking what he’s talking about, Rictor replies that he knows. He made this big deal about showing up because he wanted to be with him. And next thing he knows, hes with everyone but. What the hell went on with him and Layla, huh? When Shatterstar replies simply that they “connected,” Rictor asks what’s that supposed to mean? Is he with her now? Cross-armed, Shatterstar replies negatively, adding that Layla has her own path and he has his. Asked if Rictor is on that path, Shatterstar replies that he would like him to be, yes.

Taken aback, Rictor repeats that he’d “like” him to be and asks what that means. Draping his arm around Rictor, Shatterstar explains that he needs to understand. He comes from a realm where he was not designed for enjoying, or even understanding emotional relations… not to mention carnal relations. And then he came here, and it took a while… but slowly, as if a veil was being lifted, he became aware of the infinite possibilities this world presents… and he wants to share it with him. When Rictor inquisitively repeats the word “share,” Shatterstar confirms. Then asked if he’s supposed to be Shatterstar’s guide, he tells Rictor that, in a sense, he supposes. “Go to hell,” Rictor announces, storming away.

Emerging onto the sidewalk outside, Rictor calls to the chasing Shatterstar to go to drop dead. When Shatterstar emerges as well, asking what did he say to upset him, Rictor replies that he’s not upset. Obviously he is, Shatterstar counters. He didn’t mean to… Interrupting, Rictor replies that he doesn’t know what Shatterstar meant, or what he means to Shatterstar. What he obviously wants is an open relationship. When Shatterstar replies that he doesn’t, Rictor stats that he wants to go sleep with whomever he wants. To this, Shatterstar replies that, well, then, he guesses he does.

To this, Rictor states that that doesn’t work for him and Shatterstar replies that being with other people is going to be an empty experience if he’s not there to share it with him! After Rictor takes a moment to chide an elderly couple who is suspiciously eying the two, Shatterstar continues, explaining that this is all still very new to him. Still irate, Rictor replies that he’d better get a fast track on the learning curve. Unless how he feels doesn’t mean anything to him.

Opening his arms in exasperation, Shatterstar counters that that’s what he needs him for. To tell him how he feels… or how he should feel. He’s experiencing all sorts of emotions, sensations, desires… things that Rictor’s lived with his whole life. Asked if he means it’s overwhelming, Shatterstar confirms. Exactly. And just as he needs an anchor when he’s teleporting, he needs an emotional anchor for everyday life. And it can only be him, he tells Rictor. He needs him. With that, the two embrace in a kiss. Upon parting, the two begin to return to depart, at which point Rictor notes that Shatterstar has gotta teach him how to shoot the way he did. If he insists, Shatterstar replies.

Elsewhere, Madrox is finding that Mr. Gofern is posing less of a challenge that he thought, considering the trail he is leaving behind. At a tavern called “Harry’s Bar,” he receives an annoyed response from the bartender upon showing the photograph of his man of interest. Knowing him immediately, the bartender notes that the drinks like a fish and is all over anything that is female and has a pulse. He hadda throw him out. He acted like he enjoyed it. Like it was a mark of honor or something. To this, Madrox replies that that’s what he’s been hearing all over.

Receiving a call on his mobile phone, Madrox excuses himself and steps outside. On the other end, Terry reports that he’s at St. Mark’s and has just spotted him going in. Smiling, Madrox declines Terry’s invitation to tear into their target and instructs him to stay on station and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. This calls for subtlety.

Within St. Mark’s, Mr. Gofern has his arm around an ample-chested, short-haired blonde and is lifting his empty glass, calling for the “barkeep” to pour another round for him and the little lady. Before the bartender can appear, Gofern finds a rather large, barrel-chested and irate boyfriend noting that he goes to the can for five minutes and comes back to find him hanging all over his girl. Repeating “your girl,” Gofern stares deeply into the cleavage of the blonde and notes that he doesn’t see his hand on her. The only way to make sure is to get her clothes off and look all over. Does he wanna help or just stand over in the corner and wait…

Incensed, the boyfriend hurls Gofern off of his stool, as his girlfriend calls his name, Frank, asking him to wait. And wait Frank does, as a woman appears from behind, placing her hand on his shoulder and telling him he shouldn’t get so worked up. Speaking with a melodic voice, Banshee asks him, honestly, if she’s worth all this aggravation. Really? When he gets down to it? Thoroughly entranced, Frank replies that he guesses not, which enrages the blonde, who slaps him across the face with a “screw you” and storms out. Returning to his senses, Frank repeatedly calls out to her as “babe” and chases after her, yelling that he doesn’t know what came over him.

As Frank departs, Madrox smiles, silently praising Terry for her work. Now, she needs to move in for the kill. As if following his silent instructions, Banshee helps Gofern up to his feet. Offering her a thanks, Gofern then offers to buy her a drink in appreciation. When she replies that a coke would be nice, Gofern replies with an “awww” and asks to get her something stronger. She likes stronger, but not for drinks, Terry replies, rubbing her hand over his chest and inching closer and closer to the necklace Gofern wears. When he asks “what then,” Terry grasps the necklace and answers “hammers” as pulls the necklace off his neck.

Before Gofern can react, Terry tosses the pendant to Madrox, who is still positioned next to the front door. As she turns back to Gofern, Terry sees him begin to transform, yelling “NOOOO!!!!” as he does. As he yells that she doesn’t know what she’s done, Gofern transforms back to the diminutive form of Pip the Troll.

Taking in his new form, Banshee mutters “oh my God,” only for Pip to call her an id’jit. Not her god! A whole different god. Goddess, actually. She’s gonna drag him to hell now, and that’s itfor old Pip. And it’s all her fault!

Back at X-Factor HQ, Rictor and Shatterstar ready for bed in their darkened room. Smiling slightly, Shatterstar promises that they’ll work this all out. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Rictor replies that he thinks they need to get a handle on what the two of them are before… Smiling as he moves in slightly, Shatterstar replies that he understands completely. As the two embrace, Rictor says that he can’t tell him how glad he is that…

Rictor’s words trail as the door opens, allowing in a crack of light. Immediately annoyed, Rictor asks the interloper to excuse them. A little privacy if they don’t mi… Rictor’s words trail again as he sees who stands in the doorway – a very pregnant Rahne. Oblivious to the awkwardness of the situation, Shatterstar excitedly tells her it’s been awhile and asks her if she’d care to join them.

Characters Involved: 

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

Baron Mordo

Hela (as Halja)

Pip, the Troll

Frank & his girlfriend
Patrons of St. Mark’s bar
Bartender of Harry’s Bar
Elderly couple on the street
Various New Yorkers

Baron Mordo’s hallucination: Baron Mordo
Darwin, M, Layla Miller, Strong Guy, (all X-Factor)
St. Croix

Photo: Pip the Troll (as Gofern)

Story Notes: 

Although not stated explicitly that Halja is the Norse goddess Hela in the body of the story, her prominent appearance on the front cover if a dead giveaway.
Actually Halja seems to be another name for Hel(a), according to Jacob Grimm it’s the theorized proto-Germanic form of the name Hel(a).

Monet learned that her father was kidnapped in X-Factor (1st series) #203 and departed with Guido to look for him in #201. Monet herself was kidnapped by Mordo’s forces, who were using her father as bait, in #205.

Layla stayed for many months in Latveria, advising Doctor Doom in an as yet unrevealed capacity. [X-Factor (1st series) #201-202]

Banshee’s reference to not drinking is due to her history of alcoholism.

Shatterstar and Wolfsbane never had a history of interacting. Possibly they met during events like the Phalanx Covenant - Life Signs, Illyana's funeral and Scott and Jean's wedding.

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