X-Factor (1st series) #220

Issue Date: 
August 2011
Story Title: 
Original Sins

Peter David (writer), Paul Davidson (artist), Brian Reber (colorist) VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), David Yardin (cover), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor), Nick Lowe (editors), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Rahne decides to take a solitary walk in the rain on her way to church. However, she soon happens upon Shatterstar, who is reenacting a scene from a movie musical he has recently watched for the first time. When Rahne continues on her walk, Shatterstar decides to accompany her to talk about their mutual relationship with Rictor and recent events. Both their walk and conversation are cut short, however, when they both detect something very wrong in a church on their path. Wolfsbane enters into the front, while Shatterstar circles around back. Inside, Wolfbane finds what seems to be a young girl, standing among the carnage of a massacred congregation. The young girl, who seems to be a version of Rahne when she was young, explains that she is there to claim Rahne’s unborn baby. Being something which bridges worlds, the baby’s impending birth is causing the barrier between worlds to dissolve and beings like her are able to come for it. Transforming into a giant, demonic form, the girl declares itself a sin-eater and offers to purge Wolfsbane of her sins in exchange for the child. Violently, Wolfsbane declines and is soon joined by Shatterstar. Together, they maim the sin-eater, which begins to withdraw, but not before noting that she is but the first who will come for the infant. The crisis past, Wolfsbane and Shatterstar move to leave before the authorities arrive. However, blocking their way is the former X-Forcer known as Feral, who is supposed to be dead.

Full Summary: 

In his church, a minister finds himself greeted by a newcomer who asks “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” From his pulpit, the minister speaks past his assembled congregation, sitting in their pews. He informs the newcomer that “reverend” will do and, as she can see, they’re in the middle of a service. However, if she’d like to wait in his office…

“Right, right,” the newcomer replies. This is her first time back in a long time, and it’s hard for her to keep all the terms straight. Like the pronouns. When the reverend repeats the word inquisitively, the newcomer corrects that she meant to say “you” have sinned. The reverend continues to struggle to understand but is soon distracted by the newcomer’s transformation. As tentacles reach for the reverend, he asks what she is. Your salvation, the newcomer’s spectral voice proclaims. There, deep in his heart, in his soul… the sins to which he dares not give voice. She’ll have them out… and then he’ll be pure. As the reverend comes to a bloody end, the horrified congregation begins to flee. However, before they can reach the front entrance, the doors slam close.

At X-Factor HQ, Madrox asks the departing Rahne if she’s sure she doesn’t want a ride. Replying with a “nah,” Rahne notes that it’s a perfect day for a walk. To this, Madrox points out that it’s raining but Rahne, as she opens her umbrella, remarks that it’s a poor, pathetic wee thing compared to a healthy Scots rain, but it’ll do. Asked if she’s sure, Rahne smiles back that she knows some of the group think her a witch, but she won’t melt in water.

Now alone, Rahne begins her stroll in silence. However, in short order, she finds herself moved to exclamation at the sight before her, that of Shatterstar standing atop the base of a street light and reveling in the downpour. Asked what he’s doing by her, Shatterstar tells Rahne that he’s singin’ and dancin’ in the rain. That classic movie channel was running a marathon of something called “musicals.” They were very entertaining, he adds. He enjoyed the stylized unreality and the fluidity of the dances. Rictor didn’t want to watch, he then adds. He said he didn’t want to start “getting into musicals” because that was a stereotype. Does she know what he’s talking about? No clue, Rahne rejoins.

Changing subjects, Rahne suggests that he should go inside. She then begins to state that he’ll catch his death of cold… but stops in midsentence and asks if he can actually catch one. He doesn’t know, Shatterstar replies, he’s never been sick. Climbing down from the pole, Shatterstar opines that this is amazing weather. Such character. They’ve nothing like it on Mojoworld. When Rahne then asks what they do have on Mojoworld, Shatterstar replies simply “Mojo, mostly.” Figures, she mocks.

With that, Rahne continues on her way, only to find Shatterstar trying to catch up. When she asks where he’s going, Shatterstar replies “with her.” They need to talk about Rictor. Rhetorically asked that they do, Shatterstar explains that Monet says that he should mark his territory in a way that she’ll understand. To this, Rahne mocks that she hopes he’s not going to pee on Rictor. Shatterstar rejoins that that’s just what Monet said. Does she think he should…? Please don’t, she interrupts. Okay then, he affirms.

Speaking next, Rahne tells Shatterstar that he doesn’t have to mark anything. The two of them are a couple and she’s an idjit for thinking she had the right to try and stop them. Okay? Is that what he wants to hear? So the Bible says that what they do is a sin. Why should she even care about… Rahne’s words trail as she suddenly becomes aware that she is walking along. Glancing back, she sees Shatterstar crouching at a doorstop, handing his umbrella to a homeless man, who has been sitting through the rain protected with nothing but a blanket.

From a distance, Rahne watches in silence and only speaks when he returns to her. Without addressing his act of kindness directly, she offers her own and asks if he would care to share her umbrella. Shatterstar begins to decline, but Rahne presses, calling him a dig doofus. With a wry smile, he accepts and walks alongside her, both mutually protected from the rain.

Finally addressing the situation, she remarks that she didn’t even see that person there, much less think about helping him. When Shatterstar replies that she had a lot of things on her mind, Rahne confirms, adding that sometimes she thinks it’s all the wrong things. Shatterstar then suggests that maybe she needs to clear her head, to which Rahne rejoins that that’s why she goes to church. She finds peace in religion. Considering this, Shatterstar then asks if that religion doesn’t teach her much of the dogma that causes her conflict in the first place. Replying that she supposes, Rahne adds that it also teaches them that they should be the best people they can be. Anything wrong with that? No, Shatterstar rejoins, but what defines “best?” Ah, Rahne voices, that’s where the problems start. Wars have been started over that little question. Which is terrible. But just because they keep getting it wrong doesn’t mean they should stop trying to get it right.

Changing the subject, Rahne asks Shatterstar to tell her… does he hate her because she… Replying to her incomplete question, Shatterstar asks if she means making Rictor think he was the father of her child… no. She felt she was in a war to save his soul. It was a tactic. He may disagree with her casus belli, but a warrior respects tactics. The truth is…

Before Shatterstar can continue his thought, Rahne tells him to be quiet. Shatterstar begins to berate her attempts to silence their discussion, but Rahne reiterates her command. Something’s wrong, she then adds. She can smell it. At first, Shatterstar is confused, but he quickly realizes she’s right. It’s deathly silent. Something’s in there, he states, his eyes focused upon the church. Something… waiting. With that, Shatterstar unsheathes the sets twin wrist blades beneath each sleeve. Taken aback, Rahne asks if he has his weapons with him even if he’s just out for a walk, to which Shatterstar replies that he has them under his pillow when he sleeps.

Returning to the issue at hand, Rahne asks if they should split up or stay together. His blades raised for action, Shatterstar replies that it seems foolish to commit all their resources for a single frontal attack. Agreeing, Rahne suggests he go around back and she’ll take the front. He then instructs her to give him sixty seconds to get in position and then they go in. Adding to this, he reminds Rahne to be careful. She has an unborn child depending on her. Shifting into her half-wolf form, Rahne notes that this unborn child makes her invulnerable. They’ll be fine.

With that, Shatterstar leaves to take position. For a few moments, Rahne stands in position but soon becomes impatient. Muttering “t’hell with waiting,” she kicks the glass door into pieces and begins to walk inside. However, to her astonishment, Wolfsbane finds herself stopped in her tracks by the scene within. What was once an assembled congregation is now a massacre, with the bloodied remains strewn across the pews and floor of the church. Standing before the pulpit is a young, redheaded girl, who mocks to Wolfsbane that this is what happens when you’re late for church. You miss all the good stuff.

Cautiously approaching the young girl, Wolfsbane asks what kind of trick this is. She looks like her… when she was a child. Replying that she knows, the young girl adds that it’s church, so she felt she should dress up as something sweet and innocent. Except, when she was her age, the young doppelganger continues, she was hardly innocent, was she? They’re all born with the stain of sin on them, but her more than most. Her mother a prostitute, her father a pious hypocrite… Interrupting, Wolfsbane grows for her to shut up. This isn’t about her! The little girl’s a monster! All these people…

Interrupting in kind, the young Rahne instructs Wolfsbane to watch her mouth. She saved all these people! They were all sinners, headed for damnation. She devoured their misdeed and sent them on to their reward, purified! Does she think this intransient little life she leads means anything? Compared to the endlessness of the afterlife? Still searching for answers, Wolfsbane what she is, where did she come from, why? Repeating the latter question, the young girl grins mischievously. Why for her, dear heart, she tells Wolfsbane. For what’s growing inside her.

From the back of the church, Shatterstar emerges, his blades readied for combat.

A short distance way, the faux young Rahne continues her explanation to her towering, Lupine counterpart. She’s carrying something that bridges worlds, she tells her, and, as its birth approaches, those words are going to start to cross. The barriers will start to dissolve… and beings like her are going to be able to slip through and pursue their own interests. But she can end that right now, by allowing her to take her child…

“Go to hell,” Wolfsbane interrupts. Her grin widening as her eyes begin to grow green, the little redheaded girl asks where does she think she came from? As she transforms, the girl asks Rahne to admit it… deep down… she knows how sinful she is. She would love to expiate herself of them. Now a towering, brownish red, harpy-like creature with bat-like wings and extended claws, the demon declares itself a sin-eater and offers to transfer Rahne’s sins to her child, which she will then devour, accepting them as her own. Her soul will be left pure and she will even get to live, since that means so much to her. What does she say?

Replying with only an animalistic growl, Wolfsbane launches herself at the sin-eater, claws and fangs bared. However, with ease, the sin-eater bats away Wolfsbane, noting that this is disappointing. It was a good deal she was offering her, she notes. It was her only hope. As she closes in on the visibly shaken Wolfsbane, the sin-eater adds that Wolfsbane can’t think she’s going to be allowed to bask in God’s glory when she dies with all she’s done. She may have blocked much of it out to save her sanity… but she can’t hide it from those who will judge her. She’s her only hope.

Already in motion to attack, Shatterstar announces to the sin-eater that she’s wrong. She’s got him! The sin-eater howls in pain as Shatterstar draws blood. Still, the sin-eater is undeterred and mocks Shatterstar, who easily sidesteps the demon’s swipe and follows it with another successful thrust. However, the sin-eater then manages to claim the advantage by picking up Shatterstar by the forearms, both pinning them against his body and lifting him from the ground. Mocking her former foe, the sin-eater begins to produce tentacles from its eyes. He wanted to play, the demon mocks, they’ll play. Show her his soul, she instructs him, so that she can purify it…

However, as the tentacles begin to enter Shatterstar’s mouth, a recovered Wolfsbane leaps at the demon, announcing that his soul doesn’t need the likes of her! With a single bite, Wolfsbane severs the tentacles and the now-blinded sin-eater howls in agony. Swiping at the air, she calls Wolfsbane and animal and demands to know where she is. In her flailing, however, the sin-eater slips on a pool of blood and falls into a pew, crushing it.

Snarling at the darkness, the sin-eater curses Rahne, telling her that she was trying to save her. And look what she’s done! Approaching the wounded demon with all blades drawn, Shatterstar offers, on Rahne’s behalf, a display of gratitude. With that, all four blades are plunged into the demon, who howls in pain.

Still, the demon lives and effortlessly kicks Shatterstar away from her. As she rises, the sin-eater mocks that must think this over. She’s nothing except the opening salvo. When they see what’s coming, they’ll realize how generous she was… and wish that neither of them… nor the creature in her belly… was ever born!!!!! With that, the sin-eater takes to the sky and disappears from sight.

The crisis passed, Wolfsbane suggests that they get out of there and call the police… and make sure they’re nowhere near when they arrive. Good idea, Shatterstar agrees. However, as the two go to depart, Wolfsbane finds a familiar face baring her way. Crouched in the rain, the former X-Forcer and Morlock known as Feral greets Rahne by name and notes that it’s been a while.

Characters Involved: 

Multiple Man, Shatterstar, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor)

Reverend & church congregation


Story Notes: 

Rahne’s comment regarding not melting in water is of course a reference to the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.

The movie musical Shatterstar recently watched is Singin’ the Rain, starring Gene Kelley.

Rahne implied that Rictor was the father of her child in X-Factor (1st series) #208. Rictor was informed to the contrary later in X-Factor (1st series) #213, though he explained that he had already figured it out.

“Casus belli” is Latin for “case of war” and is used in reference for a country’s justification for war.

Wolfsbane determined her mystical invulnerability due to her pregnancy after her obstetrician appointment with Doctor Callisto in X-Factor (1st series) #210.

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