X-Factor (1st series) #233

Issue Date: 
May 2012
Story Title: 
In From the Cold

Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (artist), Matt Milla (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), David Yardin (cover artist), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor), Nick Lowe (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

In his ice fortress in a frozen landscape, Josef Huber is visited by a strange woman who arrives via dogsled, pulled by demonic-looking wolves. Seemingly part-demon herself, she makes an offer to assist Huber in his problem with the world’s mutants by unleashing hell on Earth. Meanwhile, at an anti-mutant militia compound, the Havok-led X-Factor is briefed by its current client, Val Cooper. She explains that, after the well armed militia began making threats against the president, they need it shut down, but without the loss of life of the children living within. Havok’s plan is to have Banshee use her melodic voice to entrance its populace to lay down their arms. All goes well until one of its members, who happens to be deaf, cannot hear Banshee’s siren voice and attempts to kill her. The situation turns worse when Rictor moves to defend Banshee and the man fires wildly, breaking the entrancement of the whole camp. Fortunately for X-Factor, the bullet-neutralizing magnetic powers of Polaris and the team’s combined abilities make short work of the militia. Realizing this, one member rushes to activate a high-powered explosive and succeeds, despite the actions of Wolfsbane. Luckily, Monet manages to toss it high enough into the air for Havok to be able to safely incinerate it with his plasma blast. As the team dedicates its victory to its deceased leader, they are unaware that Madrox is once again in the land of the living. At that moment, back in X-Factor HQ, Madrox lies on a morgue tray, wondering if it was a good idea to have given in to passion with Layla, who assisted in his return. Before he can voice all of his concerns, Layla wakens and admits that she resurrected Guido in an effort to avoid being fate’s plaything. She also promises never to keep secrets from him again. After they put their clothes back on, Madrox gleefully informs Pip first that he’s returned from the dead, only for Pip to tell him not to bother him while he’s on a porn site.

Full Summary: 

In a frozen landscape, a lone figure rides a dogsled, pulled by four wolves. No ordinary wolves, the four animals possess luminescent red eyes and breathe a bright yellow light. Eventually, the sled comes to a halt next to a small keep-like fortress, seemingly constructed of ice. Leaving the sled, the bundled figure makes its way to the ice keep and outstretches its hand to a wall, which promptly melts at the figure’s touch. Now gaining entrance, the figure walks within, though it does not get far. Suddenly, a blast knocks the figure off its feet. “What are you? And what are you doing here” the figure is asked by the self-isolated man named Josef Huber.

Eyeing Huber, who is sitting on a throne of ice and whose right hand still smolders from the energy blast he just projected, the figure identifies Josef Huber by name and states that it appears he’s the shoot first, ask questions later type. It tends to save time, Huber replies. When the figure then notes that he said “what” rather than “who,” Huber confirms. He cannot sense the intruder’s mind, but not because of a blocking. It’s as if the intruder were a black hole: as if they were not truly there. If they were a “who,” then their very presence would be painful to him. Their thoughts would be hammering away at him. He would be trying to kill them.

And, failing, the intruder counters, thanks to his “mental block” against killing mutants. When Huber then states that the intruder admits they are a mutant, the intruder replies that, actually, far more daringly under the circumstances, they admit they are not. At least not in the classic sense. In point of fact, the intruder tells Huber, they are there to help him. With that, the intruder removes its hood to reveal a black-haired head with white horns and red ears. Leaning forward, Huber replies “ah” and suggests that they should talk.

“We should talk,” Madrox rehearses in his mind as he thinks of what to say to Layla, whose head rests on his shoulder as they lie naked on a morgue tray and under the sheet which too recently covered his now reanimated corpse. Staring upward, wide-awake as she sleeps against him, Madrox thinks to her that they were so caught up in the moment that they did something that probably wasn’t wise. Plus, there’s the whole thing about him still being skeeved because he’s sure she brought Guido back from the dead. This was a mistake. As long as she’s hiding things from him, this isn’t going to work.

As Madrox thinks this, Layla opens her eyes and speaks his name. Noting that he’s awake, she tells him that he’s right. She revived Guido. As Madrox is taken back from her sudden admission, one of which he was just thinking, she continues. She brought him back from the dead, even though she knew he’d be soulless. Even though she knew he was supposed to stay dead. And she’d love to say that it was because he meant so much to her, and all that stuff. But the truth is that, for that one moment, she snapped. Because she was… Prompted by her trailing words, Madrox asks her what she was. “I was tired of being fate’s chew toy,” she replies.

To this, Madrox asks that she knew she was doing what she wasn’t supposed to do. Yes, she affirms, and she paid for it. Madrox begins to respond but suddenly notes the vertical gash down his chest, which has been stapled back together. When Madrox hesitatingly asks about it, Layla confirms that it’s where he was stabbed, yeah. She had a third-year med student fix him up while he was, y’know… Dead, Madrox finishes. When she confirms, Madrox pleadingly asks her to confirm she didn’t bring him back. No, she replies, she waited too long and she…

Trailing mid sentence, Layla embraces Madrox and promises no more secrets. Between them, she means. She swears. That good to hear, he replies. He then wonders how the others will react, knowing X-Factor’s fearless leader is back. Her facial express hidden due to their embrace, Layla bites her lips. About the whole “fearless leader” thing… There’s, uh… There’s been some changes.

Atop a hill, the rest of X-Factor, led by Havok, looks down at the valley below, in the center of which sits a heavily armed and fortified anti-mutant compound. Speaking for the rest of the team, Havok asks Val Cooper to confirm that there are children in there. At least a dozen, she replies. To this, Guido remarks that it wasn’t until they starting writing threatening letters to the president that they decided to step in, huh? He means, they have the whole “target mutants” agenda but she was okay with that…

Interrupting, Polaris suggests that they don’t even go there. Accepting this literally, Shatterstar suggests that they go down there. Settle this quickly. Aghast at Shatterstar’s extended twin wrist blades, Val tells him to watch it with those. Responding to Shatterstar’s suggestion, Havok tells him that, if they charge the place, start throwing their powers around, there’s no way of guaranteeing the children’s safety. Besides… there’s an easier way.

In short order, two men guarding the front gate of compound find a siren voice calling out to them. With a sing-song melodic pattern of speech, Banshee suggests that those guns look soooo heavy. Don’t they think it’d be waaaay better if they put them down? Totally entranced, the two men eagerly do as suggested.

Back on the hill, Val asks Havok if he’s sure she can do this with so many people. She assured him she could, he replies. Back at the compound’s gate, Rictor asks the same question, to which Banshee admits that she hasn’t the faintest idea and suggests that they find out. With that, Banshee brings the megaphone slung around her shoulder to her mouth and uses her same siren power of speech to call to everyone with the sound of her voice... Put down their weapons! Come on out! Slowly, the entranced populace of the compound do as instructed, all with smiles on their face. However, lone among their number is a confused man, who wonders aloud with a speech impediment what is going on.

Watching from his elevated position, Havok reports that she’s doing it. They’re heading toward the gate. Suddenly, Val notices that all of her armed squad has begun to drop their weapons and march down to the compound. Grimacing slightly at this, Havok apologizes that she should’ve seen that coming. He then notes that Terry’s voice is not affecting her, to which Val retorts that Theresa’s not her type. She then accosts one of the agents named Silverstone, urging him to get focused. However, an “uh oh” from Havok draws her attention. When she asks what’s wrong, he replies that he’s not sure.

Via their comm. headsets, Havok calls to Rictor and tells him that there’s a guy in the compound who doesn’t seem affected. At first Rictor wonders if he’s a mutant, but Havok suddenly realizes what seems to have been emphatic gesturing is actually American sign language. He’s deaf! Havok announces. He can’t hear Banshee’s voi…

As the man suddenly charges at Banshee, Rictor charges his fists and unleashes a miniature earthquake, knocking the guy off of his feet in mid-charge. As he falls, however, the man discharges his automatic rifle, the sound of which startles the compound inhabitants out of their entrancement. Among their number is a young man, who promptly picks up an Uzi and opens fire, yelling Die, mutants! Die! Up above, the rest of X-Factor leaps into action, running down the hill. When Longshot remarks that they should be careful of those kids, Guido rejoins that he blames society.

As the group comes into range, the heavily armed compound gunmen open fire. However, a moment later they all cease fire, dumbfounded by the lack of effect. Even more astonishing is that all of their bullets are hanging in mid-air. Back on the hill, Polaris, the source of their manipulation, assures Havok that she’s got them.

At the compound, Longshot takes a moment to remark at the handiness of bullet manipulation before he and the rest of the team tear into the compound militia. However, unnoticed by the team, one of the militiamen flees from the fight and races toward a tent in which he finds a large explosive device.

Back at X-Factor HQ, Layla finishes dressing as the already dressed Madrox takes in the news. Alex? Lorna? They’re in charge now? Noting that he keeps saying that, Layla guesses that the surprise hasn’t worn off yet. It’s just, Madrox begins, it seems to have come out of nowhere. From outer space, Layla remarks. Asked if they thought he’d work for them now, Layla replies that they thought he was dead. Which, in fairness, they were right about.

Continuing to the other bit of news, Madrox notes that they’ve hooked back up with Val Cooper. When Layla explains that she’s one regular client, Madrox jokingly asks who’s the other? Wolverine? Met with a blank stare, Madrox realizes he’s guessed correctly. Seriously? he asks? Seriously, Layla confirms. Placing his face in his palm, Madrox asks just to be put back in the deep freeze.

In his fortress of ice, the horned woman addresses Huber by his given name of Josef and remarks that this is no life for him. Hiding up here, in the cold, in the frozen wasteland… simply because the minds of humanity scream at him incessantly. It’s not humanity’s fault, Huber corrects her. It’s the damned mutants. To this, the horned woman asks if it wouldn’t be exquisite if they were all dead. Then he would know peace. Told by him that he would, the horned woman remarks that those she works with wants them gone as well. Asked why that is, the woman replies that they want to unleash hell on Earth. They want to bring about the apocalypse. Is that not a consummation devoutly to be wished? “Yes,” Huber replies, his right eye flashing in emphasis.

At the anti-mutant compound, the militiaman tries to work the high explosive he knew would someday come in handy. Suddenly, Wolfsbane comes ripping into the tent. Through bared teeth, she asks if he thought they committed all their forces to a frontal assault. Did he think they were stupid? He won’t get close enough to activate that nasty-looking bomb. Though held down by Wolfsbane, the man seems unconcerned. “Mutants must die,” he proclaims in a matter-of-fact manner. Wolfsbane begins to mock his hate-filled rants, but the man interrupts, explaining that, actually, that’s the phrase that voice-activates the bomb. She has twenty seconds to say her prayers to a God who despises her.

Hearing this, Wolfsbane turns away and yells MONET!!!! at the top of her lungs. A moment later, Monet appears overhead, tearing away at the top of the tent. Explaining that she heard, she orders Wolfsbane to get clear. A moment later, she’s grabbed the large bomb and takes to the skies. Via comm. she calls out to Havok, who replies that he’s on it and orders her to get it as high as she can and then get clear. At top speed, Monet does as ordered and, once she receives the word that he’s got it targeted, she tosses it into the sky. A moment later, Havok unleashes a plasma blast which incinerates the bomb high in the air.

Shortly thereafter, Polaris congratulates Havok on incinerating the bomb before it could explode. To this, Havok admits that there was a chance that it might have created an even bigger explosion, though this was still the safest way. When Val remarks that Madrox couldn’t have done it better, Havok changes demeanor and tells her not to disrespect him. Taken aback, Val replies that she wasn’t, causing Havok to change once again. He apologizes, noting that he made the group and now he’s gone. He just thinks they should honor him, that’s all. Honor his memory.

Back at X-Factor HQ, Madrox enters the reception area and, with a wide smile and triumphantly spread arms, informs Pip that he’s back from the dead. Whatever, Pip replies, not looking up from his computer screen. Don’t bother him when he’s on a porn site.

Characters Involved: 

Banshee II, Butterfly, Havok, Longshot, M, Multiple Man, Polaris, Rictor, Shatterstar, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor)
Pip the Troll

Val Cooper
Federal agents

Anti-mutant militia

Josef Huber

Story Notes: 

Though she is not named until next issue, the horned woman is named Jezebel.

Layla used her mutant power to bring back Guido from the dead, sans soul, in X-Factor (1st series) #219]

Guido blaming society is almost undoubtedly a callback to his similar proclamation in the early days of his first tenure with X-Factor back in X-Factor (1st series) #71.

Wolverine became an open-ended client of X-Factor after he put the X-Factor Investigations on retainer in X-Factor (1st series) #230.

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