X-Factor (1st series) #249

Issue Date: 
February 2013
Story Title: 
Inner Depths

Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Kris Anka (cover artist), Jennifer M. Smith (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 the middle of the New York Botanical Gardens, Hell has literally been unleashed. From its center rises a volcano which is not a geological formation but a portal to the damned. There to welcome what will come through is a small army of demonic humans, but there to stop them is X-Factor. As the team decides how to act, Pip’s mind is suddenly summoned back to his body, which has finally healed. Now free, Monet is furious at her former teammates for making light of her being a prisoner in her own body, a fate she suffered for years so long ago. Much to the team’s surprise, and that of the demon ringleader, the fight is joined by Madrox and an army of his dupe. Accompanied by the return of Pip in his own body, the assembled X-Factor team fights and kills the entire demonic horde. However, much to their surprise, the volcano portal does not dissipate. Instead, it erupts, spewing forth an untold number of beings from beyond. It is only by Layla’s force field does the group survive the eruption. Moments after, the volcano is no more and X-Factor is alone, with no clue as to what has just entered the world.

Full Summary: 

In the New York Botanical Garden, Madrox notes the demon-possessed, sword-wielding man rushing toward him and can’t help but sarcastically muse that the evening is going well. At the last moment, Madrox avoids the man’s slice by separating into two Madroxes, each of which delivers a unified kick, knocking him down. Grabbing the dropped sword, Madrox asks his new wife if she knew there was gonna be a volcano in the Bronx. No, she replies, although she did think there would be one in Manhattan in six months. Asked why she didn’t tell him, she informs him she didn’t want him to worry.

Elsewhere in the gardens, the volcano in question spews forth hellish black smoke and infernal heat. Watching from her perch high atop the building, Vera announces to the rest of the X-Factor team below that the many lords are approaching. They sought to stop something that they could not even begin to understand. They were born in ignorance, and that’s how they’re going to die! Far below, Polaris continues floating away from the growing eruption, telling everyone that they need altitude. Now!

Acting quickly, Pip (in Monet’s body) grabs the otherwise ground-bound Rictor and Shatterstar, while Polaris magnetically lifts Longshot. Asked by Polaris if he’s okay, Pip the Monet replies that he/she is. Monet’s getting a little antsy. He just needs t’hold on ‘til his body’s fully ready, which should be about any ti…

Suddenly, Pip cries out in pain, and in the process drops Rictor and Shatterstar back to the ground and the waiting demonic forces. Lorna yells to them that she’s coming, but Rictor tells her otherwise. She should see what she can do from overhead, as he and Star can handle a ground assault. Buy them some time to check out the big picture. Gesturing to the ground and reaching out with his powers, Rictor notes that a nice crevice should keep them back long enough to… A resounding BRAKOOOM, accompanying the opening of a gigantic fissure of lava, drowns out Rictor’s next words. When Shatterstar points out the apparent mistake, Rictor admits that he didn’t really think that one through.

Luckily, before the magna reaches them, both men are saved by Monet, who expertly and swiftly flies them out of harm’s way. Rictor gratefully compliments Pip, only to be corrected by Monet that she’s not Pip. With that, she hurls him away. Turning to the startled Shatterstar, she informs him that they only reason she didn’t break his damned neck is out of courtesy to him, because he didn’t laugh about what Pip did to her.

A short distance away, Rictor flails in the air as gravity begins to take hold once more. However, before he involuntarily returns to the infernal landscape below, he finds himself held aloft by the magnetism of Polaris, who stands with Longshot on a piece of metal building debris. To her inquiry of “what the hell,” Rictor explains the return of Monet’s mind to her own body. Polaris replies that they should handle one crisis at a time, but finds that that is not an option, as an incensed Monet flies toward her seeking vengeance.

Elsewhere, Madrox and Layla race deeper into the garden, running hand in hand. If this is happening now, he asks her, does it mean it won’t happen later in the Manhattan? To this, Layla suggests that they work on surviving today. Madrox only has a time to reply “good plan,” before Layla rises her gauntlet’s force field, protecting them from arrows and bullets fired by the demon-possessed men emerging from the foliage. Whimsically noting the broadminded variety of weapons used against them, he’s instructed by Layla to keep moving. As they do so, he asks how long the force field will last. Indefinitely, she replies. It’s based on kinetic energy. As long as it’s attacked, it’s powered. Asked if that means that their attackers will run out of ammo first, she affirms, then asking what he’s planning to do. Not run out of ammo, he replies.

Near the volcano, Polaris repels Monet from her advance and orders her to prioritize. They’re dealing with the end of the world! This isn’t time… Interrupting, Monet replies that if it’s the end of the world, then this may be the only time! She was made a prisoner in her own body by a monster! When Lorna begins to remark that Pip isn’t that bad, Monet interrupts that she didn’t mean him. Emplate! He turned her into a mute, trapped… thing called Penance! She knows that! They all know that! How they hell could they laugh when her mind was…

Monet’s rant stops mid-sentence as a Polaris delivers an audible slap to the face. First of all… OW, Polaris remarks, rubbing her wrist as the astounded Monet watches on in silence. Second, she continues, she’s talking to her about getting her mind messed with? Her? Third, she’s sorry she laughed, okay? It was dumb and insensitive. And if she wants to go ten rounds after this, then bring it. But they can’t turn into a Lifetime movie when right now it’s Showtime! Okay? As Monet considers Polaris’ words, Rictor breaks the silence, asking where Shatterstar is…

Down below, Shatterstar is surrounded by a horde of heavily armed, demonic men – a veritably army which he wants to kill. As Shatterstar continues to make short work of each and every foe, Vera arrives in his line of sight and speaks his name. She was hoping it would come down to this, she tells him, since he was responsible for her sister’s death. Finishing the last opponent (at least for the moment), Shatterstar suggests that she pick up a weapon. He’ll not have her die unarmed. Not an issue, Vera replies, transforming her arms into tentacle-like protrusions.

As the tentacles wrap about Shatterstar, pinning his arms, she tells him that most of her followers are lower level. They simply carved out human hosts and used their shells to function, gathering in the world slowly over years. But some are shape-shifters… which she thinks he’d have figured out. And his associates are learning that as well, right about now! With this, Vera demonstrates her own shape-shifting ability, growing in size and opening her immense mouth with a host of long, sharp teeth within.

Floating on the hunk of metal debris high above the demonic scenery below, Polaris and the rest of the team contemplate their next move. After a moment, Polaris asks Longshot if she can borrow his knives. He barely has a chance to say “sure” before the flechettes begin to life, flying out of his costume’s pockets. Directed by her magnetic powers, Polaris uses them to slice and dice flying demons before they can come close.

As she does so, Longshot points out to Polaris that the lava from the volcano is spreading everywhere and asks if they can push something into the top of it. Sarcastically, Rictor reminds his teammate that they aren’t in a Mighty Mouse cartoon, where they could plug it with a giant cork. Voicing her own thoughts, Polaris notes that if it were a normal volcano, she could shift the tectonic plates and shut it down that way… but it’s a far piece from normal!

Down below, the inhuman creature which was once Vera snarls at the tentacle-bound Shatterstar, informing him that now he’ll get to know how her sister felt right before she died! To this, Shatterstar muses that if it involved being disgusted by her, he can certainly sympathize. Ignoring the insult, the former Vera warns that no matter how many of them he may strike down… there are still far more of them than he can ever hope to… to…

Vera’s voice trails as she sees dozens of armed men emerge from the foliage. Seeing the same thing, Polaris’ eyes go wide and she mutters she doesn’t believe it. “Kill them all!” one of the many sword wielding dupes of Jamie Madrox proclaims. Other dupes make similar exclamations, though Madrox Prime is the one who announces to the team that he and Layla got married and are registered at the Disney story. He just figured they should know in case they don’t survive!

From their piece of floating debris, Rictor asks the rest of the team if anybody made any of that out. Voicing that he did not, Longshot complains that they’re half a mile away, but he thinks he said something about Layla. Maybe if they all shouted, Polaris suggests. Appearing from thin air (and wearing a suit), Pip the Troll informs them that Madrox said if they kill all the minions, it ends the whole thing. Oh, and he and Layla got hitched. (Those ears come in handy, huh?)

“Not for long!” Monet proclaims, lunging for Pip. However, before she can reach him, Monet finds herself once again magnetically repelled by Polaris, who orders her to focus! She wants to work out some hostility? There are plenty of targets for her below! “Fine!” Monet replies and promptly dives to the target-rich battlefield below.

As his dupes line up for battle, Madrox wonders to himself whether, should he die, would his dupes just disappear? Will an army of defenders simply vanish, clearing the way for these creatures? He supposes that, technically, he should stay to the back. Play it safe. Let the dupes be at risk. But he never was much for letting everybody else get their hands dirty. With that, Madrox and his dupes race against the line of demonic foes. However, with a loud WHOOOM, Monet St. Croix slams into the concrete between both forces… with murder in her eyes.

In the moments which follow, Madrox watches as his team tears into the creatures from hell… ripping them to shreds through a variety of means. While Polaris turns the creatures’ swords against them, Longshot hacks and slashes deeply with his flechettes. Monet punches through torsos, while the army of Madroxes fight blade against blade. Though they are vastly outnumbered, he notes, it’s like they’re everywhere. And they’re sending a message to whatever’s thinking about coming through the gateway these things have created. Namely: if you show up here, expect more of the same.

Away from the center of the fighting, the amorphous monstrosity which was Vera holds the still-bound Shatterstar as a shield and warns Rictor to stay back. Undeterred, Rictor informs her that though he usually doesn’t use his vibratory powers on people because of the mess it leaves, she’s not people. With that, he unleashes an assault which stuns the Vera-creature. As it writhes under the attack, Pip appears with a small sword, announcing that he wants a piece of her as well. However, before he can get in a single slice, what was Vera explodes, covering Pip with its insides. Yeah, well, he laments to Rictor and the now-freed Shatterstar, that was predictable.

Above them, Polaris yells for everybody to fall back. The thing’s about to go berserk! Speaking to Madrox, she reminds him that he said if they killed them all… That should shut it down, he finishes. That’s what Layla said…! It should have, Layla affirms. Maybe this is their last gasp! She hopes so, Polaris replies, landing by their side. Otherwise the Bronx is gonna be treading lava.

A thought suddenly occurring to her, Polaris asks Madrox and Layla if they really got married, which Layla confirms with a smile. Well, in case they don’t survive this, Polaris replies, mazel tov.

A moment later, the volcano begins to expand again, spewing a mass of molten rock into the air. Her gauntlet flashing, Layla orders everyone to hold on, as her force field surrounds them all, protecting them from the erupting hell which rains down upon them. Even through Layla’s field, though, Madrox notes that they can feel the heat. However, he finds that, though the intensity of the glare is blinding, he can see (or at least thinks he sees) bodies… five, six… it’s hard to tell… people or creatures or something… being blown out of the volcano like they’ve literally been spat out of hell.

Seconds later, it is all over and Layla lowers her force field. Around them the botanical garden is an unrecognizable, charred mess. Nothing remains except a crater where the volcano was a moment before and blackened remains. Muttering “I’ll be damned,” Madrox is told by Polaris that they almost all were. She then sheepishly asks if that is it. It’s over? To this, Madrox asks if it would be too portentous to say “I’m afraid this is just the beginning.” Told that it would be not portentous as much as clichéd, Madrox rejoins that, yeah, well, it’s no less accurate…

Characters Involved: 

Butterful, Longshot, M II, Multiple Man, Polaris, Rictor, Shatterstar (both X-Factor)
Pip the Troll

Vera (demon)
Warders in human form (demons)

Story Notes: 

For years, Monet was trapped in the body of the monstrous entity called “Penance,” by her brother, Emplate. [Generation X #40]

Polaris has indeed been possessed, or otherwise had her mind manipulated with, by other individuals. In her earliest appearance, she was manipulated by Mesmero [X-Men (1st series) #49-52] and later possessed for months by the Maurader called Malice [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #219-250]. Later, after surviving the destruction of Genosha, she suffered a nervous breakdown [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #431] and was later still manipulated by Apocalypse into becoming a Horseman. [X-Men (2nd series) #182-185]

The Lifetime Network is a cable TV channel whose audience mainly consists of women. It is known for its original TV movies, most of which deal with emotional conflict, rather than action.

Shatterstar killed Vera’s sister in X-Factor (1st series) #224.1.

Mighty Mouse is a animated parody of Superman, featuring an anthropomorphic mouse with his same powers. Originally appearing as movie “shorts” from the 1940s to 1960s, he has appeared in various media since.

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