X-Factor (1st series) #257

Issue Date: 
August 2013
Story Title: 
The End of X-Factor part 1

Peter David (writer), Neil Edwards & Carmen Carnero (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), David Yardin (cover artist), Jordan D. White (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 city of Marrakesh, Morocco, Layla Miller looks for her husband, who has disappeared with the return of reality, following the end of the Hell on Earth War. Though she is not sure, she suspects that Madrox might still be transformed into the demon, per the spell of Mephisto. Due to her memories of her original timeline, Layla knows that Madrox is most likely in the company of a boy named Aziz, whom they helped when he tried to create a magical portal to summon his dead mother. Her speculation turns out to be correct, and she finds the boy and his uncle attempting to open a portal to the afterlife, through which they will send the “djinn” to bring her back. Much to her surprise (and different from her original timeline), the spell succeeds and demon Madrox returns with a monstrous creature which was once Aziz’s mother. Quickly killing the boy, the creature comes for Layla, who finds her abilities useless against the creature. To her surprise, she is saved by the actions of the transformed Madrox, which pushes the creature back through the portal. The crisis passed, Layla and Madrox the demon depart, leaving behind Aziz’s uncle, who is still in shock by what has happened.

Full Summary: 

Marrakesh: one of the largest cities in Morocco, right behind Casablanca in terms of population. Situated in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The word “Marrakesh” is Arabic and it means “the land of gods and idols.” The daytime life is pretty active, with plenty of tourists coming to shop at the local markets. The nightlife can be pretty wild, too. Known as the Marrakesh Square, the local name for it is “Djemaa el Fna.” Though there is some discussion over what name means, the popular belief is “Mosque at the end of the world.” The ominous name of the populous location is made literal when a jeep explodes in a violent ball of fire, hurling bystanders from their feet.

One such bystander, a young boy, struggles to understand what just happened. A bombing, an older man replies haltingly. It just have been… The Creature…! the boy proclaims and then runs off, the older man calling him by name. Aziz! Where are you going?! To check on the creature! Aziz replies.

Shortly thereafter, the boy opens a door to a dilapidated building, pleading that it be all right. Please let it be all right… A moment later, Aziz sighs that that’s a relief. Crouching in the dark before him is the demonic Madrox, bound in chains and looking up with malevolence in his eyes. He should have known, Aziz voices. He doubts he could even be hurt by something like a car bomb. He is meant for much greater things… like bringing back his mother. Everything is almost ready. He’ll have it set by midnight and then he… Though lacking a mouth, demon Madrox roars, scaring off Aziz, who promptly flees.

Back out in the square, Aziz finds everything in pure chaos. Nobody knows for sure who the bombers were, but unfortunately it’s not unprecedented. People have set off bombs in Marrakesh for political agendas before. It could be any one of a hundred terrorist groups. Everyone has their own priorities. As the crowd looks on at the aftermath, Aziz takes advantage of the crowd’s attention to pick pockets. Satisfied at his score, Aziz runs off, a smile running across his face. However, before he gets too far, he runs into a tall, blonde woman, who smiles back at him and offers a “hi there.” Aziz attempts to make his escape, but the young woman, Layla Miller, reaches out and grabs him by the collar, asking if he’s going somewhere. Acting quickly, Aziz tosses a few of his newly acquired wallets into Layla’s face, causing her to release him instinctively. By the time she recovers, Layla finds that Aziz has run off. So, she mutters to herself. It’s going to be that way.

Aziz soon finds his way back to the site of the explosion and is himself almost run over by an approaching emergency vehicle, adorned with a Serval Industries logo. Where the hell did he get off to, Aziz’s older companion asks him. Aziz struggles to reply verbally, but eventually does so by offering three wallets. Well, that’s… acceptable, the man replies.

So will he do it? Aziz asks. He said if he brought in enough… Kneeling to the youth, the older man asks if he’s sure about this. He means, yes, he fooled with some of these things when he was much younger but… He wants her back, Aziz interjects to his uncle. He needs her back. She didn’t deserve to die. He has a djinn. He has the power. He knows it… He… Seeing the look of desperation on his nephew’s face, Aziz’s uncle capitulates and rises to his feet. All right, he replies, placing his hand on his nephew’s shoulder, and suggests they go before he changes his mind.

Left behind, Layla takes in for a moment her surroundings. She regards the people of the city going about their daily lives. Yesterday, she thinks, there was nothing left of Marrakesh. Nothing. And over on a nearby mountain, Mephisto had created a castle. Now the mountain is gone, the city is back… and no one seems to have any recollection of the entire Hell on Earth War. It’s almost like it didn’t happen. And when she came to, Jamie was gone. Gone, and to the best of her knowledge… still trapped in the body of a demon, thanks to Mephisto transforming him. The thing is, she’s Layla Miller. She knows stuff. And in this particular instance… she has an idea of where he is, and the person who has him. So it’s just a matter of finding him… before it’s too late. With that, Layla runs off into the crowd.

Back in his hideaway, Aziz holds a single candle while his uncle, holding a book with both hands, recites words in a foreign language to the demon kneeling some distance away on the floor. When Aziz asks what language that is, his uncle replies that it’s Latin. Does he have a problem with that? Then asked what he’s saying, the uncle replies that he’s doing what he said he would, all right? Now be quiet!

Returning to his book, Aziz uncle continues, but soon begins to be unsure of how to continue. Aziz asks what’s the matter, to which his uncle answers that he’s not sure which sentence to us. It depends what he’s trying to do, a voice interjects. In his case, Layla then adds, it appears he’s trying to open some sort of dimensional gateway, yes? Quickly, Aziz produces a handgun, yelling for the strange woman to get out of there. Smiling slightly, Layla quips that this is hostile.

Okay, she continues, there’s a few things he needs to know. Oh and his English is very good, but the way. Aziz begins to reiterate his threat, but Layla interrupts. First of all, she’s sorry about his mother. His father ran off when he was young, and his mother raised him. And then he lost her in a random bombing raid. Just like the one a little while ago. Astonished, Aziz begins to ask how does she know all of this, but Layla replies before he can finish. She’s Layla Miller. She knows stuff. And in this case, she knows that he wants to use that demon to bring his mother back. That is not a demon, he’s a djinn, Aziz counters, darting his eyes toward the still-kneeling Madrox. It’s a creature from beyond and he can use it to send it through a dimensional portal and bring her back. No, he can’t Layla replies. For starters, that’s her husband. And there is no way that they have the ability to open up any sort of dimensional…

PATEDIO! Aziz’s uncle proclaims, interrupting Layla. As she watches orange-red flame erupt from a spot before them, Layla realizes that the entire time she was talking with the boy, the uncle was still muttering in Latin. She didn’t think anything of it because she was sure nothing would happen. She guesses this serves as a reminder that while she knows stuff… she doesn’t know everything.

Thinking back to how things should be, Layla recalls that this should not be happening. He’s not supposed to have any spell that works. Then again, Jamie isn’t supposed to be a demon. He’s supposed to be human and, although they get stranded there in Marrakesh after Mephisto’s castle goes boom… the entire adventure with Aziz is supposed to be the briefest of sideshows. A busted attempt at interdimensional travel, doomed to failure. But that’s not what’s happening here, she notes. This time, somehow, lo and behold, there is a dimensional portal appearing next to her husband, who’s now a demon. And she strongly suspects that it’s not going to lead anywhere good.

Now closer to his goal, Aziz raises his handgun once more, ordering Layla to stay where she is. To the contrary, Layla grabs Aziz’s gun from his hand, noting that he was never going to use it. Eying the youth’s uncle, Layla instructs him to put down that book right…

Ignoring her, Aziz’s uncle removes the locket which he has worn around his neck and hands it to demon Madrox. She wore this her entire life, he tells the supposed djinn. Items don’t get more personal than this. Use it to find her. Please… he pleads. Do this for the boy. As demon Madrox begins to move, Layla calls out to him by name. She needs him to come to her! Listen to her… A moment later, Madrox the demon steps into the portal and disappears.

Incensed, Layla grabs Aziz’s uncle by his clothes, demanding to know what he did. She was his sister too, the man defends. He wanted her back as much as the boy did. Layla yells back that they’ve lost them both, but the man is resolute. What does he think’s going to happen? she demands. He’s not a djinn! Didn’t he hear her? He’s her husband, transformed into that shape! He doesn’t have the power to… Layla’s words trail as, to her disbelief, her transformed husband reemerges from the portal. To her even greater disbelief, she finds that he has brought company.

The creature which emerges from the portal is indeed female, but she’s absolutely huge and incredibly terrifying. Grayish-brown in skin color, the creature looks half decomposed, with an immense head with multiple faces jutting out from all sides. One look at her would make anyone who was remotely sane want to run screaming from the room, but still Aziz calls out “mother!” Layla knows, however, that it isn’t his mother. Not in any way that he remembers her. It’s some sort of creature spat up from Jahannam, the Islamic version of hell. She doesn’t know what she did in life to deserve this, but her son was obviously unaware. Layla yells for Aziz to get away from it, but it’s too late. The creature picks him up like a doll and, under her grip, the youth begins to decompose. Layla tries to grab his hand to pull him clear, but the young man’s skin tears away under her grasp. It only takes seconds, but he is no more.

In complete shock, Layla realizes her mind has locked up and she has no idea what it do. Aziz’s uncle isn’t of much use, too busy panicking at the results of his efforts. However, when the demon creature, having finished with Aziz and looks toward her as being its next victim, Layla finally acts. Her forcefield is her only shot, she realizes, as she erects the dome around herself. Unfortunately, it may not work on something so ethereal. As she feared, the creature easily reaches through the dome and Layla can think of nothing expect how stupid of a way she is to die. She should have seen this coming.

However, before it can reach her, the demon creature’s hand is pulled backwards… and not of its own volition. Behind it, grabbing the single cloth which wraps around the demon, demon Madrox pulls it back. As she watches, Layla has no idea how Jamie is able to get a grip on the thing. It should be insubstantial, and yet he’s dragging it back. For half a heartbeat, they scream at each other. The noise is earsplitting. Thunderous. And not remotely human. And then… only the mother is screaming, howling like one of the damned as Madrox shoves her toward the opening of the portal from which she emerged. Though he remains silent, it is obvious that demon Madrox just wants to be finished with this thing that he dragged back to Earth at the insistence of its now dead son. Seconds after the creature has disappeared into the portal, the dimensional rift collapses in on itself.

The crisis passed, Aziz’s uncle haltingly expresses that he doesn’t understand. What just happened? Bluntly, Layla replies that he just killed his nephew, or his nephew killed himself, depending on one’s point of view. She then instructs the man to give her his clothes, and his turban. And that book, while he’s at it.

Moments later, Layla and her transformed husband are gone. Wrapped in the man’s clothes, demon Madrox stays close to Layla, looking confused as he does so. As they walk back into the crowd, all Layla can think of is Aziz. Determined to be with his mother to such a degree that he was willing to try and call her back from the dead. And in order to do that, he counted on the fundamental humanity of the demon creature to do what he wanted, simply because it meant a lot to him… and she guesses he got what he wanted. He’s dead like his mother. She guesses there’s a lesson to be learned from that. She wishes to God she knew what it was.

Characters Involved: 

Butterfly, Multiple Man (both X-Factor)

Aziz’s uncle

Demon (once Aziz’s mother)

Citizens or Marrakesh

(flashback, previous reality)
Butterfly, Multiple Man (both X-Factor)

Aziz’s uncle

Story Notes: 

This issue begins the last storyline of the current series of X-Factor.

First mention (or rather appearance) of Serval Industries, which plays a large role in the next X-Factor series.

Jahannam is more the Islamic concept of hell, which actually has several names in the Quran.

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