X-Factor (3rd series) #20

Issue Date: 
August 2007
Story Title: 

Peter David (writer), Khoi Pham (penciler), Sandu Florea (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letters), Kate Levin (production), Will Panzo (assistant editor), Andy Schmidt (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Abyss, Fatale and Reaper are ecstatic at having had their powers restored by Quicksilver, via Rictor as a conduit. Still, Callisto is wary from her previous experience and pleads with Marrow to wait to undergo the process herself. As Rictor himself recovers from the experience, the group feels the thunderous approach of an army of Madrox dupes, each brandishing “shield” of trashcan lids, much akin to Spartan warriors. Eager to exercise their regained abilities, Elijah order Fatale and Abyss to accompany him down to face them. There, Wolfsbane, in full wolf form, engages Reaper, though it is Guido who taken him out by a block-distance toss. Abyss, likewise falls to the strength of Monet. However, even the combined army of Madri cannot stop the strength of the mass-controlling Elijah Cross, though it turns out this is not necessary. Quicksilver’s process having not improved, despite him using Rictor as an intermediary, Elijah explodes in orange flame and smoke, dumbfounding Abyss and Reaper. Inside the clinic, it becomes apparent that the fight outside is just a diversion for Layla Miller sneaking in the back. Her secret weapon, much to Quicksilver’s horror, is a recorded conversation from months before, where Cyclops admitted that the cause of M-Day was another mutant. Turning on Quicksilver, especially after deducting that the mutant in question was his sister, the Scarlet Witch, which he knew all along, Callisto and Marrow are ready to vent their fury. However, it is Rictor who is able to sidestep Quicksilver’s time-jump powers by using what little power he has gained as a conduit to forcibly expel the Terrigen crystals from Quicksilver’s body, a process leaving Rictor spent. Outside, Abyss, Fatale and Reaper begin to feel the same sense of impending doom that preceded Elijah’s demise. Feeling no other option, Abyss grabs Fatale and Reaper, drawing them into the Brimstone dimension, seconds before joining them. With the head of X-Cell now dead, three members disappeared and two others, Callisto and Marrow, having escaped, X-Factor has fulfilled their mission, though to a degree that Madrox is sure will not please Val Cooper. Meanwhile, now bereft of Terrigen crystals, Quicksilver slips away, no longer a cause for anyone’s concern.

Full Summary: 

Marveling at her outstretched arm, Fatale smiles that this… this is fantastic. Even her arm is healed! Nearby, Abyss uncoils his arms, as he had done so many times before he lost his powers. The Brimstone Dimension, he exclaims, he can feel it in every part of his body again! Agreeing, Reaper cautiously asks Abyss to keep his parts away from his parts.

From behind the couch, Pietro leans over to the ear of Rictor, who is leaning back in the couch in apparent exhaustion. Calling him back to the here and now, he asks Rictor if he is all right and if he can keep going. Turning to Pietro, Rictor asks why… doesn’t he feel the Earth yet? He… he almost can… Like it’s just out of reach. Why? Because, Pietro replies, he’s still acting as a siphon, so his power is investing him incrementally, rather than all at once.

When Pietro then suggests they continue, he notices that Rictor has lost consciousness. He then suggests to the others that they wait for a bit for him to recover. Then, he tells Marrow, they can move on to her… Interrupting, Callisto says no, even when he comes to. No. Sighing, Pietro asks Callisto when is she going to put aside her hatred? Her distrust? About ten minutes after she dies, she replies.

Turning to Marrow, Callisto places her hands on her shoulders, pleading with her not to do it. It’s too easy. Marrow begins to protest, but Callisto presses, begging her. If she ever listened to her about anything, listen to this: Pietro isn’t the answer. She then asks her at least to wait to see if the powers stick with the others. Wait to see them in action. And how long should that be? Marrow asks back.

Her question goes unanswered, as the ground begins to shake. She immediately asks if it is Rictor, but Pietro says that it is not. He’s still out. Perhaps a subliminal… Another theory is announced with a Holy crap by Elijah Cross, who stares wide-eyed out of the window. Asked what it is, Elijah asks if they know that movie – “300?” When he answers yeah, he says that it’s kinda like that.

Out in the street, Elijah sees a horde of men marching toward their hideout. In truth, it is an army, comprised of Madrox duplicates. Each dupe bears a metal shield, with the letter “M.” Eyeing these from the window, Fatale asks if they are… They are! They’re garbage can lids. Still amazed by the site, Elijah remarks that he would have thought they’d be on their side, that they’d give a damn about the government trying to destroy their race. Guess he was wrong. That said, he calls upon Reaper… Abyss… Fatale… “Let’s take ‘em.”

Seeing their foes approaching, the dupes all brandish their “shields” in a defensive position. Among their number is the prime Jamie Madrox, who marvels at this rare moment of unity among his dupes. Nothing focuses them like death, and these guys poisoned one of his dupes. That, and they could have killed Theresa. That demands payback.

As the X-Cell approaches, Madrox tells his dupe to be ready. When the dupe replies that he was born ready, his progenitor reminds him that he was born about ninety-seconds ago. Whatever, he replies. At the head of the X-Cell, Elijah Cross yells to Madrox that he brought this on himself. They could have been friends. To this, Monet appears in the air above the army of Madri, rejoining that they’ve got enough friends.

Joining her is Rahne, not in her half-wolf form but in full body of a wolf, fangs bared. As she engages Reaper, Madrox silently notes that Rahne isn’t exactly a happy camper. She got dumped down a sewer and came back to headquarters reeking of sewage, demanding a shower and swearing revenge. As she sidesteps Reaper’s blades and then sinks her fangs into his throat, he notes that she never takes on her full wolf-form, as she doesn’t like what it does to her. But, from her actions this time… she doesn’t seem to care.

Back in the clinic, Pietro watches the battle below. Foolishness, he opines. Such foolishness. What do they hope to accomplish by this? “A distraction,” answers Layla, appearing much to the group’s surprise. “So I could basically walk in the back door.”

Regarding the young girl, Callisto asks who this is, to which Pietro answers, adding that she professes to “know things.” Stuff, Layla corrects. She knows stuff. Don’t mangle her catch-phrase. Smirking slightly, Marrow asks back what kind of “stuff” does she know? In response, Layla states that she knows the government didn’t take their powers away. Pietro knows it too, she adds. He’s just using them because he’s… y’know… evil. And he thinks that all that matters is power.

It is, Pietro replies, unapologetically. It is his gift… a gift he chooses to share with his bretheren. And she, Layla, for all her talk, remains – in person – a mere girl. Helpless. Powerless. Actually, she counters, she has the greatest power of all. Incredulous, Pietro inquires what that might be? Knowledge, she replies, producing a cassette recorder. And, like him, she explains, she’s willing to share.

Pressing play, she explains that the first voice is Siryn, the second Quicksilver. “He may be a slimeball. He may be a totally evil monster,” Siryn says. “You know I can hear you, right?” follows Pietro’s voice. Siryn’s voice then say, “But he didn’t pretend to be our friend, and he didn’t lie to us. Can you say the same.” As Pietro stammers in horror, the next voice, Wolverine’s according to Layla, says, “Everybody lies. Get over it.” The next voice, according to Layla, is all Cyclops.

Before Cyclops’ voice is heard, Pietro – three of them – lunge toward Layla, but all two are intercepted by Marrow, who tackles them, while Callisto kicks the third in the groin. “We couldn’t let people know the truth,” Cyclops says. “It would’ve caused a worldwide panic. If everyone knew that a single mutant could create the world in her own image… obliterate powers with a few words... humans would have wanted to destroy any remaining mutant…”

As Cyclops finishes, another Quicksilver appears and gets close enough to the player to touch it, but is then waylaid by Marrow, who knife’s him in the shoulder. Grabbing his costume top with one hand while threatening him with the knife stained by his blood in the other, Marrow demands to know from Pietro who it was. Who’s the she responsible for this? Unfortunately for Marrow, the Quicksilver she was threatening disappears before her eyes.

Seeing Marrow’s confusion, Layla explains that that was a future Quicksilver. The “current” one is the one that Callisto kicked in the privates. In answer to her question, she asks that Marrow think about it: what mutant “she” would Pietro be the most willing to cover for? Immediately guessing the answer from the clue, Marrow proclaims, “The Witch! The Scarlet Witch! She…” Before Callisto’s warning can do so, another Quicksilver appears behind Marrow, quickly grabbing her knife from her hands, shoves it through Marrow’s lower torso from behind, the point emerging right under her ribcage.

Outside, Reaper is triumphant, tossing Rahne’s wolf-form aside. His reactivated neurotoxins in his skin have paralyzed her, he tells the others. And cutting her damned head off will stop her for good! However, before he can deal a killing stroke, Reaper is accosted by Guido, who grabs his arm in a vice grip. Telling him to “step aside,” Guido tosses Reaper into the air, announcing that he’s looking for the blork who chucked him into the East River. He’s got a complaint to register!

Nearby, Elijah Cross barrels through the army of Madri, using his power of extra mass to become an unstoppable force. As he does so, Elijah calls Madrox a traitor. He and his whole crew! A traitor to mutantkind. The blow comes harder to Madrox than normally, he thinks, hvin pretty much hit his capacity for dupes, making Cross’ impacts not create any more. Now he knows how a rack of bowling pins feels.

Standing alone amid a mass of “bowled” Madri, Elijah Cross revels. Arms wide, he proclaims that they’re the good guys there. That’s why people like Callisto and Marrow joined up! They should all be working together to build a future!

Listening to the young Elijah preach his gospel, Madrox thinks how he makes it sound so positive. A future. Hard to know if mutants even have a future anymore. But all of that is secondary to the fact… that he could swear he smells something burning.

Nearby, Monet sidesteps the ethereal tendrils of Abyss, making her way ever closer. Finally making it to within arm’s reach, he clocks him with a right cross, knocking him to the ground. Her target down, she asks where Rictor. Is he in there with Quicksilver?

For an answer, Monet receives a blow which comes out of nowhere. Not able to see her new antagonist, Monet immediately surmises her identity. Telling her that that’s cute, real cute, she tells Fatale that that’s got to be her. Bending light so that she’s invisible. Funny thing… when you’re fighting a telepath with accelerated hearing… invisibility isn’t worth a damn! In demonstration, Monet kicks out, connecting squarely with the abdomen of Fatale, who involuntarily becomes visible once again.

Before Monet can press her advantage, Abyss reenters the fray, his tendril this time wrapping around Monet’s arms and dragging her toward him. Dragging her ever closer, so powerfully that Monet’s boots make grooves in the asphalt, Abyss tells her that he’s almost sorry he has to do this. The Brimstone dimension is within him… it is nowhere she’ll want to spend time. If one she could have shared their vision… could have seen what is to come, as mutantkind achieves greatness once again… Interrupting his prognostication, three Madri appear and simultaneously ram their garbage can shields on Abyss. As they knock him out, one tells him to put a lid on it.

It is at this point that the screaming starts, drawing everyone’s attention. It is followed by the smell… the aroma of burning flesh… becoming even more pronounced… It’s Cross. Having collapsed in pain, Elijah Cross’ body has begun to smoke from his hands, shoulder, eyes and mouth. He yells for someone to help him – and then curses Quicksilkver and Rictor, calling them traitors. He’ll kill them for this! He… He’ll…

In mid-sentence, Elijah Cross explodes in fire and smoke, leaving nothing but an orange stain. Dumbfounded by this, Fatale asks what’s happening. She’s sweating… She feels so… so hot… When Monet asks her if she got her powers back the same way he did, she confirm, pleading for her to do something. Remarking that she will, Monet proceeds to put some distance between the two, explaining that she’s wearing a new shirt.

Inside his clinic, Pietro tells Callisto that she’d best attend to Marrow, and quickly. She may not have long. Then turning his attention back to Layla, who he has in his grip and elevated off her feet, he tells her that this reckoning has been a long time coming. Then again, he supposes she knew that didn’t she? Kinda, she responds.

Confusion suddenly fills Pietro, as he realizes aloud that Layla feels no pain from his touch, as Guido did. She’s not a mutant! Then… what is she? Scared, Layla replies. Happy now? No, he replies, but he will be when she…

Pietro is interrupted by the now conscious Rictor, who tells him to drop her. Now. Rather than acting upset, Pietro is jubilant at Rictor’s return. Ignoring his instruction, he tells him that as soon as he attends to this little nuisance, they can… Interrupting again, Rictor tells him that he doesn’t stand by and let kids get killed. Not even kids that annoy the snot out of him. “Let her go,” he repeats.

Layla begins to tell Rictor what Pietro is using him. Though Pietro tells her to be quiet, she continues. One of X-Cell just blew up. He should take a sniff if he doesn’t believee her… He can still smell the burned flesh in the air. The changes are still unstable… just like him. Incensed at her, Pietro once again threatens Layla, but again Rictor comes to her aid, this time pulling one Pietro’s arm and causing him to drop the young girl.

Now turned to Rictor, Pietro locks hands with Rictor’s in a test of strength. Calling him an idiot, Pietro tells him that he has no idea what he’s doing… She right, Rictor interrupts. He used him! Used him to try and convince others to trust him, ‘cause word was getting around that he was dangerous! To this, Pietro says through gritted teeth that it’s hardly his fault if his lack of power also gives him a lack of vision.

Ignoring him, Rictor counters that here’s the thing: he’s channeling those crystal of his though him… he can feel it… feel the power, rooting around in him… power to move the earth. And they… come from the earth. They’re all part of it… It’s in them… and if he can move the earth… He says it’s all about power? Fine… then… More power to you!!!!

In punctuation to Rictor’s comment, all of the Terrigen crystals, all embedded in Pietro’s body, suddenly fly free, erupting from his torso. Wide-eyed, Pietro yells first in abject agony, then again in frustration. His crystals! The Terrigen crystals! What has he done?! What has he done?!?!

A moment later, Wolsbane’s wolf form erupts through the window and immediately sets her eyes toward Pietro. Calling out to her, Layla tells her to forget about him. If she cares anything about Rictor… and she knows as well as she that she does… way more than she lets one… then she’ll help him now.

Doing so, the wolf moves to Rictor’s prone body. Though having been knocked down by the ordeal, Rictor is still conscious and moves his hand along Rahne’s muzzle. He tells her to forget it… not… not worth saving… Powerless again… and such… such an idiot. But for a second there, he says, it felt good. Slowly transforming from wolf, to wolf-girl, then woman, Rahne tells Rictor to stop talking – save his strength. When Rictor states that he thinks he’s dying, she tells him it’s nonsense. Nobody’s dying…

Outside, Madrox watches as Abyss, Fatale and Reaper begin to quake. They’re dying, he thinks. They’re dying and all he can think of is what Layla was saying, about how it would all self-destruct without their help.

Realizing their fate, Abyss calls out to Fatale and Reaper, instructing them to go loose. As he wraps his tendrils around them, Fatale asks what he’s doing. The only thin he can do, he say sadly. A moment later, Abyss has dragged his two allies into the otherworldly dimension that his body lets him access. Madrox realizes his actions but can only wonder how that will help, whether it will freeze their status – cause their power to remain, or to be drained away or what, but he gets no opportunity to ask, as Abyss disappears into nothingness.

Though victorious, Madrox silently notes that Val Cooper isn’t going to be thrilled about this. The X-Cell’s leader is dead… half their membership has vanished literally into nothingness. Callisto and Marrow likewise make a getaway, although not a clean one, having disappeared via the sewers. And as for Quicksilver, well… actually, they’ve no reason to turn him over. Considering he was responsible for Cross’ demise. They’d probably pin a medal on him.

Limping his way to safety, Pietro possessively examines a spec of rock in his hand. One… one left… salvaged one… If… if there’s one… maybe he can…

However, much to his dismay, the single spec of Terrigen crystal dies, a wisp of energy dissipating its energy. His anger is palpable and he voices his emotion trough gritted teeth. Composing himself once again, he continues on.

Elsewhere, Madrox considers Pietro’s status. The whole thing with Quicksilver is that he can pull versions of himself from the future… bring them into the present. Of course… if something happens to one of those future selves in the present… then when Pietro “catches up” to that point in time… then this “past” is going to return to haunt him. Then again… he guesses that’s the whole thing with the future. Sometimes you catch up with it sooner than you think.

Characters Involved: 

Monet, Layla Miller, Multiple Man, Rictor, Siryn, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor)



Abyss, Blob, Callisto, Elijah Cross, Fatale, Marrow, Reaper (X-Cell)

New Yorkers

Story Notes: 

Callisto is reluctant for Marrow to partake of Quicksilver’s re-powering process due to here own experience with it. She was the first mutant Quicksilver restored with Terrigen mists, however she quickly regretted the action when the sensitivity of her skin grew to the point where rain felt like acid. [Son of M #4]

“300” refers to the film of the same name released shortly before the publication of this issue. Based upon the comic book mini-series by Frank Miller, it depicted the historical Battle of Thermopylae, though with much artistic license.

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