X-Factor (3rd series) #29

Issue Date: 
May 2008
Story Title: 
The Only Game in Town

Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Aubrey Sitterson (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Glenn Fabry (cover)

Brief Description: 

Walking back to X-Factor HQ, Madrox and Guido are despondent. Not only are ex-mutants moving out of Mutant Town in droves, but former mutant-owned businesses are being purchased and renovated by something called “Gameday Improvements.” Upon returning, his mind already on Rahne’s quitting the team, Madrox misinterprets Siryn’s attempt to tell him about her pregnancy as an announcement of her own departure. This in turn leads to an argument between the two, which is interrupted when Rictor announces his own departure, causing Madrox to chase after him. After an argument between the two, Rictor departs, only to discover the building floating in space. Rictor tries to call to Guido, but his former teammate does not believe him, as everything seems fine and normal when he looks. However, when Rictor then disappears in mid-sentence, Guido calls Madrox to help, interrupting another attempt of Siryn’s after Monet’s knowledge of ‘70s sitcom plot devices had led to her realization of the previous conversation’s misunderstanding. While the team fruitlessly searches for signs of Rictor, which includes accidental property damage, Rictor awakens to find himself hanging upside down and shackled to a cross, with a swinging blade slicing the air above his crotch. Though seemingly helpless, Rictor yells out for Monet, who indeed hears him and flies skyward to search of Rictor’s voice. After ordering Siryn to follow, along with a newly generated dupe, Madrox finds himself and Guido suddenly and inexplicably in a jungle – and very much in the path of a large, rolling boulder, which takes out Guido. Though having avoided being crushed himself, Madrox is metaphorically crushed upon seeing the “signature” of their adversary. On the back of the boulder is a poster announcing the arrival of “Gameday” – a notice signed by the assassin known as Arcade.

Full Summary: 

“Dear Rictor,” begins Rahne’s letter, which Rictor holds in his hand. “By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. And I think it’s important that you understand the reasons why I…” Without reading further, Rictor solemnly looks away as he allows the letter to be consumed by flame. When it is nearly gone, he drops it into the open bowl of the toilet. As it smolders, creating a column of smoke, Rictor walks away. “To hell with your reasons, Rahne Sinclair,” he mutters. “And to hell with you.”

Elsewhere, Guido asks Madrox if he thinks it’s a sign. Sarcastically, Madrox retorts that his detective abilities may not be up there with Sherlock Holmes, but even he can tell it’s a sign. Two signs, in fact. Eying the two signs on the window of the Power Plant, one announcing “going out of business” and the other “for lease,” Guido replies not that. He means… maybe it’s a sign that they should rethink things. The Power Plant’s been the Middle East Side’s waterin’ hole since forever. If even they’re packin’ it in…

“The Middle East Side?” Madrox asks inquisitively. That’s what they’re callin’ Mutant Town these days. Guess it makes sense, what with the lack of… what’s the word… “Mutants?” Madrox asks. Yeah, Guido agrees. Them. Changing subjects slightly, Guido begins to ask a question, but Madrox anticipates it and answer immediately. No. When Guido then points out that they might do more good elsewhere, Madrox interrupts. “We?” he demands. Are they even a “we” anymore? He then reminds Guido that he told him he was leaving, becoming sheriff of Mutant Town. What happened with that?

Replying bluntly, Guido states that he told ‘em to take the job and shove it. Extending his arms, Guido adds that he told Val Cooper that he didn’t care how much money they threw at him. Bottom line is, he reconsidered, and he said… “Guido Carosella don’t desert his friends, lady. So you just go and get somebody else, okay? Done deal, end of story.” Man, Guido continues, Madrox should’ve seen her beg and plead to…

He didn’t turn it down, Madrox interrupts. They withdrew it… probably because the dwindling number of mutants and former mutants in the area made the post unnecessary. Frozen in place, one arm still extended in demonstration, Guido considers what to say next. Finally deciding on honestly, he lowers his arms, asking how did he know. Turning away, Madrox tells Guido that he makes really big hand gestures when he lies. Taking a moment to consider his hands and his use of them, he finally puts them dejectedly into his jacket pockets and follows Madrox. “Nerts,” he mutters.

As the two make their way into and up the X-Factor building, Madrox is lost in thought. He ponders the axiom of Benjamin Franklin: “We must all stand together or we will most assuredly hang separately.” He also thinks of what Elliot Ness said (or at least the one from the Untouchables): “Never stop fighting ‘til the fight is done.” Considering both of these statements, Madrox begins to wonder if either of them knew what the hell they were talking about. He’s trying to hold X-Factor and this town together with his bare hands. The thought of giving up, of quitting… it sickens him. But if you’re playing a losing game of chess, there;s no dishonor in conceding when you’ve lost . You don’t keep playing when the pieces are all gone. Except they have unfinished business. They can’t just give up when…

So lost in thought, Madrox does not hear Theresa call out his name as he passes. Seeing that “Jamie” is not sufficing, Monet yells out “You! Idiot!!” When this succeeds in stopping him, Monet quips it figures that he would respond to. She then tells Madrox that Theresa’s got something to say.

With this, Theresa begins to stammer. She tells Jamie that this may not be the best time to tell him this… Immediately surmising that Theresa’s about to quit, Madrox exclaims that he knew it. He knew this was coming. When a shocked Theresa asks if he really did, Guido tells her that if he says he knew, he’d believe him. He’s got killer guessing moves these days.

Turning back to Madrox, Theresa asks how could he tell? Trust him, Jamie replies. If nothing else, it was written all over her face. When Theresa then asks how he feels about it, Madrox becomes incredulous. For crying out loud, how does she think he feels? This couldn’t have come at a worse time! As Theresa’s mouth gapes, Madrox presses. He knows their history has its ups and downs but, geez, he’d have expected more from her!

Incensed by his reaction, Theresa tells Jamie to listen to himself. Honestly, she was hoping he might be supportive! After all, he did have a little something to do with it. “Right! Sure!” Madrox retorts. Blame it on him! When Theresa yells who else, Madrox yells back nobody else! Of course not! Everything in the whole damned world is his damned fault!

Arriving from upstairs with a backpack on, Rictor calls out to Madrox that he just wanted to say that he’s outta there. When Jamie then replies that he’ll see him later, Rictor rejoins that he won’t. He’s quitting. As Rictor then exits, Madrox darts after him, followed by Guido.

Left alone once again, Theresa vents to Monet. Did she see that? Did she see the way he acted. Rather than sharing in the anger, Monet instead ponders, remarking that this seemed vaguely familiar to her. Hold on… “Blame it on me!” she quotes. He’s the father for God’s sake. Ignoring Theresa, Monet mutters the way the two of them were talking... it’s so familiar… A little sympathy from him, that’s all she’s asking, Theresa continues.

“Got it.” Monet snaps her finger with a smile. “Three’s Company.” When Theresa clearly does not understand, not even what “Three’s Company” is, Monet explains. It was an old sitcom, where most episodes centered around two people having a massive misunderstanding that could have been easily avoided. When Theresa replies with a “huh?” Monet tells her to stop saying that. She’s practically hemorrhaging IQ.

Explaining further, Monet tells Theresa that, obviously, Madrox didn’t know what she was talking about. When Theresa begins to defend that he said he did, Monet interrupts, saying that he was wrong! He’s wrong a lot! And if she weren’t blinded by being in love with him, she’d realize that! Given pause by this statement, Theresa asks, almost to herself, “I’m in love with him?” When Monet replies with an “obviously” Theresa denies, but then relents. Aw, bugger, she mutters, placing her head in her hand.

On the ground level of the building, Madrox has caught up with Rictor and slaps his shoulder, asking him to wait. However, Rictor wrests himself free, telling him to let go. Complying, Madrox does so, but asks to talk it over. Ain’t nothing to talk about, Rictor replies heatedly. He’s just sick of mutant stuff. Hanging out with mutants. Fighting to help mutants survive. Worrying about mutants. He’s not a mutant! Not anymore! He’s just acting like some… some weird mutant wannabe. He’s a normal guy, he tells Madrox. Maybe it’s time he just started living a normal life!

His face emotionless in contrast to Rictor’s passion, Madrox asks if Rahne leaving had nothing to do with it. When Rictor claims that it didn’t, Madrox replies that he’s so full of… Stopping in midsentence, Madrox turns, waving back to Rictor to just leave. As Rictor does just that, Guido begins to ask Jamie if he isn’t going to… “To what?” Madrox asks. Try to make him stay when he; obviously miserable? Calling back to Rictor, Madrox tells him if he wants to go… he should go. When Rictor replies that he’s gone, Madrox tells him “vaya con dios,” to which Rictor pleads with him not to speak Spanish. He sounds like an idiot. With that, Rictor slams the door to the building as he leaves.

Unfortunately for Rictor, as soon as he is on the other side of the door, he finds the X-Factor building no longer in Mutant Town or even on Earth, but floating in what appears to be space and surrounded by floating rocks and planets.

Exclaiming in Spanish, Rictor attempts to turn around, however he quickly finds himself weightless and about to float off into the void. In a desperate move, Rictor leaps for the door, calling for help. He succeeds it grasping the door handle, which is the only thing preventing him floating off into space. Rictor continues to call out for help, even as the door opens and he falls back into the building. Looking down at him as he lies prone on the floor, Rictor is told by Guido that he knew he’d come crawlin’ back.

Exasperated, Rictor pleads for Guido to close the door before they lose all the air or something. Asked what he’s talking about, Rictor tells Guido that they’re in space! The final freakin’ frontier! Just look out the… Rictor finds his voice trails as he himself looks out the door, only to see the normal street of Mutant Town. A little unsure, Guido asks Rictor not to take this wrong, but… has he been smokin’ something?

Descending down back to street level, Rictor tells Guido that this was all outer space. And the steps were gone. In disbelief, Guido tells his friend that if he changed his mind he doesn’t have to come up with some whole… Yelling back from the sidewalk, Rictor tells him he’s not making this up. When Guido tries to point out that they’re not in outer space, Rictor becomes exasperated, replying that he can see that. Does he think he can’t see that? But it was completely different before. “Okay, whatever,” Guido replies before turning around to go back inside. Gesticulating widely, Rictor yells at Guido not to “whatever” him. He’s telling him…

Rictor’s protestations quickly turn into a scream as a square of nothingness which leads to a starry void opens beneath him. After a moment, Rictor has fallen into the portal and has disappeared before Guido can turn around. Having done so, a concerned Guido notes the impossible absence of Rictor in the area. “Okay. Not good,” he notes.

Back in the kitchen, Madrox is spreading some peanut butter on a slice of bread as Theresa tells him he doesn’t understand. Which is weird, Theresa, he replies, because he doesn’t think anyone else understands. All the threats to mutantkind are still out there. And the X-Men aren’t around to be buffers anymore. They’re it. They’re the whole shooting match. The only game in town. And if they don’t stick together, they’re going to get slaughtered. It probably sounds paranoid…

Interrupting, Theresa finished that, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Yes, she knows. Except… Well, has he considered that, if even the X-Men have split up, then maybe the whole notion of mutant teams has run its course. In reply as he cuts his sandwich into halves, Madrox rejoins with the stats that half of all marriages end in divorce, but people keep getting hitched. And besides, there’s Layla to consider. They can explore different options to get her back as a group faster than individuals… Saying the guy who’s a one-man group, Theresa retorts. Okay, that’s a fair point, Madrox replies, but... Interrupting, Theresa tells Madrox that she knows they have issues. She knows there’s a lot going on, but… what she’s trying to tell him is… she’s…

Theresa’s words fall flat as Guido calls out Madrox’s name, yelling for him to get out there. They have a problem. Grabbing his coat, Madrox yells back that he’s coming. Though in a hurry, Madrox does take a moment to tell Theresa that he’ll give her a rain check on their conversation. Left alone once again, Theresa clasps her abdomen, telling the “kid” within not to worry. She’s sure she’ll manage to tell him before high school graduation.

Outside on the sidewalk, Guido points to the spot where Rictor was just a few minutes before. One second there and the next, poof, gone. Mebbe he was, he doesn’t know… beamed away. Or some superspeedster grabbed him. Before Madrox can reply, Monet proclaims “Occam’s Razor,” from the top of the steps. When Guido asks if she means Rictor went for a shave, Monet sarcastically replies with a nooo…. It means the simplest explanation… Tends to be the correct one, Madrox finishes. Pointing to the spot previously pointed by Guido, Madrox remarks “trap door.” In the sidewalk? Guido asks. Wouldn’t be the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen. Good point, Guido rejoins.

Taking off his jacket, Guido pounds the point with both fists, obliterating the concrete of the sidewalk. As he then lifts a large chunk to move it, Guido remarks to Madrox that he should realize they’re probably gonna send them a bill for this. No risk too great, Madrox replies. As he then begins to climb down into the hole, Madrox notes that there’s something down there, all right. When Guido then asks if he wants him to run back and get a flashlight, Madrox replies that he’s got one. Always carry one to be prepared. One of his dupes was a scoutmaster for a year. Yeah, he was in the scouts when he was a kid, Guido remarks. He never got his “climb into dark holes” merit badge, though.

In short order, Guido, Monet and Siryn climb into the hole and follow Madrox down the tunnel which he illuminates with his flashlight. As he leads the way, Madrox silently remarks that this is exactly what he was talking about. They can’t let their guard down even for a second. They can’t quit because they will never quit. There will always be more of them, and more… trying to destroy them… for no other reason than that they exist. Then again… what other reason has anyone ever needed to destroy others? George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. He said, “Because it’s there.” Same principle. Seventy-five years later, Mallory’s body was finally found on Everest. There’s a lesson in there some where, he thinks.

After a short while of exploring, Madrox leads his teams to a wall. Once he moves aside, both Guido and Monet punch the wall, crumbling it. However, once the team moves the tunnel beyond, they find their perceptions change – the mouth of the new tunnel actually leads up on an incline and emerging from the sidewalk a few yards from the whole Guido had dug earlier.

Elsewhere, hanging upside-down on a reversed cross, Rictor returns to consciousness. As he does so, he hears two voices arguing. One pleads for the other to give them a gun. Let them shoot him. Now, now, the second voice replies. Where’s the artistry in that? The style? The fun? “Devil take your games,” the first voice retorts. “I’m the client!” And, the second counters, they were hired to execute their desires, “so allow me to do my job as I sees fit.”

A moment later, the upside-down Rictor yells as a gigantic scythe swings like a pendulum, cleaving the area between his legs and just above his crotch. Seeing that Rictor is awake, one of the voices says hello, to which Rictor replies for them to go to hell. What’s the matter? the voice inquires. Feeling a little cross? Yelling out into the dark, Rictor calls for the voice to come out from wherever they’re hiding and they’ll feel his right cross! Come on, the voice continues. He has to admire this just a little. “I was reading Poe while watching ‘Goldfinger’ and came up with this device.” Continuing, the voice tells Rictor to ask if they expect him to talk. Go ahead, it’ll be fun, the voice promises. “Bite me,” Rictor rejoins instead.

Ah, me, the voice continues, undeterred. Banter is becoming a lost art. Spider-Man, the voice says, is the only living practitioner these days. Finally returning to his senses, Rictor mutters the name of Monet. A moment later, he then yells it out at the top of his lungs.

Some distance away, Monet’s attention shifts. Ignoring the argument of the rest of the team over their situation, Monet takes to the sky, explaining to the inquiring Madrox that she hears him. “She hears him?” Guido asks. How does she… As Monet disappears in a burst of light high above, Madrox creates a dupe with a stamp of his foot. He then asks Siryn to go after her and to take him with her for backup. As she complies, shreaking the two of them airborne, the dupe proclaims to the non-present Rictor not to worry. They shall find him! Find him and punish the miscreants who have done this foul deed!

Watching them depart into the sky, Madrox notes to Guido that they’re on the case. They should get this sorted out before l… Unfortunately, Madrox is interrupted by Guido, who points out to him their current and sudden surrounding: deep within a forest. Aw, swell, Madrox laments.

As the swinging blade continues its arc between Rictor’s legs, growing ever closer to his torso, the disembodied voice states it hopes Rictor appreciated the technology. It’s cutting edge. Ohhh, that was so close, the voice then adds. Is he about to scream? Ah. Going to tough it out. He certainly has cojones the voice tells him. For another few seconds anyway, it then adds.

Back in the apparent jungle, Guido surmises that it’s a hologram. It’s gotta be. Replying that that makes sense, Madrox adds that somebody must have installed projectors all over the place. Suddenly detecting a rumbling running through the ground beneath their feet, Madrox begins to worry. Guido, however, is nonplussed, reminding his boss that, whatever it is, if it’s just holograms, then it’s all illusion. Can’t hurt them. Works in theory, Madrox quips as he spies a giant, stone boulder rolling their way. When Guido asks what he means by “theory,” Madrox reminds him that holograms in the Danger Room can hurt you plenty. Even kill you.

Before Guido can ask if Madrox said “kill,” the boulder rolls right over Guido, literally embedding him in its sphere. Having leapt out of the path, Madrox looks back to see if Guido is all right – but finds his eyes transfixed on something else entirely. There, affixed to the back of the boulder is a gigantic poster, announcing Gameday is Here!. Signed at the bottom is “XOXO – Arcade,” with the smiling visage of the assassin waving mockingly back at Madrox.

Characters Involved: 

M, Multiple Man, Siryn, Strong Guy (all X-Factor)


Story Notes: 

Val Cooper offered Guido the job of sheriff of Mutant Town in X-Factor (3rd series) #21. Guido informed Madrox of this offer and his intention of accepting it in #24.

Madrox and Theresa’s baby was conceived in their night of celebration of their defiance of the Registration Act in issue #10.

“Three’s Company” was a popular sitcom notably starring John Ritter and ran from 1977 to 1984.

“Vaya con dios” is Spanish for “go with God.”

Occam’s Razor is a principle of logic attributed to the 14th century friar of the same name. Though more complex, it is mainly paraphrased as “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”

As Madrox states, George Mallory was a mountaineer who sought to climb Mount Everest, only to disappear and be presumed dead. His body was eventually found in 1999.

Rictor’s situation with the scythe approaching his crotch is reminiscent of a scene from Goldfinger, in which the eponymous villain uses a laser to threaten James Bond into talking (though with little interest in him actually talking). The reference to Poe refers to his short story of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” in which a scythe swings back and forth from the ceiling and descending toward the unnamed narrator.

“Cojones” is uncouth Spanish slang for testicles.

Ever since the technological upgrade provided by the Shi’ar, the X-Men’s Danger Room has possessed “solid” holograms, which can indeed prove deadly with the safety protocols off.

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