X-Factor (3rd series) #36

Issue Date: 
December 2008
Story Title: 
The Big Bang

Peter David (writer), Larry Stroman (penciler), Jon Sibal (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Bob Cook (cover), Michael Horwitz (asst. editor), John Barber & Will Panzo (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Though still a captive of the mysterious Mr. Maru, held within a liquid-filled sphere, Darwin begins to adapt. Increasing in muscle mass, he pounds at the shell of the sphere until he shatters it and is free. Though he calls security, Maru is unconcerned, as he recaptures the escaped Darwin by splashing him with the liquid in his martini glass, which is in fact not a drink but a concoction designed to incapacitate Darwin’s unique powers. Elsewhere, Madrox and Guido come calling on a Mr. Stefani, the owner of the van Longshot had seen used by those who captured Darwin in his psychic flashback. Mr. Stefani, however, informs them that he has not seen the van in months, since his son borrowed it. Seeming to accept his word, the two leave, after which Stefani immediately makes a phone call, informing others of his visitors. Unfortunately for Stefani, Monet had arrived with her two teammates, but had used her telepathic abilities to make herself invisible. Astonished, Stefani grabs a hidden gun and shoots Monet, which only makes her angry and leads to her knocking him out. The problem of this making even telepathic interrogation more difficult is rendered moot by Longshot’s power to “read” Stefani’s wallet. In the ensuing vision, Longshot witnesses the van used to kidnap Darwin and the warehouse to which they took him. However, the vision goes badly when, inexplicably, a man waiting for the van’s arrival seems to have the ability to see Longshot’s time-displace phantom form and forces the psychic espionage to end. With this, the foursome follows the path of Longshot’s vision and finds the warehouse in question. However, upon entering, they find it empty. Meanwhile, the mysterious Mr. Maru is informed of the mutants’ arrival at the warehouse, at which point he orders it blown up. Back at X-Factor HQ, Rictor and the very pregnant Siryn are holding up the fort in the others’ absence. Much to Theresa’s shock, they receive an unexpected visitor in the form of Val Cooper, agent of O*N*E, who seems very interested in Siryn’s unborn baby.

Full Summary: 

The world surrounding Darwin is red – in fact the color of the liquid in which he has been submerged and contained in a translucent sphere. However, though he had been help captive with the orb, Darwin, as is his ability, has adapted. Having produced gills running down his neck, Darwin has likewise increased drastically in muscle mass. This muscle, he now uses to round against the side of the sphere. The impact of his fists create WUMF after WUMF, each increasing in intensity.

Darwin’s captor on the other side is unimpressed. What does he hope to accomplish, Maru asks, pointing his cane at Darwin with one hand while clasping a martini glass with the other. He’s not going anywhere until they choose to release him. And, since they have no immediate plans to do so… Look, Armando, Maru then says, changing his tact, this may be hard for one of his mutable physiology to accept… but there are some things even he cannot change.

Seeing Darwin continue his blows against the shell of the sphere, Maru decides to continue. He wishes the naysayers could see him, he remarks. The poster boy for the theory that they reject. In a universe where barely a percentage of DNA separates them from chimpanzees… they refuse to believe they’re related to apes. Then again, he supposes it’s not surprising. Neither of his first two wives believes they’d eventually turn into their mother, but they both did. Women. Can’t live with them. Can’t leave bodies to be traced. Anyway, Maru concludes, turning to leave. Keep punching if it pleases him to do so. At least it provides him with harmless entertainment.

A moment later, however, Maru stops in his tracks when the WUM is hyphenated with a KRAK. Looking back he sees a crack in the sphere, with Darwin drawing back for one more blow. Maru only has a moment to call for a security alert before Darwin’s next blow shatters the sphere. As the red liquid within rushes past his feet, Maru uses his cane to keep his balance (as well as his martini glass). When Maru asks for him to listen to him, calling Darwin “son,” the now-freed Darwin interrupts, spitting at Maru not to call him son. He’s not his father! No, obviously not, Maru replies. He’s merely his captor, not his betrayer. The man who spawned him turned him over to them… for half a million dollars.

Taken aback briefly, Darwin rejoins that he doesn’t believe it. What? Maru asks. The betrayal? Or that he let him go for such a relatively low sum? Honestly, half a million? That won’t even buy a thirty-second spot on the Super Bowl. Ignoring this, Darwin demands to know where his father is; and what Maru has done with him. In cryptic reply, Maru states that he is no longer a factor in this equation. Asked what that means, Maru rejoins that it means that, at this moment, he’s likely welling in the ninth circle of hell with other traitors. “He’s dead, Armando. Now… kindly surrender while they prepare a new tank for him”.

Receiving no reply, Maru inquisitively repeats Darwin’s given name. Darwin’s reaction then comes in the form of silent tears, to which Maru replies that he’s not really worth it. He’s really… A moment later, Darwin’s tears turn to rage. He leaps into the air at Maru, screaming in incoherent rage. However, before he can land upon Maru, he is splashed… by Maru’s martini.

As Darwin is immediately forced to his knees, Maru lords over him. He tells Darwin that he’s sorry about this. He knows he’s grieving. So it hardly seems the time to souse him with a concoction they’ve derived from his DNA. Something designed to incapacitate him while constantly mutating itself… so that his peculiar abilities will be helpless to thwart it. Fortunately for him, Maru continues, there is a wise old saying: never kick a man when he’s down. As he then kicks Darwin in the stomach, Maru adds that he’s never been one for old sayings.

As security forces begin to surround Darwin, Maru states that it’s amazing, really. He developed super-strength as needed to break free of his constraints. Here’s the thing, he then states. They at Karma are always going to be one step ahead of them. Now turning to his security forces, Maru asks them to drive home the point. With this, a parade of blows and kicks come upon Darwin. Fists and boots beat upon skin. Eventually, Maru announces that that’s enough.

Elsewhere, a knock at his door brings a man to answer it. Opening it, the man is asked if he’s Mr. Stefani, to which the man inquisitively replies that he is. The first question answered, Jamie Madrox, flanked by Guido, clarifies. Owner of a van, license number MKA-213? When the man again inquisitively replies “yes,” Madrox hands the man a card and asks if they can talk for a few minutes.

Glancing at the card, Mr. Stefani reads “XF Investigations” and asks what the XF stands for. Their boss, Xander Forbush, Madrox explains. Maybe he’s heard of him. Used to work for Remington Steele. Though still uncomfortable with the situation, Mr. Stefani nevertheless is convinced enough to invite both Madrox and Guido within.

Inside, Stefani offers his two guests a beer, which Madrox declines. Then asked about the van, Stefani replies that he hasn’t seen it in month? Then asked if it’s been stolen, Stefani replies that he hasn’t reported it as such, if that’s what he’s getting at. Now turning to Guido, Stefani asks him to pardon him for asking, but… did steroids do that to him? Pointing to his immense yet misshapen frame, Guido explains that, when he was a kid, his mom got him a thigh master, but he used it upside down and, well… vee-ola. Confused, Mr. Stefani repeats “vee-ola,” to which Madrox interrupts, clarifying that he meant “viola.”

Anyway, Madrox continues, trying to get the conversation back on track. “The van?” Oh, right, Mr. Stefani replies, returning to the subject. His son has it. Asked by Madrox if he just said his son, Stefani confirms: his son, Paulie. He asked if he could “borrow” it. Haven’t seen it, or him, since. And he couldn’t bring himself to call the cops on his kid. Next asked if he has any idea where he or the van is, Stefani replies none and apologizes that he can’t be of more help. Coolly, Stefani takes a swig of his can of beer, while Madrox and Guido exchange a glance.

A few minutes later, Mr. Stefani says farewell to the two investigators, telling them to take care. Once the door is slammed closed, however, he immediately goes to the phone and makes a call. Connected with the other party, Stefani states his name and tells the other party that they’ve got a problem. He explains that a couple of private detectives were there, asking after the van. No, he doesn’t know why… but one of them was pretty obviously Strong Guy. And he bets anything the other was the Multiple Man.

Continuing, Stefani guesses that Munoz must have hired them to track down his son. And now they must’ve been pulled back in when they took out Munoz. Ditch the van, he then orders. In Lake Michigan, in a scrap yard… he doesn’t care. No, he’s not coming there. He’s hot now. His guess is, they’ll be watching him, at least for awhile…

“Good guess,” Monet voices. Startled, Stefani drops the phone, stammering H-How… She was there the whole time, Monet explains, telling his mind to look through her. Kind of like the Shadow. Neat, huh?

As Monet approaches, Stefani backs away, his hand slowly moving to a shelf, on which rests a concealed handgun. Masking his actions, Stefani asks who she is, a question which Monet recoils in mock offense. He recognizes Madrox and Guido, but not her? It’s a world gone mad, she swears to…

Monet’s statement goes unfinished, as Stefani grabs the handgun and trains it on Monet, firing point-blank into her chest. A moment later, she’s on the ground, unmoving. Wordlessly, Stefani tucks the pistol into his pants and makes for the door. However, waiting on the other side is Longshot, who says “hello” and follows it up with a right cross.

A moment later, Stefani finds himself on the ground, being picked up by a very much living Monet and begging her to “wait!” Holding him off his feet, Monet yells to Stefani that he just put six holes in a Louis Vuitton shirt and he expects her to “wait?” For what? The fashion police?” Now holding Stefani higher by his shirt, Monet demands to be told where Darwin’s being held. When Stefani replies that he can’t – they’ll kill him! – Monet rejoins that, when she gets through with him, he’ll be begging them to.

Calling out to Monet, Madrox tells her to let him go and not to hurt him. Incredulous, Monet points out that he tried to killer her. If he’d been the target, he’d have succeeded. Undeterred, Madrox reiterates his intentions, ordering her to put him down. In defiant compliance, Monet does just that, slamming Stefani to the ground. When Madrox points out that he’s unconscious, Monet replies that she was annoyed. If he’d given her a few minutes to calm down, she’d have restrained herself. What’s his problem anyway? Though reminded of his dupe having nearly killed Darwin’s father in his hospital bed and still being freaked out about it, Madrox declines to admit it.

No problem, Madrox states, except now they can’t question him. In reply, Monet states that she can try a mind scan, though it’d be easier if he were conscious. And whose fault is that, Madrox rejoins? Mordez-moi, Monet quips. Hold on, Longshot interrupts. He’s found his wallet. Men tend to carry those with them wherever they go. Closing his eyes as he touches it, Longshot suggests they see what he can pick up.

(memory / flashback)

As the phantom Longshot surfs atop the speeding van, presumably with the kidnapped Darwin within, he speaks to Madrox in the here-and-now, explaining that he’s with the van, turning onto a street called West Avenue. “There’s a warehouse. Hold on…” Positioning himself at the front of the vehicle, Longshot looks through the windshield and inside. He reports to Madrox that Stefani’s at the wheel. It’s definitely the same van that drove off with Darwin.

Hearing this, an ecstatic Guido tells Longshot that, since he’s there, to grab Darwin out of the back of the van! To this, a sarcastic Monet calls Guido a pillock and reminds him that it’s a vision. He doesn’t have any genuine physical presence there. Realizing his mistake, Guido apologizes, adding that he’s still not getting this whole “reading” thing of his.

Ignoring them both, Longshot next reports the van approaching a warehouse, for which he does not see an address when Madrox asks. Once inside, the van comes to a halt and Longshot reports that a man approaches, one whom Longshot guesses might be in charge. To this, Longshot uncomfortably adds that he’s… looking at him. Asked by Madrox if he means he’s looking in his direction, Longshot replies negatively. He means at him directly! Told by Madrox that that’s impossible, Longshot replies that he knows…

Longshot’s words trail as the right eye of the man gazing upon him suddenly glows, followed by a pain in Longshot’s phantom form. Doubling over while clasping his head, the phantom Longshot falls to the ground, right into the way of the van’s wheels. Just before impact, however, Monet, ordered by Madrox, telepathically grabs Longshot’s phantom hand ans pulls him away… and into the here-and-now.


Longshot awakens by a kiss, specifically that of Monet’s. To this, Guido quips of talking about “being in the moment.” Good thing Rictor’s not there, Madrox adds. He’d be jealous. When asked by Guido of which one, Madrox waits a moment before admitting that, honestly, he’s not sure.

Back at XF headquarters, Rictor asks Theresa is there’s anything he can do for her. Shuffling through papers on the desk, Theresa replies that he can stop asking every five minutes if he can do something for her. Sorry, Rictor replies. He knows that Madrox wants someone there at all times. But why doesn’t he just leave a dupe? Rictor then wonders. Told by Theresa that they’re not all predictable, Rictor grins that he’s predictable. Good old boring Rictor. Theresa begins to defend, but a doorbell interrupts and Rictor goes to get it. Unfortunately for Theresa, he departs too quickly to get a file from her from a lower drawer, so she gets it herself… but finds that her pregnancy prevents her from standing back up. Terrific, she laments. Just terrific. She then calls out to Rictor or anyone. A little help?

A proverbial helping hand is offered but, when she’s back on her feet, Theresa emits an “Oh, crap” when she sees that it’s Val Cooper. Giving a hello, Val introduces herself, as well as her position at O*N*E. They chatted some months back, she then reminds Theresa. Right before her boss blew up his headquarters and nearly took their team and her with it. Not giving Theresa a chance at a word in, Val presses. “So…” Val says, “…let’s talk about your baby.”

Through the streets of Detroit, Longshot guides their cramped car as he remembers from his psychic journey. As they make a turn onto West Avenue, Guido protests that Monet is driving, when he always does. Because, Madrox explains, he didn’t feel like arguing and, anyway, what is he complaining about? He’s the one getting crushed.

Changing topic, Guido wonders if they should have waited for Stefani to come around. Scowling, Madrox replies that they don’t know how long that was going to take. And with Darwin’s life at stake… To this, Guido asks if they really know what is at stake. Asked what he means, Guido explains that maybe they’ve got something else in mind for Darwin. Siryn researched the “Karma Project” thing and came up with a therapy group, some holistic medicine types, and an indie rock band. So, who knows what they’re up t…

Interrupting, Longshot points to a warehouse, stating that he’s absolutely, reasonable, almost fairy certain that that’s the one! A minute later, all four find themselves at the door, which Madrox find is locked. He begins to produce his lock-pick kit, only to have Guido render it moot with a finger jab at the door, breaking the lock. Entering the warehouse, however, they find nothing. As they investigate, Monet tells Longshot to stay close behind her. As close as he wishes. Right, Longshot replies. And be ready for anything, Monet then adds. He always is, Longshot states.

Elsewhere, Maru stands before a new sphere, filled with red liquid – as well as a dormant Darwin. From an aide, Maru is informed that they’re in. Repeat, the mutants are in. With a grin, Maru orders them to blow up the warehouse. A moment later, a massive explosion obliterates the warehouse, after which Maru is dutifully updated.

Characters Involved: 

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



Val Cooper

Mr. Maru

Mr. Maru’s scientists

Mr. Maru’s security forces

Mr. Stefani

Citizens of Detroit

(memory / flashback)


Mr. Stefani

Karma Project higher-up

Story Notes: 

The “ninth circle of hell” being reserved for traitors was first suggested by Dante in Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy in the early 14th century.

Monet’s comment of “Mordez-moi” is French for “bite me.”

“Remington Steele” was a 1980s detective TV series which starred Pierce Brosnan as the eponymous character.

Louis Vuitton is a French company known for making expensive, high-fashion clothing.

A “pillock” is an unintelligent person.

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