X-Factor Annual #7

Issue Date: 
May 1992
Story Title: 
<BR>The Historians of Tales to Come (Shattershot Part 3) – 1st story<BR> Drowning in Paperwork – 2nd story<BR>Cal & Guido – 3rd story

Suzanne Gaffney (managing editor), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
1st story: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Joe Quesada (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Richard Starkings (letterer), Kevin Tinsley (colorist)
2nd story: Peter David (writer), Darick Robertson (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Gina Going (colorist)
3rd story: Peter David (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Kelly Corvese (colorist)

Brief Description: 

1st story:
Mojo learns of the rival network overtaking his ratings and decides to air a special in which Spiral hunts down and kills Arize. On Earth, Val Cooper learns of Spiral’s recent rampages and asks X-Factor to help take down her former employee. Their paths converge at Arize’s cabin in the outskirts of South Dakota. X-Factor manages to subdue Spiral before she can kill Arize, at which point they ask why she is so angry. Spiral reveals to them the chain of events that transformed her from the vibrant Ricochet Rita into the monster she is today. She notes Arize’s future role in that transformation, and informs them of Mojo’s twisted, engineered time-loop that has trapped her in an eternal circle of self-destruction. After Arize laments the pain his actions have caused, Spiral informs him the eventual leader of the Mojoverse will be someone named Shatterstar. Arize and Spiral, deciding to join forces to break Mojo’s endless cycle of oppression, time-dance their way back to the Wildways. 2nd story:
Val Cooper has to forgo a much-awaited Motown tribute concert in order to finish a mound of paperwork late one night. To her horror, after two hours of paper-pushing, the papers come to life and try to kill her. Fortunately for Val, however, this turns out to be a nightmare. 3rd story:
A bullied school-kid named Cal hires Guido to be his bodyguard. Guido accepts and warns the bullies to leave Cal alone. Upon returning to Cal’s school a few weeks later, however, Guido finds that Cal has become the school bully, thanks to having the threat of Guido’s return! Guido quickly deposes Cal from power and warns him to never try that stunt again.

Full Summary: 

1st story:

Major-Domo has the unfortunate task of reporting to Mojo the most recent drop in his ratings. The full-scale assault waged by a pirate network, combined with Mojo's own failure to capture his audience's attention, has resulted in an unprecedented viewer loss. Mojo doesn't take this news well, and like most irrational tyrants, he blames the messenger. "Who aired the show?!" Mojo shouts in Major-Domo's faces, spraying him with slobber and particulate matter. Domo, caught in the thralls of his master's chokehold, can barely breathe, let alone muster up enough surplus oxygen to cough out the answer. Mojo finally releases him and throws him to the floor. After Major-Domo gets up and brushes himself off, he reports to his master that the troubles he is so graciously enduring are a result of his own misguided efforts. Mojo's arrogant decision to broadcast Arize’s retrieval from Earth on live television, followed by the retrieval team's humiliating defeat at the hands of the X-Men, resulted in some truly pitiful viewer feedback. Business is bad, Arize says, but he begs Mojo not to use the "R"-word just yet. Since this reference is lost on Mojo, however, Major-Domo has no reason to worry. Mojo angrily slams two beautiful biped slaves into the wall. "No happy-loving-couples allowed right now, please," he says. Major-Domo reminds him that "happy-loving-couple" is his news-anchor team. Mojo doesn't care; he can replace them. He can replace everyone! "Even you, my bulbous liege?" asks Major-Domo. Mojo senses mockery in his servant's tone. He asks if Major-Domo actually believes he is replaceable. That depends, Major-Domo says; there would have to be someone else who could do the work Mojo does. Mojo catches the subtext. Major-Domo is alluding to the pirate network, isn't he? "The thought might have crossed my mind," Major-Domo admits. Mojo asks why that network should fare any better; their attempt to retrieve Arize failed just as miserably as Mojo's. Why didn't their ratings suffer? "Because they broadcast on your network with your signals," Major-Domo tells his liege. "So, everyone thinks it was one of your shows and another of your failures." Mojo, realizing he has been framed, throws his arms up in despair! He vows to get revenge. Major-Domo asks how he plans to do accomplish that. "A journalistic endeavor! Nitty-gritty reality! Meant to show the truth behind these nasty pirates! We will bring enlightenment to the masses!" Mojo explains. Major-Domo notes the irony in this truth-seeking endeavor, which contradicts every fiber of Mojo's being. Mojo is aware of this; that's why he finds the project so exhilarating. Mojo hopes to show everyone that Arize is still alive before finally killing him. Major-Domo asks exactly who will bring about this educational illumination/corporeal assassination. In response, Mojo conjures up an image of his time-dancer Spiral. "But she has remained so long on the world of humans, your pudginess," Major-Domo says, "—how do you propose to shake her — umm — stubborn resolve to stay far, far away from you?" "Ah, women! So fickle, no?" Mojo says. "Really, it's just a ploy, I'm sure. To renegotiate her contract or gain some publicity, no doubt." He believes she will do what he says, if only because she has to. Mojo owns her, after all, just as he owns everything on Mojoworld. Major-Domo looks at his master with worry. His statement is true for now, but he fears it is rapidly becoming bankrupt of its veracity. Washington, D.C.…
From here, the nation's capitol, the people of the United States draw their inspiration, and fateful decisions are made daily, like the one Guido now faces. "Should I use the mayo or not?" the burly X-Factor operative asks. His teammate, Polaris, reminds him the sandwich will taste like cardboard without it. Guido sighs; he knows. However, this means he has to struggle with opening the jar. He asks Polaris to pass it over to him. As the jar of light-mayonnaise magnetically drifts across the room, it passes before the eyes of Quicksilver, who scoffs at the word “lite” on its misleading label. "Semantic hypocrites. Oil, eggs and preservatives," Pietro says while voraciously slicing vegetables for a salad. Strong Guy agrees with this quip, especially as it pertains to the preservatives present in the mayo. He lists off the specific ingredients: cellulose gel, lactic acid, potassium sorbate, etc. His team leader Havok asks him to stop; he's making him feel ill. Speaking of ill, Havok turns to Quicksilver and asks if using his super-speed to make a salad isn't a frivolous use of his powers. Using his powers lately has deteriorated his health, after all. "Sustenance is not frivolous," Pietro tells him. "Especially with that monstrosity around eating all the food." He gestures toward Strong Guy. Polaris resents this jab at her friend. "Guido can't help his caloric intake, Pietro — as you can't help your charming disposition." Using her magnetic control, she clears all the silverware off the table so Guido has a place to eat. Meanwhile, Wolfsbane enters unnoticed and chides Lorna for always coming to Guido's defense. Guido jokes it must be due to his animal magnetism. Rahne growls at this response. Havok reprimands her with a plasma burst, and reminds her that growling at teammates is against union rules. Rahne, caught totally by surprise, snarls at Alex for shooing her away with a plasma burst. Meanwhile, Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man enters and taps Guido on the shoulder. He and his dupes want to take a shot at the mayonnaise jar, Madrox says. Together, the three identical men pull on the jar's lid, using each other for bracing and leverage. Guido watches impatiently; a stale-cardboard sandwich is beginning to sound enticing. Unfortunately, the dupes lose control of the jar and go barreling into Strong Guy's cutting board, sending the delicately arranged contents of his sandwich soaring into the air. "Oy vey!" Guido says as his beautiful creation drifts apart. Lorna manages to contain most of it and tells her teammate Alex she has it under control. Since when do her magnetic powers grant her control over celery, Alex asks? Lorna reminds him even celery has iron amongst its trace minerals. Quicksilver, meanwhile, watches the mayonnaise jar plummet toward the floor. "And neither of you thought to consider the threat from this infernal container of arterial corruption?" he asks Havok and Polaris. Out of nowhere, a hand emerges and catches the jar before it hits the floor. It is Dr. Valerie Cooper, X-Factor's government liaison. She tells her team she looks forward to the day when she can come here and find them engaged in some tactical maneuvers in preparation for some world-threatening menace instead of engaging in their usual frivolities. She gently taps the lid of the mayo jar against the wooden frame of the room's couch. Then, with minimal effort, she lifts off the lid and tosses the troublesome condiment jar to Guido. "Sustenance is not frivolous," Pietro whispers under his breath. Now that she has X-Factor's attention, Val explains her reason for coming. It seems a sin from her past is poised to affect X-Factor's future. Freedom Force, the government team that X-Factor replaced, was made up of convicted felons who wanted to reform, Val explains. She admits it was a mistake — not the reformation aspect, but the specific felons she chose for the team. Recent reports indicate that one member of her former team has been causing some nasty problems. "You seek absolution from us, Val Cooper?" Quicksilver asks. No, Val says. She seeks absolution for someone else. She pulls out a photograph of a snarling, six-armed woman and presents it to the team: their target, Spiral. Wessington Springs, South Dakota…
Forty miles east of the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, nestled in the shadows of the nearby mountains, a secluded shack surrounded by large satellite dishes and power generators serves as Arize’s workstation for his tireless media consolidation project. For twenty-two days, he has prepared a retrieval array intended to absorb the planet's best TV broadcasts. He intends to stream to the people of his home-world in order to show them what it means to be free. The Spineless Ones of the Mojoworld, it seems, are cursed by a genetic predisposition to absorb all the broadcasts signals coming from Earth, a predisposition which has driven them insane. Arize hopes to alleviate their insanity by filtering the signals they receive. He presses the button which he hopes will end the madness of the Mojoworld once and for all. Meanwhile, at the Crow Creek Reservation, Spiral engages in a very aggressive interrogation of some innocent civilians. She lashes out at one man, her swords grazing and splitting the fabric on his vest. "Where is Arize?!" she shouts. "You have seen him! He has been here! My magicks can discern that much, human cow!" The Native American man hunches over and puts a hand to the wounds in his torso. He tells Spiral the man she seeks has done nothing wrong! Spiral thinks otherwise. Just because Arize does not reek of evil like she does doesn't mean he is innocent. She wears the sins of Arize like a shroud. It is because of him that she is cursed to live this way. Enraged, she kicks the man to the ground and stands over him, holding one of the six blades she carries to his throat. She demands to know where he is, or else heads will roll. An elderly Native American man, not wanting his son to die without reason, fesses up and says Arize passed by a short while earlier. Spiral, still snarling and crazy-eyed, points her swords to the elderly man's neck and demands more information. He reveals that Arize lives in a small cabin several miles outside of the reservation. The elderly man's son cannot believe his father is giving up an innocent man like this. Spiral, meanwhile, leaps into the air and begins to dance. "Warn him if you like," she says as her magic spell radiates around her six outstretched, sword-wielding arms. "Tell Arize that Spiral is coming for him! Tell him it is time to dance with death!" Meanwhile, over the Midwestern night sky, X-Factor speeds toward their destination aboard their transport plane. Inside the aircraft, Guido chides Val Cooper for not upgrading the seats as she previously promised. She apologizes; surely he knows how it is with the government's budget. "Oh, yeah. We're in an economic downturn. Can lead you right into a depression, eh?" Guido says. Havok interrupts and says what depresses him is the thought of fighting Spiral with one eye cast toward protecting Val the entire time. Val tells him she isn't thrilled about it either, but it's something she has to do. Polaris reminds them there won't be much for any of them to do if they don't actually find Spiral. She asks Val about the progress on the energy spectrum scan. The scan, Val says, has found nothing yet; it will only register Spiral's signature if she uses her powers, but by then it might be too late. Suddenly, Havok detects a reading, and directs Val's attention to the screen. It doesn't look good. On the monitor, they see an entire village in Wessington Springs burning to the ground. It will take ten minutes to reach this place. From the looks of what Spiral has already accomplished, Guido wonders if she can't finishes torching the entire state in that short time. Nine minutes and fourteen seconds later, X-Factor touches down over the charred remains of Wessington Springs. Polaris exits the craft and runs reconnaissance. She sees survivors scattered around the area and asks her team to call for a medical unit while she finds out what happened. The first person she talks to, a frantic woman carrying an infant child, reports that a woman with six arms is responsible for this destruction. The six-armed woman was looking for someone called “the stranger” – a tall, eccentric man who moved into one of the nearby cabins a month earlier. Polaris asks for a specific location. Three miles away, a sphere of crackling, electrical energy manifests in the field outside of Arize's isolated cabin. Spiral emerges, and the sphere vanishes. After she announces her arrival, she looks at the cables and satellite dishes surrounding Arize's cabin in disgust. "The games of fools and madmen never end, no matter the world they reside on, do they?" she asks. She approaches the machinery and strikes at it with her swords. Arize, upon hearing the commotion, rushes outside to investigate. Spiral catches him right outside the door and thrusts the edge of her katana to his neck. "Hello, master of my destiny," she says. "Whose life are you planning on ruining now?" Arize looks at her with wide-eyed terror. Did Mojo send her, he asks? Spiral calls him a fool; she has been on this world and back, for some time now. Thanks to Arize, she will continue to do so, forever and ever! She kicks him in the chin, sending him soaring into his front yard. He asks her to calm down; now that she is outside of Mojo's realm of influence, can she not discuss things rationally, he asks? “Outside—? I am never outside of Mojo's influence,” she states. “ ‘I am you as you are me as we are all together!’ That is what he said — that is what you did!” she says. Arize has no idea what she means. She explains that Arize created her in order to save his precious messiah. Arize disputes this notion. He has created many things, but at no time did he create Spiral. She scolds at his simple-minded ignorance. He didn't make her in his past — he makes her in his future! By killing him now, she will stop that from happening, if not for her, then maybe for another Rita from another time. Suddenly, something hits Spiral in the back and sends her crashing through the cabin's wooden exterior. "How about for Lovely Rita, Meter Maid?" Strong Guy jokes. Val, sporting a battle-ready uniform and a bulky assault rifle, asks him to stop joking. She turns her attention toward Spiral and says the end of her line has come. Havok asks the six-armed villainess to make it easy on them and surrender. Surprisingly, Val asks him not to push the issue and approaches Spiral on her own. Val approaches the downed Spiral with her gun drawn and implores her to surrender. They can help her if she agrees to cease this pointless rampage. “Pointless? I don’t think so, Cooper,” Spiral says. “I don’t think guilt is ever truly pointless! Or responsibility! Or revenge! Do you? I’ll do whatever it takes – kill as many human cows as I need to – in order to right the wrongs done to me!!” Upon hearing this, Val decides she must end Spiral’s reign of terror. She opens fire with her assault rifle. When the smoke clears, she sees only a smoldering pile of ash where Spiral just lay. Is she incinerated, Val asks? “Maybe,” a voice says from behind. Val turns and sees Spiral lunging at her with teeth bared and swords drawn. “But like I’ve done time and time again – I rise up from the ashes!” Spiral knocks aside Valerie’s guns, forces her to the ground, and holds her at knife-point. Val begs her to listen, but Spiral instructs her to shut up; she has heard enough out of her mouth. Val may seek to atone for her own sins, but where would that leave Spiral? What about her personal quest for retribution? She tells Val if she gets in the way again, she will kill her. Guido finally reaches his breaking point and decides to intervene. As he uproots a hefty deciduous tree, he mocks the two warring women and their estrogen kick; to think, people always accuse men of being over-reactive, he says. He approaches Spiral from behind, and after giving her a brief forewarning, hits her with the tree as if she were a baseball. “Good shot, Guido!” Havok says. “Strong Guy, please!” Guido reminds his teammate. “Wouldn’t want to reveal my secret identity, y’know!” Quicksilver, meanwhile, also commends Strong Guy on his shot. Since he struck Spiral from behind, she could not have possibly seen it coming. Lorna reminds him all is fair in a fight like this. Spiral tumbles and slides along the ground before coming to a screeching halt right at Arize’s feet. She picks herself up and, once again, holds the edge of her sword to his throat. Arize begs for his life; what will killing him accomplish, besides ridding the Mojoworld of its last chance at sanity? She tells him that by killing him now, she might sow the seeds of her own survival. Arize looks up at her and tells her she speaks in riddles. In his upward glance, he catches sight of Wolfsbane, perched in a tree. Spiral notices a pause in his sentence and asks why he hesitates, but before she can finish her sentence, Wolfsbane leaps down at assaults her. She lifts her talons in preparation for the coup de grace, but before she can deliver it, both she and Spiral are hit and thrust forward by a burst of green, magnetic energy. Spiral turns to her attacker Polaris and sneers; she is getting quite weary of these interruptions! She has tried very hard to focus her attention only on Arize. Now that she has found him, for some reason, she finds herself lacking the stomach to kill anyone else. However, these meddling X-Factor people have only served to rekindle her insatiable appetite for slaughter! She strikes at Polaris with her katana and cuts a swath out of her clothing. Havok looks on with worry as Spiral continues to attack Lorna with a flurry of sword-strikes, all of which graze her flesh and shred her uniform. Havok finally reaches his breaking point. He clenches his fists, pulls back his arms, and thrusts forth his chest in preparation to attack. He and X-Factor have been holding back because of Val Cooper’s personal involvement and because of their own uncertainty about Spiral’s motives, but now, since Spiral insists on delivering wanton destruction, Havok sees no reason to withhold it any longer. He directs his cataclysmic discharge of plasma energy at Spiral, knocking her to the ground and leaving her a smoking wreck of a woman. Madrox and his dupes encircle and restrain the injured Spiral. Havok, meanwhile, hoists Lorna up off the ground and checks on her condition. She reveals she has no serious injuries; it’s almost as if Spiral held back intentionally. “I should kill you all!” Spiral snaps. Instead of asking why she wants to kill them, Strong Guy asks, why she hasn’t done so yet? Polaris, in agreement, demands she explain herself. “How do you explain tragedy?” Spiral asks. “You can only recount the agony of one’s past – or future – not explain it!” She explains to X-Factor her past and how she became to be the woman they see before them. She wasn’t always a monster who digested death – she was once a human who ate life with an appetite for adventure. Not long ago, her name was Ricochet Rita. She fell in love with a fellow dreamer from another world, a man named Longshot. Together, they journeyed to Longshot’s home-world, the Mojoverse, in order to overthrow an oppressive tyrant and therefore free his people. They failed. Only then did Rita learn that Longshot was also known as the Fallen Messiah, a man destined to fail in his quest again and again in the ultimate rerun of perpetual futility. After Rita’s own capture, Mojo decided to toy with her. He opened her mind to the time between time, and the space between space, and taught her how to dance between it all. Then, he coerced his slave Arize into physically transforming her using biocyberonic implants, thereby making her as twisted physically as she was mentally. Finally, Mojo perpetuated the cruelest joke of all. He programmed his new creation, whom he dubbed Spiral, to timedance backward through time to set everything in motion again. As a result, the woman formerly known as Ricochet Rita but now known as Spiral tried to stop Longshot from ever fleeing to Earth. It was Rita who captured the unmolested version of herself and opened her mind to insanity for the first time, only to have her escape to join Longshot on his doomed quest to save the Mojoworld. “Mojo turned me into a tormented timeloop – a stained glass fractured version of Longshot himself!” Spiral declares. She is forever destined to perpetuate her own downfall, again and again, all because of Arize. Surprisingly, Arize sympathizes with Spiral’s point-of-view, including his own part in it. Not only will he perform such wretched experiments on Spiral in the future, but he freely admits to also being the one responsible for the creation of the biped race whose enslavement Longshot tirelessly struggles to abolish. Spiral adds that Longshot’s struggle will not even end for a hundred more years. It cannot end until the male child of a human and an Arize-spawn leads the way! Madrox asks why Spiral intends to wait for so long to affect change. Since she tried to change the future by killing Arize, did she ever consider trying to change it by stopping Mojo now? Val interjects and says they cannot trust Spiral with such a responsibility. Spiral scoffs at her former employer. She certainly trusted her enough to act as an operative on Freedom Force! Who is Val to judge her now? Arize interjects and takes Spiral’s side. “Like you, Valcooper, Spiral must try to make amends for her sins – as must I!” He asks Spiral to dance them back home, to the Mojoverse, so they can ensure the Fallen Messiah does not fail again. Spiral enthusiastically agrees. She stands up, extends her arm, and creates a force-push that repels the members of X-Factor. Together, she and Arize will break the cycle of pain and anguish back home. They might fail, but for the first time in their lives, it will be by the conscious actions of their own free will. By timedancing, she divines a portal to the Mojoverse out of thin air. Arize reaches out and takes her hand. Moments before they enter, he asks her a nagging question: what is the name of the Mojoworld’s future savior? Spiral looks at him with her inhuman, vacant eyes and answers. “His name will be SHATTERSTAR!” she declares. However, as they leap through the portal, she reminds Arize she only said Shatterstar would lead the Mojoworld – she never promised he would save it. X-Factor watches the two strangers leap into the trans-dimensional sphere and questions whether they should follow. Ultimately, Havok decides they have no need, as it is not their fight. A few hours later, on their flight home, Polaris reflects on their initial mission parameters. They were supposed to apprehend Spiral and stop her rampage. By accomplishing the latter task, however, the former task suddenly didn’t matter. Havok is not quite sure if he agrees; he still wonders if letting Spiral go was the right decision. After all, Longshot was his teammate and his friend. It pains him to think of him eternally failing in his idealistic dreams. While Rahne certainly acknowledges the sadness of this, the heroism and nobility strikes a chord with her. To dream of freedom and fight for it forever has a certain romantic appeal. Madrox notes the similarity between Longshot’s seemingly futile goal and their own plight as mutants. He does wonder about Arize, though. “Whoever – or whatever – he is,” Val says, “his actions – no matter the scale he’s acted upon – put him in no different a situation than the rest of us.” She gazes longingly at the moon outside her window. “Either he learns from the mistakes he’s made, and finds a way to correct them, or he learns to live with the guilt – forever.” 2nd story:
Val Cooper is drowning in paperwork. She screams at the sight of the mounds of paper on her desk and summons her assistant, Baldrick. Where did all this paperwork come from, she asks? Baldrick informs her it piled up while Val was on assignment with X-Factor. “Just sort of multiplied like radishes,” Baldrick says. “Rabbits,” Val responds, correcting him. “Them, too,” Baldrick says. Nevertheless, he tells Val not to worry; he has a cunning plan. Val, flipping through one of the many thick manuals that await her attention, highly doubts it. “Baldrick, you wouldn’t know a cunning plan if it came up, bit you on the behind and sang three choruses of a song set to the tune of ‘I Am the Pirate King’ called ‘I Am a Cunning Plan’,” she quips. Baldrick accuses her of having a snit. She concedes that point. She hasn’t slept in two days; this workload is not what she wanted to see when she returned to the office. She gazes, wide-eyed, at the mountain of tedious forms and reports she has to complete: group activities, daily activities reports, destruction of public and private property forms, forms authorizing rebuilding and reimbursement... “Would anyone notice if we burned it all?” Val asks. “How odd. That was my cunning plan,” Baldrick says. Val places her palms on the desk and hangs her head. She apologizes, but states this workload will have to wait until tomorrow. There is no way she can work late tonight. Unfortunately, Baldrick informs her that various government agencies have been calling and screaming for these forms to get processed. They claim it cannot wait. Val turns to him and narrows her eyes. Lifting two fingers, she tells him she has a pair of tickets to the Kennedy Center Salute to Motown tonight. She had to go to great lengths to obtain them. “Aretha’s going to be there, Stevie’s going to be there, and so help me God, I’m going to be there.” The phone rings. Val finds it under a stack of papers and answers it. She tells the caller to make it quick; she already has one foot out the door. Something the caller says immediately captures her attention, however. She snaps alert and enthusiastically says she can hold. While on hold, she turns excitingly to Baldrick. “It’s Bush!” she says. Baldrick asks if she means the president. “No, the beer,” Val quips. “Of course the president!” Val’s attention immediately returns to the phone call once the other party returns. She smiles as she listens to his praise of X-Factor’s recent accomplishments. She thanks him and agrees the team is doing a great job. Her sunny demeanor shifts, however, when the president mentions the dreaded paperwork. Val’s heart sinks as she begins asking for a brief extension in the deadline. Elsewhere, at that same moment, Jamie Madrox also speaks into a telephone, doing his best George H.W. Bush impersonation. “Tomorrow?” the Multiple Man asks. “Don’t you think it would be more prudent at this juncture, Miss Cooper, to stay the course? Do the distance?” In the background, Rahne Sinclaire rolls on the floor hysterically, clutching her mouth shut to keep from ruining the gag. Jamie continues to speak. He tells Val she must remember people are counting on her, especially in this election year. Val, on the other end of the line, sighs and says she understands. After saying goodbye, she hangs up the phone. Suddenly, Jamie Madrox pops his head in her office and wishes her a good night; he is heading home. Val asks him to wait a moment. She hands him her two Motown tickets, which she know he has coveted, and asks him to have a good time. Besides, she couldn’t ever find a date for the show, so both tickets are clear. Jamie accepts the gift and walks outside into the hall after thanking his boss. Rahne jumps for joy at their mission accomplished. She knew Madrox could pull it off! Madrox knew it would be easy once he Baldrick informed him how much paperwork Val had to do. However, now that he has the tickets, he feels guilty. Val looked really bummed, he says. He considers returning the tickets. Rahne smirks and tells Madrox not to worry; Val will be just fine. If Val had really wanted to go to the show, she would have found a way. Besides, she’s a bureaucrat, Rahne says. Her kind loves pushing papers more than anything! Two hours slowly pass. Val, holding a pen with one hand and cupping her forehead with another, realizes it took all this time simply to reach the bottom of her desk. A bill for the damage done to the Washington Monument catches her by surprise; she hopes it won’t come out of her program’s budget. “This stinks,” Val says while leaning back in her chair and rubbing her eyes. “I’ve got a boring career and the social life of an amoeba.” She laments that everyone around her has superpowers and undertakes incredible adventures while she pushes papers and cheerleads. Where is the justice in that? Suddenly, a cryptic voice whispers her name, causing her to perk up. Her pile of papers, as if possessed by some evil entity, converge and morph into the shape of a three-headed serpent. This paper-demon taunts Val, telling her to fold it, spindle it, and mutilate it; it knows she wants to. Val reaches for a pair of scissors and a letter opener and holds them up in self-defense. She tells the creature to get back before it gets hurt. The paper-serpent speaks again, so Val lashes out and severs two of its heads. “My brothers in triplication! She’s killing you!” the creature cries. Val turns and bolts out of her office. An avalanche of paperwork spills out of the door and follows her in close pursuit. They thought she loved them! Why did she turn against them so suddenly? They’ll ream her out for that! The paper cascade finally overtakes its prey and sweeps her down the hallway. Val screams for help, but no one is around to save her. As the avalanche carries her past the copy room, she reaches out and clutches the handle, halting her progress, albeit temporarily. Val pulls herself forward against the surge and climbs through the door, which she slams shut behind her. She puts her back to the door and catches her breath. How sad that trees had to die to make such a vile creature, she says. Upon examining her surroundings, she realizes she lost her scissors and letter opener in the flood. At least she had a chance to catch her breath, though. Shockingly, the paper serpent forces its head through the door. “Betrayer! Harridan! Recycler!” it shouts. Val screams and backs away from the door, inadvertently allowing it to enter. As it presses closer to its victim, the paper serpent chastises Val for her seeming infidelity. It gave her Xeroxes and carbon-copies, and provided her with faxes. Where would she be without faxes, it asks? “Prepare to be pulped,” it warns her. It strikes at Val, but she deftly catches it by the neck and shoves it head-first into the copy room’s paper-shredder. The monster reaches up and clutches onto her throat. Val, now struggling to even breathe, reaches for the shredder’s start button. It lies only a few inches beyond her grip. She reaches closer and closer as the monster’s hold tightens. Finally, she feels the button within her reach. “You’re terminated, faxer,” Val says as through clenched teeth. She hits the button. Upon activation, the paper-shredder engulfs the entire trail of murderous papers, reducing them to thinly sliced paper exhaust. With the ordeal finally over, Val sits in the dark corner of the copy room and rests her head. To her absolute horror, the paper shreds come to life and convalesce in the form of yet another multi-headed paper serpent. Nice try, Valerie, the demon says. Val screams. Madrox returns to Val’s office and wakes his sleeping, screaming employer up from her nightmare. He shakes her by the shoulder. She snaps awake and realizes she is safe in her own office. Before she can fully recover, Madrox explains he and Rahne were at the concert, but he began feeling so guilty he had to come back and return Val her tickets. He admits she spoke to him on the phone earlier, not President Bush. “A joke,” Val says. “Yeah,” Madrox says, “but if you hurry, you can catch the second half of the—” “A joke?!” Val shouts. She lifts her faithful scissors and letter opener and tells Jamie that if she were him, she would start running, triple speed! Taking her advice, Jamie begins running for his life, with the sharp object-wielding Val following closely behind. Rahne, meanwhile, just doesn’t get it. Compared to all the times she and X-Factor have to risk their own lives, paperwork would be the most peaceful thing in the world, right? 3rd story:
A quartet of bullies pushes their classmate Cal, a boy with spiky blond hair and a red T-shirt, to the ground and scatters his schoolbooks. That’ll teach him for daydreaming in class, they say! Now they have his attention. One of the bullies leans over the young kid and tells him he’s going to get it now – Moe is coming! Sure enough, Cal looks up and beholds the towering figure of his shaggy-haired classmate Moe. “Okay, shrimp, hand over your lunch money,” Moe says. Cal calls him a Neanderthal. “Gee, thanks,” Moe says as he slams Cal’s face into the chain-link fence. He shakes the lunch money out of Calvin’s pant pockets. As soon as he sets Cal down, Cal lashes out at him with a flurry of punches. Moe barely notices. He pushes the little kid to the ground and tells him he will see him later. The bullies leave. Cal looks up at his classmate Sue. “Thanks for leaping to my defense,” he says. She did no such thing, Sue tells him. “I was being sarcastic!” Cal shouts. Sue tells him he doesn’t need her help. What he needs, she says, is a bodyguard. “A bodyguard. For a slimy girl that’s not a bad idea.” Cal climbs the fence and sets off to find a bodyguard as soon as possible, a stunt that causes him to miss the rest of the school day. He doesn’t care. A short while later, he arrives at the home of X-Factor, the government’s team of mutant operatives. He knocks on the door. Guido answers, but initially sees no one. Is this some kind of joke, Guido asks? Cal calls his attention downward. He hands Guido the small sum of money he had hidden inside his shoe. It’s the last of his money, and he wants to use it to hire Guido. Guido informs him X-Factor is a government outfit and is not for hire. “My parents pay taxes. That’s where the government comes from, so you work for us,” Cal says. His eyes begin to water and he begs for help; he cannot stand the bullies at school anymore! Guido’s heart melts at the mention of bullies. He takes Cal inside and listens to his story. Cal’s story certainly moves him, but he informs the kid he can’t go around clobbering school-children. It wouldn’t be good for the government’s image, he says. However, after recounting his own experience with schoolyard bullies, Guido shares some pearls of wisdom he learned over the years. Bullies, he says, are cowards at heart. A simple show of force might do the trick. Cal returns to school in time to catch the closing bell. He waits by the fence for the bullies, but sees Sue first. He smugly asks how school was; she tells him he is going to get in trouble for cutting class. “Trouble is for suckers,” he says. Soon enough, Moe emerges from the building and proceeds directly to his target, Cal. He informs Cal he shorted him twenty-five cents at lunch, and he intends to make him pay. “Very impressive, Moe. I didn’t know you could count that high… or at all,” Cal says. The onlookers gaps; Cal must be crazy! Moe lifts Cal up by the collar and threatens him with his fist. Before he can hit him, however, Guido makes his presence known. The hulking mutant leaps over the chain-link fence and lands right next to Moe. Cal introduces his new pal. “That him?” Guido asks. Yup, Cal says. Moe, smiling as wide as he can in spite of his crippling fear, suddenly wraps his arm around Cal’s shoulder and swears they are best buddies. Guido asks Cal if he should trust him. Cal says he wouldn’t trust Moe as far as he can throw him. “I dunno. I could throw him pretty far,” Guido says. Smiling deviously, he reaches down and inches his hands closer to the bully. Moe suddenly drops to his knees and begs forgiveness. He swears he will never lay another hand on Cal, ever again! From now on, what Cal says, goes! If that’s the case, then go, Cal says! He points, and Moe runs. Guido turns to the rest of the bullies and tells them he doesn’t want to hear about any of them picking on his buddy Cal. If he does, he will have to return, and next time, he might not be in such a good mood. The bullies say they understand, and Guido leaps away. Several weeks later, while on a leisurely stroll, Strong Guy realizes he is in the vicinity of Cal’s school. He decides to pop in and see how the little guy is doing. To his astonishment, he sees Cal has now become the schoolyard bully simply because he holds over his classmates the threat of Guido’s wrath. Cal, wearing Moe’s oversized leather jacket, reminds his peers if they resist his demands for lunch money, he can easily summon his friend again. Enraged, Guido sneaks up on Cal from behind and hoists him into the air by the collar. “What the heck do you think you’re doin’?!” he shouts in Cal’s ear. Cal puts out his hands and claims he is only conducting business! This isn’t a business, Guido says! Cal is shaking these kids down! He lifts Cal upside down and shakes loose all the dollar bills and change in his pockets. After he tells Cal’s classmates to retrieve their money, he informs Cal he is now out of business. “Either you played me for a sucker, or else you just let your ‘power’ go to your head,” Guido says. “Either way, if I catch you pulling this crapola again, we’ll see just how far I can throw you.” After Guido leaves, Moe approaches Cal and retrieves his leather jacket. Sue follows suit. She kicks Cal in the knee, tells him she hates him, and says she is telling his mother. Cal sits back against the fence and sighs. “Nobody appreciates men of vision,” he says.

Characters Involved: 

1st story:
Havok, Polaris, Multiple Man, Quicksilver, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane (X-Factor)
Valerie Cooper (X-Factor’s government liaison) Spiral
Arize Various Native Americans (in flashbacks only)
Longshot, Ricochet Rita 2nd story:
Dr. Valerie Cooper (X-Factor’s government liaison)
Baldrick (Val’s assistant) Multiple Man, Wolfsbane (X-Factor) Paper-Serpent 3rd story:
Strong Guy Cal, Moe, Sue (school children)
Various other students and bullies

Story Notes: 

This annual is the third part of the four-part Shattershot crossover that ran through the X-annuals in 1992. This story continues from X-Men Annual (1st series) #1 and Uncanny X-Men Annual (1st series) #16, and concludes in X-Force (1st series) Annual #1. This issue also includes one-page pinups of:

Quicksilver, by Bill SienkiewiczGuido, by Bill SienkiewiczHavok and Wolfsbane, by Steve Leialoha This issue takes place sometime between X-Factor (1st series) #78 and 79. 1st story:
Arize escaped in X-Men Annual (2nd series) #1. Mojo sent his team to recover him in that same issue. However, the images that accompany Major-Domo's description of recent events actually come from Uncanny X-Men Annual (1st series) #16, in which the rival pirate network sent in its own team to capture Arize. Similarly, the images that accompany Major-Domo's description of the pirate network come from X-Men Annual (1st series) #1, suggesting this issue's penciler, Joe Quesada, possibly mixed up his reference issues. Polaris reads a newspaper that boasts the headline "Elvis was a mutie! Fabian, too!" a reference to this story's writer, Fabian Nicieza. This issue’s segment about the mayonnaise jar continues a gag started in X-Factor (1st series) #71. Continuity error: Havok warns Quicksilver against using his powers lest he do more damage to himself, but the storyline involving the detrimental effects of Quicksilver’s powers had been resolved by X-Factor #75, while this issue, judging by Arize’s presence, takes place after X-Factor #78. Spiral was a member of Freedom Force, the government’s official mutant-affairs team, from its very first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #199. She stayed on the team up through Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #82-87. Spiral’s rant, “I am he as you are he as you are me as we are all together”, comes from the Beatles song “I Am the Walrus”, from the album Magical Mystery Tour. In response, Strong Guy nicknames her “Lovely Rita Meter Maid,” the name of another Beatles song, this one from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This issue is the first to reveal Spiral’s origin and her connection to Rita Wayward, a.k.a. Ricochet Rita. Mojo first made Ricochet Rita into his ship’s figurehead and opened her mind to insanity in Longshot #5. In addition to hinting that Shatterstar is the true savior of the Wildways, Spiral also drops the first hints that he is the son of Longshot and Dazzler. Whether or not he truly is their child has yet to be resolved. Longshot’s story continues in the pages of X-Men. He returned in X-Men (2nd series) #5, and this portion of his story concludes with X-Men (2nd series) #10-11. The broadcast signals Arize sends to the Mojoverse in this issue actually travel back in time and drive the Spineless Ones mad. It is this event that leads to their society’s collective insanity. Arize was immune to the broadcasts and was therefore able to resist. 2nd story:
X-Factor – specifically Strong Guy – destroyed the Washington Monument in X-Factor (1st series) #74. “Aretha and Steve” refer to Motown legends Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Val’s final line to the paper monster is a reference to the line Sarah Connor (actress Linda Hamilton) delivers to the murderous terminator at the end of the first Terminator movie. 3rd story:
This story borrows heavily – and unashamedly – from Bill Watterson’s contemporary-classic comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. The character Cal is the counterpart to Calvin, the comic strip’s titular character. Moe is drawn from Calvin’s perpetual bully-nemesis, Moe, and the girl Sue is modeled after Calvin’s other nemesis, his neighbor Susie Derkins. One of the bullies even wears a shirt with a picture of a cartoon tiger, an obvious reference to Calvin’s best friend Hobbes. Cal calls Sue a “slimy girl”, a reference to the club Calvin and Hobbes form in their series, “G.R.O.S.S. – Get Rid of Slimy Girls!” Guido’s relates to Cal’s plight because of his own experience with schoolyard bullies as a kid, as depicted in X-Factor (1st series) #87 and X-Factor Annual #8.

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