X-Factor (1st series) #121

Issue Date: 
April 1996
Story Title: 
The True Path

Howard Mackie (writer), Steve Epting (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Forge encounters his teammates as representatives of his soldiers from the Vietnam War during a trip through the Dream Time, during which it is confirmed that the Adversary was present during that War. Back to reality, and Forge and Naze discuss the current goings-ons, and Forge’s predicament, before Roma appears, telling the men that she is going to keep the Adversary at bay while Naze prepares Forge. Forge and Naze travel to the Rocky Mountains, where Naze presents Forge with the knife that the possessed Storm once tried to kill him with, and the nullifier gun which he created to remove mutant powers, and the choice as to which weapon he will use against the Adversary. Forge and Naze begin a chant, summoning Forge’s magic prowess back. While that occurs, Roma takes on the Adversary, but is eventually overwhelmed by him, this allows the Adversary to arrive at the Rocky Mountains, placing Forge’s teammates on the battle field. Forge recalls how he used the Spirit Spell to pull the essence of his dead soldiers souls from their bodies during the War to confront his enemy, but that rendered them never to rest in peace, so Forge swears that he will not do that with X-Factor, and instead, as the Adversary is about to strike him, Forge transforms the nullifier and the knife into a new weapon, which he shoots the Adversary with, ending his dark power. The Adversary vanishes, though Forge and Naze know that one day he will return, while X-Factor regain consciousness once the Adversary has departed. Meanwhile, Valerie Cooper comes up against an Adversary of her own, in the form of her superior, who she questions about Sabretooth being placed on X-Factor. Val’s superior isn’t interested in what she has to say, and “re-introduces” Valerie and Sabretooth by ordering Sabretooth to kill Valerie. Of course the collar that Sabretooth is wearing prevents him from doing so, but that doesn’t make Valerie any happier about having him on X-Factor.

Full Summary: 

In the Dream Time:

Vietnam…’Move it, people! We’ve got incoming!’ Forge calls out to his soldiers as they are bombarded by gunfire. Forge’s father’s people were a warrior clan, but his mother saw in Forge the making of a strong shaman. Obedient to his mother’s will, Forge followed the mystical path, until the warrior’s blood in his veins side-tracked him and he found himself here. Now, ignoring his true calling, he leads his comrades towards an uncertain future. ‘Let’s suck up some dirt…we’re digging in for a long hall!’ Forge orders, and everyone drops to the muddy ground, ducking from the gunfire.

Forge turns to the soldier next to him, addressing him as Higgins, he orders him to radio fire base alpha and get them some cover. But half-way through his order, Forge is puzzled, and sees Mystique standing in Higgins’ place. ‘MYSTIQUE? What are you doing here?’ Forge gasps. ‘Just following orders like any good -’ Mystique a.k.a. Raven Darkholme replies, her sentence cut short when she is struck by a bullet. ‘NO! MEDIC!’ Forge shouts, grabbing his fallen companion.

A medic appears almost instantly - only it’s not just any medic, but Kyle “Wild Child” Gibney. Gibney exclaims that Polaris is down with a massive chest wound, and isn’t going to make it, while Shard’s leg is hamburger, but that he thinks she can keep moving. ‘We’re getting chopped to pieces, Sarge!’ Wild Child exclaims. Forge is even more confused, and glances back to where Lorna “Polaris” Dane and Shard are lying in a heap. Wild Child pleads with Forge, telling him that if they all die, not to use the Spirit Spell on them.

‘No. It didn’t happen this way. You weren’t there. None of you were!’ Forge mumbles to himself, before exclaiming that he would never use the Spirit spell, or any shaman magic. Suddenly, a voice booms ‘Then the day is mine once more, Maker!’. Forge glances up and sees the face of the Adversary, filling the space before him. ‘Turn your back on your past…ignore the shaman’s path…and my victory is complete!’. Forge can barely move. He just stares at the Adversary and whispers ‘You…the Adversary…you were there both times? You…were…’

Present / Reality:

‘…There?’ Forge gasps as he wakes, his heart pounding in his chest, though the shadow of the Adversary no longer threatens to crush the life from him. Forge is safe within the compound of Falls Edge, home and headquarters to the government sanctioned mutant hero team called X-Factor. But all of Forge’s teammates are gone - he watched them fall before the Adversary’s onslaught. Now he is simply left alone with the pain of their passing - and then knowledge that even he, one with the mutant power to create any machine, any weapon he could imagine, could not defeat the enemy - could not save his comrades.

Standing in a blaze of fire is Naze, Forge’s mentor, who asks him what he has learned from the Dream Time. ’Only what I have always known, Naze…that I am not the one to defeat the Adversary’ Forge replies, before declaring that the prophecies of their people are wrong. Naze replies that their prophecies have never been wrong, and tells Forge that he must examine his dream more closely and see how it can prepare him for his next confrontation with the enemy. Forge gets to his feet and tells Naze that there will be no next time. ’I’m not the man I once was. I am no longer a shaman. That part of me was destroyed a long time ago!’ he exclaims.

Naze tells Forge that he can rebuild his spirit as easily as he rebuilt his cybernetic hand and leg after the Adversary crushed them. ‘I am not you, old friend!’ Forge tells his mentor. ‘I cannot keep rising from the ashes to face the enemy knowing there is no hope for victory!’. Naze frowns as he replies ‘There’s always hope!’. But Forge isn’t so sure, ‘Is there?’ he asks, remarking that his weapons that he constructed were the only way he knew how to fight something like the Adversary. ‘And it wasn’t enough’ he whispers solemnly. Naze tells Forge that, if machines failed him, then perhaps it is time to look elsewhere for strength. ‘Seek out your true heart…look to the lessons of your youth. The answers, and the power, are all there…all within you’.

Forge asks if this would involve the Spirit Spell, to which Naze replies ‘It might’. Forge reminds Naze that he was unable to control the Spirit Spell when he was in his prime, ‘What makes you think I could now?’ he asks. ‘You are stronger now!’ Naze points out, adding that the Adversary revealed he had a hand in poisoning Forge’s soul, working in the shadows to corrupt his magic. ‘And now it will be different?’ Forge asks as he gazes into the fire before him. ‘Now the enemy is known to you. He cannot rely on the shadows to hide’ Naze replies, before Forge asks how they will start. Naze explains that they will return home to the land of their people, the source of Forge’s power, and to the place which the Adversary will first try to corrupt.

‘Won’t he be waiting for us there?’ Forge asks, when, suddenly, Roma’s astral projection appears before them, exclaiming ‘Not if I can help it!’. Forge is puzzled, and exclaims ‘I thought the Adversary killed you!’. Roma replies that the Adversary’s strengths, though considerable, are not yet enough to kill one who is daughter of Merlin himself, before announcing that she must go to confront the Adversary, to divert his probing eye while Naze prepares Forge. ‘Open your heart, Maker, and your mind to your true path. Forge…humanity depends on it!’ Roma exclaims.

Meanwhile, fifty miles away in Washington DC, a place in which under normal circumstances, Doctor Valerie Cooper finds herself quite comfortable. Today however, comfort is the last thing on the glamorous young woman’s mind. She is meeting with a man who is very much her superior, and who is not accustomed to having his orders questioned - which is exactly what the candid Valerie has come here to do. Wearing a light grey mini skirt and suit-jacket, with matching grey shoes, and a purple shirt, Valerie sits, legs crossed, some feet from her superior’s desk as she tells him that she appreciates him making time to see her.

Valerie’s superior sits behind his desk, smoking in his darkened office, and replies that it is always a pleasure making time for Valerie. ‘We have worked too long on the mutant issue for me to ignore a request from you’ he remarks, before asking what he can do for her. ‘It’s about this Sabretooth thing, Sir. I really must voice my strong reservations about his coming into X-Factor -’ Valerie begins, until her superior interrupts: ‘You have your orders, Dr. Cooper. And I’m sure you’ll follow them without further question…as you always do’.

Valerie’s superior adds that he has been led to believe that Sabretooth - Victor Creed - is an excellent tracker. ‘I’m sure he is but we’ve already got Wild Child. We don’t need another tracker’ Valerie replies matter-of-factly, before telling her superior that there are other factors involved which she doesn’t think he is privy to, and reveals that Sabretooth has a history with some of the members of X-Factor. Valerie’s superior, hidden in the shadows of his office, taps his cigar and replies ‘Specifically Mystique, yes I know’. Valerie puts her glasses back on and frowns as she tells him that he can understand what an unholy alliance this would be.

Valerie’s boss gets to his feet and announces that he believes, ‘And you will see’ that in the times ahead, you can never have too many hounds. ‘Excuse me, Sir? I don’t believe I understand your meaning’ Valerie declares. Val’s superior ignores her comment and declares that he thinks it is high time Valerie and Mr. Creed get reacquainted. ‘I’ve been informed that the two of you got off to a bit of a rough start’ he remarks. A panel begins to rise next to where Valerie’s superior is standing, and he tells Val that she will see Creed is more than willing to cooperate with any order. ‘Isn’t that right, Sabretooth?’ he exclaims as the deadly mutant enters once the panel has risen completely. ‘Whatever you say, boss’ Creed snarls, arms folded across his chest. ‘Good. Now tear out Dr. Cooper’s throat!’ Val’s superior orders.

‘It just gets better and better’ grins Creed as he leaps towards Valerie, who leaps from her seat - but, even though Creed’s attack is swift and deadly, it is over before Sabretooth can reach his intended target. A light blinks on Creed’s collar, and the ferocious mutant falls flat to the ground, inches from Valerie. ’There you are, Dr. Cooper. You couldn’t be safer’ Val’s boss remarks, before telling her that the restraining device which Dr. Pole created will keep Creed well within their control. Valerie’s superior explains that, should Creed aggressively attack anyone who’s bio-signature has been downloaded into his inhibitor collar, an electrical impulse will go directly into the cervical region of Creed’s spinal column, rendering him temporarily paralyzed, but conscious.

Valerie’s boss tells her that before she collects the latest addition to X-Factor and takes him back to meet his teammates, they have one small mission for him to run. ‘He’ll be joining you within the week’ he declares. Val stands in front of Creed, ‘Get up, Creed!’ she snaps. ‘You and I are going to have to talk about some ground rules!’ she tells him. ‘Sure, boss…whatever you say’ Creed mutters back, a wicked grin on his face.

Meanwhile, Forge and Naze have arrived at the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Forge clad in only a red sheet around his mid-section, the rest of his body covered with native markings painted in red. ‘This was once your mountain, Forge. This was the source of your magic - and it was here that you suffered your first defeat at the hand of the Adversary’. Naze adds that this was also the place that Storm, deceived by the Great Trickster, as he posed as himself, tried to take Forge’s life with a blade. ‘This knife!’ Naze exclaims, handing Forge a blood-stained knife.

Naze remarks that that is Forge’s blood dried upon the blade - blood which coursed through his body when his powers were strong, before the Adversary took away his Cheyenne soul. Naze asks Forge to give him his other hand, and into it, Naze places the nullifier, which Forge created to neutralize mutant powers. ‘But that’s impossible! After it was used to strip Storm of her powers, I destroyed it. How can -?’ Forge exclaims, to which Naze cryptically replies ‘In all ways that count, this is that weapon which you created’.

Naze declares that these two items represent both sides of Forge’s soul - the mystical and the technological. Naze tells Forge that as he embarks on this latest journey of discover, he must choose that which will serve him best. ‘Are you prepared?’ Naze asks. ‘Yes!’ Forge replies, armed with both the nullifier and the knife, and looking very, very angry.

Naze grabs Forge’s wrists and declares that they begin by summoning the magic back to this place. Energy crackles around the shaman’s, ‘Restore it to that which it was before it was corrupted by the Adversary’s foul touch!’. Naze declares that he will guide Forge through the spell of summoning as he did when Forge was a child. And so, Naze begins to chant, and soon, Forge joins him, and the air ripens with magic. A blue light returns to Forge’s mountain, a light which has been buried for many years beneath the blackened and scarred remnant’s of the Adversary’s presence. The light seeks release from the Earth beneath Forge, and it does so, flowing through Forge’s body - the magic has returned!

At that moment, ten miles away, a battle is being waged for which no words are adequate enough to describe. Food versus evil. Order versus chaos. Dark versus light. Brilliant colors surround Roma as she uses all of her great power against the Adversary. But, with the dry, mocking laughs of the enemy echoing through her ear, Roma knows that this is not enough, and knows that she may soon be taken over by his dark, corrupt power. And then, it begins: at first, it is little more than a buzzing sound carrying through the ether. But with each passing moment the sound grows stronger and stronger until…the chant becomes a roar of power, of gathering magic which tears through the heavens themselves. And with that, Roma becomes aware that possible salvation is at hand - but so does the Adversary. ‘It’s him…’ the evil one utters. ‘…Forge has reclaimed his power‘.

Back at the Rocky Mountains, ‘The power, Naze…the MAGIC!’ Forge cries, a weapon in each hand, he stands on a ledge, exclaiming that he had forgotten what it feels like to be filled with this power. Forge declares that it is so different than anything else he has experienced, and remarks that it is as though a long dead part of his soul has been brought back to life. ‘And so it has, boy’ Naze replies, standing nearby arms folded across his chest as he watches his protégé. Naze announces that it fills his heart with joy to see Forge accepting the role he was born to. Naze suggests that they do not lose themselves in the moment, and motions to the darkness gathering overhead.

Naze declares that the Adversary has sensed Forge’s presence. ‘The enemy comes!’ he exclaims, before telling Forge that it is time for him to choose which path he will walk. Looking at the knife, and then the nullifier, Forge asks ‘Which would you choose, Naze?’. But Naze replies that his choice does not matter. ‘We all walk different paths. This battle is yours. Choose well!’ he exclaims as the darkness - the Adversary - approaches.

It falls like a wave crashing into the ocean, the darkness lands, taking its form as the Adversary, monstrous, holding the unconscious Roma in one hand, the Adversary drools from his jagged-tooth mouth, exclaiming ‘Ah, Forge, you have come for another try…is that it?’. The Adversary tosses Roma at Forge’s feet, ‘I believe this belongs to you. Did you really think she could protect you from me?’ he asks. ‘I no longer need any protection’ Forge replies. The Adversary laughs, before asking ‘No?’, and motioning to the knife, asks Forge if he is going to cut the heart from his chest with that knife.

The Adversary reaches forwards, claiming that he had hoped to prolong Forge’s agony, and telling Forge that he has brought this premature death upon himself. Without thought, Forge’s knife cuts through the air and creates a mystical shield which deflects the Adversary’s thrust forward. The Adversary narrows his sickly yellow eyes, ’So we’ve rediscovered the shaman within us…have we?’ he mumbles.

‘I am prepared to face you now, Adversary!’ Forge exclaims defiantly. ’Are you?’ the Adversary replies, remarking that it seems that time has brought them full circle. ’You…me…and…your fellows!’ the Adversary exclaims, casting his hand forth, and from it his magicks, appear Forge’s teammates - Polaris, Mystique and Wild Child. Forge looks at them, shocked, as they lay before him. The Adversary remarks that there was a fourth, a little slip of a girl called Shard. ’She was not like the rest!’ he declares, explaining that he reached for her, and she just faded from his grasp. ’But I believe these three will suffice for our purposes’ he tells Forge, before asking ’You do know what it will take to defeat me, don’t you, Forge?’

Forge grimaces as he utters that he knew it would come to this. ’That’s right…the Spirit Spell!’ the Adversary exclaims, asking Forge if he remembers the Spirit Spell. ’Yes…I remember’ Forge whispers, as his mind flashes back to the War, when the enemy had surrounded him, and all his men had been killed. ’I wanted vengeance’ Forge exclaims, revealing that he used the Spirit Spell to pull out the essence of his dead comrade’s bodies. ’Their power was mine to command…but they would never be allowed to rest in peace…’

Forge explains that the enemy fell before the power that he wielded, and he swore that day to never to call upon such strong magic again. ’But you know all this, don’t you, Trickster? As you told me, you were there, guiding my hand…forcing the situation…seeking to destroy the one predestined to be your undoing!’ Forge exclaims. Forge holds the nullifier up while exclaiming that the Adversary tricked him into walking down a path of pure magic, a force which cannot be controlled. Forge reminds the Adversary of how back at Falls Edge, the Adversary had him replying on the path of technology. ‘And that too was a barren path’ Forge declares.

‘But together…’ he whispers. ‘NO!’ shouts the Adversary, who blasts Forge with a force of energy. ‘Oh, yes, enemy of my people!’ Forge replies, exclaiming that he must unite both parts of his soul, use the technology to channel the mystical. ‘Use my gifts to tear the souls of my fallen comrades from the dark void of your being!’. Forge exclaims as he re-designs the nullifier and the knife into one. Forge declares that his teammates must have their life forces restored, to give them a chance to live. ‘This is the truth strength of the Spirit Spell…the essence of which has been hidden from me for too long!’ Forge declares as he holds his new weapon up.

Forge declares that the Spirit Spell is not to be used to destroy, but to create life, to make order. ‘And I am the Maker!’ he bellows as he fires the nullifier. ‘And in creating order…I wreak havoc on the chaos from which you derive your strength!’ Forge exclaims. ‘In short…you lose, Adversary!’. With that, the nullifier-knife strikes the Adversary, who screams ‘NOOOOOO!’ as energies crackle around him. ‘You cannot kill me! I cannt be destroyed!’ the Adversary booms, before vanishing into the darkness from where he came.

Then, there is silence. Forge watches as his comrades begin to rise - Polaris, Mystique, Roma, Wild Child, they are weakened, dazed, but they are alive. Neither Naze nor Roma, who approach Forge, are willing to break the resounding silence. No words even need be spoken, for they know that although the enemy has been defeated today, he will return. But Naze and Roma know also know that the threat the Adversary presents to the world will always be present. But they know too, that Forge, in embarking on the path he has chosen to walk today, and n confronting his past, learning from it and moving beyond it, will be ready for the return of the Adversary. Forge gazes off into the distance, for now, content to live in peace.

Characters Involved: 

Forge, Mystique, Polaris, Wild Child (all X-Factor)

Dr. Valerie Cooper


General Bowser (unidentified)



The Adversary

In the Dream Time:

Forge, Mystique, Polaris, Shard, Wild Child (all soldiers)

The Adversary

In Flashback Illustration:



Story Notes: 

Polaris, Mystique, Wild Child and Shard were slain by the Adversary in X-Factor (1st series) #120.

Forge’s cybernetic hand and leg were destroyed by the Adversary in X-Factor (1st series) #120.

This marks the first appearance of Valerie Cooper’s superior, General Bowser. Though he is not named this issue and hidden in the shadows. He remains a supporting character for a while, and a constant thorn in Valerie’s side.

Dr. Pole is incorrectly referred to as Dr. Poole this issue.

The Adversary has not appeared since this issue.

This issue comes with a bonus pin-up featuring the new X-Factor line-up of Forge, Polaris, Mystique, Sabretooth, Wild Child and Shard. It features the team in their new costumes (which they don next issue), and in Polaris and Forge’s sake, new hairstyles. The pin-up is drawn by Jeff Matsuda, who takes over as X-Factor’s new regular penciler with X-Factor (1st series) #121.

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