X-Factor (3rd series) #18

Issue Date: 
June 2007
Story Title: 

Peter David (writer), Khoi Pham (penciler), Sandu Florea (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letters), Rich Ginter (production), Sean Ryan & Will Panzo (assistant editor), Andy Schmidt (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Having been arrested as a suspected member of the ex-mutant terrorist group called X-Cell, Rictor is being interrogated. As the agent will not believe his innocence, Rictor proceeds to play a mocking game of wits with him until the arrival of Val Cooper, who orders Rictor’s release to Jamie Madrox, in exchange for their cooperation. Along with Rahne, the two return to X-Factor Investigations, where they are joined by Monet and Theresa, who have just returned from their trip to Paris. The pair introduces an ex-mutant young girl whom they have brought back, a fact that Layla Miller, much to her own surprise and Rictor’s amusement, did not anticipate. Ignoring this, Madrox explains the situation to the group and suggests options in helping take down X-Cell, in order to avoid the crackdown that he knows is coming. However, Layla assures Madrox and the group that the situation will work itself out without their involvement. When Madrox refuses to believe this, Layla offers three sheets of paper to the group, instructing them to go to the addresses written on them. Siryn and Monet’s take them to a lamppost, where boredom and advances from men, thinking they’re prostitutes, await them. Rahne and Guido find the manhole on their sheet, but reject the idea of going down it and depart, after replacing the cover. Meanwhile, Madrox and Rictor are led to a deli, where they find that an order has been placed by Layla. Returning to HQ with the tray, they are accosted by a starving man who turns out to be the depowered Blob, which leads to a confrontation. After the Blob sucker-punches Rictor, Fatale appears and injures one of Madrox’s dupes long enough for the two to escape in a stolen car. However, in their escape, they pass the lamppost where Monet and Siryn are stationed and are given chase. Their chase is just as quickly ended when the car’s front tire sinks into the manhole, whose cover Guido did not properly replace. As Monet and Siryn land at the site of the crash, they are joined and threatened by Marrow, another member of the X-Cell. Elsewhere, X-Cell mastermind Elijah Cross pleads with Quicksilver to aide their cause. However, before he acts to help restore Cross’ powers, Quicksilver is joined by Callisto, who still bears a grudge on her last encounter with her. Musing that her problem with his previous attempt at restoring her powers may have been partially his fault, Quicksilver informs her that he has a new plan to use an intermediary, a catalyst, to do so in a much safer manner. And he has someone in mind for the job.

Full Summary: 

Trust. That’s what relationships come down to. Heck, that’s what living day-to-day comes down to… in hundreds of little ways. You trust people aren’t going to run red lights and hit you in the crosswalk. You trust that people in authority aren’t going to abuse that authority. And sometimes, it’s as simple as that you trust someone to be able to do what they can say.

Sitting in Quicksilver’s living room, young Elijah Cross tells his host that he used to be amazing. He could make his body super heavy… but still be able to move. So if he ran into people, he’d hit like a ton of bricks. They’d never see it coming. The number of norms who figured he was easy picking that he annihilated…

He can imagine, Quicksilver interrupts lazily. And the government just took it all away, the incensed Elijah continues, not noticing his host’s disinterest. They figured they were threats. When Pietro musingly asks him if he’s certain it was the government, Elijah replies “Of course!” After everything that’s happened since, how can there be any doubt? M-Day was step one, and the Registration Act was step two. And his people and he aren’t going to stand around waiting to find out what they’ve got up their sleeves next. They have to do something. Somebody’s got to.

Thus X-Cell, Pietro concludes. When his guest confirms, Pietro remarks that he can’t help but observe that the government isn’t cooperating, considering they’re under siege. That’s why he came looking for him, he tells Pietro. He’s let the others know. They’re hiding out there in mutant town… but they’ll make their way there. Word on the street is… he can help people. The word is true, Pietro replies, provided he’s worthy. “Is he?” he then asks, outstretching his hand. Holding out his own in acceptance, Elijah replies, “Hell yes.”

“Hell no,” a voice then adds, her hand grabbing Pietro’s wrist in interception. In a quick motion, the owner of that wrist, Callisto, twists the Pietro’s arm, as well as the other, behind Pietro’s back, using leverage to hold him in place. Elijah is ecstatic at seeing Callisto, calling her “Cally,” but the woman tells him to shut up.

Still calm despite his predicament, Pietro suggests to Callisto that she let him go. To this, Calliso rejoins that she suggests he get ready to get his butt handed to him… Suddenly, Callisto is interrupted as another Pietro appear to her side and delivers a surprise left cross across her chin, followed by a right cross. She quickly looses balance and collapses to the floor.

Dumbfounded by what just happened, as well as the disappearance of one of the Pietros, Elijah asks what just happened. How did he do that? Replying that it’s complicated, Pietro suggests he simply accept it. Now turning his attention to Callisto, he then asks if she’s blaming him for her own shortcoming. Taken aback at this, Callisto wipes blood from her chin and looks up with abject contempt at Pietro. She tells him that after he “helped” her, she was in agony! Her skin was hypersensitive! The rain touched her and she thought she was going to die! Swearing, she says that death would have been a blessing! How is that her shortcomings?

With a smirk, Pietro crosses his arms and looks down at Callisto, still on the floor. On the surface of it, he begins, she was judged unworthy. Still… he supposes it’s possible that she was the unfortunate victim of a sort of… learning curve… that he is experiencing. If that is the case, her… mishap… is regrettable. Trying to help Callisto up, Elijah asks what “learning curve?” Can he help his people or not?

Replying that he can, Pietro adds that he has given the matter much thought and he believes that, in order to ensure the process is more… refined… he needs a vessel. His power can be overwhelming. He requires someone who can serve as a… catalyst, if you will. He siphons his power into him, and he into those whom he wishes to help… and thus will the energies be safer for the recipient. When Elijah then asks where this “catalyst” is supposed to come from, Pietro grins slightly. He tells the youth to trust him. He has someone in mind.

Running his fingers through his hair as he leans over his cup of coffee, Rictor says “All right, all right, I’ll tell you what you want to know.” The man on the other side of the table, flanked by his fellow FBI agents, is pleased. Telling Rictor that that’s more like it, he adds that he’s making the right move, deciding to cooperate with the government. Now… tell him about his contacts with the X-Cell.

He’s only seen the one guy, Rictor replies. When the interrogator asks him to describe him, Rictor does so. Kind of a squarish head… long nose… wide, crazy eyes… yellowish skin. Considering this, the interrogator postulates that the man in question could be jaundice. Probably a drug addict. Probably, Rictor confirms. When the man then asks his name, Rictor replies “Robert,” he thinks. Something like that. Then asked where they can find him, Rictor replies that all he knows is that he lives under the sea. In a pineapple. Interesting, the interrogator mumbles as he writes down the details he has been given.

Entering the interrogation chamber with Val Cooper, Madrox asks how they are treating him. Addressing the interrogator as Agent Flynn, Val informs him that the suspect is being released to Mr. Madrox. Incredulous, Agent Flynn informs her that they’re just starting to make progress. Assuring him that she believes him, she adds that they need Mr. Madrox’s cooperation, and he needs his team. So Mr. Rictor is sprung for now, along with Ms. Sinclair.

As the two begin to leave, Val tells them that Agent Cody will escort them to where Rahn’e already waiting for them. She then tells Madrox specifically that he’d better not screw this up. When he asks back when has he ever, Val tells him not to get her started.

Once they have left, Val turns to Agent Flynn, asking him what they have. His contact, Flynn tells her, is named “Robert” and he claims to live in a pineapple under the sea. He’s figuring that’s code for a secret aquatic base. Before Flynn can go further, Val grabs the sheet of paper from Flynn’s pad and rips it off. Crumbling it up, she asks if he has any children. When Flynn replies that he doesn’t, him being married to his work, Val replies that he should feel free to make it an open marriage. As she then leaves, Val fumes. Now she’s going to have that stupid song in her head all day.

Cowering in the arms of Monet, who is flying high above New York City, Nicole pleads for her not to drop her. Annoyed, Monet asks the young girl to trust her, to which Nicole replies that she could fall. To this, Monet replies that that’s not going to happen, the girl asks how does she know. Her powers vanished without warning. How does she know hers won’t too, and they’ll both fall to their deaths? Considering this for a moment, Monet eventually tells Nicole that it’s quiet time now.

Something suddenly catching her eye, Monet asks Siryn if she sees it too. Flying nearby, Theresa replies that it’s kind of hard to miss. The source of their amazement is a barbwire-tipped fence, which surrounds Mutant Town. Dumbfounded, Monet asks Siryn if she thinks all of this is for them. She means, just because they broke out of a French jail and took a citizen with them… And she crucified a guy, Theresa reminds her. Don’t forget that. Yes, well… Monet begins. She was feeling hormonal.

Changing subjects, Monet asks Siryn to go back to gliding, as her shrieking is attracting too much attention. When Siryn replies that she can’t help her powers, Nicole replies that she should be happy she has powers.

Now changing subject herself, once they have landed on a roof, Siryn looks over the side to the street below, declaring it looks like they have company. Correction, she then says. Had company. They’re pulling out. When Monet asks “I.N.S.?” Siryn replies, “A.R.M.Y.” Something tells her that whatever’s going on, it has nothing to do with them. Asked by Monet if she has any clue what it could be, Siryn quips that she works for a detective agency. How should she know about clues?

Inside X-Factor HQ, Layla removes the darts from the dartboard, asking how should she know who they are or where they are? Not convinced, Madrox tells her not to screw around. Val Cooper sure wasn’t. If they don’t want Mutant Town turned into a parking lot, they’ve got to find these terrorists. Having moved back to the line drawn on the floor, Layla moves to toss another dark at the board. As she dose so, she explains that they’re not terrorists. They’re scared people. And if he wants the truth, they don’t have to do anything. It’ll take care of itself.

Confused, Madrox asks back what she means by that, to which Layla replies just that. She explains that they did this stuffy of people who were sick and took cough medicine and compared them to people who didn’t. So, she continues, still tossing darts, they found out that people who didn’t take the medicine got well just as fast as those who did. The medicine didn’t really make a difference. And splinters. People pick at splinters to get them out, but eventually they body just pushes ‘em out on its own. These guys will self-destruct all on their own without X-Factor’s help. Trust her, she says, tossing her fifth bulls-eye at the dart board. She’s Layla Miller. She knows stuff.

Entering the common area, Monet greets the group, telling them that they’re back. She then adds that they brought a French refugee ex-mutant with them. In punctuation to this, Nicole offers a timid bonjour. Half a moment later, Layla’s sixth dart bounces off the board, followed by a stunned Layla starring at Nicole in confused horror. Bringing the two together, Theresa introduces Nicole personally and tells Layla that she’s going to room with her, if that’s okay. When Layla can only offer another What? Theresa tells her that she needed their help. What? Layla says again, only more emphatically.

Picking up on the subtext, Rictor is greatly amused. She didn’t see this coming! Oh, man, this is beautiful! Hardly amused herself, Rahne sarcastically agrees, asking if they could get back to the main topic. Agreeing, Madrox tells the group that, if Layla’s not going to help them, then they go door-to-door if they have to…

Interrupting, Monet asks what the Hell is going on. Succinctly, Rahne does so: A group of former mutant think the government was responsible for M-Day. They’ve formed a terrorist group called the X-Cell and they’re hiding out in Mutant Town. Incredulous at this, Monet asks if they’re just supposed to turn them over, to which Madrox confirms. Bugger that! Monet offers in response.

Madrox tries to reply but is unable, as Monet continues. Calling this absurd, she asks why should this “X-Cell” be punished? Why can’t they just tell them what really happened? Hearing this, a surprised and interested Nicole asks Monet what really what really did happen. Silence from everyone present is her only response. Breaking the lull, Madrox tells Monet to look – if they don’t find them peacefully, then the feds will find them forcefully. Nobody needs that. He gets what she’s saying, but first things first.

Appearing at his side, Layla provides Madrox with a slip of paper and a simple declaration of “here.” When he begins to ask a question, she reiterates. She said “here.” Proceeding to hand two other slips of paper out, one to Guido and one to Theresa, Layla reminds them what she told them. They don’t have to do anything, but they don’t trust her, so fine. They wanted places to go, so go. Now. Move. As the group departs, Nicole sheepishly asks if she’s in trouble. Hands on her hips, Layla replies that she hasn’t decided.

A short time later, Madrox and Rictor burst through a door of a deli, the former shouting “Freeze!” Hardly surprised, the shop owner asks, “Pick up for Miller?” When the two seem confused at this, the shop owner reaches for a tray of sandwiches and asks if they are from X-Factor. Receiving a “yes,” he presents the tray, explaining, Layla Miller, X-Factor Investigations. She ordered this. She said they’d be by. Here they go. Eying the tray with distain, Rictor mutters he’ll kill her. Madrox, however, in contrast grins and exclaims “Ooo! Pastrami.”

Elsewhere, Monet and Siryn stand by a lamp post, watching cards go by. After a while of silence, Monet asks Theresa about the piece of paper Layla gave here. Did it tell her just how long they’re supposed to stand at this street corner? Receiving a “no,” Monet mutters terrific.

Suddenly, the lull in action breaks, as a car pulls up. the occupant calls out to the two and asks them how much for the both of them together. In response, Monet grits her teeth and uses her strength to squeeze the lamp post until it is bent. Exclaiming his change of interest, the driver races off, tires squealing. Watching the car depart, Monet asks Theresa to remind her to kill Layla. To this, Theresa replies not if she gets to her first.

Still elsewhere, Guido removes the lip to a manhole and peers down. Yeah, okay, he offers. This ain’t happening. Flanking Giudo, Rahne covers her mouth with her fist, Rahne remarks at the stench. She canna stomach it… Both agreeing that neither of them are going down, Guido replaces the cover and wonders now what? If they’re not going what Layla said to on the note…

Considering this, Rahne replies that they both were doing just fine before Layla came along. They’re not without their own resources. In fact, she has an idea. Told to follow her, Guido asks where they’re going. Back to the alley, she explains, where Rictor and she first ran into the feds. Asked by Guido what they’re going to do there, Rahne transforms into her lupine form and replies, “What I do best.”

As Madrox carries to tray of sandwiches back to the HQ, Rictor proclaims that he can’t believe he’s being Layla’s delivery boy. Doesn’t he have any pride at all? To this, Madro replies that he’s sure she’sgot a reason for all this… Man, Rictor interrupts. What’s it take for him to know when he’s being…

Madrox and Rictor’s conversation is interrupted by a voice in the alley, who calls out to them. Stopping, Madrox asks the man, a large individual, covering his appearance with a large hat and long coat, if he’s referring to him. Ignoring the actual question, the man tells Madrox to give him some of that food. Taking note of the mass of flab from behind the man’s coat, Rictor rejoins that, if he asks him, he could stand to lose a few pounds. Nobody asked him, the man replies, calling Rictor a “tamale tosser.”

As Rictor’s anger quickly rises at the ethnic slur, Madrox tries to calm him down. However, as the two begin to argue, the man pushes Rictor aside with one hand, while using the other to grab the tray from Madrox. Likewise pushed back, Madrox impacts against the wall, immediately producing a dupe.

Seeing this, the man in question recognizes Madrox, saying his name. In turn, Madrox recognizes the man. Blob! Hardly the same as his former self, the Blob is still overweight, yet not lacks the stature and girth he once did. Now, his mass is reduced to a mass of skin that hangs off of him like an over-sized shirt. No longer is he a man of imposing mass, but a shell of his former self.

In horror at being recognized, the Blob instructs the two to keep back. He just… he was hungry! Still irate, Rictor mocks his hunger by offering a “knuckle sandwich” and delivers a left cross to the Blob’s chin, launching him backwards. More in disgust at the joke than the action, the new Madrox dupe mocks Rictor’s “knuckle sandwich” quip. Already having taken the Blob by his coat’s lapels, Rictor remarks back that it was a tough-guy joke, to which the dupe rejoins that it could work for Bogie, but not him.

Having had enough, Rictor instructs Madrox to get that dupe out of his face, and then turns his attention back to the Blob, pushing him up against the wall. Snarling as he does so, Rictor tells the Blob to admit that he’s one of the X-Cell, isn’t he? When the Blob replies that he never heard of them, Rictor pushed him against the wall again. Wrong answer! Calling out Rictor, Madrox tells him to go easy on him. Can’t he see he’s helpless? Neither of them have any powers, Rictor reminds Madrox. But one of them is being a man about it.

Now in tears, the former Blob pleads to be let do. It’s like he said. He ain’t no threat! He… He just… Finally releasing the Blob, who slides against the wall until he’s sitting on the alley ground, Rictor mocks him. Figures, he says. He’s blubbering. Gotta admire the consistency. A moment later, however, Rictor is surprised, as the Blob launches himself and his right fist, knocking Rictor in the groin and doubling him over.

As Madrox race to action, bridging the gap between himself and the Blob, a new party enters the alley from above. As she lands atop Madrox, knocking him down and creating a new dupe in the process, the costumed female chastises the Blob, calling him by his surname of “Dukes,” and reminding him that he was supposed to keep a low profile. When the Blob replies that he was hungry, she proclaims “God Almighty.”

Though knocked down, Madrox’s mind and memory race. He recognizes the woman. Fatale! An Assassin who used to be part of a group called the Dark Descendants, Depowered, but still a threat. In her own moment of recognition, she calls Madrox by his codename. “Multiple Man!” to which he asks what tipped her off. The new dupe, however, calls Fatale “my child” and proceeds to inform her that violence is not to be found on the path of enlightenment…

Moving back into attack mode, Fatale launches a fist at the dupe, who side-steps it with ease. The dupe then tells her assailant that he sees she needs persuasion to follow the path. Very well. Trust him when he tells her that he loves her. Sometimes, however… love hurts. In demonstration, the dupe grabs Fatale’s arm and brings his own below down on hers, causing enough pain to produce an ear-curdling scream.

Even from several feet away, Madrox hears the arm break. He notes that his dupe’s so calm about it… dispassionate. What part of him is that? He doesn’t know whether to take pride I it or be freaked out by it. Later, he will note that Fatale was howling so loudly about the pain that it drowned out the sound of the blade snapping out of her gauntlet. As a result, neither of them heard it until it was too late.

Still, as Fatale attacks with her suddenly produced weapon, the dupe moves quickly and avoids a deep wound. However, the superficial cut is more than enough… when your dealing with a poisoned blade.

Having won the reprieve, Fatale exits the alley, holding her broken arm. At the curb, she is greeted by the Blob, who is in the driver’s seat of a car. Asked where he got it, he quips to Fatale that he bought it on layaway. Where the Hell does she think? Now get in! Don’t make him ask twice. Getting him, she reminds Dukes that he did ask twice, to which he offers a disgusted “whatever!” As the car races off, Madrox, his dupe and Rictor can only watch.

A few moments later, the car passes by the lamppost at which Monet and Siryn are posted. Seeing the occupants, both take to the air in pursuit, an action that does not go unnoticed by Fatale. However, even as she produces a rifle she is only able to aim with her one good arm, the now racing auto drives over a manhole, whose cover has not been properly affixed back over the hole. The result is a flipped car, which launches Fatale into the air and into the pavement a good distance away.

Hot in pursuit, Monet and Theresa land at the site of the wreck. However, before either can take action, a sharp blade is thrown into the asphalt at Siryn’s foot. Looking up, Theresa sees Marrow, already having two more blades at the ready to throw. Greeting both females, she tells them it’s been a long time. Not long enough, Marrow, comes the cold reply.

Characters Involved: 

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



Blob, Callisto, Elijah Cross, Fatale (X-Cell)

Val Cooper

Agent Flynn

FBI agents

Capekiller agents

Deli owner

Story Notes: 

Callisto was the first mutant whose powers Quicksilver restored with Terrigen Mists. However, she quickly regretted the action when the sensitivity of her skin grew to the point where rain felt like acid. [Son of M #4]

“INS” refers to the United States’ Immigration & Nationalization Service, which both administers legal and polices illegal immigration.

X-Factor learned the truth behind M-Day, that of Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch’s actions, in X-Factor (3rd series) #9.

“Bogie” no doubt refers to film star Humphrey Bogart.

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