X-Men (3rd series) #15.1

Issue Date: 
October 2011
Story Title: 
Hell to Pay

Victor Gischler (writer), Will Conrad (penciler/inker), Brian Reber (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Jason Pearson (cover), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (associate editor), Nick Lowe (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

A team of X-Men led by Cyclops arrive in a small town to help Dani Moonstar with a little favor. An old family friend of the Moonstars is dying, and it turns out she has demons trapped in her soul. When she dies, the demons will be let loose. However, they plan to encase the woman in a brick room and cast a sealing spell to keep the demons within. The X-Men are there in case something bad happens. And it does, but not before Ghost Rider shows up too. Before the sealing spell is cast the woman dies and the demons wreak havoc on the town, including opening a pit to hell in the center of it. The X-Men, along with Ghost Rider, manage to get all the demons down into the pit and then fill it in with debris and a sealing spell. Their mission seems finished, but Ghost Rider reveals she actually showed up to punish the husband of the woman, who was actually responsible for releasing those demons all those years ago. The Rider lets him live as long as he restores his honor and helps rebuild the town. The X-Men leave too, but Dani is disheartened they couldn’t have done more for the old woman who did so much for the town. Cyclops reminds her they can’t save everyone, but they’ll do what they can.

Full Summary: 

A crew of X-Men has made their way to a small town to help put to rest an old family friend of the Moonstars. The woman’s name is Awanata and they have her barricaded inside a brick room not far from the center of town. Dani sits beside her, holding her hand. She tells Awanata everything is going to be ok, that they’ll figure something out, but the woman is in some sort of self-induced catatonic state.
Dani exits the room and tells the guys to seal her in. Gambit isn’t so sure about this, sealing a living person inside a room. He doesn’t think it’s real X-Men-like. Cyclops agrees, but reminds him the situation is time-sensitive.
The woman’s husband butts in and says he wishes it were different, the woman being his wife and all, but they have no other choice. She knew it was her time and she requested to be locked up like that, he explains. The sheriff, who’s standing next to him, verifies it was Awanata’s wishes.
Dani takes this moment to introduce Cyclops to Arnold Blackfeather, husband to Awanata. Arnold holds out his hand and thanks Cyclops and his team for coming. Cyke tells him helping is what they do, even more so for a friend of Dani’s, however he needs more convincing that what they’re doing is right. Arnold figures he needs to tell the whole story then.
approximately eighty years ago

Demons attacked the town, spitting fire, dining on the screams of the slain. Arnold explains he was training to be a man of strong medicine at the time, like his father before him, but he wasn’t strong enough to stop them. That’s when his girlfriend, Awanata, who was also fascinated with the strong medicine, took the demon spirits inside her and trapped them there.
the present

Blackfeather tells them she’s had the demons secured in her soul for decades. Storm remarks she’s quite strong, and Blackfeather agrees, but states she’s failing fast and when she dies the cage to those demons will be opened.
Just as the men are finishing the last few bricks of the tomb Pixie says she doesn’t think some cinderblocks are going to stop angry demons. She says they may as well wrap the woman in tin foil. Arnold whips out a spell book and explains he’s going to attempt a sealing spell once the last brick is placed. He doesn’t seem confident in his abilities so Pixie asks to take a look. The spell appears quite familiar to her prompting Ororo to ask what she’s been up to. “What? Illyana gets all the hocus-pocus fun?” she asks defensively.
Gambit’s still not down with the plan and votes they take her out and just deal with whatever happens. Dani assures him the demons are real, but agrees there has to be a better way. Though Arnold doesn’t disagree with her sentiments, he feels there’s no other choice.
One of the workers interrupts to tell the sheriff they’ve finished. Gambit looks at him and asks if he’s really going to let this happen. The sheriff tells Remy he’s more than welcome to run for election next time around, but doesn’t believe the town needs a superhero.
His words are cut off by the sound of a powerful motorcycle approaching. They all turn to see the flaming approach of Ghost Rider. The sheriff quickly reconsiders his position on superheroes being needed.
Gambit charges up a few cards, the sight of Ghost Rider cementing the fact they have a demon problem on their hands. Cyclops wonders why Ghost Rider has arrived, remarking that he’s shorter than the last time they met. The sheriff asks if that thing is on their side. Gambit agrees that’s not such a bad question.
The Ghost Rider steps off of her bike and approaches Cyke. She raises her scythe and points it in his direction. She tells him she’s there to cleanse some sin and anything he would do to stop her would be at his peril. Cyclops agrees, but says they’re probably there for the same reason so they should work together. Ghost Rider starts talking about the long standing tragedy of this town when a loud rumbling begins emanating from the building Awanata is housed in. They all turn to look and they see bright, green light emanating from the building. It appears Awanata has finally died and the demons are free, however, the sealing spell has not been cast.
The building explodes outward, and at its center is Awanata floating a few feet above the ground. Her back is arched and her head tilted upward. Wispy forms begin pouring out of her mouth, swirling above her. When the shades have all exited, her body falls to the ground with a FWUMP.
Seven demons in human form now stand before them. The leader boasts they are the Atahsaia and after nearly a century they will have their vengeance. The X-Men respond with some sarcasm, but the demons don’t seem to care. They morph their forms until they are hideous looking creatures and promise to feast on their flesh before taking the whole town to hell. The leader stomps his ghastly foot into the ground and a large crevasse opens in the road. Fire and smoke begin spitting out of the chasm.
Cyclops orders the X-Men to attack and tells Storm to put out the burning buildings. Despite being powerless, Dani takes on two demons herself using a long knife. She slashes one across the chest while dodging the other’s attack. Then she jabs the other one in the gut. The one she slashed across the chest is back and clamps down on her wrist. Dani yells to Cyclops that these things won’t stay dead.
Cyclops is seeing the same thing on his end. It’s time for a new strategy, he determines, and orders Pixie to grab the spell book. Pixie takes to the air after Blackfeather, who’s off running with the book in his hand. She snatches it, much to his surprise, and heads back toward the battle. The lead demon senses her magic-based powers and orders two of his demons after her. “Pluck the wings from that fly!” it cries out.
Back at Dani’s fight, she slices the demon’s arm off at the elbow, freeing herself from its grasp, but that doesn’t stop its approach. Another demon joins the fray and she’s backed up against a wall. The one she just de-limbed tells her she will be awake when they feed on her intestines, after all, screams make the best sauce.
Just then, Ghost Rider comes barreling through on her motorcycle and knocks them all to the ground. The Rider looks over at Dani and orders her on the bike. There’s no hesitation as Dani hops on.
Back at the center of town, Cyclops, Gambit and the sheriff do what they can to keep the demons at bay. Cyke asks if the buildings have been evacuated and the sheriff says he thinks they are. Cyclops tells him to double check and then radios Pixie they need the book ASAP.
Hot on Pixie’s tail are those demons. She radios back she’s on her way and gets a timely assist from Storm who fries the demons with some lightning. It slows them down, but they’re not out of the fight. Saying she thinks she knows Scott’s plan Storm tells Pixie to lead the monsters back into town.
Back at the town’s center, Cyclops and Gambit have managed to knock all the ground-based demons into the chasm. Ghost Rider rides by with four more wrapped up in her chains, including those who were airborne. She drives straight down into hell with the demons in tow. Dani is taken along for the ride much to her disappointment.
Cyclops, Gambit, Pixie and Storm wait patiently for Ghost Rider and Dani to reappear. When they come roaring back Cyclops and Gambit use their powers to topple nearby buildings to help fill in the hole. Once that’s done, Pixie begins reciting a sealing cell from the book. It works, and the ground once again looks as it did before the demons came.
Arnold Blackfeather comes out of hiding to congratulate the X-Men, but his neck is soon wrapped up in Ghost Rider’s chains. The Rider stands over him and says they have unfinished business. All Blackfeather can do is mutter how cold it is.
The X-Men are shocked at this turn of events and Cyclops demands answers. Ghost Rider explains it was Blackfeather’s sins that drew her to this place, not the demons. Arnold begins to confess what really happened all those years ago. It turns out the demons were no accident, that he conjured them to get revenge against another tribe over a feud nobody remembers, and it was Awanata who stopped them.
The Rider releases Blackfeather and tells him to restore the town and restore his honor otherwise she will return. And just like that she’s gone as quickly as she came. The X-Men prepare to do the same and head for the Blackbird, but Dani stands transfixed.
Scott comes back and asks her what’s wrong. Dani is disappointed in how things turned out for Awanata. She kept the town safe for decades, but they couldn’t do anything to help her. We did all we could do, Scott assures her, but they can’t help everyone. And some people just need to help themselves, he says, staring down at Arnold Blackfeather. Dani asks what they do now. Scott tells her they go home, and get ready for the next time.

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Gambit, Dani Moonstar, Pixie, Storm (all X-Men)

Ghost Rider
Atahsaia (various demons)
Arnold & Awanata Blackfeather


Story Notes: 

This Ghost Rider appears shorter to Cyclops because it’s a different host than the one he knew. This Ghost Rider is Alejandra who first donned the leather not long ago during the Fear Itself crossover. Of course, her breasts should have been a dead giveaway too. Emma must have some kind of psychic blinders on Scott.

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