X-Factor #7: Fall Out!

Following the fight with the Alliance that destroyed their X-Factor uniforms, X-Factor, in their “mutant” attire, have to resort to sneaking back aboard their own private plane.

Workers at the hanger are watching tv new reports regarding the “battle between two rival mutant factions”. Tower’s interview is drawing media attention as he’s stating that X-Factor is to blame for the destruction as the Alliance were just defending themselves, and that there might be more than meets the eye to X-Factor as the “rival mutant faction” seems to show up every time X-Factor appears.

As Marvel Girl uses her telekinesis to gently lower the team to the plane, Cyclops tells her to “mind-throw the access hatch”. Marvel Girl has no idea “which switch to throw”. Cyclops snaps at her and mistakenly addresses her as “Maddie” (his estranged wife was a seasoned pilot). This draws confusion from Marvel Girl, as she thought her “rival was the dear-departed Phoenix”.

Cyclops meanwhile withdraws into his thoughts.

Cyclops: (Thoughts.) I’m a fool -- A heartless, inhumane creep! Why did I snap at her like that? A while back, Jean risked her life to save us...Was captured by an energy being -- the Phoenix -- who stole her likeness and her place with us! For all that time, Jean lay in suspended animation -- her life taken from her. Now Phoenix is dead and Jean’s awakened...minus her telepathic powers...psychically crippled by what she did for us! I called her Maddie! I’m keeping my marriage secret from her...Because...If I tell her, I know I’ll lose her! But I saw the fire-display around her during our fight with the Alliance! It was so much like the Phoenix Effect...Maybe Phoenix can’t die! Maybe Jean is Phoenix, after all!

X-Factor return to New York City, only to be confronted by a mob outside their base. News from “California’s mutant murders” have spread to the east coast. Hank spots Vera make her way through the crowd and being interviewed by Trish Tilby. He rushes to stop the interview, and the rest of X-Factor hurriedly squeeze through the crowd and into the building. Hodge, as “Public Relations Director”, steps forward to make a press statement.

Back inside, Scott is so focused on trying to reach Madelyne that he rudely brushes aside Rusty and Artie’s welcome and lunch. Jean grows increasingly suspicious.

Anti-mutant hysteria is on the rise as humans attack mutants on sight, even homeless mutants like Glow Worm and Bulk, minding their business and scavenging a dumping facility for spare parts. Glow Worm and Bulk try to seek shelter with the Morlocks, but they are turned away, even from “society’s rejects” as they are infected with radiation.

Scott calls everyone he knows who would have any idea where Maddie is, to no avail. Meanwhile, Jean uses her training session with the rest of the team, Warren, Beast and Bobby, to get to the bottom of the secret Scott’s been keeping from her. She has a hunch that the guys know more than they are letting up. Though a series of questions, even though the guys never directly answer her question, Jean is able to deduce that Scott “already has a wife” named Maddie. She single-handedly defeats them, and storms out, visibly upset. Beast advises them that it is in Jean’s best interest that they leave her alone for the time being.

The training room is in an icy mess. Rusty steps in to help melt away all the ice. They are then alerted by Artie of the public commotion that Glow Worm and Bulk are causing. Glow Worm and Bulk are trying to lure X-Factor out to fight them. X-Factor’s “mutant hunting equipment is a sham”, as Vera succinctly put it, and the only way for them to defeat mutants is to use their mutant powers. And right now the media is dangerously close to linking X-Factor with their mutant doppelgängers.

Warren comes up with an idea. With Jean being the crucial key to the plan’s success, Warren goes in search of her to talk her out of her angry state and ask for her help.

Cyclops, Iceman and Beast appear in their mutant costumes, and pretend to join Glow Worm and Bulk’s cause to “X-Terminate X-Factor”. They seem to be clumsy in helping out Glow Worm and Bulk, constantly bumping into them. The media immediately recognizes Cyclops, Iceman and Beast as “the California Murderers”. When they find out Glow Worm and Bulk are contaminated with radiation, Cyclops orders Iceman to freeze a circle on the street to drive the crowd back from them. The crowd is calling for X-Factor to stop the rogue mutants.

Warren and Jean, with Hodge, Rusty and Vera, appear in X-Factor uniform. Rusty and Jean drive the mutants away with their “flame thrower” and “mutant gravity disruption web”. Cyclops, Iceman and Beast lead Glow Worm and Bulk into the sewers. Disfigured and dying, Glow Worm and Bulk had just wanted to go out with a bang. Unable to offer help, Cyclops, Iceman and Beast let Glow Worm and Bulk go.

Back at the base, Cyclops congratulates the team for a job well done in fooling the media that X-Factors are not mutants and are “useful and effective”. Jean is not in a celebratory mood and tells Scott that they’ve “got some serious talking to do”.

Next: X-Factor Annual #1