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X-Factor (1st series) #237

Issue Date: August 2012

Story Title: Road to Redemption

Staff: Peter David (writer), Neil Edwards (penciler), Karl Kesel (inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), David Yardin (cover artist), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor), Nick Lowe (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description:
Having become more and more worried at Rahne’s solitary behavior between missions, Banshee and Polaris decide upon a girls’ road trip. Keeping her in the dark as to their destination, Banshee and Polaris lead her to the church of Reverend John Maddox, the independent dupe of Madrox. Though hesitant at first, Rahne agrees to talk with the reverend, while Polaris and Banshee go to town to enjoy the local Ben & Jerry’s establishment. In their talk, Rahne slowly opens up to Reverend Maddox about Hrimhari, the unusual birth of their child and her rejection of it. She also opens up about a recently resurfaced memory of her time with X-Force, when mental conditioning caused her to murder (and consume) her father, Reverend Craig. Taking a different tact, Reverend Maddox produces a self-torture device and urges Rahne to punish herself as she knows she deserves. The gambit of reverse psychology pays off and Rahne realizes that she cannot. The reverend then urges her to dump the self-pity and judgmental attitude and channel it into something positive, which Rahne agrees to do, beginning with finding her son.

Full Synopsis:
Standing in a church, Rahne Sinclair regards the cat-o’-nine-tails which she holds in her hands. As she examines it, a voice instructs Rahne to beat herself with it. Beat herself until she bleeds. Until her back is nothing but a throbbing mass of bleeding flesh. She knows she deserves it, and it’s the only way. The only way.

(eight hours earlier)
In X-Factor HQ, Theresa and Lorna stand outside Rahne’s room, remarking that it’s ridiculous that she’s still in there. Joining them, Havok remarks that she seems okay when they go on missions, but she keeps retreating to her room for longer periods…

Having had enough, Theresa tries the doorknob, only to find it locked. She remarks that she could bust it open, only for Lorna, with a smile, to ask if it’s metal. Told that it is, Lorna snaps her fingers and it unlocks. Opening the door, they find Rahne kneeling on the floor before an incense burner, at the base of a large, metal, Christian cross. Without turning to regard them, Rahne tells them to go away.

Ignoring the order, Theresa remarks that she knows she’s in pain and is praying for guidance and salvation… Interrupting, Rahne rejoins that she’s not. She feels nothin’ anymore. No pain. Just emptiness. A void. She’s beyond saving. She’s just praying for mercy in whatever level of hell she ends up. She then asks that they please close the door on their way out.

This time, the group does as asked and soon find themselves in the hallway, with Theresa closing the door behind her. That was cheery, Havok quips. So now what? To this, Theresa voices that there’s only one answer for a young woman in pain. “Road trip,” both Theresa and Lorna simultaneously announce with a smile.

In short order, Rahne finds herself in the back seat of a red, 1964 Mustang convertible, with Lorna driving and Theresa sitting in the passenger seat. Still confused, Rahne remarks that she doesn’t understand what this mission is that they’re on. Hush-hush, Theresa replies from behind her stylish sunglasses. Very much need-to-know. From behind the steering wheel, Lorna tells her just to relax. She’s keeping the top down so she can, y’know, stick her head out. Like a dog with her tongue dangling, the clearly not amused Rahne quips, following it with a sarcastic “ha, ha.”

When Theresa remarks that it was a joke and that she didn’t used to be this uptight, Lorna tells her that she should have seen Rahne back in the day. She was crushing on Alex something fierce. “Was not,” comes Rahne’s reply, earning her a “were too retort from Lorna. Glancing over her sunglasses, Theresa asks if she was in heat or something. That was one theory, Lorna replies. La la la! Rahne exclaims, adding that she’s not listening.

Lorna’s smile suddenly disappears, as she spies something up the road. She pulls the car into a complete stop, just before a police patrol car which in turn is stopped before a giant tree, which has fallen across the road. Holding a megaphone, one of the officers asks Lorna to turn around and find another route. The tree is going to take several hours to remove. With a smile, Theresa stands up in the convertible and asks “wanna bet?” She then instructs the girls to cover their ears. This could get a little loud. A moment later, the scream of the Banshee fills the air, shattering the massive trunk of the fallen tree in twain.

After recovering from the scream itself, the officer drops his megaphone and draws his pistol, ordering whoever… or whatever they are… to get out of the car. NOW! Ignoring the order, Theresa sits back down and asks Lorna if she remembers “Thelma and Louise.” Oh, she’s evil, Lorna replies. Rahne only has a moment to voice her confusion before Lorna accelerates the car through the open space of the shattered tree and then over the edge of the cliff. The disbelief of the two officers only grows as the Mustang, instead of falling to the ground below, angles upward and flies into the blue sky above.

Suck on it, Ron Weasley! Lorna announces. Who needs a magical clunker when you can manipulate magnetic waves? Not to mention metal? Hanging onto the back of the seat before her, Rahne remarks that she may be sick, to which Lorna replies that it’s a good thing the roof’s down, huh? They’ve got a headwind, she adds, so if she barfs, just make sure she faces the back.

As they continue their flight, Theresa remarks that it’s too bad Monet and Layla missed this. Asked by Lorna if she invited them, Theresa confirms. Then asked why they didn’t come, Theresa thinks back to their response. Layla replies that she gets carsick easily, while Monet voices disinterest in being seven hours in a car with Rahne. The girl would make Strindberg weep. She’d rather shove a Marlin spike through her head. They were busy, Theresa finally replies.

Sensing the hesitation, Rahne states that she’s not stupid and asks what is she not telling her. Asked “honestly?” Rahne replies that it’d be a nice change o’pace. Is there a mission? In a manner of speaking, Theresa replies. And Rahne’s it.

In an instant, Rahne shifts to her Wolfsbane form, clearly annoyed. Great, she remarks, after which she tells them to land “this bucket” anywhere and she’ll be on her way. Theresa quickly tries to sympathize that she knows what she’s going through, but Rahne cuts her off, stating that she doesn’t want her sympathy or her help. With that, she launches herself from the airborne vehicle to the ground below. However, a few moments later, Rahne lands back in the backseat via a snap of Lorna’s fingers. Magnetic manipulation, Lorna smiles, it’s not just for super villains any more.

Changing her demeanor to annoyance, Lorna tells the still-seething Rahne that she’s sick of the dour Scots thing, that she’s ready to nuke Glasgow on general principles. Now listen carefully, she tells Rahne while glancing over her shoulder, Banshee may be handling her with kid gloves, and that’s fine, but she’s had it. She’s disrupting the team and depressing the hell out of her. So keep her ass nailed to that backseat or she’ll nail it for her. Duly chastised, Rahne shifts back to her human form and sheepishly mutters a “yes, ma’am.” With a whisper, Theresa applauds Lorna’s words with an “excellent,” to which Lorna replies that she’s a people person. It’s a gift.

Hours later, Rahne finds herself led to a church in Vermont. This is their answer? Last time she went to church, the sin-eater tried t’kill her. Last time she went to church, Theresa retorts, gas was two dollars a gallon, so she’s one up on her. She then tells Rahne that she wants her to talk to the priest. When Rahne replies that she doesn’t think some stranger can possibly help, Theresa counters that she talked to him in Ireland. He was very helpful. And, she then adds, he’s not exactly a stranger.

Rahne begins to ask what that’s supposed to mean, but she stops midsentence when she meets the priest. Reverend John Maddox, independent dupe of Jamie Madrox, greats Rahne with a smile and states that Terry tells him she has some issues. Asked if they’re kidding her, Reverend Maddox replies that he’s afraid not. It’s a good thing Terry called ahead. Typically when X-Factor shows up, it ends with someone trying to kill him. He might have just run away on reflex when he saw them. Turning back to Rahne, Reverend Maddox officially introduces himself and says that he understands she needs someone to talk to.

At first, Rahne tries to deny but, after Lorna waps Rahne up the back of the head with her elbow, Rahne relents with a “fine.” Rubbing where Lorna hit her, Rahne asks if Madrox knows one of his dupes is pretending to be a priest. Not pretending, Reverend Maddox replies. Ordained and everything. And yes, he does. He has Madrox’s blessing, so to speak. Now a bit more sheepish, Rahne replies that, if he expects her to climb into a booth and offer confession, just so he knows, she’s Presbyterian. S’okay, Maddox retorts, he’s Episcopalian. How about they go in his office and chat. As he wishes, Rahne replies, pausing a moment to regard Theresa and Lorna, who begin to walk the opposite way.

So, Lorna asks, now that their part of their mission is complete. Here they are in Vermont. Anything else in Vermont? With a smile, Theresa replies “Ben & Jerry’s factory,” an answer which earns an “outstanding” from Lorna.

In his office, Reverend Maddox offers a seat to Rahne, who replies that she’d rather stand. This is… weird. No kidding, he confirms. His recollection of her is frozen from when she was working for Val. Theresa tells him she’s been though a lot since then. Told that Theresa doesn’t know the half of it, Maddox suggests she tell him the other half. When she replies that she doesn’t think so, he then suggests that she tell him about Hrimhari at least. He means, that must have been a pretty heady experience. When she then inquisitively repeats the word “heady,” Maddox explains he means for a religious girl like her bearing a god’s child. Not exactly unprecedented in Christianity.

Asked if he’s suggesting she’s a Madonna-to-be, Maddox replies that she was without sin. Kind of a fast track to salvation. Visibly uncomfortable, Rahne replies that she’s not perfect, but Hrimhari was. No one’s perfect, Reverend Maddox counters. Even God has done things he’s obviously regretted since he promised never to do them again: the rainbow’s a symbol of that. That’s what forgiveness is for. Or does she think she doesn’t deserve forgiveness?

Sinking down into the chair offered before, Rahne remains silent for a moment, then clasps her hands together as if in prayer. Pressing in her silence, Maddox tells Rahne that she’s done things that she feels guilty about. He gets that. Maybe by any objective measure, they were terrible. He doesn’t know. What he does know is this… blame is pointless without forgiveness. Punishment is pointless without learning from it and moving on. A little incredulous at this, Rahne asks what then is the purpose of hell. To avoid, he remarks. Asked what if it’s unavoidable, Maddox replies that it never is. Which brings them back to forgiveness.

Seeming unable to look directly at him, Rahne explains that there are things she canna tell him about. Maddox then counters that he’s there on God’s behalf and that she can tell him anything. Taking a chance on him being right, Rahne explains: she rejected her child. The birth… it was insane… she… she vomited him up, like a giant hairball, and then he gutted someone seconds after he was born. Ignoring the visibly shocked Reverend Maddox’s “my God,” Rahne continues. She rejected him, treated him like she was treated by her own father, the Reverend Craig. She was born of an illicit affair between a hypocrite and a prostitute. What chance did she ever have for God’s grace?

Kneeling next to Rahne, Maddox tells her that there she goes again: wallowing in despair and self-pity. It’s not productive. She can’t discount the horrific nature of her child’s birth. She was traumatized, so she reverted to learned behavior. It’s understandable. Asked that it is, Maddrox confirms. They’re all the sum of their experiences. She may not want to admit it… but she’s got some Reverend Craig in her. In tears, Rahne curses to herself. He knows it’s hard to face, Maddox continues, but ideally they learn from… Nay, she interrupts. It’s not that. It’s… As she trails, Reverend Maddox tells her that he’s not there to judge. Just help. Strengthened by his words, Rahne feels confident enough to tell him the rest. The resulting exclamation of You did WHAT? can be heard from outside the church.

Back in town, Theresa and Lorna exit the Ben & Jerry’s store, each with a cup of ice cream and a smile. Asked that she didn’t have this when they were cruising around in space, Lorna replies in the negative. In space, she explains, no one can hear ice cream. Confused at first, Theresa soon gets the joke, admitting that it’s cute. Lorna then asks how she thinks Rahne is doing, to which Theresa replies that she’s sure she’s fine. The reverend’s a great guy. Very understanding.

Back in his office, a wide-eyed Reverend Maddox states that he doesn’t understand. He brainwashed her into… eating him? Nay, she replies. Like she told him, he brainwashed her into killing Angel, but instead she… God… she blocked it out for the longest time. But slowly she… How does she come back from that? How does she not resign herself to an eternity of hellfire and damnation? And if it’s inevitable, what’s the point of caring about…

Rahne’s words trail as she sees the door close and Reverend Maddox gone. At first, Rahne assumes she has been abandoned, but Reverend Maddox soon returns with an apology. Holding a cat-o’-nine-tails, he explains that he had to go to the supply closet for it. Because, they should face it, five “Our Fathers” and an act of contrition isn’t gonna get it done. Explaining the name of the self-flagellant device, he remarks that she’d be amazed at some of the weapons he takes off his congregants.

Tossing the device to the confused Rahne, he explains that it’s for mortification of the flesh. It’s pretty old school, but desperate times… Horrified, Rahne haltingly asks if he expects her to beat herself with it, to which Reverend Maddox explains that the preferred term is flagellation, but yes. Beat herself with it, he tells her. Beat herself until she bleeds. Until her back is nothing but a red, throbbing mass of bleeding flesh. She knows she deserves it, and it’s the only way. The only way. Get it over and done with, he presses as she remains silent. Punish herself until her body can’t take it anymore. Punish herself… until she’s had enough. Then she can finally move forward. Trust her: she’ll thank him later.

Despite the order, Rahne stands immobile, merely holding the cat-o’-nine-tails in her hand. Why is she hesitating, he asks. He means, she’s been beating herself up for ages. For lustful thoughts, lustful deeds. For sins both real and imagined. But between eating her father and rejecting her child, she’s at a whole new level. Come on… do it. Do it! Do it Rahne! She knows she deserves it! Do it!

For a moment, Rahne begins to comply, raising the device. However, a moment later, she drops it and moves her hands to the sides of her tear-stained face. “Ah… ah can’t… she cries. Clasping his hands around her, Reverend Maddox replies that he wouldn’t have let her. And she shouldn’t have it. Smiling slightly, he tells Rahne to stop beating herself up. Dump the self-pity, leave behind the judgmental attitude, of herself and everyone else. Take all the negative energy and channel it into something positive. Can she do that for him? Even better… can she do it for herself?

Standing up, Rahne replies “aye” and she knows how to start. Asked how, Rahne takes the hands of Reverend Maddox and explains that she’s going t’find her son.

Characters:
Banshee II, Havok, Polaris, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor)

Reverend John Maddox

Police officers
Vermont citizens flashback:
Butterfly, M II

Notes:
The license plate on the girls’ Mustang reads “XF23707,” which corresponds to X-Factor #237. Page 07, the exact page on which the panel was printed.

Rahne was “crushing on Alex” during their time together at X-Factor, due to residual genetic programming from when she was a Genoshan template and was imprinted against Havok (then a Genoshan magistrate).

Polaris’ reference to “Thelma and Louise” was due to the famous final scene of the film, in which both titular characters drove off a cliff while being pursued by police.

The reference to Ron Weasley (one of the three main characters in the Harry Potter series) is due to his use of a flying car to get him and Harry to school at the beginning of the second novel.

Johan August Strindberg was a late 19th century / early 20th century Swedish playwright famous for his realist / naturalist extremely bleak plays.

A Marlin spike is a metal spike used on boats as an aid in tying ropes.

The last time Rahne went to church, she found a demonic sin-eater waiting for her. [X-Factor (3rd series) #220]

Theresa met Reverend John Maddox by chance while in Ireland. [X-Factor (1st series) #200] Reverend Maddox founds his church under attack while being visited by Jamie Madrox in X-Factor (3rd series) #40, 43 & 45.

Ben & Jerry’s is a Vermont-based ice cream company, known for its high quality ingredients & whimsical product names.

Reverend Maddox created as a duplicate between the time Madrox & Wolfsbane served together in Val Cooper’s government-sponsored X-Factor and their reconnection as part of X-Factor Investigations.

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, the rainbow was created by God as a reminder of his promise never to destroy the world in flood again.

Wolfsbane gave mystical birth to her son via vomiting him as a giant hairball in X-Factor (1st series) #224.

Captured by her father, Reverend Craig and his Purifiers, Wolfsbane was mentally programmed to attach the Angel upon sight. In a chance accident, Craig standing before a pair of wings activated Wolfsbane’s programming, leading her to murder and consume him.

Polaris’ “in space no one can hear ice cream” is a quip to the famous tagline for the first Alien film, which went “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Issue Summary written by: Douglas Mangum


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