Part of what makes Penance/Hollow so confusing to some is the fact that virtually her entire back story has, at some point, been retconned. This shouldn't stop readers from being interested in what is still an interesting character, however. This section describes the huge retcon in Hollow's past, hopefully to the enlightenment of those unfamiliar with the character.
Originally, Penance was a fourteen (according to the earliest Generation X previews, later said by Scott Lobdell to be sixteen) year old Yugoslavian mutant girl, traumatized by the events in her war-torn country (which doesn't even exist anymore...) and her several years of imprisonment by the mutagenic vampire known as Emplate. In Scott Lobdell's original conception of her, she was deaf since birth and, thus, unable to properly communicate with others. It also explained her childlike naivete. Her only known name was Yvette, which is what Emplate called her when she betrayed him in the pages of the '90s comic known as Generation X. In an interview with Nate Raymond, Scott Lobdell revealed that this was going to be her real name and that she was supposed to be the first deaf mutant.
Instead, according to Larry Hama in "The Truth About Penance" in Generation X #40, she's supposedly ("supposedly" because she obviously hasn't said anything to confirm or deny it yet) a magical/mutant prison created by Emplate to imprison his sister M (what for, let's not get into that here). M was later freed from the Penance body. The Penance body was mute but not deaf throughout the later (non-Lobdell) issues of Generation X series, but could speak as of the 2007 miniseries called The Loners.
As part of the retcon, M was said to have been incidentally born in Bosnia (it was known fact that her father is a foreign ambassador, after all) and, as part of her full name, "Yvette" is one of M's numerous middle names. However, M was sixteen when Penance was said to be fourteen, at the time that the Generation X series started.
Penance's official entry in the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #8 Nekra to Quoi includes the fact that Penance's origins are a mystery and that Emplate claims to have from Penance for years prior to imprisoning his sister in the Penance form and feeding off of Penance/Monet for months. Unfortunately, this is updated in the 2008 hardcover edition and simplified as Emplate fed off of Monet for years, having been banished by his twin sisters to that hellish dimension of his for years. As it is in the official handbook, so it is the new canon.
Regardless of the retcon, the reader should know that Hollow's true origins remain a mystery, even by the end of the 2007 Loners' mini-series, and we'll just have to wait and see what comes next.
Generation X: The First Page
Penance, as Hollow was referred to as during her time with Generation X, first appeared unconscious on the lawn outside of the Massachusetts Academy for Gifted Youngsters in the Berkshire Mountains in Snow Valley, Massachusetts. Gateway, floating nearby in the pouring rain, spoke but a single word, christening her "Penance," before disappearing as mysteriously as he and the red-skinned girl had appeared. His spoken word was actually referring to this being his penance for his part in the deaths of the original Hellions.
When Banshee tried to pick the girl up off the ground and carry her into the building, he learned his first painful lesson about Penance: her skin was completely razor-sharp. He and Emma Frost soon figured out that the young girl was immune to psi-scans and that the straps of black material wrapped around her were restraints Marius St. Croix (Emplate) had used to secure her. This mysterious, frightened girl woke up, clawed her way out of the medical ward, and ran into the woods. Generation X was soon in hot pursuit of the potentially dangerous mutant.
Determined never to be imprisoned again, no matter the cost to herself or anyone else, Penance fought Generation X fiercely. Her first fight with Generation X was short but intense against Synch and Jubilee, before Penance ran off again. Synch and Jubilee only managed to survive as Synch tapped into Penance's mutant power to create a force field around himself and Jubilee equally durable as Penance's skin.
Elsewhere, Banshee and Husk were following Penance's trail until it mysteriously vanished. The pair was puzzled at first, but then the truth dawned upon Banshee: they weren't tracking her as much as she was tracking them. Banshee's moment of enlightenment would come a moment too late.Upon realizing she was being followed, Penance had burrowed underground so that she could ambush her pursuers. She reached up through the ground and pulled Husk down into the mud faster than she could scream and did the same to Banshee, sticking her finger in his open mouth before he could use his powers.
While Penance was distracted, Husk regained her bearings, husked into a stone form, and attacked Penance. When a confident Husk got the upper hand, holding Penance down in the mud, Penance reached up and stuck her pointy feet into a surprised Husk's back, causing her great injury. Penance further demonstrated her resourcefulness and creativity in using her powers when, after Banshee used his sonic scream, she used the momentum generated by the scream itself to help her make her escape. Banshee was impressed.
Next, she took a wrong turn and ran into Emma Frost and Monet St. Croix (M), who promptly knocked her out with a single punch, stating how ambushes were rude. Then Emma, confident in her own abilities, did an intensive psi-scan on the unconscious Penance, only to receive psionic backlash for her trouble. Penance was inadvertedly stirred by the psi-scan, still held by Monet, who at the time had no idea Penance was regaining consciousness. Emma reported that there was nothing remotely recognizable in Penance's head.
At that moment Banshee appeared, holding a wounded Husk, having managed to follow Penance. Seeing that Penance was awake, he used his sonic scream to create an opportunity for Penance to make her getaway. When Monet questioned this, Banshee explained that Penance would have injured her and then escaped anyway. Monet saw Banshee's logic immediately and promptly backed off.
Luckily, no one was fatally wounded or maimed in the rain-soaked, vicious frays before Chamber was able to calm Penance down. He spoke to her, explaining how he felt they were kindred spirits. After all, their mutant abilities had made them both just one step away from being monsters. After a tense, silent stand-off between the two, Penance lowered her guard and allowed Generation X to lead her back to the school for "gifted youngsters."
It would be quite some time before Penance's past before meeting Generation X was uncovered, because she couldn't talk. Penance's true origins, along with a previously clue of images of a war-torn landscape lurking within her mind, have yet to be elaborated upon, but it is known that Marius (Emplate) claimed to have fed on Penance's mutant energy for years prior to merging his sister Monet into the Penance form. He, using dark magics, merged Monet into Penance so that she would be trapped in a razor-sharp, mute prison. An arrogant Monet had crossed Marius one too many times after she'd made fun of and fully rejected her Marius' offer for the two of them to rule together. It remains unclear whether the mutant Penance form that Marius had fed off of for years was an actual living, breathing mutant girl with her own past. One would assume so, but nothing of this girl has been shown to date.
After an all too smug Marius had trapped his stuck-up sister Monet in Penance, he had the misfortune of getting caught by two very upset little sisters. Nicole and Claudette St. Croix (M Twins) were outraged by Marius' return after his long-suspected involvement in their mother's death and, now, Monet's disappearance. The young mutant twins, less than or about eight years old each, used their immensely powerful mutant (or perhaps magical) abilities to banish Marius to a hellish pocket dimension that would continue to claw at him for all of eternity.
Marius bid Monet/Penance follow him across dimensions because, as he said, only he could reverse what he'd done to trap her in the mute, razor-sharp body. She jumped into the open, swirling portal in the floor, knowing that he was the only one who could restore her, as the twins unwittedly watched their older sister become trapped in the pocket dimension as well.
Instead of freeing her, Marius locked Monet/Penance in a cell for months within the pocket dimension to which he'd been banished, tormenting and feeding upon the half-starved poor girl's mutant energy from her very bone marrow to sustain his own lifeforce. This period of intense feeding caused Marius' physical being to change, making him more Penance-like in appearance.
It's obvious that this traumatizing experience of torture affected Monet/Penance's mind, as she ran away from her sisters disguised as Monet after being brought to Generation X by Gateway. It's possible Monet/Penance suffered from amnesia, as it was revealed in an early issue of Generation X that Penance had been imprisoned by Marius longer than she could remember.
Even if Monet/Penance didn't have amnesia, it's obvious that her experiences at the hands of Marius had drastically transformed the snobbish teenage girl's personality significantly, as Penance was skittish, naive of the world, and fearful of others when she first joined Generation X.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Monet/Penance's personality was influenced by the being who may have inhabited the body before Marius trapped his sister in it, much the way M-Plate's personality differed from the sum of its parts (Emplate and M Twins). However, this is non-canon speculation; as far as canon is concerned, all we know is that Marius merged Monet into the Penance form he claimed to have fed off of for years as her "penance" for his sister's condescending attitude toward him and refusal to join forces with him.
Much later, when confiding in Doc Samson, Monet revealed that her captivity and the torture inflicted on her by her brother made her want to kill herself every day but that she hid that behind her attitude. She didn't reveal any clues as to the true identity of the Penance form into which she'd been merged.
After they'd banished Marius, and unaware that it was Monet in the red-skinned body who jumped through the portal after him, the twins used their mutant powers to gestalt (merge) into an impersonation of Monet, copying everything about her down to the last detail, even her mutant powers. They did this so that their father wouldn't feel the pain of the loss of his favorite daughter, but they obviously failed to consider how dear old Dad would feel if they disappeared. Humorously enough, it's been noted that the real Monet is even more obnoxious and arrogant than the twins' impersonation of her. They joined Generation X sometime later as "Monet" and proceeded to face off against Penance initially along with the rest of the team, choosing to stay silent about what she knew of Marius and the mysterious red-skinned girl.
In Monet's (that is, the twins posing as Monet) private diary, it's revealed that Monet thinks that "she" (Penance) looks worse than Monet thought she would. Later, another clue would be unveiled when Marius seemed genuinely surprised that "Yvette," as he called Penance, had decided to betray him by saving Bishop from his clutches. Yvette is one of Monet's many middle names and, presumably, a pet name of Marius' for his sister Monet.
Generation X came to become very attached to their mysterious red-skinned companion. Jubilee in particular, took a liking to the silent spikey-haired girl, feeding her apples and looking out for her. Chamber reached out to Penance many times early on, even visiting her in the medical ward when she wasn't well, as loathe as the self-professed loner was to admit it when Banshee caught him in the act. Though, in the later years of Generation X, the frequency of this contact waned.
Still, both he and Jubilee were very concerned when, after playing in the pool with Jubilee, Penance inexplicably had a seizure, her mouth opened to cry out silently in pain. This incident occured weeks after Penance's initial arrival at the Academy and it remains unclear whether she had suffered any more episodes afterwards.
Husk, too, attempted to reach out in friendship and comfort to Penance, husking into a diamond-hard skin that Penance was able to hug without hurting Husk, if only lightly. Therefore, even this diamond-hard form of Husk was vulnerable to Penance's sharp claws. Penance has yet to meet a material she can't conquer; she even cut through a supposedly unbreakable unknown metal to free Gaia. Thus far, the limits of her powers remain unknown and untested.
Moira MacTaggert was the one who discovered the truth behind Penance's mysterious seizure, figuring out that Penance's skin had been pulled tightly around herself to almost the point of muscle atrophy, which was what gave it its harder-than-diamond durability and razor sharpness. Generation X also discovered with time that she was mute and that she had psionic shielding around her mind so strong that not even Emma Frost, one of the world's most powerful telepaths, could penetrate it. Before figuring out Penance was mute, Banshee tried speaking many different languages to Penance.
Months after Penance's initial arrival, Emma Frost, aware that secrets could have deadly results for her students, lured Penance out from her hiding place in the Danger Grotto and psionically stunned her so that she could reach through the girl's fierce anti-telepathic defenses. In doing so, she saw horrifying visions of a war-torn land, presumably Penance's homeland. Penance stayed with Generation X for a time, contributing her skills in battle side by side with them as well as receiving their protection from the villainous Marius on his many attempts to recapture his sweetest meal. Together, Generation X and Penance have faced the likes of Black Tom Cassidy, the Juggernaut, Adrienne Frost, and many others.
Penance came to be very close with Generation X, regarding the Massachusetts Academy as her home and Generation X as her family. As she relaxed around them and in the mostly peaceful setting of the Biosphere, her skin softened, causing some scratches to appear on her face as the result of her touching her face.
One of the times Marius tried to get Penance back was during the dark times of Operation: Zero Tolerance, mere months after the girl had initially joined Generation X. Emplate claimed to have information regarding the location of Sean Cassidy's and Emma Frost's other charges, the rest of Generation X, who had been whisked away to parts unknown by Black Tom.
In a ploy to get the information from Emplate, Emma mentally controlled Penance and offered to trade her to the villain. While it was just a ploy, Sean didn't believe Emma and Penance remained skittish around Emma after the incident, even after the trio had been reunited with Generation X.
When the fake Monet split into her true form, two eight year old twins, Penance watched over them, defending them from burglars. She even fought her monstrous former captor Marius for them. The twins awoke in the heat of this battle and attacked their brother Marius by gestalting (merging) with him to become M-Plate. After the gestalt was reversed when Dirt Nap exploded with M-Plate inside of his stomach, the twins told Marius that, by sharing a consciousness with him, they now knew all his fears and secrets, including what Marius had done to the real Monet. When the twins discovered the truth about Penance being their sister, they merged to become the fake Monet once more and then mergerd with Penance, freeing their sister Monet, but, in so doing, trapping themselves within the razor-sharp body.
The twins remember their experience within the Penance body, Nicole describing it as very uncool. At one point, the twins even started slicing up all their toys in their extreme frustration. During this time, Penance occasionally suffered from the fugue states brought on by Claudette's autism much like the fake Monet did. Later on, during one of Marius' attempts recapture Penance, there was an explosion that freed the twins from the Penance body. This time, Emplate, caught in the blast as well, did not get away to cause Generation X more problems another day. His fate after being taken back to Monaco with the twins by their father remains unknown.
With both Monet and the twins freed from the Penance form, everyone thought that Penance was merely an empty shell until she awoke and clawed her way through a strong Omnium alloy wall and escaped into the forest in her initial fright. However, this new Penance was no skittish kitty. This Penance regained her fearsome appearance, complete with long tendrils for hair, and had the temperament of a pit bull, according to Jubilee.
Initially, Generation X didn't know if this Penance was friend or foe and, when a human student of the Academy stumbled out of the forest heavily maimed, some of Generation X feared the worst. Husk argued that their "Penny" wouldn't have done such a thing, but Banshee retorted that this wasn't their Penance but another being altogether and that, as far as they knew, this Penance was their enemy.
In their search for Penance, Emma Frost told the others that she could not locate Penance psionically, indicating that this Penance's mind was as immune to psi-scans as the previous incarnations of Penance. Synch added that while he could normally use his synchronistic aura as a beacon to "sense" nearby mutants, that he couldn't locate Penance as well, indicating that she was either out of range or immune to his aura. Given that Penance was trailing behind the group in the forest, watching their every move under the cover of bushes, it seemed unlikely that she was out of range.
Generation X soon encountered the beast that had mauled the student, a sasquatch that had done it because it was frightened and disoriented. It proceeded to attack Generation X. During the woodland fray, Penance leapt out of her hiding place, ferociously attacking the sasquatch. After she'd subdued the creature, which had escaped from a trailer truck owned by the military, Generation X called Alpha Flight to take the poor sasquatch home. After a brief discussion about how their member, and Banshee's friend, Sasquatch differed from a real sasquatch, Alpha Flight was on its way back to Canada
Meanwhile, concerning Penance, Emma Frost tried to telepathically probe her again, but once again failed. Unable to determine Penance's intentions, they debated what to do with her. Could they let her go, into the mutant-hating world, all alone? They ran a school, after all, not a prison, so if she didn't want to be with them, they couldn't very well hold her against her will. Could they?
Luckily, Penance had observed the discussion and had an answer for them. She scratched "HOME" on a nearby tree, indicating a knowledge of written English and that she had decided to stay with Generation X. The members of Generation X happily accepted this new Penance into their home. All except Monet, that is, who had remained oblivious to this whole sasquatch adventure because her father was visiting that same day and told her that he was finally going to listen to her wishes and withdraw her from the Academy. Perhaps it was for the best, since Monet only referred to Penance as "that horrible Penance body" that she and later, her sisters, had been trapped within.
Despite a new feeling of hope for a life with Generation X, Penance was not to stay with them for much longer. The machinations of Adrienne Frost had led to human students populating the once mutant-only campus, whose fears of mutantkind Adrienne preyed upon to make life harder for her sister's mutant students, and her fiendish plans would not end there. Before Penance left, however, she spent one more Christmas with the family she'd grown to love.
A couple of clues to her true identity were revealed at this time. The first clue came in the form of an elaborate ice sculpture she'd carved of a bearded, well-toned middle-aged man in a loincloth with a satchel, staff, and machete on his person. Her family, her fellow mutant students at the school, theorized it might have been a statue of someone she knew from her past, perhaps even someone she missed. Her ice sculpture also revealed a superior artistic skill.
Sometime later, under the Christmas tree, the second clue came when the other kids were all talking about their families and Penance, suddenly upset, got up and ran away. Since the others were confused at first, Jubilee proceeded to explain that they didn't know anything about her family: they could be dead, and she missed them; they could be alive, and she missed them, but they really didn't know. It was a sobering realization. With anti-mutant sentiment rising at the school, it was decided that Penance must stay out of sight more and more. Her last significant appearance in the pages of Generation X was issue #61. However, Penance appeared briefly in issues #68 and #69, which actually take place before the reinvention of the series in issue #63. In issue #63, the timeline was suddenly advanced six months and Penance was mysteriously absent without explanation.
Ultimately, it was revealed in the latter half of issue #69 that she had been sent away with Artie and Leech to live on the St. Croix estate in Monaco (erroneously called Morocco in the issue itself) with Ambassador St. Croix, the M Twins, and perhaps even Emplate himself -- under lock and key, no doubt. Alternatively, it's strongly believed, but never specifically stated, that Emplate could've escaped during a riot at the school. If true, Emplate could still be at large, waiting in the shadows, feasting on what few mutants are left after M-Day, and biding his time until he makes his next move...
Although it was long assumed that Penance lived peacefully with the St. Croix family in Monaco in Europe, Penance now resurfaced in the most unlikely of places: Los Angeles. She was discovered floating in a tube in a row of other glass tubes containing imprisoned women by Ricochet, who soon had to deal with a deadly assassin named Delilah.
Delilah, as it turns out, had set a trap for Ricochet in the lab owned by Fujikawa, a major technology conglomerate that with shady connections to Mutant Growth Hormone drug dealers. Delilah was eager to get revenge on him for abandoning her when the two of them had been partners. Turns out, it was merely a case of mistaken identity and this wasn't the Ricochet on whom she wanted revenge. Delilah refused to listen to reason.
In the battle that ensued, after Ricochet knocked Delilah out, Penance's glass tube was shattered. Penance emerged to look around, much to Ricochet's surprise and dread. She once again had a fearsome appearance to her, indicating that she'd suffered and had reason to fear the world in the time since she was last with Generation X. Who knew what lurked in her mind at that point.
It seemed to Ricochet that she was attacking him, so he struck first. After that, Julie Power appeared out of the blue and, having a trusting nature, reached out to the pink-skinned young woman once known as Penance.
What reached back, however, were ten little machetes where normal people had fingers. In a fit of anger, hatred, and/or jealousy, Penance fiercely sliced into the beautiful, blond Juile's body with ease. As Ricochet rushed Julie to the hospital, Penance looked on with sadness and regret.
Later on, she mysteriously reappeared outside the hospital in front of all the members of the support group for former superheroes. One of the members, Mattie Franklin, suggested that this pink-skinned young woman that attacked Julie must have some sort of tracking ability, possibly that she followed the smell of blood.
Mattie and Darkhawk prepared to battle the pink-skinned young woman as Phil Urich urged caution, but it appeared that Penance had come in peace. She walked up to Phil and, after staring at him seriously for a moment, showed her affection in the best way she knew how: she kissed him on the lips, pointed to him, and weakly uttered one word: "Like."
A moment of silence passed, as no one really knew what to make of this, then Penance hissed a second before Turbo shouted out a warning. Penance and the others turned around to look, with Penance lowering her body into an attack position, ready to defend Phil from their would-be attackers.
A well-dressed Japanese businesswoman then appeared seemingly out of thin air as she, Delilah, and the soldiers with them deactivated their cloaking devices to reveal themselves. The Japanese businesswoman called the pink-skinned young woman "Hollow" as well as "little one" as she explained a bit about their shared past.
All that was clear from this small monologue was that the Japanese businesswoman was not very happy with the loss of profit Hollow had caused her and that she'd always known "Hollow" would be more trouble than she's worth.
The Japanese businesswoman planned to cut losses by taking Hollow back. When she reached out toward Hollow, Phil smacked her hand away and told her to keep her hands off of her. Additionally, Mattie and Darkhawk were ready to fight. Despite all of this, it was ultimately Turbo, in a private discussion with Fuyumi Fujikawa (the Japanese businesswoman), who secured Hollow's freedom and kept the other former superheroes from fighting the enigmatic corporate employees in a hospital parking lot.
Later that night or early that morning, depending on one's point of view, Hollow went home with Phil, the closest thing to another misunderstood monster that the self-help group had. Although he had a long couch, Hollow opted to sleep on the floor. Phil walked over to her still form and put his black trenchcoat over Hollow as a blanket and then turned around to leave. As he was leaving, he turned the light off. Hollow wasn't asleep, or had awoken, and noticed Phil's kindness, but did not move from her spot on the floor.
A few weeks later, Hollow was still living with Phil, following him around practically everywhere he went. Ricochet had a conversation with Julie about the "freak" in which he expressed his concerns about how creepy Hollow is, but Julie retorted with her belief that Hollow was just scared when she lashed out and impaled her.
Phil watched her sleep while doing some dishes in the kitchen area. He had questions, which had so far gone unanswered since Hollow hadn't said anything beyond that one word, "like," when they first met.
While Hollow slept on the floor by the couch, wrapped in a gray blanket, Phil imagined the kiss between himself and Hollow to be more romantic than it had been. A moment later, in the reflective surface of a plate he held, he saw the terrible visage of the Green Goblin sneering at Hollow, who was ready to kiss him.
Was it merely Phil's imagination at work or something more sinister? Phil cried out defiantly upon seeing the spectre of the Green Goblin, pushing all the dishes and silverware off the counter top and onto the floor. The commotion awoke Hollow, who quickly arose, shredding her blanket to pieces in the process.
Shattered dishes surrounding him, Hollow saw Phil sitting on the floor, holding his head. Seeing how distraught he was, she walked up to him and attempted to comfort him as best she could.
Later that night, Phil returned to his apartment from a group meeting, visibly distraught. Worried, Hollow watched from the hallway as Phil talked to himself in his bathroom, trying to convince himself to hold on and to not lose his mind. Ultimately, it was a battle he lost, and as he laughed madly to himself, shattering the mirror before him, Hollow retreated. Huddled in a corner, she listened fearfully to the man she once trusted lose his mind, unsure of what to do.
The next day, Hollow followed an unhinged Phil to the apartment of Mickey Musashi (Turbo), where she watched with alarm as he launched a surprise attack on Chris Powell (Darkhawk) and steal his amulet, transforming himself into a Darkhawk. Although initially conflicted, her sense of right and wrong eventually got the best of her, as she attempted unsuccessfully to take Phil down before he hurt anyone else.
Chris fought Phil off, chasing him out, just in time for Julie Power and Namie, one of the other women in glass tubes at the facility where Hollow was being held, to arrive. Hollow recognized Namie instantly, smiling and rushing to give her a careful hug; Namie, for her part, seemed surprised to see Hollow there, but was quick to apologize for any injuries Hollow may've caused, more than familiar with Hollow's sometimes rash, fearful behavior. Turbo clarified that Hollow was actually trying to protect her from Phil; after all necessary explanations were handed out, the team went after Phil and Chris, Hollow in tow.
The group defeated Phil, with Namie knocking the Darkhawk amulet off of Phil and forcing him to revert back to normal. Horrified at losing his power, Phil called to Hollow to help him, telling her he needed the amulet back. She stepped in front of him, slicing a shallow wound into his chest and uttering the word "Stop." The time for hurting people was over, she wouldn't let him cause any more pain. Darkhawk told her to back off, picking Phil up by his throat, as the others looked on in surprise. But before he could punch Phil, Turbo stopped him, because she thought she should be the one to deal with Phil, delivering him a punch with the full force of her Turbo armor, temporarily knocking him out.
It wasn't long until Phil was back on his feet, however, to tell the others that he, too, had made a deal with Ms. Fujikawa, although the details of this deal were never revealed. Phil seemed much more eager to reveal Turbo's deal with Ms. Fujikawa. Apparently, Turbo's deal with Ms. Fujikawa was such that they could keep Hollow at some price to themselves. Before Phil could reveal that price, an angry Turbo smacked Phil again, this time the assault on her friend proving too much for Hollow to stand by and take. Hissing, she moved to defend Phil, much to Turbo's amazement.
Phil theorized that maybe she did it because her memories were finally coming back, indicating that she, like Namie, has suffered some memory loss as a result of her imprisonment and possible experimentation by Fujikawa Industries. Phil said that, as part of his deal with Ms. Fujikawa, they could keep Namie, instead of Hollow, so that Turbo's deal with Ms. Fujikawa would still stand, while Hollow would go back into good hands where she'd be well taken care of, with Phil. Trusting Phil, Hollow leapt high into the air with him carefully positioned in his arms, to take him away from those who wanted to harm him.
Hollow recently resurfaced with Loners' teammates Turbo, Ricochet, and Lightspeed at the Avengers Academy in Los Angeles, participating in a game of tug-o-war with other Loners on her side and, later that day, in a curious crowd watching a murder scene from a distance. How she left Phil Urich, who became the villainous Hobgoblin in New York City, and how she reunited with The Loners remains to be seen.
Some time later, Hollow teamed with Ricochet and Whiz Kid to defend the teenage mutants being held against their will at the Academy by the Avengers. The Academy's Sentinel appeared, but before a fight could break out, X-23 defused the situation... only to have Sebastian Shaw show up. Things quickly escalated over a misunderstanding, but after a fake battle done for the benefit of the security cameras, the teenage mutants were allowed to leave. Hollow was last seen looking on as X-23 decided to stay at the Avengers Academy rather than follow her fellow mutants.
Powers and Abilities
Skin: Diamond-hard, sharp red
The color scheme (purple-pink skin and pink eyes) that Hollow had prior to The Loners #4, when she was back to her classic red hair/blue eyes combination, has been explained by C.B. Cebulski as such: "It actually had do to her captivity in the Fujikawa lab. The liquid they preserved poor Hollow in the tube altered her skin color and once she was freed, her skin slowly gained back its natural color." Hollow's bandages may have been discolored by the fluid as well, turning from black to gray.
*Weight Note: She is said to have a density approaching that of a white dwarf star. A being with such an incredible density would have to weigh thousands of tons, normally. Magic or other means likely displaces most of her weight.
Although her eye color has traditionally been blue, it has been seen to be white, red, and yellow at varying times as well. This is probably just the result of inconsistent artwork. Similarly, her skin is shown to be any shade of red or pink; once, her hair was even shown as black.
Marital Status: Single
Powers and Weaknesses
There's Penance and then there's Hollow. "Penance" refers to the three incarnations seen of the character in the 1994-2001 comic called Generation X while "Hollow" refers to the current incarnation of the character in The Loners, which may or may not be the same being who was last seen in the pages of Generation X. Hollow's powers appear to differ from Penance's, but much remains uncertain for now.
As Penance in Generation X
Although the full extent of Penance's powers and weaknesses have yet to be defined, this is what appears to be true.
First, what's been said in the comics themselves. Penance is one of the most physically powerful beings on the planet. The scientist Moira MacTaggert has analyzed Penance and come up with the following explanation for Penance's powers: Penance has contracted her skin around herself so tightly that it approaches the point of muscle atrophy, as if she's withdrawing inside of herself, away from the pain she's experienced in the world. Later on, in an answer to a letter on the letters page of Generation X #18, it was said that Penance's body has actually become petrified, not atrophied, and that her "mutant power" is likely simply having been born with her freakish appearance. It's unknown whether this is still canon, since the creative team behind Penance has changed hands quite a few times since then.
Because her skin and muscles were wrapped so tightly around herself, her stature was more animal-like than that of a normal human being. Also as a result of her tightly-wound body, she had on several occasions been seen to spring gracefully and swiftly into battle like an animal, claws beared. She could also burrow underground, slicing through the dirt and sprinting around down there with no problem.
Her agility had further been demonstrated in the initial fight against Husk when, at one point, she reached her feet up and stabbed Husk in the back with her toes as Husk was holding Penance down in the mud, instead turning the tables on Husk and pulling her down into the mud using her feet, in Generation X #3.
Though it hasn't been said in the comics, it's been speculated that the Penance body absorbs the negativity (negative emotions, that is) in her immediate environment to achieve its hardened state and ability to blend into shadows. This speculation is strongly supported by an answer to a letter in Generation X #30. After all, her body was at least as hard as diamond after she'd been tortured by Marius St. Croix for years. Contrastingly, her body softened to the point where scratches appeared on her face after she'd been in the supportive environment of her surrogate family Generation X, as seen in Generation X #20.
In addition, her appearance became more human-like and less fearsome as she grew more comfortable with her surrogate family throughout the Generation X comic book run: her hair tendrils shortened as did her fingers and toes to more human-like length. All of this indicates that her powers are connected to her emotions.
Regardless of the biological mechanism behind her powers, Penance's powers have been seen to remain the same no matter who is trapped in the body. Every inch of her red, diamond-hard skin is razor-sharp to the touch. So sharp that she inadvertently shred normal clothing when she wore it on her bare skin. Because her skin is of at least diamond hardness, she could probably withstand being shot at, but this hasn't been specifically shown as of yet.
Her hair, fingers, and toes are long tendrils capable of cutting through the second-hardest alloy known to humankind, namely Omnium, and her ability to cut through the first-hardest alloy, adamantium, remains untested. She also cut through an unknown, possibly alien, metal to free the alien mutant girl Gaia from her imprisonment at the Citadel of the Universal Amalgamator in Generation X #39. It should be noted that it's the sharpness of the edge and the density of her body (which approaches that of a dwarf star) that allows her to cut through Omnium, not brute physical strength.
Speed. While Penance had always moved fast, it's never been outright said that her speed exceeded that of a normal human being. Jubilee did narrate, in Generation X Annual '99, that Penance moved so fast she was practically a blur, but given Jubilee's flair for the dramatic, this may not be the best source. The most compelling evidence that Penance has above average speed is in Generation X #46, when she leapt out of a speeding jeep and ran a few feet ahead of it to clear the underbrush and trees that were in the way. This would mean she'd have to be at least matching the speed of the jeep which, given that it was carrying a woman severely in need of medical attention, was probably travelling at least 60 to 70 mph, which is about the top speed of a cheetah.
Aside from her physical powers, she also possesses an uncanny ability to avoid detection; it's unclear whether this is an active or passive defense. Although Synch could sync up with Penance like he can with usual mutants, he was unable to use his power to track her, like he'd normally been able to do with mutants. Emma Frost, one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet, couldn't locate Penance telepathically, either.
The shadowmeld power that may or may not exist within her would also make her harder to see; this has been speculated to be one of her powers since, especially early on, she was always seen hiding in shadows and, sometimes, not quite visible because parts of her were shadowy; this of course might have been merely an artistic touch by the penciler, but we don't know for sure.
Finally, there is a very strong psionic shield around Penance's mind. Although Chamber could speak to her psionically, Emma Frost was unable to delve into Penance's mind until she took Penance by surprise and subsequently stunned her psionically.
Strangely enough, Leech's power cancellation ability has never been mentioned as working on Penance, despite the fact that they've spent much time together during their tenure at the Massachusetts Academy. And if Leech's power cancellation ability could work on Penance, one would think Emma Frost would have taken advantage of this fact to pry into Penance's memories and discover who she is (the last time Emma Frost tried was before Artie and Leech arrived at the school).
As for her weaknesses, her biggest and most obvious one is that her appearance -- combined with the fact that she'll shred through any clothes she tries to put on -- separates her from society completely. Being mute also separates her from other people and sign language would be rather difficult to do with those long tendrils she has for fingers.
And the strong telepathic shielding around her mind keeps out even the people with which she'd probably want to connect.
She may also possess some sort of weakness towards water. She couldn't stay in the swimming pool for long in Generation X Annual '95 before she went into a seizure that caused her to go into a comatose state. Alternatively, the seizure or "waking nightmare" as it's called, may be an aftereffect of the years of torture inflicted upon her by Emplate. In any case, she required hospitalization for a time as a result of her episode.
Penance is vulnerable to mental domination. This is seen when Emplate controls her, as he can control anyone he's fed upon. Emplate claims that his will is indomitable, but Penance managed to break through his mental control and attack him. Later on, Emma Frost is able to telepathically dominate Penance into doing what she wants her to do.
As Hollow in The Loners
Hollow's powers appear to differ from the years' earlier version of the character from Generation X that had been dubbed "Penance" by the mysterious mutant known as Gateway.
There are of course some similarities, foremost among them the fact that she's kept her fearsome appearance. It certainly seems like her long claws are just as formidable, capable of clean, almost surgical strikes.
The differences are astounding, however. Her skin isn't razor-sharp anymore, as she's able to kiss Phil Urich without cutting his skin, and the once-mute mutant can now speak, albeit one weakly uttered word followed by some hissing that indicates she's a feral mutant. Still, even sounds are a great step towards normalcy for the mutant formerly known as Penance. After all, she was stated several times in the later part of Generation X's run to be mute, even by Monet, speaking of her time in the Penance body, in Generation X Annual '99 and Emplate in Penance's origin in Generation X #40.
Could it be that Hollow possesses a greater degree of control over her powers, allowing her to speak and removing the razor-sharp edge from her skin? Or is this Hollow somehow an imitation of the real Penance?
Something else that may be a difference between Penance and Hollow is Hollow's tracking ability. Penance's ability to track was mentioned only once, in the first story arc of which Penance was a part, all the way back in Generation X #2. Banshee and Husk were following Penance's tracks in the mud. Upon realizing that Penance knew they were on to her and, thus, burrowed underground to launch a surprise attack on them, Banshee said that they weren't tracking her so much as she was tracking them. Hollow's ability to track allowed her to follow Ricochet to the exact same hospital where he'd taken the injured Julie Power. It was suggested at that time by Mattie Franklin that Hollow could track the smell of blood, but this remains unconfirmed.
The fact that she hissed, as well as her mostly animal-like movements, indicate that she's "feral," while the fact that she reacted to the oncoming danger before anyone else, before she could see it, indicates that she may have some sort of danger sense. More likely, however, Hollow has a heightened sense of hearing to go along with her (presumed for the time being) heightened sense of smell. Fuyumi Fujikawa mentioned for certain that Hollow's senses were "as keen as ever" in The Loners #3.
As of The Loners #6, it also appears that she has some sort of super-leaping ability, perhaps a part of her heightened agility/animal-like qualities, since she was able to leap high above the street lamp and away from the others quickly enough that they didn't bother following her; she's leapt plenty of times throughout her comic book history, so this may've always been a power of hers, just never put on display quite so obviously.
The Malformed West: Generation Hex (one-shot special)
In The End: X-men: The End: Book 2: Heroes & Martyrs #6
Days Of Future Now: Weapon X: Days of Future Now #4
Reign of Stormphoenix: What If? vol. 2 #79
Days of Present Future: The Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #525
MU vs. Avengers: Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers #2 and #4
The Malformed West
Hailing from The Malformed West circa 1870, Retribution was a malform, which was the precursor to the metamutants that existed in the Modern Age. She had the distinction of being a part of the first group of metamutagenic gunslingers, who went by the name Generation Hex. The Malformed West was part of Amalgam, located on Earth-9602 a.k.a. Earth-AMALGAM.
Retribution was a Blackfoot Indian said to have razor sharp skin and a tempermant to match. In fact, even her Generation Hex teammates, who were no slouchs in the power department, would rather have left this loner to her business. Accordingly, no one had the guts to ask her why she rode with them at all.
Generation Hex was originally formed by Jono Hex (a version of Chamber), which robbed many people, faced many malform villains in battle, and caused a bunch of trouble before Nightgate (a version of Gateway) teleported Retribution to the Generation Hex camp. Jono Hex accepted her as part of the band and the rest, as they say, is history. Ride on, fly high!
In The End...
Penance appeared briefly in the universe of X-Men: The End. This Penance was a form in which M had spent much of her life, though it's unclear why or how, since X-Men: The End takes place in an alternate timeline's future. It is described as Monet's prison, both mute and aphasiac (unable to use words or comprehend them, usually the result of brain damage). This Penance, like the one in the regular Marvel universe, has a molecular structure so dense that it can cut through stone.
In a fray with Shakti, a sorceress whose magic is based on tantric sorcery, Monet was turned into Penance, which appeared to traumatize her so badly that all she did was huddle up in a ball. This spikey ball was telekinetically hurled at Shakti by Marvel Girl, fatally impaling her.
Monet continued to appear, with no one touching upon the subject of Penance, leading one to assume that once Shakti had died, her magical spell was reversed and Monet was restored to normalcy.
Days Of Future Now
On Earth-5700, which is an alternate future Earth twenty-four years into the future, Penance is seen as a member of Gene Nation, along with Leech, Blackwing, Frenzy, and Sunspot. Marrow was also a member of the group, but she was killed by Maverick and thereafter became a martyr to Gene Nation's terrorist cause.
Since Marrow's death, all members of Gene Nation, including Penance, wear matching necklaces in honor of Marrow. Gene Nation is seen when Magneto assembles super-powered teams, among them the Avengers and the X-Men, and asks them all to put aside their differences and band together in the face of a common threat: the Sentinels.
As a member of Gene Nation, Penance has fought the X-Men. Prior to appearing to listen to what Magneto has to say, just a hand grenade toss away from the X-Men according to Wolverine, she last fought them in Edmonton.
Reign of Stormphoenix
In this alternate reality, when Jean Grey is knocked unconscious, it's up to Storm to safely land the rocket that the X-Men are in using her weather powers. Unfortunately, it doesn't work and all die except for Wolverine and Storm, who decides to rule over the world as a benevolent dictator under the new name Stormphoenix. Slowly, however, Stormphoenix turns cruel and cold, tightening her grip on the world.
After the real Storm is discovered in a comatose state and Kitty Pryde takes control over her body to confront Stormphoenix as a fraud, several mutant children are inexplicably drawn from the side of their their "Goddess" (Stormphoenix) to the real Storm. Penance, bearing the phoenix emblem on her uniform, is among these children, which also include Chamber, Skin, and Synch.
Penance is placed in a force field bubble by the Invisible Woman to prevent her from possibly aiding her Goddess before the Phoenix, confronted by the real Storm (being controlled by Kitty Pryde) and various heroes including the Fantastic Four, decides to leave Earth.
Days Of Present Future
On Earth-TRN350, Penance is seen among the many mutants featured on the wall of the slain when Cyclops sends X-Force into the future to stop Bastion from ever sending Sentinels to Utopia. The exact time and place of her death is unknown, but it seems unlikely that she died on Utopia as she was living with The Loners at the time, either with Phil Urich or Turbo's group, depending on exactly when.
MU vs. Avengers
Earth-11080 Hollow, much like her Earth-616 counterpart, is a member of Avengers Academy, and thus pulled into this Avengers-centric conflict. A plague is spreading, a plague of cannibalism sweeping through the population at an alarming rate, affecting the super-powered and civilian alike. After failed attempts to synthesize a cure and contain the spread of the disease, Earth's front line of defense against this plague, the Avengers, assemble whoever is left among their ranks at Ground Zero, the place where this plague began.
Hollow is seen there with her fellow Avengers Academy students, among them X-23, Hazmat, and Mettle, as Doom exits an aircraft, claiming to have a cure for the plague. The Avengers Academy students, including Hollow, bear witness to the resulting fight that quickly breaks out between Doom and the Avengers when a hot-tempered Thor attacks him. Although Doom repeatedly promises he's just here to deliver a cure, in exchange for being made Emperor of Earth, the Avengers repeatedly attack him until Hollow and others see a giant army, led by a plague-crazed Hercules, rise from the underground.
A huge battle royale between the Avengers, Doom, and the cannibal army ensues, in which Avengers Academy students are attacked. Ultimately, the Avengers submit to Doom's rule, so the Avengers Academy students help the Avengers contain the spread of the DNA-rewriting plague using Doom's Doomstones.
Hollow is last seen with other Avengers Academy students helping Iron Man and Red Hulk put up the final barrier to secure the five boroughs of New York City. Unbeknownst to them, the Doomstones they wear around their necks give Doom direct control of their cannibalistic rage level and, upon been discovered by Hawkeye, Doom turns them from green status to red status, sending each of them into a primal rage. The first to turn is Red Hulk, who surprises Iron Man, followed by the students turning into cannibals and then turning against each other.
Although it is not clear if or how Hollow is killed, she is seen lying on the ground with a red Doomstone around her neck, apparently killed in the brawl that results among Red Hulk, the students, and Iron Man. Her death, as well as the deaths of all the Avengers Academy students, seems likely, as The Punisher later states that there are no more Avengers.
Hollow: Mutant or Magic?
First and foremost, evidence for Hollow (called Penance because it was written before the name Hollow was used) being a mutant came from the 2006 All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. In the official entry, Emplate, said to be a vampiric sorcerer who fed on mutant energy, claimed to have fed from Penance for years prior to Monet being merged into Penance. Unfortunately, perhaps due to page space constraints, this was left out of the 2008 edition. All the same, throughout the 2008 edition, the wording is very careful to never specifically state that Penance is not a mutant nor isn't a real person of her own.
The strongest evidence there is that Penance is a real person with a real past comes from Generation X #60, after the twins were removed from Penance and there really wasn't any way for anyone else to be trapped in there, Penance carves an elaborate ice sculpture of a staff-bearing man, speculated to be someone important to her.
There is a theory that Emplate fed off of Monet's mutant energy from within the Penance form, but this is called into question when one considers that it's Hollow's mutant characteristics, not Monet's, that Emplate later developed.
Within the pages of Generation X itself, there's an important affirmation that Hollow is a mutant. Besides the numerous times she's called a mutant in the narrative text boxes, it is actually shown in Generation X #3 that Synch was able to synch up with Hollow's diamond-hard skin to create a force field of equal durability for himself and Jubilee in order to protect them from Hollow's attack.
Secondly, it's unlikely that a corporation like Fujikawa, that has shady connections to Mutant Growth Hormone dealers, would be interested in Hollow if she wasn't a mutant, which is in itself a strong case that Hollow is a mutant and not, as it's been suggested in the Marvel Encyclopedia: X-Men from 2003, a magical "spirit form" that acts as a mental and physical prison for other sentient beings.
Still, the presence of this explanation in the official Marvel Encyclopedia dedicated to X-Men as well as the implication of it in her origin story revealed in Generation X #40, merits some mention. Considering the official entry in the All-New Official Handbook was done directly by Marvel and not through consultants like the "official" Marvel Encyclopedia: X-Men, and the fact that the handbook is from 2006 while the encyclopedia is from 2003, means that the handbook trumps the encyclopedia in terms of authority.
There is another problem with the source that claims Hollow is magic, as well. That encyclopedia suggests that Marius St. Croix a.k.a. Emplate may be the being now imprisoned in the magical prison. This is utterly proposterous, as Marius appears some time after the previous beings inside Hollow have been freed in the Generation X series, clearly in his own body. In a later (2006) Marvel Comics Encyclopedia, one admittedly dedicated to the larger Marvel universe rather than the X-Men specifically, Hollow is said to be a mutant.
Regardless, in The Uncanny X-Men #379, which took place after all of the previous occupants of the Penance body were removed, Hollow was shown in one panel among other mutants being affected by a power-neutralizing satillete high above the Earth. In this storyline, all the mutants lose their powers and may have or may not have taken on human appearances, depending on the individual and other unspecified factors. In her one-panel cameo appearance, she had black hair, but it's likely that this was a coloring mistake rather than an indication of who she is underneath her razor-sharp red skin. Still, since none of this was ever mentioned in the pages of Generation X or The Uncanny X-Men, we may never know for sure what happened to Hollow during that period of power neutralization.
With only one body but four separate beings, things can get a little confusing. That's why these lists of apppearances are seperated by incarnation of Penance/Hollow and placed in chronological order.
The first Penance was retroactively revealed to be Monet St. Croix (M) trapped in the Penance body.
Generation X #40 as a flashback
Generation X #1, later reprinted in Origin of Generation X and Generation X Classic Vol. 1; shown as a flashback in X-Men: Legacy Annual #1
Generation X #2 through #9, later reprinted in Generation X Classic Vol. 1 (#2 through #4) and Generation X Classic Vol. 2 (#5 through #9)
Generation X Annual '95, later reprinted in Generation X Classic Vol. 2
Generation X #10 and #11, later reprinted in Generation X Classic Vol. 2
Generation X Preview (San Diego Comic Convention), later reprinted in X-Men Rarities and Generation X Classic Vol. 2
Generation X #12 through #14, #16, #18, #20, and #21
Generation X Annual '97
Generation X #25 through #40
X-Factor #203 (as an apparition in Monet's mind)
The second Penance was created when Nicole and Claudette St. Croix (M Twins) gestalted into their fake Monet form and then switched places with the real Monet, voluntarily taking on the mute, razor-sharp prison for themselves so that their sister could be free.
Generation X #40 and #41
X-Men Unlimited #20
Generation X #43, #45 through #47, #49, #51, #53, and #57
The third (and current) Penance was renamed "Hollow" because some writers wanted to use the name Penance for Robbie Baldwin due to the fact that the superhero work he does now is "penance" for his part in the Stamford incident that led to the Civil War. The third Penance was created in an explosion that managed to free Nicole and Claudette from the Penance body.
Generation X #57 and #58
Generation X Annual '99
Generation X #60 and #61
The Uncanny X-Men #379, later reprinted in X-Men Universe #8
Generation X #68 and #69, later reprinted in Counter X #2
The Loners #2 through #6, later reprinted in The Loners: The Secret Lives of Super Heroes; shown as a flashback in Spider-Island: Deadly Foes #1
Avengers Academy #21, #30, and #31
Generation X Ashcan Edition #1
Generation X Collectors' Preview #1
X-Men Ashcan #1
Marvel Swimsuit Special #4 (1995 Edition)
Generation X Underground #1
Generation X #-1 (mentioned, though not graphically represented)
X-Men #-1 (appears in one panel next to Stan Lee; part of the same "Flashback" event as Generation X #-1)
Origins Of Marvel Comics: X-Men #1
Marvel Vision #7
Cerebro's Guide to the X-Men #1
Xavier Institute Alumni Yearbook #1
All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #8
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Premiere Hardcover #4 and #5
Cover Only Appearances
Generation X #1/2 (in the photo strip reel)
What If? vol. 2 #85 (hiding near the upper right corner of the O in "Magneto")
X-Men Annual '96 (on the back cover)
New Warriors, The #1 (lower right)
All-New X-Men #6 (on the bottom)