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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #240

"Strike the Match: Inferno Part the First"
January 1989

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men locate and attack the Marauders.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At the Rainbow Room in New York, Alex and Madelyne spend a romantic evening together, even while the city continues acting strangely. As the evening ends, they return to Australia, after which Madelyne immediately leaves for Bard College. Now in her Goblin Queen attire, she visits Jean Grey's grave, admonishing the woman for returning to life and ruining Madelyne's life, then transforms Jean's parents into demons. Just then N'astirh arrives, promising her a lead in the search for her son. Back in Australia, Dazzler and Rogue fight over Rogue spending time with Longshot, while Alex informs Wolverine and Storm that the computer system has finally located the Marauders, moving into the Morlock Alley.


Meanwhile, Madelyne and N'astirh arrive at Mr. Sinister's base beneath the Nebraska orphanage, and Madelyne sees visions of both her son and herself in one of the empty pods that fill the complex. In the Alley, the Marauders are suddenly attacked by the X-Men. Surprised to see their old foes alive, the Marauders are overwhelmed by the savagery of the X-Men. Polaris takes control of Colossus' metal form and uses him as a battering ram to the surface, allowing the Marauders room to escape, but when both teams emerge, they're shocked at the condition of the city. Back in Nebraska, Madelyne demands that N'astirh tell her what the place is and why he brought her there. Just then, Mr. Sinister appears, and N'astirh says he can answer her questions better. Introducing himself to Madelyne, Mr. Sinister tells her she may call him father.

Firsts and Other Notables
The Marauders return this issue, and are seen moving into the abandoned Morlock tunnels. Several of their deceased members, including Blockbuster, Riptide and Prism (all of whom were killed in the course of "Mutant Massacre") are alive and well, and dialogue hints at the idea that the Marauders are clones who are merely replaced when one of them dies.


N'astirh brings Madelyne to the secret room beneath Mr. Sinister's orphanage, and she recognizes the equipment there, recalling its similarity to the equipment in Genosha, setting up next issue's revelation that she was a clone created by Mr. Sinister.


As the issue ends, Madelyne and Mr. Sinister come face-to-face for the first time.


This issue is the first appearance of M-Squad, a Ghostbusters-inspired group of scientists. This issue, they are investigating the strange disturbances at the Empire State Building and are seemingly killed by the RCA building, but they'll emerge in a later issue, having started to hunt mutants. They're largely a footnote in the Marvel Universe, mostly remembered as being the villains in Jubilee's upcoming first appearance.


Madelyne transforms Jean Grey's parents into demons this issue; they will remain as such and enslaved to Madelyne, for the duration of "Inferno".


The cover of this issue and the next two all share a similar layout. 

The Chronology Corner
N'astirh appears here between pages of X-Terminators #3. 

A Work in Progress
The Empire State Building continues to grow and act strange, while during her date with Havok, Madelyne's dress changes from panel to panel.


Havok wonders how Gateway knows when the X-Men want to be teleported home, and muses that it must be some function of his power.  


As Rogue and Dazzler fight over him, Longshot realizes they acting as though he's some kind of slave.


Havok notes he's become almost as good with the Reavers' computers as Madelyne, and the X-Men locate the Marauders when a computer program he and Madelyne created and as been running in the background finally finds them.


When N'astirh takes Madelyne to the secret facility beneath the orphanage in Nebraska, her son is notably not there, as we saw him carried off by demons in X-Factor #35.

As the X-Men attack the Marauders, Havok continues to grapple with the morality of killing his foes, and is unable to attack the Malice-possessed Polaris. 


I Love the 80s
Rogue is wearing...some kind of outfit as she roller skates with Longshot. It's said to be Dazzler's, so there's apparently a lot of blame to go around for that particular fashion abomination. 


Claremontisms
Someone on both the X-Men and the Marauders uses the phrase "a body" to refer to themselves.

Psylocke refers to Polaris using the "totality of her strength".


Artistic Achievements
The sexualization element continues, as Colossus is shown painting Psylocke in the near-nude. 


Young Love
Madelyne visits Jean Grey's "grave", and recalls her wedding to Scott. She's not wrong to call him a liar and get mad at him, either. 


Longshot is angry at how possessive Dazzler is of him, and rightly notes that she doesn't control who he spends time with.


For Sale
This issue features an ad for some kind of proto-Game Boy portable Nintendo. 


There's also an ad for the upcoming "Marvel Action Universe" block of cartoons, featuring Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Dino Riders, and, of all things, a Robocop cartoon. This lineup was my Saturday morning jam - I vividly remember this block of shows, it was during this grouping that I was first introduced to the X-Men via "Pryde of the X-Men", and my dinosaur-loving self ate up Dino Riders. I even got into Robocop, which made for an funny conversation when I asked my parents to see the movie. 


Finally, the back of the comic features a Mad-style fold-in ad for Yummy Mummy, the newest monster-themed breakfast cereal. It was, I believe, fairly short-lived (I never saw it back in the day), but was recently revived as part of a Target Halloween promotion and was actually pretty good. No Boo Berry, but pretty good.


It's in the Mail
In this issue's letter column, a letter writer offers up an explanation for how Wolverine's Brood egg could transform his body despite his skeleton in isue #234 (basically, it was a super egg created by the Queen designed to work around his skeleton, but was still ultimately defeated by his healing factor). 

Teebore's Take
 A good half of this issue deals with more "Inferno" setup, as Madelyne continues her seduction of Havok, then the her hunt for her son and ends up face to face with Mr. Sinister, but while the story is subtitled "Part the First", this issue always stands out in my memory less for the "Inferno" elements than for the X-Men/Marauders rematch (it will also continue into next issue, but by then, the "Inferno" elements feel more "center stage"). Surprisingly, given how large a shadow they've cast over the title for the last two years, this is only the third full appearance by the Marauders, and the beginning of Claremont's final story featuring them.

After being soundly defeated by them in their first encounter and then fighting to a draw in their second, there's no denying the visceral thrill in seeing the X-Men beat the Marauders at their own game: savagely attacking them while the Marauders, unsuspecting, are in the Morlock Tunnels, the setting of their own unsuspecting and savage attack. That said savagery on the part of the X-Men passes mostly without commented from anyone besides Havok (who, since the Brood arc, has functioned as the X-Men's conscience) is likely intentional commentary on Claremont's part: these are the darker, edgier X-Men, but in order to defeat the Marauders, they've had to become them.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants battle S'ym in New Mutants #71, and Friday, X-Factor hunts for Christopher in X-Factor #36. Next week, we look at the first batch of "Inferno" tie-in issues.

18 comments:

  1. "They're largely a footnote in the Marvel Universe, mostly remembered as being the villains in Jubilee's upcoming first appearance."

    They're also named after four writers of the Wild Cards series:

    George R.R. Martin
    Melinda Snodgrass
    Vic Milan
    Lewis Shiner

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  2. I never realized how much Mister Sinister almost seems like a footnote in his own crossover at this point. I know he single-handedly almost beats both X-teams at the end, but so far the Limbo demons seem to have all agency in the story line. Even though Marauders stick around, Sym and N'astirh are the major threats through the middle chapters. I can't decide whether the disparate elements are cool or unwieldy. I guess I'll decide as I keep reading.

    Jean's parents getting wrapped up in cocoons and turned into demons still disturbs me even as an adult. That's some effective horror imagery from Claremont and Silvestri right there.

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  3. "while during her date with Havok, Madelyne's dress changes from panel to panel."

    A nice touch. Also a nice touch? The M-squad gets added to the murals in the elevator...poor bastards.

    "Havok wonders how Gateway knows when the X-Men want to be teleported home, and muses that it must be some function of his power."

    In this case, I guess he can sense they were in the mood for some after-date nookie? Or at least, potential after-date nookie...

    "As Rogue and Dazzler fight over him, Longshot realizes they acting as though he's some kind of slave."

    As much as I like Rogue, Dazzler was pretty much justified in her reaction to everything.

    Also, given what just happened to Rogue in the previous Genosha story, her actions here seem a bit strange, no?

    "The sexualization element continues, as Colossus is shown painting Psylocke in the near-nude."

    I know she was a professional model in the past, but that seems a bit much for her.

    "Madelyne visits Jean Grey's "grave", and recalls her wedding to Scott."

    But how is she able to recall Scott's speaking to Jean's tombstone? Maddie wasn't there. Comic book magic?

    "Longshot is angry at how possessive Dazzler is of him, and rightly notes that she doesn't control who he spends time with."

    Oh, Longshot, you naive mullet-topped twit. I guess nobody explained to him that monogamy doesn't mean sexy fun time will as many women as you can get?

    "After being soundly defeated by them in their first encounter and then fighting to a draw in their second, there's no denying the visceral thrill in seeing the X-Men beat the Marauders at their own game"

    As much as I enjoyed it, I did like the fact that the Marauders had a dangerous element to them prior to this, which kind of goes away after this trouncing they get. Still, it's a fun, exciting fight.

    "these are the darker, edgier X-Men, but in order to defeat the Marauders, they've had to become them."

    If you think they're darker and edgier, wait till next issue lol

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  4. Yes, Sinister has a rather small part when the actual Inferno happens.

    I suppose Madelyne's telepathic powers are picking up the strong psychic residue of sites where emotional scenes happened (Like Rachel at the Grey house in UXM#199, except for that alternate-universe scene, which must have been some primal memory of hers).

    In the last story of the Marauders, CC at last brings in Simonson's Blockbuster and Prism, and loses them at the beginning strike.

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  5. Alex is so clearly scoping Maddie's ass when he says "See anything interesting?" Conclusive proof that the Summer brothers do not entirely lack a sense of humour.

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  6. I never noticed Maddy's dress changing from panel to panel (the Goblyn Queen outfit excluded) until it was pointed to me years later in one of these blogs.

    But hey, Marc's an Imager, and so was Jim Lee, so I kind of was early and subconsciously ignoring the sort of stuff like the infamous Andrea Strucker's revolving titty window in an early issue of adjectiveless X-Men.

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  7. In the opening scene, with Alex and Madelyne dancing alone in the Rainbow Room, the narration box says that the band is playing Glenn Miller classics..so, being the huge nerd that I am, I put on some Glenn Miller in the background while I read those few pages...a more romantic setting and more magical evening couldn't possibly be imagined :P

    Do you guys think that Madelyne was ever genuinely attracted to Alex? Or was she intentionally using him from the get-go?

    I must have read this comic at least 8 times before, yet I've never noticed how similar The Goblin Queen & Mr. Sinister's apparel are to each other until this reading...go figure

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  8. @Jason: They're also named after four writers of the Wild Cards series

    I did not know that. Failed again by my unfamiliarity with Wild Cards!

    @Jeff: I never realized how much Mister Sinister almost seems like a footnote in his own crossover at this point

    Yeah, he first part is really Limbo/demons heavy, with Mr. Sinister in the background, then it becomes much more about Sinister and his machinations, and the demon stuff pretty much disappears. It's almost like two crossovers in one, with X-Factor really the one book that spends significant time on both.

    As much as I like Rogue, Dazzler was pretty much justified in her reaction to everything.

    Wearing her clothes, yeah. But it isn't like she was (or could) do anything with Longshot even if she wanted to.

    Also, given what just happened to Rogue in the previous Genosha story, her actions here seem a bit strange, no?

    Yeah, her flirting in any capacity (innocent or otherwise) does seem odd this soon after Genosha.

    But how is she able to recall Scott's speaking to Jean's tombstone? Maddie wasn't there. Comic book magic?

    Pretty much. There is a line when she's in Mr. Sinister's headquarters and sees the baby and herself that her power is allowing her to see/manifest those images, so it's probably the same thing w/Scott at Jean's grave.

    I did like the fact that the Marauders had a dangerous element to them prior to this, which kind of goes away after this trouncing they get.

    If this had been the last Marauders story (which, for Claremont, it was), it wouldn't be so egregious. But then they come back, and yeah, they've definitely lost some of their edge as a result.

    If you think they're darker and edgier, wait till next issue lol

    That, at least, gets attributed to the X-Men being influenced by the Inferno. Here, I think, we're supposed to read this as the X-Men still acting like themselves, that they don't get "infected" by Inferno's negative vibes until they reach the surface.

    @angmc43: In the last story of the Marauders, CC at last brings in Simonson's Blockbuster and Prism, and loses them at the beginning strike.

    Yeah, that did make me chuckle. Like, "I'm validating your characters. But now I'm going to eliminate them in the opening salvo."

    @SpaceSquid: Alex is so clearly scoping Maddie's ass when he says "See anything interesting?"

    Heh. Yeah. She is, of course, facilitating the view.

    @Teemu: so I kind of was early and subconsciously ignoring the sort of stuff like the infamous Andrea Strucker's revolving titty window in an early issue of adjectiveless X-Men.

    *That* one *I* totally missed for years, until it was pointed out to me on one of these blogs.

    Though that was clearly a case of Lee not paying attention to what he was drawing from panel to panel, where here, Maddy's dress changing is intentional and meant to indicate the changes on the city being wrought by Inferno.

    @Reese: so, being the huge nerd that I am, I put on some Glenn Miller in the background while I read those few pages...a more romantic setting and more magical evening couldn't possibly be imagined

    That's pretty awesome. I salute your nerdery!

    Do you guys think that Madelyne was ever genuinely attracted to Alex? Or was she intentionally using him from the get-go?

    That's a really good question.

    I guess I've always read it as Maddy being genuinely attracted to Alex - their flirtation kind of starts before her encounter with S'ym, and she did marry one Summers brother. Beside, it's not like her seduction of Alex leads to much of a tactical advantage: he kinda becomes her bodyguard, not that she really needs one, and I guess there's the additional knife twist of Cyclops and the X-Men having to fight his wife AND brother, but it isn't like he ends up playing an integral role in her plans.

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  9. Alot of Psylockes seemingly reserved nature seems to come from her first few appearances in the comic. In her older stories before she came to America, she was ladylike, but never came across as stuff and ultra conservative in modesty.
    It was just a different culture. I can see her doing this nude and being perfectly okay with it. She may have done more than runway modeling, not saying outright adult, but some artistic nudes. They never actually explicitly state the TYPE of modeling she did. Retcons later turned into runway only, but seems odd, since she was more curvy and heavier than the standard stick model.

    In my head canon she had a thing for both Colossus and Havok. Colossus seemed to be protective of her during the outback.

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  10. "Do you guys think that Madelyne was ever genuinely attracted to Alex? Or was she intentionally using him from the get-go?"
    We're clearly meant to assume it started out as genuine attraction. Remember in issue 232, Maddie thinks to herself about Alex seeing her naked and wonders why she finds that intriguing. In issue 234, in what she thinks is a dream, she makes it clear she still loves Scott and doesn't want to hurt him, so everything before that was genuine attraction. Besides, what was Maddie using Alex to do in issues 223-227- get herself killed?

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  11. Teebore: Though that was clearly a case of Lee not paying attention to what he was drawing from panel to panel, where here, Maddy's dress changing is intentional and meant to indicate the changes on the city being wrought by Inferno.

    Oh yes. The case I was presenting is what we in the Royal Navy call "an excuse".

    Intentional indeed it is, though I like more of the explanation that it's just the sort of thing Phoenix-Jean does in Proteus-saga and that, we are told, annoyed Rachel's-father Cyclops immensely when Rachel's-mother Jean used to do it back in the day... s of future past. And here's Jean Grey's genes doing it to Summers genes.

    I saw someone somewhere point out that one of Maddy's black dresses was the one Jean wore at Sentinel Christmas. Are the others too from Jean's past, have anyone spotted.

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  12. The weird thing about the sketch isn't Betsy agreeing to do it but Peter doing it. He's an artist, yes, but he's always been rather conservative, as demonstrated by his reaction to the pornography in Marvel Comics Presents 10. It's not like Peter has ever been shown to draw nudes before this.

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  13. Ah, yes. The recent discussion on Mr. Sinister's honorific still freshly on my mind, I'd like to take this moment to correct myself and point out that it actually is Andrea von Strucker. Because correct form is important when discussing on presentation of people's tits.

    It's weird to think that at the time of the M-Squad's introduction, Ghostbusters' sequel was a pretty brand-new movie.

    But the deal with the Empire State Building here. Like vulnerability to iron, is it again merely another fantasy staple of wizard's tower showing up, or is there some extra dimension there? Because these things being absent from the Kulan Gath story is kind of starting to bother me.

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  14. I know that there are only so many ways to draw a standard shot of characters bursting out in a group toward the reader, but this issue's cover strikes me as a kind of counterpart to #227's. We don't see Roma behind the heroes there as we do the villainous masterminds here, of course, and I'm not gonna get into dissecting how the X-Men are flying — even the ones who can't — while the Marauders are charging on foot. I'll just chalk it up to a serendipitous bit of (a)symmetry.

    Alex dancing with Maddie at the beginning evoked for me, intentionally or not, Scott dancing with her some five-plus years ago back in Alaska when they also had the place to themselves.

    Maddie's dress changing from panel to panel was a very neat bit, although I'm not 100% sure how we're to take Alex not noticing it, since contrary to my initial assumption the scene did not turn out to be a dream or illusion induced by Maddie.

    We learned that they were merely transformed soon enough, but in the moment it totally looked like Madelyne had flat-out killed Jean's parents and that was intense.

    Longshot's reaction to Alison's reaction seems totally understandable, given that he's not of this world or culture and she went from zero to crazy even if Rogue was being thoughtless at best if not outright goading her. Yet at the same time I give him that out, I'm frankly still waiting for Longshot to display an actual personality of some kind. Then again Havok and Dazzler haven't really clicked for me on this incarnation of the team either, despite the fact that Claremont has written them in the past; in fact, while Psylocke is substantial enough, I don't have the sense of Storm, Wolverine, and Colossus that I did as recently as John Romita Jr.'s run (and you know that wasn't my favorite period of the series). Wolverine seems more Wolverine in Wolverine even though he's not exactly Wolverine there, although that may be due in part to the spotlight and the first-person narration. The fledgling Excalbur has deeper characterizations than X-Men does now. Maybe the remove I feel is appropriate for this period, when our protagonists are disoriented and in flux themselves, but the hallmark of this series has always been how Claremont gets us in their heads.

    The letter writer you mention offering the explanation for Wolverine's system handling the Brood egg differently, by the way, is Justin Mohareb, a friend of Nikki's and sometime commenter over at her blog.

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  15. "and she went from zero to crazy even if Rogue was being thoughtless at best if not outright goading her."

    Given Rogue and Dazzler's history, I can understand Dazzler going crazy...even if they did bury the hatchet before FOTM, I can still see Dazzler going "Bitch, please" when it comes to Rogue's shenanigans.

    "I guess I've always read it as Maddy being genuinely attracted to Alex - their flirtation kind of starts before her encounter with S'ym, and she did marry one Summers brother. Beside, it's not like her seduction of Alex leads to much of a tactical advantage: he kinda becomes her bodyguard, not that she really needs one, and I guess there's the additional knife twist of Cyclops and the X-Men having to fight his wife AND brother, but it isn't like he ends up playing an integral role in her plans."

    Pretty much. Of course, given that she later has romantic inclinations towards X-man, maybe she just has a lust for anyone with Summers DNA programmed into her by Sinister? ;)

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  16. You sketch nudes in almost any figure drawing class; it's not considered remotely dirty. Colossus runs around in a pair of extremely teeny briefs more often or not. So Psylocke is being sketched while covering her breasts with a sheet. Is this really so scandalous? Considering that she'll spend most of the 90's flying through the air doing the splits while wearing only a few piece of purple dental floss, I really don't see the big deal.

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  17. @Ben: // You sketch nudes in almost any figure drawing class; it's not considered remotely dirty. //

    I can tell you that it's different, for both artist and model, when it's someone you know. Then again, Peter's options are limited. Then again again, I kind-of agree that while, no, there's nothing "scandalous" about the scene in-story, there's a certain gratuitousness to Betsy posing like this that isn't really there when Peter's in his briefs, even unarmored, because of the readership's demographics.

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  18. Blam: there's a certain gratuitousness to Betsy posing like this that isn't really there when Peter's in his briefs, even unarmored, because of the readership's demographics.

    Colossus posing for Rogue in his orange shorts in UXM 231 begs to differ. ;)

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