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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #242

"Inferno Part the Third: Burn!"
March 1989

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men and X-Factor team-up against N'astirh. 

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

Plot
In Central Park, Wolverine kisses Marvel Girl, proving to himself that she's real. This triggers a fight between the two teams, egged on by Madelyne, with X-Factor, believing the X-Men to have died in Dallas and in light of the X-Men's Inferno-influenced bloodthirstiness, thinking their old friends are demonic simulacrums, while the X-Men consider X-Factor to have sold out Xavier's dream. During the battle, Havok confronts Cyclops, telling him he abandoned his family. Just then, N'astirh appears, and sends a demonic carriage to rundown Madelyne while Marvel Girl battles her demonic parents, forcing Cyclops to choose one or the other to save. He first blasts the demons off Marvel Girl, but when he turns to blast the carriage, Havok blocks his shot, siding with Madelyne and leaping onto the carriage as it scoops her up. Arriving at the Empire State Building, Madelyne declares Havok her Goblin Prince as she prepares to sacrifice her son.


Sensing this in the baby's thoughts, Marvel Girl alerts the two teams, and they manage to put aside their differences as N'astirh, sent by Madelyne to distract the teams, attacks. After Psylocke telepathically shares Rogue and Colossus' experience battling the techno-organic Magus, Beast hatches a plan, in which Iceman makes N'astirh as cold as he can while Storm generates tremendous heat in the surrounding area, after which Cyclops, Dazzler and Colossus shatter the ensuing ice, thus quickly exposing N'astirh to the extreme heat, overloading his circuits. As N'astirh begs for mercy, Storm blasts him with a lightening bolt, destroying him. However, in the wake of his destruction, the teams note that the city remains transformed, just as Marvel Girl is caught in a psychic lasso wielded by Madelyne, who declares that it's now their turn. 

Firsts and Other Notables
After a few near misses, this issue marks the first direct encounter between the X-Men and X-Factor since the latter was formed. It is also the first time all of the original X-Men have appeared together in the pages of X-Men since issue #66 (not counting the reprints in issues #67-93, of course).

Though the threat of Madelyne and her desire to sacrifice Christopher to permanently bring Limbo to Earth remains, this issue sees the end of N'astirh, as the combined teams ultimately manage to destroy him. A key player in the build-up to and execution of "Inferno", this pretty much marks the end of a character who burned bright but fast, functioning as arguably the most important villain in the X-universe for a few months, but mattering little before or after that time. 


While Wolverine carrying a torch for Jean Grey was an established element of the "All New" era, pretty much right up to her "death", the idea that Jean herself felt an attraction to Wolverine as well is more of a retcon (for the most part, we saw her barely give Wolverine the time of day during the Cockrum & Byrne issues), something chiefly introduced by Claremont in the backup to Classic X-Men #1. This issue, then, marks the first time Claremont can reference that idea in a contemporary story, and the issue opens with an Inferno-influenced Wolverine kissing Jean to prove that she's real, something which rattles Jean.


Wolverine senses something familiar about the transformed Angel; this is the first hint towards the idea that, just as he gave Angel his new wings, Apocalypse is ultimately responsible for giving Wolverine his adamamntium skeleton, an idea which, while teased a few times, never comes to fruition.
  

Colossus returns to the series this issue, after his appearance in New Mutants #73.

Like New Mutants and X-Factor this month, this is a double-sized issue. 

The Chronology Corner
This issue picks up right where X-Factor #37 left off, and continues directly into X-Factor #38, with New Mutants #73 taking place before it.

A Work in Progress
Iceman points out he wasn't wrong about X-Men not dying all that easily.


Wolverine and Angel rekindle their rivalry, with Angel now able to go toe-to-toe with the berserker who's place on the team led Angel to quit his last stint with the X-Men.  


Rogue kisses Angel, sensing a great evil inside him which manifests as Angel with the face of Apocalypse, marking the first time Apocalypse (or, at least, his face) appears in X-Men.


Havok continues to side with Maddy this issue, even after her plan to sacrifice Christopher is made apparent, his costume transformed to resemble hers, earning him the title of Goblin Prince.


Storm notes that the transformed Empire State Building resembles the butte where Forge cast the spell to return he and Storm to Earth during "Fall of the Mutants"; aside from this offhand observation, this never really amounts to anything, and I'm not sure why Claremont included it.


Jean and Storm have a nice moment together, expressing their happiness at the continued survival of the other.


Iceman rather cleverly builds a series of slides and chutes to build Colossus' momentum and hurl him back towards N'astirh.


He also notes that icing up the Empire State Building is becoming a habit for him, a reference to X-Factor #27. 

Wolverine and Angel team-up for a fastball special.


Cyclops questions Storm's approach to dealing with N'astirh, questioning whether she and the X-Men have the right to be judge, jury and executioner.


Silvestrisms
Psylocke and Rogue high five in celebration of N'astirh's defeat. 


Scott Summers, Husband of the Year
Coming face to face with his brother for the first time since he abanonded his wife, Havok is rightly angry with Cyclops, telling him he made an oath, and he lied, in a scene I've always enjoyed even though Havok quickly becomes something of a tool in this issue.


Young Love
The demonically-influenced Longshot and Dazzler pretty much just start making out during the X-Factor/X-Men battle.


Beast goes into flirt mode during the battle with N'astirh.


Teebore's Take
After forty increasingly suspension-of-disbelief-straining issues, the X-Men finally come face to face with X-Factor. While keeping the two teams apart made sense at first (both because X-Factor was, initially, conceived and executed more or less independently from the X-office, and because it made sense to allow the new title to find its own voice before shoehorning in a crossover to the parent series), round about the time of "Mutant Massacre", the reasoning for keeping the two teams apart became more and more labored, and it became increasingly more ridiculous that nobody on either side could just pick up a phone and call their old friends.

Though the ensuing story in this issue doesn't allow for much in the way of satisfying resolution to the various misconceptions that have (mostly arbitrarily) kept the two teams apart ("we thought you were dead" and "we thought you were mutant hunting betrayers of Xavier's dream" are both paid lip service, but neither misconception is given the space to really be hashed out in this issue; some of that will occur in X-Factor #38), Claremont does, wisely, turn over the bulk of this double sized issue to the matter of the first meeting between these two teams, using the larger "Inferno" elements, like so many of the tie-in issues, as backdrop for a more important story, leaving the greater issue of Madelyne's descent into villainy and the lingering effects of the Inferno to later issues.

Instead, we get the X-Men and X-Factor first battling one another (a staple of these kinds of stories), giving Claremont a chance to both revisit and recontextualize some of the interpersonal relationships between various members of the two teams, given changing circumstances wrought by the intervening issues between their last meetings (the Angel/Wolverine dynamic in particular benefits from this), then teaming up against a greater foe, with Claremont offering up N'astirh's ultimate defeat as the victory brought about by the combination of the two teams. It's a worthy end for the true "Inferno" mastermind, a demise which manages to both add to and gain from the importance of it being the first victory for the newly-reunited mutant teams. N'astirh is hardly the most significant X-Men villain that could have faced the newly combined teams, but by tying his defeat and that reunion together, Claremont manages to both make the reunion a significant part of "Inferno", while also adding an additional level of significance to "Inferno", by making it the story where X-Factor and the X-Men, finally, reunite.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Illyana faces her final fate in New Mutants #73. Friday, Madelyne does the same in X-Factor #38. Next week, the third batch of "Inferno" tie-ins.

18 comments:

  1. Have we already determined why X-Factor aren't affected by Inferno like the X-Men are?

    While being saved from the ice cold river Havok made, Madelyne asks cyclops where he was the night she really needed him...he replies: "What are you talking about--?!!" REALLY? It's almost impossible not to hate cyclops as a character. Why couldn't he just man up, apologize for abandoning his wife and son, & admit he's a total piece of shit?!

    Shouldn't Alex have become the Goblin KING instead of prince? The Goblin Queen banging the prince seems to have skeevy implications..

    So, Storm can produce heat beams? Never knew that

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  2. "A key player in the build-up to and execution of "Inferno", this pretty much marks the end of a character who burned bright but fast"

    He's one of the few characters who hasn't ever been brought back, right?

    "the idea that Jean herself felt an attraction to Wolverine as well is more of a retcon"

    And apparently, according to X-men Forever, Jean was always really in love with Wolverine or something as well...

    "Jean and Storm have a nice moment together, expressing their happiness at the continued survival of the other."

    Yeah, even if Storm's feelings towards Jean are much stronger at this point, since Storm remembers her time with both Jean and Phoenix, while Jean here doesn't remember anything beyond crashing into Jamaica Bay...yet.

    "Silvestrisms
    Psylocke and Rogue high five in celebration of N'astirh's defeat."

    Bwahahahahahaha!

    "The demonically-influenced Longshot and Dazzler pretty much just start making out during the X-Factor/X-Men battle."

    Some people saw this as a rape scene...

    "Beast goes into flirt mode during the battle with N'astirh."

    Of course, Beast, Dazzler, and CC seem to have forgotten that Beast and Dazzler hooked up...even if her relationship with Angel was brought up this issue.

    "Have we already determined why X-Factor aren't affected by Inferno like the X-Men are?"

    You could make the argument that it's all a meta-reference to how much darker the X-men have become, while X-factor are the shiny clean Silver Age throwback.

    "Shouldn't Alex have become the Goblin KING instead of prince? The Goblin Queen banging the prince seems to have skeevy implications.."

    Considering how submissive he is to her...I think it kind of works.


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  3. Reese T: Shouldn't Alex have become the Goblin KING instead of prince? The Goblin Queen banging the prince seems to have skeevy implications..

    Queen Elizabeth II of the Great Britain has a Prince for her husband, too. In the royal circles when the Monarch is a male (=King) his spouse will be a Queen consort, but if the Monarch happens to be a woman ruling in her own right, by the grace of being the first in the succession line after the previous Monarch, she is the Queen regnant and her husband won't get to be a titular King but is likely to be given the title of a Prince of some sort.

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  4. The Alex-Maddie affair now gets into more Unfortunate Implications. Before Maddie turned evil, Alex was the strong man telling her not to kill herself. Now that Maddie turns evil, he becomes subservient to her. Plus there's the idea that if your significant other is troubled, the only alternatives are leaving her alone and waiting months before reporting her missing (Scott) or going along with whatever crazy idea she comes up with (Alex).

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  5. "Storm blasts him with a lightening bolt"

    "Lightening" means "to lighten," either by shining a light or relieving a burden. "Lightning" is a bolt of electricity from the sky. (See also: Weird Al's "Word Crimes" video. There's a nice graphic representation of the difference at the "learn your homophones" part.)

    wwk5d: "And apparently, according to X-men Forever, Jean was always really in love with Wolverine or something as well..."

    As Austin noted, Claremont set that up in the retcon-riffic Classic X-Men # 1. Considering the way Scott's acted from X-Factor 1 on, I don't blame Jean for choosing Wolverine.

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  6. Also, during this era, DC's CCA-approved books were allowed to use words like "hell" and "damn." Apparently Marvel had more stringent rules than the CCA -- their characters were saying "heck" and "bloody blue blazes" into the 90s.

    Mutants, magic, demons, anthropomorphic mailboxes... whatever. But my suspension of disbelief has a real problem with an angry Wolverine shouting "THE HECK WITH YOU!"

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  7. I think the Classic X-men retcon was that Jean had an attraction to Wolverine. X-men Forever revealed she loved him and wanted him more than she did Scott.

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  8. I loved the bit where everyone X is having a total misunderstanding fight as is good and proper in these circles but Ororo and Jean go have a chat and a hug instead.

    One of those things that you kind of want to read as meta against a possible editorial mandate mandating such a fight. Or humor aimed at genre conventions. One of those things, surely.

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  9. Jean was actually taken away from the fight by Storm...at first, she was alternating between foxy boxing Psylocke and trying to keep Rogue away with her TK powers...

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  10. I've always liked the enmity between Wolverine and Angel throughout the eighties, culminating with thier gladiatorial duel during "X-Tinction Agenda" another couple years from this point.

    Then, somehow, they became friends after Claremont left the series. I understand the reasoning, that Angel had become a darker character even while Wolverine lightened up a bit, leading to a common ground between them -- but I liked their relationship better when Angel couldn't stand the little guy.

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  11. I have to give the creative team credit for putting Alex in a "Goblin Prince" costume that's the ridiculous equivalent of Maddie's.

    // Jean and Storm have a nice moment together, expressing their happiness at the continued survival of the other. //

    While it really is a nice moment, it's the most glaring part of how haphazardly the influx of Limbo energies is affecting people. Have the X-Men turned demonish or not? Wolverine, Dazzler, and Longshot are bloodthirsty and (more) obnoxious, but Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, and Rogue, despite their costumes having morphed a bit, aren't — this issue, anyway. (Since not a one of the guest-starring original quintet seem affected, it's easier to write them out of the problem by saying they haven't been near the rift as long or just been in an aggressive, life-threatening situation like battling the Marauders or whatever.)

    // Iceman rather cleverly builds a series of slides and chutes to build Colossus' momentum and hurl him back towards N'astirh. //

    That is neat but, man, what he's able to do so intricately at such a great distance is very suspect. Although we have seen him pull off some impressive feats recently, like the referenced Empire State Building deal. How much of this is considered to be due to his Loki-upped abilities versus just, you know, whatever the story calls for because superheroes?

    // N'astirh's ultimate defeat as the victory brought about by the combination of the two teams //

    I appreciated the group effort both symbolically, as the factions of X-Men join forces, and in-story, given that a threat on the order of magnitude that N'astirh had reached would require such an effort to feel believable. All that was missing was a Z'nox-style literal merging of powers.

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  12. @Reese: // [Cyclops] replies: "What are you talking about--?!!" //

    You're right in terms of the larger issue, but I take the dialogue here as specifically referring to Scott not knowing Maddie had been attacked by, and their son abducted by, the Marauders.

    @wwk5d: // He's one of the few characters who hasn't ever been brought back, right? //

    I would have expected someone to introduce his older brother, N'astyestt.

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  13. @Blam: Wolverine, Dazzler, and Longshot are bloodthirsty and (more) obnoxious, but Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, and Rogue, despite their costumes having morphed a bit, aren't — this issue, anyway.

    Colossus' is at least explained on-panel by Claremont's love of iron vs magic. The rest of it makes no sense and it seems weird to basically have the X-Men be the villains in their own book. But then this whole crossover seems to be saying "Look how awesome X-Factor is, right guys? Right?" Of course, it gets taken to comical levels in this week's X-Factor issue.

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  14. You could argue Havok was corrupted by Maddie, and Longshot was definitely corrupted by N'astrah.

    As for some of the others...they did seem to be more bloodthirsty and amoral last issue, but their behavior looks like it was dialed down a bit this issue.

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  15. I was thinking more align the lines of Psylocke and the others being influenced more, because of the darker path they've taken.
    Claremont pretty much established that the Outback team was more about pre-emptivness, and being highly aggressive. So to ME, it fits that the X-men have succumbed more or less to the effects of the Inferno.

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  16. Could the X-Men have become corrupted just by the courtesy of being the Team Maddie in the proceedings (and close to her), as opposed to the Team Scott who is supposed to be right here and subsequently therefore have been all along somehow apparently because of course ditching the bitch in #1 was the only sensible thing to do when she's being like this?

    I know I suggest everything to have an amount of meta in it but Chris could be on some level pointing out that the X-Men getting corrupted makes as much sense as Maddie getting corrupted does, i.e. very little.

    Of course, if one wants to one might point out that Alex did do the naughty with Maddie in the Oz and gets corrupted the worst, and then look at the respective corruptness of the others and map out what else went on there in those lonely desert nights. I still don't trust Logan in a boring backwater place with nothing to do and the clone-of-Jean wife of Summers' around.

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  17. "I was thinking more align the lines of Psylocke and the others being influenced more, because of the darker path they've taken.
    Claremont pretty much established that the Outback team was more about pre-emptivness, and being highly aggressive. So to ME, it fits that the X-men have succumbed more or less to the effects of the Inferno."
    Which would be fine, except that Warren and Rachel are also extremely ruthless, but they don't seem to be corrupted as badly as the X-Men. And the various villains that appear in Inferno (Graviton, Kang, Kingpin, Arranger,Nanny) don't seem to be any more evil than usual.
    "Could the X-Men have become corrupted just by the courtesy of being the Team Maddie in the proceedings (and close to her)"
    But that raises another question- Maddie had no way of knowing where the Marauders would be on the night of the Inferno. If the Marauders had been vacationing in the Bahamas and the X-Men went there, would they still be corrupted?

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  18. I have an affinity for this crossover simply for the fact that it actually has the x-teams meet after spending WAY too long being forced away from each other. Notice this simple act resolves about 75% of the subplots of BOTH books that were allowed to fester for years? As a result the books can now stop spinning their wheels on things that should have been resolves ages ago. (and actually I've heard that even THIS point was forced upon Claremont by the change in editorial.)

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