Wednesday, August 6, 2014
X-amining Uncanny X-Men #242
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.