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Friday, August 22, 2014

X-amining X-Factor #39

"Ashes to Ashes"
April 1989

In a Nutshell 
"Inferno" ends as Cyclops destroys Mr. Sinister. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Walt Simonson
Inker: Allen Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Amidst the ruins of the X-Mansion, Longshot challenges Mr. Sinister, holding an unconscious Marvel Girl, and Malice. Along with Beast, he distracts them long enough for the rest of their teammates to wake up. Psylocke and Rogue attack Sinister, but he overpowers them both as he captures Cyclops, mentally blocking his power and detailing the role he played in Cyclops' life as child. As Havok attacks Sinister, he's trapped in metal by Malice as the rest of the X-Men and X-Factor begin to formulate a plan, telepathically linked by Psylocke. Reasoning that Mr. Sinister seems vulnerable to Cyclops' optic blast, they resolve to free Marvel Girl and Havok while Havok tells them to leave Cyclops to him.


Archangel proceeds to attack Malice and knock her out while a group of X-Men rush Mr. Sinister, freeing the unconscious Marvel Girl as Storm whisks her away on a wind. Wolverine, Dazzler and Beast then free Havok, who proceeds to taunt and blast the still-captive Cyclops. Mr. Sinister throws off the X-Men's attack, at which point Longshot tosses a knife at him, drawing his attention. Mr. Sinister fires energy at him, but Marvel Girl intervenes, taking the hit instead and falling into Sinister's arms. The sight of Marvel Girl with Mr. Sinister, on top of Havok's taunting, is enough for Cyclops to finally overcome Sinister's blocks. As Beast grabs Marvel Girl, Cyclops, charged up by Havok's power, blasts Sinister, destroying him. In the wake of Mr. Sinister's defeat, the two teams go their separate ways to bring about Xavier's dream in their own ways, with X-Factor determined make the most of the new world in which they find themselves.

Firsts and Other Notables
Mr. Sinister is killed this issue, blasted apart by Cyclops. Of course, he'll return eventually, and become one of the franchise's cornerstone villains, but that won't be until after Claremont has the left the franchise. Obviously, Claremont had plans for Mr. Sinister (or, an origin, at least) that he never gets around to establishing before leaving, suggesting he may have brought the character back himself at some point, but it's still somewhat amazing that, as it stands, as far as the Claremont Era of the franchise is concerned Mr. Sinister, despite being the driving force behind both the Mutant Massacre and the ultimate origin of Madelyne Pryor (two fairly significant events in the overall narrative up to this point), only appeared in two stories (and one of those was only for a brief first appearance) and all of six issues before being killed off and left for later writers to resurrect and bring to prominence. We'll eventually reach a time where the character becomes overused, but at this point, he's arguably the villain who's had the most impact on the narrative via the fewest actual comic book appearances.


This is Walt Simonson's final issue on the series, ending a run that stretches all the way back to issue #10 (barring the occasional fill-in). I've never read anything definitive as to why he left the title, but his Fantastic Four run (which he both writes and draws) begins shortly, so presumably he left this series to do that. And, of course, drawing 29-odd issues of a series is a lengthy run, especially these days.

Unfortunately, his last issue isn't his best, as Al Milgrom remains on hand as inker and continues to suck things up. There's a panel of Colossus being manipulated by Polaris that just drives me bonkers (it's the random big thick black lines that bug me; it's like Milgrom inks with a fat tip marker).


Just as the previous issues established a bunch of recons related to Madelyne, this issue does the same for Cyclops, confirming some of the things hinted at in issue #35 and formally inserting Mr. Sinister into the character's backstory. To Simonson's credit, little of what is added here fully detracts from what we know of Cyclops' pre-X-Men past (notably his "origin" story backup from the Silver Age run, though one does have to wonder why Sinister would have let his prize come under the sway of a one-note villain like Jack O'Diamonds). First, it's established that the coma Cyclops fell into after the plane crash that separated him from his parents (and damaged his brain such that he can't control his optic blasts) was triggered by Mr. Sinister.



Then, Mr. Sinister reveals, his attention drawn by Cyclops' use of his power to save himself and his brother, that he had the boys transferred to his orphanage, where he arranged the adoption of Alex but kept Scott close by until, like with Jean Grey before him, Professor X lured Cyclops away from Mr. Sinister. 


Mr. Sinister also did his best to help Cyclops control his optic blasts, all while keeping his involvement a secret, but eventually had to resort to ruby quartz (thus retconning out the random government doctor who discovered the ruby quartz solution from the earlier story).


Finally, Mr. Sinister confirms that he created Madelyne to help lure Cyclops away from the X-Men and to create a child with him, whom Sinister knew would be more powerful than either parent.


It will be some time (and several later writers) before it's revealed exactly why Mr. Sinister is so keen on creating and controlling the offspring of Cyclops and Jean Grey (he basically needs someone powerful enough to defeat Apocalypse once and for all), while the Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix limited series will eventually reveal exactly why Mr. Sinister started looking in the direction of the Summers bloodline for that being in the first place (it involves time travel shenanigans).

Though not yet established that Mr. Sinister was in fact Cyclop's childhood bully Nathan, this issue finds him taunting Cyclops very much like a child, something which Cyclops note (and which further plays into the never-established idea that Mr. Sinister is an avatar of a child mutant's idea of super-villainy).
 

Sabretooth pops up from amongst the wreckage mid-issue, and is quickly dispatched, off-panel, by Wolverine. He will, of course, be back.


Early in the issue, Beast attacks Mr. Sinister and Polaris as they are distracted by Longshot. Beast, like Longshot, was not at the mansion in X-Men #243 when it exploded, so neither was knocked unconscious by the blast. Yet, on the opening page of the issue, Beast is seen lying amongst the unconscious mutants at Sinister's feet. 

The X-Men and X-Factor go their separate ways at the end of the issue, with Storm saying each team has a different role to play in bringing about Xavier's dream. Though the teams have finally met and all misconceptions about each other (one are mutant hunters, the other dead) have been stripped away, they'll go back to own books for awhile and won't directly interact again much until "X-Tinction Agenda", the next big X-book crossover (which is a little under two years away, publication time, from this point).


A Work in Progress
When Rogue attempts to absorb Mr. Sinister's power, his consciousness takes over hers.


The whole "is Longshot corrupted beyond beyond repair" business gets paid off in a nice little sequence, as Longshot throws one of his knives, which ends up allowing Sinister to regain control of Jean Grey. Longshot despairs, but in the end, the sight of that is what allows Cyclops to break free and destroy Sinister, so in the end, it was good luck at work after all.

Artistic Achievements
The art in this issue isn't Simonson's finest, but I have always appreciated that the opening splash page reorients Longshot into a more dynamic position than his "hey guys, I'm over here just standing around" that closed out X-Men #243.


Scott Summers, Husband of the Year
Oh no, you guys, it's totally cool. It's not Cyclops' fault that he abandoned his wife and child, he was being manipulated by Mr. Sinister the whole time. S'all cool. 


To wit, the issue ends with what is, even to this avowed Cyclops fan, a pretty eye-rollingly bad Cyclops lovefest, one which seems a blatant effort to say "well, we've finally put all that awkward mischaracterization behind us for good". 


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
It's established this issue that Mr. Sinister, for all his apparent invulnerability, is highly vulnerable to Cyclops' optic blast, an idea that is first theorized by Iceman and later proved true when Cyclops blasts Sinister apart. Of course, Mr. Sinister eventually returns, so the optic blasts aren't automatically deadly, but the idea that they can do more harm than anything else is an idea the franchise sticks with, and something that even gets picked up by other media (like the animated series). 


Teebore's Take
"Inferno" comes to a close with the sprawling storyline effectively zeroing in on just two characters: Cyclops and Mr. Sinister (though the combined X-teams are used effectively in bringing about Sinister's defeat, even if Cyclops is the one who ultimately pulls the trigger, so to speak). Along the way, some previous hints about Sinister's involvement in Cyclops' past are made more explicit, creating an interesting dynamics between the two that won't get fully explored for some time to come, and we get some additional (hamfisted) efforts to explain away Cyclops' uncharacteristic actions at the start of this series. Whether that works for you or not (and it mostly doesn't), it marks the end of Simonson's efforts to rehabilitate the character; we are, 38 issues later, for better and worse, finally done trying to untangle the mess the first issue created for this series. Dubious Cyclops apologism aside, as an end to "Inferno" and the end of an era for the series, this issue mostly works.

In terms of "Inferno" overall, the crossover as a whole is also mostly successful. Certainly, it's not perfect: Madelyne's character, for example, is dragged through the mud, offered up as a sacrifice to clear away a character and plot mess left by other creators years ago. But it ultimately succeeds because it feels like a culmination of so many things: the X-Men and X-Factor finally meet, the truth about Madelyne (whether you like it or not) is finally revealed, the X-Men finally overcome the Marauders and meet Mr. Sinister, Illyana's struggle with her dark side and her fight for control of Limbo finally come to an end (again, whether you like the outcome or not). These are plot threads and character moments that have been building for months, even years, and they all come together at once to lend a feeling of gravitas to this crossover, and to create a sense that for all three series, an era is coming to an end.

That's what most modern crossovers miss: their endings mostly serve only to setup the next crossover, so there's no satisfying feeling of culmination. "Inferno" feels like a momentous occasion, like a big multi-part finale to a TV series. These series will go on, but so many plot threads came to a head in "Inferno" that whatever comes next promises to be markedly different, by necessity if nothing else: the New Mutants, without Illyana and no longer studying under Magneto, X-Factor, free at last of both the mutant hunter baggage and the lingering questions surrounding Cyclops' family, the X-Men, more cutoff from their usual status quo than ever before. Serial fiction, especially superhero narratives, thrive on the illusion of change; above all else, "Inferno" does a great job of creating that illusion in an entertaining manner, of creating a feeling that what happened was a big deal, a culmination of years of plotlines that all seemed to be building to this story (even if they actually weren't always). That's a tough feeling to create, but "Inferno" ultimately does it well.

Next Issue
Next week, the last batch of "Inferno" tie-ins, followed by Excalibur #7 and Wolverine #6. 

32 comments:

  1. Decent finale to Inferno. I do like that the entirety of the event takes place in 1 night. This should have been the book that was slightly longer than the one preceding it. But it showed just how boss Sinister could be. But like every villain, they make an awesome first showing, then tend to lose luster over the years. It can be said that Sinister actually wins frequently, and that his battles with the X-men are those one shoot loses he constantly suffers.

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  2. Sooo... Wolverine thinks pale and sharp-toothed Mr. Sinister is vulnerable to something in Cyke's solar-powered optic blasts? Right-ho, when stake is not enough, use a beam. How does he answer to alien metals?

    Anyway, one or two issues back a late comment said it was Harras' mandate that Claremont had to solve most if his danglers. As pointed in this X-amination, they are burning amasse in the pyres of, ha, Inferno. Right enough, the Inferno always was to me the water-shed, where they got rid most of the cool old stuff and cleared the table for new things to come. And I hated that so much.

    The awesomeness of the Uncanny X-Men always was in the myriad danglers that were juggled in the air and I don't care if it lacks believability that some things took thirty issues to be returned to, because Claremont went through the trouble to set it up and he totally was entitled to had it solved at his convenience in a story he wanted to make out of it. So what if Naze had to wait in the Eagle Plaza lobby for two years, they must have vending machines or something there.

    Post Inferno, something just wasn't there anymore. Not that it's crappy, far from it, but... I don't know, it must have hurt like hell when first he was told to get rid of all the danglers brought forth from the things past and then the hotshot artist walks in and suddenly he's expected to go in a way re-do that stuff.

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  3. I'm absolutely with you on why the modern day crossover events aren't as narratively successful as these old ones. There's no closure nowadays. "Secret Invasion" sets up "Dark Reign" sets up "Siege", etc., etc. Even the big nineties crossovers that everyone hates usually had definitative endings to their conflicts and/or resolved standing plot threads (though they often did those things while setting up the next crossover; I seem to recall Bastion popping up during "Onslaught" for example).

    "Oh no, you guys, it's totally cool. It's not Cyclops' fault that he abandoned his wife and child, he was being manipulated by Mr. Sinister the whole time. S'all cool."

    To be honest, that's probably the best way to fix the whole mess. Tell me Mr. Sinister was manipulating someone, and all is forgiven.

    "...but the idea that they can do more harm than anything else is an idea the franchise sticks with, and something that even gets picked up by other media (like the animated series)."

    Except it's not! This has irritated me to no end for years -- decades, even!. When Mr. Sinister confronts Cyclops in X-MEN #23 (1993), the first time they're face-to-face again after this issue, Cyclops blasts Sinister to no effect, and Sinister explicitly says that he faked his vulnerability in this story because he wasn't ready to face the full might of both X-teams. It's spelled out on the page, plain as day. And it's not like he's lying! There's a demonstration for all to see, as Cyclops's blast goes right through his malleable body and does absolutely nothing to him.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm literally the only person in the world who read and understood this statement. Mr. Sinister is not, in any way, shape, or form, vulnerable to Cyclops's optic blasts, and he never was.

    But unfortuantely it seems that everyone read X-FACTOR 39 and no one read X-Men 23 (or if they did, they failed to notice the optic blast thing because they were too busy wondering about the "third Summers brother" mentioned in the same scene), because every game, trading card, handbook entry, and what-have-you since 1989 has stated that Sinister is vulnerable to Cyclops's power. It's extremely frustrating.

    Ugh. Sorry. Had to vent. This is a major pet peeve of mine in the world of the X-Men.

    Teemu -- "So what if Naze had to wait in the Eagle Plaza lobby for two years, they must have vending machines or something there."

    I agree; personally I have no problem with writers playing a "long game" with their sub-plots; in fact I tend to prefer that over the plots that build for only a few months before exploding. But Naze is, to me, an example of how to do it wrong. Claremont had him possessed, then dropped him for years, then returned him without ever checking in on him. To do a long-term sub-plot properly, you really need to remind readers about it periodically. Show us Naze doing something ominous in the occasional "meanwhile..." scene a few times over those two years to remind readers that the storyline is still ongoing! It's the lack of ongoing build-up that bothers me about that one.

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  4. A fine point, Matt, and I do love the "meanwhiles", though at that particular time my local publisher might have cut the page off for page economy reasons and I do believe it might be an issue in America too in 20-something issues where the actual story has to also happen. The "meanwhiles" are where's it at in the pre-'ferno X-Men, and they seem to be largely missing now that we are to move to post-'ferno.

    Specifically for Naze, at the build-up time there was the youngsters in Scotland, Alex & Lorna in Arizona and what else to be juggled, and what could a possessed Naze really be doing "meanwhile" to warrant a call-on page over more interesting/worthy developments? A page-long monologue about how he's going to trick Storm and a call-back to the Dire Wraith/LiveDeath stories? There was pages of that to come in the actual issues. ;)

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  5. Yeah, that Al Milgrom can screw up a whole mess of pencilers' art. Weirdly enough, I thought his inks worked in later issues of X-Factor over the Walt Simonson-esque Larry Stroman and the completely dissimilar Joe Quesada. Then he went on to make Ron Lim's Infinity War art flat and lifeless...

    I actually like this issue for the sense of closure, no matter how imperfect. The post-Mutant Massacre era comes to a close and we get to see what's next! Problem was, "what's next" was somewhat aimless, partly due to changing of guards.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  6. How could Sinister block Scott's blasts with mental blocks if the ruby quartz was the only thing that could control them?
    Annoyingly, we never did get an explanation for the Mutant Massacre in Inferno.
    Why aren't the X-Men worried that Sinister might have survived death by cloning himself?
    As ignored subplots go,Naze didn't bother me as much as Karma- Xavier and Storm never so much as lifted a finger to look for her until the New Mutants went after her.

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  7. And so, INFERNO ends. I'm glad it's appreciated here.
    The view I got about Sinister's story on Cyke's lack of control is that Sinister made it so that Scott associated his learning to control with the brainwash of serving him. So, once Scott gained control, he would accept Sinister as his lord and master. Thus, Scott defying Sinister meant losing any chance of controlling his eye blasts.
    Sabretooth gets OWNED throughout this entire crossover! My brother, on reading it, surmised that the Sabretooth here was a faulty clone.
    Al Milgrom's inks are awkward indeed. Check out Havok appearing before Scott, posing like some fashion model.
    Yep, Archangel's accusation that Sinister caused all of Scott's bad choices seems added on at the last minute, with no previous hints to back it up. Of course, let us not forget Warren was the one who made that decisive phonecall that mortally wounded Scott and Maddy's marriage.
    And thus ended my five-part/day reading to my sister. Day 1 was the background info. Day 2 was everything up to the Limbo stepping disc/baby pentagram invasion. Day 3 went from X-Terminator LS#4, Maddy's origin, and Illyana's sacrifice. Day 4 was the X-Men/X-Factor team-up and the end of Madelyne Pryor. Day 5 was the final showdown with Mr. Sinister. My epilogue was informing my sister on what happened next to the principals of this crossover. Considering this reading occurred in Winter 2000, my last words on Scott was being merged with Apocalypse, and leaving Alex stuck in an alternate universe. I concluded with the fate of Illyana, her Legacy Virus death, and the future of her Soulsword in X-MEN UNLIMITED#19. I ended it with that issue's last shot of the Sword coming out of the Limbo ground, grasped by an armored glove...

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  8. "Yep, Archangel's accusation that Sinister caused all of Scott's bad choices seems added on at the last minute, with no previous hints to back it up. Of course, let us not forget Warren was the one who made that decisive phonecall that mortally wounded Scott and Maddy's marriage."
    I never read that as Sinister mind-controlling Scott, just manipulating. Of course, the real problem is that either way, there's no evidence that Sinister did anything but sit back and watch Scott take a two-week walk around New York.

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  9. "It will be some time (and several later writers) before it's revealed exactly why Mr. Sinister is so keen on creating and controlling the offspring of Cyclops and Jean Grey"

    At least until a few years ago in that X-Men and Spider-Man miniseries, where back in the Silver Age, Sinister hired Kraven the Hunter to obtain DNA samples of all five original X-Men... which he did, successfully, allowing Sinister to create a Mimic-style monster. Given that, Sinister has had Summers and Grey DNA on file since the Silver Age. He could've created a million Cables anytime he wanted. (Dear God, the horror...)

    So apparently Sinister really DID create Madelyne purely to screw with Cyclops. What a dick.

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  10. Not so fast, Drew, this is where the old nature vs. nurture thing raises its ugly head! To create a Cable you need not only the genetics but also proper rearing, in this case Slym and Red there raising him up. Have you not seen Boys of Brazil?

    This here would of course rather be Boys of Summers. The story would start with Mr. Sinister noticing in the yellow box narration that there's "Nobody on the street, nobody on the beach. Empty streets, empty lanes..."

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  11. "... Summers out of reach." I just realized: if Scott's normal aversion to phones had worked like it should have when Warren called him in X-Factor 1 all this terribleness would have been averted. They might have had an answering machine at Summers residence, yes, but perhaps Maddie would have heard Warren's message first and deleted that recording about X-Factor there and then and they would have soken help to their marital mess and lived happily ever after and stayed in Alaska and maybe the other Summers boy would have started his stint as the leader of the X-Factor a bit earlier.

    The genetics bit, though: I can't remember how the DNA recombination stuff goes but there have been other specimens from the same genetic combo and it's not always Cable. I never read one bit of that wholesome-feel youngster X-Man Nate Grey, but do I assume correct that Summers and Jean didn't get to screw up his upbringing? Look how well that one went. The others, again...

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  12. // Mr. Sinister is killed this issue, blasted apart by Cyclops. //

    I was totally not prepared for that — most likely because he does come back, and while I'd never actually read anything with him in it until now I've known of him as an extant thing.

    // and formally inserting Mr. Sinister into the character's backstory //

    Surprisingly, I'm okay with this; I knew it was coming and wasn't sure how I felt about it, but the way it unfolds works well enough. Not that there's been much competition — and not that parts of the issue aren't still abrupt or overly expository, in particular that whitewash of Scott's actions at the end — but this is probably the most I've enjoyed X-Factor to date, quite possibly because the revelations feel very "Claremont". I wish Claremont himself, or even Simonson, had taken the opportunity to establish explicitly that Sinister was in fact Nathan or at least Nathan's projection or whatever, because otherwise that exchange in which Sinister implicitly channels Nathan from the orphanage, taunting Cyclops with "You always were a sissy," is sort-of left hanging there.

    // the Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix limited series will eventually reveal exactly why Mr. Sinister started looking in the direction of the Summers bloodline //

    I've only read its predecessor, and that back when it was published, of which I really only remember the basic premise: the newlyweds being tossed into the future — their minds, anyway, I think, into the bodies of people who just happened to look like them — right after their wedding to help their now ancient alternate-future daughter protect and rear little baby not-Sinister, Cable-to-be Nathan.

    // The X-Men and X-Factor go their separate ways at the end of the issue, with Storm saying each team has a different role to play in bringing about Xavier's dream. //

    I think that's pretty weak. All kinds of reasons for the teams to confer in the wake of this adventure present themselves — even if they are going to withdraw to their own operations subsequently — from catching up with Jean to discussing Magneto to checking in on the New Mutants.

    // When Rogue attempts to absorb Mr. Sinister's power, his consciousness takes over hers. //

    Rogue only touches Sinister's armored body, not his exposed face, so I have to wonder if this a flat-out mistake or if it's maybe some clue to the fact that his entire body is a manifestation of Nathan — which could probably be a cheat to consider it all organic, especially since Sinister overpowers her anyway. That would also be an explanation as to why he doesn't die after being totally blown apart.

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  13. "I've only read its predecessor, and that back when it was published, of which I really only remember the basic premise: the newlyweds being tossed into the future — their minds, anyway, I think, into the bodies of people who just happened to look like them — right after their wedding to help their now ancient alternate-future daughter protect and rear little baby not-Sinister, Cable-to-be Nathan."
    The Further Adventures involves a time-traveling Jean and Scott meeting a 19-Century Sinister.
    "Rogue only touches Sinister's armored body, not his exposed face, so I have to wonder if this a flat-out mistake or if it's maybe some clue to the fact that his entire body is a manifestation of Nathan — which could probably be a cheat to consider it all organic, especially since Sinister overpowers her anyway. That would also be an explanation as to why he doesn't die after being totally blown apart."
    But Rogue absorbed Sinister through her GLOVES- the simplest explanation is that Simonson didn't understand how Rogue's powers work.


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  14. One thing that might be added to the "Notable" section is that this is the issue when Warren gets his "Archangel" codename (Beast suggest it after pointing out that Wartren isn't quite so far gone as to embody the "Death" moniker.)

    I disagree that the "danglers" didn't need to be resolved soon. Long-simmering subplots are fine (Captain America at the time was doing this rather well.) The problem is that these subplots weren't "developed" as much as "ignored." These issues should have been solved years ago (especially since most of them could have been resolved by having the x-teams meet up long instead of instituting contrivance after contrivance to keep the teams separated at their own peril.) As I mentioned before one of the reasons they met in THIS crossover is that a change in editorial (both within the X-books and Marvel in general) started forcing Claremont's hand. In that respect I have to give a check point for editorial meddling there.

    The "post-Inferno" malise that some here have complained about is probably less due to resolving long-standing x-baggage and more because the writers didn't have a clue what to do next and relied on stalling tactics (I find it suspicious that TWO sets of x-teams spent lengthy stretches off-world around this time, for instance, while another one simply starts to fray at the seams.)

    "Though the teams have finally met and all misconceptions about each other (one are mutant hunters, the other dead) have been stripped away, they'll go back to own books for awhile and won't directly interact again much until "X-Tinction Agenda", the next big X-book crossover (which is a little under two years away, publication time, from this point).

    That's not quite true. They'll have a few "unofficial" pseudo-crossovers in the meantime which, reminisce of the JRJR days, will have subplots being resolved in different books then they started.




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  15. Jonathan: Long-simmering subplots are fine (Captain America at the time was doing this rather well.) The problem is that these subplots weren't "developed" as much as "ignored." These issues should have been solved years ago (especially since most of them could have been resolved by having the x-teams meet up long instead of instituting contrivance after contrivance to keep the teams separated at their own peril.)

    Oh, yes, I must stress out that my celebration of long-simmering subplots didn't include the mess of X-teams being artificially separated and everyone just introspecting about it instead of calling each other. Though after what mess Warren caused with his phone call I really can't blame if everyone adopted the policy of "anyone not calling Summers ever again".

    I have to say though that I have hard time thinking the Madelyne bit or Illyana's Darkchylde arc as (mere) subplots, but it may be they just have got elevated in my mind because Marvel felt they need a massive linewide crossover to solve them.

    Of course, in the end, did they actually solve how many lesser danglers particularly in the Inferno? They found the Marauders, and Nathan, and Mr. Sinister's game was revealed, yes, but then again they already did Harry Palmer's Broodswagen bit earlier, and Rogue vs. Carol Danvers (non-)solution is coming up soon with Nimrod (and Master Mold of X-Factor fame).

    Claremont haven't seem to leave so many danglers since... Mutant Massacre (?), and the once he did, like the one with Gateway, never got solved. Harras influence? Has there ever been any out-of-universe info on why the X-Men left the Australian Outback almost as soon as they got there, without getting anything much done there?

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  16. The artwork in this issue is so, so bad. I especially hate the way Simonson and Milgrom portray Wolverine's inferno-ized solid black face. (That was a weird thing for Silvestri to do anyway, but at least Silvestri made it look cool.)


    I liked Longshot's pathetic "just standing there" pose at the end of X-Men 243, as I thought it was the right body-language for a character undergoing a huge crisis of confidence. It annoyed me as a kid that the opening splash of this page didn't match.

    Also annoying was that X-Men 243 was titled "Ashes," and then the Next Issue blurb said, "Continued in X-Factor 39 -- DUST!"

    But then instead X-Factor 39 is titled "Ashes to Ashes." Sloppy.

    Also, something I forgot -- I think it happened in X-Factor 38, where Madelyne trash-talks the X-Men by calling them "wimpy." That seemed like such an egregiously immature word choice.

    It's Mr. Sinister who's secretly a little kid, not Madelyne.

    I also dislike that corny last panel ... not just the Scott-apologism, but the fact that everyone is dramatically looking up at the "camera" while saying it. Jean's fawning compliments are irritating enough, but the idea that rather than looking at Scott while saying it, she's looking vaguely out towards the sky ... Gad, it's corny.

    All of these factors (get it?) contributed to my feeling as a kid that X-Factor had the "bad" writer and the "bad" artist, while Uncanny was the one with the A-list creative team.

    As a kid, I was even bothered by the storyline ending in X-Factor rather than X-Men, because it meant that it would end on a creative low-note. Alas, X-Tinction Agenda would follow the same pattern.

    Still, overall, I agree that Inferno was a genuinely climactic "event" storyline, filled with incident that seemed genuinely significant to the X-canon.

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  17. "because otherwise that exchange in which Sinister implicitly channels Nathan from the orphanage, taunting Cyclops with "You always were a sissy," is sort-of left hanging there."

    There are some Classic X-men (or was it X-men Classic as this point?) issues that were printed at this point that had original material detailing Cyclops and Sinister/Nate's time together at the orphanage that does fill in some of the blanks.

    "The "post-Inferno" malise that some here have complained about is probably less due to resolving long-standing x-baggage and more because the writers didn't have a clue what to do next and relied on stalling tactics"

    More or less true. Pre-Inferno, there was lots of danglers that needed to be toed up, but it helped that the titles were all building up to something down the line (Fall of the Mutants and Inferno). Without a new big event on the horizon, CC and Simonson do flounder a bit and are rather directionless.

    "I liked Longshot's pathetic "just standing there" pose at the end of X-Men 243, as I thought it was the right body-language for a character undergoing a huge crisis of confidence."

    I did too. If anything, it made for a great cliffhanger. THIS guy is going to take down Sinister and Polaris? Gotta read the next part.

    The attempts to justify and whitewash Scott are just so over the top it becomes so ridiculous. Not only was Maddie an evil scheming bitch all along, but he was also being influenced/manipulated/what you want to call it by Sinister as well. Way to absolve him of *any* wrong doing whatsoever. I'm surprised Jean never broke out into "Ding dong, the witch is dead..." at any point once Maddie died. Because Maddie was a jerk!

    As for the danglers issue...I think CC was just sidetracked by a weak editor and lots of behind the scenes issues ever since the JRJR era, and did the best he could. Well, when he felt like it.

    Too bad Walt Simonson ends his run on such a bad looking issue (I guess he was too busy writing shitty Avengers stories at this point to focus on this title). If nothing else, I'll miss the supreme bitchface most of the characters give. And nobody, and I mean nobody, draws characters giving supreme bitchface quite like Walt Simonson.

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  18. "Too bad Walt Simonson ends his run on such a bad looking issue (I guess he was too busy writing shitty Avengers stories at this point to focus on this title). "
    Actually, that's the weird thing- he quit writing Avengers as of Avengers 300, which came out the same month as X-Factor 37, and his first Fantastic Four issue was FF 334, which came out the same month as X-Factor 48. So what was he doing those 9 months?

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  19. "There are some Classic X-men (or was it X-men Classic as this point?) issues that were printed at this point that had original material detailing Cyclops and Sinister/Nate's time together at the orphanage that does fill in some of the blanks."

    Classic X-Men 41 and 42.

    Those hadn't been published at this point. Didn't come out until roughly a year after "Inferno" ended.

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  20. "I'm surprised Jean never broke out into "Ding dong, the witch is dead..." at any point once Maddie died."

    WAY too funny! :D I can just imagine her & the X-Factor crew singing & dancing to The Fifth Estate's version!



    ...wow, my captcha is: "taken mmnate" ..kinda topical

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  21. "Those hadn't been published at this point. Didn't come out until roughly a year after "Inferno" ended."

    Eh, close enough lol I hope Teebore does end up reviewing them, though.

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  22. "I'm surprised Jean never broke out into "Ding dong, the witch is dead..." at any point once Maddie died."

    Ha! That particular witch was the Wicked Witch of the East in the movie, and we do remember how Dark Phoenix introduced herself to her father upon visiting their house in Annandale-on-Hudson in UXM #136...

    Though it's better if the little hypocrite just keeps her yapper shut, it's her cosmic carbon copies and s'ymulacrums you can't amp up with the littlest bit of power without them going totally and homicidally berserk.

    About Walt Simonson, he doesn't seem to have been doing anything much between Avengers #300 and his FF if http://comicbookdb.com/creator_chron.php?ID=116 is to be believed.

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  23. @Tazirai: This should have been the book that was slightly longer than the one preceding it.

    I would have liked that, too, but I get why the wanted to add some extra pages to the issue celebrating the new X-Men's 25th anniversary.

    @Teemu: Post Inferno, something just wasn't there anymore.

    Well, he definitely moves forward in terms of introducing more danglers - the difference, I think, is that unlike the pre-"Inferno" danglers, most of the post-"Inferno" ones don't get paid off (or are paid off by someone else).

    Claremont had a plan that would take the book up to issue #300, but of course, he left before then, so a lot of the stuff he sets up gets little or no payoff. And I'm sure some of his plans got altered a bit even before he left by the presence of Lee and the desire to do more "retro" stories.

    @Matt: I seem to recall Bastion popping up during "Onslaught" for example

    Bastion showed up during the run-up to "Onslaught", but didn't feature in the story itself. You're right though, the 90s crossovers did a pretty good job of presenting a finite story and still moving setting up the next thing. "X-Cutioner's Song" had a pretty clear ending, but it still setup the Legacy Virus. AoA clearly had a defined ending, but that ending led into "Onslaught", the runup to which introduced Bastion, leading to "Operation: Zero Tolerance".

    To be honest, that's probably the best way to fix the whole mess. Tell me Mr. Sinister was manipulating someone, and all is forgiven.

    I mock less the sentiment than the haphazard way it's introduced. I agree, that's a great way to retcon out Scott's behavior; they should have done more with it than introduce it via an aside from Angel in the last issue of the crossover.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm literally the only person in the world who read and understood this statement.

    Heh. I can certainly appreciate your frustration. FWIW, I did consider that scene when I wrote this. The problem, as you say, is that while XM #23 clearly presents the vulnerability as a lie, as you also say, everyone else just kinda ignored that, and as a result, the incorrection has become correct, and the correction looks like the anomaly. Kind of like how if everyone uses a word the wrong way, eventually, the language just accepts the incorrect definition as correct. Frustrating as hell, but it happens.

    @Mike: Problem was, "what's next" was somewhat aimless, partly due to changing of guards.

    And partly by design, which didn't make it any less aimless. I respect the whole idea of "Dissolution and Rebirth" as a creative choice, especially coming from a writer nearing 15 years on the title, but at the same time, it's hard to get too excited about stories featuring no team and Kid Storm.

    @Anonymous: Why aren't the X-Men worried that Sinister might have survived death by cloning himself?

    I don't think the X-Men are supposed to know that he's cloning the Marauders at this point. Heck, even to readers at the time, it was more of a hint than an outright fact. I don't think it's until X-Men (v2) #34 that it's made clear to the X-Men just how extensive Sinister's cloning is.

    As ignored subplots go,Naze didn't bother me as much as Karma- Xavier and Storm never so much as lifted a finger to look for her until the New Mutants went after her.

    Ditto. And then after he writes her out again, then brings her back for Wolverine, he STILL leaves her plot dangling for a later writer to resolve (poorly).

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  24. @Angmc43: My brother, on reading it, surmised that the Sabretooth here was a faulty clone.

    I think Claremont has said that the only Sabretooth appearance he considers to be that of the original is the one in Wolverine #10 (and maybe one of the Classic X-Men backups), which puts your brother in good company.

    @Drew: Given that, Sinister has had Summers and Grey DNA on file since the Silver Age.

    It's been awhile since I read that, but didn't it make clear that his samples of their DNA were destroyed or otherwise rendered useless by the end of the story? Or am I imagining that.

    @Blam: I think that's pretty weak. All kinds of reasons for the teams to confer in the wake of this adventure present themselves — even if they are going to withdraw to their own operations subsequently — from catching up with Jean to discussing Magneto to checking in on the New Mutants.

    Me too. I'm not saying they needed to move in together, but establishing lines of communication and swapping notes would have made sense and not overly-distorted the whole "mythic outlaw heroes" thing Claremont clearly still wanted to do.

    Rogue only touches Sinister's armored body, not his exposed face, so I have to wonder if this a flat-out mistake or if it's maybe some clue to the fact that his entire body is a manifestation of Nathan

    I've always taken it that Sinister's armor is his skin, much like how if Rogue touches an armored Colossus, she absorbs his power. How it gels with the (ultimately unestablished) idea that Sinister is an avatar of Kid Nathan, I have no idea, but I suppose we can't ding Simonson since that was never technically established and, officially, he's physically there.

    @Anonymous: But Rogue absorbed Sinister through her GLOVES- the simplest explanation is that Simonson didn't understand how Rogue's powers work.

    I usually chalk that sort of thing up to storytelling convenience - like how, in the 60s, we didn't always see Cyclops' visor raise up, or see him push the button in his glove to raise it, every time he fired an optic blast (unless doing or not doing so was integral to the plot).

    Here, I just assume Rogue has a hole in her glove, or removed them off panel, etc.

    @Jonathan: One thing that might be added to the "Notable" section is that this is the issue when Warren gets his "Archangel" codename

    That's actually at the very end of XF #38; I pointed it out in that post.

    I find it suspicious that TWO sets of x-teams spent lengthy stretches off-world around this time, for instance, while another one simply starts to fray at the seams.

    To be fiar, the "fraying at the seems" was wholly intentional on the part of Claremont - he wanted to split up the team and experiment with the idea of a team book without a team. The other two do read a bit like Weezie spinning her wheels. Or, at least, stretching out an idea longer than it needed to be to kill some time (though I do love the Judgment War story...).

    They'll have a few "unofficial" pseudo-crossovers in the meantime which, reminisce of the JRJR days, will have subplots being resolved in different books then they started.

    Do they? All I can really think of offhand is Jean's appearance in the mid 260s, but by then, the team is basically just Banshee and Forge. What am I forgetting?

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  25. @Teemu: Has there ever been any out-of-universe info on why the X-Men left the Australian Outback almost as soon as they got there, without getting anything much done there?

    I think it's a combination of Claremont getting bored with the idea, Harras/Lee pushing for more traditional stories, and Claremont eventually leaving before paying some of it off. Circa issue #300, for example, he was planning on establishing Gateway as the new mentor figure; that, presumably, would have tied off some of the Gateway danglers and made more of the whole Outback status quo.

    @Jason: I liked Longshot's pathetic "just standing there" pose at the end of X-Men 243, as I thought it was the right body-language for a character undergoing a huge crisis of confidence. It annoyed me as a kid that the opening splash of this page didn't match.

    Whereas I had the opposite reaction, having read this issue countless times before getting to read UXM #243. For me, it was UXM #243 that failed to match up to this issue!

    Also annoying was that X-Men 243 was titled "Ashes," and then the Next Issue blurb said, "Continued in X-Factor 39 -- DUST!"

    But then instead X-Factor 39 is titled "Ashes to Ashes." Sloppy.


    That has always bugged me as well, however.

    Also, something I forgot -- I think it happened in X-Factor 38, where Madelyne trash-talks the X-Men by calling them "wimpy." That seemed like such an egregiously immature word choice.

    Heh. I've been waiting for you to pop up and complain about that. :)

    As a kid, I was even bothered by the storyline ending in X-Factor rather than X-Men, because it meant that it would end on a creative low-note. Alas, X-Tinction Agenda would follow the same pattern.

    No so much "Inferno" for me (cuz I like/liked X-Factor at the time), but definitely true for "X-Tinction Agenda". I HATED the Bogdanove art in that as a kid, and I still don't like it very much.

    @anonymous: Actually, that's the weird thing- he quit writing Avengers as of Avengers 300, which came out the same month as X-Factor 37, and his first Fantastic Four issue was FF 334, which came out the same month as X-Factor 48. So what was he doing those 9 months?

    Huh. I never bothered to check the dates on that, and clearly, I should have. Now I'm more curious than ever why he left as of this issue.

    @wwk5d: I hope Teebore does end up reviewing them, though.

    I am planning on covering them. Probably together, in one post. Whether as a regular X-Men entry on a Wednesday or a special post or something, I'm not sure yet. But they'll be covered.

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  26. @Jason: // Sloppy. //

    Yeah. I was surprised by that. The end of X-Men #243 — I'm looking at it right now — has the caption "Ashes to Ashes," echoing the splash-page story title, followed immediately by "To be concluded in X-Factor #39: Dust to Dust!" Either somebody actively screwed up in misreading / misremembering the page or there was passive editorial neglect in failure to notice that Claremont and Simonson had each come up with the same story title.

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  27. @Teebore: // I don't think the X-Men are supposed to know that he's cloning the Marauders at this point. //

    Psylocke seems to know. At least that's how I took her "... next time, he's all yours" comment to Rogue after she fries [clone] Sabretooth's brain — with Rogue not understanding, granted, hence the "???" reaction. Why Rogue wouldn't have learned when Psylocke did, and/or why Psylocke wouldn't let on to the others if, say, it's something she gleaned in this moment from being inside [clone] Sabretooth's head, is another story.

    @Teebore: // establishing lines of communication and swapping notes would have made sense //

    Really. X-Factor's embrace by the people of New York and the media is due in large part to the X-Men's sacrifice, I believe, so both teams had a reason for the Outbackers to remain ghostlike. (I don't know how long either situation lasts, mind you, although obviously the X-Men operate publicly again — and the general populace is knee-jerk reactionary towards mutants again — eventually.) A bit more of an epilogue was called for, however.

    @Teebore: // I've always taken it that Sinister's armor is his skin //

    Which is my supposition. Probably I could've phrased it better, but I wasn't saying that as Nathan's avatar Sinister couldn't be touched; I was saying, like you, that perhaps since he's a physical manifestation there's no distinction between his "outfit" and his "skin" even though he appears to be a humanoid wearing armor.

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  28. "Heh. I've been waiting for you to pop up and complain about that. :)"

    Ha, did I already do that rant? Sometimes i forget which rants remained in my head and which ones I committed to online ink.

    Am I wrong on that? "Wimpy" feels like a weird word for Madeline-as-Goblin-Queen to use. It's such a childlike taunt to my ears.

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  29. "Either somebody actively screwed up in misreading / misremembering the page or there was passive editorial neglect in failure to notice that Claremont and Simonson had each come up with the same story title."

    I blame Bob Harras. Or Weezie.

    Anyone but Claremont, who is perfect and never does anything wrong.

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  30. "Circa issue #300, for example, he was planning on establishing Gateway as the new mentor figure"

    Really? One version I read of his plans was having Magneto returning back to "lead" the X-men after Professor X dies fighting the Shadow King...

    "Psylocke seems to know. At least that's how I took her "... next time, he's all yours" comment to Rogue after she fries [clone] Sabretooth's brain — with Rogue not understanding, granted, hence the "???" reaction."

    Hmmm. I always saw it as Psylocke implying "Next time some psycho is about to rip out your throat, I hope you really do enjoy it", with Rogue's reaction being "Geez, bitchy much?". Of course, Rogue and Psylocke never had the best relation during their tenure together while CC was writing them...

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  31. @wwk5d: // Hmmm. I always saw it as Psylocke implying "Next time some psycho is about to rip out your throat, I hope you really do enjoy it" //

    That reading makes at least as much sense as mine, I guess. I was going off the fact that (1) Psylocke said "he" rather than "someone" and (2) with his eyes visibly rolled back Sabretooth looked dead. So I took Rogue's "???" response to Psylocke's remark as meaning, "What d'you mean next time? He ain't comin' back, sugar."

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  32. "… sugah." I corrected that to "sugah" before entering the verification but it didn't take. Honest.

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