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55: UXM 239 - 241 (Inferno Part 1)

What’s Covered?

UXM # 239 - 241 (Dec '88 - February '89), X-Factor V1 # 35 - 36

Roster Watch

My Connections

This will be the first of a four-part series covering the Inferno event. Inferno is primarily an X-Universe event, focusing on Madelyn Pryor going bad. I'm going to come right out and say that this is by far the best event/arc/writing/set of stories I have read since I started my X-Men journey.

The primary reason why I enjoyed this so much was because it was the culmination of sooo many story lines that have been building for years. Madelyn, for instance, was introduced in Uncanny X-Men # 168 in 1983. Inferno takes place in 1989, so we have been wondering what's up with her for 6 years. Ilyana also has large parts of her story wrapped up during Infero. She was officially transformed into Magik in Issue #160 published in 1982. Also, X-Factor and the X-Men finally meet back up, the Marauders and X-Men have a final clash (concluding events of the Mutant Massacre), and we even get some more Jean/Phoenix backstory (AKA retcons). All sorts of stuff you've been dying to see conclude.

Another reason for me loving this was due to me feeling a LOT of emotion. There is at least one character who will be lost during this event that made me feel very depressed. While it's not fun to be sad, I'm glad that I'm spending my time reading about characters who I've become emotionally invested in.

This first blog will focus solely on X-Men and X-Factor as we set the scene of the Inferno-transformed New York, Madelyn's hell turn, and getting a lot of Mr. Sinister exposition, filling in gaps from the past few years of publishing.

Next up, we'll take a break from X-Factor and X-Men to see what the New Mutants and X-Terminators (miniseries focusing on the youngins from X-Factor) are up to.


X-Factor # 35: Creepy orphanage stuff

Alright so there is a bunch to dig into with this single panel.

First, I'll set the scene. After hearing Madelyn imploring Scott to find their son (on a TV broadcast before the Forge/Adversary situation), Scott and Jean have spent the last few issues trying to track him down. All of their searching has pointed towards the orphanage Scott grew up in, in Nebraska, which is where they are heading to right now.

Second, the baby hasn't had a name until recent issues. Jean and Scott will continue to call the baby Christopher (Scott's dad's name). However, Madeline refers to the baby as Nathan. Nathaniel Essex is the real name of Mr. Sinister, who is technically Madelyn's father. Regardless of any of this, we know this baby goes on to be known exclusively as Nathan, which is what I'll call him from now on (despite what Jean says).

Third, Jean is hearing Nathan's voice screaming in her head. This means that some of Jean's telepathy is coming back. By the end of this event, it seems as though Jean is a normal telepath again. I haven't read much past Inferno so I'm not sure if they will revert back to her only being telekinetic or if this is just another example of Simonson slowly chipping away at the dumb things set up in the original 5 X-Factor issues. There's other implications of the baby calling out to Jean (Is the baby a telepath? Does the baby think Jean is it's mom?) but we'll save those questions for later.

Scott and Jean arrive at the orphanage.

Right off the bat, they are establishing that some eerie things were taking place at the Orphanage. Scott's memory doesn't seem to be perfect. Was he in a coma in a hospital for a year or did he wake up in the orphanage and blow the roof off with his first optic blast? What's up with some creepy kid who was bossing everyone around?

Scott and Jean are far from the first group racing to the orphanage. While some of this won't be explained for a few issues, I'll let it out here. This egg shaped villain (Nanny) is a former scientist working for Cameron Hodge's "The Right" organization. She caught wind that Hodge was contracted to steal mutant babies (we saw in past issues that the Limbo demon N'astirh gave Hodge eternal life in exchange for help capturie babies). Nanny is a bit misguided as her first "rescued pupil" who goes by the name "Orphan Maker" is killing kids parents and kidnapping kids to "protect them" before the demons can get them.

Oh, and the two red-headed kids are Jean's missing niece and nephew. Where are Karma's siblings!? (As a quick note, there is an extra story added to the Dark Phoenix Saga: The Untold Story which highlights the friendship of Sara and Jean and shows Sara's concerns about her kids turning into mutants. I've been throwing in a lot of Classic X-Men stories lately which all seem to help retcon some of the past to help tell current stories. We didn't know Sara existed until Jean died (Jean as Phoenix), so this story is an attempt to show us that they were close and to help sell this plotline).

There is something nefarious taking place deep below the orphanage. There appears to be babies in tubes. Are these the babies Nanny and the demons are trying to get or something else!?

They find Nathan!

Before they can successfully save Nathan (and/or the other mutant babies), both Nanny/Orphan Maker and the demons show up. A fight breaks out between our heroes and Nanny/Orphan Maker. This allows the demons to get away with some of the babies.

Jean ends up needing to make a choice between Sara's kids and Nathan. She notes that Nanny seems to be taking care of the older kids, so she should devote her energy to saving Nathan from the demons.

This is a good time to jump into Classic X-Men #41 & 42, which expanded a bit on Scott's time in the orphanage.

There is a creepy boy named Nate (short for Nathaniel Essex, AKA Mr. Sinister) who is attached to Scott's hip. In this panel we see that he was picked on by an older boy, pushing Scott to get in a fight to defend him. We actually see a lot of examples of his being really nasty to anyone else that tries to get close to him and pushing Scott to be more of a loner.

We are explicitly shown that Mr. Sinister is actually the boy Nate as he reveals himself to the older bully, eventually leading the boy to commit suicide.

There is a doctor who takes a special interest in Scott and tries to set him on the straight and narrow. Nate is constantly being nasty to her. Eventually the doctor helps Scott find some foster parents, but it's clear that they are killed by Nate/Sinister so that he would stay at the orphanage. This arc ends with Jean and Professor X showing up to take him away.

X-Factor # 36: Meanwhile, in New York City...

The reporter, Trish Tilby, had fallen for Hank McCoy. However, she fell in love with the dim witted man with big feet. This is a blue, furry beast with high intelligence and is VERY confident and chatty. I actually like how this is handled. It's not necessarily that she is turned off by his blue fur, but she is alarmed how cocky he is all the sudden and she doesn't like it.

N'astirh reveals himself to Archangel, revealing that he was allied with Hodge. With Warren consumed by his grief over Candy, this pushes him to align with his old team-mates.

While racing away on a demon possess train, Bobby stops to give Trish a guilt trip.

Trish eventually says she is willing to get to know the new Beast.

The new status quo in New York City is that most inanimate objects have been turned into demons and are attacking the people. Plenty of runaway hot dog carts, snapping mailboxes, and vindictive elevators. The team is trying to fight them off and things start to leak bleak before Archangel shows up and saves them.

This marks the official return of Warren to the X-Factor team.

Jean stops hearing Nathan's voice, and we'll later learn that Mr. Sinister came in possession of the boy.

X-Men Inferno Prologue Synopsis

Unlike the X-Factor Inferno prologue synopsis, I won't be breaking the X-Men synopsis down into issues, but rather by topics. We'll start by doing a lot of Maddie catch up, followed by checking in on the X-Men as they take on the Marauders, and brought home by focusing on specific characters.

Madelyn's past and motives revealed!

While the Madelyn and Inferno hints start dropping even earlier, we're actually going to start with some things that took place during the Genosha story. We start by seeing that N'astirh had been trying to contact Madelyn far before the events of Inferno, including when she was strapped down and being experimented on in Genosha.

Madelyn had a conversation with Sym (The other demon lord in Limbo, typically associated with Illyana) in a dream. Sym technically referred N'astirh to Madelyn after the dream.

We weren't shown what happened, but Madelyn somehow slaughtered all of the scientists who were trying to experiment on Maddie in Genosha.

We also saw that Madelyn started getting aggressive with Alex. They eventually started a relationship, despite Madelyn being married to his brother or her being in a relationship with Lorna (even though she went evil after being possessed).

We learn that Sinister now has possession of Nathan.

We also learned in issue #239 (at the end of the Genosha arc) that Madelyn has formerly entered into an agreement with N'astirh.

She is willing to help with "something" in exchange for him finding her son. This is also shortly after she learned that Jean Grey was back alive and likely the reason for Scott walking out on her and the baby.

More panels showing the budding relationship between Maddie and Alex.

Maddie runs into Jean's parents at her cemetery and attacks them. When I first read this, I thought she killed them (which would be so brutal) but I realized on this second read through that she merely transformed them into demons (and they have been by her side since then, duh!)

N'astirh (and the audience) start to learn that Madelyn has great power. At this point, we don't yet know where it came from or what kind of power it is. She is also being referred to by N'astirh as her new moniker, the Goblin Queen!

Madelyn finds her way to the orphanage in Nebrasks where Mr. Sinister is currently located. She sees the "creche" where mutant clones are created and recalls seeing this technology in Genosha and wonders why it seems so familiar to her.

Madelyn officially meets Mr. Sinister, who tells her to call him Father.

N'astirh flees and Maddie is imprisoned by Sinister, setting the stage for a bunch of monologuing!

So here we learn that Madelyn is actually a clone of Jean Grey! The memories she has of her past are actually's Jean's and she was created by Sinister in a lab, which is why he said to call him Father.

Sinister had planned on moving Jean to his orphanage, but Professor Xavier intervened first. This is when he decided to create a clone of her instead, but the clone (Madelyn) did not manifest any powers, thus labeling her creation as a failure.

It appears that when Jean (as Phoenix) died on the moon, the Phoenix made a connection with Madelyn.

Sinister got her the job with Scott's grandparents airline and hoped they would produce an offspring of great genetic potential.

When Jean was resurrected (or discovered in a cocoon), Sinister decided that he needed to erase Madelyn before she led Scott and the team back to him.

So it appears as though the Phoenix may have given the defund Madelyn powers, however it took her a while for them to fully manifest. This is a major retcon because it means that she had latent powers since the first time we met her.

Speaking of great power, after hearing of her origin, she uses that power to break free.

Both N'astirh and Sinister thought they were using Madelyn for their own ends, but it appears that she is reaching the full potential of her power and is now running things how she sees fit after being re-united with Nathan. All of the pieces are in place and now Inferno is about to truly begin. Buckle up!

X-Men vs. the Marauders

As mentioned above, this section will show us what's been happening between the X-Men and Marauders during this same Inferno prologue time period.

Malice/Polaris challenges Sinister, pissed off that she can no longer separate herself from Lorna's body. Sinister essentials says "Yea, I know, deal with it!" True villain behavior here, but he lets Polaris know she's his most trusted Marauder and that this is in her best interest. She appears to back down.

Storm decides to tinker with the communications system (which Madelyn has been running since they moved into the Australia HQ) and discovers that Jean Grey is alive. She freaks out.

Also worth planting the seed here than Madelyn knew of this and purposely did not inform the X-Men.

Storm freaks out and brings Wolverine into a storm with her (reminiscent of when she did this to Kitty). Logan admits that he knew, or at least suspected, but wasn't sure.

I'm going to quickly break into Classic X-Men mode and highlight Issue # 2:

The original X-Men run barely had moments of Storm and Jean being friends. In fact, their time together was rather brief considering Storm was not an original member (of Stan Lee's squad) and the "real Jean" was switching with Phoenix shortly after Claremon't re-launch. When I originally read this Classic, I assumed it was to help sell why Storm would be devastated when Jean died, however I'm starting to wonder if it was also to help explain why Storm made such a big reaction out of seeing Jean alive. Either way, it works!

In a sense of irony, the Marauders are now hiding out in the Morlock tunnels. This is where the X-Men find them and initiate their own offensive against the group.

Havok's conscience is officially dead as he is clear about his intention to kill.

The Marauders aren't ready and the X-Men are out for blood! You see Dazzler kill Scalphunter and Prism get sniped by Havok. You may be thinking to yourself "Wasn't Prism killed by Jean during the Mutant Massacre?" That would be a good question. It is heavily implied that all of the Marauders are clones with the exception of Malice and possibly Sabretooth.

At the end of this segment, it appears as though the X-Men have killed all of the Marauders. It's brutal out here.

They are showing that the X-Men are reveling in this bloody victory. Not only are Rogue and Storm sneering (and high fiving), but Psylocke clearly has a demonic look on her face. Claremont is CLEARLY trying to make us think that the Inferno taking place is pushing them to act more evil. You all know this is a pet peeve of mine! This is similar to Scott being given an out for being a shitty husband/dad and Warren being "manipulated" into both creating the terrible premise for X-Factor and committing suicide. The X-Men have been planning on faking their death so they could go on the offensive against their enemies, namely the Marauders, since #219. They have been planning for years (in publishing) to stay off the grid and murder the Marauders. Don't go making us think that this was due to demonic influence. Maybe they are enjoying it now because of that, but these heroes were planning on doing some murder for quite some time.

What the hell is going on with Longshot, Dazzler, and Rogue?

Alright, so Dazzler and Longshot are definitely somewhat together. They are making out in public, sleeping at each other's place, riding on the motorcycle together, etc.

When I first saw this, it really made me think less about Dazzler. To be more specific, I have been thinking less about Dazzler because I read her solo stuff (some of it) and so the onus is actually on Claremont to improve my opinion of her. Hang on, let me show the next panel, then I'll come back to this thought.

Woah, woah woah, Miss Lippy. So I mentioned that this "made me think less about Dazzler when I originally read it" because I thought she was just being overprotective. But this little nugget tells us that Longshot actually has been dating both of them! Wowzers. They had an entire story arc resolving the rivalry between these two ( covered by me in 49: UXM 220 - 227 (Forge and the Adversary)) but clearly Claremont is intent on keeping it hot and alive! I'm pretty sure that Dazzler and Longshot will stay together (especially because Rogue ends up with Gambit {How has that not happened yet]), but I'm fascinated by this! I wonder where this ends up going!?

Woah, woah woah, Miss Lippy. Lol, what the fuck is this? Did Carol (in Rogue's body) just touch Betsy's bare skin and not absorb her powers? Are you trying to tell us that Rogue has the ability to control that power!? I've never heard of that, and this is very subtle, but nothing gets past me! I can't wait to see where this goes.

Later, during Inferno, Longshot gets almost completely possessed. I didn't catch during my first read through that this might be the actual moment when he gets possessed.

In addition to seeing everyone acting out of character, Dazzler is clearly becoming obsessed with her looks, or at least, more obsessed. (Note that the scene with Dazzler being overprotective of Longshot was before Inferno, so that was legit, not a by product of demon treachery).

My Rating - 10/10


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