To the Outback & Beyond… Prelude to Inferno

Genosha was now in the rearview mirror but for the last several issues, ever since her dream sequence with S’ym, something had been building with Madelyne Pryor.  The demon “stabbed” her in the heart with a fingernail representing a darker side of her soul which left her, in the dream world, draped in this attire:

We saw that outfit again during Maddie’s psi-scan in Genosha last issue and we also witnessed multiple appearances by the demon N’astirh as he tried to contact Ms. Pryor regarding some sort of package.  In addition, there was also a growing…bond…between her and Havok (her husband Cyclops’ brother), not sexual, but to the point where she did refer to him as “lover” in the close of last issue.

Outside of the world of Uncanny X-Men, Marvel had been running house ads for the impending Inferno crossover (like the one I included last entry) but also including the following:

See, outside of the X-Men’s isolated Outback world, their former understudies in the New Mutants team, as well as the five original X-Men (now known as X-Factor), had been experiencing their own issues leading up to the mega event and I will cover those threads as they apply to the larger story within the pages of UXM.

So while each team underwent their own trials and tribulations prior to the Inferno, this was the final chapter in the build-up to our Uncanny mutants entry into the fire….

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letter: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Bob Harras

One of the things that the X-Men missed while tucked away in their Outback home and running around Denver/Genosha was a slow transformation of New York City.  At this point in my comic book “career,” I was strictly reading X-Men related books, and to this day still have not read the Inferno crossover stories, so I have no idea if the transformation was being depicted elsewhere in the Marvel U, but, within the pages of X-Factor, readers were witness to vehicles coming to life, phone services rendered inert, as well as televisions only airing static.

We open this tale of UXM with an outside shot of the Empire State Building and some of the random conversations taking place outside the building as well as a radio station.  The talks includes someone explaining how a pay phone ate a man, the radio DJ threatening to sacrifice someone, and, as we go inside the Empire State Building, a tourist’s child noting the elevator goes up to 113 despite the guidebook saying it only has 102 floors.

The transformation of NYC is further illustrated as the family of tourists enters an elevator in the Empire State Building only for it to transform into a demonic creature that devours them whole, leaving an oblivious janitor to mop up their blood as it seeps out from underneath the door.

The scene shifts to the base of one Mr. Sinister, this marking the first time we have seen the character during my Outback overview and the first time since issue #221 that we have seen him at all.  It’s actually only his third overall appearance in the X-Books so his importance to the overall story was still a mystery.

What is interesting in this scene is that, despite his power, Sinister is still under the belief that the X-Men are dead and regrets that he was not the man responsible for their demise.  His lamenting is interrupted by the arrival of Malice, this marking my introduction to both the Malice entity as well as that of her host body: the former X-Men Polaris.  Malice, essentially a psychic parasite, took control of Polaris’ body in UXM #219 (an issue that also marked Havok’s official return to the team for the first time since Giant-Size X-Men #1) and took over as leader of Sinister’s Marauders.  Take note that the Marauders were the group responsible for the Mutant Massacre in the Morlock tunnels which retroactively puts Sinister as the man behind that slaughter a year or so before he was officially introduced.

Sinister demonstrates his way with words in calming Malice’s rage and then turns his attention, one-by-one, to the members of our Uncanny unit as he continues delivering what I can only call his version of a eulogy.  One interesting note to make of the crystalline statues Sinister uses in this sequence: he pulls the Jean Grey (in X-Factor attire) statue from the lot, twirls it around, and it transforms into a statue of Madelyne Pryor…

First in Sinister’s line-up is Dazzler who we see entering a total dive bar in Middle Of Nowhere, Australia and dressed to the nines.  It’s a powerfully worded and drawn sequence as Dazzler mesmerizes the audience of drunken fools with Longshot watching from offstage.  It’s a three page sequence that showcases Allison Blaire at her purest, her non-super hero ideal.  To me this is the true Dazzler, the one that wrote the letter in the first part of this series. She is an amazing character, but Sinister snaps her statute in half with no care.

The focus then shifts to Havok as he runs his heart out trying to escape the memories of his recent personal failures with Polaris/Malice and with the Brood.  The intriguing part of Sinister’s introduction of the younger Summers brother is his allusion to “longago days” as if the villain has known Alex for some extended period of time, “before you ever heard the word mutant” as Sinister stated.

The Maddie/Havok dynamic continues as Alex’s sister-in-law steps onto the scene amidst a fiery image that he chalks up to being remnants of Dazzler’s powers but, given what we witnessed in Genosha with Madelyne, it could very well be a product of her making.  The notion of Maddie having powers is taken a step further with her tease to Alex of being able to read his mind. Alex’s response of “…didn’t realize I was speaking out loud” is that has an impact because of the print nature of comic books.  We, the reader can clearly see that he did not speak the words out loud as his words were encapsulated in thought bubbles rather than dialogue ones.  Now Maddie’s response of “only me” could be one she just throws out there to calm Alex’s nerves rather than a response to his thoughts but given the changes we have seen in Pryor over the last few issues, the doubts weigh heavily.  In addition to the powers question, the nature of this relationship between in-laws continues to come under scrutiny as they take each other’s hands while Madelyne expresses her fondness for looking at Alex.

Sinister’s laments turn to two X-Men simultaneously as we catch-up to first Storm and then Wolverine.  The former is at play with the Outback computer systems that Madelyne has made her own until she stumbles across the same image of Cyclops & Jean Grey that Maddie did back in #232.  Where Maddie’s reaction to Jean being alive was to lash out and punch the monitor, Storm’s is to head straight for the man who loved her as much as Cyclops.  This revelation is of no shock to Logan though…

…as he caught her scent during the Mutant Massacre back in #211 and again in issue #215 (the sister’s place reference) but couldn’t admit it to himself.  Not only does this scene give the reader an impression of just how powerful Storm can be but it also gives us backstory tying our Uncanny team to characters that have not been a part of their lives (or this book) for a very long time.  Figure at this point Jean Grey had been dead (at least as far as Storm & Wolverine are concerned) for over 100 issues and any readers who had come onto the book since that time would have a strong disconnect to the woman’s importance in the lives of Ororo and Logan.  Given what is on the horizon for our mutants, it was essential to reconnect with that shared history.

Sinister then pulls the Psylocke statue into his hand as we see an impromptu “Danger Room” session take place between her, Rogue, and Colossus in what seems like a grotto area of their Outback home.  Two things come to mind immediately about this scene, and I suppose, the Havok scene from earlier as well.

The first thought, the one that also brings in Havok’s scene, is in regards to the very idea of training.  It is rare that we see superheroes actually training themselves in any fashion yet in the X-Men books, it has been a staple of the line.  In this very specific portion of the series that I’m covering we have already seen it multiple times, including the very first issue with Dazzler in the Danger Room proper and again in #230 in their Outback home.  Perhaps it is because the book began as one set in a school (it isn’t as if you ever see Tony Stark, Hawkeye, or Ant-Man working out in the Avengers corner of the world) but even once the mutants leave the school grounds, they still find ways to hone their powers.  It continues even to this day with Cyclops’ team of young mutants in Uncanny X-Men (Vol. 3).

The second thought is in regards to Psylocke, and it is one echoed by Sinister’s words on the subject.  Since #213 when she battled Sabretooth alone and lived, Claremont has defied expectations with Betsy Braddock.  Given her “proper English woman” background, Betsy has proven to be a warrior at heart and this training session further illustrates just how far she actually is from that image.  She stands her ground against the two powerhouses of the team and, when pushed by a Rogue acting decidedly villainous, doesn’t hesitate to psi-blast her own teammate into the dirt.  We are also introduced to another aspect of Betsy as she strips off her armor in front of Rogue (Carol Danvers now in charge) and a blushing Colossus before going swimming in her skivvies. It’s a rather sexual depiction of Psylocke we hadn’t seen before, particularly with Silvestri’s butt shot panel, but doesn’t feel gratuitous so much as just an expansion of the character.

Also of note in this sequence, particularly because I think it’s another moment that Claremont (nor any other writer) ultimately went nowhere with, Rogue/Carol casually puts her bare hand on Psylocke’s bare shoulder which would trigger Rogue’s powers. It’s not a subtle image, one that could just be ignored, as it is the focal point of the sequences final panel but. Best as I recall, it amounted to nothing.

The hand of Sinister reaches into the pile of statues and once more pulls out Madelyne’s only to crush it into dust. His words, “You were my pride, my joy, the first and in so many ways the best…”, allude to some deeper connection between he and Maddie that may explain just why he sent the Marauders to execute her back in #221 & #222 but had yet been unexplored. Given the nature of the Inferno ads, it certainly seems that exploration is on the horizon…

As for Maddie herself, the relationship between she and Alex continues to grow as this issue draws towards its ending.  He sits, basking in the sun, listening to “Devil in a Blue Dress” on the radio, and dreaming about dancing with Lorna at his brother’s wedding to Madelyne.  The dream turns sour though as Lorna transforms into Malice while Cyclops disappears completely, leaving the Alex and Madelyne alone together to pick up the dance.

The dreamer is awoken by the arrival of Maddie, who is of course wearing a blue dress, and who makes her intentions for her brother-in-law quite clear.  Havok, quite confused about his feelings and attraction to his brother’s wife, ultimately follows her lead into the bedroom and our scene shifts to Mr. Sinister once again.

Maddie and Cyclops son, Nathan Christopher, is in his hands and in a crèche very similar to those of Genosha that Madelyne said felt familiar while N’astirh is apparently in Sinister’s lair to claim the child.  Back in Australia, Havok sleeps post-coital while his lover laments her inability to sleep, her inability to dream, and wonders whether or not she should save him from whatever is coming.  Madelyne descends to the computer lair where she communicates with N’astirh (who was trying to contact her during Genosha) and, for the first time, we see her referred to as the Goblin Queen.  We also learn her true goal in dancing with this devil: she wants the Marauders and she wants her son…the culmination of Madelyne Pryor’s six year story arc.


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Christopher Maurer is a graduate of Michigan State University w/ a BA in English who then proceeded to get wrapped up in the world of videography for local news & sports, including the 2003 March Madness tournament, before migrating to Philadelphia in late-2003 where he then jumped into the crazy-ridiculous world of professional wrestling under the moniker Shane Hagadorn. It is a world in which he, his wife, and cats have since resided for the last 10 years. Chris, an avid fan of comics for 25 years & counting, has been writing his own personal blog since late-2010 at 20 Plus Years of 32 Pages and recently had his first published work in the September 2013 issue of Philly Beer Scene Magazine. His loves include Batman, mutants, Grant Morrison, craft beer, and not taking it all too seriously...

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