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X-Men Annual #4 (1980, November)

April 1, 2013

Last issue was a clip show. Now we get an annual. But we’ll get back to the story proper soon! For today, though, “Nightcrawler’s Inferno.”

Nightcrawler's Inferno

I have nothing funny to say about this cover.

John Romita, Jr. does the art duties here. He shows up to a surprise party the X-Men threw for him. He opens a package that has a crystal figurine of himself, which promptly explodes in his face. They rush him to the Medilab. Xavier and Ororo spend a while examining him, then tell the others that Kurt’s no longer alive. While they mourn, the doorbell rings, and Kitty lets in Dr. Strange. Strange examines Nightcrawler with the Eye of Agamotto, and is fascinated that he’s human, rather than a human/demon hybrid. He also finds Nightcrawler’s soul has been stolen. He senses another presence, who reveals herself as Margali of the Winding Road, a sorceress on Strange’s level, at least. A demon grabs Strange, Wolverine and Colossus. Storm manages to get Kitty and Xavier out of the lab before she gets grabbed as well. All four are drawn into the demon, and disappear.

They all wake up – with Nightcrawler, in front of the door to Hell. Charon takes them across the River Acheron, to a large building, where they meet Minos, who appears as a slick and sleazy Maitre d’. He’s great, I must say. He eventually throws Nightcrawler away. Storm rushes after him, and manages to save him. They wind up in the hurricanes of the Second Circle, containing “those souls who subjected reason and intellect to carnal desire.” Storm and Nightcrawler also come under attack from harpies. Nightcrawler teleports away, but Storm gets hit by a spear. The X-Men decide to go after Storm, but Strange thinks about how he doesn’t get a sense of evil from the place. Odd, for Hell.

They pass the Second Circle, into the third, full of driving rain, containing gluttons. Cerberus attacks, but is driven off. They pass the Fourth Circle – the avaricious – and the Fifth – the wrathful. They reach the city of Dis, with walls of flame. Strange asks why Margali wants Nightcrawler so badly, and Nightcrawler says he murdered her son. Wolverine gets up to the wall with a Fastball Special (Fastball Special Tracker: 5; and I’ve decided not to bother with the Claremazon Moment Tracker any more, because I got bored of it). After a brief scuffle with the demons up top, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Strange have to head back down. Colossus finds a gate. Strange wonders why it isn’t open, but Colossus rectifies it. Strange becomes even more convinced that they’re not in the real Hell, since only one man can open those doors by force.

They continue on, reaching the Eighth Circle, Malabolge, fraudsters. Colossus mentions being glad he was raised an atheist. An interesting comment. Strange explains who winds up in Malaborge, and mentions thieves. Wolverine is quick to realize Storm’s there. They find her, but she’s horribly deformed and mutated. Wolverine shows up with a serpent that he says is Ororo. Turns out when the serpents bite people, they take their form, and turn the people into serpents. The Ororo-serpent bites her body, and the two changes back to normal, though Storm’s badly shaken by the experience.

They continue on into the Ninth and final Circle, Cocytus, a desolate place devoid of hope, where traitors are sent. Nightcrawler is encased in ice, but Colossus frees him. That’s when Satan shows up to confront them. But Strange reveals Satan as Margali, who wonders why they’re there. Jimaine, Margali’s daughter, says she brought them, to stop Margali from destroying a man she loves. Margali turns Jimaine to ice. Strange battles her, but it comes to a draw. Kurt finally gives up, and accepts his fate, but Colossus and Strange come to his defence. Margali summons the Eye of Agamotto to reveal the truth about Nightcrawler’s murder of her son.

We see Kurt, as a child, adopted by Margali Szardos, and raised beside her own children, Jimaine and Stefan. Stefan and Kurt became blood brothers, and Stefan asked that if he ever go evil and kill an innocent, Kurt kill him. Eventually, Stefan killed. Kurt fought him, and accidentally snapped his neck. He was on his way to tell Margali what happened when the villagers had found him, and Xavier had saved him.

Margali takes the X-Men back to the Mansion, and apologizes for hating Kurt. Jimaine then reveals herself as Amanda Sefton, the stewardess that Kurt had been dating. Some people get weirded out by the fact that Kurt and Amanda, raised as adoptive siblings, fell in love. I’m going to say nothing about that.

This is a really cool story, though. It’s a nice use of Dante’s Inferno. Margali is an interesting character, neither good nor evil, but possessed of immense power and, clearly, much passion. There’s some interesting discussion of Heaven and Hell. Personally, I’m with Colossus – any god who would sentence people to eternal torment isn’t deserving of worship. Not to get too caught up in theological debate, but I reject the entire idea of Hell. I don’t feel like it makes sense. The Christian god is supposed to be a god of love. Eternal torment is not an act of love, or even of justice. It’s one of anger and vengeance. I’ll also admit that the concept of being subjected to eternal torment terrifies me. Actually, death in general terrifies me.

Anyway, I do kinda wish this story had more long-term effects on the X-Men. They literally went through (a facsimile of) Hell, but there’s no follow-up on it. Amanda being revealed as Jimaine was the major consequence, of course. She’ll remain an occasional supporting character for a while. She becomes more important for a little while in Excalibur, and occasionally pops up elsewhere. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing her again. It’s been a couple years. She hasn’t appeared since the Quest for Magik arc in New X-Men, back in 2007. I suppose with Nightcrawler dead, there’s not much reason for her to show up. Still, it’d be nice to see her again.

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