Uncanny X-Men #243 (1989, April)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I finally got around to watching X-Men: Apocalypse last night. You can read my collected livetweet here. In short, it was not a good movie. But now, by Claremont, Silvestri, Barta, Oliver and Rosen, “Inferno, Part the Fourth: Ashes!”
Jean is kneeling by Madelyne’s corpse. Aw, Maddie. Inferno’s over. The demons are gone. New York’s back to normal. Iceman promises Jean’s parents they’ll find them some clothes soon. Which is great, when everyone else is angsting. Scott is depressed at Maddie dying, the X-Men are feeling bad about how much Inferno changed them (and they’re all still rocking their Inferno’d looks). And Jean’s parents are still nude. Oh, and Ali’s coping pretty well.
Jean suddenly freaks out, and Psylocke goes into her head with Scott, Storm and Logan, and they find themselves on the Blue Area of the moon, to see Phoenix’s death. Scott doesn’t understand how Jean can have that memory, since she wasn’t there, but that question is put on hold when Sinister smashes the memory. The four of them travel through the mindscape, seeing various memories, but they’re Maddie’s memories. They do finally reach Jean’s memories, including Xavier’s School, where Maddie is waiting to blast them out of the astral sky. Jean, in her original costume, runs over to check on them. Two powerful minds are warring for control, and Maddie seems to be winning. And they’re all trapped in Jean’s mind with them.
Sinister smashes another memory, which Jean loses. Storm attacks him, ineffectively, but Psylocke’s able to keep him in check. Maddie tells Scott and Logan a little about Sinister, and is also kinda creepy.
She blames her actions on her creator, and Storm gets pissed at that and gives one hell of a speech.
Jean says she wanted to be her own woman, and it resulted in Dark Phoenix and the Goblin Queen, and I mean, she’s not exactly wrong, but neither of them were really her. It does make her wonder if she should just let it be ended. Sinister tells her she’s right, and she should give up, and let him reboot her. But Jean’s no more interested in Grim’n’Gritty reboots than the rest of us are. Actually, Sinister made the mistake of offering to control the life of THREE women who are all about NOT letting their lives be controlled. Jean, Phoenix, Madelyne. All three of them are fiercely independent. So Sinister suggesting they let him define them? The single worst thing he could have said. Like, absolutely the worst thing he ever could have said at that moment. “Give up all sense of agency!” Oh hell no! It was the one thing he could have said that would unite all three against him.
This is a pretty epic rejection. She turns him down so hard his bedroom explodes. The X-Men and X-Factor head to Xavier’s School to confront him. Storm’s glad to see her flowers aren’t there, so they won’t be hurt in the coming confrontation. Aww, Storm really cares about her flowers. Meanwhile, Jean is pissed at Sinister and sympathetic towards Maddie.
I do love when Jean shows off that hard edge she’s got. For all that she’s kind and sweet and compassionate and nurturing, she can also be a stone-cold badass. She wants Sinister dead. Meanwhile, Beast and Longshot have taken Jean’s grandparents, and little Nathan, to Ship. Longshot’s scared that what N’astirh did to him isn’t gone. In the Morlock tunnels, Alex, Alison, Colossus and Iceman are attacked by Blockbuster, still demonized. He takes down Colossus and Iceman easily, and is about to kill Dazzler, and Havok blows his freaking head off. Cold.
He really has changed. He’s a lot colder. It’s creepy but also a little badass. In the hangar, Sabretooth attacks Psylocke, who takes him out before Rogue can step in to help. Psylocke’s awesome. Elsewhere in the mansion, Jean is angry again, at the fact that Sinister’s been all through the house, wrecking it while searching through it. Then Polaris attacks. And Storm beats her by grabbing her and just slamming her into the floor, because Storm is awesome. No wind, no lightning, no powers, just throwing her face to the floor.
I love Storm’s smile here. Aside: Was Malice calling Storm gay here? “Butch?” She’s definitely flirting, that’s for sure. But is she saying Storm’s gay? Malice was in Storm’s head, briefly, so she’d know. While the X-Men try to interrogate Malice, the house explodes. The X-Men are rendered unconscious, but before Sinister can have them killed, Longshot says they’ll have to kill him first.
This is such a great issue. The stuff in the shared memories of Jean, Phoenix and Maddie is really interesting, and really tense, as Sinister tries to kill the combined mind, and four X-Men try to save her. Madelyne’s anger is handled well, and so is Jean’s fear of what people who look like her have done. Both women are sympathetic, and the rejection of Sinister is a great moment. And Jean’s outrage against Sinister, her absolute hatred of him, is so good. It gives a real chill. There’s a sense of barely restrained fury when she speaks about him. And reading this issue, I think it was a mistake to make Sinister more of a Scott antagonist. Jean’s the one he screwed over the most. Of all the X-Men, she should be the one with the greatest grudge against him. We should’ve gotten more stories about that antagonism. Unfortunately, the ’90s focused on the Scott/Sinister dynamic. It sometimes felt like they forgot what Sinister did to Jean and Madelyne. Man, how great would it have been if Jean had a permanent grudge against Sinister? If she got angry at the very mention of his name? If, any time Scott spoke to Sinister, Jean became outraged and yelled at him for it. During the Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, when Jean and Scott went to the past to see Sinister’s origin, Jean could have kept arguing that they should kill him while they have the chance. I would have liked to have seen that.
Anyway! Jean’s great here. So is everyone else. Alex’s willingness to kill is cold. And I love Alison’s reaction to it. She’s so shocked. An indication that she’s mostly herself, still. The earlier moment when she’s holding Nathan shows it, too.
The art’s great. Silvestri does a really good job with facial expressions. He really captures the fury inside Jean, when they get to the school. You see it in her eyes. Body language is also used well to convey how characters are feeling. He just does a great job all around. And, of course, Oliver’s still doing colours, so the colours look great. She was the best.
This is a fantastic issue. Inferno had a lot of great stuff in it.
Classic X-Men #32, a reprint of X-Men #126. And a back-up, by Nocenti, Bolton, Oliver and Rosen. This expands on Wolverine and Nightcrawler being screwed with by Proteus. Wolverine tries to attack while Nightcrawler tries to tell him not to, and Proteus is a jerk. Wolverine does keep advancing towards Proteus, no matter what’s done to him. Which is kinda cool, showing how deep his courage runs. But mostly, this story is an excuse for Nocenti to get over-the-top with her narration while Bolton gets bizarre with the art. This splash is probably the peak of both:
It’s a pretty great story. Nocenti’s narration is cruel, and Bolton’s art is bizarre, and often grisly. This is one of the best Classic X-Men back-ups.
I should also note Daredevil #265, the last of the Inferno tie-ins, by Nocenti, JRJr, Williamson, Scheele and Rosen. It’s weird and brilliant. A dentist is possessed by his own drill, then goes out to take over a cop, while his partner gets angry at his lunch break being interrupted. Daredevil’s beating up demons, and Butch and Darla watch, but Darla’s been a little demonized, herself. Butch notes that Daredevil’s acting like he’s on autopilot. The whole issue is New York being absolutely insane, even by New York standards, while everyone in it is reacting like it’s normal. This is basically Nocenti’s love letter to New York, and it’s so amazing. It ends with Daredevil going to a bar and having a beer. That’s the happy ending for this book. I think Daredevil probably made best use of the Inferno tie-in, by really showing demonized New York. It’s fantastic stuff, and clearly made by people who love and hate the city. Of all the Inferno tie-ins, this is the one that most deserves to be read. The Nocenti/JRJr run on Daredevil was pretty amazing as a whole.