The Small Lebowski:
Issue(s): X-Factor #38
This goes beyond the (already heavy) revelation that we saw in Uncanny X-Men #241, where Madelyne seemingly first found out that she was a clone created by Mr. Sinister.
Madelyne says that she "brings out the demon... in people", and with that, the two teams start fighting each other. It's triggered by Longshot, whose luck powers only work when he's acting with altruistic intentions, so he stumbles and slams into the Beast, who slams into Rogue...
...and soon the teams are fighting like children.
As Storm and Cyclops start fighting, the revelation goes deeper. It seems Madelyne was deliberately keeping information about X-Factor from the X-Men. That's a pretty key point that gets to the heart of the fact that the teams weren't talking (at least since the Australia era, or maybe since Maddie wound up with them). She also says that she was subconsciously responsible for Cyclops' loss to Storm when they fought for leadership of the X-Men.
Throughout the past few years, i've been saying that it's just unbelievably odd that the X-Men never tried to contact or investigate X-Factor. I can believe that for a little while they were just too distracted with other things. But once Madelyne showed up in a hospital, it just seems impossible to me that no one on the team would try to contact Scott. Or if they really thought X-Factor were "mutant hunters" as Simonson keeps having the X-Men call them here, then investigate and stop them if necessary. I've been through it a bunch of times already and won't rehash it further. But the two revelations in the above scene can be combined to suggest that once Madelyne was with the X-Men, she was manipulating them into believing the worst about X-Factor while simultaneously doing nothing about it. That's explicitly the case once they get to Australia. And if Madelyne's powers were subconsciously working since Cyclops quit the X-Men, there's no reason why she couldn't have been doing this even earlier than that.
Even this pointless fight, and the fact that it's the X-Men (except Colossus, who wasn't with the X-Men prior to Fall of the Mutants) that have been en-demoned by Inferno while the X-Factor characters haven't, could be seen as part of Madelyne's corrupting influence on them. And if we think of Mr. Sinister as a representation of all the editorial interference that Claremont has been dealing with, Madelyne, as a (subconscious) instrument of his, is part of that.
There's no doubt that the solution for Madelyne was meant to absolve Scott of his guilt for his actions (and lack of actions) beginning with X-Factor #1. Even while they're fighting here, Jean is sure to point out that Cyclops is doing everything he can to not hurt Madelyne (in contrast to Storm, who says "I do not share Cyclops's scruples!"). And Simonson has Scott being contrite, acknowledging that he's hurt Madelyne and that "most of what she says of me is true".
Meanwhile, Madelyne reaches out to the most corrupted member of X-Factor, Angel, and appeals to his Apocalypse-induced dark side.
But he fights against it and takes a hit meant for Jean.
Madelyne's appeal to Dazzler and Longshot is more effective. She makes them "stars".
And she's already got Havok.
But as we reach the culmination of this battle against the Goblin Queen, it's her connection with Jean Grey that matters the most. Maddie recaps the information that we learned about Maddie's origins in Uncanny X-Men #241, and Jean sees a connection between this copy of her and the one that the Phoenix made.
And in fact that connection is dead-on. The fact that Madelyne has Jean's memories is because the Phoenix entity went to her after the Jean template died on the moon.
It went to Maddie specifically because Jean, in her cocoon, rejected it because of the evil it had done.
It's confirmed here that Madelyne was able to fight off the Marauders because of the secret power that she had. And Jean also makes the point that if Madelyne had wanted to find her baby, she could have had Roma teleport her to him (and she could have brought the X-Men, if she was worried about the Marauders).
And it's repeated that Madelyne was manipulating the X-Men to make sure that they would only assume the worst about X-Factor and attack them when they came in contact. And this is before her alliance with S'ym and N'astirh ("the demons came later").
While Madelyne is delivering this data dump to Jean, the X-Men and X-Factor are trying to fight their way into a telekinetic force bubble. Wolverine has managed to convince Havok to help (even though Wolvie, at least, doesn't have any sympathy for Scott).
Dazzler is convinced to help thanks to her vanity, since Madelyne turns off her spotlight while communicating with Jean, and Psylocke is able to help Longshot get his luck back.
The combined X-Teams do manage to break through, but Madelyne blasts them back. It's then the Phoenix itself that betrays Madelyne.
Jean then absorbs that part of the Phoenix Force ("part" because some/most of it is with Rachel Summers, who is not mentioned here). And since this is the same entity that died on the moon, Jean is absorbing both the Phoenix template that replaced her after her first "death" as well as the life and memories of Madelyne.
The resolution here, therefore, has similarities to the merging of Sif and Jane Foster into a single woman to resolve Thor's love triangle problems. And in many ways it's worth looking at Inferno as a Roy Thomas-esque fixit style plot (the Sif/Foster thing was by Conway, but i see the epic continuity fix as a tradition started by Thomas that many other writers, including Englehart and Gruenwald, have continued). Because that's really what Inferno is about: closing ups some longstanding plot threads. This is the first time we've really had one of these in the X-corner of the Marvel universe, but that's because a lot (but not all) of the open items are due to the expansion of that corner, especially due to the addition of X-Factor, both in the implications of the resurrection of Jean and how it's been mishandled. Compared to, say, Roy Thomas' Thor/Celestial epic, what's interesting about Inferno is that it's more character driven. Granted, again, it's all possible due to the sacrifice of Madelyne as a character (hence perhaps a plot where Madelyne intends to sacrifice baby Nathan for increased power). But what i mean by character driven is that it's less focused on fixing contradictory uses of random artifacts or inconsistencies in the way characters' actions in one books contradicted their motives in another (although there are certainly elements of that too, especially in explaining the inexplicable forced division between the teams), and more about clearing the way for the book to continue with characters that aren't scarred by past actions that were really caused by behind the scenes problems. So this issue actually completes Jean Grey's resurrection by having her absorb the memories of her fake self. And Scott doesn't have to be written as a deadbeat husband and father. Indeed, on that front, while Scott continues to take blame for his actions, he's told very clearly that he's absolved.
Even the Phoenix Force was confused; we can't possibly blame Scott.
It may feel cheap (i've likened this sort of thing to pulling off a band-aid in the past), and it may not work - very similar to repeated attempts to redeem Henry Pym, the flaws in Scott's character continue to bring writers back to his failings prior to his arc - but that is the intent. Simonson (and surely editor Bob Harras) wants us to move past the Jean/Maddie angst that we've been mired in since this book began.
I think it works well in that regard. We know there's a ulterior motive to this issue besides just telling a story about the X-Characters fighting demons and demon possessed friends. But it is still a decently entertaining issue in its own right, and more importantly the resolution is necessary here. I don't see a solution to the Jean/Maddie problem being solved another way. Keeping Maddie around, either with Scott somehow returning to her (something that i don't think editorial would have allowed) or reconciling with her but leaving her for Jean, would just be asking for continued angsty trouble. Crystal's return to the Fantastic Four after the Human Torch's marriage became intolerable about 3 panels in, and Johnny had had several girlfriends since Crystal and no one was repeatedly establishing that Alicia was a dead ringer for Crystal (Stan Lee did establish in Fantastic Four #8 that Alicia was a dead ringer for Johnny's sister, but let's not go there). If Madelyne was left around in any capacity, it would have just left the door open for reruns of what we've been seeing since issue #1. And, although it's not what Claremont intended, it's certainly very much supported by everything Claremont did - the characters all mistaking her for Jean, the plane crash, her battle prowess, and i like how it is even used to explain the separation between teams. So for a continuity fixer, i think this is well done.
After Madelyne's death, the Empire State Building and the city revert to normal. And given Angel's ability to resist his evil impulses, the Beast suggests he take the name Archangel instead of Dark Angel.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continues directly from Uncanny X-Men #242. With this issue we're into the aftermath stage of Inferno as it relates to the tie-in books. The Empire State Building is back to normal and the demons that remained after Magik brought the majority back to Limbo are now gone. We'll still see some lingering demonic magic in other books, but Inferno is essentially in epilogue. As for the X-Men and X-Factor, though, this continues directly in Uncanny X-Men #243. Despite that direct continuation, i'm placing Spectacular Spider-Man #148 between this issue and UX #243, since it concludes concurrently with the ending here. I should mention that some subset of the Inferno babies, the ones that weren't actually in the pentagram, appear in this issue, but since i don't know which ones, i haven't listed them (except Nathan, of course).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: X-Men: Inferno TPB
Inbound References (7): show
Fnord, the Maddie-was-always-evil retcons make no sense.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 1:30 PM
Michael, everything that you say is a contradiction is explained here by the fact that Maddie was acting on a subconscious level until after her encounter with Sinister. The one possible contradiction is the sequence with her fighting the Marauders, but even that we've only seen previously in Maddie's dream sequence.
I get very clearly that you don't like this revelation, but i see it differently than you.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 30, 2014 1:46 PM
This storyline is a good prequel of the dreadful thing that will be the 1990s in comics.
Storm und drung is supposed to carry all the plot? Check.
Overdramatic posing and speeches in most any panel? Check.
Convoluted storyline which can't be understood at all without a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of minor events from years ago? Check. This one explicitly mentions Uncanny X-Men #201, which was published over three years earlier, and makes it influenced by Madelyne, thereby putting her character and sanity in doubt at least since that time - which in effect is a retcon that Maddie wasn't really sane and faithful by the time Scott left her in X-Factor #1. There are also the references to Phoenix switching places with Jean, dying in the moon and attempting to return to Jean in her underwater cocoon in Jamaica Bay, which are not even footnoted (and in one case involve yet another retcon in an expansion history in a reprint book). We are apparently expected to have read all of those and remember the key points by heart. It is no wonder that comics can't really earn new readers by now. They have become more of a commitment than most marriages.
Personally, I feel very frustrated by this storyline also because I have no clue about how much of the characterization is supposed to "count". Everyone is at least shell-shocked, if not outright demon-influenced, yet everything is just so terribly ambiguous. This history even states outright that Storm, Wolverine, Colossus and Psylocke are untouched by the demonic influence despite arguably showing evidence to the contrary.
If the writers and editors couldn't be bothered to care about the characterization, I did not feel that I should, either.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 30, 2014 1:52 PM
How could Maddie be subconsciously altering the videos before Uncanny 232 without realizing it? Unless she was suffering from MPD.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 2:02 PM
More to the point, there's an undercurrent of sexism and victim blaming to all of the accusations against Maddie.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 2:24 PM
This story is problematic in several other ways. If Scott thought Maddie was losing it BEFORE he left her with her baby, then how does that excuse his leaving her alone with his baby for months? It makes it worse.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 3:38 PM
You didn't scan the panel where Iceman & Rogue discover the 3 missing Inferno babies. Over in New Mutants they have the 10 rescued from the pentacle.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 30, 2014 4:22 PM
Also, fnord, X-Factor 38 is the closest I've ever seen to a story that's objectively badly written. In addition to the confusion about the Maddie retcons, several plot elements are left vague. Did the Phoenix merely copy Jean's memories (if so, why did it need to return them?) or steal some of her memories (if so, why didn't anyone notice Jean was missing some of her memories?) or steal part of her soul without affecting her personality? Why was Maddie dying in the final battle with Jean? (The Official Handbook claims that it was because the X-Men managed to protect Jean from the blast but not Maddie, even though they were right next to each other according to the art.) Like Luis pointed out, it's not clear how much of the characterization was supposed to count. Simonson has Logan point out that this isn't the real Maddie, just a demon conjuring, and Maddie talks of the ties which S'ym forged to bind her to darkenss, implying that Maddie is only acting this way as a result of a spell. But everyone seems to hold Maddie's actions against her nonetheless. And Maddie's dialogue is horrible- it doesn't sound like either the Maddie talks or the way a real person would talk. If you don't believe me, ask your "wimpy lover" for a second opinion.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 4:22 PM
In addition to Simonson's "wimpy lover" line, which ties with "Sinister's chicken" next issue for the most juvenile pieces of dialogue I've ever read, the art is horrible. Wolverine doesn't look like Wolverine,even taking into account the demon influences, and part of this is due to Milgrom's inks.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 4:33 PM
The memories Phoenix tries to return to Jean are those from the time Phoenix was impersonating her, X-Men 101 to 137. This is so the writers don't have to remember whether Jean has ever met Kitty Pryde or whatever and don't have to go through the rigmarole of having Kitty introduce herself to Jean and bring up the whole resurrection/fake Jean business again. This also allows fans to say that the Phoenix Jean is the real Jean and those stories count, but she's not responsible for the Dark Phoenix murders, even though she remembers them.
Maddie's life was derived from the Phoenix all along: that's why she was inert until the Phoenix Jean died on the moon. Phoenix then transfers copied memories from Jean--including Annie Richardson's death--to Maddie. Why doesn't Maddie remember Dark Phoenix? Any explanation will do: chalk it up to Maddie not being quite Jean, so the memories don't access properly. And Sinister has given her a personality and identity of his making.
No wonder she's a mess. Note that while she should, as a clone, have Jean's TK and TP, as Goblyn Queen she seems to have some reality-bending power as well. It's not a gift from the demons: N'Astirh is surprised and impressed by the power. It's a bit of Phoenix power. Maddie in some some sets in the Dark Phoenix, though incomplete and twisted by Sinister and the demons.
I don't see a problem with telepaths and reality warpers being able to use their powers subconsciously. Maddie could have very pure motives in Uncanny 201 and still be affecting Scott's battle with Storm.
Maddie was already unstable by Uncanny 223, when she was suicidal and was only saved by Alex's intervention. Her baby had been kidnapped and she was almost murdered twice. Her subsequent decision to join the X-Men in the fight with the Adversary might be interpreted as suicidal too: the X-Men might survive, or might sacrifice themselves saving others, but Maddie had no way of knowing she'd make a difference. She could only expect to die, albeit honorably.
Maddie tells Jean not to judge her for not asking aroma to send the X-Men straight to the baby. I don't think this has to be read as Maddie not caring about the baby: Jean is just being foolish because sending the X-Men and Maddie directly to the baby, the Marauders, and Sinister would only have gotten the X-Men killed. Look at the fight next issue: Sinister singlehandedly beats all the X-Men and X-Factor until Scott (supercharged by Havok) breaks his conditioning and his Sinister with everything.
One of the good things about this issue is that it can be read as validating Phoenix Jean and Maddie both by wrapping them in with real Jean.
Louise Simonson a and/or Harras doesn't leave well enough alone, though, so we get Maddie's and Phoenix's personalities coming back in Jean during the Judgment War, but in general I agree with Fnord that we've seen the best fix that was possible from the moment Jean was resurrected and the Phoenix Jean was rendered inauthentic. Now all the authenticity is as restored as it can be.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | August 30, 2014 6:50 PM
It's also because the Phoenix was animating Maddie, who was otherwise inert, that Maddie dies when Jean comes to terms with the Phoenix and accepts her stolen life back. It's a well constructed conclusion--it was set up by the otherwise unnecessary revelation in Uncanny that Maddie didn't live until the Phoenix came to her--even if it's not communicated completely clearly.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | August 30, 2014 6:54 PM
Whoops, came here to complain about Milgrom's horrid inks, but I'm too late!
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | August 30, 2014 7:09 PM
Except that Classic X-Men 43 implies Maddie was already awake- she was pounding on the door when Sinister tried to kill her.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 7:53 PM
Getting back to fnord's argument that Maddie being alive would have just asked for continued angsty trouble, the opposite happened when Maddie died. Scott and Jean became boring. Yes, Englehart's Crystal- Johnny-Alicia triangle was a disaster but that's because (a) Englehart can't write woman and (b) Englehart planned to reveal that Johnny was brainwashed by a 6-year old. If Maddie had been kept around to keep the Jean-Scott relationship interesting, we might not have had to have Scott boink Emma Frost.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2014 8:58 PM
The panel with Iceman mentioning the 3 babies that he and Rogue are shown holding is the first panel of the page where Beast suggests Archangel as Warren's new name that you've scanned there. Kinda important for Inferno Baby tracking. ;)
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 30, 2014 10:38 PM
Jay, i had already mentioned the babies in the Considerations section. Not sure if you're suggesting i should do something more? I didn't feel i need to include that particular panel as a scan.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 30, 2014 10:51 PM
Ah! Missed that bit. Never mind, carry on. lol!
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 30, 2014 10:56 PM
Even acknowledging the points previous commenters have left, there are still MAJOR problems with this issue.
1) Much has already been said about Madelyne's portrayal throughout Inferno but for me the bigger problem with the revelations here is that this becomes a huge case of Never Live It Down for future stories. Now anytime poor Maddie is referenced or revived, her default status is always "Evil All Along." (For instance a recent X-Men story had the X-women describe her as one of the X-Men's deadliest enemies, like WTF?) Dark Phoenix (who let us remember blew up a planet!) was shown more sympathy. So Ms Pryor is not ruined here she's ruined for all future generations as well (Similar to how the upcoming Byrne WCA issues will color the Scarlet Witch's character from now on.)
2) The retcons also make both X-teams look like rather gullible chumps. In addition Jean comes across as rather unsympathetic and self-involved here throwing self-righteous accusations toward Madelyne while constantly calling her a "witch" (How "censored-for-prime-time-NBC" of her). Of course Simonson already had Jean beating the "Madelyne is a no-good shrew" drum earlier than this.
3) I also can't say this is well done because this is a just big ol' infodump.
But like fnord said, at least some dangling plotlines were being resolves after lingering for far too long (similar to the poorly-done Hobgoblin revelation, where readers are just glad it's over with.) And despite my complaints I can see how Simonson would want to clear out the "baggage" and move on as soon as possible (after all SHE'S the one who's going to have to be writing Scott from this point on so one could see how she was invested in redeeming the book's leading man. Claremont doesn't have to care at this point so it's easier for him to be dismissive.) I just wish she did it in a way that involved more grace and tact and less badly-retconned cackling super-villianeses.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | August 31, 2014 1:16 AM
You say Maddy stays dead till 2008, but she returned before in the 1990's Nate Grey series I think. Or was that a clone or something?
Posted by: Berend | August 31, 2014 4:22 AM
Well, exactly: that was a something. Actually, two different somethings.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 31, 2014 5:00 AM
To be less cryptic than Luis, here the wikipedia section for that. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | August 31, 2014 9:22 AM
Jon is right. What's disturbing about Maddie is that unlike other characters that were turned into villains, Maddie never knowingly CHOSE to be a villain. Her last lines before choosing the Goblin Queen nail were "I love him" and "What the heck,it's just a dream". But Maddie gets treated like a villain and Gateway, who enabled it (and who also doesn't have to pay for his role in Tyger Tiger's violation) gets treated like a hero. (And if Jean has Maddie's memories, then shouldn't she know about Gateway's duplicity?)
Posted by: Michael | August 31, 2014 11:49 AM
Moreover, Jean tries to excuse what was done to Maddie by arguing she was doomed from birth. That worked for Terra in the Teen Titans, since she was a traitor from the beginning. But Maddie, like Wanda, approached the team in good faith. She was patient with the X-Men while they looked at her like she was a villain and even gave a woman that tried to kill her a slap on the wrist. "They were doomed from birth" is an excuse for the characters to ignore their own culpability in the matter.
Posted by: Michael | August 31, 2014 12:21 PM
And the problem with the story is that it ignores everyone's culpability in the matter. None of the X-Men feel any guilt about what Maddie became, even though they left her alone with a man they knew had turned another woman into a bad girl. And they ignored any signs that something was wrong with her. Nobody ever uses what happened to Maddie as a critique of Storm's leadership.
Posted by: Michael | August 31, 2014 1:10 PM
There's another point- Scott's refusal to kill Maddie is treated like a kindness by Scott but think about what Scott knows about Maddie- she was traumatized by a crash she felt responsible for, so actually killing her son would be a million times worse- it's another example of Scott putting his own needs over Maddie's.
Posted by: Michael | August 31, 2014 1:39 PM
Wow, Michael. That's A LOT of long comments. And you seem to still not be accepting the point of the retcon, which both my response and Walter's explain. The answer to your "MPD" question is essentially "yes". What it seems you're not accepting is that the point of retcon is to establish that Maddie isn't a real person. She's a construct created by Mr. Sinister. On the surface level, she's got a personality designed to get Scott to fall in love with it, and real enough to fool the telepaths that Sinister in this story says that he knew he'd have to circumvent for his schemes. But on a deeper level she's the Dark Phoenix power subverted further by Sinister. All the thought balloons and narration panels are from her surface thoughts. The point isn't that she's a bad person for subverting the X-leadership fight or abandoning her baby or anything else. The point is that she isn't a person at all. Scott drifted away from her because he subconsciously started realizing that she wasn't real; she was designed to attract him but it ultimately didn't work or it stopped working when Jean was resurrected. Maddie wasn't "losing it", Scott was coming out of her thrall. The X-Men shouldn't feel guilt about leaving Maddie with Scott because it was neither they nor Scott that was responsible; it was Mr. Sinister.
Why didn't the other X-Men investigate X-Factor, have Roma send them after Nathan, etc..? Because Maddie was an evil construct that was manipulating the X-Men.
I can understand if you don't *like* the retcon, and i imagine that's especially the case for people that had an attachment to Madelyne (to me she's always been defined by her suspicious similarity to Jean and the related coincidences, so i've never taken her seriously). As i've been saying, this story sacrifices the character of Madelyne, literally retroactively wipes it out, to achieve its goals. So your comment about "individual dignity" is spot on, and i'm sure Claremont agreed (and i think both Claremont and Simonson capture the pathos of that by having Maddie rebel against what's being done to her in the dialogue, and i personally think that's well done). If you want to call it sexist to take a developed female character and retcon her into a construct, that's your right (i'd be curious to know if it's Claremont, Simonson, or Harras that you're leveling that charge at, though; i don't think we can look at any one part of this story and assume that all three didn't have input). I can also accept that the nature of the retcon is cheap and an easy out for the writers to not have to go back and reconcile every line of dialogue. And i definitely take Jon and Luis' points that this story is not casual reader friendly and this issue in particular is a dump of data that you already have to be well mired into the X-Men storylines to follow. Personally i am happy to make that trade in order to get the long lingering problems resolved, but i can concede that in terms of quality value i may have overlooked more than i should have because of the payoff.
And finally, i agree that it's the case that after clearing out all the deadwood, it seemed like Simonson, Harras, and (to a lesser degree) Claremont didn't really have an idea of where to take the characters next. This actually would have been a perfect time for a creative team shuffle. But i don't take that into account when looking at Inferno itself.
But, Michael, most of your arguments seem to miss the mark because you're not accepting the point of the retcon.
With this i've said my piece. I hope this won't trigger another dozen comments, but i promise i won't come back and do any point by point responses.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 1, 2014 8:45 AM
Fnord, if I don't understand the point of the retcon, it's because Simonson wasn't very clear about it. For example, Simonson established that Maddie was censoring video but that's seemingly contradicted by Maddie being surprised at seeing Scott and Jean. If the idea was that Maddie's deeper personality was censoring the videos without her surface personality being aware of it, then that could have been explained in the story:
Posted by: Michael | September 1, 2014 11:18 AM
I don't have a dog in the fight about the overall conclusion to Madelyne's story, other than it being poorly done no matter what side you take, but I do take exception at denying that the Reavers' computers could (in theory) have been responsible. It was already set up that she understood the computers far more than anyone else, it was being established that the computers were reorganizing the base to the point where the returning Reavers didn't even recognize it.
Claremont does have a fondness for weird superhero headquarters - the Australian town, Excalibur's lighthouse, the rebuilt Danger Room, even Ship which Claremont had no part in creating (to my knowledge) - and although I don't subscribe to the viewpoint, I could easily see that it was intended that the computers were already sentient and would reveal [whatever they were going to reveal] in future issues. By the time he left, Claremont had foreseen a plot where Xavier would die and Gateway would replace him, so this is probably a part of that.
No, Maddie was not always evil. She was a normal girl/Claremont woman [itself an impossible thing to be] who happened to look like Jean and important moments in her life happened to occur at the same time as important moments in Jean's life. Charles Dickens just texted me and said that's not plausible.
Between the missing baby, the Australian computers, the Seige Perilous, Phoenix and editorial demands, there's no good way out of this mess. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. The least bad option is tie everything into Maddie and make it work as much as possible. Top of my head, the second best choice would be to tie it into Jean, and rather than the clone subplot, it turns out that Jean (or Phoenix) was Maddie all along. Third best choice would have been to have Illyana reset everybody back to the start when she got rid of all the demons at the end on "Inferno." Fourth best choice would have been to have Rachel show up and provide whatever exposition was required. Fifth best choice was that Maddie never existed and she was always a long-running scheme of Sym and N'astirh, who were probably working with Mr. Sinister.
There is no good option. There is only the least-bad option. And that's not even getting into Scott's reaction to Maddie. Sure, on-panel, all we saw were things that reminded him/us of Jean (other than Paul Smith's art, the first point where comic book characters stopped being drawn on-model) but off-panel, by the time they'd spent their first night together, Scott would have seen any number of ways that she differed from Jean. His own paranoia might help him miss this, but seriously, Maddie doesn't have a New York accent, she doesn't do that 'bored and telekinetically playing with her hair thing,' she does talk about all the places she's been and people she's met (unlike Jean, who was usually at the same places Scott was, ever since high school, so she has no reason to explain any of this to him) and basically by the end of their first night, even in a Code-approved comic, there's no way that Scott could have mistaken Maddie for Jean. ["Jean didn't swallow, she spit."]
Never mind the concept of infatuation, which rushes you into marrying someone you only met seven issues ago (in Marvel Time, no less.) If anything, Scott would have been looking at how much better Maddie was to Jean in every possible way. Maybe he was deluded, maybe Maddie was using her latent Phoenix/Sinister programming to control his mind, maybe the tragedy of losing Xavier and having Magneto take over the school made Scott snap when he heard Jean was alive again. None of this is to his credit, or anyone else in X-Men or X-Factor, but blaming Madelyne for everything is the least bad way to make the story work, while remaining consistent with What Came Before and still leaving the characters viable for future stories. As I mentioned on the "X-Men" #242 page, who's in charge here? Definitely Cyclops, definitely not Storm, completely overthrowing 100+ issues of Claremont's work.
It's not well done. I'm not defending the quality of this issue. [Especially Al Milgrom's inks over Walt Simonsen, ewwwwwwwww!] But it does basically work as a conclusion to the Madelyne Pryor/Jean Grey storyline. It will never be a perfect fit, no matter how many retcons they add.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 1, 2014 9:15 PM
What a mess.
Posted by: a.lloyd | January 23, 2016 1:39 AM
@a.lloyd - The comic itself or the back-and-forth within the comments section?
Posted by: D09 | February 5, 2016 8:53 PM
I love Inferno and this issue. By the time I came onboard the x-train, this was ancient history (1992). So as much as I liked Maddie when I went and re-read back issues, like all good x fans I already knew the end of her story. And what ever CC intended, this was the best option available at the time to wrap all of this up and move the line forward. I really don't understand people reading this through a gender critical lens. To do so in the way that many online do, demands so much cherry-picking, so much willful ignorance, so much denial of the medium, and usually comes with a lot of outrage to boot. I can sort of see if UXM 170s was "your X-Men," your introduction, and you fell hard for Maddie and later Scott's attempted retirement, but this line of thought is never presented as subjective. Really I cannot see how Michael can enjoy a medium full of retcon such as comics!
To me, all of the confusing plot points were always part of X-Men. CC and other creators knew we were obsessing over details and I applaud them for actually trying to pick up those pieces and hammer out a coherent ending. This heavy continuity, until the 90s, was a positive. They had enough readers to satisfy, they didn't need to be new reader friendly. That is what is killing comics in my opinion and the reason we have 12 issues volumes of books between events instead of ongoing endless narratives. I and a lot of others fell hard for the X-Men bc of continuity, not despite it.
Posted by: Berry T | March 29, 2017 5:03 PM
Really I cannot see how Michael can enjoy a medium full of retcon such as comics!
No offense, but this is a total strawman argument. You can totally enjoy superhero comics (which is a genre, not a medium; comics as a medium is much larger, and retcons are popular only in this one genre) and accept that retcons are a part of them, and still think some retcons are done much better than others.
The problem here is, they could've still done a retcon that solves the Jean/Maddie issues without reverting to the sexist "women are sexy manipulators" stereotype or ignoring and overwriting Maddie's previous characterisation. They could've simply written the story so that Maddie was always a clone, but she grew up to be a strong and moral person in her own right, so she was merely the victim of Sinister's manipulation. They could've made it so that Scott was simply conflicted by Jean's return and made a big mistake by leaving Maddie and Nathan behind, and have him own up to that mistake and apologise Maddie. That wouldn't have ruined Scott as a character, it would've made him more human, and having him own up his mistakes would've shown some character growth.
But instead they wanted to completely absolve Scott of guilt, so they decided to make Maddie "evil all along", against her previous characterisation and previously established facts.
[CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST]
Posted by: Tuomas | March 30, 2017 4:13 AM
It wasn't the fault of Claremont or Simonson that Marvel decided to bring Jean back and caused this whole mess, but they certainly could've gotten out of the mess with a retcon that would've had less plotholes, and would've been less sexist and less damaging to a previously likable character.
So yeah, you can love superheroes comics and appreciate good retcons, and still say the one in Inferno was badly handled.
Posted by: Tuomas | March 30, 2017 4:18 AM
People in the comments above say that this whole story couldn't have been resolved in a satisfactory manner, but I don't really agree. IMO they could've reached the same goals with a few changes:
A) Keep the whole Inferno/Illyana plot as a pure New Mutants story, or maybe a New Mutants/X-Men crossover. There's no need for Madelyne to become the Goblin Queen, the same story can be told with S'ym and/or N'astirh as the main villain.
B) Resolve the Maddie/Jean/Scott plot by revealing that Maddie was indeed a clone created by Sinister, but she grew up to become a individual of her own right, and was never evil. The X-Men and X-Factor discover this and fight Sinister. Now, at this point you could do two different resolutions:
[CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST]
Posted by: Tuomas | March 30, 2017 5:16 AM
1) Maddie dies in the fight with Sinister. You could even have it so that she's the one who manages to kill him, so she dies a hero. This could still be seen as a bit sexist, since it's convenient to solve a love triangle by killing the "more disposable" woman. But at least Maddie would die with dignity and her character wouldn't have been ruined. And Scott would have to admit abandoning her was his own mistake, not caused by any manipulation.
2) Sinister dies but Maddie doesn't. However, Maddie realizes that her relationship with Scott was based on a big lie, since Sinister was manipulating the grief-stricken Scott by providing her with a clone of his one true love. So she and Scott decide to divorce, and Scott stays with Jean. Scott still admits that abandoning Maddie with no explanation was a big mistake, but Maddie is willing to forgive him, given the extraordinary circumstances of Jean coming back to life. Scott is not absolved of guilt, but the triangle drama is resolved in adult manner. Scott and Maddie decide to have co-custody of Nathan.
Posted by: Tuomas | March 30, 2017 5:20 AM
One could argue that my resolution #2 is too mature for superhero comics in 1989, but Janet and Hank Pym had already divorced several years earlier, and Mockingbird and Hawkeye had also gone through a similar breakup not too long ago. So it's not like the writers couldn't have handled the whole issue in a more adult way, they just chose not to.
Posted by: Tuomas | March 30, 2017 5:29 AM
But Tuomas, the real problem with your scenario #2 is that divorce would age Scott too much as a character, and that's clearly unacceptable and inferior to the resolution they went with. It would be preferable to reveal Maddie as a Skrull, or have Scott sell the marriage to Mephisto so it never happened, than to have Scott go through something as unhip and aging as divorce.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 30, 2017 12:29 PM
And really, bringing Mephisto and his dealings into the end of Inferno would have been mostly in theme!
Posted by: J-Rod | March 30, 2017 3:19 PM
Mephisto would have been a definite plus if we were picking "What If"s about "Inferno." Tuomas, my problem with your Resolution #2 is that it leaves Maddie with the Phoenix Force, but not a cosmic force for good and evil, just a woman whose husband ditched her and years later, they work out a settlement.
My problem with your Solution #2 is that it's too close to what Byrne/Claremont/Shooter/whoever worked out to retcon the original storyline, that Phoenix wasn't Jean, but she came so close to being Jean that she did the superheroic self-sacrificing thing. So the clone thing becomes just an excuse to do it all over again like a bad sequel quickly thrown together to cash in on a hit, which is one of the (many) damaging things done to Maddie and Scott and everybody else.
I have no real problems with your Resolution #1, other than the Phoenix is going to be reborn, we all know that, and bad guys always return from the grave. Even the story as published had a greater sense of finality.
And Solution #1, the story that became "Inferno" was too big to be handled in "X-men" and "New Mutants." I think that's why "Inferno" is my favorite crossover.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 30, 2017 9:16 PM
Solution for Maddie...
Nastirh was behind the creation of Magneto's Island, and we can delve back as deeply into Atlantean/Darkhold/Eternals history as need be to justify it. Limbo is a place of time-warping, and magicians are not bound by cause-and-effect.
So Magneto is led to this magical place, his island appears, Scott and Lee get shipwrecked, taken prisoner by Magneto, and eventually are rescued by the X-Men. Illyana is brought to the island for reasons no one knows - seriously, after being kidnapped by Arcade, wouldn't she be at the mansion, or even taken home to her worried parents? - and is pulled into Limbo by Belasco. I'm taking it as a given that Nastirh is not Belasco's superior, but has momentarily arranged events that he has an upper hand, which is why Belasco gets Illyana, and why she eventually escapes. Ideally these scenes would fit in with the relevant "New Mutants" flashbacks in Limbo during "Inferno." S'ym is merely a servant who always aspires to overthrow his master, whoever he/she is at the moment.
From Limbo's position outside Time, Nastirh sees Illyana rule Limbo, he sees Phoenix die, he sees Sinister cloning Maddie, he sees Cameron Hodge working in concert with Apocalypse to destroy/strengthen mutants, he sees Bird Brain as a deformed freak, a mutant, and a ruler of demons [basically the Jar Jar Binks of his day.]
It's Nastirh who orchestrates the connection between Jean, Phoenix and the clone who will become Maddie. [To be continued]
Posted by: ChrisW | March 30, 2017 9:29 PM
It's Nastirh who orchestrates the chain-of-coincidences that led Scott to think Maddie was Jean reborn. But seriously, you can't just grow a duplicate over many years and have them turn out to be exactly like another person, even the person they're cloned from. If Maddie had been taught in Japanese, would Scott really think 'she's so much like Jean, if Jean spoke nothing but Japanese'? 'Jean never told me to take off my shoes when entering the room. She's so much different than Jean.'
Maddie is the time bomb to win the Summers DNA that Sinister has always wanted (and Lee Forrest, Lorna Dane, and Hepzibah have plenty of, jus' saying...] She's enough like Jean to really disarm the defenses he's built up since he was a child, but she's different enough that he genuinely realizes he's grown beyond his high school girlfriend. Maddie herself is entirely attracted to Scott because she's a normal human female, duh.
Maddie is a weapon aimed at Scott by Sinister, for genetic reasons [marrying and siring a child.] She's a weapon aimed at Scott by Nastirh, for magical reasons [basically everything we've ever seen, with all the coincidences included. Michael Rossi, Sarah Grey, Wanda and Pietro being revealed as Magneto's children...] The Phoenix Force and Belasco [and Mephisto!] have their own interests.
Some of these people [entities] will know in advance that Jean will return from the dead. Some of them don't. [Again, to be continued]
Posted by: ChrisW | March 30, 2017 9:40 PM
By the time Jean comes back, Nastirh's spell has already brought in Rachel and Nimrod, Cable and Stryfe, Wanda losing her babies, even minor effects like Reed and Sue joining the Avengers. Selene and Amara. The Techno-Organic Virus and its effect on time travel [the Askani] and universal destruction [Magus.] The Casket of Ancient Winters. Dr. Strange becoming evil. I could easily see Gossymyr and the Brood being worked into this.
Nastirh's out of his depth. So he's pulling every string he can think of, perhaps even the Shadow King's. He manages to defeat Sym in "Inferno," and turn Illyana into the Darkchylde.
Everything Madelyne had ever done before suddenly becomes subsumed by the return of the Phoenix. She had been held captive in Genosha and by Mr. Sinister and given enough exposition to make this clear, but this is the point where Phoenix truly returns. In the previous issue of the crossover, Nastirh had insisted that the techno-organic virus would make him supreme in ways his magics never could. And the combined X-forces beat him easily.
But now Phoenix returns in a way that defeats the after-effects of Nastirh's plans. Phoenix was never Jean Grey, she was never Madelyne, she is not Rachel. Phoenix is able to see the wide breadth of the story being told [i.e. the Marvel Universe] and can pass along a wink from generation to generation, the "I told you so" that mothers and daughters teach each other each time. [To be continued]
Posted by: ChrisW | March 30, 2017 9:49 PM
Phoenix to Jean to Maddie to Rachel to Cable back to Rachel back to Maddie back to Jean back to Phoenix. Maddie doesn't need to be a hero or a villain, she just needs to the necessary work to survive, and ensure her husband and children survive.
Nastirh is defeated, Belasco and Mephisto are defeated, Illyana is redeemed as the little girl she should , other superheroes play their roles, Phoenix is reborn and simply leaves the nest. An inferior creative team will probably bring her back, but for the time being, she's gone, not a villain (although she did evil things) not a hero (she didn't do anything heroic except while impersonating Jean) X-Men and X-Factor have a reason to follow up the Mr. Sinister/Marauders plotline.
Maddie was her own person. Created as a weapon, brainwashed to attract Scott, she was still her own person, and simply by existing served the higher evil powers to divide Scott from Jean/Phoenix. Once she realized this, she went downhill fast and quickly became the Goblin Queen.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 30, 2017 9:59 PM
How popular was Inferno back in the day? Every time I think of it I perceive it as a failed crossover.
It collapsed almost immediately from under its own weight.
It wasted fairly talented artists (Walt Simonson and Marc Silvestri) on confused plots that clarified next to nothing while going through the motions of informing that long-dangling threads were finally somehow resolved.
It seemed to want to present itself as the climax and resolution of Jean and Madelynne's situations, but that was just an attempt at prestidigitation.
In reality it served to settle the otherwise unsolvable plots that Claremont and to a lesser degree Louise Simonson herself introduced in New Mutants, which was by that point quite the caricature of its own premise, with the introduction of several too many supernatural elements for no good reason and no clear direction to make use of them. It almost seemed to want to become Supernatural or Buffy/Angel without realizing it.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 30, 2017 10:21 PM
At the time, I loved it. And I still do for that matter. But I was an X-Factor reader who started collecting X-Factor right before Fall of the Mutants. I didn't read the X-Men beyond casually flipping through it when I bought my latest X-Factor issue, so didn't know much about Madelyne, really. And frankly didn't care that much. I was an Iceman fan since his Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends cartoon. Inferno inspired me to purchase most of the crossover tie-in issues, I enjoyed the story that much. Stepping back and looking at Madelyne now, she really was a clone of Jean that Claremont created to give Cyclops a happy ending with. I especially enjoyed the Illyana story arc, Cyclops finally getting his son back, and X-Factor finally seeing the X-Men face to face again (and getting into a fight!) So to my mind, I don't think of it as a failure at all and it's still one of my favourite Marvel storylines ever.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | March 31, 2017 10:26 AM
I think there's tons of reasons to call "Inferno" a failed crossover. I think it's ultimately successful because it ends several of the ridiculously-long plotlines, for good or bad, and lets us get on to the next story. It also did a decent job of drafting all the spin-off characters and extraneous Marvel Universe into the storyline.
I'm biased, because this is where my interest in the X-Titles was at its highest, and Silvestri/Simonsen were icing on the cake. But it gave Illyana and Maddie a resolution that had started 80 issues ago, the old and new X-Men had great action scenes, and I still love the way they beat Nastirh.
In "New Mutants," the resolution was tolerable, the "X-Factor" issues sucked. If nothing else, Al Milgrom should have never been permitted to touch Walt's pencils. Even Weezie was somewhat-decent, because she'd shepherded these ideas from beginning to end.
If you don't like "Inferno," I'll probably agree with most of your reasons for not liking it. That said, at the time, it really felt like something had been concluded and everybody could move on, even if the conclusion didn't make any sense, was really weak [Maddie vs. Jean] and it just set up a lot more extended plotlines.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 1, 2017 3:52 AM
I don't get how Maddie as a manipulator is sexist, but her (and evryone else) being manipulated by Sinister isn't. And I'd say that a good reason for not having Scott simply accept his mistake and have an amicable divorce is that it would be DULL. The way to have Maddie, and Scott, leave the scene in an undramatic way was Claremont's original plan of giving them a happy 'retirement', but that time had passed, and Jean's mandated return meant it wasn't coming back.
Posted by: Dave | April 2, 2017 4:18 PM
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