Mephisto vs.... #4
Issue(s): Mephisto vs.... #4
Last issue involved Mephisto engaging in some dramatic trickery to get Rogue to absorb the souls of the other X-Men before he took her soul (the opening splash here correctly shows Psylocke instead of Longshot, unlike the end of last issue).
All those machinations turn out to be meaningless, however. Mephisto is aware that Rogue only absorbs her targets' psyches and powers for a short period, and the other X-Men fade away with Mephisto doing nothing with them. To be charitable, you could say that this was just a test to ensure that his scheme of using Rogue will work on his true target, which we learn this issue is Thor.
It's worth emphasizing that Mephisto's scheme so far has been nonsensical. We're meant to believe that he captured the Invisible Woman's soul so that he could trade it for Jean Grey's soul, so that he could trade it for Rogue's soul. But Mephisto didn't trade Jean's soul for Rogue's. He just forcibly took Rogue's soul, and there's nothing as far as i can see in the story that said that he couldn't have done that directly. So we could have skipped the first two issues of this series plus the majority of last issue that had Rogue getting tricked into absorbing the other X-Men, and still arrived at the same plot here.
Mephisto's inability to hold onto the other souls is seen as a weakness by some of the lesser demons hanging around in his kingdom, and this leads to an expansion of the revelation from last issue that showed that his kingdom was crumbling. The Living Tribunal arrives...
...and admonishes Mephisto for upsetting the cosmic balance through his schemes. But Mephisto says that he is merely defending his position from Hela, the Norse goddess of death. According to Mephisto, the fact that she received the mortal souls from Malekith demonstrates that she's encroaching on his domain and trying to usurp his position (Mephisto claims that the souls would otherwise have gone to him. Surely that's only true of a subset of them? Otherwise Thor just rescued those souls from Hela's domain to deliver them to a different Hell dimension...).
To go down another one of my cosmic/local god tangents, it's interesting to see Mephisto concerned about whatever Hela was doing. The fact that the Living Tribunal is showing up at Mephisto's place seems to confirm that he's the personification of evil for the whole universe. Hela, on the other hand, has been responsible for (until recently) only Asgardian souls, a mere portion of the souls on just one planet. There's actually a potentially interesting idea here. You could argue that Hela has been slowly expanding her domain, referencing her annexation of Valhalla circa Thor #314 and now accepting the mortal souls from Malekith. And that maybe since the denizens of Earth play such an outsized role in the Marvel universe, that Mephisto really does face a real challenge from this upstart local god. It's not something we've seen of Hela in the Thor series, though, and it would really require the likes of a Celestial Madonna era Steve Englehart or a Roy Thomas or Mark Gruenwald to develop this kind of story out. Introducing it at the end of this directionless mini-series doesn't work very well.
But at a basic level that is what we're dealing with here. The idea is that thanks to Hela's curse, Thor has been battered and broken, and Hela's intent was that Thor would be so beaten that he would beg for Hela to take him into her domain. And Mephisto doesn't want Hela to have Thor because it would increase her power. So his idea is to use Rogue to temporarily steal Thor's soul, and then try to tempt Thor into coming to his domain instead.
But Thor resists Mephisto's temptations.
Now we all know that Thor isn't going to accept going to either Hell dimension, but it turns out again that this is what Mephisto anticipated, and he thinks that by seemingly failing to tempt Thor, he's made Hela overconfident. And so when she finally claims Thor's unwilling soul, he'll wreak havoc in her kingdom.
Convoluted as this is, it seems to have done the trick and removed the threat to Mephisto's domain.
Mephisto also contemplates rebelling against the Tribunal the way the Silver Surfer rebelled against Galactus or the way Dormammu once fought Eternity.
Oh, the East and West Coast Avengers appear in this issue, too...
...but they just uselessly fight Mephisto for a while...
...and then get their memories wiped.
While consistently a nice vehicle for John Buscema to go Dante's Inferno Meets Super Heroes on us, this series was just an absolute mess from a story perspective. Mephisto's stated goals kept changing and everything that he's done here seems to have had no impact on anything. It's not like if this series didn't exist Thor would have happily succumbed to Hela's scheme in Walt Simonson's Thor. And while you could argue that Mephisto is a liar and a schemer beyond mortal ken, that is exactly why he doesn't really work very well as the protagonist of a story; if you have to write off everything he does as something we can't understand (and that's the only way this story even makes sense), then what was the point?
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place during Thor #381; the Avengers appear in that issue concurrently with the story here. We briefly see Rogue restored to the X-Men; while we can have a gap between last issue and this one, the X-Men can't appear elsewhere in between. It's worth noting that at least on panel, no one closes the loop with Mr. Fantastic. It's possible that after contacting the X-Men, the FF never heard anything back about Rogue being taken, and so they just went about their normal business, maybe after hearing from Cyclops that Jean was returned (something else that we don't see, so it's unclear if Jean knew that Rogue was taken).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Dazzler, Dr. Druid, Hawkeye, Hela, Iron Man, Living Tribunal, Longshot, Mephisto, Mockingbird, Psylocke, Rogue, She-Hulk, Storm, Thor, Tigra, Wolverine, Wonder Man
I like Simon's attitude here- "How could you possibly know that I was evil before I died? You must be the devil- it's not like I publicly admitted it on national TV or something."
Posted by: Michael | March 2, 2014 2:50 PM
That must have been one loooooong wait to deal with the Avengers. Considering Shulkie was in pt. 1 as a F4 member and is now an Avenger, you'd think there would have been a bit of time for Mephisto's little plot to occur.
Posted by: Ataru320 | March 2, 2014 3:24 PM
That's what fnord meant with his temporary note. And to make matters worse, Rogue appears in Avengers vs. X-Men 1-4, which are clearly intended to take place after Shulkie rejoined the Avengers but before Thor 381. But let's be patient and see what crazy explanation fnord can come up with.
Posted by: Michael | March 2, 2014 3:34 PM
Boy, a footnote to explain who the X-Men are? That seems a little unnecessary.
Posted by: S | March 2, 2014 4:04 PM
Mephisto didn't literally trade Jean for Rogue, but figuratively he did, in that he used Jean as the bait to get Rogue. The question is why Mephisto couldn't have gone after Rogue directly, but needed to pull the trick on Psylocke, which required Reed contacting the X-Men, which in turn depended on Mphisto involving both FF and X-Factor in the earlier stages of the scheme. If we'd be given some reason why the FF's building was the only place Mephisto could strike at first, the rest might make a semblance of sense. But I assume there's no justification given.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 2, 2014 7:28 PM
The only thing I could think of is the portal to the negative zone located in the FF's headquarters. Perhaps that weakens the dimensions between Mephisto's realm and Earth.
Posted by: CLYDE | March 2, 2014 7:43 PM
Ever since Byrne's FF and the original Secret Wars, it was often mentioned that She-Hulk was at the time a member of both the (East Coast?) Avengers and the FF.
Seeing how ambiguous the membership of the FF is at this point in time, it is not too much of a reach to conclude that She-Hulk was emphasizing her dual membership at this period, switching from the FF to the Avengers and back and forth while she decided whether it was a good idea to remain with the FF.
I don't think that is much of a problem, personally.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 2, 2014 9:07 PM
It gets more complicated than She-Hulk's membership- essentially, the problem is that Thor 379 is a crossover with X-Factor 17, while issue 2 takes place before X-Factor 13, and X-Men vs. Avengers is intended to take place between pages of Thor 379- but again, let's be patient and see what fnord can come up.
Posted by: Michael | March 2, 2014 10:53 PM
During the Siege story-line in the pages of Thor, Mephisto turned down an attempt to help invade Hel, and said that he doesn't care about Hela's realm.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 3, 2014 12:10 AM
FNORD,minor point - the entry for Thor #380 isn't hyperlinked. Since you created the entry for Thor #380 at this point,it can be hyperlinked in the references section. But I noticed it's now been combined as Thor 379-380.
Posted by: clyde | March 18, 2014 1:22 PM
Thanks Clyde. I still have to come back to link to the Avengers annuals and update the Considerations when i settle on placement, but i've updated the Thor link for now.
BTW it's normal for me to link to a multi-issue entry while citing only issue.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 18, 2014 5:57 PM
The title of this issue is a play on the (in)famous Rolling Stones album "Their Satanic Majesties Request".
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | March 19, 2014 1:08 AM
"So we could have skipped the first two issues of this series plus the majority of last issue"
I'll just skip the whole thing. I had forgotten completely about the existence of this series until I got to it and now I'm gonna go back to forgetting it ever existed, especially seeing as how the end result was nothing and everyone forgot everything anyway.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 15, 2015 11:38 AM
Comments are now closed.
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