Thursday, May 28, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Inferno #1


There was once a time when Madelyne Pryor was a sympathetic character and not just the first in a long line of examples as to why clones suck. That time ended around the same time hair metal bands started going out of style. It's no secret that evil clones are Marvel's equivalent of infected warts. But at the very least, Madelyne Pryor can be seen as an attractive mole of sorts. Yes, she's an evil clone. Yes, she's a character that became shitty due entirely to circumstances. But fuck if she doesn't make evil look sexy.

It's been a long time since Madelyne Pryor got to do anything other than give the anti-Cyclops crowd an easy reference point to justify their bitching. It's been even longer since she was anything other than a C-list X-men villain. But thanks to Secret Wars, we have a chance to revisit certain periods in Marvel's history where the Goblin Queen was menacing in a way that didn't just involve awkward boners. Inferno #1 introduces a section of Battleworld where Madelyne Pryor didn't become Chris Claremont's most asinine creation. It's not the kind of section where anyone would want to go on a vacation, but it gives her a chance to be part of a meaningful story. It also gives her a chance to look sexy in a thong again and Odin knows we can never pass up an opportunity like that.

Like some of the other Secret Wars tie-ins, this issue tells a story that anyone who was alive in the late 80s or isn't too lazy to consult Wikipedia has seen before. Inferno's climactic battle had the X-men and X-Factor team up to take down the Goblin Queen and save Colossus' sister from becoming a demon seed and not the kind that underpaid kindergarten teachers whine about. It was a passionate battle that led to one of the X-men's most bittersweet victories.

However, the big difference here is that they didn't win. The demons, going against every Exorcist knock-off ever made, won the day. And instead of fighting human bigotry, the X-men have to fight demons. Given the extent of human bigotry, I can't say it's a hard transition. Now they have to fight a war in a domain of Battleworld, making yearly pushes to save Magik and stop the onslaught.


But the turning point in the battle came with a moment that never would've made it past the censors in the late 80s. Remember, this was a period where Madonna videos were seen as being too sexual. In one of the X-men's numerous failed assaults, Cyclops gets clawed in the back in a way that Wolverine only dreams of. It's a devastating wound and one that sends Jean Grey's level of pissed off to I'm-going-to-fuck-you-up-on-a-cosmic-scale type level. It effectively ends the fight in a draw, but it establishes a much darker turn for this world.

It's hardly the type of upbeat turn that would fit into the latter Reagan years, but it works on many levels. These are demons the X-men are dealing with. Their struggle against the Goblin Queen was always going to have some collateral damage. This just went a bit further, but not so far that it could become an Alan Moore novel. It just takes the darkest hour of Inferno and sends it in a different direction. Those who like seeing Cyclops get wounded will like it. Those who would rather see the X-men fight killer robots might not.


While Cyclops' injury provides the first big "Oh fuck!" moment, it isn't the one with the most impact. Colossus, in an effort to make Cyclops and Jean Grey's sacrifice meaningful, manages to make it to his sister. It starts off as an emotional reunion and ends with the joys of a root canal and a lobotomy. Colossus finds out the hard way that his sister is already lost. She basically reveals that she's become fond of dry-humping the devil and is now Darkchild, ruler of Inferno. She even fucks his arm up to reinforce her point. Most siblings are content to make their point with a wedgie or a wet willie. As the Darkchild, Magik is willing to go the extra mile.

Again, it's pretty damn dark, but it's very firm in establishing the turning point for this world. It's specific, detailing the moments in which this version of Inferno goes to shit. There's little ambiguity, something that Battleworld has had a bit too much of in some respects. Even if it is dark, it's refreshing in how it establishes this cozy little hellhole in the Battleworld landscape. It also gives it some emotional weight with Colossus and Cyclops. Unless someone is on heavy anti-depressants or recently shorted the stock of the companies that sell them, it has plenty of appeal.


Flash forward a year and the impact of this new world is explored. It's all centered around Colossus, who isn't exactly in a healthy state of mind after failing to save his sister. However, that didn't stop him from hooking up with Domino so I'd say he found a very healthy way to cope. It sure beats paying for a therapist or going on multiple drinking binges. Losing his sister has not kept him from enjoying the benefits of a hot girlfriend, nor should it. A hot girlfriend is a great medication and it can be taken with alcohol. Perhaps Dennis Hopeless and Marvel should patent that treatment. He'd be rich enough to retire tomorrow.

Beyond having a hot girlfriend to help him cope, we also see that Colossus' daily routine revolves around leading what's left of the X-men in a constant battle against the forces of Inferno. It's basically Lord of the Rings with demons and no goofy-looking hobbits. They fight demons, protect the innocent, and then slam back a few beers before going to bed. Overall, it's not a terrible way to live in the Marvel universe. It still beats living in Ultimate Marvel by a long shot.


Beyond Colossus' day-to-day coping, we get additional insight into how this world works. It may be a strange feeling for some, seeing so much effort put into fleshing out the details of a world. I was so shocked I actually had to read this book sober a few times to make sure I wasn't overdosing. I'm happy to say for the sake of my brain cells that I wasn't tripping. This book actually does put some effort into developing this world. And it's a world that deals with a fucked up set a problems by relying on a fucked up set of solutions.

A big part of that solution involves mixing both magic and technology to fight demons. That's a lot like creationists and scientists coming together to fight an invasion of alien demons. It's an odd partnership, but one that's forced by necessity. With help from familiar names like Dr. Strange and Hank McCoy, the X-men make sure they're equipped with the kind of demon-fighting material that the Vatican would drool over. It makes sense in a twisted sort of way and helps create a novel dynamic for this world, so much so that it doesn't quite feel like X-men in some respects. But don't worry. Other dynamics ensure this book is distinctly an X-book.

Remember that claw to the back that made anti-Cyclops fans squeal like a big in a mud factory? Well they'll have to put their dicks away because it didn't kill him. It just relegated him to a wheelchair so that he's now basically the Professor Xavier of the X-men. He's still a leader, just not one who can go into the field and hook up with hot telepaths. And he still clashes with his teammates, especially Colossus. It makes for a fairly tense scene when Cyclops discourages him from trying to rescue his sister again. After losing his legs, I think he's right to be a little reluctant. But Colossus, being the kind of loyal sibling that is never shown on a sitcom, tells him to fuck off. He's going to save his sister even if it means going through his psychotic ex-wife. That alone should make him the greatest big brother in the history of any universe.


Despite Cyclops' clear and understandable warnings, Colossus leads the team right into the anus of the demon hordes. It makes for another round of action that's basically the same we saw in the beginning. It's not as visceral or brutal as a demon fight could be. It's almost cartoonish, like a rerun of Gargoyles. And aside from the exchanges between Domino and Colossus, there isn't a lot of strong dialog here either.

That doesn't make the battle feel any less fitting. It doesn't go above and beyond to make Hitchcock fans anxious, but it doesn't fail in any respect. It just puts the X-men in the middle of a demon fight without a lot of strategy. It keeps things simple. Colossus wants to try and save his sister again. And after he failed last time and got his arm fucked up, it seems like he's pissing into the wind.


It doesn't take long for this tactic to come back to bite him. After a few generic brawls with random demons, they find out they dove head-first into a demon-filled shit storm. They may be evil and sadistic, but they're not stupid. Run head-first into their domain and they're like hungry dogs watching a wounded kitten eat their steaks. They're going to fucking fight back and they're going to have the advantage. Remember, Cyclops warned them that they were not equipped to take on Inferno like this. Having been clawed and crippled by them, he would know and he ends up being vindicated.


That doesn't stop some of the X-men from having a few badass moments. Nightcrawler gets to shine a little and he even makes a Princess Bride reference. He also gets to save an incredibly overmatched Boom Boom so Colossus isn't the only one who gets cozy with a pretty girl. It still doesn't stop her from getting clawed in the back like Cyclops. Anyone else starting to see a pattern here? Or maybe I am overdosing. I can't really tell.

The action remains fairly basic, but it does still carry some personal weight once Magik shows up. She's still the main driving force behind this story. She's the one that Colossus is trying to save and she's doing everything she can to make him want to leave her in Hell so he can go back to humping Domino. She has to know he's already pretty damn tempted. After wounding Boom Boom, Colossus has even fewer excuses. There's being a good brother and then there's just being a gullible douche.


In the end, it isn't Magik that he has to worry about the most. She's basically Inferno's pitbull on a leash. The one still tugging that leash is the Goblin Queen, also known as Marvel's first failed attempt to make clones viable. Colossus is on a roll against the demons, at least for a while. But eventually, his bullshit lack of strategy catches up with him and Domino gets roughed up. And since Magik isn't there to rub it in his face like a bratty little sister should, the Goblin Queen opts to do it for her.

Now this is the first time the Goblin Queen shows up in this story so her appearance is kind of a WTF moment. With Magik being the main focus since the beginning, it feels somewhat out of place. However, given that this world does stem from Inferno, her presence isn't just appropriate. It's downright necessary. And since Cyclops' balls aren't present for her to bust, she decides to focus on Colossus. And since she has Domino fully subdued, she can do so in a true Game of Thrones style tradition.


This issue didn't have a lot of Madelyne Pryor in a thong, but it had plenty of other positives to offer. It created a section of Battleworld that felt genuinely different and unique, compared to the other sections that had been introduced thus far. This is a world that could've easily become real fucking dark real fast. Anything that involves demons and evil clones is bound to become dark to some extent. However, the story still maintained a distinct sense of purpose that wasn't entirely centered around whether or not Madelyne Pryor was wearing a thong. Make no mistake, that's still part of the appeal. It's just not the only appeal.

There are still a few plots that aren't sufficiently fleshed out, but not to the point where it's going to give someone a seizure. It does make an effort to tie into more recent events with X-men, such as Colossus hooking up with Domino. But this really doesn't add as much to the story as it could've. Other elements like Cyclops being in a wheelchair and Havok being Madelyne's prison bitch add some more compelling dynamics. It still feels like a What If story of sorts. It doesn't really tie into the greater landscape of Battleworld that others have, but it still works. If nothing else, Inferno #1 lays a pretty solid foundation, even without Madelyne Pryor's underboob showing. I give Inferno #1 a 7 out of 10. It raises more questions than answers, but some of those questions give me wonderful feelings in my pants and that's usually a positive sign. Nuff said!

10 comments:

  1. I'm seeing a pattern with the Colossus and Magik relationship: it's mostly played for tragedy, and I don't think this'll be any different.

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    Replies
    1. You're probably right. This is not going to end well. Anything with demons and scantily clad women rarely does. But if you can still jerk off to it, then it's still worth reading.

      Jack

      Delete
  2. Alternate universes suck hard.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I totally blame Jim Shooter for that Madelyne Prior fiasco. He should have let Claremont and Byrne go with their original plan of letting Jean live after Fate of the Phoenix. Failing that, he should have let them go the obvious route of letting Madelyne turn out to be Jean reborn with a new life and memories courtesy of the Phoenix. Instead, they brought back Jean and had Scott abandon his wife for her, apparently in the hopes that if they never mentioned her name again, people would just forget about Maddie. When that didn't work, they made her (a) a clone and (b) a literal demon from hell, just to make Scott/Jean a viable couple again. So, so stupid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Shooter is only partially to blame. I think Claremont deserves some of the blame as well since he wanted this ending so badly that he was willing to conjure a character out of thin are to do it. And he made it so she looked exactly like Jean Grey. Seriously, how the fuck can anyone say that's not contrived with a straight face? It's Claremont's fault for forcing that ending. He could've done any number of things. He didn't. For a man as brilliant as him, I think Madelyne Pryor remains his greatest failure.

      Jack

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