You know, it’s hard to know where to start when you’ve been gone awhile. I could lead off with a joke, but trust me…it’d come across as lame. I’m not that funny.
So yeah, it’s been awhile. I really enjoyed doing these for awhile but then life got the better of me, my comics were buried under other junk in my basement and it just became too much of a hassle to get to them. Then once I finally cleaned everything up (which was hampered by a flood [my comics were fine]) my scanner broke so…no more images of comics.
until finally, I replaced my printer/scanner, and ta da! New reviews.
So first, if you haven’t seen any of my past reviews, I encourage you to take a trip down memory lane and check them out. 2 years ago, I started on this site with X-Tinction Agenda and there’s several reviews from there up to Legion Quest.
And I promise I will continue on with my reading through the X-Men universe. I fully intend to continue with Age of Apocalypse.
But for now, I wanted to try something a bit different. I was trying to explain what a particular “What If…?” issue was about (for those of you who don’t know what a What if is, check out below) and realized what a great idea it would be to review X-Men related What if issues and simultaneously review the issues they spun off from.
I may not be able to do these in any particular order, because some of the comics I simply do not own. But I’ll do my best and hope that they are enjoyable.
So with that, I give you a new series: Watching the Watcher! (or…”Where Did it All go Wrong?“)
So for those of you who are relatively new to comics, the Watcher was a character who had been around since early Fantastic Four issues, but in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, he was the “star” of 2 volumes of comics called “What If…?” He was a cosmic-level being (on par with Galactus) and part of a race of beings whose duty was simply to observe and never interfere. As part of his “watching”, he examined a events that occurred in the regular Marvel universe (what is typically dubbed “616”) and took a single point that diverged to create a new world. Something didn’t go quite right and things ended up usually very different from the world we know and love. Often they involved at least one death and sometimes even involved the end of the world. Literally. I can think of 3 off the top of my head that ended up with the entire human race dying.
Ironically, this series is what got me hooked on the X-Men to begin with. A friend showed me this issue and it was so incredibly dark and horrible and made me want to read more about the characters that were barely in the book. I wanted to know more because my limited understanding made me think that “Inferno” was an actual person.
That’s right… I’m going to tackle “What If…?” vol. 2 # 6: “What if…the X-Men Lost Inferno” (seriously, I thought they lost Inferno like a parent might lose a kid).
If you want to check out the specific issues the timeline diverged from, check out New Mutants #73 and Uncanny X-Men #242.
So for those of you who don’t know, Inferno was a storyline that centered around a place called Limbo where Colossus’ little sister, Magik, reigned supreme. Eventually, though, Limbo turned against her and spilled out into the real world. The X-Men and X-Factor (the original five X-Men) both attempted to combat it, but it was made difficult due to Cyclops’ wife, Madeline Pryor (aka the Goblin Queen), falling under the demonic influence. To make matters worse, the X-men fought X-Factor due to a combination of demonic influence, misunderstandings, and Madeline Pryor’s manipulations.
The Inferno cross over spanned through 3 main titles but its effects could be felt across most of the Marvel Universe, including X-Men’s sister title, Excalibur. However, the main story would run through New Mutants, Uncanny X-Men, and X-Factor.
Overall, Inferno is a fantastic cross-over and one of my favorites of all time. It included heartbreak (Magik reverted to a child, and Madeline Pryor died) and also included redemption (Cyclops rediscovered his lost infant son and Magik finally rid herself of her demonic persona). The art was mostly good (except for X-Factor) and we finally got some great backstory to Madeline and Cyclops (thanks to the involvement of Sinister). We also got some amazing battles, including a rematch between the Marauders and the X-Men, as well as between the X-Men and X-Factor (culminating with a nasty snowball fight).
The X-Men and X-Factor, while they weren’t battling each other, were fighting to save Madeline and young Nathan Christopher (hers and Cyclops’ baby) from the evil mutant N’astirh. The New Mutants were fighting to save Magik from herself, as well as from N’astirh’s partner-in-crime, S’ym. The battle reached a fevered pitch in New Mutants when Magik, who had given in to her demonic nature, was confronted with her younger self (Limbo gets really confusing). As demons rained down on Manhattan, she decided the only way to win was to make the ultimate sacrifice to close the portal. She threw her soul sword back to Limbo, which created a magical wind to drag the majority of demons back with it to Limbo, including S’ym. Magik was left a discarded shell, her armor lifeless. But amazingly, the child Magik (I guess we can call her Illyana at this point) was left inside the armor, untouched by the horrors of Limbo. The friend of the New Mutants had been lost, but an innocent child had been saved.
Meanwhile, Madeline Pryor pit brother against brother and friend against friend, as the Uncanny X-Men fought X-Factor, the original five X-Men, in an effort to save Madeline and her infant son. Unfortunately, Madeline had been seduced by the demon N’astirh and they both conspired to kill her son to permanently open a portal to Limbo and change earth into a demon realm. So the battle raged on, with Havok joining the Goblin Queen as her newly anointed Goblin Prince and N’astirh becoming even more powerful thanks to his exposure to the Transmode Virus (it’s the virus that gives Warlock over in the New Mutants his ability to change shape). Eventually, the X-Men and X-Factor combined their powers to defeat N’astirh but the demonic influence remained as the Goblin Queen still lived. The Inferno story line continued with the X-Men and X-Factor saving the day (and Cyclops’ son), Madeline died, Sinister showed up and revealed Cyclops’ past at the orphanage, and the X-Mansion got destroyed (wasn’t the first time, wouldn’t be the last).
However, somewhere along the lines, things changed. See, Limbo is a place where time goes all screwy and various timelines occur there all at the same time. So when Magik sends her Soulsword back to Limbo and it drags S’ym back, they end up at different places and times and so no big deal. Limbo’s a big place and without the Soulsword, S’ym’s power is pretty limited. He’s not much more than just a nasty bruiser.
But…what if things went just a little bit different?
What if, S’ym and the Soulsword ended up at the same time and place in Limbo?
Well, then S’ym would easily be able to wield the sword and with no Magik to contest him, he uses it to return to Manhattan, just in time to see N’astirh die at the hands of the mutants. Of course this time, as the mutants flee the destruction, S’ym and the Goblin Queen combine their forces to kill both groups. Wolverine manages to save Jean but it’s only temporary. Madeline catches them both and immediately kills Jean. S’ym, however, convinces Madeline to spare Wolverine and they would use him.
With nobody left to oppose them, Madeline carries forth her original plan: to sacrifice her infant son. With a swipe from the Soulsword, she accomplishes this task and the portal to Limbo is left permanently opened.
Limbo reigns on earth with most of the heroes of the world dead. A few are enslaved. Wolverine works for babies. No, seriously. That’s how they pay him. They give him newborn babies to EAT. I still can’t believe the CCA let them get away with things in this issue!
A handful of heroes are left behind to combat the wave of demons that have swept across the planet. Captain America, Thor, She-Hulk, Human Torch, and Spider-Man are just a few. Kitty Pryde, longtime friend of Wolverine, ex-member of the X-Men, and current member of Excalibur is another. Several mystics, including Dr. Strange, are attempting to use their powers to combat the “Inferno”. Dr. Strange then brings back another source of power: Rachel Summers, aka Phoenix and teammate of Kitty. She had been trapped as a mannequin. Seriously, Inferno was screwed up.
Unfortunately, the demons find out about this pitiful little band and attack (turns out the Hulk is also demonic). Everybody but Torch, Kitty, Strange, Baron Mordo, and Phoenix are killed in the escape. Strange decides that the best be is for Rachel to summon the full Phoenix force to cleanse the planet. Unfortunately, he’d only just started when the demons attack again (at least this time it was without the Hulk). Turns out Baron Mordo is a traitorous prick even during the end of the world. The Torch is the first to fall during the assault. As Rachel summons the Phoenix, she must battle Madeline for control.
Kitty, in an effort to buy them some time, distracts Wolverine but pays for it with her life. This seems to snap Wolverine out of his haze as he then impales Baron Mordo (who, in a predictable fashion, had just struck down S’ym). Mordo takes Wolverine with him in death as he burns every bit of flesh off of the mutants’ bones, leaving behind an adamantium skeleton. Rachel becomes distracted at her friends’ deaths and she is knocked away by Madeline. However, before Madeline can bring the Phoenix force to bear on her enemies, she is killed by S’ym, who is controlling Wolverine’s bones. Rachel/Phoenix then sends the power over the entire earth, burning away the demon presence from every part of the globe. Rachel and Dr. Strange are the only heroes to survive, but at least humanity lives on, even if it is reduced to a primitive state.
Part of me loves the idea of seeing an alternate reality where things go so horribly wrong. I may be morbid, but I loved watching so many heroes die because it shows you just how on the edge they live. It adds an air of danger to the main universe because let’s face it: nobody dies in comics. It’s fun seeing just one event that causes things to go to shit.
This issue isn’t perfect. Havok is killed with the X-Men, but by this point he had joined Madeline. Kitty and Phoenix are alive but no mention of the rest of Excalibur. And where the heck are the New Mutants? It would have been nice to see a bit more representation or at least some explanation where they all had gone.
Also, it is revealed that Alicia Storm (married to the Human Torch) is pregnant as she gives birth after all of the demon horde was burned away. This, however, was made impossible after a retcon in the 616 universe revealed her to be a Skrull. Still, at the time of this issue, the birth was totally plausible.
Otherwise, this issue is near perfect as far as What If’s go. it’s fast paced, fairly accurate to the source material, and only relies on a single difference (there are some that only work if you change 2 or 3 things which I think defeats the purpose of the series). The art is enjoyable, and it’s a dark, DARK issue.
Overall, Inferno was a great series and this What If was a great “what if”. Granted, nostalgia is influencing my decision since this was what inspired me to collect X-Men, but I’d like to think my opinion wouldn’t change. It was really a fun issue…as long as you don’t mind your favorites dying. Cause there’s a lot of dying in this issue.