Friday, December 30, 2005

X-Men: Inferno (240-243)

Inferno was designed as a deck clearing exercise, to get rid of a bunch of long standing plots, most notably the confusion surrounding Jean Grey and Madelyne Pryor. Maddy Pryor was created as a replacement for Jean Grey, someone for Scott to be with who was like Jean, but wasn't her. When she first appeared, there was a bunch of mystery surrounding her, and unfortunately, we'll never know what Claremont's original plans for Madelyne were because the editors at Marvel decided to bring Jean back, thus rendering Maddy obsolete, both for Scott and for the editors. To them, Maddy was just a replacement for Jean, and with the original back, she can go.

However, that view ignores the fact that Claremont wrote her into an amazing character on her own terms, one who I would argue is much more interesting than Jean. Maddy is someone who's been through a lot of awful experiences, what with her husband leaving her, her son being kidnapped, her identity erased, and the attempt on her life, it was a tough couple of years. But, rather than retreat into either a normal life or total depression, she decided to join up with the X-Men and become a member of the team, despite the doubts about whether or not she belongs.

For me, the dramatic highpoint for the character is Fall of the Mutants. While the X-Men are heroes and feel an obligation to sacrifice themselves to defeat the adversary, Maddy is just an ordinary person and it would be easy for her to just leave, however, instead she chooses to sacrifice her life too, becoming a hero even though she has no special powers. As I mentioned earlier, there's some serious issues surrounding that crossover, but the most effective emotional moment was when Maddy says goodbye to Scott and her son.

At this point, I think Maddy was the most interesting character in the book, because she was really uncertain about her place, but still trying to do the right thing. However, in the 230s, things start to get odd for the character. Now, it's difficult in this case to evaluate the work, because from what I understand, Claremont was not fully behind what happened with Maddy, yet at the same time, he did write the book, so in evaluating it, some of the blame for what goes wrong certainly falls on him.

At this point, the whole story of what happened to the character becomes incredibly meta. The editors seem to have decided that Maddy needed to go, seeing as how she's nothing more than a clone of Jean, ignoring the fact that she had taken on her own identity in the interim. Thus, Maddy's greatest fear is realized in the actions of the editor, the idea that she really is just a spare Jean Grey. She's unable to recognize that she has taken on a unique personality beyond being Jean, but she can't see beyond it, and as a result, a story is set up that will get rid of Madelyne while at the same time absolving Scott of his guilt for abandoning her to be with Jean. So, if Maddy goes out as a hero, Scott would have even more guilt, so we get the emergence of the Goblin Queen.

The whole business with Maddy here was rather confusing. At some point in the 230s, Maddy makes a deal with a demon to get powers that will help her get her son back, that's her primary motivator throughout all the previous issues. Yet, when we reach Inferno, she's decided to kill her son. It's this inconsistency in the presentation of the character that bothers me. It was clear that the intent was first to turn Maddy evil, and having her try to kill her son was clearly the easiest way to do this. The point where she hurls Nathan off a cliff and Scott saves him is a bit ridiculous, because Scott was the one who walked out on Nate in the first place.

So, the major issue I have with the storyline is the fact that it's basically a character assassination piece. Madelyne had become a really interesting character, and there were a lot of directions they could go with her, certainly having her involved with Havok brings up a lot of issues for both Scott and Alex, however, a logical exploration of that conflict is lost because Maddy goes crazy, meaning that Havok has to apologize for trying to comfort her.

It's unclear the extent to which the demon possession affects Madelyne's psyche, it seems like her involvement with Nasrith brings out the evil within her, but it's basically set up so that we can reach the point where Jean can kill her without guilt. So, she constantly does bad things to turn our sympathies aganst her, but it's so contrived, it doesn't really work.

The big finale for the storyline occurs in X-Factor 38, where Jean battles with Maddy and we get a very convoluted thing involving the Phoenix and memories being transferred to Jean as she fights Maddy. There's some really cool layouts here, covering the fact that there's an absurd amount of exposition here. I do enjoy the stuff with Mister Sinister, and there's a lot of interesting issues surrounding Jean confronting her clone, a darker version of herself. I think the intention here was to have Jean atone for what she did as Dark Phoenix, by defeating Madelyne, she's one and for all showing that she has control over the dark side of herself. However, the bizarre thing here is that Marvel would want their heroes to be free of guilt. As Morrison shows in his run, Scott is a much more interesting character when he's treading on the dark side, and having Jean completely absolved of everything is just a bizarre choice.

What the end of the story seems to imply is that all of Maddy's memories are absolved into Jean's head, which would primarily be an excuse to make Jean work as Nathan's mother. This story seems to be designed to get rid of the complication of Maddy, so now we don't have to worry about the issue of the kid's mother.

I've got a lot of issues with the retcons in this chunk of the storyline. Past events are reconfigured to excuse Scott for walking out on her. The most ridiculous is the idea that Maddy was influencing the fight between Scott and Storm in 201, to ensure that Scott would be with her. For one, during that issue, she had just had a baby, who Scott was showing no interest in. At that point, Claremont's agenda seemed to be to show Scott as flawed in his belief that he needed to be a leader and the point of the story was to puncture his belief that the X-Men needed him, so he could go off and be with his family. Now it's reconfigured as Maddy selfishly wanting him only for herself, which isn't even that ridiculous considering she'd just had a baby. Shouldn't she want Scott to be with her? And yet at the same, Scott is now seen as the one so committed to his child, while Maddy is the reckless one.

In X-Men 243, we find out that Maddy now apparently exists in Jean's mind. This entire sequence is rather confusing because first we see her in her pilot outfit and it's clearly her, yet as the conversation proceeds, she's wearing Jean's X-Men outfits, yet still speaks like she's Maddy. This issue does provide some redemption for Maddy, who is portrayed much more like she was prior to the whole Goblin Queen business. I do really like the shifting outfits and locations on the mental plane and the way the memories are depicted as shards of glass is stunning. So, the entire time Madelyne was led to believe that she inferior, created only to serve the manipulator Sinister, however, at the end, she finally rejects him and wielding the power of the Phoenix knocks him out of Jean's mind and saves the X-Men. I'm not sure if that's how it's supposed to be read, since Jean is notably absent during this sequence that takes place in her own mind, yet going over it a couple of times, it would appear to be Maddy who finally shows up Sinister, and if I had to guess basically moves on after her Phoenix show.

So, that's the end of Madelyne Pryor. I thought she was a fantastic character and even though this was a really strong, epic storyline, it was marred by how she was dealt with and disposed of, sacrificed to absolve Scott and Jean. Though I imagine part of my bias towards her may be the fact that I've only been reading the X-Men issues, and as a result only see her side of the story, and don't really know what's going on with Scott and Jean in their book. But still, the fact that someone who abandoned his wife is canonized, while Maddy is villified is very poor storytelling.

The thing I really did like about the storyline was just how epic it was. Even though there were two previous crossovers, this was the first where the plots really do crossover and both teams are together. The threat they're facing justifies this massive involvement, and all of the characters actually get something interesting to do during the storyline. It feels like they really earn the victory when it's finally acheived.

After the demon infested New York business, we get a big finale when the X-Men get to finally confront Sinister the mastermind who's been manipulating their lives, or at least Scott's. While Sinister is very cool, their best foe other than Magneto, the issue does seem to indulge in a lot of retconning to excuse Scott's actions. So, not only was he abused as a child, but Maddy was sent in to harvest his DNA, he was programmed to be attracted to her, and what he did is even more excusable.

Sinister's death comes a bit quick, considering how much critical stuff in Scott's past was just revealed. However, the scene itself really works, particularly Havok getting out some of his rage at Scott for abandoning Maddy and letting her become the Goblin Queen. He clearly feels that Scott is at fault, even if the sentiment of the story seems designed to excuse him. When Sinister is blown apart, there's a strong sense of resolution, even though I know that he'll be coming back eventually. With Sinister's death, plot threads dating back to the Mutant Massacre are laid to rest, and with Maddy's stuff, going back 75 issues is resolved. If the story was designed to wipe the slate clean, it certainly acheived that.

Some random notes on Inferno. I found it weird how they were constantly talking about how Infero had changed their appearance, the costumes seemed basically the same, though maybe Rogue's hair was a bit more ridiculous. Also, I found it weird how the X-Men went dark, there was no real explanation for why they did and X-Factor didn't, other than just the fact that the writers wanted to have the two teams fight. Also, the Goblin Queen outfit was a bit ridiculous, in terms of gravity, the top piece makes no sense, definite wardrobe malfunction potential there. Similarly, you'd think Alex would have some issues with his Goblin Prince outfit. And there are similar absolution issues over in the New Mutants chunk of the storyline, where Ilyana is returned to childhood, thus absolving her of guilt for all her actions as the Darkchylde.

On the whole, it's a really strong storyline, marred by the way that it deals with the characters. It's nonsensical to want to get rid of Maddy Pryor, because she was one of the most interesting characters in the book, but still, she had to go. And from here, it's a mere 35 issues to the end of Claremont's run.

1 comment:

гид в барселоне said...

It cannot really have success, I suppose so.