X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Seven (1987)

X-Men Vignettes, Chapter 7 (1987)
“Out with the Old”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Kavanagh, Nocenti, Shooter
From: Classic X-Men #7 (March, 1987)

Here it is, gang — the Vignette that launched one idiot’s into a mission and levels of completionism he didn’t even realize he had!

As I mentioned, maybe in the very first installment of our Vignettes dive, Classic X-Men/X-Men Classic was always a series I’d skipped when I happened across ’em in the wild. Looking back now, I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around why I had no interest in ’em — but, it’s true! As a completionist and self-proclaimed fake-ass comics/X-Men historian, you’d think these added bits of lore would be right up my alley! But, alas — no! I grabbed the… wuzzit two (?) Vignettes Trade Collections, but never prioritized the individual issues.

That was… before The Hellfire Gala. Now, if you’ve listened to the twelve episodes of X-Lapsed dedicated to the “crossovent”, you’ll know that I found it to be — um, uneven? A little too “twitter-baity” with the gaudy “Jumbo Carnation Abominations”, with only a few chapters worth even glancing at. But — it was the first part of the Gala, Marauders #21 (August, 2021), which included the very story we’re going to be discussing today, as a back-up. For whatever reason, this caused a switch to flip in my primitive completionist mind. I saw these added bits of lore as being more “essential” and worth familiarizing myself with.

Sure, I’ve read a bunch of em thru various means — but, as I said — it wasn’t a priority. Post-Hellfire Gala, however, my opinion has changed, and my mission ever since has been to grab each and every issue of Classix I happen across. So far, that mission is becoming closer and closer to wrapping up by the week! I think, at last count, I need something like 28 issues? It’s worth noting, however, that only the first sixty-something of Classix includes a back-up — and, I think, of those, I only need a slight handful. It wasn’t until the second half of the run that Marvel seemed to forget they were even publishing the thing.

Anyway — I say all of that, so I might say this: If you’re enjoying the Vignettes feature here at the humble blog, you have this story to thank. If you hate it, well… you have this story to blame!

Let’s Gala!

We open, and it’s somewhere between Christmas and New Years… and it’s time for the annual Hellfire Gala — even thought the bloated and wildly uneven 2021 event claimed to be the very first (then again, it also included a reprint of this story… so, who the hell(fire) knows?)! We see Sebastian Shaw and… the woman we have to blame for this entire x-ercise: Lourdes Chantal, as they dance in the foreground. In the background, we see the White King and Queen of the Club sat upon some ornate-looking chairs. This White Queen, by the way, is not Emma Frost. Don’tcha worry none, she’ll show up soon enough! As they dance, Lourdes suggests to Shaw that he’d be quite foolish to trust this White King. The White King and President of the Hellfire Club, by the way, is Edward “Ned” Buckman. He’s a human, and openly not a fan of mutants… he is, to be completely frank, kind of a prick. Lourdes, in case you’ve never read this Vignette and/or you’re not following the “current year” stuff, is a mutant.

Sebastian, being the weaselly so-and-so he is, heads over to pay his respects to the White Royalty. During the chat, Buckman posits that he thinks Shaw’s got the makings for a fine Black King… a suggestion which rather moves our dear Sebastian. The White Royalty breaks away for a dance of their own. Lourdes approaches Shaw again to express the uneasy vibe she gets from the Whites. She wonders why they view the X-Men as enemies, when all they want to do is protect all mutants — meanwhile, the a-hole they’re attempting to chum up with would just as soon see them all plopped in unmarked shallow graves. And, well… lady’s got a point, don’t she? From here, she wanders over to Tessa… who we now know as Sage, and together they observe the behavior of Nedward.

Shaw heads out to the terrace to psychically chat up Emma Frost. He tells her how Lourdes is a bit troubled by the White King… which, doesn’t surprise Emma in the slightest. He then asks about their “guest”, which facilitates a scene shift over to a compound in East Hampton where Frost is keeping a comatose Colonel Michael Rossi. Rossi was last seen (linearly) in X-Men #96 (December, 1975), and he’s been in a kayoed state ever since his plane was shot down during that ish. Rossi had met with Steven Lang about Project Armageddon — during which, he’d discovered the true purpose of the Project, which was to — doy, eradicate mutants. But, that’s not all folks – Emma was also able to glean that Rossi found out that Nedward Whiteprick is mixed up in it as well! This rightly ticks off our man, Sebastian.

Just then — a Sentinel!

Back to the Gala. Shaw demands that Lourdes use her teleportation powers to send he, Tessa, and herself to Emma’s pad. She’s not sure she’s powerful enough to pull off such a feat — and so, our hero motivates her, by — ya know, wrapping his hand around her throat! And so, she does the thing, biggity bam — our Hellfire Heroes are Hampton bound. They are greeted by our old friend, Harry Leland, who is tickled pink by the sight of them!

The Sentinel ensnares Shaw in a coil — but, Lourdes is quick to rush to his side, and she teleports him safely out of the rigging. However, when she returns to her tangible form, the Sentinel harpoons her right thru her back — killing her. Or, well… if you’re following the current year books — we may as well wrap some quotation marks around the word killing.

Harry Leland then uses his powers of mass manipulation to cause the Sentinel to go crashing through the floor. You might be asking yourself “Self, why in the hell didn’t Leland do that in the first place?”, to which I’d respond — “huh… good question!”. From here, Shaw proceeds to punch the hell out of the big bot until it ceases operation.

Once the dust settles, Shaw heads over to Lourdes — who lay dying. Before she perishes, she asks Sebastian why it is that Buckman hates them. She gives her a kiss, telling her that Nedward hates them out of fear — and, hey, ya know what — it’s high time they justified ol’ Ned’s fears.

And so, they head back to the Hellfire Gala — though, without Lourdes alive to teleport them, I’m guessing they had a pretty long drive down the L.I.E. By now, it’s midnight, and Buckman is there to welcome both the elites and the henchman grunts of the Hellfire Club. He then takes one of the Hellfire Hench’s pistols, and shoots them all to death!

He then shoots his White Queen (not Emma). Immediately after this, he appears to be released from whatever trance he was just in. He asks himself what he’d just done. At this point, Shaw and Frost approach to tell him that they done effed with his mind and caused him to kill his allies and lover. Shaw then takes Buckman’s pistol and crushes it in his hand, before hoisting the big bad up by his throat… annnnnd, snapping his neck.

We close out with Shaw vowing that Mutants will rule the Hellfire Club forevermore… and, eventually, they will rule the world!

There ya have it! The story that launched a stupid little project on a stupid little blog!

And, it’s a pretty good one, innit? I definitely dug this little ditty — though, I mean — with hindsight, it’s kind of a deep-cut to add to the “current-year” landscape. That said, this isn’t a discussion about the current-year — so, I probably shouldn’t compla– err, make observations about recent months-stuffs.

Instead, let’s just go back to ye old 1987.

One thing I hadn’t considered about this story when I covered it on X-Lapsed was… that at this point in the run (Classic X-Men #7 reprinted X-Men #99), the Hellfire Club was still thirty issues away from making their first appearance! The Club first appeared in X-Men #129 (January, 1980). This is kinda surprising to me, as part of me wonders what any potentially new readers (because back then such a thing did exist) to the X-Men thought upon reading this ish. Seeing these hoi-polloi types who they’d never seen before having their Gala. Characters they wouldn’t see again for at least a little while. It’s pretty crazy, innit?

And, as we’ve said a few times already throughout this project — these lore-bits add so much to the world, without really contradicting anything. We see some pre-#129 Hellfire stuff here — which, since they were a Claremont (co-)creation, doesn’t feel forced or “wrong”. What’s perhaps one of the more subtle interesting beats of this story is the fact that, while the X-Men don’t (appear to) know the Hellfire Club, the Club definitely has our mutant heroes on their radar.

Like I’ve said (probably too many times so far), it’s been a long time since I’ve read the Classix Backups… and, my reading of them in the first place is spotty at best. So, I’m very interested to see what other sort of premonetconition — that there’s my awful (so awful it should be illegal) attempt at portmanteau-ing “premonition” and “retcon”, by the way. Getting these flavor bits… and engraining characters and concepts that are yet to appear in the fore-story, is a really cool way to x-perience this era. If you’re a first-time reader (without any conteXt), you’re getting breadcrumbs that will eventually pay off — if you’re a tenured X-Fan, you’re getting a look at some previously unknown bits that were occurring right under our noses… but, just out of sight!

I’m having a good time with this… and I humbly hope you’re enjoying it too!

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2 thoughts on “X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Seven (1987)

  • March 23, 2022 at 8:35 am
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    Reading this it occurred to me that the stakes for the X-Men seemed so perilous and large in this era of books. The Claremont run used deft touches but there was an all pervasive sense of danger and a sinister backdrop to how they had to operate in this era. Smaller scale than terraforming Mars I’ll grant you but very effective!

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  • March 24, 2022 at 6:20 pm
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    The Hellfire Club were my favorite X-Men villains so this vignette really works for me. It is the story of how Shaw and Frost rose to their positions of power in the Club, and is a part of mutant history I had always wondered about.

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