|Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #454|| || |
Issue Date: March 2005
Story Title: Chasing Hellfire! - part 3: Cardinal Law
Staff: Chris Claremont (writer), Andy Park (penciler), Jon Sibal (inker), Morry Hollowell (colors), VC’s Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Stephanie Moore & Sean Ryan (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
The X-Men conclude their two-fold battle against and at the side of the new Hellfire Club. Donald Pierce and his Cleaning Crew attack the X-Men, Roberto daCosta, Sage, and Sebastian Shaw. The X-Men successfully escape Pierce’s attack, and a mortally wounded Sebastian Shaw decapitates Pierce. Sage also reveals her duplicitous role in the formation of the new Hellfire Club.
In Hong Kong, Rachel defeats Selene while Viper, Courtney Ross and Emma Frost upset the Hellfire Club’s mutant slave ring.
On the grounds of the Hellfire Club, Paris, the X-Men continue their battle with Donald Pierce and his Cleaning Crew soldiers. Storm uses her headband to cut partway through the webbing that is holding her tightly. As the Cleaning Crew soldiers close in on her, she uses her elemental powers to freeze through the remaining bonds and set herself free. She inadvertently freezes the floor beneath and dives out of the way just before it crumbles.
Donald Pierce yells commands to his crew. He will not tolerate loose ends! For Pierce, his vast wealth has never been enough. He has added bionic enhancements to his otherwise human form in order to make himself more on par with the mutants he hates, but he still dislikes getting his hands dirty. He prefers to hire help to deal with his enemies if possible.
Storm continues her battle against several soldiers. She recalls Sage’s briefing regarding these soldiers: they are baseline humans who are loaded with deadly tech and gadgets—nearly enough to make them Storm’s equal. Through clever use of both her mutant abilities and deft hand to hand combat skills, Storm is able to overcome three of the soldiers.
Pierce watches the battle through a small surveillance screen in his armband. His crew will not stop until they are dead, and that, he says, is not X-Men style. He turns his attention from his wrist-monitor and approaches the bound Shaw, Sage, Sunspot, and Bishop. Storm, he says, will not be in time to save them. Pierce chides Shaw for thinking he could seize control of the Hellfire Club unchallenged. Pierce taunts the helpless mutants as he decided who to attack first, and whether he should maim them or kill them.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the Red Lotus and Marvel Girl continue discussing the “new and improved” version of the Hellfire Club. Rachel admits that Paul’s goals are great, but his choice of companions, namely Courtney Ross and Viper, is crazy. Paul admits that none of them are angels, but that the end will justify the means when the imprisoned mutants are rescued and the slavers are brought to justice. Paul gives Rachel his word, and the two mutants draw close to each other in the moonlight only to have the intimate moment interrupted by Selene.
Selene attacks Paul and begins feeding on his life force while she thanks Rachel for always leading her to the finest prey. Rachel demands that she set Paul free, and Selene feigns flattery that Rachel remembers her.
The two women battle. Rachel’s blows and blasts pass harmlessly through Selene’s shadowy form. Selene, however, lands several solid hits to Rachel. She tells Rachel that white is not her color since her soul is neither innocent nor pure…black is a better choice. Rachel, Selene says, is best dipped in shadow and blood. Selene wraps her shadowy serpentine form around Rachel and as she morphs from Selene to Paul and even to a simulacrum of Rachel herself she claims that they are destined to be one. Rachel, protests, but Selene tells her that in time she will lose all hope.
Upstairs in the casino, Emma Frost telepathically monitors the battle between Selene and Rachel.
Rachel is confused by Selene’s newfound freedom from the NYC Hellfire Club. Selene states that a judicious alliance has allowed her some freedom, and that consuming Paul will give her more. Rachel defies her and Selene welcomes the fight. As Rachel forces Selene off her she tries to get information about this alliance from Selene, to no avail. Selene then telepathically alerts the remaining guards at the club that Viper and Courtney Ross are trying to shut them down.
Emma warns them that their cover is blown just as the men pull their guns.
In Paris, Wolverine and Nightcrawler finish their very public battle with a small squadron of Cleaning Crew soldiers who lay dead at Wolverine’s feet. Kurt is taken aback by Wolverine’s lack of restraint, but Logan protests that he had no other choice. The soldiers could have taken the entire block out if he hadn’t stopped them. It was a “kill or be killed” scenario. As the police approach, Wolverine notices that the weather is still nasty. Suspecting that Storm may be in trouble, Logan has Kurt teleport them both to the rescue at Shaw’s sprawling Hellfire estate.
The two men appear just as Pierce closes in on his helpless prey. Kurt goes to assist Storm while Wolverine handles Pierce. He runs him through with his claws, but Pierce isn’t slowed. Pierce claims that one of the perks of being a cyborg is “upgrades” and from his bionic fingertips launches two small missiles at Wolverine’s head. The missiles explode against Wolverine’s skull and release a deadly batch of combat nannites designed specifically to deal with Wolverine. They are designed to disable his healing factor and destroy him by feasting on his brain.
As Logan stumbles about, Pierce jolts him with an electric blast and laughs as he flails desperately trying to find his foe. As Logan staggers blindly about, Pierce pops razor sharp claws from his fingers and begins shredding Wolverine to pieces.
Back in Hong Kong, Selene seems to be nearly triumphant over both Rachel and Paul. As Rachel and Paul kiss, Selene begins to consume them both. Suddenly Rachel’s eye begins to glow much to Selene’s surprise. The Phoenix power signature fills the area and forces Selene to free both Paul and Rachel. Selene protests that this is impossible to which Rachel answers that her very existence defines the term. Selene is driven away, and Rachel and Paul continue their kiss.
Back in Paris, Nightcrawler searches for Storm. He takes out several Cleaning Crew soldiers, but refuses to kill which means that the villains keep coming back. Pierce calls out to Nightcrawler to demonstrate his near defeat of Wolverine. From his bonds, Sunspot tearfully pleads with Pierce to stop. Sage informs him that Pierce will not stop until Logan is dead. Just as the soldiers close in on Kurt, Storm appears. She commands Nightcrawler to teleport and promptly short circuits the soldiers with a powerful lightning bolt.
Storm then turns her attention to Pierce who is still attacking Wolverine. Pierce has defenses against Storm’s elemental powers, so Storm attempts an unexpected attack by hurling her razor sharp headband at him. As soon as the tiara leaves her hand she is stunned by a force bolt. Wolverine unexpectedly blocks Storm’s tiara from hitting Pierce and sends it flying in the opposite direction. Kurt catches the falling Storm and asks why Wolverine blocked her attack. Logan claims that Storm had the right idea, but she isn’t strong enough. As Wolverine launches a last desperate attack against Pierce, Sage is able to free herself and Shaw using Storm’s tiara which Wolverine wisely sent their way. Shaw, now free from his bonds, approaches Pierce.
Back in Hong Kong, Paul and Rachel race downstairs to help Emma only to find that she, Viper, and Courtney have the situation well under control. Out of sheer fear of Viper the guards have surrendered and agreed to confess when the authorities arrive.
When Rachel realizes that Emma knew about her battle with Selene she is bothered that she did nothing to help. Emma replies that Rachel clearly did not need her help. As the authorities take the club members away, Rachel and Emma come to conclusion that Sage sent them to Hong Kong to make certain that Courtney and Viper’s mission was accomplished.
In Paris, Shaw and Pierce go at it. Shaw’s strength increases exponentially with each blow that Pierce delivers. Shaw reminds Pierce that his arrogance has always been his undoing. Pierce reminds Shaw that he knows every facet of his abilities. He sprouts blue laser claws and after slashing Shaw across the chest with a left swipe, opens his gut with a right slice. A mortally wounded Shaw falls bleeding to the ground and Pierce exclaims that the only future for mutants in the grave. Shaw claims that he will not fall without a fight. With supreme effort and every last bit of his stored strength, Shaw punches Pierce knocking his head clean off his body and sending it bouncing across the lawn. Pierce’s body falls to the ground and Shaw collapses.
Kurt and Ororo tend to the inured Wolverine. Logan claims that he will heal, but Kurt is alarmed by the possibility that the nannites will indeed shut down his healing factor. Kurt and Ororo begin to discuss the possibility that this entire scenario was planned by Sage to do away with Pierce while making it seem that he was the assailant. Storm refuses to even discuss this with Sage. She claims that she is no longer sure that Sage is working toward the same goal as them. Storm no longer trusts her.
As the ambulances approach, Shaw struggles through his injuries to confront Sage. He accuses her of knowing that Pierce would attack. Sage admits that this was a logical outcome based on the two men’s history. Shaw admits his foolishness in taking her back. She has betrayed him again. Sage retorts that Shaw is no longer worth saving. She once believed he was, though. When she knew him in Afghanistan he was a friend of Xavier’s and would have spit on Hellfire. But now he is a different man, and this is the only proper end for him.
As Shaw is loaded into the ambulance, he tells “Tessa” that this is not over. He will make his own destiny! Sage informs Bishop that Sunspot will replace Shaw as Lord Imperial of the Hellfire Club. When Bishop asks if this was her plan all along, Sage replies that this was merely a possible scenario. Shaw had recruited Sunspot hoping that he would be easily corrupted, but Sage knew differently. She plans to stay by Sunspot’s side to guide him through the Hellfire.
Sage reveals that the reason she left Xavier’s for Hellfire so many years ago, was because she saw the same nobility in Shaw that she saw in Xavier. She left to help Shaw retain that nobility even as he was knee-deep in the corruption of the Inner Circle. But she could not prevent Shaw from being corrupted. This will not happen with Sunspot, though. He is forged from stronger stuff.
“You hope.” Bishop adds.
“I assess. I plan. I act. Hope is for X-Men. I—am SAGE!”
Bishop, Emma Frost, Marvel Girl, Sage, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
“Courtney Ross” (presumably Sat-yr-9 in disguise), the White Queen
Viper, the White Princess
Sunspot, the Black King
Sebastian Shaw, Lord Imperial
Selene, the Black Queen
Various members, staffers and guests of the Hellfire Club, Hong Kong
Various customers at a Paris bookstore
The Cleaning Crew
Donald Pierce was once before killed by Sentinels in Uncanny X-Men #281, but was revealed to have been rebuilt in Domino (1st series) #2. He has been in and out of association with the Hellfire Club before, and he was even once possessed by Professor X’s deadly foe, the Shadow King.
Rachel and Selene have a history. From the moment Rachel arrived in this timeline Selene hunted her, intending to make Rachel her prey. [Uncanny X-Men #184]
Selene was magically bound to the Hellfire Club building in Fantastic Four Annual 1999, also written by Claremont. Apparently he ingored or isn`t aware of X-Force (1st series) #87 - 88, issues which clearly showed that Selene was free again.
Nannites are microscopic robots capable of affecting a change in the person they infect on a molecular level.
At the end of this issue, Sage gives a rather different take on her reason for joining the Hellfire Club so many years ago. She has always maintained that she was a spy for Xavier, but now she seems to be saying that she joined in order to preserve the nobility she sensed within Sebastian Shaw.
While a past between Shaw and Xavier hasn`t been established yet, eagle-eyed readers have noticed that the slain relief troop workers whom a young Sage avenges in Afghanistan [X-treme X-Men #44] were working for Shaw Industries.
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Uncanny X-Men - The New Age Vol. 2: The Cruelest Cut (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Carter Summers