Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #452

Issue Date: 
January 2005
Story Title: 
Chasing Hellfire! - part 1

Chris Claremont (writer), Andy Park (penciler), Jon Sibal (inker), Justin Ponsor (colors), VC’s Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Stephanie Moore & Sean Ryan (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

The X-Men are aided in their search for the missing Sage by Emma Frost. Emma leads them to the lower levels of the Hellfire Club and helps them by using a global transmat system to follow Sage’s path across the globe. Rachel and Emma are transported to Hong Kong, while the remaining X-Men are surprisingly dumped into a sewer beneath Paris. Rachel immediately blames Emma for the X-Men’s disappearance. A grudge match between the two women ensues on the astral plane. Rachel gains and loses the upper hand but relents when Emma demonstrates the unconditional love that Scott has for Emma. An uneasy alliance is formed between the two women and they move in to a high stakes auction event at an exclusive Hellfire Club party where mutant slaves are being sold to the highest bidder. Emma moves in to confront “Courtney Ross” (The White Queen) and Viper (The White Princess) in a high stakes game of cards while Rachel moves to release the prisoners that the Club is preparing to sell. What neither realizes is that Selene (The Black Queen) is following Rachel and that she is hungry.
Meanwhile, in the sewers of Paris, Bishop suddenly turns on his teammates and shoots them all down.

Full Summary: 

The building itself looks as though it could have once housed an Ivy League institution. But now it appears to be fit for nothing but demolition. The brick and mortar are crumbling, the windows are broken and boarded over, and the edifice that once housed a very prominent chapter of the infamous Hellfire Club stands now as an eyesore among buildings lacking even half of its history. The House of Hellfire was the point of assembly for powerful people and dark deeds. Even now, as Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler), Ororo Munroe (Storm), Lucas Bishop (Bishop) and Rachel Grey (Marvel Girl) stand before the complex and assess its sudden demise, they notice that passers-by refuse to walk in front of the building. The building is alive with legend and any think it best to stay as far away as possible from the darkness that may still reside within.
“World woke up one day, club was locked up tight. Pretty much end of story,” Bishop comments.
“I’m glad,” says Marvel Girl, her eye glowing with psi-energy.
“Show a little mercy, kiddo,” says a ragged and filth-covered Logan (Wolverine) rising from a manhole. Not all the members deserved what they got, he explains.
Logan confirms the teams suspicion that there is no way into the building. “Every tunnel access…has been blocked.” Apparently these tunnels are also very well-guarded. “Whatever happened here had nothin’ to do with mutants.”
Logan suggests that they leave well enough alone, but Rachel insists that they find a way into the building in order to find Sage who they trailed to a blank wall in the sewer below the club. The X-Men are stumped.
To everyone’s surprise, the lovely and enigmatic Emma Frost steps into the conversation. Emma claims that her history as a former high-ranking member of the Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club makes her especially useful in tracking Sage through the belly of the beast. She used to rule this building, but now it is the domain of Selene, the Black Queen who is imprisoned in the catacombs deep beneath the building. As is typical of Emma, she is demure when asked for details regarding her knowledge. Rachel grows impatient and grabs Emma’s hand to insist that she tell everything she knows. Before the two women begin fighting, Storm separates them with a lightning flash. Ororo firmly reprimands the two of them for their bickering. Rachel apologizes as Emma continues her discourse about the secrets of the club. The blank wall where Sage disappeared, Emma explains, is not a blank wall at all, but rather a global transmit device capable of allowing users to move rapidly from one Hellfire Club location to another quickly and discreetly. “A Lady has to take a keepsake…” she explains when asked about her knowledge of this device.
Rachel removes the civilian clothing illusions that the X-Men had been wearing, and the group step into the transport walkway. The device should take them to the last place it was set for…which should be Sage’s location. As the group walks around the bend, a shade coalesces into the form of a woman in silhouette. “Poor foolish heroes…Sage was never the one you had to worry about…”
Emma emerges from the other side of the portal into a luxurious Asian mansion somewhere near (or in) Hong Kong. An entourage of servants await her, having been instructed by Sage to await her arrival. Emma is a bit surprised by their expecting her, but is even more surprised when she is attacked from behind by Marvel Girl. The remaining X-Men did not make it to China, and Rachel blames Emma for their disappearance. The two women fall into what appears to be a large bubble bath in the middle of the floor.
Emma never denies responsibility for the team’s separation, but rather refuses to explain herself to Rachel. While the two women’s bodies remain in the water, their astral forms exit their corporeal bodies and engage in a long-overdue psychic grudge match. Emma de-ages Rachel to point out her childlike behavior, but even the infant Rachel manages to tap her abilities and reduce Emma to an aged, decaying crone and eventually a disintegrating skeleton. Emma rebounds quickly and surrounds Rachel in psychic chains. Rachel alters the psychic attributes of the chains and uses them to gird herself with psychic armor and arm herself two very large katana blades.
Rachel fights admirably, but Emma dodges every strike and never truly loses control of the situation. She takes Rachel’s swords and states, “You have no finesse.” Emma effortlessly removes the armor that Rachel created for herself. Rachel responds with a psychic manipulation of Emma’s astral form. Emma is instantly transformed into a bloated version of herself. In an attempt to add insult to injury, Rachel calls up illusion forms of the X-Men who are laughing and pointing at Emma’s new size and shape. Noticeably, Scott Summers (Cyclops) is not laughing. Rachel is aiming to shame Emma by showing her that if everyone saw her as she truly was no one, especially Scott, would care for her.
Emma merely replies “I’m afraid, child, the joke’s on you…I have no secrets from Scott. And believe me, the warts in my soul are far more hideous than anything you can imagine for my body. Yet he loves me still. How’s that for a miracle?” As she speaks, Rachel’s mental illusion of Scott steps forward to embrace Emma’s bloated body. Tears stream and spark from Rachel’s face as she realizes that Emma has bested her.
As the two women return to their bodies, Emma lectures Rachel. She reminds her that she is not her enemy and that today should be the end of the foolishness that has been between them for so long. Emma reprimands Rachel for thinking that her sheer quantity of power is enough. It isn’t. Rachel lacks the skill, training, and will that Emma possesses. It is this that makes Emma Rachel’s superior in fact if not in raw power. Emma offers Rachel her hand in a symbolic gesture of peace which Rachel accepts and the two women form an alliance.
Later, Rachel and Emma report to a swanky soiree hosted by the Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club at an exclusive Hong Kong casino. They are both dressed to kill—white gowns and fancy hair are in order for the evening. Emma tells Rachel that for tonight she is once again the White Queen of the Hellfire Club and that Rachel is her Warrior White Princess. It seems that they have entered into a high stakes auction where kidnapped mutants are being sold to the highest bidder. Just as the bidding begins for a young female mutant, Emma decides that they must split up. Before they can be seen, Emma pushes Rachel behind a pillar, and rather abruptly and painfully teaches her a method of her using her telepathy to become effectively invisible.
The lesson comes just in time as a young Chinese woman steps up to Emma and informs her that this is a private function. Rachel is unable to be seen, and Emma produces an invitation identifying her as the White Queen. The confused young lady allows Emma to pass. Rachel makes a quick exit to search for the imprisoned mutants being sold at this auction.
Emma heads directly to the seat which should belong to her. In it sits Courtney Ross, head of Fraser Bank. At her side is her White Princess, Viper. Emma informs Courtney that she is sitting in her seat. Courtney challenges Emma to a card game to determine who wins the throne and title of White Queen. The rules are simple: each woman draws a single card…high card wins all. Loser goes up for auction on the block. Courtney draws first and pulls the Ace of Spades. Emma slowly extends her hand to draw her card.
In another part of the building, Rachel searches for the secret location of the prisoners. Guards are everywhere. Psi-dampers prevent Rachel from using her telepathy for anything more than maintaining her invisibility. She resolves to search the quadrant on foot. As earlier, in the transmat device, the shadows coalesce behind Rachel and form a figure. This time we see Selene, the Black Queen, emerge from the shadows. The psychic vampires hungers. Rachel presents her with a soul-feast that has the potential to give Selene the rebirth she desperately needs.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Bishop, and Nightcrawler) are dumped into a sewer. For some reason, the global transmit device dropped them into the drainage systems beneath Paris rather than Hong Kong with Rachel and Emma. Bishop determines their location almost instantly due to what he claims is his ability to always know exactly where he is. Wolverine sputters and coughs and immediately screams for Storm to get them out of there. He turns and pleads with Nightcrawler to teleport them out now! His cries come too late as both Storm and Nightcrawler are shot down by…Bishop. Wolverine turns to confront Bishop’s treachery. “I’ll have your heart for this,” he screams. Bishop says nothing but pulls the triggers on both his guns.

Characters Involved: 

Bishop, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Emma Frost, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Courtney Ross (presumably Satyr-9), the White Queen

Viper, the White Princess
Selene, the Black Queen
Various prison guards

5 Asian servants

Various members and staffers of the Hellfire Club, Hong Kong

Unnamed female mutant prisoner

Story Notes: 

“Courtney’s” offer at a card came for the title of White Queen is another subtle hint that she is actually Satyr-9 (who killed and replaced the real Courtney in Excalibur (1st series) #5), as in Excalibur (1st series) #9 she pulled exactly the same stunt on an unwitting Nigel Forbisher.
The Hellfire Club took a turn for the demonic under Selene’s leadership in Fantastic Four Annual '99.
For more information on the various incarnations of the Club, go here:

Selene had an interest in Rachel from the very moment the girl had come to this timeline (Uncanny X-Men #184) leading to several ugly moments between the two of them (Uncanny X-Men #184; 189; 205)

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