Wolverine and the X-Men (1st series) #22

Issue Date: 
February 2013
Story Title: 
Big Top Hell

Jason Aaron (writer), Nick Bradshaw (penciler), Walden Wong, Norman Lee, Craig Yeung & Nick Bradshaw (inks), Laura Martin (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Nick Bradshaw & Guru EFX (cover artists), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (associate editor), Nick Lowe (editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (Exec. Publisher)

Brief Description: 

Months ago, Frankenstein’s monster saved the witch Calcabrina and together they took over a circus. Now, under the witch’s control, the X-Men fight their own students. Calcabrin and her zombie clowns have realized the last Frankenstein must be a child, unaware that Frank is already confronting said last Frankenstein, Maximilian von Katzenelnbogen, who denies his family legacy. Max is saved by Oya and together they go looking for the witch. Eye Boy realizes he can see magic, which doesn’t help him much against the X-Men however. Fortunately, thanks to Idie and Max, Calcabrina’s magic begins to break down and the X-Men start to snap out of it. Frank attacks Idie, while Max wrestles with his conscience whether he should intervene.

Full Summary: 

Months ago, at night:
A group of carnies armed with torches and pitchforks are shouting for the blood of a witch. The old woman, dressed in black with a half-veiled face is waiting for them. Their ringleader, Big Ed, shouts that he can’t believe that he had a devil-worshipper right her under his nose. In his own damn circus!

The witch orders them to keep back . Lay one hand on her and suffer at the feet of her Red Lord! The men suggest what to do with her. Suddenly, one tall man in a hood orders them to leave her be. Identifying him as one of the new rousties, Big Ed orders him to mind his own business. Frankenstein’s monster takes off the hoof and suggests he could buy the place from him instead. In exchange for a quick death!

Thirty seconds later, he has killed all the men, Big Ed last. The witch asks what manner of creature he is. It would appear he is her new boss, he remarks. She observes he isn’t born of woman. He has the look of science gone wrong. Where did he come from? It’s a long story, the creature replies evasively, one she has probably heard in one form or another.

She owes him for these lives, she announces. Energy rises from the bodies and she explains that she is taking their souls for her master. So she really is a witch? he asks. Calcabrina of the Winding Way, she introduces herself. And he? Call him Frank, he replies. Now let’s talk a bit more about what she owes him… and just how she’ll be paying him back…

He is here! Calcabrina shouts. The last of the Frankensteins is in their circus! She orders the monstrous clowns to find him, for their master or she will send them back to the zombie hell she conjured them from. Find that Frankenstein and set them all free!

Maximilian von Katzenelnbogen flees, followed by his floating techno cubes. Frank smashes three cubes and grabs him. He has walked the entire world and known horror beyond compare. All to be here with him! All to end this wretched saga once and for all!

Energy tendrils from the big top grab the fleeing children. The ringmaster orders to grab them all until they are sure they have the brat the master seeks.

Elsewhere, the students of the Jean Grey School are fighting the brainwashed X-Men. A beaten up Quentin Quire orders Wolverine as a clown and the psychic Rachel to surrender, then falls down. Or what? Wolverine asks. Die of boredom? Laugh until his eyes bleed? Vomit thumbtacks? He guesses they’ll never know.

Rockslide hits Beast, while apologizing and hoping he won’t remember that when he grades his science midterm.

Shark-Girl wrestles Warbird, who tells her she looks like something that would be tasty battered and deep-fried. Right back at her, chicken lady! Iara snarls.

Only Eye-Boy runs for his life from the clowns.

Frank throws Max inside a caravan, where he sees some mummified corpses. Recognize anyone? Frank asks. William was his first, the brother of him who made him. Then Elizabeth, his bride, smothered in her honeymoon bed. And ultimately, the madman himself, Victor von Frankenstein. But that was just the beginning.

More corpses: Wolfgang Frankenstein, whom he found in the Carpathian Mountains with his harem of the living dead. Grigore the Butcher of Slovakia, who gigged like a schoolgirl as he tore him to pieces. Bianca Frankenstein, renowned connoisseur of wines and reanimator of dead children. Sweet little Gustav, who tried to change his name, and become a dentist in Sweden. From which litter ishe?

He is not… a Frankenstein, Max hisses. Frank grabs him by the throat. The blood in his veins says otherwise. He has tracked that blood all over the world. He knows how it smells. How it tastes, and in him lies the very last drops. Of that he is certain. The last blood he ever needs to spill other than his own. Time to die, young master Frankenstein! Again Max denies the name. Time to join the rest of his wretched family in whatever circle of hell they now call home.

Suddenly, a blast of fire hits Frank in the back. Stop hurting him! Idie Okonkwo orders, or she starts hurting him. Friend of his? Frank asks Max. Not exactly, the boy replies.

Frank orders the girl to walk away. No need for her to die today, not for a piece of filth such as this. She’s not afraid to die, Idie replies or, if she has to, to kill. She attacks with ice and fire.

Speaking of which: elsewhere Iceman attacks Genesis, who cries that he should stop this. Iceman isn’t a villain. That’s supposed to be him, remember? He takes off with his jetboots and saves two kids from a murderous clown.

Iceman fires at him and asks Evan why he is running. Unless he is the one their master wants to throttle to death, it just means he gets to stay here forever! What could be more fun than a circus that never ends? Evan apologizes as he hits him, but if he ever loses control he’d want someone to put him down. Lightning hits him and a gust of wind sends Evan into the hall of mirrors.

Evan stares at the mirrors entranced. In them he sees different images of himself as a superhero. Storm hits him, then stares herself as she sees different aspect of her superhero career reflected at her. She feels like her mind is on fire.

Big Frank, in the meantime, is really on fire, courtesy of Oya. Max nonchalantly supposes he should say ‘thank you’ or something of the sort. Idie suggests it’s what she usually does whenever someone’s saved her life. Angrily, he replies he didn’t need saving. He can take care of himself. He’s been doing it for a very long time.

Idie remarks he looks familiar. Have they met? Only the one time when they tried to destroy their school, he thinks but denies it. He fixes his cube and it rises. Why was the big guy trying to kill him? Idie asks as she follows him outside. Family squabble is his curt reply. Shouldn’t they tell somebody that there’s a giant murderer running around here? she asks. Great idea, she should do it immediately! he suggests. He orders Cube 4 to scan the entire energy spectrum, focusing on supernatural wave lengths. He wants to know how this circus managed to track him and how to shut it down.

Idie blasts a clown and wonders why this place is so evil. Are clowns usually this scary? Yes, Max replies. The cube announces: supernatural energy source detected. Category: witch, Darkhold affiliated. Max asks for a gun and tells it to lead the way. He shoots a clown. Idie offers to help.

Shouldn’t she be going back to her school? he asks. He imagines Wolverine will be looking all over for her. She used to love going to that school, Idie replies wistfully. But that was before a friend of hers got shot. Max thinks that he had to scrub his brain off his shoes. That sounds… unfortunate he tells her. He had a friend once too. Mentally, he chides himself not to remember that. His name was…

Idie interrupts him: how did he know she goes to the Jean Grey School? “Your uniform, Einstein!” he snaps. He tells himself he is the Black Bishop of the Hellfire Club. Act like it and get rid of her. He tells her she shouldn’t have bothered saving him if she is badgering him to death. Away with her! He has a witch to kill. Did he say a witch? Idie asks.

Trevor Hawkins, in the meantime, hides in a caravan and wonders why he ever left public school. Being beaten up by jocks was way better than this. Hello? He calls out. Anybody here besides us cowards? He calls himself pathetic for leaving his classmates. Not the way to make friends. He tells himself to keep his eyes open. He passes many strange objects in jars. He doesn’t see that one of them is a dead Bamf referred to as a hell-beast.

Suddenly, he sees snakes in the air, made of smoke and weird symbols. He realizes he can see magic and that’s how they are controlling the X-Men. And if he follows the snakes he can figure out where they are doing it and… and what? he wonders. Stare them into submission? Dozens of eyes and none of them shoots laser beams. Meet Eye-Boy, the lamest mutant ever!

There’s still a place for him here! Kitty, who has snuck up on him tells him. If there’s one thing they can always use more of at the circus, it’s more freaks. She shoves him through the window and wonders why this felt good. What’s wrong with her?

Outside, two clowns beat up Trevor. Revolto stands nearby and does nothing.

Storm runs from the mirror hall, finally remembering who she is. She calls upon a thunderstorm and vows this madness will end.

Big top command informs Calcabrina that her magic is breaking down. They are losing control of the X-Men! She snaps back that the clowns should deal with them. She has problems of her own (namely Max and Idie).

Max’s Cube identifies her as Calcabrina, witch of the Winding Way. That’s all Idie needed to hear. In Nigeria, the people of her village tried to burn her for being a witch. But she doesn’t blame them. She blames her, she snarls at Calcabrina.

Outside, Trevor begs Revolto to please snap out of it. He’s his student. Please help him! Revolto tells him he’s got the wrong guy. The other clowns laugh he’s talking to the worst clown ever born. His name is Revolto the clown, he begins. He’s the best there is at what he does… and what he does… is get beaten with hammers and fall in vomit… and make funny balloon animals… and-- Hit people in the face with pies?

Suddenly, he unsheathes his claws through the pie he is holding. Uh-oh, go the other two clowns. Growling, he attacks.

Idie tells the witch when the villagers tried to kill her she wouldn’t burn. But something tells her Calcabrina will.

Suddenly, Frank grabs Idie, vowing she may not burn but she will break. There is no one here to help her, he tells her as he begins to strangle her… and the hidden Max isn’t sure what to do.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Warbird II
Eye-Boy, Genesis II, Kid Omega, Oya,Rockslide, Shark-Girl (X-Men students)

Maximilian von Katzenelnbogen (Hellfire Club)
Frankenstein’s Monster
Zombie clowns
Other carnies

Frankenstein’s monster

Big Ed

Story Notes: 

Evan’s mirror images are homages to iconic covers starring Superman.

Max tried to help destroy the school in issues #1-3.

Idie was almost killed because her people thought her a witch. She has issues.

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