Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #453

Issue Date: 
February 2005
Story Title: 
Chasing Hellfire! - part 2: Cardinal Betrayal

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 Storm, Nightcrawler and Wolverine lie unconscious in the sewers of Paris after having been shot down by Bishop. As Nightcrawler awakens, Bishop explains that he shot his teammates in order to cleanse them from a nannite infection that had invaded their bodies when they appeared in the sewers. Nightcrawler teleports the team away from the sewers to prevent further infection and give them time to gain their footing. As the team recovers, they determine that the nannite trap was more than likely set by Sebastian Shaw and possibly Sage. Storm tells Nightcrawler to take the wounded Wolverine to X-Corp Paris to recover while she and Bishop track down Shaw and Sage. Storm and Bishop are able to locate Shaw and Sage at a sprawling estate. Shaw and a rather silent Sage welcome them. Shaw introduces Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta) as the Hellfire Club’s new Black King. It seems that Sunspot, Shaw, Sage, Courtney Ross, Viper and Red Lotus are reworking the Hellfire Club from within to make it an institution to help mutants in the world. They are secretly trying to bring this slaver’s network down. The X-Men express grave reservations about this scenario, but Shaw insists that he has changed and now wants to embrace Xavier’s ideals and goals. Before the X-Men can digest this information completely, they, Sage, Sunspot and Shaw are all attacked and incapacitated by Donald Pierce.
Meanwhile, Emma Frost and Courtney Ross come to a draw in their high-stakes card game in the Hellfire Club Hong Kong. Rachel also continues her invisible search through the club for the mutant slaves being sold at auction. Her search is fruitless until she accidentally stumbles across an Asian couple who demand that she identify herself. Rachel tries to bluff her way through, but the girl attacks. Rachel is suddenly rescued by Red Lotus who claims he needs to take her to see the White Queen. Selene also intervenes and tells the Asian girl to let them go. Selene wants the starchylde for herself. Red Lotus then explains the new reformed Hellfire Club concept to Rachel.
Wolverine and Nightcrawler are enjoying coffee in a Paris bookstore while they discuss the recent romantic entanglements of the team: the Kurt, Ororo, Logan triangle, and Kurt’s recent kiss with Rachel. Without warning they are attacked by a large group of armed soldiers.

Full Summary: 

In the stench of the Paris sewer, the X-Men Storm (Ororo Munroe), Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner) and Wolverine (James Howlett/Logan) lay defeated. Their teammate Bishop (Lucas Bishop) stands over them with his guns smoking. Bishop is from the future and has a more detailed knowledge of many things than these fallen heroes. It was this knowledge that allowed him to identify the threat to the X-Men even before they did. He chose this course of action instinctively and hoped for the best.

Nightcrawler begins to stir and, after gaining his senses, attacks Bishop. He demands to know why Bishop attacked his teammates and shot them down. Nightcrawler quickly disarms Bishop and throws him to the ground. Bishop pleads with Nightcrawler to listen to him and follow his instructions. He makes it clear that if Kurt does not follow his instructions he may have to take his teammates down yet again. Kurt listens as Bishop gives him clear instructions to teleport the entire group in the exact direction that he specifies. Nightcrawler hesitantly agrees, and the team shortly materializes in the ancient Roman baths of the museum at Cluny. Bishop knows exactly where he is due to his mutant ability to always know his exact location and the time of day. As he and Storm begin to stir, Wolverine explains that Bishop was not attacking the X-Men but rather cleansing them from the nannite infection that someone had left waiting for them in the sewer. Someone knew they were coming and laid a trap. Wolverine’s healing factor was hit particularly hard by the nannites, and he has been left extremely weak.

The X-Men together deduce that although it is possible that the trap was laid by Sage, she would have known about Bishop’s immunity to nannites. It is more likely that the trap was left by Sebastian Shaw. Bishop has Shaw’s bio-tag recorded from an earlier altercation, thus making it simple for him to be tracked. The heroes are hopeful that Sage is with Shaw and that they will be able to find both of them.

Storm tells Nightcrawler to get Logan to X-Corp Paris to recover from his wounds while she and Bishop track down Shaw and Sage.

Meanwhile in the Hellfire Club, Hong Kong, Emma Frost and Courtney Ross continue their card game to determine who will rule as White Queen. Courtney has drawn the ace of spades—the highest card in the deck. Emma surprises Viper by pulling a joker—the wild card. The duel is a tie!

Marvel Girl (Rachel Grey) using her newfound ability to make herself telepathically invisible searches the Club for evidence of the mutant slaves being sold at auction. She finds nothing particularly interesting until she comes across a door protected by a psi-shield that she cannot penetrate. From behind the door, come an Asian man and woman. They can not only see Rachel, but the woman demands to know what she is doing in this restricted area. Rachel attempts to cover with her false identity of Warrior White Princess of the Hellfire Club, but the woman wants to verify this before she will let her go. When Rachel tries to leave, the woman attacks her with a mental image of Rachel in rags—utterly worthless. The woman has the ability to identify everyone’s flaws and turn them against her opponent as a psychic attack.

Just before Rachel is overwhelmed by this woman, Red Lotus rushes in to her rescue. He continues the charade of Rachel’s White Princess status and informs her that the White Queen is asking for her. The Asian woman commands them both to stop and is about to attack when she is stopped by Selene, the Black Queen. Selene plans to claim Rachel, the “starchylde”, for her own.

Back in Paris, Wolverine and Nightcrawler enjoy a cup of coffee and some conversation at a bookstore. Kurt is nervous about being in public as himself, but no one at the coffeehouse seems to mind. In fact, one particularly flirtatious female leaves Kurt her phone number and an invitation. The conversation turns to Sage. Wolverine sees her much like himself: damaged goods with lots of scars on her soul that aren’t her fault. He wants her to be innocent in this mess, because she is so much like him.
They continue to talk about relationships. Logan and Kurt both have feelings for Ororo. Logan claims that they just enjoy each other’s company, while Kurt claims that dancing with Ororo seemed like the most natural thing in the world. At the same time, Kurt maintains that he has feelings for Rachel. Both he and she have changed so much since their time in Excalibur. Wolverine wonders why X-Men can conquer any super foe, but dating is another matter entirely. Suddenly the sky clouds and darkens. Logan suspects that Ororo has learned something she didn’t like.

Moments earlier, Storm and Bishop had successfully tracked down Shaw and Sage. They land in the inner courtyard of a large mansion; Sage and Shaw stand waiting for them. Shaw welcomes them with champagne, caviar, and open arms. The X-Men are taken aback by this welcome, but Shaw insists his hospitality is genuine. When Bishop addresses Sage, Shaw reminds him that her name is Tessa. Sage says nothing.

Suddenly, Sunspot, Roberto DaCosta appears. He introduced by Shaw as the newest Black King of the Hellfire Club. ‘Berto insists that this is all on the up-and-up. The Hellfire Club has turned over a new leaf. Just as Emma Frost has reformed, Shaw claims, so have the remaining members of the Lords Cardinal.

Sage remains silent.
In Hong Kong, Red Lotus (Paul Hark) begins to explain the idea of the new Hellfire Club to Rachel. He, Courtney Ross and Viper are working together to put the mutant slavers out of business. In Paris, Shaw explains the same thing to Storm and Bishop. He is turning over a new leaf just as Emma did. Shaw mentions the fact that he, Xavier, and Tessa go back before the beginning. They met in Afghanistan years ago and Shaw has decided now to embrace the ideals of Xavier that he rejected then. Rachel doubts what Paul is saying just as Storm and Bishop doubt the words of Shaw. ‘Berto explains that there is a growing market for mutant slaves, and the Hellfire Club wants to put it out of business. Shaw claims that Courtney’ boundless ambition makes her perfect for the Club and Viper should be granted immunity for past indiscretions because of her efforts now to free the enslaved mutants. Bishop vehemently objects reminding everyone present that Viper attempted to nuke London, and Storm asks ‘Berto if he cleared this new membership with Cyclops; ‘Berto claims that he can make decisions on his own.
Sage continues to remain silent.
Back at the bookstore, Logan and Kurt are suddenly attacked by a large group of armed soldiers. Logan’s plan all along was to make themselves and easy target with the hopes of drawing out the person who attacked them in the sewers. His plan worked. Kurt teleports into action as Logan charges the group of soldiers.
At Shaw’s mansion, ‘Berto continues to explain the new concept of the Hellfire Club. He invites the X.S.E. to join them from a law enforcement standpoint. Suddenly from the roof, the group is attacked. Tantalus webs are launched at each of them, and in a matter of moments the entire group lie paralyzed at the feet of none other than…Donald Pierce.

Characters Involved: 

Bishop, Marvel Girl, Sage, Nightcrawler, Emma Frost, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Red Lotus

Courtney Ross (presumably Sat-Yr-9 posing as her), the White Queen

Viper, the Warrior White Princess

Sunspot, the Black King

Sebastian Shaw / Lord Imperial

Selene, the Black Queen
Donald Pierce (former White Bishop)

Various members, staffers and guests of the Hellfire Club, Hong Kong

Various customers at a Paris bookstore
Unnamed armed militants

Unnamed Asian mutants

Story Notes: 

Donald Pierce was killed by Sentinels in Uncanny X-Men #247, but was revealed to have been rebuilt in Domino #2 (See Reavers for more details). He has been in and out of association with the Hellfire Club before, he was last seen facing and losing badly against the former New Mutants in New Mutants (2nd series) #13.
Nannites are microscopic robots capable of affecting a change in the person they infect on a molecular level.
In this issue, Bishop once again mentions his mutant ability to know exactly where he is. This ability was mentioned in Uncanny X-Men #452, but this issue makes the addition of Bishop’s always knowing what time of day it is as well.
Shaw’s connection with Xavier in Afghanistan is a new element that was subtly hinted at in X-treme X-Men #44, when it was sent hat the slaughtered convoy in Sage’s memories seemed to be employees of Shaw Industries
Selene has coveted Rachel’s powers ever sicne their first meeting way back in Uncanny X-Men #184.

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