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Ultimate X-Men #25

Issue Date: February 2003

Story Title: Hellfire and Brimstone - part 5

Staff: Mark Millar (story), Adam Kubert & Danny Miki (art), Chris Sotamayor (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), C.B. Cebulski (associate editor), Brian Smith (associate editor), Ralf Macchio (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description:
Xavier and those X-Men in residence are officially invited to the Hellfire Club, who have decided to reveal themselves as their bankrollers. The X-Men, especially Xavier, enjoy the attention lavished upon them by all those celebrities, until Sebastian Shaw gives the order to stun them, revealing that this was all part of an elaborate scheme to get their hands on Jean, who has by now sunken into a trance. When the X-Men awake, they are placed within a circle and Shaw reveals that the Hellfire Club is going to use Jean to free an ancient phoenix god. Xavier claims that this phoenix is just a delusion of Jean's, but Shaw ignores him and starts the ceremony. As a result, Jean changes, kills the Hellfire Club members, and uses her powers to give Shaw's money to Xavier. Then, Phoenix attempts to change the world into a utopia, but Xavier interrupts her, insisting that she is just Jean and being delusional. Xavier attacks her and seems successful. Jean is herself again, although marked by the Phoenix. Leaving the building, the X-Men learn that Beast was attacked by the Brotherhood and that they have learned Magneto is alive. Suddenly, metallic objects fly into the sky and spell out a thank-you note to Xavier. Elsewhere, Magneto asks whom he has to thank for his freedom. When Prosimian introduces himself, Magneto thanks him and then kills him: the Brotherhood is no place for evolved animals. Then, he orders the other members to tell their old friends to return and promises that an example will be made of his traitorous children.

Full Synopsis:
Dressed up to the nines, Professor X, Storm, Marvel Girl and Colossus are attending a function by the Hellfire Club in Manhattan, held in the X-Men's honor. The biggest names in business have finally decided to come out as the X-Men's secret bankrollers. As a servant asks Xavier whether he should escort him to the wheelchair ramp around the corner, Xavier showcases his minor telekinetic powers and levitates his wheelchair up the main stairs.

Storm asks Jean if she's up to this. Jean replies that she's feeling better than she has in weeks, she's just worried about Scott in the Savage Land. He's out of her telepathic range and her psoriasis is flaring up again, something that usually only happens when someone she cares about is in danger. But they have to be here for the professor. For Xavier this gathering is a dream come true. The X-Men mingle with the upper ten and enjoy themselves, though Jean wonders why those people seem to know so much about her recent health problems.

Mr. Seville introduces Xavier to Sebastian Shaw, the Club's current grandmaster. Xavier profusely thanks Shaw for the Club's involvement in founding the X-Men. Shaw jovially assures him that the Club is just investing in the future and, as for finally announcing this to the world press? It's time to take a stand, he states, and toasts Charles. Seville and a Hellfire guard watch this scene from some distance, mocking Xavier's naivety. Seville shows the guard an article Xavier had photocopied and passed around to some people: an article by Stephen Hawking on the subject of mutants being mankind's last defence against the evolution of artificial intelligence. It won't matter after this night, Seville states.

Shaw calls on everyone's attention, first praising Xavier and his cause and then promising another surprise. Xavier is intrigued, but he doesn't expect an attack by the Hellfire Club guards, which stuns him, Storm and Colossus. Shaw tells the fainting Xavier that this was all an elaborately staged ruse. The press has no idea the X-Men are here. Jean, in the meantime, is in some kind of trance-state and doesn't react at all. The club members calmly watch as the X-Men are being taken away, while Shaw takes Jean by the arm.

When Xavier wakes up again, he sees that he and his X-Men have been placed on an altar outside a huge circle. Twelve of the Inner Circle members are standing on the edge of the circle that boasts a huge Phoenix head. Shaw is standing in the pentagram in the center and a robed, hooded Jean stands opposite him. Shaw explains their plan to Xavier: they intend to free an ancient Phoenix god from its many-angled prison and usher in a new age. Xavier mocks Shaw and states that he's bought hook, line and sinker into Jean's psychosis.

He and his people have clung to the prophecies of the Phoenix for thousands of generations and drawn their power from it, Shaw retorts. Their faith stretches back from the Founding Fathers and the French Revolution to ancient Egypt. In fact, even the eagle in the Oval Office is actually a phoenix. Shaw states they only needed Xavier to help Jean expand her mind for what was in store for her. Now he and his students will make a nice snack for the Phoenix. Sebastian then notices that the one of the X-Men's communication devices is active. Beast is trying to page them. Sebastian starts the ceremony to summon the Phoenix. Flames rise around Jean and something... happens.

Shaw humbly addresses Jean/Phoenix only to find out his master is rather displeased at their presumption. Jean, now with completely red eyes and a different voice tells them how foolish they were to give the greatest power in the universe to that girl, after betraying her three friends. She quickly kills the Inner Circle members, then mentally takes away all of Shaw's riches, gives them to Xavier and kills Shaw as well. When Xavier addresses her, Phoenix orders him to shut up. She will now bring about the utopia he was too weak to create. Phoenix starts to change things around her, influencing the celebrities in the next room, healing children, comforting the suicidal.

Just as she is about to raise a homeless man from the dead, she notices that Xavier is trying to mentally influence her. Charles tells her to stop that nonsense. She isn't an ancient goddess, but an eighteen year old with delusions and a discipline problem. Phoenix denies this, but Xavier keeps on reiterating that she is just Jean and mentally attacks her. All the windows in the building explode and Jean seems to be herself again. When Colossus asks whether that thing is still in her system, Jean is unsure, as on her chest there is a little mark in the shape of a Phoenix.

As the X-Men leave, they notice their communication device - Beast is finally getting through to them: He's lying in an alley - badly beaten up - and tells Storm that he was going to meet this internet date, but that the Brotherhood was behind this. They tortured him and forced him to tell the truth about Magneto. Suddenly cars, lampposts and other metal objects fly up and form a message in the sky. "Thank you, Charles."

In a penthouse, the perpetrator of this message is staring at his work. When Blob inquires after his health, Magneto replies that he's fine, just a little light-headed from the psychic deprogramming. He then asks whom he has to thank for this rescue. Prosimian pipes up and introduces himself as an evolved primate who was freed from a lab during a Brotherhood anti-vivisection mission. Magneto puts his arm on Prosimian's back, commends and thanks him. Then he uses his magnetic powers to kill him, stating that unfortunately Prosimian also stands for everything that has gone wrong with the Brotherhood in Magneto's absence. "Evolved primates indeed" ...

With the other Brotherhood members suddenly growing a lot more attentive, Magneto orders them to send messages out to their old friends, telling them they have two hours to come and apologize. When Blob inquires whether that also includes Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Magneto states that he is less forgiving of his children. An example has to be made of them: "Just tell them daddy's home, eh"...

Characters:
Beast, Colossus, Marvel Girl, Professor X, Storm (all X-Men)

Blob, Prosimian and several unnamed mutants (all Brotherhood of Mutants)
Sebastian Shaw, Seville and several other unnamed members of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle
Magneto

Notes:
This story is continued in the limited series "Ultimate War #1".

As was already hinted in Ultimate X-Men #6. Xavier himself has (minor) telekinetic powers.

The membership of the Hellfire Club includes the crème de la crème of society, among them the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ted Turner, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (whom Storm, embarrassingly, doesn't recognize).

Several references to the Phoenix-god - especially its many-angled prison - sound vaguely reminiscent of the work of H. P. Lovecraft.

The animal mutants seem to truly be intelligent mutated animals and not deformed humans.

This Issue has been reprinted in:
Ultimate X-Men Vol. 2 (HC) (Trade Paperback)
Ultimate X-Men Vol. 4: Hellfire & Brimstone (Trade Paperback)

Issue Summary written by: Ruth


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