The Hellfire Gala began in Marauders #21 and in issue #22, we’re looking at the aftermath of both this event as well as the one that occurred in the past.
Rain Beredo (colourist), Gerry Duggan (writer), Klaus Janson (artist), Matteo Lolli (artist), Cory Petit (letterer – VC), Tom Mueller (designer), Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson (cover artists)
July 21, 2021
House of X/Powers of X has prided itself on intermingling and rewriting the previous X-canon in subtle, often shocking and brilliant, ways. In these two issues of Marauders, writer Gerry Duggan opts to throw out all subtlety when it comes to a retcon that sees the return of a particular mutant whose first appearance in 1987’s Classic X-Men #7 had also been her last. Marauders #21 revisited Claremont’s classics by reprinting the entire backstory, “Out with the Old,” that featured an early Hellfire Gala and the death of Lourdes Chantel after her fiance, Sebastian Shaw, violently forced her to teleport to the White Queen’s rescue. Later, rescuing him from an attacking sentinel, Lourdes is killed — or so we thought.
In the morning after the gala, we find Shaw whole and hale again, having served out his time wherein disability and being confined to a wheelchair was used as punishment for the crime of murdering Kate Pryde. He seems appropriately humbled by the experience but is already requesting a boon for I guess not murdering anyone since? He wants Lourdes back. (Note: he wants a Cerebro sent back in time to gather her info for this… so that means we could get John Proudstar back, right? Or are we just going to settle with naming a ship after him?) But Charles Xavier and Emma Frost know something Sebastian doesn’t: Lourdes is not dead.
Before we get into that, the Stepford Cuckoos are coming home to mum and stumble across the aftermath of their attempt to “fix” something that they decided was broken: Wilhelmina Kensington’s mind. Now the young Homines Verendi billionaire is struggling with the memories that have resurfaced. The Cuckoos realize that there is more fixing to be done because “Our mum taught us to look out for other women when men take advantage.”
That is indeed a lesson Emma has apparently been practicing as well as preaching as we learn more about this woman being reshaped by a retcon or two. In denying Sebastian his wish, she explains that Lourdes never died that night. Artist Klaus Janson, in a jaunty style switch from Matteo Lolli’s more playful lines and lighter hand, takes us back to the previous Hellfire Gala where we find Lourdes with a black eye, approaching Emma for help to escape Sebastian’s abuse and the dangerous humans who ran the Hellfire Club at the time. In a scene that echoes the Classic X-Men #34 scene where Emma presents her questionable views on sexism to a young servant woman frightened by the Club’s predatory behaviour, Duggan gives us an Emma who apparently would never have said such awful things to another woman. Instead, she tricks Sebastian into believing Lourdes died, instead getting her out and giving her over in service to a well-known client — who forces Emma to do his bidding as payment for the favour.
The retcon in heavy literal and figurative brushstrokes erases a classic case of comics fridging, but there is also the effort to make Emma less of the lone woman in a man’s world kind of character that we’ve known for so long. This is an Emma who has and wants women friends, who drinks beer with Jean to bury the hatchet, holds hands with Kate as they enact their vengeance, and sets a good example for her girls.
Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s delicious cover image — or just my wishful thinking — implies that Lourdes has a larger role to play and we will actually see her again. Unless her entire existence was once again just as a plot device to move the other pieces on the board.