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X-Men #26: Review

Sep 2023
Gerry Duggan, Jim Towe

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Review & Comments

4 stars

X-Men #26 Review by (September 8, 2023)
This issue is much more of a crossover with Iron Man than #23 was. Marvel made a big thing about this upcoming wedding of Emma Frost and Tony Stark, with a double-page spread across the covers of this issue and Iron Man #10. But if it happens at all it will be 'Hazel Kendal' who gets married not Emma Frost. And most of the guests depicted on this front cover, not least Emma's clone-daughters the Stepford Cuckoos, are missing presumed dead, or at least deep in hiding.

The Hellfire Club was sort-of 1st seen in X-Men #100, but by name it was introduced in #129 which was also the 1st app of White Queen Emma Frost and of Kitty Pryde. WQ and the rest of the Club were enemies of the X-Men then. Ms Frost was also headmistress of a rival mutants school but she switched sides after Uncanny X-Men #316 and the deaths of her students the Hellions, and she became the teacher of Generation X.

Kitty Pryde's 1st superid was Sprite. She then tried Ariel before settling on Shadowcat for a long time. The destruction and recreation of the multiverse seems to have happened while she was with the Guardians Of The Galaxy being the other Star-Lord. After she left that team and returned to the X-Men she seems to have given up using a codename. And in the Krakoan era she started calling herself Kate rather than Kitty and her personality got darker. So now post-Hellfire Gala she's taken the id Shadowkat as a much darker version of her old id.

Firestar debuted in Uncanny X-Men #193 as 1 of Emma Frost's Hellions but didn't join the X-Men. She left before the team was killed. Later she was a founder member of the New Warriors where she met her boyfriend Vance Astrovik (Marvel Boy/Justice). They got engaged and joined the Avengers, until they left that team and each other. She then tried unsuccessfully to lead a normal life but kept getting involved with people like the Marvel Divas and the Young Allies. Eventually she gave in and became a teacher at Jean Grey's mutant school, and then kept helping the X-Men as Firestar. She became a member of the main X-Men team in the 2nd Hellfire Gala. And then the 3rd Hellfire Gala spun her off into this new spy role.

Firestar is surprised that Shadowkat can use a Krakoan gateway. Previously only mutants could use them but Kate couldn't (something to do with her phasing ability). Then in the Hellfire Gala Orchis made the gates unusable by mutants (and presumably now usable by humans else why have 1 on The Bloom?), but for some reason they now work for Kate.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

X-Men #26 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
We begin with a flashback to the Hellfire Gala (in its recent 1-shot) as Emma Frost and Wilson Fisk escape the attack by Orchis by teleporting to the Morlock tunnels under New York's Hellfire Club. Fisk points out that the enemy will attempt to seize her assets, and he gets her to beg him for help. Which he promises to give because her enemies are his enemies (now that they may have killed his wife Typhoid Mary along with many other mutants). (This led to a scene Iron Man #8 where Fisk and Frost were signing an agreement, and in IM#9 where we learned that she'd transferred all her assets to him to avoid them falling into Orchis' hands.)

Weeks later the Hellfire Club is back up and running under new management, Fisk as White King and Tony Stark as Black King, and the former White Queen Frost missing presumed dead or captured. Stark pretends to be content to be retired as Iron Man now that Feilong owns Stark Unlimited and his IM tech (and has used it to create giant Iron Sentinels for Orchis to hunt mutants). But secretly he's building a brand-new armour.

At a HC party (where recovering-alcoholic Tony is carousing with ginger ale) he's taken aside by his aide Hazel Kendal. When they're alone they drop the pretence that she's not Emma Frost in disguise, his contact with the remains of the X-Men. She asks him if his mole in Orchis is the mutant Firestar. He reminds her that they're deliberately keeping many details secret from each other for security reasons. She tells him that a rogue mutant assassin intends to kill her, so if she is his mole he'd better warn her. On the way out of the room she pretends that she's just repulsed a pass that womanising Tony made.

Kamala Khan (Ms Marvel) recently (Hellfire Gala) discovered that she is a mutant (as well as an Inhuman). She joined the X-Men last issue and the high-school student went undercover as a summer intern at the Orchis Science Centre in Empire State University to investigate their secret underground lab (in her new series Ms Marvel: The New Mutant). On the way in today she sees bigots attacking a perceived mutant. Without using her powers she stops them by declaring that she's filming them. It turns out that the 'mutant' just looks different because she has alopecia.

The sword-wielding assassin targeting Firestar is Kate Pryde, now reusing her old but slightly renamed id Shadowkat. She uses her phasing ability (along with a scuba mask) to hide inside the skin of an Orchis shuttle craft which takes her to their orbiting base The Bloom. She triggers an alarm as soon as she leaves the shuttle but expects to be able to kill her target and escape without being captured. She fights her way through armed guards (including phasing some of them through the walls out into space).

Angelica Jones has got Stark's warning and has locked herself in her room with a gun pointed at the door. The room juts out into space but Kate launches herself (using phasing) into space and then into the room behind her target, knocking her down to lose the gun. Angel turns into flaming Firestar, which seems to allow Shadowkat's blade to pass harmlessly through her (but she still feels physical blows). Meanwhile she desperately explains how (Hellfire Gala gain) the dying Jean Grey telepathically made Dr Stasis believe that Firestar had been working for him as a secret agent for a while so now she's a mutant spy within Orchis. She says if Kate dosen't believe her then she might as well make her imminent death count by using her power to destroy the station.

But Kate does believe her and sheathes her sword, but punches her on the nose to make it bleed convincingly. Angel asks who else survived the massacre. Kate says she doesn't know, and if she did she wouldn't tell her. It's not that she doesn't trust her but a resistance relies on secrecy and compartmentalisation. Angel asks if she can at least pass the word that she's not really a traitor. Kate wryly suggests that it will be good for her cover if other X-Men continue to try to kill her occasionally. Now she leaves The Bloom via a Krakoan gateway.

This is followed by a letter from Angelica to her father telling him the official version of what she's doing. I don't know if anything in it (like mention of a pony Butter Rum dying of cancer) is a code to indicate that things aren't what they seem. She also asks him to give her old Avengers ID Card to Tony Stark personally at the Hellfire Club.

'Hazel Kendal' has a meeting with Shadowkat in an alleyway. Kate assures Emma she didn't kill Firestar. But she also hasn't been able to find out what happened to Cyclops (after he was attacked by Captain Krakoa in the New York Treehouse mutant embassy in the FCBD Uncanny Avengers 1-shot). We learn that Frost intends to leave the safe Kendal id and join Shadowkat on her mission of revenge.

Hazel returns to the Hellfire Club party where she sees 1 of their targets Feilong. She decides to begin the mission immediately, and starts to remove the ring which hides/inhibits her mutant abilities. But Tony whisks her away to another secluded room. The angry mutant wants to wipe Feilong's minds clean, but Tony says their foe has info in there that he needs for his new armour. And if she removes the ring the Sentinels will home in on her and everything they're doing will be ruined. She replies by kneeing him in the groin.

Feilong enters the room to see Tony on 1 knee before Hazel with the ring in his hand. Quick-thinkingly he proposes to her.

And in the moment that she has her telepathy back she tells Kate that she won't be joining her.

To be continued in IRON MAN #10.

Jim Towe
Javier Pina
Marte Gracia
Lucas Werneck (Cover Penciler)
Lucas Werneck (Cover Inker)
Lucas Werneck (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Clayton Cowles.
Editor: Jordan D. White. Editor-in-chief: C. B. Cebulski.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.


(Wilson Fisk)
Kitty Pryde
Kitty Pryde

(Kate Pryde)
White Queen
White Queen

(Emma Frost)

Plus: Feilong (Kevin Heng), Firestar (Angel Jones), Khan (Kamala Khan).

> X-Men: Book info and issue index

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