> Uncanny X-Men Masterworks Volume 5

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From the Mouths of the Marvels:

"Get outta my head, Professor! And quit yellin', will ya? It hurts! All I wanted to do was see what happened to Ororo and the others. I was trying to help you - - to act like a real X-Man."

-- Kitty Pryde, pg. 10

Margali makes her presence known.

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X-Men Annual #4
1980 35 pages

Script: Chris Claremont Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Pencils: John Romita, Jr. Inks: Bob McLeod

Title: "Nightcrawler's Inferno"

Joins X-Men: Kitty Pryde

First Appearance: Margali, Jimaine Szardos/Amanda Sefton, Stefan Szardos (in flashback)

Origin: Nightcrawler

Villain: Margali Szardos, Charon, Minos, Harpies, Cerberus

Guest Appearance: Dr. Strange, Jimaine Szardos/Amanda Sefton

Cameo/Death: Stefan Szardos (in flashback)

Innovations: Storm is now leader of the X-Men, Jamaine Szardos reveals herself as Amanda Sefton

Letters Page: (No letters page in this issue.)

Synopsis: Nightcrawler is shocked to find himself the beneficiary of a surprise birthday party, thrown by his fellow X-Men. As they gather around and he opens his gifts, he finds a nondescript box with no card. Inside is a crystal figurine of himself, but it explodes in his face, with a black cloud surrounding his head. Professor X and Storm provide emergency medical care, but by all appearances, Nightcrawler has died. Storm wonders if she will really make a good leader for the X-Men now that Cyclops is gone, if already a dear friend has died on her watch.

Professor Xavier summons the help of Dr. Stephen Strange to assist with determining the odd circumstances surrounding Nightcrawler's death. He scans Kurt's body with the Eye of Agamotto, which reveals that he's not really dead, but has had his soul stolen by one who is fueled by hatred, but seemingly not of evil. Then, his mystic eye senses the approach of the spirit-form of Margali of the Winding Road, who sends lizard tentacles out to trap the X-Men and Dr. Strange and pull them into her mystical world. Storm rushes Professor X and Kitty out of the labaratory, but she is grabbed by the tentacles and pulled into the darkness.

Kitty phases into the lab to check on them, much to the dismay of Professor Xavier, who doesn't want her to risk her life without full knowledge of her powers. Kitty sees that the lab is now empty, and all the X-Men, and the being that took them, are gone.

Dr. Strange, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine wake up next to Nightcrawler, all of them lying in front of a massive door with a verse of Dante's Inferno inscribed on it: "Abandon every hope, ye that enter." Dr. Strange leads them through the door to help preserve Nightcrawler's soul, and warns them that the march to Margali will be long and hard. They are picked up at the shore of the noxious River Acheron by Charon, the boatman. He transports them to the chamber of Minos the demon, who taunts the X-Men. A giant tentacle swings around and grabs Nightcrawler, flinging him far out into the distance. Storm gives chase and catches up to him, floating over the second circle of Hell, where many lost souls spend eternity. A cadre of harpies fly down, and though Storm valiantly fights back, they stab her in the back with a spear, sending her hurtling down into a whirlpool.

Nightcrawler teleports back to Minos' chamber, unaware that Storm is missing. Minos chortles that Storm has been sent to her appropriate circle of Hell, and they must go save her to get her back. Dr. Strange senses still no presence of evil, but an abiding hatred that Margoli- master of this reality- has for Nightcrawler. They set out to help Storm and are attacked by Cerberus, the three-headed dog. They fight him off, but continue their march forward to a great wall guarded by demons. They try to gain the top of the wall, but they are knocked back. Colossus puts himself through the ultimate test of his strength to pry the flaming wall open so they can walk through. There, they find themselves at the precipice of Malabolge, the eighth circle of hell, where Storm's soul is held captive. In a writhing pit of human flesh and giant reptiles, they spot what they think is Storm. But it is really a demon clad in her costume. Wolverine's senses sniff out the real storm, stuck in the form of a reptile. Storm is able to change back to her real self, but is very disturbed from the experience!

Their next move is to the ninth circle of hell, to face Satan himself. A bolt of black lightning flashes down to Nightcrawler, encasing him in ice. Colossus bashes at the block of ice, freeing him, when Margali finally appears. She demands to know why the X-Men and Dr. Strange have appeared in her kingdom. Suddenly, a young woman who Nightcrawler identifies as Jimaine appears, and declares that she deceived the X-Men and Dr. Strange into thinking Margali was responsible for their abduction, so they would help stop her from killing Nightcrawler. Margali punishes Jimaine swiftly, turning her into an ice statue.

Though Dr. Strange detects Margali is not evil, he lashes out at her with his mystical spells. Nightcrawler tells everyone to stop fighting, that he surrenders to Margali so she can punish him for his transgression: murder. His friends speak up, saying Kurt cannot possibly murder anyone, but Margali says it is true, and he must face her punishment now and forever. Dr. Strange casts the Eye of Truth over Nightcrawler to determine the truth, and the events of his life are played back to all: As an infant, Kurt Wagner was found abandoned by Margali Szardos, a gypsy, and raised as one of her own, alongside her children Stefan and Jemaine Szardos. Kurt idolized Stefan. Stefan made Kurt promise that as he grew with powers of black magic, if he ever took an innocent life, Kurt would kill him so he would not turn evil. Sure enough, Stefan killed an innocent person, and Kurt had to follow through with his pact. In a struggle between the two, Stefan was killed.

As he returned to their home to tell Margali what he had done, townspeople discovered Stefan's dead body and blamed his murder on the demon, chasing Kurt through the town. He was rescued by Professor Xavier and brought to join the X-Men (see GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1.) Margali never knew the true circumstances of her son's death, and pursued Kurt as his murderer. Now that she has seen the truth, she apologizes for her actions, borne out of hatred.

Nightcrawler is reunited with Jimaine, who has another surprise for him: all along, she has been Amanda Sefton. She posed as the American girl in a mystic disguise so she could always be close to him. Once her mother made her move to attack, she knew she would have to act on his behalf to save him from her wrath. The two lovers are happy to be back in each other's embrace, and the party begins once again! - -synopsis and panel images by Gormuu

- - letters page provided by Avengers Assemble

Issues Reprinted
X-Men #132-140, Annual #4, Phoenix #1
and Phoenix from Bizarre Adventures #27

Click on cover image to learn more about each issue.

XM #132 XM #133 XM #134 XM #135 XM #136 XM #137
XM #138 Ann. #4 XM #139 XM #140 PHX #1 BA #27


All cover images are courtesy of the Silver Age Marvel Comics Cover Gallery.

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