Monday, March 6, 2017

Mephisto Vs. (Marvel Ltd. Series 1987) [COMICS]

The title Mephisto Vs. seems really weird for a comic, until you realize that the cover of each issue of this limited series fills in the end with the name of a different super hero group.  The series was definitely an unusual one in having a persistent villain instead of a persistent hero.  The storyline involves Mephisto kidnapping a super hero from one group, "trading" the hero for a more powerful super hero from another group, and so forth as part of an elaborate scheme in a battle against a rival trying to horn in on his territory:  Hela, the Norse goddess of death.  Mephisto Vs. came out in my personal heyday of comics, and I love pretty much all of it.  The cover art is great (Issue # 1's could be a poster), the Baxter interior paper holds the colour well, the writing is solid (though not the best), and I know who everyone is!  Anyway, let's get to it!

Issue # 1, Mephisto vs. the Fantastic Four, starts with the FF investigating a mysterious shaft that has appeared in a sub-basement of their headquarters.  A jet of supernatural fire shoots out, but otherwise, the shaft seems empty.  The next morning, each member of the team seemingly dies, and young Franklin Richards is tossed down the shaft to appear in Mephisto's realm!  Mephisto says he wants revenge on Franklin for having banished him (in a previous comic), but Sue offers her soul if he'll let the others go free.

Issue # 2, Mephisto vs. the X-Factor, begins with Reed Richard acting on his theory that the only way to defeat Mephisto is with an unknown quality that he' can't predict: an X-Factor!  However, the idea was planted by Mephisto, who lures X-Factor to a place where Sue is back on earth and being chased by a mob.  Mephisto offers each member of the team their deepest desire, but all reject him.  However, in order to save Sue and the other members of X-Factor, Jean Grey volunteers to go with Mephisto.  The plotting doesn't really hold up here, and there's not really a reason Mephisto had to start with the FF in order to get to X-Factor, but that's okay.

Issue # 3, Mephisto vs. the X-Men, has this weird, poorly done "meta" moment where Mephisto says he's going to add Jean Grey to his "collection" with "the double bagging effect of the mystic mylar."  Many writers have critiqued the "collect but don't read" phenomenon, but this was an extremely clumsy way to do it.  Anyway, we find out that something is causing Mephisto's realm to crumble at the edges, and we also get some insight into Mephisto's ultimate plan: to "trade up" heroes until he gets a god's soul!  But to do that, he needs to trade Jean Grey for an even more powerful set of heroes, and, through machinations, gets Rogue (imprinted with the psyche and powers of Storm, Rogue, Dazzler, and Longshot) to trade herself for Jean Grey.  Don't think too hard about the plot.

Issue # 4, Mephisto vs. the Avengers, explains what's really going on.  Hela wants to move beyond just handling the Norse dead and is encroaching on Mephisto's territory.  A god fight!  So, Mephisto seemingly wants Thor's spirit in his domain, knowing Thor has defeated Hela before.  Thor, whose body has been broken but who has been denied the respite of death by Hela, is approached by Mephisto with an offer.  Thor refuses, so Mephisto tricks Rogue into setting the God of Thunder's soul free, while the other Avengers can do nothing but watch.  But Hela intervenes and, in a power struggle, Mephisto loses and Thor's soul is returned to his body.  It seems like Mephisto's entire plot has failed, but then we learn it was all a ruse to make Hela even more determined to have Thor's spirit, knowing that when Thor dies, he'll wreak total havoc in Hela's domain.

Like I said, there's a lot about the plot that doesn't really hold up to careful scrutiny, but I still enjoyed the limited series overall.  It was apparently collected in hardcover format in 2009.  I'm not saying it's the best thing ever, but a guy could do worse.

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