House of M: Masters of Evil #3
Set in the alternate reality of the House of M storyline where Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) warped reality into a mutant-centric world in which her family ruled, the Masters of Evil spin-off series features a nasty bunch of human baddies. Led by the mysterious Hood, this crew of criminals seeks to liberate the fictional country of Santo Rico where none other than Mister Madison and Doctor Lionel Jeffries share power. The two brothers appear extensively in this issue as enemies of the Masters of Evil and are ultimately defeated.
In the mainstream universe, we knew that Lionel Jeffries suffered from a sort of traumatic stress brought on by his inability to re-animate fallen comrades in battle (as described in Alpha Flight #30). Cured of this disorder by his own organic shaping abilities combined with his brother’s sheer will in that same issue, he remained an associate of Alpha Flight but was unable to maintain a healthy mental state and was eventually killed mercifully by his brother Madison after fusing with Roger Bochs into Omega (Alpha Flight #49). It’s a moving story of healing, redemption and sacrifice, poignant sentiments that could not possibly be more removed from the plot of this issue.
In this reality, the brothers were exposed to highly stressful conditions during the human/mutant war when they were forced to use their mutant powers against other mutants. Similar to the mainstream reality, the extreme conditions of their captivity induced a psychotic state in Lionel, and to some degree in Madison as well. It also causes Lionel to want to look more like Romulus’ multiple earring version of Wild Child. Installed to power by Magneto in Santo Rico, the Jeffries brothers’ seemingly unstoppable combination of powers bring upon the citizens of the tiny country, a majority of which are human, a reign of terror marked by horrific abuses and atrocities.
The Masters of Evil swoop in and quickly take over the country, ostensibly for financial gain, but not before an epic battle with the Jeffries brothers. Madison fights in his armor, but is not shown physically merged with the armor, but rather, enclosed by it in old-school Iron Man fashion. This is completely different than how we are used to see Jeffries, but still consistent with his power set and quite a step up from the coiled tentacle scene from Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1.
Madison fights with completely awesome hand-repulsor blasts and absorbs metal from his enemies’ costumes and nearby cars into his bulk. Lionel takes on a similar tactic, absorbing nearby bad guys into a grotesque blob of face-studded flesh. They defeat Bulldozer and Piledriver of the Wrecking Crew this way. Lionel then absorbs the Hood.
Unfortunately, the Hood shoots through Lionel’s organic bulk and causes a failure mode in Lionel’s power due to the fact that the Hood isn’t 100% human. Lionel rejects the Hood’s body and reverts to a non-blobby state. After pleading for his life by offering to fix the scars beneath Madame Masque’s mask, the Hood shoots him in the face and kills him.
Meanwhile, Madison has risen to an enormous size as he directly engages an unmanageably large group of Masters of Evil, at one point getting attacked simultaneously by Absorbing Man, Blizzard, Chemistro, Sandman, Thunderball and Wrecker and maybe some more bad guys who I (and I suspect the artist as well) can’t identify or lost count of. The combined attack is too much even for him and he is taken down, demoralized further by his brother’s death and fatally stabbed in the back by the Wrecker’s magic crowbar.
Following in the tradition of resurrected characters we haven’t seen for a long time, only to have them warped into a state of complete insanity and quickly killed (see Dark Reign: The List – X-Men #1 for Marrina’s similar fate), we see Lionel in the worst possible psychological condition and brutally executed with little remorse. His brother fares no better, as the battle is fought between very bad guys and otherwise heroic characters who are portrayed as gleefully sinister, mentally unstable and psychotically cruel. This morally bankrupt issue lacks anything resembling heroic action on anyone’s part, denying readers the chance to re-live what was a closed chapter of pathos in Alpha Flight history. The issue does bring up the notion of how incredibly powerful the combination of techno- and organo-morph mutant powers could be, a notion ruined by the juxtaposition of overly simplistic versions of post-traumatic stress disorders and a complete disregard for any dignity and respect that the mentally ill deserve. Fortunately, it all took place in an alternate reality that has since winked out of existence.