There came a moment in early X-Men lore that enough time had passed since the Dark Phoenix Saga to allow the reintroduction of the Hellfire Club. In their first appearance, they had captured (and nearly killed) the X-Men and drove Phoenix so far over the edge that billions of lives were ended in her subsequent universal tour of chaos. To top that one would take a hell of an effort.
Fast forward to Uncanny X-Men #151-152 in which Emma Frost, alive and well after being presumed killed by Phoenix, is back to running her own school in Massachusetts. Why the X-Men didn’t think to follow up on this school after learning of it from Kitty Pryde is a question still unanswered today. Kitty’s parents decided that sending their daughter to live in a creepy mansion with seven adults may have been a bad idea, so they transfer her to the Massachusetts Academy which actually has students in it. Professor X suddenly gets a concience and refuses to mind-zap the Prydes to change their minds (even though that’s exactly how they agreed to send Kitty to the school in the first place). So with Storm driving, Kitty is carted off.
While separated from Kitty, Storm is approached by Emma Frost, who reveals her master plan. Are you ready for this one? She has invented a mind-swap gun! Seriously – Emma Frost, telepathic White Queen of the Hellfire Club uses a ray gun that would have been hokey in the Silver Age. Now as Storm, Emma leaves the school and plans to infiltrate the X-Men to destroy them from within. But Sebastian Shaw doesn’t feel like waiting for this carefully planned scheme, so he just throws a bunch of Sentinels at the X-Men first. Emma eventually shows up and zaps all the X-Men.
At this point, it’s obvious what the story is going for. Rather than trying to do a new Hellfire Club story, this story does the original one nearly vebatim. With a couple of exceptions – White Queen replaces Mastermind, and Donald Pierce is absent – all the same sequences go down. In the original, Harry Leland attacks Wolverine, knocking him into the sewers where everyone believes him to be dead. In this one, Harry Leland attacks Wolverine, causing him to collapse where everyone believes him to be dead. All the other X-Men sit captured as they think that one of their own has betrayed them. Kitty Pryde makes a timely save. Wolverine jumps around, hacking and slashing. The only new element, besides the god awful mind-swap gun, is Amanda Sefton, revealed earlier to be a sorceress who helps the X-Men escape.
In the original story, the Hellfire Club is defeated when Phoenix loses control of her powers and all hell breaks lose. In this one, Emma Frost loses control of Storm’s powers and all hell breaks lose – until Storm manages to find and fire the gun again, and all is good once more. It is here that the Hellfire Club and X-Men come to a mutual understanding – neither group can reveal the other’s true purpose without exposing themselves. This agreement eventually leads to an uneasy alliance between the two parties, bringing yet another set of villains into the grey realm of Uncanny X-Men characters.
But as for the story itself? It’s pretty awful, and definitely one of the most forgettable stories of Claremont’s original run on Uncanny (the later run is all forgettable). It doesn’t get brought up today, as Emma Frost would probably lobotomize anyone that referenced it. And, shockingly enough, no one ever bothered making another mind-swap gun. What a waste.