Published by Marvel Comics in 1987, Mephisto Vs… is a four-part comic featuring Marvel’s devilish super villain. The comic focuses on Mephisto’s encounters with four super hero teams: Fantastic Four, X-Factor, X-Men, and The Avengers.
Written by Al Milgrom and illustrated by John Buscema, Mephisto Vs… is a macabre tale in which the Lord of the Underworld moves around the Marvel Universe, collecting the souls of various heroes. His goal is to trade one soul for the next in the hope of acquiring the soul of Thor.
What happens in Mephisto Vs…?
Issue #1 – Mephisto Vs. The Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four are investigating a strange opening in the sub-basement of their building, when all of a sudden a blast of fire rises up from the shaft. At the same time, Franklin Richards – the son of Reed and Sue Richards – wakes up from a terrible nightmare in which ‘The Bad Man’ tried to kill the Fantastic Four.
Realising that Franklin’s dreams are often prophetic, Reed wonders if an unseen enemy is trying to attack the team. But he decides to let Franklin go back to sleep, with the aim of questioning him in the morning.
The next morning the Fantastic Four discover they are indeed under attack, with each member systematically succumbing to an unseen force. The final member of the team to be attacked is Franklin, who is ambushed and sent to Hell, triggering a memory that Mephisto was ‘The Bad Man’ in his nightmare.
Mephisto informs the Fantastic Four that he wants Franklin’s soul, spurring The Thing, the Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman into a battle against their foe. But Mephisto has another plan in play – he doesn’t want Franklin and instead tricks the Invisible Woman into relinquishing her soul.
Mephisto returns the Fantastic Four to their home, minus the Invisible Woman. She remains in Hell with Mephisto.
Issue #2 – Mephisto Vs. X-Factor
Unable to find a way to free his wife from Mephisto’s clutches, Mr. Fantastic approaches X-Factor to ask for their assistance. They agree to help however possible, and soon find themselves encountering Mephisto.
Each member of the team battles Mephisto and quickly discover they are outmatched and incapacitated. Only Jean Grey remains unharmed, which gives him the perfect opportunity to coerce Jean into giving up her soul.
Concerned about her team mates, and also finding herself under Mephisto’s influence, Jean agrees to relinquish her soul. In return, Mephisto undoes any harm he caused to X-Factor and frees the Invisible Woman, with Jean now taking her place as a guest of Hell.
Issue #3 – Mephisto Vs. The X-Men
With the Invisible Woman returned to the Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic contacts X-Factor to thank the group for their assistance, only to discover what has happened to Jean Grey. Trying to understand Mephisto’s motivation, he concludes that Mephisto is moving from soul to soul, trading his way up the power spectrum, from human to mutant and then possibly to god.
He contacts the X-Men to warn the team of Mephisto’s potential plan. As X-Men team member, Storm is considered a goddess, he believes she could be next on the hit list.
Mr. Fantastic is partially correct and soon Mephisto attacks the X-Men, leading Rogue to leap into action. To prevent Mephisto from claiming another soul, she uses her mutant power to absorb her team mates’ abilities/memories, knocking them unconscious in the process.
But unknown to Rogue, she is playing into Mephisto’s hands and once she has absorbed the consciousness of the final X-Man, he strikes. His plan was to claim multiple souls at once, using her as a conduit.
Mephisto relinquishes Jean Grey, so that Rogue can take her place. And with Rogue he doesn’t just have one soul – he has the souls of various X-Men.
Issue #4 – Mephisto Vs. The Avengers
Mephisto’s hold on the souls of the X-Men is only temporary, and all but Rogue are freed. But Mephisto has no need for Rogue’s team mates as it is her unique power he requires.
Transporting himself and Rogue to the site of a recent battle, where Thor, the God of Thunder lies severely injured, Mephisto uses his influence over Rogue to help obtain Thor’s soul. Rogue is freed, but his plan to capture a new soul is interrupted and Thor’s enemy, Hela takes Thor’s essence to another dimension.
After a short battle with the Avengers, who believe that Mephisto has killed Thor, Mephisto confronts Hela and attempts to take Thor as his prize. However, he is unsuccessful, as Hela lays claim to Thor’s soul and he returns home empty handed.
Back in his lair, Mephisto laments what he lost, but finds comfort in his ability to trade souls. He also finds joy in the knowledge that one day, Thor’s soul will go to Hela and when that day comes, the God of Thunder will cause her much strife, rather than cause Mephisto any further hassle.
Is Mephisto Vs… worth a read?
Mephisto Vs… is a curiously odd tale, filled with some great imagery and a wealth of iconic characters. It brings together a real mix of heroes, and it is certainly fun to see Mephisto acquire souls.
The first issue, Mephisto Vs. The Fantastic Four is the strongest of the four chapters and delivers a superb and intriguing opening act. However, the remaining three chapters offer some great action scenes.
Yet despite its strengths, Mephisto Vs… has weaknesses and the biggest is the overarching story, which makes little sense. Mephisto’s need to trade souls is a poorly devised plot device to create a connection between each issue and it feels tenuous at best. His goal of acquiring Thor’s soul isn’t revealed until the final issue, and it’s less a revelation and more a random act that only happens because the script dictates it.
By the end of Mephisto Vs…, it is easy to forget this whole story started with an attack on the Fantastic Four, and if you only read issues #1 & #4 you would be forgiven for thinking they were two different stories. Perhaps a focus on just one team would have helped strengthen the story.
Mephisto Vs… is worth reading for the art and the sheer amount of characters that appear across the four issues, but not a story to spend a great deal of time thinking about. The comic is an excuse for the title character to interact with four different teams and cause some mischief in the process, which is fun if not particularly insightful.
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