When Jonathan Hickman took over the X-Men comic line, he introduced a puzzle in the form of his House of X/Powers of X dual-series event, which has been reshaping the X-Men and their history with the release of every page-turning issue. What's interesting is we already have the answers to some parts of the puzzle thanks to the upcoming "Dawn of X" relaunch of the X-titles.
Following the last few issues of HoX/PoX, Hickman will take the reins of the flagship X-Men series, with other creators joining him to bring us New Mutants, Excalibur, Fallen Angels, X-Force, and Marauders. We've seen previous volumes for every title except the final team book Marauders, which is from Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli.
Following the release of the latest issue of Powers of X that teased a larger role for Emma Frost's Hellfire Club and laid down another mystery about which mutants will sit on the Quiet Council, Duggan dropped a bombshell along with the reveal of the cover for Marauders #2.
We’ve been telling you for months who the Red Queen would be. Folks, get your orders in for Marauders. pic.twitter.com/7dsSe3PeMf— Gerry Duggan (@GerryDuggan) September 25, 2019
The cover featured Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost, two recently revealed members of the Quiet Council, making plans over a large map of the world with a red figurine of Kate Pryde, the leader of this new pirate team of X-Men. Duggan's remark with the cover reveals that Kate Pryde will be the Red Queen of the Hellfire Club, which could have major implications for the upcoming "Dawn of X" relaunch, which we'll explore further below.
The Hellfire Club first appeared in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #129, and played a huge role in the corruption of Jean Grey/Phoenix, as they sought to add her power to the Inner Circle as their Black Queen. The Club's inner circle is also known as the Lords Cardinal, and it is fashioned after the pieces of a chess set. This is apt due to the Hellfire Club's various moves and manipulations in the world of the wealthy elite that has made them such a threat over the years.
In the Club's most famous incarnation, the energy-absorbing mutant known as Sebastian Shaw ruled over the club, with Emma Frost as the White Queen, and rotating members filling up the other roles, from Black Queens to White Bishops and Black Rooks -- all but pawns were accounted for in the Hellfire Club's hierarchy.
Of course, the common chess set only comes with black and white pieces, so how did a Red Queen ever appear? Due to the Hellfire Club's international reach, the Club has various branches set up across the world. Shaw and Frost most often work out of the New York branch of the Hellfire Club, but there is also a London Branch, and they have organized their Inner Circle slightly different than their American counterparts.
As introduced in Excalibur #96, the London Branch changed to Red and Black to separate their Inner Circle from the New York Branch, which they deemed beneath them. Brian Braddock/Captain Britain went undercover in their Circle using his inherited title as the Black Bishop, and fans were then introduced to the first Red Queen, Margali Szardos.
It's important to note that Szardos wasn't the first Red Queen, as that was revealed later to be Diana Knight, who would also become the first Black Queen of the New York branch. Margali Szardos is better known to X-Men fans as the sorceress mother of Amanda Sefton/Daytripper and adopted mother of Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler.
While her role as the Red Queen of the Hellfire Club was a mystery initially, Sefton was able to determine that her mother Margali was the Red Queen and was attempting to release a demon that was trapped underneath London. Excalibur would take down the rest of the London Branch and Margali would abandon the Red Queen disguise and the Hellfire Club.
The title of Red Queen was left unfilled after Margali abandoned it, though we would see another member of the London Branch appear when the Red Rook Scribe was forced to fight for her title against a new challenger from the New York Branch, Madelyne Pryor.
Pryor is a powerful clone of Jean Grey who has cheated death several times, and following her induction into the Hellfire Club as the Black Rook and almost Black Queen, she began using the title of Red Queen upon her reappearances in the various X-titles over the years. Her last resurrection came in the pages of Brian Wood, Kris Anka and Clay Mann's X-Men, which saw her and Selene, Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, walk off into the night to scheme up new plans.
With Marauders set to induct a new Red Queen into the Hellfire Club, or the Hellfire Trading Company as it is now known, it stands to reason that the former holder of the title might still hold claim to the name. And with Madelyne Pryor's unique history with the Summers family and the X-Men, it's very possible she still has a large role to play in Hickman's "Dawn of X" relaunch.
This seems even more likely when considering recent teases made in the pages of Powers of X by Mister Sinister. We previously mentioned that Pryor is a clone of Jean Grey, and she was created by Sinister, who has played a big role in the new world of the X-Men Hickman is slowly unveiling.
When Sinister joined with Xavier and Magneto to create a DNA database of mutantkind, a gossip rag called the Red Diamond was included in the issue that listed ten of "Sinister's Secrets." A few of these secrets not only referenced Madelyne Pryor but also teased more revelations about her to come.
With Kate Pryde potentially taking over her former role -- and given Sinister's teases about his creation in Powers of X -- it seems likely that we will be seeing more from Madelyne Pryor and the Red Queens of the Hellfire Trading Company in the pages of Marauders, which will hit stores on October 23.