Her name is Selene, Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, and she almost brought the mutant race to extinction before she was killed. Now, though, courtesy of an alien being, she’s been resurrected – and just what does that mean for the X-Men?
Let me start by giving you a sense of just how insanely potent Selene really is. Born in Central Europe untold thousands of years ago, sometime after the fall of Atlantis, Selene’s potential was recognised by the elders of her tribe. They commanded a sacrificial slaughter in her honour. Yes, from childhood Selene was essentially a sort of vampire, a being who could draw on the life-force of others.
She was old when Apocalypse was young. And, drawing on the lives of others, she believed herself to be a goddess. As the centuries passed, Selene drew power to herself, learning a great many secrets of the mystic arts.
In terms of power-levels, it’s got to be noted that Selene is off the charts. While there is a limit to the amount of life-force she can absorb – the Hulk, for example, was once too much for her – she adds to this vampiric element a tremendous knowledge of dark magic. Her sorcery has been honed over thousands of years, meaning she probably knows secrets of the mystic arts that have been lost to the mists of time.
Now, let me pause for a second to weave Selene into the broader Marvel mythology – in a way that Marvel themselves haven’t. There are three specific things that fascinate me about Selene’s history at this point.
- The first is that, courtesy of the Spider-Man story The Other, we know that there are certain beings known as totems. Totems, typically animalistic beings, represent the core power of the universe; and certain ancient beings, such as Morlun, can draw upon the life-force of these totems for sustenance. I can’t help but find a certain twisted reflection of Selene in the character of Morlun, and this leads me to wonder if Selene, too, could perhaps have a taste for totems.
- Along a similar vein, we learned in AvX that the Phoenix Force has historically come to Earth before. A leech who desires power would undoubtedly be interested in a cosmic force, and I’m vaguely curious as to whether or not Selene has ancient ties to the Phoenix Force.
- The third is that the name Selene is inextricably linked to Greek legends, but it is unlikely that Selene was named after a goddess; she actually predates these legends. No, I suspect that the Greek legends are in fact hints of Selene’s activity in the days of ancient Greece, perhaps interacting with the Greek pantheon we find continually referenced in Hercules’ comics.
In the days of the Roman Empire, Selene sought to ascend to what she saw as godhood by absorbing the life-force of the entire city of Rome. To this end, she forged an alliance with the senator Eliphas; however, Eliphas made a single mistake, an act of compassion that led to the plan being foiled. In revenge, Selene cursed him.
The next bit, however, is cloudy – for uncertain reasons, Selene chose to base herself in the isolated realm known as Nova Roma. Depending on whether or not you prefer Chris Claremont’s original concept or Fabian Nieciza’s retcon from New Warriors #31 (itself later re-retconned by Claremont!), Selene may have settled for centuries in this place. She was brought back into action when the New Mutants ended her rule, and she chose to head into the wide world. Interestingly, in New Mutants #22 we saw immediately that she has left cults and worshippers across the globe, pawns ready for her to do with as she will. This concept has been little developed since.
This soon led her to the Hellfire Club, who promised her power, and she began a bitter feud against Rachel Summers.
Selene planned treachery against the Hellfire Club, playing a central role in the founding of the dangerous Upstarts, but was herself betrayed by Trevor Fitzroy. In the aftermath, Selene sensed that a change was coming – possibly she was sensing the approach of Onslaught. She began to harvest power, taking advantage of the arrival of Nate Grey in this reality, and preying upon the immortal mutants known as the Externals. An alliance with Blackheart went badly wrong for Selene, though.
It was now that an ancient plan almost came to fruition; Selene had long ago obtained an Asgardian artefact, and, using the blood of Valkyrie Dani Moonstar, she aimed to tap into the power of the Nine Worlds. She was defeated by X-Force, and – after a number of quests for power – returned to the Hellfire Club. The return of Sebastian Shaw led to a change in her fortunes once again.
With the mutant race decimated, Selene began to see opportunities – especially when she recruited Wither. Little by little, Selene gathered power to herself, until she was ready to launch a devastating attack upon her enemies using mutants resurrected by the technoorganic virus. She then headed to Genosha, where she resurrected the slaughtered millions of the island, hoping to absorb their life-essences into herself and ascend to godhood once again. She was stopped, and killed, by X-Force.
Selene’s story would have ended there, but for the intervention of Arkea. Arkea aimed to assemble a deadly Sisterhood in order to oppose the X-Men, and to this end she was able to resurrect Selene. Selene, however, proved an unreliable ally, and promptly headed off on her own devices.
With the former Black Queen at large, what will she do next? In my view, with the sole exception of the Necrosha plotline, Selene has failed to live up to her potential. Think about it: the name Selene has ties to the legends of the Greek Pantheon, and thus Selene has a potential history with Hercules; as an ancient sorceress she no doubt knows of mystic tricks that could give Doctor Strange some serious trouble; and wouldn’t a life-leech like Selene be interested in absorbing the likes of Thor, if not of totems such as Spider-Man himself?
To me, Selene is a B-list X-Men villain who should really be a B-list Marvel villain, a character who can fit into the broader Marvel timeline and be used in almost any context. She brings with her a penchant for death that can make her a true threat to any of Marvel’s heroes.