Is Madelyne Pryor really a villain, or just rightfully pissed off at Cyclops?

 Madelyne Pryor as the Goblin Queen.
Madelyne Pryor as the Goblin Queen.

Madelyne Pryor may be coming to X-Men '97, as episode 2 of the animated streaming series ended on a cliffhanger with the arrival of a second Jean Grey. Though we'll have to wait for episode 3 to see how the tale of two Jeans shakes out, the story as told in comic books may hold some answers about what's to come in the show.

In comics, Jean's doppelganger is a clone named Madelyne Pryor, created to infiltrate the X-Men. However, before she knew any of that, she was Cyclops' first wife and the mother of his child - who he straight up ditched to get back together with the original Jean.

That triggered a major change in Madelyne, transforming her into the villainous Goblin Queen. But when you really get down to the reasons why, is it actually fair to categorize her as a full-on villain?

Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor

Uncanny X-Men #168 page
Uncanny X-Men #168 page

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

To understand the complex dynamic at hand between Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, we've got to go all the way back to the start of their relationship.

Any dive into the X-Men lore is a potential minefield for tangents, side stories, and interwoven soap opera relationships - especially in the mid to late '80s when this story was told. So we'll do our best to give you the TL;DR without sparing any of the gory details of what went on between Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor.

At the time Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor met, the X-Men were fresh off the 'Dark Phoenix Saga,' in which Jean Grey had become possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and eventually seemingly sacrificed her life to end the trail of destruction it left in its wake.

As the Phoenix Force departed Jean's dying body, a spark of its power managed to connect with a then lifeless clone of Jean Grey who was created by the mutant geneticist Mister Sinister, with the small spark of the Phoenix breathing life into the clone - who walked, talked, and looked almost exactly like Jean Grey.

Scott was introduced to Madelyne while visiting his home state of Alaska, and the pair quickly bonded (the fact that Madelyne looked a lot like Scott's dead ex Jean Grey helped a lot ... we'll let you decide if that's creepy), and eventually married - even having a son named Christopher.

And that's where things start to get really bad for Madelyne Pryor and her infant son.

Jean Grey Returns

Uncanny X-Men #240 cover
Uncanny X-Men #240 cover

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

See, shortly thereafter, Jean was resurrected thanks to the Phoenix Force's power of life, death, and rebirth (we're definitely simplifying the whole story here). And just about as soon as he learned Jean was alive again, Scott straight up ditched his wife and son to reunite with her.

To try to give Scott somewhat the benefit of the doubt, Jean's resurrection was one of the first times a major comic character died and came back to life, so he really had no context in which to emotionally process someone coming back from the dead.

That said, he definitely didn't try to work things out with Madelyne or figure out how to navigate the situation in a less harmful way than plain old running the heck away back to Jean.

Not long after Scott’s abandonment, Mister Sinister engineers a plane crash in which his Marauders kidnap Madelyne and Christopher, with the baby going missing.

In her resulting desperation, Madelyne makes a deal with two demons to find the baby and help her take revenge on Sinister and his Marauders. And though she does find the baby - in the clutches of Sinister, naturally - she also learns the truth of her nature as a clone of Jean Grey and a part of Sinister's plan to manipulate Cyclops and continue experimenting on the Summers family line.

Madelyne's resulting breakdown causes her to lean into her pact with the demons, becoming the demonic Goblin Queen and turning most of New York City into a hellish reflection of the demon's home realm of Limbo, in the now classic story X-Men: Inferno (not to be confused with the 2021 event of the same name).

Madelyne Pryor as the Goblin Queen

Uncanny X-Men #241 cover
Uncanny X-Men #241 cover

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As we said, we're just scratching the surface of the details of everything that went down in Madelyne Pryor's time with Cyclops and her transformation into the Goblin Queen, which also involves an affair with Cyclops' brother Havok in the wake of Scott's abandonment and the revelation that she's a clone.

And we're not even getting into what eventually happened to the infant Christopher Summers, who was renamed Nathan and taken to the future - where he grew into the mutant soldier Cable.

As for Madelyne herself, Inferno resulted in her death, with the spark of the Phoenix Force that gave her life abandoning her and returning to Jean, its preferred host.

This means that Cyclops ultimately trades his living wife for his dead flame, leading directly to the death of his wife, trading Madelyne's life for Jean's - a life that only existed to manipulate Cyclops to begin with.

In the years since, Madelyne has returned from the dead a few times (you can say "she got better" in your best John Cleese impression), as is the way of comic book villains, often as the Goblin Queen. And most recently, she's become the ruler of Limbo, and a tenuous ally to the X-Men. Still though, she's playing her own game as she also just released the villainous Chasm from his imprisonment in Limbo.

This means that Madelyne Pryor is always looking out for herself first and foremost. But honestly, when you consider how she got to that point, can you really blame her? Or should you blame Cyclops and Mister Sinister?

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