The Xavier Institute: Inferno Part 3 – X-Infernus

by Tony Thornley

Are we really still talking about Inferno? Well, yeah, and frankly I could talk about more stories than I am. This really is a story that just keeps on giving.

The aftereffect of Inferno that I think we see echoing the most today is the effect the story had on Magik and Colossus. Immediately afterwards, Illyana was returned to her original age and mental state, giving Piotr and their family a second chance with his baby sister. Then shortly thereafter, their parents were murdered and Illyana contracted the Legacy Virus, killing her before she had her second chance.
And then, as often happens, she returned. She kidnapped a bunch of young X-students. She tortured them all. X-Infernus was what happened next.
The story was a four issue event miniseries by CB Cebulski, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jesse Delperdang, Marte Gracia and Dave Lanphear. The story came at an interesting time in the X-Line, coming not long after the San Francisco era started. I really love this era of X-Men, as the team was more loose and expansive. It also brought some interesting characters into the spotlight, and this series is no exception to that.
Naturally, Colossus is one of two characters given the biggest spotlight here. Piotr wants his sister back, which, considering all he’s lost, is a great motivation. It leads towards a take on Colossus that’s very driven, angry and singular in mind. Some might read him as out of character here, but considering his history it makes a lot of sense to me.
The other character in the spotlight is Pixie. In the resurrection of Magik storyarc, Pixie had a chunk of her soul ripped away and turned into a dagger. This quickly turned Pixie from little more than wallpaper to a fan favorite. Cebulski explores her continuing turmoil in this story, giving her increasing layers- yes, she’s a bit of a badass now, but she’s also in deep pain over what Magik did to her.

While the X-Men debate what to do to rescue Illyanna, the Darkchylde herself is waging war to retrieve her soul in Limbo. When it turns out that the soulsword has been hidden with the X-Men, Magik arrives at Greymalkin Industries, and violently takes back the sword.
This leads to a rescue mission, lead by Colossus and consisting of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Mercury, Pixie and Rockslide. Meanwhile, Illyana, restored to her more human form, finds herself at war with Witchfire, the daughter of Belasco. Witchfire gains the upper hand, and is also able to capture Pixie. With the two of them, she’s able to create the Bloodstones needed to seize control of Limbo.
The team storms Belasco’s castle, and find themselves split- half of the group enthralled by Witchfire, the other half overpowered by their former allies. Nightcrawler however is able to claim both the soulsword and souldagger to free the X-Men from Witchfire’s hold, and rescue Magik herself. This leads to a final confrontation with Witchfire, and the X-Men returning home…

So the number one thing here – this is a good, very focused story. Though Cebulski’s stated purpose from the beginning is the return of Magik, that’s not the only drive of the story. Pixie is there to get her soul back, Rockslide and Mercury want revenge on Magik, and Nightcrawler is there to keep it all under control. It works, and doesn’t at all feel forced.
The story is also interesting. It stays engaging throughout, with clear goals and motivations. It doesn’t get muddled, it doesn’t meander. It’s a straightforward quest story, with great characterization and emotional stakes.
The story does however falter in a few places. As the primary villain, Witchfire is flat and unmemorable. The character existed in the past as a member of Alpha Flight’s Department H, and really just comes out of nowhere here. Simply put, there were better choices in villains (several of whom actually appear in the first issue), and the best option – Madelyn Pryor – isn’t even mentioned. This leads me to believe that Maddie might have been proposed as the villain and rejected due to other plans that never materialized, but that’s just guesswork.

The second problem is pacing. The story is four issues. The first issue is almost entirely exposition, and the X-Men don’t arrive in Limbo until the end of the second issue. This causes the fourth issue to feel rushed. The story could have been served better with either cutting the fat in the first issue, or even giving it another issue to breathe a bit more.
Camuncoli and Delperdang’s art is just great. It stuns me that this art team didn’t get a big name Marvel ongoing until 2015. The action here is clean, and thrilling. The story is just full of money shots, some getting full page spreads, others in a single simple panel.
They also convey the emotion so well. The opening page, with Colossus angrily confronting Cyclops and Emma Frost, is stellar. Piotr is raw and vulnerable, and they show us that pain here.
I also have been cheering Gracia’s colors in the more recent issues of Extermination. Here you can see the beginnings of that. The colors aren’t as polished, but they’re very good. He gives Limbo a sickly pall that gives the setting so much life.

I really didn’t know Illyana as a character very well before I read this story. This made me a fan though. This is a great introduction for any X-Fan who got into the line long after Illyana had faded from prominence.
You can find X-Infernus from Marvel Comics collected digitally, or in comic shops anywhere!

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