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In which everyone’s got Inferno issues; Brett Blevins makes it work; Belasco is conspicuously absent from Inferno; you should never go into Hell barefoot; the greatest X-Men stories are about loss; and Illyana Rasputin finally gets a fairy tale ending.
- Tempus (Eva Bell)
- Storm and Illyana: Magik #1-4 (briefly)
- The two major Inferno plotlines
- New Mutants #71-73
- The best of Brett Blevins
- The rise and fall of Magik
- The ethics of time-travel interventions
- A weaponized retcon
- N’astirh Guy™
- A chair that is also a moral event horizon
- A significant soul-armor upgrade
- Several variations on a chapter title
- Possessed New York
- An overly complex conspiracy theory
- A bittersweet reunion
- The Kobayashi Maru scenario as applied to X-Men
- An even more bittersweet victory (of sorts)
- The eventual return of Magik (sort of)
- Why it’s really irresponsible to affiliate your school with a superhero team
- Our favorite versions of Wolfsbane’s transitional form
The Rise of the Goblin Queen!
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This is such a great arc. It’s really dark and creepy and great. Blevins’ art is fantastic.
And there is so much heartbreaking stuff, especially with Illyana. It’s nice that she at least gets a semi-happy ending in this story, with being reverted back to her pre-Limbo age. Of course, it’s only a few years later that she dies tragically. But at least she came back.
It is interesting that Simonson actually gave Illyana an ending. That’s pretty rare in comics, for such a major character. It would’ve been interesting to see how she would’ve developed if she hadn’t been killed by the Legacy Virus.
I do like the New X-Men Infernus story. It’s a great story, and I am glad that Illyana did get brought back. Plus, that arc had Skottie Young’s art, and that’s always a great thing.
RE: Whether the New Mutants section of the New Mutants/X-terminators Crossover more easily stands alone, I actually read this without having read the Miniseries (granted, I was reading X-men and X-factor at the time, so I knew of the characters), but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I didn’t even know X-terminators had much if any Inferno relevance until you covered it in the podcast. I had always assumed that the Baby-theft and the like was related either to Nanny and Orphan maker, or the stuff in X-factor. Since the X-terminators (partially) joined New Mutants shortly after this, I assumed that their inclusion here was just the start of that.
I’m glad Miles said that this feels like the end of NEW MUTANTS, even though it continues on. It certainly feels like that last thread of Claremont’s stories finally being tied off, and it’s kind of a shame that Simonson didn’t really have a vision past those threads before Liefeld comes in and. . .well, what happens, happens.
I’m of two minds about Illyana’s fate. It seems a little. . .wrong, somehow, that after so much of her character arc being about being a nuanced portrayal of someone who’d been through quite a lot and struggled with the question of whether she was doomed or totally irredeemable, and re-setting her age-wise always felt. . .a little easy, I guess?
It wasn’t helped by the fact they didn’t do much of anything with her for so long.
But it’s a very powerful story, and one of the reasons INFERNO works so well as a crossover.
That and the fact that you can tell the artists REALLY liked coming up with insane horrible stuff for the inanimate objects of New York to do.
Yeah, Inferno was definitely the end of an era for me; it was the point where I stopped reading New Mutants. I do think it’s a pretty good story (and easily my fave X-Crossover), but honestly I’m still pretty salty about how the story wrapped up for Illyana; she’d always been my favorite of the crew, and seeing her story end as essentially saying “yes, she was in fact irrevocably tainted and ruined by surviving Limbo” left a crazy bad taste in my mouth.
I never warmed up to the Simonson version of the characters, and by the time Inferno rolled around with Magik the irredeemable monster and Empath as possible boyfriend material, I decided it was time Opposite Day was over.
New here. This blog is fantastic, along with the podcasts. Great work!
I got into New Mutants after it had already ended and Xforce had about a few issues into the series. I bought every single issue of NM and Illyana was by far my favorite character. I to this day fail to comprehend how the writers could cast her off the team. She was interesting and so popular that I, at the time, hoped she would be brought back and put on X-Force.
Well, they did bring her back…only to kill her off! I would like to know the editorial reasons for that. It just seemed so bizarre that Magik returned only, what, 10 years ago, with a hiatus of 17 years?
Anyhow, this issue really was well done, but the book lost so much at the same time….just my opinion.
Pedant mode engaged:
You seem to mention Creepy and Eerie as EC titles. Those were actually Warren Publishing. EC published Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, etc. Also, of course, Mad.
Pedant mode disengaged.
You guys questioned whether you could read this section of New Mutants separately from the X-Terminators storyline, but not only did I read these as a kid without knowing about the X-Terminators series, this arc included the first New Mutants issues I ever read. I read them out-of-order (a couple were missing covers and some interior pages, so it was hard to tell the order of the issues), and quite honestly, it was never hard to follow what was happening. Similarly, it wasn’t hard to jump straight into the swim of the storyline.
People involved in comics talk all the time about “jumping–on” points, but I wonder how many of us who fell in love with comics in the past did so by jumping straight into the middle of a story? By the standards implicit in how people talk about “jumping–on” points, none of the New Mutants issues of the Inferno crossover are ideal entry points––they rely so completely on a massive aggregate of past story material. But it was very simple to leap straight in. Some of the literary tropes of Shooter–era Marvel certainly helped––each issue self-consciously re-introduces all the important conflicts and back-stories––but I think more to the point, the melodramatic imagery Blevins puts to the page and the gothic idiom Simonson works in work really perfectly together, and they really communicate the feelings on display in the arc, regardless of what you know of characters or story. The only group of characters that didn’t come through too strongly when I was a kid was the group left at the church––Dani, Rusty, Skids, Gossamyr. That’s really because they’re left behind by Simonson, for the most part, tasked only with fighting a few leftover demons. But the story on display was so vividly realized, and so clearly delineated in its purpose, it was the simplest story to enter at almost any point. As a child, the thrill of Manhattan being “demonized” was an exceptionally creative makeover, and it had my rapt attention.
“People involved in comics talk all the time about “jumping–on” points, but I wonder how many of us who fell in love with comics in the past did so by jumping straight into the middle of a story?”
Myself 🙂 . I jumped into comic series almost always this way, and it never stopped me to fall in love with them. on the contrary, I find exciting learning about characters and situations step by step.
Regarding Inferno, I think it would be fair to recognize Al Williamson’s SUPERBE inking. As always.
“People involved in comics talk all the time about “jumping–on” points, but I wonder how many of us who fell in love with comics in the past did so by jumping straight into the middle of a story?”
Yeah, true, people ask me all the time how to get into series I like that are supposedly really hard to get into, and I find it so weird because half the time I read them out of order or backwards and it was fine. In this case, I think I found the X-Terminators miniseries about 6 months after I finished reading all of New Mutants, and I read the annuals and specials sometime after that. It’s cool when you think it’s all over to still find all these little extras.
Yes! I’ve been making that same point about “jumping-on points” for years! Comic fans make such a big deal about it being so difficult to get into a series without being aware of all the past continuity. And no! As kids, it’s what we all did! We’d get an issue in the middle of an arc, and we’d be fine. We might not even get the rest of the arc. We’d get two separate issues right smack in the middle, and we’d read those two issues over and over, and have absolutely no problem grasping what’s going on.
I think we need to stop pushing this idea that comics are too complicated, and start pushing the idea of just accepting what’s on the page as being what you need to know for the story you’re reading.
I feel there was a lot more explanation in older comics with more dialogue, thought balloons and editor’s notes. There has always been a fair amount that can be drawn from context, but it may not tell what’s arguably important.
For example, if someone says something like “…and threats like Dark Phoenix” a new reader easily picks up on Dark Phoenix being a bad guy. If there are repeated references, this reader can pick up that Dark Phoenix is an important bad guy. It probably doesn’t snap into place for the reader unless we get a scene of Jean going “…and I don’t ever want to turn into Dark Phoenix!”
Of course, the internet is a resource for new readers these days. But I guess it’s a question of how much research or prior knowledge do you want your readers to do/have.
See, I’m of the opposite mind on this. I DIDN’T read superhero comics as a kid specifically because the past continuity intimidated me. I’m such a thrift-conscious continuity nerd that if I don’t have at least a comprehensive plot summary for the past however-many years, I’m not even going to touch it.
It wasn’t until Squirrel Girl #1 came out that I finally though, “OK, it’s a new series. I can start at the beginning.” Likewise, Ms. Marvel had started a new arc recently enough that it was easy to track down the back issues. (See also: the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who.)
As far as X-Men goes, I’d watched the cartoons and loved the first two movies, but I didn’t start reading the comics until a friend told me to pick up trades for The Dark Phoenix Saga and God Loves, Man Kills in college. It wasn’t until I found this podcast that I started tracking down individual storylines and picking up current titles. Between Jay, Miles, and Dr. Internet, I finally feel like I have just enough of a background in X-Men continuity to figure out what the heck is going on in any given storyline.
For people who didn’t grow up reading comics, jumping-on points really do make a difference. At least, in my case they did.
My first modern X-comic was Uncanny #197, which deals with Kitty and Piotr’s relationship after Secret Wars (which I had read, but not the X-Men issues in between). The issue after that was Lifedeath II, which didn’t thrill me much as a 13-year-old who hadn’t read any of the material leading up to it, but I kept reading anyway.
I think a big factor that’s often overlooked is where the reader falls on the spectrum of wanting everything spelled out immediately vs. being intrigued by the possibility of learning more later. As comic narratives became more serialized and interconnected, they increasingly favored readers who fell toward the latter end of the spectrum, and Claremont’s long game style of writing definitely exacerbated that (though that was wearing thin even for long-time readers by the end of his first run). Reducing barriers to entry is not a bad thing, but there will always be those who enjoy jumping in feet-first and finding their bearings on their own, and they’re the ones who’ll flourish best in a continuity-heavy environment without necessarily needing or wanting their hands held in the process.
Just a question, what happened with the Hellfire club? We saw them gob smacked by the growth of the Empire State Building, and the later the New Mutants saw Nastyrh talking to Magneto, and then they just…disappeared? OK, I’ll admit I’m a Magneto fan,and I just can’t follow his story from here.
The Hellfire Club returns in the issues following after Inferno. Their appearance in Inferno was really to seed that story, and the confrontation between Magneto and Sebastian Shaw. They really have no impact on Inferno.
The Claremont–era Hellfire Club was essentially broken in theirs and the X-men’s conflict with Nimrod in #208-209. They never again have the power and the threat they had in the Dark Phoenix saga and the Claremont New Mutants issues.
I think I remember Jay talking about making an Inferno playlist on twitter. This is what I came up with for the New Mutants arc.
Triumphant Demon Summoning Side:
1. X-Ray Spex – “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”
2. Aphrodite’s Child – “The Four Horsemen”
3. Comus – “Diana”
4. Blood Ceremony – “Let it Come Down”
5. Gamma Ray – “Wings of Destiny”
6. Fucked Up – “Royal Swan”
7. King Crimson – “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One”
Sad Demons Coming Home to Roost Side:
8. The Eccentronic Research Council – “Her Kind (Anne Sexton Poem)”
9. Circuit Des Yeux – “Ride Blind”
10. The Mountain Goats – “Lion’s Teeth”
11. Tori Amos – “Precious Things”
12. The Eccentronic Research Council – “Another Witch is Dead”
13. Circuit Des Yeux – “I’m on Fire”
I’ll listen through later, but for now: FUCK, YES, ANNE SEXTON.
YES! That whole Eccentronic Research Council album is about the Pendle Witch Trials and it is amazing.
Changed the Tori Amos song choice. Wanted something harsh, but not that harsh.
I first read X-Men comics as the team began in Australia. But without a comic shop in my town for a few years, I didn’t read for a bit. I came back in around X-Cutioners Song and stayed with it for a bit. So I totally missed out on New Mutants Illyana. To me, she was Colossus’s cute little sister who was around all the time for some reason I couldn’t figure out. I had never heard of Magik before.
So this podcast’s exploration of the character has been fascinating to me. I really think she became one of my favorite characters. So her “death” here really feels like a sad end to a great character. I liked the returned Magik over the last … 7-8 years or so? But she didn’t feel like the same cool character. So this was a bittersweet show to listen to.
(As an aside, do you have a plan for how you’ll cover Inferno? I like to try to read along with the podcast, but this thing is freaking huge. I don’t know what to read and what I can skip.
I believe I read (on twitter, imzy, or tumble) or heard (recent podcasts) somewhere that there are two more Inferno episodes. The next episode, 108, will cover the Inferno story from Uncanny and X-Factor. 109 will cover the Inferno issues of Excalibur, plus some (most? All? Don’t quote me, I don’t want to over promise) of the crossover issues from the rest of the Marvel universe.
108 and 109 will both be X-Men and X-Factor–it’s like 12 issues between the two series. We’ll be doing the Excalibur chapters and probably a few other tie-ins separately.
(We’re still figuring out exactly how that’s going to break up into episodes, around a number of complicating factors; but that, at least, is the rough scope of material. =) )
Thanks for the corrections and clarifications! Looking forward to all of the Inferno coverage!
I… I don’t get it. Was Illiana the one to defeat inferno? So what’s the job of the other X-Men in all of this? And what is Maddy’s part in the demons plan? And Sinister – did he planned all of this the whole time? And the babies…
How did the demons gain entrance into New-York in the first place? And if they were already on earth, why did N’astirh had to manipulate Illiana into opening a portal into earth in the first place?
I also didn’t get much of this stuff on the first time I read Inferno. It might be the most thought of crossover ever existed but it’s definitely not the tidiest.
Inferno exists of two stories, which don’t overlap that much: one about Illyana and one about Maddy. Jay and Miles will discuss what happened with Madelyne, the X-Men and X-Factor next week. That’s also where Sinister comes into play.
If by Inferno you mean the demons in New York and inanimate objects getting unreasonably bloodthirsty: yes, Illyana ended that. They gained entrance as discussed in the previous episode; N’astirh sabotaged one of Illyana’s stepping discs, making all the demons fall through a hole in the sky.
Hope that helps!
To follow up on this, I will attempt to explain the continuity as I see it unfolding: makes 2 attempts at a conquest of earth, one after the other. In new mutants he tricks Ilyana into opening a stepping disc, through which s’ym launches a physical invasion of New York. That disc is closed in the end of the x-terminators miniseries. Then back in new mutants, ilyana and s’ym fight for a final time, and ilyana casts a spell which partially unmakes herself, sending s’ym and most of the demon invaders back to limbo.
This doesn’t eradicate all the demons that have already made it to New York, and lots of the ensorcelled objects in the city remain demonically possessed. In x-factor and uncanny x-men the two teams are fighting demons, the marauders, and each other, before nastirh’s second gambit comes into play. In these books, the demon director makes a second attempt to invade earth–this time by convincing the goblin queen to cast a spell merging earth and limbo into one realm. The x-men and x-factor defeat nastirh, but the effects of limbo remain, because the goblin queen is still around. So the two x-teams fight the goblin queen, and finally her progenitor/life coach, mr. Sinister (who appears just in time for the ending).
The reason this is so convoluted, as I understand it, is that the iriginal plan for the story was for ilyana to be behind everything–she would transform from darkchylde to goblin queen, and the maxi-series would end with her death and the negation of the limbo invasion. From what I have read, it was bob Harras who demanded that madelyne Pryor be the goblin queen, leading to this whole mess where there are essentially two demonic invasions of Manhattan in under 24 hours.
There’s also a weird issue at the end of the crossover where the blues brothers arrive to investigate the demon infestation of Manhattan for the government, and put it all down to a mass hallucination, if I remember that right. I think a lot of the gory carnage of the crossover is undone in that issue, which is an odd way of trying to retroactively make the violence more palatable to…to somebody, I guess.
Somehow my phone left out a crucial part of the first sentence of that explanation. It should read:
“Nastirh makes 2 attempts at a conquest of earth, one after the other.”
Thank you, Dana and Alan. That was very thorough.
For what it’s worth, I did find it kind of weird how much they talked about Illyana’s beauty here. Before this reread I really don’t remember it coming up a lot, and here the text makes it sounds like she consciously hoped her beauty would mask her demon-ness to her friends and I don’t remember that happening. I don’t remember other people telling Illyana she was beautiful a lot either, outside of that one issue where they went to a school dance and it was implied because she was so popular. I mean it’s definitely a trope in lots of horror stories, fairy tales too, but in this case it did feel a little out of the blue for me.
Great episode; I’ve been waiting a long time for this one!
Unrelated to anything, but by the white wolf, I had forgotten how badly I was traumatized by that viewer stealing someone’s eyes. That and the 1996 Phantom movie, where a guy is stabbed in the eyes by a microscope, left me with a pathological fear of putting my eyes up to anything-and now I have to use a microscope every day. (And I am not posting a link to that scene, because I don’t ever want to see it again).
Lookin’ forward to going to work tomorrow!
Every now and then, something will remind me how I used to have an irrational fear of eye trauma (I blame CLAMP). Then I got glasses, and suddenly I had these wonderful shields between my eyes and the dust particles, the shrapnel, the chemicals, the microscope being jammed into my skull due to sudden seismic activity, etc.
If only that poor soul had been wearing glasses! Of course, this being Inferno, if the viewer didn’t rip his eyes out, that man probably would’ve been one of those skeletons in the elevator (which, also unrelated to anything, where did that sea of blood even come from? That panel had WAY more than the average 5 liters of blood per person. Did the demons bring it with them from Limbo? Did N’astrith cast a magic blood spell that was amplified by Taki’s spellchecker? Is it yet another Miracle of Magnetism™️? [Yes, I know it’s artistic license/rule of cool; I’m still going to nitpick the science out of that scene.])
“Maybe you should put some pants on if you’re gonna fight evil today.”
Oh my crap!!!! Wild Zero is the greatest movie ever. It took many years of meditation and love beyond genders and boundaries, but sometimes Guitar Wolf visits me in spirit form at times of great crisis.
Rock N Roll Forever!!!!
Wild Zero is the greatest romance of all time and I will fight strangers to defend its honor.
Goddamn, I love Inferno (even if I was not really a fan of what it did to Maddie). It was so great to see all of the plot threads from throughout much of the early-to-mid 1980s wrapped up like that.
I thought the revival of Magik in recent years was such a wasted opportunity, personally. It would have really interesting to explore how she (and specifically her powers) would have developed without having spent her developmental years in Limbo. Instead, we went with the tired Look How Dark She Is route. The Secret Wars Inferno was really good, though.
As a minor point of correction: Belasco was alive and well at this point. Illyana didn’t kill him at the end of the Magik miniseries, she just drove him out of Limbo.
Belasco actually appeared only six months before Inferno in Fantastic Four #314, where he announces that he’s done with Illyana and is looking for a new demon bride, which renders the dangling plot thread about the bloodstone amulet moot and makes his complete absence from Inferno even more frustrating.
Thanks for the catch!!