Saturday, 2 March 2013

New Mutants #71-#73: Inferno

New Mutants #71-#73 shows us Inferno from the perspective of the New Mutants and their new buddies the X-Terminators.

First issue we spend mostly in Limbo, and Magik gives us a tour of her backstory for those of you who had followed my colleague SpaceSquid's advice and stayed well away. Specifically: the bit about the dead X-Men littering Limbo (to your left is a bit of Nightcrawler's foot; on your right you can see Kitty Pryde's skull). I'll reply to some of SpaceSquid's points here (he hasn't done the thing for #4). So, SpaceSquid reads this as a morality play about ends vs. means, and he regards the idea (expressed by Storm and Magik) that using imperfect means - such as dark magic - to save - can possibly be described.

But it's not just a morality play. It's about actual demons and actual souls and actual dark magic. If you accept that logic of that using dark magic - even if for a beneficient end - can corrupt and deprave - then the rest follows. The soulsword is not a metaphor for the atomic bomb, and Magik is not President Truman. She is someone who is literally losing her humanity, her ability to empathise with others, and afraid to show herself to her friends, because of the acts of self-abuse she is committing. Whether or not it her actions are morally acceptable in their own right is besides the point. They come with a cost: can she live with it?

The answer here, of course, is no. She, the blonde girl imbued with magical powers and who has been fighting a very powerful figure who wishes to open a rift between dimensions so that demons might invade Earth, must commit one final action, of self-sacrifice, to close the portal, in the culmination of a long-running storyline. Her devoted sibling makes one last-ditch effort to talk her out of it, but fails. Oh, and the issue in question is called "The Gift". I've mentioned how Buffy-ish New Mutants is getting at this point, but this is uncanny.

Buffy died, but Illyana didn't take quite such an extreme measure. Instead, she survives, as if she'd never been to Limbo, had never spent those years there. ("The Gift" of the title, I think, rather than the Gift of death that the Buffy episode is referring to.) With that done, the portal closes and all is saved? But there's a back-up plan, shenanigans involving Baby X (Chris/Nathan/whatever) and Maddy Pryor.

Inferno the first proper complicated inter-title crossover that the X-franchise has really had: the massacre prelude was fairly minor; the Massacre didn't have any substantial shared scenes (you can't sensibly trace the comings and goings of the Marauders between series - I tried); and the Fall of the Mutants was just a parallel of unfortunate events (with oblig watching events elsewhere on telly). The meeting with their contemporaries from X-Factor plays out completely differently to the version in X-Terminators - and not just in the dialog and timing but different things happen. And this despite Louise Simonson writing both issues! I daresay this is due to the Marvel method: Blevins and Bogdanove must have gone different ways from Simonson's plot.

It would be an intersting exercise to steal panels from the four or five main titles here (changing dialogue where necessary) and see if you could put together a coherent Infero miniseries, to which the others are merely tie-ins. Artistically it would be an abomination, of course, but it'd have made my life easier, and that's really what counts, isn't it?


  1. Ooh! Time for a little point - counterpoint :)

    I'm not sure what you mean by "he hasn't done the thing for #4"; issue 4 itself is up, but did I skip something inside it? Or are you talking about not referencing various bits of dead X-Men? I'm also not sure I quite follow the last sentence in your first paragraph, so if I misinterpret your argument, I apologise.

    I take the point that in reading MSI as a morality study I'm working through what I see as the underlying theme, and possibly giving short shrift to the actual events of the comic. Obviously the Soulsword isn't the nuclear bomb, as you say; there'd be little point in trying to construct an analogy which uses the exact same working parts as the original. The problem as I see it is that whilst "dark magic automatically corrupts" is all you need for the rest of the story to unfold, it also makes the story entirely uninteresting except on the character level.

    Which, as I read your post, is the point at which we differ. You seem to be saying that by focusing on the analogy I see, I'm missing some very interesting particulars of how the story works with regard to Illyana. Which, yes, that's likely true. My defence on this is that Claremont at the time MSI came out (this is not going to be true by the time I reach "Inferno") hadn't put nearly enough work into Illyana to make her story affecting. I tend to focus on what I see as a story's metaphors in any case, but MSI made that particularly easy because the character-driven stuff didn't do anything for me.

    In short, "tool X is inevitably corrupting no matter what you do with it" doesn't strike me as an interesting concept unless you care about the character in danger of being corrupted. Magik in 1983 was absolutely not that character.

    1. Sorry, I wrote this well in advance and failed to revise it! (or formulate my argument particularly well, it seems)

      I'll agree it's trying to be more than a magic procedural: there is another layer there. But it's not about the ethics. I see it as about psychological damage, the danger of growing up too fast, PTSD, and abuse. Whether or not it's actually any good is another thing entirely, almost.

  2. Artistically it would be an abomination, of course, but it'd have made my life easier, and that's really what counts, isn't it?

    FWIW, I'm pretty sure the Marvel Index has attempted to piece together the chronology of "Inferno" and found a way to intersperse the various pages of New Mutants and X-Terminators in a way that makes some sense. But I've never read it that way, so I have no idea how well it works.

    I'm pretty sure the various "Inferno" collections don't bother, which is kind of a shame, because that would be the place to put the story together in a way that makes the most sense, instead of worrying about keeping whole issues together.