Monday, December 08, 2008

X-Infernus #1

"Soul Survivors"
Writer: C B Cebulski
Penciller: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker: Jesse Delperdang
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Editor: Nick Lowe

The publicity for this one didn't fill me with confidence. X-Infernus is a five-issue miniseries, which has been presented as a sequel of sort of 1989's "Inferno" crossover. Now, I rather liked "Inferno", which wrapped up the long-running Illyana Rasputin storyline in the course of three endearingly lunatic months of people being eaten by demonically possessed buildings.

But the last thing "Inferno" needs is a sequel. Illyana's story should have stopped there. There was never a good reason to bring her back, beyond nostalgia fetishism. Her story was that she had been corrupted as a child, that she struggled to be a hero despite that corruption, and that it ultimately overcame her, leading to Inferno. But, in the final act, she manages to set things right, and give herself a second chance to grow up all over again. Her tragedy gets a pay-off; and she gets a happy ending in the form of the chance to live a better life. Perfect ending.

But oh, no, we can't bloody leave it there, can we? No, we must bring her back, even though the character's story only logically leads in one direction - the finale we already did in 1989. It's horribly backwards looking. And although New X-Men devoted several months to convincing me otherwise, I saw nothing to suggest that the world needs more Magik stories.

Well, X-Infernus is the sequel to those New X-Men issues. Magik is still in Limbo, and still looking for her soul. On Earth, the X-Men - who haven't mentioned this plot in months, but whatever - have apparently been trying to get through to Limbo without success. In fact, it is a problem that Colossus hasn't mentioned this in the other books. He's been moping about the loss of his girlfriend ad nauseam. You'd think he'd muster at least a sliver of concern for his sister. But I digress.

Despite all my misgivings about this whole storyline, X-Infernus #1 turns out to be a pretty good X-Men comic. Instead of getting bogged down in history, it takes the New X-Men arc and uses it as a springboard for a new arc. Magik wants her soul back; the X-Men want to reach her and find out what happened to Pixie in the same storyline; and Belasco's daughter Witchfire has decided to take over Limbo for herself, providing the series with its villain.

CB Cebulski isn't perhaps the most distinctive writer around. He doesn't have the sort of strong authorial voice that you get from a lot of the big names. But what he does do, is well-constructed stories with a feel for the voices of the characters. His X-Men simply feel right; his Magik is one-dimensional in the right way (which is to say, she's more of a gathering storm than a participant); it's paced well; and it uses continuity the right way, as a source of back story for a plot that stands alone.

Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jesse Delperdang are also doing good work here. There's a slight hint of Mike Mignola, particularly in the Limbo sequences. Expressive characters, strong layouts, and an clear emphasis on telling the story rather than showing off. In this day and age, it's a pleasure to see an artist who understands the effectiveness of a simple old-fashioned grid layout.

Of course, what we're dealing with here is a good house-style X-Men comic rather than anything that reinvents the wheel (or pretends to). But it's an unexpectedly solid effort all round, and far better than you were probably expecting from it - to the point where it earns my goodwill despite my misgivings about reviving Illyana. And that's something of an achievement, really.

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