Monday, April 06, 2009

X-Infernus #1-4

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

Because you apparently demanded it, it's the return of Magik. Actually, come to think of it, she returned in a New X-Men storyline a couple of years ago. But this miniseries drags her out of Limbo - both literally and metaphorically - and gets her back into the main cast, presumably in readiness for the upcoming New Mutants series.

Now, I always liked Magik. She was one of my favourite characters in the original New Mutants series. And that's precisely why I've always been very sceptical about the idea of bringing her back. Illyana's story was always set up as a tragedy: she's corrupted as a kid, she struggles against the corruption as a teenager, but it's too late and ultimately it consumes her. The upbeat ending, in the late-eighties "Inferno" crossover, was that she hit the cosmic reset button and got sent back to childhood to try again.

Story over. Great character as she was, what do you do with a revived Magik, other than repeat the same plot? She's a character built for a single story, which has already been told. And that's why I can't help but be sceptical about bringing her back. Particularly when they're already doing much the same story with Pixie, who had part of her soul stolen in the same New X-Men story, in an explicit echo of the original Magik story. At least with Pixie you can do "Is she doomed to go the same way?" - but surely that would be a stronger story if Magik was still dead.

Anyway, the decision has been taken that we're bringing Magik back, and that's the story that CB Cebulski and Giuseppe Camuncoli have to tell. And to their credit, they do it pretty well. Yes, like the recent X-Men: Kingbreaker miniseries, this is a series which exists primarily to get characters from point A to point B. But this time, it involves a character arc, with Illyana regaining some of her humanity and being drawn back into the fold. There's a story to be told here, even if it can't fully resolve the conflicts, and that gives the creators something to work with.

Now, true, there's some fuzzy plotting around. How come nobody realised that Pixie could teleport to Limbo before? What's all this heartwarming stuff in the epilogue suggesting that Illyana has a soul after all? But I like the idea of Illyana being reluctant to go home until she's herself again; and I like the way Pixie is written as happy and bubbly just as long as she doesn't have to discuss the topic of part of her soul being missing. There's a smart choice of villain: rather than wheel out Magik's arch-enemy Belasco yet again, Cebulski digs up Belasco's daughter Witchfire, an Alpha Flight character who's never appeared in the X-books before, but has every logical reason to stake her own claim to Limbo. And it has the right attitude to continuity: if you don't recognise Witchfire as an existing character, it really doesn't matter, because the story introduces her as if she was brand new.

Camuncoli's artwork is bold and energetic. It's refreshing to see a book like this steer clear of self-conscious grim-and-gritty angst, and play up the grand gestures instead. Not that the book doesn't take itself seriously, mind you. But it's content to play it straight and embrace the sweeping operatic melodrama, and that's the right way to go with this.

Does it persuade me that we need a Magik revival? Um... no. But nor does it drop the ball; we'll have to wait and see whether anyone has a new story to tell with Illyana. I like the book's style, and I'd be happy to see more stuff in this vein.

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