Time for a fairly large comic collection. This bundle brings together a lot of the Inferno arc related comics, but ultimately ends up being more of a prelude than anything else. Most of the X-Men don’t even appear for very long or get any real fights. This one focuses on the New Mutants and the Power Pack. Unfortunately they cannot hold their own this time which makes for a rather lackluster collection. It has its good moments, but ultimately never gets all that exciting.
Where to even start with this plot. It’s a huge collection so a lot happens…and yet there aren’t a lot of stories. It’s all fairly connected in one way or another. The basic premise is that a demonic invasion is approaching. The demons from Limbo want to take over Earth once and for all. Fear feeds them and with all of the fearful humans running around, it makes the army very potent. To ensure that the invasion goes well, they also lure Magik and her New Warriors back to Limbo. We can call this Plot A. In Plot B, the Power Pack are dealing with the effects of the Demons in the human world. It’s tough because they also have to evade Nanny, a robot who kidnaps kids. The villain actually comes in handy and saved some of the kids at one point, but it’s only a temporary reprieve. The X-Men get in on the investigation, but then they get distracted by the Morlock troubles and a bunch of other random circumstances. In Plot C, Sinister is making a move and things are all seemingly going according to plan for him. His Jean Grey clone is starting to head to the dark side and it is revealed in a plot twist that she is actually commanding all of the Demons. It’s all been a part of her plan from the start to get revenge on Cyclops for ditching her. (A truly out of character moment that still boggles my mind)
There are a lot of other things happening in the meantime, like the government being shady again, but you get the gist of it. Most of the horror moments are in the human world, but you can probably imagine that Magik’s plot deals with this as well. It was interesting to see a continuation of her story because it wasn’t all that long ago that I read her original saga. It was very dark, but also interesting. As a small child, she fell into Limbo and so the X-Men attempted a rescue mission. It didn’t go well and they all died. Magik was forced to learn Dark Magic and then she escaped to a parallel universe where the X-Men once again tried to save her. They succeeded…except that she fell back in. At least Magik became Queen and joined up with the X-Men again, but she left Limbo in a state of chaos with her old enemy S’ym in charge. Well, this comic shows how he’s controlled the place with an iron grip and has turned the tables on Magik. She is no longer strong enough to beat him and if the X-Men were powerless last time, you can imagine how outclassed the New Mutants are. They are completely out of their depth here. It’s definitely the most interesting part of the comic.
Lets launch right into why this comic was not a success. The big problem here is that the actual X-Men don’t get to appear almost at all. They show up very briefly to help the Morlocks face off against the Mutant Killers and manage to send the group packing, but then they vanish again. Inferno is one of those large graphic novels that manages to collect all of the tie-ins. Usually this is a good thing, but I believe it is ultimately what weakened it this time around. There were so many tie ins with the Power Pack that they took priority. I’m assuming that volume 2 would probably feature the X-Men more, but it’s hard to say for sure. They can’t appear any less I suppose. Now, that wouldn’t be a problem if the Power Pack and the New Mutants were interesting…but they usually weren’t. It took quite a few issues to get to one that would be fun.
Also, a “fun” comic was hard to find since most of the issues were just very dark. It was going for a Poltergeist kind of feel as there is a sinister chill in the air the whole time and the villains can be behind any nook and cranny. The humans could see the demons sometimes and sometimes they couldn’t. It was just like a horror film and I’ll give the comic some credit for actually creating that atmosphere. In a world of superheroes, it can be very hard to create a menacing horror backdrop since a hero can just show up and save the day at any time. It works though because they are all busy dealing with the main alien threat. The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Defenders (If they’re around) and all of the loners won’t be coming to help. This means that the ordinary humans are left to fend for themselves. This comic probably has more horror undertones than any other comic that I’ve read with the possible exception of some Swamp Thing comics. Those put up a pretty good fight.
However, it’s also a bad thing as the humans have no shot. We have many issues where the demons just show up and start ripping the humans to shreds. It’s never all that violent although some people are literally crushed, but it’s just all so hopeless and sad. There’s no way that the humans can even land any damage on these creatures and for every death that you actually see, there are dozens of others off screen. Most of them go in rather grim circumstances. The whole thing was just so dark and gritty and it went on for far too long if you ask me. We even had some cheating going on as Angel decided to go for a quick one night fling with someone who was technically still married and then decides to continue with this. I never cared all that much for Angel, but this certainly won’t be doing him any favors. In the end, it just didn’t feel like an X-Men comic at all and that was a problem.
One subplot that was handled well was when the Power Pack was finally forced to reveal their true identities to their parents. The parents didn’t overreact, run away, yell, or panic. They took it in stride and said that they wanted to talk about it, but weren’t upset or anything like that. They realized that a demon was still around and that they should finish the fight instead of bickering. Even after that, the parents were okay with the whole thing. This is really how this kind of plot should always play out. Having powers shouldn’t suddenly make the parents back out of a bond that they’ve shared with their kids their whole lives. This also means that the villains can’t blackmail the Power Pack anymore, which is certainly a good thing. The parents even did a good job of dealing with their haunted house.
Yes, there was a haunted house here to further the notion that this was a horror comic in disguise. The demons would take control of all the equipment. They took over the water supply and would make inanimate objects turn to life. Considering that they had no actual hero experience, the parents did all right. They smashed up most of the evil objects and kept on fighting back. They also did their best to protect the kids when they didn’t know about their secret powers. More horror protagonists should be proactive like this. The parents decided to get out ASAP.
As for the rest of the characters, I’m still not much of a fan of the Power Pack or the New Mutants. I like Magik a lot and she’s definitely earned her way into the main X-Men team. Everyone else? I don’t think they’ll be getting past the B ranks anytime soon. They can’t really hold their own issues, at least not in this context. The Power Pack are good for their fun little adventures, but they feel out of place in issues where the whole planet is at stake. The villains aren’t all that interesting either although I’ve always thought S’ym makes for a very intense villain. His super strength and durability are pretty unbelievable. Dark Beast shows up as well, but he’s just annoying and certainly not cool.
Also, the art was solid as expected. The style makes it look a lot older than it actually is, but helps to add that retro effect. Everything is very clear to read and understand. All of the character designs are on point although they aren’t as colorful as the 90’s. I wouldn’t say that the writing is bad either. It works well enough for what the comic is going for. It just should have taken another direction. The comic isn’t quite as engaging as most though. You won’t be on the edge of your seat here and some of the comics actually do drag on quite a bit.
I do think that the next volume will probably be an improvement though. This whole saga was basically the prelude as the fake Jean Grey essentially announces that the Inferno is coming. The X-Men aren’t even at the scene yet. I guess they’ll end up missing most of the demon invasion although I hope it is at least referenced. It was a rather huge deal so the big heroes should still be aware of what happened. While this comic may not have been my favorite, it did do a great job of adding a lot of context to what’s happening. Reading it weekly, I probably would have been more upset about the slow pace, but it does make this saga feel more like an event. Some of the modern day events feel a lot shorter because they’re over so quickly. That’s definitely not an issue that this event will have…for better or worse.
Overall, This is probably the strangest X-Men comic that I’ve ever read. The concept of a demon invasion is definitely interesting and these guys are more menacing than aliens. Demons almost feel a little out of place in Marvel, especially such realistic ones, but they have technically always been around. It just so happens that it’s in an X-Men comic instead of Ghost Rider. Honestly, the comic just needed more action and some bigger heroes to help things out. That would have done wonders since they could have actually saved some of the humans instead of just watching them all die. If not, they could have gone for a total horror angle although that may have been even more risky. If the idea of a horror/action comic sounds good to you than this could be up your alley. It’s probably the closest merge of the two genres that I’ve seen so far. If not, then you should check out the other X-Men comic that I just reviewed. This isn’t a bad comic, it’s just different. You’ll just have to check out for yourself whether it’s different in a good or bad way.