As Marvel’s “Secret Wars” rolls on with the Battleworld plane, which mashes up different eras of Marvel Comics, “Inferno” #1 felt like one of the more hotly anticipated miniseries to come out of the event. Based off of the crossover between “Uncanny X-Men,” “X-Factor” and “New Mutants,” the eruption of demonic forces out of Limbo into Manhattan captured a lot of readers’ attention and imagination. This miniseries from Dennis Hopeless and Javier Garron, however, has little more than a superficial resemblance to the original.
Here, Hopeless introduces us to the idea that Limbo took over Battleworld’s version of Manhattan there years earlier, with Illyana Rasputin trapped in its center while Colossus annually leads a team of X-Men in to try and rescue her. With each year, though, things become grimmer. This is the last attempt to save Illyana and, of course, nothing goes quite to plan.
On its surface, “Inferno” bears a certain resemblance to the original storyline. There are demons rampaging through Manhattan, Illyana and N’astirh are both at the center and a few other familiar faces make an appearance by the end of the issue. On the whole, though, there’s not too much of a connection. Here, the demons feel like little more than window dressing instead of symbols of long-simmering corruption in characters. Part of the problem is that Hopeless has to just jump in rather than lead up to this over an extended time period, of course. The other problem, though, is that the demonic area of Battleworld is an area that one can step in and out of, rather than being trapped within its confines. Seeing Colossus and Domino living an otherwise normal life outside of its border strips “Inferno” of a lot of its power; this isn’t a place from which there’s no escape (and so you have to try that much harder to win); instead, it’s that awful suburb that you pretend doesn’t exist and try to avoid passing through on the way to pick up groceries. Colossus himself also comes across a little bland here; we’ve seen the character so many times in “will do anything to save my little sister” mode (not only in the main Marvel Universe but also in alternate continuities like “Generation Next”) that nothing new is brought to the table here. There’s no real emotional variance aside from annoyed and forceful from him, and it’s hard to get on board with the character when he feels this flat.
Garron’s characters are smooth and lithe, reminding me a lot of the late Bill Jaaska’s art. He’s good at the action and in drawing different demonic beings flying around Manhattan. His characters seem to shift age a lot between adulthood and adolescence, though; Colossus in particular seems at times to be no more than 13 years old, with a far-too-youthful face. I do appreciate that Garron did his research on the time period, though; seeing the various “X-Factor” characters in their outfits from that era of the book was a nice touch. I wish we’d seen the same for Colossus, whose patrol uniform feels much more like a mid-’90s style with random straps and pouches attached to his thighs. (At least Cable’s shoulder pads didn’t come along for the ride.)
“Inferno” #1 just isn’t quite coming together; so far, it’s nothing new and exciting, with just some forms of characters getting thrown back into the pot. Maybe future issues will bring something big and exciting to the table, something playing on the themes of corruption in the name of desperation. For now, though, it’s a little underwhelming.