CCI: Cebulski and Lowe Talk "Ex Infernus"

When you dance the Limbo the objective is to see, "How low can you go?" but in the Marvel Universe the hellish pocket dimension of Limbo is one of the lowest places you can go. In 1989, the residents of New York City found this out when a crossover event titled "Inferno" began. In the story, a portal to Limbo opened up and its demonic hordes invaded the city. This December, in the five issue mini-series, "Ex Infernus," by writer C.B. Cebulski and an artist who has yet to be revealed, the horrors of Limbo are unleashed again, this time on the X-Men's new home of San Francisco. CBR News spoke with Cebulski and Editor Nick Lowe about the mini-series.

The original "Inferno" storyline was born out of plot developments in the X-Men titles but elements of the story carried over into many of Marvel other titles at the time like "The Avengers," "The Fantastic Four" and "Daredevil." "Ex Infernus" will have a much tighter focus. "It'll be focusing on the mutants and Illyana," Nick Lowe told CBR News. "She wants her soul back and she'll kill however many demons and people as it will take to do so."

The Illyana Lowe is referring to is Illyana Rasputin, the sister of the X-Man Colossus. When Illyana was just a child she was abducted by Limbo's then current ruler, the sorcerer Belasco, who used his magic to corrupt Illyana's soul and turn a portion of it evil. This also led to her developing a powerful penchant for sorcery. Belacso's endgame was the creation of five bloodstones - mystical gems, that when used together could awaken his masters, the extra dimensional demonic entities known as the Elder Gods. Realizing this, Illyana rebelled against Belasco and used her magic to create the Soulsword, a powerful mystical weapon, which she than used to depose Belasco as ruler of Limbo.

After defeating Belasco, Illyana joined her brother at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Her sorceress abilities and mutant teleportation power led her to take the code name "Magik" and join the school's team of teenage mutants in training, the New Mutants. During the original "Inferno" storyline, Illyana was forced to use her teleportation abilities in a way that erased her time in Limbo and her corruption at the hands of Belasco. Years later, she would become a victim of the mutant killing Legacy Virus.

However in the recent "New X-Men" storyline, "The Quest for Magik," Belasco returned to Limbo and used his magic to give shape to Illyana's memories and remaining essence. The "reborn" Illyana took the form of the Darkchylde, the demonic persona she had reverted to when the corrupted portion of her soul occasionally took control. She was rejected by Belasco because she lacked the real Illyana's soul. This rejection and an encounter with the New X-Men, which restored her memories, infuriated Illyana. She once again bested Belasco and took over Limbo. Her current goal is to reclaim her soul by any means necessary. "That is the driving motivation in her life at the moment," C.B. Cebulski remarked. "She wants to become whole again. She's obsessed with it."

"The Quest for Magik" also saw the return of two other major players from "Inferno," the demons S'ym and N'astirh. The duplicitous, demonic duo coordinated a number of tricks and schemes that led to the previously mentioned demon invasion of Manhattan. When S'ym and N'astirh first appear in "Ex Infernus" though, they aren't orchestrating things: they're following orders. "Their loyalties now lie with the returned Darkchylde, as we saw in 'New X-Men: Quest for Magik,'" Cebulski explained. "Where she goes, they go. Her wish is their command."

Illyana and her demons will confront a number of mutant characters in "Ex Infernus." "You'll see most of the major X-Men pop up through out this series, the New X-Men as well," Cebulski stated. "The X-Men trinity, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus, play a major role, as does Pixie."

"Ex Infernus" is a deeply personal story for Colossus since it pits him against his sister, but it's also a big story for Pixie. In the "Quest of Magik" storyline, Illyana experimented on Pixie and removed a tiny portion of her soul, resulting in Pixie's ability to create a soul dagger.

Nightcrawler's connections to Illyana and the realm of Limbo aren't as readily apparent. His ex-girlfriend, the sorceress Amanda Sefton, ruled Limbo for a time, and in issue #11 of his 2005 solo series, Nightcrawler came into possession of Illyana's Soulsword, which he still wields. "Amanda and the Soulsword tie heavily into the story we're telling here," Cebulski said. "This will also be addressed in an upcoming issue of 'X-Men: Manifest Destiny.'"

While he could talk about some of the characters involved in "Ex Infernus" and their motivations, Cebulski could only cryptically describe the plot of the mini-series. "An old villain will become a major bad ass," he remarked. "A young X-Man will become a major bad ass."

"Ex Infernus" was originally slated to be an "Uncanny X-Men" Annual which Cebulski was going to work on with artist David Finch. "But then David took on 'Ultimatum' so it got back-burnered. Nick Lowe resurrected the project though, and he and David Gabriel liked the overall concept so much they felt we were doing it an injustice by limiting it to an Annual. So they came up with the idea to turn it into an event as it also fit in perfectly with some other happenings going on in the X-Men Universe," Cebulski explained. "We got Finch's blessing to proceed without him and to approach other artists, as long as he was still able to do the covers, which he is!!"

Cebulski was Lowe's first choice to write the story that would become "Ex Infernus." The two began talking when "The Quest for Magik" arc in "New X-Men" was coming to a close. "CB's a great character-writer and that was a big part of what we're doing here. It's about who these people are-Illyana, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Pixie--And it doesn't hurt that he's in love with Illyana to begin with.

"We knew that she had to come back to the regular X-Books," Lowe continued. "So we've been building toward it ever since. We molded the end of the 'Quest for Magik' arc to set this up and started planning it. We laid out some groundwork in 'X-Men: Divided We Stand,' and voila, here we are!"

"Ex Infernus" closes out the X-Men's 2008, and when the series wraps in 2009 some X-Characters will find themselves with very different status quos. Lowe said, "This mini will have lasting effects on at least two major X-Books."

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