Spinning out of the “Second Coming” crossover, “X-Men: Hellbound” has a difficult task ahead of itself. It needs to follow through on one of the plotlines within the story (Magik getting mystically attacked and dragged into Limbo) in a way that both makes sense for readers of “Second Coming” and stands alone as its own mini-series. The end result is a comic with two pages showing part of “Second Coming,” plus a lot of pages setting up the team of X-Men to head into Limbo after Magik.
In the case of “a lot of pages,” it’s the first two-thirds of the issue that Chris Yost devotes to the preparing to enter Limbo. Yost assembles a particularly odd cast of characters, a strange combination of B- and C-list members of the X-Men who one suspects simply weren’t going to be used in the main crossover. They’re not a bad group, a combination of scouting and firepower, but if you were expecting either the main team of X-Men or alternately New Mutants, you’ll be a little disappointed.
As for Magik herself, she’s curiously absent from the story, no doubt to try and work up additional tension towards if she’s all right and surviving her current predicament. While as a reader I would’ve liked to at least get a glimpse of the character, the Magik-shaped hole in the story makes sense.
The big problem with “X-Men: Hellbound” is that remarkably little actually happens this issue. It’s a lot of, “Will you come help us?” dialogue, as well as Yost revisiting the idea that most of the X-Men really don’t trust Magik. It’s with admittedly good reason, but at the same time people who are reading “X-Men: Hellbound” already know who Magik is and it feels like a chunk of exposition that we didn’t necessarily need. And then, once we do arrive in Limbo, it’s almost entirely dominated by a curiously generic fight scene, plus a reveal at the end of the issue on who the main bad guy of this mini-series will be. The fight itself is just against hordes of demons, though, and it feels more like Yost is stalling than there being a greater purpose of these pages save to say that Limbo is dangerous.
Harvey Tolibao and Sandu Florea’s art is all right, but not particularly noteworthy. Tolibao’s at his best when drawing close-ups of character reactions; the anger in Pixie’s eyes when asked to go back into Limbo, the slow cool-down of Colossus during his confrontation with Cyclops. On the other hand, the big fights in Limbo look more like a big jumble; while I can see Yost’s script stressing that it should be an overwhelming amount of demons around the X-Men, it fails to make the individual characters terribly distinct from one another. In general, the characters are a little gawky and awkward in places, and those with long hair have each strand charged with static electricity and floating free of the other ones around it.
“X-Men: Hellbound” is off to a slow start; with just three issues, there isn’t too much time left to get to the meat of the matter. With yet another villain returning from the dead for the sake of a shock ending, let’s hope there’s a little more punch to the remaining chapters that make this worth it.