Off The Shelf – Inferno #2

Written by Jonathan Hickman, art by Stefano Caselli and David Curiel, lettering by Joe Sabino

Welcome to “Off The Shelf”, our comic book reviews of recent titles. This time Sam reviews Inferno #2 by Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli and David Curiel.

Links referenced in this episode:
Dan Spinelli: “Inferno #2 is a Romance Comic, and That’s Why it Works”
Christopher Jones: “Symbols In Art: Mirrors & Reflections”

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Theme song by @RickRackYouTube

Welcome back to another Off The Shelf review, this week of Inferno #2, written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Stefano Caselli and David Curiel, and lettering by Joe Sabino.

The bright sun has risen in the east, piercing the darkness with a promise of new life and new light. That sun nurtured the world, revealing a living paradise beyond the sting of death and where relationships old and new could blossom. The light didn’t touch everywhere though. Some were forced to live in the shadows, without the comforts and joys provided to others. Other shadows hid the dangerous truths of the world, not only about the world itself but of its keepers. And as the sun leaned westward those shadows grew and festered, becoming longer and longer. Now we see the sun touching the horizon, setting the sky, as well as this sacred land, ablaze. 

End dramatic introduction. Please clap.

As we head towards the end of Jonathan Hickman’s run as the head of the X-universe we are starting to see the narrative threads he first started back in HoX/PoX weave themselves back together. The reader has always known that the foundations of Krakoan society were rather shaky from the onset. It was just a matter of time to see how things would end as well as by at whose hands it would end. The various X titles have explored the rot in the tree in various ways, with a common theme being that a good environment may not overcome bad behavior – in the good guys as well as the bad. The presence of lies and secrets has therefore been a key feature of Krakoan society. French author Andre Malraux said, “man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” It’s clear that this tenet applies here, especially regarding Professor X and Magneto, the leaders and main secret-keepers of the island.

This issue primarily revolves around the newly and illegally resurrected Destiny and her wife Mystique. The precog Destiny was first introduced back in 1981 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne as a founding member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants along with Mystique, Blob, Pyro and Avalanche. The story was “Days of Future Past” and it was pivotal not only for the X-Men as a team but for the X-Men as a title. In it we see the Brotherhood attempt to assassinate the mutant-hating Senator Kelly while a future band of X-Men attempt to alter the past by foiling the attempt so their hellish timeline is changed. 

Since then Destiny and Mystique have gone through some things, including Destiny’s death at the hands of Legion. Since then, even though Destiny’s relationship with Mystique has been explored in the decades since her death, she has remained remarkably dead for a comic book character. However we saw early on in Hickman’s run that Destiny was going to be a major figure in this series. No more so than in X-Men #6, which focuses on Mystique’s attempts to placate Magneto and Xavier so that Destiny could be resurrected. It’s a request that they continually put off. While the reason why is never clear to Mystique, we readers know that Destiny is one of the few who know Moira McTaggart’s conspiracies behind the Krakoan utopia. All this makes Mystique’s anger all the more justified as we see Xavier continually lie to her to get what he wants.

All of that changes though at the conclusion of Inferno #1, as we see Mystique invite a somehow-resurrected Destiny to take a seat at the Quiet Council, to the silent fury of Charles and Magnus.

Inferno #2 backs the reader up, walking us through the deceptions Mystique undertakes in order to bring Destiny back from the dead to eventually seat her on the council. However all of that pales in comparison to the emotional weight of Destiny’s resurrection and reunion with Mystique.

Reviewer Dan Spinelli, commenting on Inferno #2, points out that if you take away all the timeline jumping, robot fighting and retconned deaths, the X-Men series is more of a romance comic than your standard superhero book. Even the earliest pages of X-Men featured the boys tripping over themselves to try and win Jean Grey’s affection. Looking back, some of the biggest events in the title have involved love and loss, none more so than the Dark Phoenix Saga.

The same can be said for the current Krakoan epic. Against the backdrop of the bliss afforded by immortality, we have been reminded over and over again of the lies that hold that bliss up: most significantly here, the lies about the resurrection protocols themselves. The happy reunions afforded many have not been offered to Mystique, and the dripping irony of Xavier telling her that she has to earn their trust before Destiny could be resurrected while lying to her face is not lost to anyone. However as this issue shows, it’s best not to try and out-manipulate a master of disguise, deceit and gamesmanship such as Mystique.

Caselli and Curiel do a great job conveying the sense of secrecy in their artwork, most notably in the use of Xavier’s and Destiny’s helmets to conceal and reflect. This has been an artistic feature throughout the series for Xavier, and it’s used now with Destiny, especially in a panel where her golden mask reflects back the images of Xavier and Magneto. The use of reflections has been an important part of art for centuries, drawing attention not only to what is reflected but also the distortion created by the reflection. Writer and artist Christopher Jones writes that mirrors and reflections serve an ambiguous role in art, in that what they reflect is true and yet untrue at the same time. The image reflected is not the real person, but who they desire to be – or perhaps who they truly are. Mirrors can also provide a sense of distance and other-ness. For example in this series, when characters look into Charles’ “face” they see only their own.

When Mystique and Destiny are finally reunited, it’s not a simple affair. Destiny is immediately overwhelmed by her precognitive powers, driving her almost mad. As she begins to heal, they must now come to terms with Mystique being a very different person that the one she knew previously. The weight of what Mystique has had to go through nearly overwhelm her as well. The two are finally able to accept and forgive, and are finally able to share in a tender moment that has long been withheld not only by Xavier but by the Comics Code Authority. 

There’s a lot more of intrigue and unanswered questions left of course: What’s Mystique doing inside Orchis? What’s Emma Frost going to do now that she knows the truth about Moira McTaggart? Why does Colossus showing up as a new member of the Quiet Council seem like a bad thing? Whose turn is it to do the dishes at Mystique and Destiny’s place? How does Destiny breathe in that helmet?

I expect the answers to at least some of those questions will be forthcoming soon. So until then, geek be with you!

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