REVIEW: Inferno #2 – Fire and Frost

The defining image of Inferno #2 comes at its halfway point: the faces of Professor X and Magneto reflected in the hollow gold eyes of Destiny’s mask. Destiny cannot see Xavier and Magneto, but she sees through them. Jonathan Hickman’s scorched script underlines the theme with red ink as Stefano Caselli visualizes it beautifully.

Inferno #2

Stefano Caselli (artist), David Curiel (colorist), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Tom Muller (design), VC’s Joe Sabino (letterer)
Marvel Comics
October 27, 2021

Inferno #2

This is a book about sight and vision, with Moira, Xavier, and Magneto revealing their secret plans for Krakoa to one possible ally, even as Mystique and Destiny predict their steps before they make them. Jerome Opeña’s cover art, featuring Emma Frost grasping Xavier’s and Magneto’s confiscated helmets like trophies, suggests that the blinders have come off.

Destiny’s gold mask is the first thing we see in Inferno #2, as Caselli recreates Francesco Mobili’s opening page to X-Men #20. This issue reconstructs other familiar images – Hickman’s X-Men is a work that constantly looks back at itself, interrogating its own reflection. Mystique leaves the Oracle, and Inferno #2 revisits scenes from the previous issue, exposing (as many readers guessed) Mystique’s impersonation of Magneto and Xavier to acquire Destiny’s genetic material and Cerebro backup. Its predictability makes the revelation feel slightly perfunctory, though there is the charm of Mister Sinister being the only one who sees through her deception.

The long-awaited reunion between Mystique and the rebirthed Irene Adler is painfully tender. Without the conservative stamp of the Comics Code Authority, Mystique and Destiny finally attain the intimacy denied them in Destiny’s previous life. They cry, they comfort each other, they kiss, and they conspire. It’s a perfect page and a necessary one, given the X-books’ very rocky relationship with queer representation beyond subtext – remember when Kate Pryde kissed a woman last year? Marauders doesn’t. On a narrative level, Destiny’s resurrection is a fantastic pivot. The question of Inferno suddenly switches from “What will it take to bring Destiny back?” to “What happens after Destiny comes back?”

A lot of sitting and talking, as it turns out. Inferno #2 swirls around the machinations of the Quiet Council, dedicating multiple flashbacks to Mystique persuading councilmembers to vote in favor of Destiny joining them. She gives them something they need (Exodus is always an acolyte looking for a prophet) or, in Shaw’s case, pokes at an old wound to pit him against Emma Frost. (Nightcrawler, meanwhile, votes for Destiny because “it will please you, Mother,” and he doesn’t seem compassionate here so much as ruinously naïve.) As perceptive as these character moments are, I can hear the clock ticking – we have so much ground left to cover the two remaining (and, admittedly, double-sized) issues that I’m eager to call time on the meeting.

Inferno #2Orchis is still a threat, after all, the Forge a black spot on the eye of the sun. Nimrod and Karima Shapandar circle around each other, physically and verbally (“You’ve been watching me.” “Yes, I’ve noticed you noticing”), with Karima challenging Nimrod to “See what I really am.” Karima has been Chekov’s Omega Sentinel since House of X/Powers of X, looming over the shoulders of Director Devo and Dr. Gregor and adding ominous asides. (Incidentally, Destiny joining the Quiet Council means that, with her and Director Devo, Orchis and Krakoa now have visually impaired leaders opposed to one another – more dark reflections.) But Karima’s greater purpose in Hickman’s X-Men, or her motivation for turning against her former mutant allies and teammates, is still unrevealed. Now it’s not a clock I hear ticking, but a timebomb.

Moira X hears it too. Her furious reaction to Destiny’s revival quickly slides into paranoia. “Once they see…it will be them or us,” she warns Xavier and Magneto. But…will it? Mystique and Destiny are dangerous women, to state the obvious. But Destiny’s threat to Moira III that she would follow her in all her future lives was predicated on whether or not Moira would change and use her gift to help her fellow mutants. The great experiment of Krakoa is founded on the idea of uniting all of mutantkind – with that mission accomplished, and Moira chafing to be free from her self-made coffin, why is she afraid of being seen?

Simply wanting the woman who once ordered her to be char-broiled to stay dead is understandable, but it feels like there is something else bubbling in Moira’s brain. She brazenly demands that Magneto kill Destiny (she does wear a metal mask – again, to state the obvious), but he refuses to defile the sacred land by killing another mutant. (This moment, incidentally, underlines why Magneto’s characterization in The Trial of Magneto is so alien and off-putting to me.) Caselli and colorist David Curiel create a portrait of a pragmatic woman fracturing under the weight of her thwarted plans, her eyes perpetually shadowed or bathed in blood-red light.

As Moira, Magneto, and Xavier seek a new ally, the story references HoXPoX once again, looping back to the Louvre, Emma Frost, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. They invite Emma to the inner circle hidden inside another inner circle as Moira X reintroduces herself and opens her mind to the telepath. The result is the face-crack of the century. Caselli perfectly captures Emma’s wide-eyed horror before she loses her diamond-hard composure and collapses. Once again, the trio has miscalculated – Emma may now understand the enormity of their mission, but her refusal to be further manipulated costs them her loyalty.

This rejection forces them to consider a more malleable mutant to fill the remaining empty council seat, someone they can trust – though anyone who has been reading the wider Reign of X line knows how compromised this candidate really is. Even with nine lives behind her, Moira still can’t see the complete picture, and unlike Destiny, Xavier and Magneto lack the proper foresight to prevent falling into a trap of their own making. With power slipping through their fingers like sand in an hourglass, whose vision will ultimately shape Krakoa?

The clock is still ticking…

Kayleigh Hearn

Kayleigh Hearn

Still waiting for her Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters acceptance letter. Bylines also at Deadshirt, Ms-En-Scene, The MNT, PanelxPanel, and Talk Film Society.

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