REVIEW: Inferno #3 – Disarmed and Dangerous

inferno #3

The Jonathan Hickman era of the X-Men began with a dream. A dream of Krakoa, a home for all mutants. A dream of a future without Sentinels or post-human despots, a world where mutants finally win. In House of X #2, Moira vowed in the womb that in her tenth life, she and Charles Xavier would “break all the rules.” Of course, their vision hinges on everyone else in their orbit playing by the rules and striving for the same future – but what is that dream, anyway, compared to the intractable force of Destiny?

Inferno #3

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Stefano Caselli (artist), David Curiel (colorist), Andriano Di Benedetto (inker), Tom Muller (design), VC’S Joe Sabino (letterer), Valerio Schiti (artist), R. B. Silva (artist)
December 7, 2021
Marvel Comics

inferno #3

In Inferno #3, the dream isn’t quite dead yet, even if its shambling, bloody body looks seconds away from being added to the resurrection queue. Hickman’s run rushes toward its conclusion with the three architects of Krakoa – Moira X, Professor Xavier, and Magneto – in deadly jeopardy. (Remember my last review, where I was skeptical of Moira X’s fears about what Destiny could do to her? Moira, sweetie, I’m so sorry, let me pick up that arm for you.) If Inferno #2, with its focus on the schemes swirling around the Quiet Council, was the exhausted retail worker neatly positioning all the fine floral-printed china in their shop, Inferno #3 is the berserk bull rampaging through it.

Hickman packs revelation after revelation in this issue like a man running out of time, though that doesn’t make these plot developments any less satisfying. To give a quick rundown of some of the questions answered: What are Doug and Warlock hiding? Why is Omega Sentinel acting so strange? Where did Killian Devo come from? What happens when Mystique and Destiny learn about Moira X? And, most critically, how much time has passed in-universe since the founding of Krakoa? (The answer to that one is “two months,” making it the most shocking and unbelievable revelation of all.)

Inferno #3 begins with a prologue drawn by R.B. Silva in a recreation-slash-expansion of a scene he illustrated in Powers of X #4. We revisit Professor X bringing Doug Ramsey to Krakoa and telepathically showing him his vision for a mutant paradise on the living island. Though pieces of Hickman’s original dialog serve as connective tissue, Silva’s page layouts are brand new, an immediate signal that we are about to see this scene from a different angle.

Professor X is no longer hidden in the shadows as we enter his mind and see the white spires of his imagined mutant utopia, “the beginning of mutant ascendance.” Doug believes in the dream, but not the dreamer. He enlists his companion Warlock to become a techno-organic nervous system for Krakoa, one that spies on Xavier, even when he retreats to no-places that no one else should know exist. Mild, unassuming Doug has been a part of this story since the beginning, but as one of the handful of mutants who know that Moira X is alive, his true purpose is now coming into focus. I’ve said this before, but Hickman’s X-Men run is a work that is constantly interrogating itself; he reveals the dark, cancerous no-places that were under the readers’ feet the entire time.

inferno 3As the scene shifts to the trio directly opposed to Moira, Charles, and Erik, I applaud the thread of dark, dry humor woven into this book. It is incredibly funny that after moving heaven and earth to resurrect her dead wife, as soon as Mystique and Destiny are together again, they immediately start doing supervillain shit. The couple that slays together stays together, including the verbal killshot Destiny fires at the Five-In-One. Their meeting with the girls’ mother proves to be more ominous than one of Destiny’s predictions, as Emma Frost discloses what she knows about Moira X, including her memory of being killed by Destiny in a past life and her ensuing fear of her.

Forgive me if I’m already a bit misty-eyed and sentimental over Hickman’s X-Men; he has an unimpeachable knack for reigniting my interest in characters I’d lost all interest in. A case in point is Emma Frost in Inferno #3 – this is the most vindictive Emma we’ve seen in some time. Her revenge on Shaw for killing Kate in Marauders offered some catharsis for the White Queen, but the sting of betrayal in Inferno has filled her with poison. It is unclear if Emma misunderstands Moira X’s power or if she is intentionally lying to Mystique and Destiny, but either way, she is content to “whirl” them against Moira, Magneto, and Xavier and sit out the ensuing carnage. Moira dying risks destroying the same status quo Emma viciously wants to protect (by erasing it from existence), and Emma still takes that chance. Destiny, perceptive as always, points out that Emma is no different than Charles and Erik – an observation that the miniseries has already made, literally and bluntly, in the first few pages of Inferno #1. Emma doesn’t step into Charles’ shoes so much as put on his big metal helmet.

And “heavy is the head” that wears the big metal helmet, as Charles reminds Erik. Inferno #3 features art by R.B. Silva, Stefano Caselli, and Valerio Schiti, three distinctive creators whose individual styles form a visually coherent whole. As the issue shifts its focus onto the beleaguered leaders of Krakoa, Caselli brings gritty introspection to the page. Xavier and Magneto are a matched pair in their black costumes and impressive headpieces, but their alliance is fracturing. Xavier’s control over the situation is slipping, and Magneto is losing faith in the dream, in the possibility of mutant ascendance and peaceful coexistence with humanity. Xavier remains steadfast, talking about “when we win” as if to spite the nine previous timelines where mutants lost spectacularly. “Things will be different,” says the most arrogant man on Krakoa.

Inferno’s most shocking reveal yet is that he’s right. Xavier is a spectacular bastard who has earned Doug and Emma’s distrust, but his dream of mutant ascendance comes true. Omega Sentinel divulges her origin to Nimrod, explaining that her consciousness has been sent back in time from the far future in Moira X’s life, where the mutants win. A Sentinel time-traveling to the past to prevent a future dominated by mutants is probably the cleverest take on “Days of Future Past” since that classic story was first published, even with Hickman embellishing it with two more trademark charts. Omega Sentinel’s future does feel like a bit of a tease, an abbreviated glimpse at future storylines we might have seen if Hickman had stayed longer in the X-Office. But it provides some closure for those still curious about dangling plot threads like the Dominions and the Children of the Vault, and how they fit into the wider tapestry.

Inferno #3 ends with Xavier, Magneto, and Moira X on the precipice of oblivion. With one issue left, there’s still time for Krakoa, and the future of all mutantkind, to go up in flames. But dreams, like 58-year-old superhero franchises, die hard.

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.

One thought on “REVIEW: Inferno #3 – Disarmed and Dangerous

  1. It fascinates me that Karima, a mind-controlled robot slave, is the only non-white character with any particular role in this comic. It’s hard to think of a better summation of X-men in the modern day-the more recently-created character of color getting overwritten by an evil robot so we can focus on what really matters: white characters and their genetic dominance.

    I am terribly disgusted and fascinated by the racial themes here, and increasingly intrigued by what could have been. It certainly seems that Hickman is building up to a message about the need for tolerance and coexistence here, but will other writers follow through? Somehow, I doubt it-one consistency of the Krakoan era has been the white X-writers just not getting it when they write supremacism.

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