Inferno #1, written by Jonathan Hickman and with art by Valerio Schiti, marks the end of two eras; the first being the era marked by Hickman’s time (though, if what has been said in various interviews and press releases is to be believed, not the end of the Krakoa era writ large), and the end of the early days of the aforementioned Krakoa era which began in 2019 with House of X and Powers of X (pronounced “ten”).
Like much of the current X-Line, Inferno is looking back at the same time as it looks forward. In a line featuring titles that borrow the names of series and teams from the past like Excalibur and X-Factor, it’s no wonder that the name Inferno would be chosen for what is set to be an earth-shattering, status quo-shifting series. But it isn’t just the legacy of the title that factors into what it could mean. Inferno is Mystique following Destiny’s instructions and burning Krakoa to the ground, something that I can’t wait to see play out.
Like House of X before it, Inferno begins with rebirth; in a scene meant to evoke the first glimpse readers got of Krakoa, Emma Frost resurrects Xavier and Magneto, wearing Cerebro and saying, “to me, my X-Men” as she does so. What this means is yet to be seen but, more likely than not, this heralds the fact that the old guards time, here represented by Xavier and Magneto, is over, and a new guard, illustrated by Emma, is set to take over once the dust has settled.
There’s a lot to focus on with Inferno. It’s a massive issue, clocking in at 51 pages, and a lot happens in those pages; there are multiple Nimrods! Orchis knows about resurrection! A (quite literal) changing of the guards with the appointments of two new captains! What’s more important than all of that, though, at least in my opinion, is that, in the resolution of a plot point that began with X-Men #6, Mystique finally got her wife back.
There’s an element of subterfuge to Inferno that is best emblematized by Mystique bringing Destiny back from the dead both against the wishes of Xavier and Magneto and without their knowledge. While it serves as a relief to finally see Mystique get a win after begging for Destiny’s resurrection, it also highlights the fact that, as much as they may like to pretend it isn’t the case, Xavier and Magneto are not entirely in control. There are cracks that people like Mystique have found ways to slip through. Cracks that will only become more apparent as time goes on. As well, it doesn’t feel accidental that Destiny’s return happens as leaves are falling. Autumn, after all, is a time of change. A time of dying, yes, but death has long been a symbol of change as much as it is the mark of an ending.
Of course, Destiny and Mystique isn’t the only bit of closure we’re getting in Inferno; we’re also getting some movement on the Moira front, something that, outside of HoXPoX and, if memory serves, X-Men #20, we haven’t seen much over the course of Hickman’s time on X-Men. Moira’s expressions of being tired, of being locked away and hidden from the rest of mutantkind offer hints that perhaps by the end of this, she won’t be Krakoa’s best-kept secret (and possibly their only secret if Orchis really has figured out that mutants have been resurrecting).
As per usual, Valerio Schiti’s art is top-notch, and his women look fantastic. I don’t know what it is that he does, but somehow he makes me adore every woman he draws. I promise you that if I could, I would just put out a slideshow of every woman in this comic. But it isn’t just Schiti’s art that makes Inferno look as good as it does; I would be remiss not to mention the work that David Curiel put into the colours and the part they play in how beautiful the entire issue looks. If I were to open this to practically any page, I would be able to gush about at least one thing on every page, maybe even in every panel.
Typically this is the point where I would say whether or not this is a good first issue. The answer to that is no, it isn’t a good first issue. By design, Inferno requires the context that comes with, at the very least, House of X and X-Men #6 and #20. Inferno cannot stand alone; it just can’t, which isn’t a bad thing. Endings are not meant to stand on their own as pieces of media separate from their beginnings. On a fundamental level, that’s not how storytelling works. So no, a new reader couldn’t pick up Inferno and be able to gain their bearings immediately. But, as someone who, as of December 2020, was a new reader, it isn’t hard to get your bearings once you’ve done the required reading.
Inferno promises fire, it promises ashes, and most of all, it promises change. As Storm says, “change is in the air, it seems. I can feel it.” And so it is. Whatever happens in the next four issues will change Krakoa in ways we likely can’t fathom, and I for one can’t wait to see what comes next.