Comicbook / Inferno
Creepiest X-Men Crossover Ever

Inferno! was a Marvel Comics comic book crossover from 1988-1989. The basic premise was that New York city was literally turned into a hell (not THE Hell, mind you) and its heroes, villains and civilians had to deal with it.

Should not be confused with a part of Dante's The Divine Comedy, the movie about a burning building, or several other media uses of the word "inferno".

Synopsis: Although extended to affect several Marvel titles, this was basically an X-Men crossover. It was made for two reasons: first, to solve the dangling plotline regarding Jean Grey's clone, Madelyne Pryor, and secondarily, to finally do something with the plotline of Illyana Rasputin (Colossus' sister) which had been teased for years. Pryor was a Jean Grey lookalike that Cyclops just happened to meet shortly after Jean Grey's death. They married and had a baby. However when Marvel decided to bring Jean back to life and have her and Cyclops star in a new title (X-Factor) suddenly the character was unnecessary and made Cyclops look bad for "running away from his wife" (actually he had intended to return to her, but she had vanished by then.) This story revealed that Pryor was indeed a clone of Grey from the start, created by the villain Mister Sinister since he wanted a baby born from the two of them, as it was predicted it would be the only one who could permanently destroy Sinister's archfoe, the mutant villain Apocalypse. The revelation drove Pryor mad.

As for Illyana, she had the mutant power of opening portals to the dimension called Limbo - which was a type of Hell. She was captured by its ruler, the sorcerer Belasco, who raised her for the purpose of sacrificing her to his mysterious gods, but Illyana defeated him - leaving her the ruler of limbo, whether she liked it or not. She joined the New Mutants, but her demonic heritage was a constant latent threat.

The plots become linked by the fact that S'ym, Illyana's main demon servant, made a deal with with Pryor in a dream, which she foolishly accepted thinking it would not be binding in the real world - needless to say, it was. This turned her into the evil Goblyn Queen. The whole thing was a plan by Limbo's top two demons, S'ym and N'astirh (introduced for this story). (Note that N'astirh was given credit for corrupting Madelyne, which is incorrect, unless it had pretended to be S'ym in the dream.) The two eventually turn on each other.

N'astirh tricked Illyana into releasing the forces of Limbo in New York. Demons invaded the streets and even the city itself turned demonic. While the local superheroes dealt with the resulting chaos, the X-Men and X-Factor had to prevent Madelyne from sacrificing her own baby. Ultimately she dies while trying to kill Jean Grey, and things are restored to normal in New York. Almost as an afterthought, the heroes hunt down Sinister and kill him, though he would return later (as did Madelyne). Illyana seemingly was reverted to an innocent, non-demonic child. Most of the people of New York wrote off the incident as a mass hallucination.

In another example of tying loose ends, the baby was taken to the future (in another story) growing up to become the mysterious hero Cable.

The story had a sequel in 2009 by the title of X-Infernus featuring the "Darkchylde" Illyana once again. It was also revisited during the massive Secret Wars event in 2015, depicting an Alternate Universe where the Inferno never ended.

Tropes in this crossover:

  • All Just a Dream: Subverted, as Madelyne's deal with N'astirh was made in a dream.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Mr. Sinister was operating out of Xavier's then-closed school.
  • And I Must Scream: Almost said exactly in Madelyne's dream.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: One of the dangers of the demonic invasion was objects coming to life and attacking people; cars driving on their own, air vents and mailboxes turning into monsters, and so on. Spider-Man even had to fight the Macy's Parade balloon of himself! ("Ah, the guy's eyes were wrong anyway!" he quips.)
  • Art Shift: Readers who read the TPB will notice a major difference in art style and storytelling between Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri's X-Men issues, Louise Simonson and Brett Blevins' New Mutants issues, and Louise and her husband Walt Simonson's X-Factor issues. Most fans prefer the X-Men issues.
  • Big Bad: S'ym is the true main antagonist, but N'Astirh is the far-more visible villain in the story.
  • Badass Bystander: J. Jonah Jameson ends up leading the crew of the Daily Bugle when demons invade it, rescuing Spider-Man in the process (as much as Jolly Jonah would rather the webhead rot). And then, there's the Kingpin, who gets fed up that his Mooks can't take care of a little demon infestation problem and drives it away by punching it in the face.
  • The Chessmaster: The demon N'astirh's machinations on both Magik and Madelyne led to Inferno in the first place.
    • That says nothing of how Mister Sinister managed to manipulate both the X-Men and X-Factor since the very beginning.
  • Cloning Blues: Poor Madelyne.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Cyclops running into a Jean lookalike shortly after her "death" (although this story says it was set up by Sinister.)
    • Of all the people in the world, why did the demons choose Madelyne as their new Queen?
      • To be fair, it is somewhat implied that it's because they were attracted to the bit of Phoenix power in Madelyne.
  • Deal with the Devil: N'astirh specializes in these.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Madelyne.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Belasco's gods.
  • Enemy Mine: Spider-Man fights alongside J. Jonah Jameson in an issue where the story is appropriate called, "When the Bugle Blows!"
  • Evil Costume Switch: For Madelyne and Illyana. Maddy's is very stripperiffic, while Illyana switches between a fully nude (yet covered in thick red fur) demon form, and head-to-toe silver armor that leaves only her eyes exposed.
  • Evil Is Petty: Invoked and averted. When the X-Men return to the Xaiver Institute, they find Mr. Sinister has taken over and their belongings were strewn all over the place. Colossus asks if Mr. Sinister is so petty that he would smash their possessions For the Evulz. Wolverine explains that the destruction wasn't wanton, but the result of a thorough search.
  • Genius Loci: The city itself became "evil" featuring everything from overflowing toilets to trains turned into giant worms!
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Poor, poor Madelyne...
  • Hellgate
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Magik's "Darkchylde" story arc in Inferno is reminiscent of Jean's in The Dark Phoenix Saga, except that at the end, she comes face to face with her younger, innocent self. Faced with the choice of staying as she is or returning to that innocent childhood, Illyana sends her child-self forward through time so that she will never become Magik, and therefore Darkchylde, and thereby un-creates herself.
  • Human Sacrifice: Illyana (originally) and baby Nathan (both survive.)
  • I Thought It Meant: The terms "limbo" and "inferno" are NOT interchangeable. Made worse by the fact that Marvel *already* had a dimension called Limbo before Illyana's was introduced. To make it easier, Limbo is the place (also known as Otherplace), and Inferno is the event by which that Limbo merged with Earth.
  • It Amused Me: During the crisis, the Jason Macendale Hobgoblin confronts N'Astirh and demands power in exchange for his soul. N'Astirh promptly laughs his ass off, declares his soul worthless, but decides to give him what he wants anyway because the Hobgoblin gave him a good laugh.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The first issue of the three part Avengers crossover with this storyline is almost entirely centered on the Avengers' butler, Jarvis. And it is awesome.
  • Magitek: A central part of N'Astirh's plan involved using a computer to cast hundreds of spells at once, blackmailing Whiz Kid to do it. N'Astirh would later merge with the computer himself after becoming infected with S'ym's techno organic virus.
  • Poor Communication Kills: After Scott had joined X-Factor, several months had passed before he first tried to contact Madelyne. Many of the problems would have been avoided if Scott bothered to explain the situation to both Jean and Madelyne.
  • Reality Bleed: Opening the portal to Limbo causes Manhattan to become like Limbo. S'ym, N'Astirh and Madelyne all want to extend this to the entire world.
  • Red Skies Crossover: None of the non-mutant heroes involved ever found out what all that was about with the exception of Spider-Man, who had a few issues dedicated to the crossover. This became important to the history of the second Hobgoblin, who was merged with a demon during this event. Said demon would eventually leave the Hobgoblin to become the villain Demogoblin. (The editors insisted that the primary reason for this was not to get non-X-Men fans interested in the main storyline, but the other way around.)
    • Inferno came about right on top of a massive upheaval in The Avengers; the tie-in provided the opportunity to restart the team with a new roster after the previous team quit at the end of the Council of Cross-Time Kangs storyline.
  • Selective Obliviousness: The people of New York accept the existence aliens and mutants, but demons? No way.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad:
    • The long-teased Limbo invasion finally happens, and it's Madelyne Pryor instead of Illyana who provokes it?
    • Also, S'ym loses the spotlight to a completely new demon, the Chessmaster N'astirh.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: The Darkchylde for Magik, and the Goblyn Queen for Madelyne.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: As evidenced on this page, Madelyne Pryor is treated as much as a victim as a villain in this story arc, thanks to the circumstances surrounding the end of her and Cyclops' marriage.
  • Take That!: S'ym is a parody of Cerebus. His creator, Dave Sim, wrote about having a little "talk" with the Marvel artists about their parody character becoming a main story driver and featuring on the cover without them asking permission. Per Dave, no lawyers were involved but S'ym's body and features changed significantly shortly afterwards, with N'astirh suddenly taking over much of the demoning.
  • Taking You with Me: Madelyne tries to destroy the X-Men, baby Nathan, and X-Factor with a single massive burst of power in a last-ditch attack. When this fails thanks to the tanks on both teams, she locks Jean's mind to hers and tries to drag her at least into death with her. Jean is saved by the timely arrival of a portion of the Phoenix Force.
  • Underboobs: See page illustration above. Unquestionably one of the most legendary examples in comic book history. Were it not for the fact that she possessed awesome telekinetic powers or some hellafied double-sided tape, there would have been no way that Madelyne could have ever raised her arms like that, much less engaged in combat, without baring it all!
  • Unexplained Recovery:
    • Jean Grey's return started the whole mess.
    • All the characters eliminated here eventually return.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Remember the other infants who were to be sacrificed? They were turned into child soldiers.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Madelyne