By Kiel Phegley
There will be hell to pay when former teen heroine Illyana Rasputin returns this December in the X-Men event limited series X-INFERNUS.
Anchored by a four-issue series with a few special tie-ins yet to be announced, the return of the powerful mutant sister of Colossus once known as Magik drives the story that serves as a spiritual sequel to the fan-favorite 80's X-event, Inferno. C.B. Cebulski takes the writing helm, and the creator gave us an early peek at his plans for X-INFERNUS, from his inspiration in the classic NEW MUTANTS series to the wild magical machinations that may revive some depowered mutants.
Marvel.com: To kick things off, I was wondering, did you read and follow the original Inferno story as a fan?
Yeah. I've been reading X-Men comics straight through for the last 30 years. I never stopped even in high school. With sports and girls and drinking and the typical high school life, some people quit. I dropped certain comics just to save money, but I never stopped reading X-Men. And I was a huge fan of the original Inferno, so it was a big influence on a lot of what I did. And I'm a big fan of the New Mutants. They've been my favorite characters ever since I was a kid, and they were an integral part of the original Inferno so I followed them straight through.
Marvel.com: I've noticed that a lot of the new guys coming up as writers at Marvel now like you and Matt Fraction keep citing NEW MUTANTS as a reference point. Is it because you're a generation of guys who started reading those characters as teenagers that they're starting to seed themselves back into the Marvel U?
I think so, and a lot of times, I think was that you were reading [UNCANNY X-MEN], but it was like your big brother's comic or something. It was the comic you weren't supposed to be reading. And Kitty Pryde was the [point of view] character, but she was always an older character in our eyes because she was already in the X-Men. And when NEW MUTANTS started, it was for guys like me—and I'm speaking for guys like Fraction and other writers our age—those characters were our age. They were our entry point. We met them for the first time in the New Mutants graphic novel and went, "Oh wow, those characters are our age, so we can relate to them as new characters going into the X-Men in terms of the whole team." They were more relatable to us as young readers.
Marvel.com: Is there anything specifically with Magik that really attracts you as a writer? She's been put through the paces so many times; is that interesting or a little bit harder to get into?
It's a little bit harder. In Marvel real time, she would have been a lot younger than she actually is. She was a young girl who got aged prematurely and then she was de-aged and aged again, so she's gone through a lot of the paces. But for a lot of us, again, we always knew her in her first incarnation which was the aged girl, the New Mutant Illyana who was friends with Kitty and Dani and Karma and everyone else. And that's the way we'll always see her, and even though she's been de-aged and is now the DarkChilde, we'll always see that purity and innocence she had the first time around.
Does it make her a little harder to write now? Definitely. There's so much research that's needed given the steps and missteps her character has taken over the years in the hands of different writers in so many different books. There have been some great stories and some not-so-good stories, and what we're trying to do now is boil it back down—boil her back down—to the essence of what we love about her.
Marvel.com: Tell me what you can at this point about X-INFERNUS and how it kicks off. The original Inferno was built around the Madelyne Pryor/Jean Grey battle, and I'm assuming those elements won't be quite as strong since they're both dead now. Is Illyana stepping into that Madelyn role to some extent?
Yes. Illyana is definitely front and center. The thing about X-INFERNUS is, it does have certain roots in the original Inferno, but it won't be as broad in scope, and it's more of a personal story for her journey. So it's picking up on a lot of the elements of the original Inferno and building upon them. It's not really a direct sequel, but it is Illyana taking that Madelyne Pryor role. The original Inferno kicked off with her and ended with her in a way. Madeline Pryor was another element of that, but we're picking up more on the Illyana elements from the first series.
THE QUEST FOR
Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and Skottie Young did the ["Quest for Magik" arc in NEW X-MEN] and they brought her back and set her up really nicely, and this is the next step for her. What they did, a lot of that built upon what was established in the original Inferno, and I'm the guy who's lucky enough to take it to the next step and take what they've done, take what was done in Inferno with Illyana and bring her fully into the Marvel Universe—in what way, shape or form, we can't say just yet. It's a constant build upon what's gone before.
Marvel.com: As its own mini X-event, will you be bringing a lot of the members of the various X-Men lineups into this as well?
Yup. There's going to be characters coming from across all the X-Men series in the book. And the original Inferno was an X-Men event. The four X-Men books had all the X-Men in them from all the different teams, and though there were Spider-Man tie-ins and Daredevil tie-ins and things like that, we're not going to be focusing on a lot of the other characters—not Spider-Man or Daredevil or Power Pack or Cloak and Dagger. X-INFERNUS itself is going to be a straight X-Men event so you don't have to buy a lot of other titles and do red skies. It's going to be a done-in-one, Messiah CompleX kind of series.
But all the other X-Men will be there. Not to give too much away, but in issue one you'll have Nightcrawler, Mercury, Rockslide, Beast, Colossus, Karma—we're going to pull from all the different teams and get a chance to pull so many of the X-Men that a lot of people love and that I love to make it a real X-Men event.
Marvel.com: I think a lot of people who love the original Chris Claremont run focus in on the more sci fi and soap opera stories like "The Dark Phoenix Saga," but he really pulled in a lot of freaky occult stuff too. That's a part of the X-Mythos we haven't seen explored in quite a while, isn't it?
Yeah. And this will definitely be dealing with some of that. With what Warren [Ellis] is dealing with in [ASTONISHING X-MEN] and with what [Ed] Brubaker and Fraction have planned for UNCANNY, not to give too much away, it's got a little bit more of a sci fi or science bent. X-INFERNUS is going to show that even though they're mutants and even though they're going that way in some aspects, there's still that kind of occult magical element that the X-Men will always have.
In House of M, [many mutants] lost their powers, but the X-Men weren't always defined by their mutant powers. Like you just pointed out, Claremont did a lot of stuff with non-mutant aspects of magic and things, and this is our nod to that in a way. It does revolve around Illyana, but there are some other mutants—maybe some depowered mutants—who have had mystic elements to them in the past, and coming out of this, one or two characters will be changed by magic that I think fans will be happy to see. [Editor-In-Chief Joe [Quesada] has always said that the mutants who lost their powers aren't going to get their mutant powers back, but if there's a couple of characters who had some mystic-based powers in the past…maybe we'll see those pop up again.
Marvel.com: So you guys have not announced who's going to be drawing the series yet, but you obviously know. Is there anything you can tease about why this person is going to be the right fit for the book?
He is a consummate storyteller, unbelievable in his page-to-page and panel-to-panel storytelling. And stylistically, there is no one who draws sexier women out there that I know of. He might not be a name that's super familiar to a lot of people out there, but the hardcore comic fans are going to go, "Wow! I can't believe he's doing it!" The guy we have drawing [X-INFERNUS] will please fans to no end because he's going to draw Magik and bring her to a level no one's ever seen.
For more work by C.B. Cebulski, visit Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.