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Jonathan Hickman’s ‘Inferno’ burns it all down

A disappointing, cobbled thud to Hickman’s truncated X-Men run.

Jonathan Hickman is a writer I am fond of. He’s written some of the best Marvel comics of my lifetime, from Fantastic Four, to New Avengers, to Infinity, to Secret Wars. Aside from those absolute bangers, he also wrote one of the best comics of the last decade in Black Monday Murders. Of course, this list is incomplete without the inclusion of House of X/Powers of X, which is very likely my favorite X-Men comic in eXistence. 

Unfortunately, Inferno doesn’t belong on a list with the above books. 

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Of Hickman’s Marvel work, it’s difficult to point to one that doesn’t have an incredible climax. Typically, this means plodding and intricate setup—setup that I often argue isn’t fully worth it—that leads to some of the most memorable scenes in comics. “To me my Galactus,” Namor and the bomb, Thor throwing Mjolnir around a star, Black Bolt yelling at Thanos, T’Challa vs Doom, Reed vs Doom, the death of the Marvel Universe, etc etc etc. Hickman knows how to write a banger of an ending, and it was anticipated and expected, given the quality of HoX/PoX as his starting point. 

Much to think about.
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So, what happened here?

We probably won’t know the full answer, really. I refuse to believe that Inferno resembles any kind of ideal conclusion that anyone in the X-office—let alone Hickman—had in their mind when discussing Hickman’s plan. And that’s understandable – no story survives contact with the fans, of course. But the combination of Inferno feeling rushed, being the cap on a truncated X-Men run, and being the first follow-up to the very good, very important Moira stuff from HoX/PoX, it feels rushed, overstuffed, and for whatever reason also spends time on things like Colossus joining the Quiet Council and Cyclops stepping down from being Krakoa’s general or whatever. 

Establishing new traditions in your finale that didn’t even have time to work, gg
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The most egregious choice in Inferno, though, the one that I just don’t understand, maybe the biggest flop Hickman has ever written, is the conclusion to Moira X’s story. Thematically, I guess it’s fine. Moira built a nation to separate mutants from everyone else to eventually cure them of being mutants. It’s explained that it was to save mutants from losing (though, through Omega Sentinel, the book itself establishes a future where mutants win, soooooo), but it’s probably also reasonable to say that Destiny and Mystique traumatized her into making various decisions other than “don’t resurrect Destiny” and “try to save mutants.” 

We could also probably point to Moira’s own lack of imagination in finding a different solution as a kind of meta-criticism of comics in general or the X-Men specifically. Karima should also be noted as more than a parenthetical, especially when she does act as a really interesting mirror of Moira, both women being survivors of a dead reality, trying to save their species from certain doom. Add in Emma, Destiny, and Mystique, and the mini actually has multiple women with layers and dimensions who don’t just act in their own interest but do so in spite of the men who’ve tried to control them (well, aside from the literal actual men who have predominantly written their stories). 

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The work above is good, and maybe could have been great, but ultimately, the book ends up with Moira becoming a human, which is just an incredible waste of potential. It’s not like I expected Moira to get to die and kill the Marvel Universe (making Hickman the only guy to kill the Marvel Universe, and also the only guy to kill the Marvel Universe twice). There had to be some kind of twist, some kind of huge moment, it was all set up in House of X 2. It would always have come down to Moira, Destiny, and Mystique. 

Instead of feeling like a natural ending, or a “oh my god why am I standing up while reading a comic” ending, it felt anti-climactic, and almost against the nature of Hickman’s time as Head of X. 

Thought I trusted Hickman.
Marvel Comics

The collaborative nature of the X-line from 2019-2022 was something I was frequently critical of, but it certainly existed. There were times where it was obvious that Hickman or another writer let their idea go in order to allow someone else to tell theirs. That’s fine, it’s good, sure. Moira’s “death” feels like it flies in the face of this philosophy. 

I don’t think Hickman stormed off with his toy or anything. I don’t think he purposely sabotaged his own story, or anyone else’s. But I do think he chose to tell this story in this way despite not having taken the time to fully establish the story he wanted to tell. Ultimately, this probably wasn’t the absolute worst version of what Inferno could have been, but it’s about as disappointing as I can imagine. 

I wish

What does Inferno leave behind? Three amazing artists working with one of the best writers to tell a story that is a disappointing capstone to one of the best X-Men comics made. Who knows how long Marvel will milk Krakoa for all the money X-fans will put out? 

Jonathan Hickman’s ‘Inferno’ burns it all down
With how good Hickman is at endings, and how good HoX/PoX is, this could have been the best comic Marvel has ever made. Instead, it’s a disappointing cobbled thud to Hickman’s truncated X-Men run.
Reader Rating1 Vote
Incredible art
“The Death of Moira X”
“Never write X-Men” so true Mr. Fraction
I’ll just read HoX/PoX again
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