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A new 'Inferno' is possibly brewing in the X-Men (and Spider-Man) books

There's something big happening with Magik, Madelyne Pryor, and Limbo

New Mutants #25 excerpt
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Vita Ayala and Rod Reis’ New Mutants #25 kicks off a brand-new arc, 'The Labors of Magik,' that Marvel Comics has billed as the perfect jumping-on point if you are new to the the current overarching 'Destiny of X' era of X-Men comics. Ever since the Quiet Council decided to resurrect Madelyne Pryor, who once ruled over Limbo as the Goblin Queen, Krakoa's mutants have worried about her ulterior motives.

New Mutants #25 sets the stage for the return of the central stars of the classic late '80s X-Men crossover 'Inferno' and ties into the Free Comic Book Day 2022's Spider-Man/Venom one-shot by Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr., where the Goblin Queen (that's Madelyne Pryor when she's all business!) teamed up with Peter Parker clone Ben Reilly for the Night of the Living Mailboxes! Munch, munch, munch.

Ben Reilly, a Spider-Man clone, tells a woman that they are going to make a great team. The woman, the Goblin Queen, agrees. She has red hair and is wearing a gold grown and black dress.
Image credit: Marvel Comics

With Marvel teasing that the Magik/Goblin Queen storyline will tie into the 'Dark Web' event, who knows what the rest of this 'The Labors of Magik' of the storyline will hold. However, whatever the direction of this new event, if you are new to the X-Men franchise, there is some essential background on the characters and places introduced in New Mutants #25 that you need to know from the coffers of the Marvel vault.

What Is New Mutants #25 About?

New Mutants #25: A woman in a black dress hands another woman in a black dress a towel.
Image credit: Marvel Comics

30 years after 'Inferno,' it's two primary characters - Illyana Rasputina (AKA Magik) and Madelyne Pryor- are ready to to return to the fire. Illyana is the rightful Queen of Limbo (and also its defacto Sorcerer Supreme). However, she's been busy on Krakoa as the new war captain and its left some gaps in the leadership in Limbon. Now that Maddie is back in action, she is determined to return to the throne that she used to sit on (which proves both more accessible and more challenging than expected).

What Is Marvel's Limbo?

The mutants now have Heaven, Hell, and Limbo dimensions. It's one big Judeo-Christian afterlife fest on Krakoa. The Scarlet Witch created mutant heaven where the souls lost on 'M Day' wander awaiting resurrection (if they meet the Quiet Council's standards). And when Sabertooth was resurrected just to be sentenced to death in Sabretooth #1 by Victor LaValle, Leonard Kirk, Rain Beredo, and Cory Petit, it created a mutant version of Hell… Because now the X-Men need a Hell to live up to all the worst aspects of humanity, like sending a child to The Pit (Hell) instead of helping him.

Image of Hell, which says, "Krakoa finally had a hell," and "on its throne, a king." Sabretooth #1
Image of Hell, which says, "Krakoa finally had a hell," and "on its throne, a king." Sabretooth #1 | Image credit: Marvel Comics

Punishing a child by sending him to Hell!?! Nightcrawler called for a restorative approach in Hellions #18 by Zeb Wells, Zé Carlos, Stephen Segovia, Rain Beredo, and Ariana Maher, but to no avail: the child had committed a Krakoan mortal sin. But what about mutant children who fall somewhere in between? Does that concept exist in Marvel Comics? It turns out that does, although Limbo has since been expanded upon to be more than its roots. Much like in Christian theology, the border between Heaven and Hell in Marvel is Limbo.

Originally proposed in the Middle Ages, Limbo is where souls, who are not condemned to punishment yet committed no personal sins, go to spend an eternity deprived of their God. Although the Roman Catholic Church removed the concept from the official catechism in 1992, the X-Men are somehow less progressive. But I believe Ayala and Reis (or another creator team) will address this indirectly because the X-office deals with punishment and redemption A LOT lately. At Marvel Comics, Chris Claremont was one of the first to acknowledge this understanding of Limbo when Colossus’s infant sister (yes, I am referring to Magik) fell down the hole at Hell’s edge (for completion's sake, let's not forget there used to be the Realm Between). But what happened to little Illyana when she fell down the hole, bumped her head, and bruised her soul? Other than a black crown and a duel with the Red Queen, in New Mutants #25, Ayala provides a concise summary of young Magik's battle with the Jabberwockies with her Vorpal Sword, called the Soulsword in Marvel Comics. The Soulsword gives the wielder control over Limbo, which exists beyond the standard time, space, and reality structures. However, for the Queen of Limbo, the realm is whatever the ruler desires.

Who Resides in Limbo?

When Illyana was a child, she was captured by the then-ruler of Limbo, Belasco, who trained her in the art of black magic. Belasco wanted to corrupt the young Magik's soul to bring forth the Elder Gods to rule Earth. However, with the help of Limbo's Storm and Shadowcat, Illyana was able to learn how to wield the Souldsword and defeat Belasco, taking over as Queen of Limbo.

Limbo’s demons and goblins are a restless bunch and have already tried to lead a civil war in the realm to overthrow Magik. The overthrow attempt was led by S'ym and N'astirh, who jointly seized power after Illyana's hold over the realm weakened due to a period of extended absence.

What do the clones have to do with it?

'The Dark Phoenix Saga' back in the '80s left the X-Men short an Omega level mutant, so Mister Sinister did something creepy and created a clone of Jean Grey with mutant powers of her own, Madelyne Pryor. Ultimately, Maddie got together with the deceased X-Man’s hubby Scott Summers… Because, of course, Cyclops has a thing for his wife's clone. Remember when he slept with Emma Frost telepathically cosplaying Jean Grey as the Dark Phoenix? It’s weird (this isn’t What We Do in the Shadows, folks).

Shockingly (yes, shockingly!), it didn’t go well. Once Scott found out that Jean was still alive, he abandoned his new wife to form a team with his ex-wife. Oh, and then, Mr. Sinister tried to kill Maddie because she was only a clone. Well, I guess, in the nature vs. nurture debate, we know where Mister Sinny falls. Although Maddie survived his attack, a demon from Limbo, S’ym, took advantage of the situation and began torturing Maddie with painful memories of Scott and turned her to the dark side.

Uncanny X-Men #240 by Chris Claremont, Maarc Silvestri, Dan Green, Tom Orzechowski, and Glynis Oliver: Firehydrant wap, bap, waping a dog.
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The clone. The usurper. Maddie had been messed with and demeaned one too many times because she was merely a clone of Jean. Finally, in 'Inferno,' she screamed, "Enough!" and turned into the Goblin Queen, trying to merge Earth and Hell.

lex Summers, a blonde man talks to Madelyne Pryor, a red-headed woman, in a room full of mirrors. Pryor scolds Summers for not consulting with her about bringing her back from the dead.. From Hellions #18
Hellions #18 excerpt | Image credit: Marvel Comics

Based on some of the other black and white decisions of justice on Krakoa, you'd think Maddie's actions trying to merge a demon dimension with Earth would bar her from resurrection by the Krakoan Quiet Council, but being a complicated woman does not disqualify you. Thank god!

However, generally, resurrecting clones is against Krakoan protocols—really, Gabby Kinney and the other Weapon X clones can't be resurrected? What about time travel duplicates? What about reincarnations of mutant children? My hope is the Goblin Queen has a thing or two to say about the clone ban and that she's drafting some other famous clones to fight by her side; after all, her feelings were never even considered before her Hellions resurrection.

Song to go with this issue: 'Road to Nowhere' by Talking Heads

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About the Author

Rebecca Oliver Kaplan

Contributing writer

Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a bigender comic critic and judicial scholar and co-author of Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority with his wife, Avery Kaplan. His work can regularly be found at Geek Girl Authority, Comics Beat, Prism Comics, PanelxPanel, and MovieWeb.