Top of the Pile: Inferno, Dark Ages, Ultimate All-New Spider-man

I’m once again caught up on my comic book reading, which means I can actually talk about what’s going on with my beloved X-Men. It also means I have time to delve into Marvel Unlimited looking for some new reads in the form of Dark Ages and Ultimate All-New Spider-man.

Inferno

Inferno is a four-part X-Men series that promised big revelations for the mutants and their fledgling nation-state. They’ve had a hell of a run over the last few years. Guided the past lives of Moria MacTaggert (her mutant power is to reset the timeline every time she dies, allowing her to be reborn with what happened before) the established a mutant utopia on the living island of Krakoa, participated in a class of swords in Otherworld, terraformed Mars, and met long-lost mutant siblings. Through it all, one of the pressing questions has been … where the heck is Moria? We saw her in House of X (itself a huge limited series) but she’s been out of sight ever since.

Inferno answers that question … and also reveals her true motivations for the future she’s engineered. It resurrects the pre-cog Destiny, wife of the shapeshifter Mystique, and explains why the ruling mutant Quiet Council – led by Professor Xavier and Magento – didn’t want any future-seeing mutants reborn.

The series creates a lot of potential drama, but the name “Inferno” seems like a misnomer. It takes its name from the classic “Goblin Queen” storyline from 1989, in which Jean Gray (aka Phoenix aka Marvel Girl)’s clone Madelyne Pryor plays a pivotal role in transforming New York City into a demon-filled hell. It was suitably epic and culminated a bunch of notable storylines. While the current Inferno also pulls together long-running plots, given its namesake I was expecting something much more climactic and action-packed than what we got.

Dark Ages

Dark Ages is a 6-issue limited series published by Marvel. It surprised me; I didn’t see it during its print run, and only noticed it when highlighted in Marvel Unlimited.

n an alternative universe, the godlike Unmaker is imprisoned in the Earth’s core. Capable of destroying the universe, the being has slumbered for millennia … only to suddenly waken. Doctor Strange and a superhero strike team are able to halt that process … but at the cost of creating a planet-wise, sustained electromagnetic pulse. The standing EMP fries all electronics on the planet, and prevents new ones from working. Civilization plunges into a new Dark Age which supers and mutants are able to arrest somewhat by using their powers. Various utopian states, connected by telepaths and led by the Black Panther in Wakanda emerge from the chaos.

Except in Europe … where the mutant overlord Apocolypse rules … and has plans for ending the Dark Age (and maybe the world).

It’s been a fun read – I wish they’d spent more time building their various post-apocalyptic utopias rather than hand-waving all the development, but I get why they wanted to quickly get to the conflict with Apocolypse.

It’s no Age of Apocolypse (few things rival the audacity of that story) but it’s worth checking out.

Ultimate All-New Spider-Man

Miles Morales first appeared in Ultimate Fallout #4 in August 2011. Since then, there have been multiple mega-Spider-folk crossovers, the Ultimate universe collapsed into the prime Marvel universe, we had the Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse movie, and we’ve play the excellent Spider-Man: Miles Morales video game.

Miles has been such an integral part of the Marvel universe for over a decade that I sometimes forget how controversial it was for a Black/Latino to take on the mantle of Spider-man after the Ultimate universe Peter Parker died. The Spider-verse mantra that anyone could wear the mask – that you could wear the mask – was utterly alien to some people, as demonstrated by the letters page for All-New Spider-man.

People wrote in saying they were canceling their subscriptions because Peter Parker died. Some explicitly objected to a Black/Latino Spider-man. I’d say it was surprising to see these comments … but I wasn’t. The controversies around Marvel’s other diversifying moves, whether its gay mutants, a Black Captain America, or a female Thor have continued. As a geek dad whose kids grew up in this more diverse universe though, I welcome it. For me, comic books have always been about what’s possible and a multiverse of heroes means that everyone should be able to see reflections of themselves in these characters.

But I digress.

Ultimate All-New Spider-Man (2011) picks up just before the events of Peter’s death in Ultimate Fallout #4 by introducing us to Miles and showing how he got his variation of the spider-powers. The Into the Spider-verse movie (and, the later Miles Morales video game) draw heavily from the plotline of this series, including Mile’s attending a charter school and his uncle Aaron (aka the Prowler). It’s worth reading to see where they got the ideas from, and the story itself is excellent.

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Cover art from Inferno. Credit: Marvel

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