The Evolutionary War"). The formula proved so successful it was revisited again a year later for the AVENGERS-centric "Acts of Vengeance" storyline.
X-MEN: INFERNO returns to the layout of MUTANT MASSACRE, telling its story in the best chronological reading order rather than breaking up into per-series segments as was the case with FALL OF THE MUTANTS -- which makes sense, since X-MEN and X-FACTOR spend the bulk of the event in biweekly crossover status. The X-Men's portion of the story focuses on the corruption of Madelyne Pryor, and as such this volume opens with a recap page explaining what the X-teams were up to just before "Inferno", then continues with a handful of excerpted sub-plot pages from recent issues of X-MEN, focusing on Madelyne. These pages are rendered somewhat moot now, thanks to the publication of X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE in 2014, but for those who simply want to read "Inferno" on its own, they're a nifty little lead-in.
Following from the sub-plot pages, as usual the book gives us plenty of lead-in material before "Inferno" proper even starts. We lead off with X-FACTOR 33 and then the first issue of the X-TERMINATORS mini-series, then it's X-FACTOR 34, X-TERMINATORS 2, and X-MEN 239, which was the official prologue to "Inferno" (featuring the title on its cover). But again, before the crossover starts, it's X-FACTOR 35 to close out this "prologue" material. From there we head into "Inferno" proper with X-FACTOR 36, X-MEN 240, X-TERMINATORS 3, NEW MUTANTS 71, X-TERMINATORS 4, NEW MUTANTS 72, X-MEN 241, X-FACTOR 37, NEW MUTANTS 73, X-MEN 242, X-FACTOR 38, X-MEN 243, and X-FACTOR 39.
But it's not over there! "Inferno" is closed out with "Inferno Aftermath", a short story from the following year's X-FACTOR ANNUAL #4 written by Mark Gruenwald, and then we get X-FACTOR #40, featuring Rob Liefeld's very first work for Marvel's X-Office. And then it's on to the bonus material: eleven pages, this time: House ads, collected edition covers, and two pages of Walter Simonson's pencils from X-FACTOR 38.
Among the house ads, we have three matching illustrations, one each for X-MEN, X-FACTOR, and NEW MUTANTS, drawn by their respective artists (Marc Silvestri, Walter Simonson, and Bret Blevins). Conspicuously absent is the EXCALIBUR ad. Granted, EXCALIBUR's issues aren't present in this volume. Their story is tangential to the main action and unnecessary here, appearing instead in the companion INFERNO CROSSOVERS book (more on that below). But INFERNO CROSSOVERS has no bonus material at all within its pages, so the EXALIBUR ad is lost.
Weirder, however, is the fact that a ton of people don't even seem to realize that segment of the ad exists! I've often seen it referred to as a three-part ad. Google it and you'll only find the X-MEN, X-FACTOR, and NEW MUTANTS segments. I've yet to find any site with a good, clear image of the Alan Davis EXCALIBUR section. I only know about it, by the way, because my local comic shop had a stack of the poster version of the ad lying around sometime in the mid-nineties, and stuffed them into bags for their regular customers. I had mine hanging on the wall for many years.
(Apologies for the crummy image; my copy is in storage
and this was the best I could find online.)
and this was the best I could find online.)
Physically, this is a pretty slim volume as far as these types of collections go, though that's due to the fact that it only collects the core "Inferno" event, leaving all the ancillary crossover material for a separate volume (again, more on that below). I don't mind huge brick books -- my philosophy tends to be, "whatever format gets me the issues I want" -- but I have to admit they can be unwieldy, especially for those who, like me, do most of their reading lying on their back. INFERNO is just the right size to read lying down without needed to occasionally swap hands to flex one's wrists.
The book is also very Louise Simonson heavy, which, depending on one's tastes, can be either good or not. In general, any collection of an X-crossover from the eighties would be a full two-thirds Simonson, since she was the writer of two of the three core titles. But here we also have the X-TERMINATORS mini-series, plus Simonson's X-FACTOR has greater representation here than any of the other series. Thus, Simonson pens fifteen of the twenty issues collected here, with Chris Claremont handling the remaining five. (Not counting that short annual backup story by Mark Gruenwald, of course.)
I didn't read "Inferno" when it first came out, though I had a friend who owned a few of the issues. In later years I picked up a trade paperback and enjoyed the story mainly due to the machinations of Mister Sinister, my favorite X-Men villain -- though ultimately, Sinister isn't the big villain of the crossover. He plays a major part in uniting the X-Men and X-Factor teams for the first time, but the real villains are demons from Limbo, out to conquer our plane of existence. It's kind of odd that Limbo and its denizens were staples of NEW MUTANTS and serve basically as the catalyst for this whole thing, but NEW MUTANTS itself has the fewest issues in the book (only three).
Beyond the X-titles, "Inferno" stretched throughout the Marvel Universe, touching Spider-Man, the Avengers, and more. As noted above, Marvel has taken the tack of splitting those ancillary issues out into a separate volume called X-MEN: INFERNO CROSSOVERS, which was released the year after this book. INFERNO CROSSOVERS is probably not an essential read for anyone, collecting as it does random issues of various titles from throughout the Marvel line, but it does serve, in much the same fashion as a few of Marvel's other "event" collections, as a nice time capsule "sampler" of the Marvel Universe circa 1988.
Notes About the Paperback Editions: Somehow, X-MEN: INFERNO has maintained a very high aftermarket asking price of a few hundred dollars since it went out of print. Marvel apparently realizes this, as 2016 will see them re-release the crossover in a two-book paperback collection. Unless you have very deep pockets and demand an oversized format for these issues, the new paperbacks may be the way to go for anybody looking to read "Inferno" in 2016.
It should be noted as well that the contents of these editions are somewhat different from those of the hardcover. As usual, I expect the paperbacks will use at least the same restoration as the 2009 printing and could possibly have additional bonus material (as noted above, this book is a bit skimpy on that front; maybe Marvel's even found that missing EXCALIBUR ad since the hardcover's release).
Further, between the two trades, some additional issues will appear: EXCALIBUR #6 & 7, POWER PACK #40 & 42 - 44, and CLOAK & DAGGER #4. Originally all of these issues were printed in INFERNO CROSSOVERS -- But since Marvel seems to have no plans to reprint CROSSOVERS (probably for the best given that they're moving into a more comprehensive series reprint direction with their Epic Collections), they've included these slightly more X-centric issues in the paperbacks -- which, incidentally, means the paperbacks will now have nineteen Simonson issues to seven Claremonts, skewing the ratio even more in the former's favor!
Available from Amazon: Hardcover | Paperback vol. 1 | Paperback vol. 2 (Pre-Order)
Also available: X-MEN: INFERNO PROLOGUE | X-MEN: INFERNO CROSSOVERS