Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reboot: Inferno #1-4

Inferno #1-4 (October 1997-January 1998)
titles: "Run Come See the Sun", "A Houseful, a Holeful", "Girls Interrupted", "Who by Fire"
writer: Stuart Immonen
penciller: Stuart Immonen
inker: Wade von Grawbadger
lettering: Albert T. De Guzman
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Frank Berrios
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  

Charlie Woodcock, Donna Ferri, Donovan Winter, Eldrid Hayes, Helen Cage, Jane Washington-Carter, Jilly Major, Saturn Girl, Sophie Desjardins; mall cops, mall customers; flashback only: Apparition, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Evolvo, Gates, Inferno's parents (Jonn and Maja Anderson), Karate Kid, Live Wire, Shvaughn Erin, Spark, Spider-Girl, Ultra Boy; cameos only: Ferro, Invisible Kid, Superboy, Triad

Mall parasite (entity unnamed); flashback only: Emerald Eye of Ekron, Leland McCauley

When part of the Legion was lost in the late 20th Century, Inferno, a member of Leland McCauley's Work Force, was lost with them. Never happy within the group, she decided to leave and forge a life in this ancient era...

Inferno finds her way to a mall, where she makes friends with several female mall rats, and is stalked by a parasitic telepathic creature who feeds on fear and dark impulses. After causing havoc by possessing various teenagers, it makes Inferno its focus, given her dark past and troubled psyche. A protective mental mechanism from her youth pops up in the form of a wise panda bear, and helps her fend off the entity's attacks, talking to her in a "mind palace" (a sunny desert) she escapes to when her phobia of the dark overwhelms her. It makes her realize she's more comfortable in her skin than her time with the Legion had led her to believe. With this new-found confidence, she destroys the monster plaguing her once and for all.
The story also recounts Inferno's journey from childhood to Leland McCauley's Work Force. A mutant essentially sold to McCauley by her negligent parents, Sandy Anderson was quick to burn her bridges with her family. Finding some companionship with the other "freaks" of the team, she nevertheless does not consider that McCauley manipulated her or made her do anything she didn't want to do. Having shrugged off this shame and the monster attracted to it, she chooses to stay in the 20th Century when Saturn Girl contacts her about the time portal home.
I don’t know why, but I kinda like Inferno. She’s rash and impulsive and I guess, in a way, she reminds me of myself. It’s nice that we were able to follow her story after she split from the rest of the group, but I guess it also means that it was the end of it… Is it? I guess that would be a spoiler...

I like that we finally got to learn more about her past. The way she was treated and how she feels toward her parents and McCauley explains her irrational behavior. She considers herself as a freak because that’s basically how she was treated by the specialists that analyzed her conditions. She blames herself for her parents’ separation and that’s why she remains distant from everyone else. She’s been hurt on so many occasion so it was great to see her gain control over her emotions, her fears and, especially, to have her analyzing a situation instead of jumping into action. Lots of growth for one character in only 4 short issues.
That creature, whatever it was, was creepy, but in a kind of silly way. For one thing, can you turn it down a bit with the over-dramatic speech? No really, I couldn’t take it seriously because its monologue felt too elaborate. I guess they wanted to give it an elder feel like some long-forgotten foe that was old, wise and powerful. It wasn’t too powerful in the end though. That’s another thing I dislike about enemies that feed on the heroes: they are dependent on the hero itself to become more or less of a threat. It just means that once the hero figures them out, they become EXTREMELY easy to defeat and the resolution isn’t satisfying at all for the reader… Anyway, that’s my opinion.
To quickly finish this up I have three points I wanna add:
-I know I’m getting old because I couldn’t care less about the girls. Their problems felt stupid, their character shallow and unimportant, and let’s not talk about their little drama… UGH!!
-I LOVED the covers. That teen magazine feel was perfect for the issues, especially since the action takes place in a mall. Good marketing decision right there!
The girls' subplots aren't interesting to me either, but I don't think it's because I'm not a teenage girl. It's really because the mini-series introduces a LOT of new characters and doesn't really do all that much with them. It's filler and I've already forgotten their names. The way Inferno is given a supporting cast, you might think Immonen hoped for his heroine to go to series, but he doesn't admit to it in the text pages at the back. He does say that Inferno was a (non) Legionnaire DC didn't care about and that he had been allowed to kill back in Final Night. Not only did he not kill her (he was horrified by the editor's attitude), but when readers became hungry for more Legion content, he pitched this series, divorced from Legion continuity and even from the rest of the DCU. He wanted to tell the story of a heroine coming into her own, and I think successfully managed it. I'll give him props for setting it almost entirely in a mall (which reminds Inferno of the future), insuring it would be a small personal story as opposed to an epic one. Seems Sandy really ISN'T destined to make much of a mark on history. All the stuff inside her head is odd, and the monster never even getting a name even odder, but along with the too-large cast, probably the reason the series is not well remembered today.
I understand its genesis, but even back then, one might have questioned its relevance. It's a Legion spin-off starring a non-Legionnaire who was sort of, kind of, but not really the Reboot's answer to Sun Boy. She was made unlikable in the Legion books, so Legion fans were unlikely to want to follow her to a solo series, while new fans might have been put off by the Teen Ms. magazine look (which I love), superheroes in the late 90s still kind of a boys club. I did buy, read and then forget the series, but the teenage boy demographic superheroes were mostly aimed at at the time was probably turned off. According to Immonen, Internet newsgroups felt the use of Inferno as a lead was in and of itself a controversial choice, which seems to bear this out. There's little doubt his artwork was the main draw, and while Shotgun is absolutely right that the character grows by leaps and bounds over the course of the series, the fact that it led absolutely nowhere means it was all for nought.
Science Police Notes:  
  • Inferno left the Legion's company in Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #96 (Sept 1997).
  • The mini-series uses a one-page flashback per issue to tell Inferno's origin story for the first time. Her real name - Sandy Anderson - is revealed.
  • The last issue has Saturn Girl contact Inferno about having found a way home (intersecting with Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #100, Jan 1998); she doesn't go back.
  • Inferno would next be seen in Teen Titans (v2) #17, and would pop up very infrequently in issues of Superboy, Wonder Woman and Young Justice through late 2002. The Threeboot will reinvent her as a member of Mikt Ranzz's Wanderers.


  1. Ahhh, the Inferno mini... I did buy it, because I was a strong believer in supporting the Legion franchise, even though I wasn't particularly happy with it at the time.
    I always liked Immonen, who of course has strong ties to the legion going back some years at this point, and I thought the cover design was fun, bold and a step in the right direction.
    But yeah, there was no sympathy for the character (villian-ish anti heroes have never been my thing, no matter how much drama backstory you put into them).
    Anyway, kudos to DC for publishing it, to Immonen for proposing it I(and fighting back the disposable nature of the character) and yo you for not forgetting it.

  2. I bought the first issue, and then forgot about it, because I was unimpressed. I never liked her on the team, and the first issue of this mini didn't sway me enough. It sounds like Immonen did a good job with her though from your review, and it's a shame they didn't do it within the main Legion books. I might have cared more for the 'snotty, "not Sun Boy" placeholder', if they'd fleshed her out in a spotlight issue.

  3. This one definitely reads better as a complete story than separate issues. Which kind of shows how much of the content is filler. It's been a long time since I've read these issues (as they fell out of the main collection that I re-read repeatedly), and going back there is some good stuff here -- Immonen's art is beautiful as always and I do appreciate the exploration of the character -- but it is weakened by the disposable sidekicks and the vaguely defined villain.