Magik #4 – Reviews Of Old Comics
Occasionally, I just trip across a cover while browsing the Internet, and I remember it vaguely from my childhood. Magik, the Storm and Illyana Rasputin mini-series from 1984, fills in the space between panels of Uncanny X-Men #160. In that issue, the X-Men, and Colossus’s little sister Illyana are transported to the other-dimensional domain of Belasco, a one-armed sorcerer that had previously faced off against Ka-Zar and Shanna, the She-Devil. Near the end, as the X-Men are escaping, Belasco takes Illyana from their grasp. For a brief second, Kitty Pryde loses her grip on Illyana, but regains it, only to pull her through after she’s been in Belasco’s realm for several years.
Later on, Illyana would exhibit mutant abilities to travel through space and time using “discs” similar to those that randomly appeared in Belasco’s realm. She also began using magical abilities and summoning a “soul-sword” that went from looking like a lightsaber to a traditional, albeit glowing sword. This series explained what happened in that span of time.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: Sal Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Ken Feduniewicz
Cover Artist: Bret Blevins and Tom Palmer
The Ororo Munroe of an alternate reality has trained Illyana for several years in Belasco’s realm. She confronted him in a effort to rescue Illyana and was killed by a demonically twisted version of Kitty Pryde simply called Cat. Illyana killed Cat in retaliation, much to the pleasure of Belasco. Every corruption of Illyana’s soul produces another of five bloodstones needed to summon forth his demonic masters, “the Dark Ones.” To end Ororo’s suffering, and apparently at her silent request, Illyana plunges a knife into her heart, killing her suddenly. In her death, the weather around Belasco’s citadel goes violent, providing an opportunity for Illyana to escape using her light circles.
Back in Ororo’s garden Illyana buries her teacher, and she suffers the torment of seeing the X-Men as risen corpses bent on revenge. She also imagines returning home to her parents, only to be rebuffed as she’s no longer the child that they remember. She awakes in Belasco’s captivity, the dead forms of the X-Men holding her captive as Belasco takes a third bloodstone from her darkening soul, before leaving her to fend for herself in a desolate wilderness.
She hides from the weather in the shadow of the massive trunk of the central oak tree in Ororo’s garden. She uses magic taught to her by Ororo to summon forth acorns, but each is rotten in the core, as her magic is tainted by the part of her soul corrupted by Belasco’s magic. She grows older and notices her efforts taxing the strength of the oak, when one last futile effort fells the massive tree. She begins to embrace her desire for revenge against Belasco and magically summons forth a sword of magical energy. Freed from the spells that Belasco used to keep her from escaping the garden, Illyana teleports to Belasco’s citadel.
She confronts him, using her light circles to her advantage. Her soulsword fends off Belasco’s monstrous servant S’ym and shreds his library of magical knowledge. She begins to manifest a demonic appearance that draws away from Belasco, leaving him very vulnerable. Just as she is about to deliver a killing blow, she realizes what she’s become and spares Belasco, who flees, cursing her, but leaving behind the amulet and the bloodstones he has pulled from her. Making the decision to not hide from Belasco, she returns to the grasp of the X-Men, seven years older than they last saw her.
Months later, pondering her trials, she joins the New Mutants, released from class early to embrace her new future.
The story is the culmination of what seems to be a very long and drawn out hero’s journey in the classic sense. This issue sees Illyana nearly become the villain of her own story. As it climaxes with the battle between Illyana and Belasco, it is written as if she is truly about to kill the sorcerer that tortured her for so long. This would have violated the hero’s journey template, as it would have the hero fall rather than come through the other side changed for her loss. Illyana always was a wild card in the New Mutants, serving as the one member that no one could be really sure that they could completely trust.
The art pairs Marvel stalwart penciller Sal Buscema with inker Tom Palmer. Palmer has a style that comes through no matter who he inks. It is better served in the more quiet moments rather than in the final battle, where it comes across as more pedestrian. They do an admirable job of keeping Illyana young in appearance. She changes enough to show aging, but not so much that she seems to be a different person. The early demonic appearance of her demonic persona is relatively unimaginative, overshadowed in retrospect by later designs by artists like Bret Blevins and Bill Sienkiewicz. Coincidentally, Blevins did the cover and his style shines through despite Palmer’s inks.
This issue has been collected by Marvel in a trade paperback collecting all four issues.
FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10) I’ll never fault a re-telling of the hero’s journey, especially if it can do so within the rules of it’s own established universe. It does so nicely, and gives an ending that flows nicely into her appearing regularly in New Mutants.