New Mutants (4th series) #25

Issue Date: 
July 2022
Story Title: 
The Labors of Magik Book one: Best Laid Plans…

Vita Ayala (writer), Rod Reis (artist main story), Jan Duursema (artist flashbacks), Ruth Redmond (colorist flashbacks), VC’s Travis Lanham (letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Leinil Francis Yu (cover artist), Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Anita Okoye (assistant editor), Sarah Brunstad (editor), Jordan D. White (senior editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

1st story:
Magik has offered Madelyne Pryor rulership of Limbo, something her teammates Mirage and Wolfsbane are highly skeptical about. They accompany the two women to Limbo, where Illyana prepares the ritual of power transfer and tries to explain both why she needs to leave Limbo behind and why Madelyne is her best candidate, even though the others doubt her trustworthiness. In the meantime, the demon S’ym has made a deal with some mysterious magician and gained a soul mace. He attacks Magik and her group in the library and shatters her soulsword. Magik is shocked to the core. She tries to teleport her group back to Krakoa but they end up in a snowy wilderness, still trapped in Limbo.

2nd story
Years ago, a young Illyana, still a prisoner in Limbo, has found a book about a little goblin that speaks to her. When she hears Cat calling for her, she hides the book. When Cat demands she come to Belasco, Illyana obeys, knowing she has no choice at the moment.

Full Summary: 

1st story:
Limbo, a secret lab where the demon S’ym is busy concocting a spell while complaining this is too easy. She is too strong for this to work! he addresses a hooded figure in a magic circle who assures him she knows the quarry better than he does. Whatever she says, he replies, addressing her as master. He is left with a green concoction. Skeptically, he asks if she is sure this ain’t gonna end him. She grins and explains, if she wished to end him, she could do it with a flick of her wrist. He knows the deal and he knows the stakes. Drink and manifest his full potential, she orders.

S’ym obeys, then cries out in agony. The stranger shushes him. She grabs into S’ym’s chest and pulls out a black mace. She hands it to S’ym and tell him he knows what to do with it.

Once upon a time, there was a little goblin. When she was very young, she got lost in the woods. She erred around, forgetting what her true home looked like. All the time, she was chased by a large, frightening shadow. Finally, the little goblin realized that she would need help.

Krakoa, the Reach:
Magik stands blindfolded on a buffe. The test is for her to fend off Mirage and Wolfsbane’s attack. While they haven’t acted yet, she informs them they are thinking too loud. Rahne warns they won’t go easy on her, even as Magik blocks both their attacks with her Soulsword. Dani tells her, she is making a mistake. Magik throws her to the ground. So she said, she replies wryly and is angry at them for not trusting her.

As they continue sparring (and Illyana keeps the upper hand), they point out that what she is planning affects everyone. She is a War Captain after all!

Illyana blocks Wolfsbane and retorts that, as a War Captain, her behavior is backed by the Council. If they are so worried, she suggests they come along and watch. If things go sideways, they have her blessing to pull the plug, but they have to give her a chance first.

Someone harumphes. Madelyne Pryor, in her Goblin Queen outfit, smirks at them and asks if there is a problem. Concern, the two young women reply. Illyan interjects that they are just cranky, as Madelyne offers her a towel. They don’t like that she plans to make her queen of hell, Illyana smirks.

The little goblin came to find others who would fight the darkness, who were strange like her. Three companions: the Wolf – a compassionate spiritual warrior with a pure heart. The Queen of Echoes – a redhaired powerful sorceress touched by madness, and the Moon Whisperer – a powerful huntress and protector of the innocent.

The four land outside Illyana’s rooms. Inside, a demon is rifling through her drawers, not even distracted when she harumphes.

Unimpressed, she points out she can have him tortured for eternity. It mutters it is helping her, then runs away with her hairbrush. Illyana is annoyed. Dani suggests she focus. She retorts demons are creatures of pure evil and chaos. And completely under her power, Dani points out. For now, Illyana states. That doesn’t mean they aren’t scheming, but Dani is right, they have business elsewhere.

She takes them to the library of the arcane tomes Belasco collected. Rahne asks if all of that is demonic. Illyana explains there is also neutral and benevolent knowledge, even a few books written by saints. The objective of the library was to amass all arcane knowledge.

She asks Madelyne, as this is all to be hers, would she mind assisting in setting up the magical space. Madelyne asks why she talks so formally. Grabbing some books, Illyana replies this place always reminds her of when she was a child. Everything from how she spoke to how she sat and breathed, it was all controlled… formal. She spent years in this room, trying to find a way to escape Belasco, but she knew he was watching even there.

She moves a book in the bookcase, opening a secret compartment. It’s easy to fall back into old habits in Limbo. That’s another reason she needs to be done with this place.

She puts some objects on the table. Madelyne needles that, considering her track record with Limbo, it is odd Illyana came to her. The last time she was in power, she didn’t exactly use her influence for good. What makes her sure her friends aren’t right? Illyana retorts she was literally there when Madelyne tried to merge Limbo with Earth. The sentient mailboxes, the flesh-eating elevators, the castle of souls… she remembers. Madelyne was insane with grief and anger and fear. So much so she left an imprint. Illyana has studied that imprint. She pours liquid black substance into a glass.

Madelyne bristles that she doesn’t need her pity. Illyana cuts her palm and adds blood to the ink. Having survived doesn’t earn you pity here. It earns you respect. This place… to control it requires one to have been touched by anger and grief and to have come out the other end. She sees what has been done to Madelyne, and she knows. And the transference of power comes with a binding contract. They both have to agree to the terms.

Clever and fair, Madelyne smirks. She supposes that comes with experience too. Hell is all about the fine print, Illyana remarks. She dips a quill into the ink and signs the contact. She learned as a child that any agreement here has to be airtight.

As Madelyne studies the contract, Illyana explains she does this because she wants to be free. All of her terms are laid out in red and white. She offers Madelyne the quill and asks what she wants.

The group fights its way onward. There had been others who had fallen: A Wind Walker, who was like a mother, another shadow who was her closest friend. A titan of steel, who was her brother.

But the little goblin could not afford to remember them now, not if she wanted to live free.

Madelyne and Illyana stand in a circle. Madelyne has pronounced her terms. Mirage interrupts that she and Rahne still think this is a mistake. Magik promised to let them speak! Illyana tells her she can speak, but she has thought everything through and “I don’t like it” isn’t a sufficient reason.

Dani points out she said before she needs to be able to trust whom she puts on the throne. Right before that, she talked about how Madelyne tried to wrest control of Limbo, to bring hell to Earth. And more recently Madelyne literally died, threatening to destroy Krakoa. What makes her think Madelyne has changed?

Dani thinks Illyana is smart enough to rule Limbo, but not smart enough to know what is best for it, Illyana challenges. Dani retorts that that’s not what she means. She either trusts her or she doesn’t! Illyana retorts. Dani thinks she is a fool or she knows what she is doing!

Dani accuses her of being obstinate. Illyana asks why it is so important her that she stays permanently bound to the place that ruined her life, the place that took everything from her!

Dani assures her they don’t want that, but again Madelyne as ruler is dangerous for Limbo, for Krakoa, for the world!

Madelyne bristles at being talked about as though she were not there. Illyana agrees, that’s rude.

Rahne supports Dani. Last time Madelyne wanted to venture to Limbo, she kidnapped infants and wanted to use them as conduits. She was willing to kill her own son to get revenge. Madelyne retorts that, with resurrection, she has been given a clean slate. If the monster who made her can sit on their council, why can’t she come into her own power? Why is Krakoa’s promise not for her? she challenges. To this, Dani asks what protection will Krakoa have against Limbo if Madelyne decides to wipe them off the map?

That’s the cue for S’ym to slam in the door. At the head of his demon army, he repeats Dani’s question. Absolutely none! He raises his magical mace and orders his army to round the women up.

Many of the obstacles the friends faced were unexpected and treacherous. But the little goblin knew they had to press on.

The mutants fight back led by Magik, who swings her Soulsword and scoffs, are they serious? They are all grounded!

Firing her energy arrows, Mirage warns the others that they cannot let the demon kill them: resurrection may be warped like in Otherworld.

Dani gets shot by a demon and falls. When he readies for the killing blow, Madelyne slams her fist through his chest, killing him. She’ll put it on her tab, she tells Dani who harumphes.

A furious Magik slices her way toward S’ym, who announces he heard there was a job opening. Consider this his application. She can call him ‘boss.’ Swearing, she strikes with her Soulsword, which he blocks with his mace. Energy is released by the strike and Illyana is thrown backward.

The others run towards her. Dani helps her up while Madelyne and Rahne fend off the demons. Dani shakes Illyana, who seems to be in a state of shock and orders her to open a gate to Krakoa.

She opens a stepping disk.

Illyana stammers that with her soulsword shattered her power over Limbo is gone. They have to tell the council. However, they are still in Limbo, in a snowy wilderness…

2nd story:
Belasco’s castle in Limbo, sometime in the past, when a young Illyana was his prisoner and apprentice. The library is her sanctuary, though she knows even there she is watched. Huddling under a table, she reads a book about the adventures of a little goblin, a book she has never seen before, and the story speaks to her.

She hears steps and a voice mockingly calls her “little snowflake.” Illyana dashes to a hiding place, whose security is enforced by a small spell and hides the book there.

Cat chides her that she knows better than to hide. Illyana denies hiding to her former best friend, who is now a slave of Belasco. Cat accuses her of lying and informs Illyana the master waits.

Illyana wants to disobey and run but she knows better. She recalls watching how one by one the X-Men were killed or changed beyond recognition in Limbo. In the end, the choice was to become Belasco’s apprentice and a pawn in his game or lose herself completely. Nevertheless, she has hope that she can undo all the evil she has witnessed. That she can turn back time and, armed with the knowledge of the library and things to come, change her fate, but to do that she has to be patient and play the fool in Belasco’s play.

She leaves, unaware that a goblin-like creature takes out the book and begins writing in it…

Characters Involved: 

1st story:
Magik, Mirage, Wolfsbane (New Mutants)
Goblin Queen

Benevolent goblin

S’m mysterious benefactor

2nd story:
Illyana Rasputin (aged between 9 and 12)

Story Notes: 

Further notes

Everybody refers to Madelyne’s actions during the Inferno crossover, when she was working with the demons of Limbo to bring Limbo to Earth.

Madelyne attacked the Hellions in Hellions #2-4.

She was resurrected in Hellions #18 as a favor to Havok.

Illyana’s story in Limbo is told in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #160 and the Magik limited series.

2nd story:
The second story takes place between Magik #2 and 3.

Continuity mistake: Cat at this point should be mostly mindless and barely able to talk. It is a big deal when she can actually say Illyna’s name in Magik #3.

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