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Let's Talk About The Most Important Character In The New Mutants

 Technically there's a new X-Men movie in theaters, it's also likely the last one that we'll see not under the banner of Disney's MCU. Initial reviews indicate that it's not very good, and it's had a troubled production history. It also features one of my favorite, possibly hands down favorite, X-characters, who is almost as iconic a member of the New Mutants as you can get. I'm talking about Illyana Rasputin, AKA Magik.

Now, before we get into Illyana and what makes her so great, I would like to draw your attention to a more prolific X-Man:

This is of course, Piotr Rasputin, Colossus, and Magik's big brother. He's 6'6", 250 pounds of olympic class strongman. Whenever he wants to, he can turn himself into metal, and then he's 7'5", 500 lbs, and one of the physically strongest people on Earth. He's fought and held his own against the Hulk and the Juggernaut (He's also been beaten by them, but so has basically everyone). Not only is he extremely resistant to injury in his metal state, but he doesn't seem to need all of the same functions in this state, I have heard about him having organs removed, and just replacing them while he lets his metal knit back together. He would be considered the most of physically dangerous of the classic X-Men, were it not for Wolverine's inclusion, as it is, they have a "signature move" where Colossus simply picks up Wolverine and hurls him at things that need destroying.

Okay, so there's a paragraph talking about what a bad ass Colossus, what's that have to do with Magik? Other than they're siblings? I just wanted to illustrate that while Colossus is a force to be reckoned with, there are a number of people in the Marvel comic universe, and most notably an entire dimension of demons that know you don't fuck with Colossus, because Illyana will become cross.

Why is Magik so scary? I could just shortcut it and say that she has magical powers, but let me take the long way around. Illyana and both of her older brothers were mutants raised in Soviet Russia. Mikhail, the eldest, was recruited by the Soviet state, and used a cosmonaut super soldier, Mikhail is also scary powerful, but he's a bad guy and just way less interesting. Another important note, who is world famous for having the name Rasputin? The Rasputin mutant family are the great grandchildren of Grigori Rasputin, yes, THAT Rasputin. After Colossus had been with the X-Men for awhile, Illyana was kidnapped along with a bunch of other loved ones of X-Men, in a super villain plot to leverage the X-Men into shenanigans. Afterward, they bring Illyana to the Xavier school so that she can be raised among fellow mutants, and to try and keep the Soviet government from using her like Mikhail. It's important to note that she still hasn't gone through puberty yet, and thus hasn't developed any kind of mutant power, she's just five or six year old girl. 

When Illyana is still just six years old, she's abducted by Belasco. Now Belasco is a weird thing for the X-Men to have such a major dealing with, he's more something you'd expect Doctor Strange to deal with. He's commonly referred to as a demon, although he's originally from 13th century Italy. More importantly, he's an immensely powerful sorcerer, and he rules a relatively small dimension called Limbo. It's important to note that this is NOT the Limbo of Catholic mythology, it's a kind of weird, "neither here nor there" sort of place. It's about the size of Earth, but it's in a universe of its own, no stars in the sky. Limbo doesn't really have technology, instead it's very sorcerous in nature, and it's entire ecology is just made up of horrible nightmare creatures known collectively as demons. Everything there is a demon, and it survives by eating smaller demons. Also, since it's its own separate dimension, it is pretty much adjacent to everything. Similar to Mojoworld (I'll have to do another post about Mojoworld), in the Marvel comics multiverse, there are many alternate realities with many version of Earth in them, but there is only ONE Limbo. Belasco is basically God in Limbo.

Limbo's space in the multi-verse is interesting, because while Illyana was in Limbo, she ran into multiple versions of the X-Men from alternate realities that hadn't gotten stuck in Limbo, and couldn't find their way out. Of course, the faultless (ha!) X-Men of Earth-616 came to find Illyana, rescued her, but as they were leaving Limbo, Shadowcat, who was holding Illyana's hand, lost her grip for just an instant. When the X-Men materialized again on Earth, they did manage to bring Illyana back, but in that instant for the X-men, Illyana had been in Limbo at Belasco's whim for 6 years.

Belasco did some messed up shit to her. He took part of her soul, turned it into something called a Bloodstone, which apparently amped up her already considerable potential for sorcery, remember it's in her blood, while also making her a slave to him. She's tutored in combat and sorcery by some X-Men from alternate realities, has to fight a few others, before eventually becoming Belasco's apprentice in a plot to eventually usurp him. Which she does. Not only does she hold her own against him, but the trump card being that she manifests her own life force into something called the Soul Sword, and from that moment on, possessing the Soul Sword means that you're the ruler of Limbo. After this, she goes back to the Xavier school UNDER HER OWN POWER, at the instant that the X-Men returned. She didn't just age 6 years, she had six years of the harshest school of hard knocks you can imagine, and came out of it as a demonic sorcerer goddess of her own dimension, by the time she was twelve.

Illyana's original costume design on the New Mutants. The Soul Sword just manifests at her will, and the armored sleeve comes with it. Otherwise this is the standard New Mutants costume, from back when X-Characters wore matching costumes on teams.

So what can Magik do, exactly? First off, she's a mutant, and her specific mutant ability is teleportation. It works much differently than Nightcrawler, who can go short distances, very rapidly, but needs to be able to see to make sure he doesn't materialize in a wall and kill himself. Magik make's big discs of light that start below her feet and work their way up, kind of like a Star Trek teleporter. More technically, she can teleport from anywhere, to anywhere within Limbo, and then from anywhere within Limbo to anywhere or anywhen outside of Limbo. So she can go pretty much anywhere in time, space, or alternate realities.

Her magical abilities are more nebulous, because magic, it's probably sufficient to say that she's got enough magic chops that she can rule an entire dimension of demons in her spare time. Her sword has some more specific abilities though. It's obviously a sword, but on top of what you'd expect a sword to be able to do, it can naturally dispel most magics just upon coming in contact with them. When the sword first manifested, it was just a simple longsword, but the more she uses it, the stronger and more innate it gets. At times it has become a full suit of armor, and around 2010, it suddenly became a a glowing great sword so massive that Cloud from Final Fantasy would drool over it.

It's really quite large.

As you'll notice, her early depictions as just a normal blond girl with a sword, has changed quite drastically to her current gothic anime knight look. There's a bit of logic to it, and maybe even some actual story that I haven't read, but the gist is this: Remember that she had a portion of her soul removed and turned in a magical macguffin by Belasco? That whole process resulted in a kind of split persona, sometimes called "Darkchylde". Illyana was always walking a line of trying to keep from giving into her darker impulses, and using too much magic (because she really only knew the bad stuff) because she ran the risk of corrupting herself and becoming Darkchylde. She even did, on a few occasions, there was a big event where she overran a whole city with her army of demons before the X-Men brought her back to her senses. That's all well and good as a plot device, but the "character so powerful, but using the power corrupts them" trope has been done so many times, that I find it kind of boring. Plus I'm reading a damn comic book, let me have my power fantasies without shoving a moral price in there every now and then, damn it! This kind of all culminated in Magik giving up all of her power, and reverting back to her six year old self, bequeathing the Soul Sword to Shadowcat. The Soul Sword, and Limbo by extension, went through some shit here, with Belasco's lieutenants taking over for a time, and Doctor Doom stealing the Soul Sword and taking over Limbo, Belasco even came back for awhile.

Then in the 2010s, Magik again became a permanent fixture, in her current design, showing a lot of skin, while sporting black spiky armor, and the aforementioned Final Fantasy-esque incarnation of the Soul Sword. This version of her character is no longer constantly holding back, she's not afraid of what she might do or become. She know exactly who she is, and what she's going to do, and what she's going to do will cause the people that survive to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming and crying for the rest of their days. She's just only going to do it to the people who deserve it. One last thing that really cements her in place as just stupidly powerful. She decides at some point, after taking Limbo into her body, for reasons, that she needs to be even better at magic. So she travels to an alternate future, and becomes Dr Strange's apprentice, in between X-Adventures. There are even a couple of stories where in various futures, she becomes Sorcerer Supreme of Earth after Strange retires.

There it is, my love letter to the awesomeness that is Magik. Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing her in New Mutants when I was in grade school, but there's something refreshing about more characters getting the Wolverine treatment. By which I mean, they stop fighting so hard that they're capable of terrible things, but instead they let them be pointed at targets that need to have terrible things done to them.


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