The next big moment in X-Men history is here and it’s in the form of a bombastic Hellfire Company party / Krakoan state dinner. There’s glitz! There’s glamour! There’s high fashion! There’s Killer Mike from Run the Jewels and Doctor Doom in the same room (not kidding), and so much more!
So grab a glass of champagne, hunt down one of the waiters for some hors d'oeuvres, and let’s take a look at the very beginning of the Hellfire Gala and what it has in store for mutantkind and the Marvel Universe with Marauders #21.
We open up the issue with the Hellfire Company (Kate Pryde, Emma Frost, and Sebastian Shaw in their Hellfire best reminiscing on days of parties past with guests beginning to arrive for Krakoa’s first of many Hellfire Galas. But who’s invited?
Anyone who’s anyone in the Marvel U shows up including heroes, celebrities, press, foreign dignitaries to strengthen ties, villains and hostile governments to change minds or gloat. Also making appearances are Iron Man, Dr. Strange, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom, the Homines Verendi, Coven Akkaba, J. Jonah Jameson, Patton Oswalt, and so many more. The FF are a little shaky to be reunited with the X-Men after the X-Men / Fantastic Four series and the revelation of Franklin’s mutant heritage (or lack thereof). There’s an awkward confrontation with the team and Professor Xavier. Reed meets his greeting with the only reason he’s here, which is something he whispers to Charles, hopefully to be revealed later. Franklin and Kate are still friends, and Kate even reaffirms that after Professor X makes a comment to him about not being a mutant that it “will all work out in the end”.
With the guests all here, it’s time for Emma to welcome everyone to the first annual Hellfire Gala. In typical mutant fashion, the Gala is treated to a psychic musical performance where everyone is able to be put in the shoes of the musician, sharing the beauty of making music. All except Doom and a few anti-mutant guests are dazzled and emotionally moved by it. Speaking of Doom, he almost has a confrontation with Captain America (observed by Killer Mike and El-P from Run the Jewels) but it’s deescalated by Emma. Steve remarks to Victor that this is just another state dinner but with a little more style and flair as Victor does not think highly of galas. Emma explains to Victor that Krakoa and Latveria can be more than cordial because mutants are here and aren't going anywhere. It’s not like they’ve conquered Earth, right? Cue the Shi’ar delegation who have come to congratulate Krakoa on their “conquest of Earth” with gifts. Doom walks away laughing while Emma delegates her brother Christian to handle the Shi-ar.
There are a bunch of fun moments like this with the Verendi and Akkaba factions scheming, the Stepford Cuckoos keeping an eye on everything, Northstar and Vindicator catching up, Emma psychically hitting on Cap, and more celebrity cameos than you can shake a stick at.
Right about here is where things take a weird turn for the story as it moves from this cordial beginning and is fast forwarded to the very end of the evening. Dignitaries and guests leave the Gala in a huff, in annoyance, or in confusion of what they’d witnessed. Cyclops asks Captain America his opinions before the remainder of the guests leave and Cap gives an ominous: “you’ve solved one problem, but it looks like you just opened up a whole other can of worms”. The issue ends right there too, with a weird inkling of what’s happened but obviously more to come as the Hellfire Gala continues through the X-Men titles, specifically X-Men #21.
Although a bit short, Marauders #21 does a pretty good job getting this Hellfire Gala crossover started right. A formal introduction to the Gala, combined with some small moments of comedy and humanity, make it an all-around fun, light read that prepares you for everything going forward in this crossover event. Gerry Duggan writes some really choice moments in this issue that get me excited for the rest of the event while making sure to give the Marauders some play here. Also what did Reed say to Charles?!?! I’m dying to know and have been waiting for a “rematch” between the two since the end of X-Men / Fantastic Four. I didn’t mention every small moment here but trust me when I say they’ll all put a smile on your face. Matteo Lolli’s art here is pretty choice and everything looks great!
I only have two issues with this book:
1.) It felt a bit short and a little light on the story but seeing as how they’re trying to hook everyone by showing people the very beginning and the very end of the Hellfire Gala, I get it.
2.) The book actually isn’t short because the rest of it is a reprint of a Chris Claremont / John Bolton Hellfire Gala story from back in the 80’s. Knowing the Hickman era we’re in now, it has to mean something but feels unnecessary aside from parallels and being a nice throwback.
Overall this was a great way to kick off the Hellfire Gala and I’m excited to see where the story goes next. Since I’m not doing full reviews of every facet of the event here’s a few recaps of the next couple issues
X-Force #20 is pretty darn good as well. X-Force plays the role of Gala security and the issue does a great job showing that. There’s some great small moments like Quentin Quire getting into a huff about Iron Man not wearing a Krakoan flower (the invitation to the event) and Sage wishing she could enjoy the festivities. There’s also the real story involving Beast’s puppeteering of the Terra Verda delegates from Issue #10 for “the greater good” and Emma finding out about it. If nothing else, Deadpool crashes the party and it’s amazing. Ben Percy and Joshua Cassara do their usual best, so check it out too!
Hellions #12 is less connected to the main story but still pretty great. Only three members of the Hellions (Mr. Sinister, Havok, and Psylocke) are actually on the guest list so the rest decide to crash the party and make a scene. Zeb Wells writes a really funny story with a great cast (Hellions in a nutshell) and follows up with more great small moments both between characters and for the larger Hellions and Hellfire story at hand. Stephen Segovia also kills it on art.
Check. It. Out.
Verdict: 7.5/10 Invitations to the Hellfire Gala