The party of the year begins as Emma Frost hosts the latest incarnation of the Hellfire Gala. This Hellfire Gala will be like no other as this is where the first X-Men roster in the Krakoa nation era will be unveiled to the Marvel Universe. With how Jonathan Hickman and the X-Men creative team have purposely avoided using the term ‘X-Men’ by those in Krakoa up to this point this is going to be a major moment. It will announce to everyone that the X-Men are back to being the superhero team that the fans and the Marvel Universe knew them to be. How will this unveiling at the Hellfire Gala be received? Let’s find out with the start of the Hellfire Gala in Marauders #21.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At Mykines Island, a protectorate of Krakoa, the X-Force team get in place to work security with Domino ensuring the Krakoan gates are set to be open for non-mutants to go through.
Emma Frost, Kate Pryde, and Sebastian Shaw are shown watching from the balcony as everyone invited starts to get to Mykines Island.
Over in New York City, Tempo provide all the Avengers with special flowers to wear that acts as their ticket to the Hellfire Gala and any after-party they are invited to. The Avengers then go through the Krakoan gate and are welcomed to the Hellfire Gala by Emma Frost, Kate Pryde, and Sebastian Shaw.
As more people arrive on Mykines Island, Kate Pryde welcomes the Fantastic Four to the Hellfire Gala, with Kate happily reuniting with Franklin Richards.
Iron Man is the next major person to shows up and tells Kid Omega he doesn’t trust any unproven tech as transport. He then offers to get Kid Omega some drinks later.
As more heroes, villains, ambassadors from other countries, and celebrities show up Doctor Doom finally appears.
Charles Xavier goes to welcome Reed Richards to the Hellfire Gala personally. Reed approaches Xavier and whispers something to him.
Afterwards Xavier also greets Franklin which makes Franklin give an odd look to Xavier.
As all attendants are the Hellfire Gala, Emma Frost uses her telepathic powers to welcome everyone to the first of many Hellfire Galas she plans on hosting, which Beast calls out as her already going off script. Emma then brings in Rhapsody to lead the opening music for the Hellfire Gala with Jean Grey and the Stepford Cuckoos using their telephatic powers to provide visuals to accompany the music. Everyone in attendance except Doctor Doom is highly impressed by the opening performance by Rhapsody, Jean Grey, and the Stepford Cuckoos.
As the party goes on various ambassadors interact with one another. The Thing then finds Bishop, Pyro, Iceman, and others gambling and quickly joins in.
Emma eventually runs into Banshee, who she is happy accepted the invite. Sensing something is off Emma says that if Banshee is there to tell her bad news to not do so tonight.
Emma then approaches Captain America and Doctor Doom, who are handing an intense standoff. Captain America mentions wanting to walk around the party. Doctor Doom comments that this isn’t what he would call a party. Emma brings up how Latvaria could enjoy the same friendship with Krakoa that America has as not doing so demeans a man who accomplished as much as he has. Doctor Doom wonders if Emma used the word “man” to show that he is less than her. Emma says he should not act like mutants are around to conquer Earth.
A Shi’ar ambassador suddenly appears and congratulates Emma on mutantdom conquering Earth. This causes Doctor Doom to laugh loudly and walk off.
Emma quickly takes the Shi’ar ambassador to the side to talk about the Shi’ar bringing in what Emma requested. Emma tells Christian Frost to go to the Shi’ar ship to accept the gift.
Shinobi Shaw then approaches Emma to tell her that his dad (Sebastian Shaw) noticed some U.N. ambassadors making trade deals. Emma doesn’t show much concern even as the different U.N. ambassadors secretly work on building up their trade deals with one another.
At another part of the party the Stepford Cuckoos find Wilhelmina Kensington (the White Queen for the anti-mutant organization Homines Verendi). The Stepford Cuckoos use their powers to make Wilhelmina something specific.
As the party goes on Emma calls on the Hellfire Inner Circle (Kate Pryde, Sebastian Shaw, Bishop, Shinobi Shaw, Christian Frost, and Callisto) to gather with her. With the Inner Circle gathered Emma declares that after tonight there will no longer be the need for a black market for their medicine as they bring the world together. Sebastian comments that there will only be a black market.
Later that night, a few minutes after midnight, as everyone is leaving the Hellfire Gala various ambassadors are in shock over what Krakoa unveiled and they start canceling their trade deals.
Doctor Strange comments to Magik that he needs time to process what just happened.
At the same time Captain America tells Cyclops that while they may have solved one problem Krakoa may have created an even bigger mess. Captain America goes on to say he hopes they know what they are doing and says he’ll see Cyclops on the field. End of issue.
The Good: Marauders #21 is a tone setter for the entire Hellfire Gala. That is exactly what it needed to be as the first part of this X-Men crossover. How successful this opening chapter to the Hellfire Gala will vary because the structure is not like the typical comic book event. The reason for this is because we do get a full view of the beginning and end of the Hellfire Gala in Marauders #21. It’s all of the details in between that do not involve the Marauders team that have been left to all the other X-Men titles to fill the gaps of.
Where Marauders #21 succeeds best is presenting Emma Frost as the host of the Hellfire Gala. This is all about how she has control of the event that she is planning on at least becoming an annual thing like the Met Gala is for celebrities. Her hand was in every part of the party part of the Hellfire Gala. This establishes a tone that even if Emma Frost isn’t in other Hellfire Gala chapters that her presence will be felt throughout the crossover moving forward.
As she is he star of Marauders #21, Emma Frost was the star because of how Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli showed the different aspects of the character through her dialogue and style. Her opening speech set that tone as she was not just going to follow whatever Beast or others told her to say. Emma Frost was going to be herself and make the Hellfire Gala the biggest event of the year, which you get is her goal from her speech. This presentation for Emma helps elevate all the presentation of the entire event as there is that extra flare you would only see there.
From there we got to see how Emma played the perfect host by having eyes everywhere. The biggest example of this is how she got in the middle of a tense moment between Captain America and Doctor Doom. Emma was quick to see that this stare down had the potential to make things bad for the Hellfire Gala. But by entering into this moment Emma showed she possibly had too much going on as she left herself open to play into Doctor Doom’s hands.
Involving Doctor Doom in this way helped to further establish Doctor Doom as a major antagonist for the X-Men. This is something we saw in the recent X-Men and Fantastic Four mini-series where Doctor Doom made his views on Krakoa clear. Doctor Doom calling Emma on her word choice furthers this sub-plot as we see how he not only views mutants but also will never work with them. This opens the door for a future conflict between the X-Men and Doctor Doom being possible.
This all played in well to get over how the Hellfire Gala was a major event with the conclusion changing things for the Marvel Universe. Duggan did a good job building up the entire Hellfire Gala by showing us how different U.N. ambassadors were trying to use the event work out their own trade deals while leaving out Krakoa. Which played right into why Emma is the one hosting the Hellfire Gala. While this event big announcement was the debut of the official X-Men team it was also about establishing Krakoa as a powerful nation. To do that they needed to move away from just using the black market to work deals as we’ve seen in Marauders, X-Corp and other X-Men titles. They needed to finally place their stamp as a trading power in the world. Based on the U.N. ambassador’s reaction post-Hellfire Gala Emma led Krakoa to do just that.
The other major interaction that stood out in Marauders #21 was the quick confrontation Charles Xavier and Reed Richards had with each other. Its clear that Reed still remembers what Xavier did to him during their last big meeting at the end of the X-Men and Fantastic Four crossover. Playing into that by having Reed whisper something that appears to be a warning emphasized how there is still a lot of work to be done in the superhero community. It also reminds the reader that while we do have the superhero team of the X-Men back that Xavier has been handling various relationships differently as we’ve seen not just in the X-titles but also in events like King In Black.
Matteo Lolli does a very good job at capturing the larger than life scope that the Hellfire Gala has. This is an important thing for Lolli to get as he is the first artist up to showing us what the event is all about. Everything from the character designs with the various suits and dresses to performances to conversations are on point to emphasize the importance of the Hellfire Gala. It sets the tone right for all other characters of the Hellfire Gala crossover to meet or exceed the presentation in Marauders #21.
The Bad: The one thing that definitely throws you off as the reader is the pacing. It is very quick not just in knocking things out of the way but actually presenting the beginning and end of the Hellfire Gala. That means there are many times during Marauders #21 that you do feel that you are missing out on a lot of what is going on with the entire event. This causes you as the reader to feel rushed along at certain points rather than being able to just simply immerse yourself in what is being accomplished with this event that Emma Frost is hosting.
This is shown with how we get to the very end of the night with many of the attendants left wondering what is next. The problem with this is that we as the reader don’t have a full context as to why the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and UN ambassadors are left shaken by what was shown at the Hellfire Gala. Without actually being shown how whatever was announced during the Hellfire Gala you don’t actually get hit with the impact felt by all these characters. This in turn makes the pacing just feel completely off because we are missing so many details.
While this sets up all the other chapters of the Hellfire Gala in the other X-Men comic books to fill in all the missing gaps in the story it doesn’t make for the best overall presentation. Having other mutants from the non-Marauders team more involved in the story would’ve helped in this respect since we do have so many power players at the Hellfire Gala. By not doing so you end Marauders #21 feeling as though you were kicked out of the party after only ordering one drink.
Overall: Marauders #21 does a great job at the overall presentation of the Hellfire Gala. Gerry Duggan’s writing of Emma Frost as the host of the event and other key character interactions keep you invested in what is going on. That is further elevated by Matteo Lolli artwork that sets a high bar for the look of the Hellfire Gala in every following chapter. The only thing that Marauders #21 misses on is how quickly it gets to the end of the Hellfire Gala by the conclusion of chapter 1. This leaves you as the reader feeling left out of what took place at the Hellfire Gala rather than looking forward to the next chapter in this crossover.
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