The Hellfire Gala continues throughout this week’s releases of X-Men comics. For X-Men #21 Jonathan Hickman takes his turn on telling some of the events that are going down during the Hellfire Gala. Given that Hickman is the architect of the entire current direction for the X-Men franchise this could be the most important chapter of the Hellfire Gala. The cover specifically looks to clue us into this being where we will get the official X-Men team that Scott Summers and Jean Grey will be leading as Cyclops and Marvel Girl, respectively. Who will make the roster? Let’s find out with X-Men #21.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta, Russell Dauterman, Lucas Werneck, and Sara Pichelli
Colorists: Frank Martin, Matthew Wilson, Sunny Gho, and Nolan Woodard
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At 8:12 P.M. on the balcony one of the Multiple Man waiters serves Namor some drinks.
Charles Xavier and Magneto then approach Namor to thank him for attending the event and extend an offer to fill one of the empty seats on the Quiet Council. Namor calls out how there doesn’t need to be an empty seat for him to join the Quiet Council because if he asked for one they would’ve given it to him any time because unlike them he is a real King.
Xavier says Namor should claim his rightful place amongst his people. Namor explains that his dream is to have the entire world under his thumb, including humans and mutants, and he will not join a council of pretenders who think they are his peers. He finishes his drink and tells Xavier and Magneto to call him when they have something better to offer than partial control one a singular island.
Namor then goes to talk with members of the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
At 10:15 P.M. Cyclops and Jean Grey ask for everyone’s attention. Cyclops announces that they will now be selecting the new X-Men team. Jean then uses her telepathic abilities to sync the minds of all mutants in the world who wish to take part in the voting for the new X-Men team.
As all mutants around the world are locked in a trance Johnny Storm wonders what is going on. Doctor Strange, who is using his magic powers to listen into the voting, explains that all the connected mutants are making their individual cases for why they should be voted to be part of the new X-Men team.
After some time Jean announces that they have concluded the election and asks for Rogue, Sunfire, Wolverine (Laura Kinney), Synch, and Polaris to join her and Cyclops on stage. With the team now assembled Jean says “Ladies and gentlemen…humans and mutants…I give you….your X-Men.”
At 11:35 P.M. as all the heroes, celebrities, and other attendees interact with one another Emma Frost finds members of a hidden society are in attendance. Emma says she is looking forward to doing business with them and says that she is in need of the Kara Kutuca. The representatives of the nameless city tell Emma that is a pretty big ask, which Emma is well aware of.
Elsewhere as Cyclops buys some drinks for people he runs into Kevin Feige. Kevin Feige asks Cyclops for his story.
Cyclops talks about his past as a kid growing up and being raised by Xavier who he loves to the point he claimed Xavier’s dream as his own. He goes on to say that eventually the world showed him that the waking world they see is a killer of dreams and realized that nothing is perfect in the world. Cyclops states that after everything he experienced he learned there is no real difference in any person and everyone’s dreams are valid. Cyclops ends his story saying that “I’m a dreamer. I’m an X-Men.”
At 11:45 P.M. a couple Multiple Men hit a gong to get everyone’s attention for the closing fireworks ceremony.
Emma then speaks to everyone how the close of the Hellfire Gala can be seen as the start of something new altogether. She goes on to calls this a second event within the Hellfire Gala. Emma then uses his powers to connect the minds of everyone in attendance who wants to get a unique view of what she wants to show all of them.
Once Emma is done connecting everyone’s minds she shows them the beginning of a new age that places everyone in a cosmic-like environment with two unknown people sitting on floating rocks. End of issue.
The Good: X-Men #21 is a strong example of what the potential Hellfire Gala has to be. Jonathan Hickman focuses on telling a few strong story beats while sowing the seeds for several sub-plots that could grow in other titles post-Hellfire Gala. All of this is done without losing vision how this is one big connected crossover event that must involve everyone in the X-Men franchise.
The way Hickman gets you believe that the Hellfire Gala is one big X-Men event is the fact that you do feel that it isn’t just focused on a singular cast. While Charles Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost take the lead in the story of X-Men #21 it is not just about them. This is about how the Hellfire Gala is supposed to be a defining moment in the X-Men’s history.
That is where the way Hickman goes about crafting how the election for the X-Men involves all of the mutants in the world. Even if we don’t see all of them Hickman makes the entire election feel like a grand event that does truly involve everyone getting a fair chance to make a case for being an X-Men. There is a greater importance given to what the X-Men will be representing because of how it all went down. This helped make the fact that Marvel spoiled the roster of the new X-Men team before the Hellfire Gala even started not matter. That speaks to the magic Hickman creates with how Scott Summers and Jean Grey handle all of it.
When all is said and done the moment you see Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Rogue, Sunfire, Wolverine, Synch, and Polaris presented as the X-Men to everyone you believe this is the A-team. There is a presence to them that you understand why each one was selected even if we didn’t actually hear what their respective cases for membership was. In the end this is an X-Men team that is up there with the Avengers and Fantastic Four as superhero teams. Russell Dauterman does an excellent job making all of this a giant showcase with the team image being such a poster-worthy image that moment needed to have.
Now with the X-Men established it will be interesting to see what direction they will go. While Scott and Jean made it clear to Charles Xavier and Magneto that the X-Men will operate separately from the Quiet Council we still don’t know how it all connects. Which is where Scott’s talk with Kevin Feige stands out so much as its here we get the idea that the X-Men are going to be following the original dream Xavier had for mutants. Even though this is the basis Krakoa was built on its something the Quiet Council hasn’t always followed. How the X-Men choose to take Krakoa out of their isolated direction and show the world they are part of the world’s future will be very interesting.
The differences between what the X-Men will be and Quiet Council’s vision of Krakoa is best seen with the opening scene of X-Men #21. Its here that we once again see how far deep Charles Xavier and Magneto are with believing what they are doing with the Quiet Council is the future. Namor played the perfect antagonist in this as he does not hesitate to call the Quiet Council on how they are not the end all, be all. Even though Xavier and Magneto view themselves as being big deals they are still new and Namor has been the literal King of Atlantis for a long time. You believe that all he is doing is telling them the truth of how small Krakoa is in the grand scheme of things. It’s a reality check that both Xavier and Magneto both needed.
That said you can tell that Xavier and Magneto don’t take kindly over what Namor told them. This is something we’ve seen Hickman play with in the past as both Xavier and Magneto don’t like when they control things. It’ll be very interesting to see if we see their leadership continue to come into question as we saw Scott and Jean do this during the X of Swords event. Namor doing this to them in such an embarrassing way puts into question what direction the Quiet Council will take moving forward.
Continuing the narrative of Emma Frost as the host of the Hellfire Gala. Lucas Werneck does a good job at setting the tone for Emma as a host in X-Men #21. As we see through Hickman’s writing and Werneck’s artwork that Emma views this entire event as a big business opportunity to bring the black market deals they’ve been doing to be now just the mainstream.
That is all continued by Sara Pichelli, who really nails the show that Emma is looking to put on. There is a magic to how Emma goes about the closing ceremony of the Hellfire Gala. She wants to clearly make this all an event to be remembered and changes peoples minds. Which plays in well to how we saw so many people who were against Krakoa in awe of what Emma presented to them after Hellfire Gala concluded at the end of Marauders #21.
The Bad: As strong as Nick Dragotta, Russell Dauterman, Lucas Werneck, and Sara Pichelli are individually as artists there styles did not completely gel together. There artwork is very different from one another. It would’ve been better if Dauterman and Werneck or Dragotta and Pichelli were the only artists as these two pairs styles matched each other better. But because we have four different styles the change in art was always noticeable and took a panel or two to adjust to the change.
Overall: Jonathan Hickman does a fantastic job presenting the Hellfire Gala as a major event in X-Men #21. The way the X-Men are announced to the world along with the scenes involving Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Emma Frost added to the importance the Hellfire Gala has to the franchise. The artwork from Nick Dragotta, Russell Dauterman, Lucas Werneck, and Sara Pichelli further emphasize how this is a can’t miss event for X-Men fans.
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