Last year’s Hellfire Gala was a celebration that showed how far Krakoa has come as a nation. Everyone in the universe took notice as the Omega-Level Mutants terraformed Mars and transformed it into the new planet Arakko. Along with that we saw the first X-Men team of the Krakoa Era be revealed. Now this year the Hellfire Gala will be very different as Krakoa is putting on this event just days removed from the Daily Bugle publishing the story that revealed they have solved death. With this out in the public how will this year’s Hellfire Gala go? Let’s find out.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, and CF Villa
Colorists: Rain Beredo, Frank Martin, Matt Milla, and Matthew Wilson
As everyone from Cyclops, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Clea Strange, and others process the Daily Bugle’s “Immortal X-Men” story Moira MacTaggert reveals her plan to use Mary Jane Watson to infiltrate the Hellfire Gala to Dr. Stasis and Feilong.
On Krakoa, Captain Commander Bishop announces to the Quiet Council his order to keep The Five back from attending the Hellfire Gala and already has Magik standing guard over them.
Meanwhile, during a check up with Dr. Reyes it is shown that while Synch’s powers are stronger after resurrecting it is causing him to age rapidly whenever he uses his “muscle memory” to sync with someone not near him. Synch has Dr. Reyes promise him to not reveal this to anyone else.
Sometime later, Emma Frost welcomes everyone to the Hellfire Gala while avoiding Cyclops the entire time. Emma eventually is confronted by Clea, who wants to use the resurrection protocols to bring Stephen Strange back. Emma reveals that is not possible as the resurrection protocols are only for mutants and that Clea should instead focus on being an even better Sorcerer Supreme than Dr. Strange.
Emma then meets up with Firestar, who is still not happy with Emma because of their past.
As the party goes on The Five end up showing up after defeating Magik in a fight.
At a poker table Emma and Tony Stark have a tense conversation over the shaky relationship the Avengers and X-Men have shared. Tony then mentions that Emma should ask Reed Richards why their is the lack of trust between their sides.
On a balcony “MJ” takes Proteus to the side and reveals that she is actually Moira, his mother, in command of Mary Jane Watson’s body. Moira reveals that Proteus was just a means to an end as his specific X-Gene was needed. Proteus grabs Moira and says she is not his mother.
Spider-Man (Peter Parker) sees all this from inside the hall and thinks that Proteus is attacking MJ. Spider-Man then realizes that something is wrong with the necklace MJ is wearing and when he grabs it the neckless sends a massive shock through his body.
Wolverine and The Five back-up Proteus and Spider-Man but they can’t do anything with Moira controlling MJ’s body. When Moira-MJ leaves through a Krakoa Gate both Spider-Man and Wolverine chase after them.
Back at the party, Cyclops is able to trick Emma into dancing with him with Jean’s help. Cyclops says he revealed the mutant resurrection for a reason and he trusts Emma enough to tell her that reason. Cyclops then shows Emma everything that happened from the point of his death to finding out Dr. Stasis true identity is the original Dr. Nathaniel Essex.
Seeing all this Emma also entrusts Cyclops with everything she learned that Charles Xavier and Magneto were keeping from them when those two were working with Moira MacTaggert. Cyclops and Emma then agree to work together along with Jean on what they should do next.
Not long after Emma announces that they will be announcing the new X-Men team. Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Synch are already on the team and Emma nominates Firestar to join the team, which is seconded by Iceman. Cyclops then nominates Forge to the team, who then nominates Havok for the team. Iceman and Magik then put their hat in the ring to join the team. With Scarlet Witch’s help the new X-Men team of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Synch, Firestar, Forge, Havok, Iceman, and Magik are announced.
As everyone celebrates Xavier reminds Forge of their secret deal to continue work on Project Blackbox.
Tony Stark congratulates Firestar while whispering that if she sees anything off while on the X-Men to call him.
Sometime later Moira meets with Druig and the Eternals to tell them that Tempus, Proteus, Egg, Hope Summers, and Elixir are the keys to mutant resurrection and all five are on Krakoa ready to be found and killed. End of issue.
In terms of setting up the future of the X-Men franchise Hellfire Gala 2022 certainly set a lot of intriguing things into motion. It’s the plot elements that were either built on or introduced here that will be the main thing that will grab the attention of readers. Though one of the big elements of the Hellfire Gala did leave a lot to be desired.
Getting to that particular part first, I will admit that the new X-Men team did not excite me as much as last year’s announced team did. When it comes to a superhero team having a strong balance of personalities and powers is always something I look for. An X-Men team of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Synch, Firestar, Forge, Havok, Iceman, and Magik does not scream that balance.
There are a lot of similar powers in this team that they do not at all come off as the elite powerhouse mutant team when you think of the core X-Men team. Because here we get Havok who has the same skill set as Cyclops with. Then there are similarly long-range members in Firestar and Iceman who are elementals. These three roster spots are easily filled by Magik thanks to her wide range of powers thanks to being a magic user. This team could’ve used characters like Gentle or Penance, who were both up for the X-Men vote, to give a better balance to the team dynamic.
The X-Men roster disappointment aside I do have to give Gerry Duggan a lot of credit for showing how much of a game changer the “Immortal X-Men” story in the Daily Bugle was. This isn’t something that can simply be swept under the rug by a world wide mind wipe. The secret is out there and now mutants as a whole have to deal with the ramification of that.
This worked in well to sow more seeds of doubt in the Avengers and Fantastic Four, who have never been on equal terms with the X-Men. Duggan makes great use of the 2020 X-Men/Fantastic Four event to give reason why Tony Stark and Reed Richards in particular are on edge in their own way with the X-Men. By the way they both interact with Emma Frost and the other mutants Tony and Reed set the tone for their respective teams attitude towards the X-Men. Whether their teammates agree with their attitudes is another element that has a lot of room to be explored in comics like A.X.E.: Judgment Day.
On the mutants side of things, Emma shows that Krakoa won’t just bow down to the Avengers and Fantastic Four. Duggan does a great job reminding readers how the Avengers and Fantastic Four have never really been their for the X-Men when they need help, even though the X-Men always answer the call to defend Earth. We saw that be the case when the X-Men played a key role in recent events like King In Black. While Avengers and Fantastic Four fans may not be behind this portrayal of their favorite teams it is a reality that Emma Frost and the X-Men have plenty of examples to back-up all their reasoning.
All of this being done while Emma has to play positive host in the midst of Krakoa’s biggest public crisis was well handled. It was all a showcase of how Emma is such a great character because she can switch between having conversations that all have different tones without coming off character. Everything Emma said to everyone she interacted with was all within her character, further elevating her status as one of the most important X-Men characters.
Emma’s dynamic with Cyclops was particularly spotlighted. Emma and Scott talking was something that needed to happened and Duggan handled the tension between them very well. There was a build to their big conversation that made the moment when they are having their psychic conversation while dancing have a greater impact. Both are open with one another and show how much trust they have with how they each open up about recent events that are the reasons behind their recent actions. The way it was handled helped to make it so Scott and Emma have a stronger partnership that is still built on trust.
At the same time, it was great to see that Scott wasn’t just having this be another secret he was holding. He is very much working alongside Jean Grey in all of this. From the opening pages to everything they both do we see how important Scott and Jean working together as a supportive couple is to both of them. Now that they are going to be working with Emma as they both know about the events from Inferno it’ll be interesting how that will impact decisions they make as the continued leaders of the X-Men moving forward.
Along with what continues to go on with Scott and Jean we see a lot of seeds planted for several of the X-Men. Throughout this issue we learn different things about Synch, Forge, and Firestar that are sure to play a part of the new X-Men run Duggan will be working on. The way their respective character arcs are showcased does exemplify how there could be whole series built around Synch, Forge, and Firestar that we’ll be able to see play out in the main X-Men title. Each of these character arcs are the ones I am most invested in going into the latest incarnation of the X-Men alongside what Scott and Jean learned.
The Firestar sub-plot is something that is something that could be set up for an even bigger story than A.X.E.: Judgment Day. We already know that Marvel event will be more abut the X-Men and Eternals with the Avengers playing the middleman. But now with Tony recruiting Firestar to act as a double agent for him anything goes for that event and the future. We know that mutants on Krakoa don’t have the best opinion on Firestar. If she truly does act as a double agent for the Avengers it will not help her image within the X-Men franchise and fans. Its definitely something Duggan has to be careful about as he develops with particular plot thread since it could sour may opinions on the Avengers.
Hellfire Gala also further elevated everything that is being built with Moira MacTaggert and Orchis. Moira X being in full villain mode is such a chilling and captivating character to see on screen. Duggan maximizes Moira X’s screen time with every action she takes from using Mary Jane Watson’s body to infiltrate the Hellfire Gala to calling Proteus a shell she and the others where using for his X-Gene to helping the Eternals, it all makes you hate the character more. It’s the type of hate that you want to feel for a villain in a superhero comic book. It all works to further position Moira X as an endgame-type boss of a supervillain.
The same goes for Orchis now with Dr. Stasis secret being revealed to be the original Dr. Nathaniel Essex. As we see with Emma’s reaction to tis revelation, this now makes things a lot more complicated for the Quiet Council as one of their own members is also one of their biggest threats. By extension, this reveal also helps build up Feilong as a villain as we see him work with Dr. Stasis. Now that they are also working with Moira X things will get a lot more complicated for all the X-Men teams moving forward.
Also major credit goes to the art team of Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, and CF Villa. I’m normally not a fan of a large art team working on one comic book since there is normally a lot of inconsistencies that take you out of the story because of clashing styles. But that wasn’t the case here as Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, and CF Villa all worked well together. They all made adjustments to make sure there was a flow to the story so their respective art styles would flow into one another. It helped create a wonderful looking comic book that captured the gravitas of this year’s Hellfire Gala.
Disappointments on the new X-Men team roster aside this year’s Hellfire Gala was a success. That is all thanks to all the great seeds planted for the future as we have a number of plotlines and character arcs to be invested in. All of that set-up creates a lot of excitement for the future of the X-Men franchise. That makes this year’s Hellfire Gala a success.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10