The second crossover event of the Krakoa era is here: the inaugural (and potentially final?) Hellfire Gala. After months of hype and buzzy wardrobe reveals, our merry mutants finally have a chance to hang out and flex in their luxuriant outfits, but I’ve got a distinct feeling that we’re in for more than just an easygoing, no-frills party tonight…
Before getting into the meat of the thing, we should talk about some of the context leading up to the Gala. Following their triumph on Otherworld, Krakoa and Arakko have rejoined into a single entity, and relations between their people are mostly fine. There are some growing pains here and there, but no real sense that either side regrets the reunion. As for Krakoa itself, mutants remain on top of the world—figuratively and somewhat literally—with the launch of X-Corp. But with great success comes great challenges, which we may or may not see unfold as the Gala proceeds.
As for this event itself, the Hellfire Gala already seems different in vibe and tone than its predecessor. While X of Swords was fairly linear in plot, I’m getting the impression that the Hellfire Gala will be less straightforward of an event—figuratively and literally—with the central gathering serving as a backdrop for each of its individual titles. For the first time in a very long while, every mutant of Krakoa will be in the same place at the same time … what could go wrong? (We actually do know what could go wrong already, namely a murder that will kick off The Trial of Magneto in August. But let’s cross that bridge when we get there.)
Enough preamble. Let’s get to the Gala!
We’re kicking things off this week with Hellions #12, Marauders #21, and X-Force #20.
Emma Frost prepares for the start of the Hellfire Gala, which she will be hosting. Distinguished guests (including the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and various political leaders) arrive on Krakoa and are given individual boutonnieres of Krakoan flowers upon entry. Kid Omega is reporting back to X-Force as guests arrive at the Gala. He comes across Iron Man, who refuses to wear his flower because of the security risk it poses to his vast knowledge of classified intel.
X-Force hangs back and surveys the event from a control room as the party proceeds. Emma interrupts a tense exchange between Captain American and Doctor Doom, wherein the latter scoffs at the unfolding Gala and accuses mutants of “conquering” Earth. A representative of the Shi’ar Empire interjects and requests to make some sort of exchange with Krakoa, which Emma does not recall arranging but sends her brother Christian off to deal with.
Most of the Hellions are not invited to the Hellfire Gala because of too much murder and psychopathy. Nevertheless, the rejects among them gatecrash the event and mingle with the partyfolk. A security notice establishes that the Cuckoos are running security on the event (“If you see something, think something”). Polaris overhears a conversation between Magneto and Havok, in which the latter tries to (unsuccessfully) argue for the deceased Madelyne Pryor’s resurrection (interesting). Aurora and Daken make their public debut as a couple, which enrages her ex-boyfriend Wild Child, prompting him to start a fight, which escalates to the point that they get kicked out of the Gala.
Wolverine watches as the Shi’ar make their exchange with Krakoa: a load of logic diamonds used for resurrections. Domino finds a group of ambassadors from Terra Verde, whom she feels are acting suspiciously. Sage is disheartened to miss out on the action but accepts her job on the control team. Sebastian Shaw also overhears an ominous conversation between a few Russian and British dignitaries regarding some “news” they wish to share with the world.
Wolverine finds an unexpected intruder on the premises: Deadpool. The latter insists he’s a mutant and therefore is allowed at the Gala, but Wolverine isn’t convinced and they fight it out with backup from Domino.
Beast communes telepathically with Xavier, who affirms that a recent operation in Terra Verde has left the small nation a reliable “banana republic” and “docile garden” that he is actively “landscaping” by leaving plantlike monitoring devices on various party guests. Sage disagrees with his methods, but a notice outlines why Beast thinks he’s justified in infiltrating them. Emma telepathically signals a message to the Hellfire Inner Circle to meet with her privately before the end of the night. She then finds Sage in the control room and notifies her that she’s aware of Beast’s Terra Verde plan, which could jeopardize the evening and put Krakoa at risk if anybody finds out about it. Emma demands Sage decommission the spying effort, but the latter is unable to do so when she learns that the network has been hacked.
In a flash-forward, we’re shown the end of the evening, in which an unknown revelation has world leaders reeling. Captain America tells Cyclops they solved “one big problem” but may have caused “an even bigger mess” because of it.
EVENT IN REVIEW
So much for a simple gathering, huh? In these first issues of the Hellfire Gala, we’re already getting a lot of storylines to follow. Emma hosting. X-Force surveying. Political intrigue. And these are just the ones I felt most worthy of a mention. We see a lot of characters throughout, but some will likely be less crucial to the plot moving forward than others. Emma gets a lot of focus, for example, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of Nightcrawler, who doesn’t even make an appearance. But what I’m very curious about right now is what could have possibly happened before the flash-forward that got everybody so worked up. Are we going to have to wait a long time for answers, or will we get them next week? I’m not sure, but it’s a clever way to give the Gala a plot-centric hook where it might have been lacking one. A lot can happen in one evening, and like I foreshadowed earlier, we’re due for a murder…
Of these three issues, I enjoyed Hellions the most. I’m just a big fan of that series in general, and it doesn’t get too caught up in the overall event, so it feels like a normal issue of Hellions that also happens to be a tie-in. Marauders and X-Force are definitely more entwined with the plot developments than Hellions, but I think I enjoyed the former more than the latter on that front (I’m also just generally more into Marauders than X-Force anyway, which might have something to do with it). But, overall, I’m interested to see how the titles inform each other as the Gala proceeds through overlapping and diverging perspectives on the same material.
You can’t prepare a best dressed list without mentioning Emma Frost, and she more than delivers in looks (looks plural, because obviously Emma has a few outfit changes). The entire Inner Circle is bringing their A-Game on that front, though I particularly enjoy Xavier serving pope realness with his white and gold ensemble. And Colossus … goddamn, that’s a real daddy. Also, check out Pyro’s Orville Peck-adjecent frilly number.
I’m unfortunately putting my boy Iceman in the worst dressed category—not because he’s wearing an icy dress thing, but because I’m not sure it suits him, and I don’t especially love how it looks. I’m sure it could be justified in-universe as an exercise for him to embrace his queerness, which he’s famously avoided doing for most of his life, but I don’t know. I’ve seen a few fan designs of his Gala look that are more along the lines of a snazzy tuxedo–which feels more in-character for him and his journey. I’m also going to put every non-mutant in the worst dressed because of how boring and unspectacular they look. How are you going to be Captain America and just show up in your usual stars and stripes uniform? But with that being said, I’m sure it’s entirely symbolic of the mutant-metaphor-as-LGBTQ-rights angle. The mutants are peacocking and embracing their identity through extravagant looks, while the rest of the world—heterosexual society—are buttoned up and plain.
Next week, we dig deeper into Gala intrigue with X-Men #21 and Excalibur #21.
Hellfire Gala: Week One
- Writers: Zeb Wells (Hellions), Gerry Duggan (Marauders), Benjamin Percy (X-Force)
- Artists: Steven Segovia (Hellions), Matteo Lolli (Marauders), Joshua Cassara (X-Force)
- Color Artists: David Curiel (Hellions), Edgar Delgado (Marauders), Guru eFX (X-Force)
- Letterers: Ariana Maher (Hellions), Cory Petit (Marauders), Joe Caramagna (X-Force)
- Cover Artists: Steven Segovia (Hellions), Russell Dauterman (Marauders), Joshua Cassara (X-Force)
- Editors: Mark Basso (Hellions and X-Force), Jordan D. White (Marauders)
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment