The second annual Hellfire Gala has arrived, and with it comes all the drama you’ve come to expect from Marvel’s mutant franchise. It seems like only yesterday fans were fawning over Kris Anka’s outlandish and spectacular designs in anticipation of the X-Men’s first gala. Much like that event, this one-shot delivers some fun reveals, including the debut of a new team, the catalyst for Marvel’s next big event, and a few small moments that may have lasting effects on the greater Marvel universe.
X-Men: Hellfire Gala wastes no time establishing the conflict: Emma Frost learns that her ex Cyclops has announced to the world that mutants are now immortal. While reactions to this reveal vary among the superhero community, this extra-sized one-shot allows for plenty of characters to make their opinions known.
Although this leads to some very nice character dynamics and developments, it causes others to act a shade or two out of character. Last I knew, Emma Frost and Tony Stark had fairly … intimate history, but here they seem like they’ve never met. In contrast, her telepathic confrontation with Cyclops builds off of their shared experience, culminating in a heartfelt exchange that is more compelling than most action sequences–which you won’t find here, by the way.
Writer Gerry Duggan does a fine job juggling the various characters and plot-lines, moving the pieces into place for this summer’s AXE: Judgment Day event. It’s no easy task, and there are a few awkward moments that feel either forced or somewhat random, but the hits far outweigh the misses.
Where the book really shines is with its art–by no fewer than FOUR artists and colorists. That the book has such a cohesive look without any noticeable breaks is a feat unto itself, but every panel on every page just looks so damn good. Artists Kris Anka, Matteo Lolli, CF Villa, and Russell Dauterman (whose depiction of the new X-Men team is simply breathtaking) are at their career-best with this book, thanks in no small part to the coloring by the magnificent Rain Beredo, Frank Martin, Matt Milla, and Matthew Wilson.
Even though the book doesn’t offer much in the way of a self-contained story, it serves as a compelling primer to the X-Men’s current status quo and provides some foreshadowing that feels truly organic. Other moments do seem more editorial-mandated–such as the second-act cliffhanger that promises a Spider-Man/Wolverine team-up–but it all adds to the fun of a giant-sized X-Men comic that may be light on action but delivers plenty of story for your buck.
X-Men: Hellfire Gala
- Story: Garry Duggan
- Art: Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli, CF Villa
- Colors: Rain Beredo, Frank Martin, Matt Milla, Matthew Wilson
- Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
- Design: Tom Muller, Jay Bowen
- Edits: CB Cebulski
- Publisher: Marvel Comics