The Hellfire Gala is finally here — and not a moment too soon.
The long-anticipated X-Men summer crossover kicks off in style as Marauders #21 criss-crosses the Gala’s opening moments through the eyes of Emma Frost, hostess extraordinaire.
Emma — and Marvel’s X-Office — have been building to the Gala for the past several months. Every book in the line will intersect with this event, which aims to capture the night from several perspectives.
At some point, the new X-Men team will be announced to the world and, if this issue’s preview language is to be believed, “in one night, everything — everything — will change.”
Writer Gerry Duggan, who had been building toward the Gala in Marauders, does well to keep this issue focused on Emma, Kate Pryde, and other staples of the book like the Homines Verendi.
The intrigue surrounding Krakoa’s enemies gives the comic some urgency even as readers — myself included — might find ourselves more drawn to the beauty (and creativity) of the X-team’s stunning design work. The Gala costumes are breathtaking — especially Russell Dauterman’s designs for Emma and Kate.
Artist Matteo Lolli and colorist Edgar Delgado lean into the maximalist detail of each wide crowd shot. I found myself poring over several panels, trying to figure out who was a Marvel character and who was an actual, real person. (That’s right: Marvel announced that several celebrities, including Eminem and soccer star Megan Rapinoe, will “appear” at the Gala.)
Readers expecting a more general introduction to the Gala will be more thrilled by cameos from in-universe stars like Iron Man, Captain America, and other Avengers who have only rarely interacted with mutants since the start of the Krakoa era.
Duggan strikes the right note with each of these characters, giving them a perspective at once friendly and foreign to the mutant experience.
The X-books have been terrific since Jonathan Hickman’s relaunch at showing how mutants — however heroic and relatable they are — as fundamentally other. Emma captures this notion during a spectacular scene in this issue when she briefly gives the guests a chance to experience what it’s like to have a mutant’s gifts.
The intrigue of Emma’s plans — some of which she apparently does not even remember — and the knowledge that somewhere this all is leading to a “trial of Magneto,” is enough to make the issue worthwhile. But as a celebration of this era of X-Men comics and the start of a (sure to be complicated) bridge between Krakoa and the wider Marvel Universe, it is a superlative first chapter.
Some other, scattered thoughts on the issue:
- The oversized issue contains a reprint of “Out with the Old,” a backup story by Chris Claremont and John Bolton from Classic X-Men #7. Billed as a “tale of Hellfire Gala past,” the story serves more as a primer on Lourdes Chantel, the mutant teleporter and lover of Sebastian Shaw. Her death galvanizes him to take control of the Hellfire Club and, if previews for future Marauders issues are any indication, she is due for a return.
- A checklist at the back of the issue includes a reading order for the crossover and — crucially — three future issues colored in red. X-fans will recall that House of X #2, featuring the retconned backstory of Moira X, was the first “red issue” of the Krakoa era.
- A conversation between Emma and Banshee suggests that the old Generation X partners might be teammates on Marauders following the Gala. Won’t that be fun!
- Among the surprise guests: Delores Ramirez, the CIA agent who crossed paths earlier with Storm earlier in Marauders, and the friendly AIM agent from Giant-Size X-Men: Fantomex.
- Henry Peter Gyrich, who was shown in a previous S.W.O.R.D. issue to be involved with the mutant-hating Orchis Protocol, is at the Gala. I know who my early guess is for who is getting killed before this night ends!
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!