The current line of X-Men books has been hot for the last couple of years, but Hellions has been one of if not the hottest in my opinion, and this new volume not only keeps that streak going, but delivers one of my favorite stories of the HoX/PoX/DoX/RoX era.
Hellions mostly does this by leveraging what’s likely the weirdest cast in comics against the utopic conditions of Krakoa and letting it play out. This volume has our merry band of psychologically unsound mutant misfits fighting a robot army, surviving Murderworld, and crashing the Hellfire Gala, all to expected degrees of success.
My favorite issues are #7 and #8, the robot-focused ones. I’m already a mark for pretty much any story that plays with AI sentience, but this arc is especially notable because it’s one of the first times any book has touched on AI stuff since HoX/PoX established AI as “a discovery, not an invention,” and that they are a direct precursor to mutants losing. Which of course means that the Hellions are commanded to
destroy kill the robots, eliminating them as a threat. As a robot lover myself, this gives me pause, for multiple reasons.
On one hand, AI and mutants are natural evolutionary adversaries, with both attempting to claim dominance over both the other and humans. In that way, it makes me sense for the mutant nation to attack and destroy them, as an act of preservation. At the same time, are these robots not living beings themselves?
What’s the difference between a clone body with a previous game save loaded up and a robot with an AI hivemind? The AI is first demonstrated to be controlled, but are later seen to be peaceful, with the capacity to learn and change. Across two issues, and really only the second, Hellions demonstrates that the only reason the mutants would have to kill the robots is that…well, they’re robots is why.
In some books, this would be an oversight, a reason to pick at the book and expose its lack of depth, but in Hellions it’s completely purposeful, an important thematic beat for both the arc and the series. Through its discussion of mutants and AI in issues #7 and #8, Hellions forces the different perspectives on the topic to the surface, with drama and humor. It emphasizes the incomplete nature of Krakoa and its philosophy in a way that only the best series of the X-line are doing, and launches it near the top.
Hellions isn’t just one of the best X-books because of its, plot though — it has incredible craft as well.
It took some time, but Stephen Segovia and David Curiel have grown on me as an artistic team. Segovia is great at depicting a wide range of emotions, and is especially good at bringing the comedy out of most any situation. Curiel bucks the trend of over-rendering art into muddy, shiny, messes, and emphasizes the “dark” in “dark comedy.” This is a team doing great work, and while I’ve been plenty critical of them before, seeing their work in this volume has won me over.
Equally worthy of praise is letterer Ariana Maher, who provided multiple examples of great lettering in this collection, but one stood out, particularly for the way it enhances and binds the story together.
This speech could have been done in different ways. It could have used caption boxes, enabling it to fit differently across the top panel. The top panel could have been replaced with three or four panels, dividing the speech up between them.
Instead, the team opted to deliver it this way, which tells a very particular story.
The first thing the reader should notice is the long, winding, trail of balloons. My first reaction was “ugh, what an obnoxious chunk of text,” which, of course, was the point. The organization across the two panels is supposed to be annoying, because Cameron Hodge is annoying, and he’s delivering an annoying villainous monologue. The amount of text itself is visual storytelling in a brilliant way!
Along with that, the way that Hodge’s speech starts in another panel plays with time in an interesting way, almost creating the feeling of a camera panning over our heroes in the first panel, with a steady shot in the second. The presentation of the lettering, and really the whole deal of the issue, makes this feel like a Metal Gear Solid cutscene and I love it for it.
I will admit, the latter issues of the collection don’t hit the highs of the opening issues, but in reality, they couldn’t, and the collection as a whole is fantastic. The quality of this got me to go back and buy the first volume in print, and I’m planning on buying the rest of the run in this format, even though I wasn’t planning on it up to now. This is one of the finest comics running. I recommend it highly.
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