The next volume in the Reign of X series of trades focuses on a few key events from last year’s Hellfire Gala, including the announcement of the current X-Men roster that transpired during the crossover. While the entire Hellfire Gala has been collected into a single hardcover, this assortment of issues does provide some coherent table setting before the events of Planet-Size X-Men. Best of all, it gave artists in the X-office ample space to show off their fashion and design chops, celebrating mutant kind in their ascendency.
Within this book we have Marauders #21, X-Force #20, Hellions #12, Excalibur #21, and X-Men #21. Since all these issues are Hellfire Gala tie-ins, there is a coherency to this collection that isn’t found in other volumes. What was so enjoyable about this crossover was the way it sanctioned each book pursuing their own plot and character arcs within the confines of the larger celebration being held by mutantkind. My favorite X-Men runs are those where the team seems to be enjoying themselves, whether it’s an off-issue dedicated to a baseball game or the cast letting their hair down and grabbing a drink. Additionally, events like the Hellfire Gala give space for more cerebral conflicts between characters, all while giving the art team ample room to come up with several stylish outfits for our merry mutants.
Some of the best writing talent at Marvel is present in this volume, and even though these are all ostensibly issues at a party, the individual voice of each creator comes through. Gerry Duggan has plenty of great character exchanges, Zeb Wells lets his outcast crew play around the edges of society, and Jonathan Hickman gets to paint the grand conflict between his godlike figures. The art is strong throughout – from Matteo Lolli’s clean character interactions to the action-minded work of Stephen Segovia, each issue is noteworthy and vibrant. Even though each artist brings their own bravura to their individual books, there is a stylistic coherence thanks to them all being connected by the larger crossover. The Excalibur issue feels the least connected to the larger event, with a bulk of its pages focusing on the ongoing saga in Howard’s run on the book. This title was never my thing, but this is a pretty issue thanks to the masterful art of Marcus To.
While the Reign paperbacks are often light on the supplementals, this collection does include all the design variant covers which showcases the incredible outfits worn by the cast at the Gala. If you have not already picked up the comprehensive hardcover or are simply reading the X-books via these consecutive collections, Reign of X. Vol 12 is a fine mixture of issues, focusing on the X-Men in their moment of triumph with a cocktail in hand.
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