The Hellfire Gala & Comic Book Reviews 6/2

The Hellfire Gala begins this week with a whopping three issues. I hope your fans of Marauders, X-Force, and/or Hellions, because if you’re not… this probably wasn’t a good week. Though, to be honest, I don’t expect many X-fans to be left wanting, even if they’re not fans of any of the series this week. They all have something to offer.

And DC was heavy on Batman this week, so heavy even, that I’m not reviewing it all. With such a big event in X-Men, and some other unnoticed series, it would feel cruel to give Batman so much attention. I’m sure he and his fans will live. We Batman fans are well fed. 

Hellfire Gala #1-3 (Marauders, X-Force, & Hellions), written by Gerry Dugan, Benjamin Percy, and Zeb Wells, drawn by Matteo Lolli, Joshua Cassara, and Stephen Segovia

The cast of Hellions in their Hellfire Gala designs, including Havok, Psylocke, Mister Sinister, Exodus, and Mystique.
At least they look pretty, though I don’t remember Mystique in this issue.

The next big X-Men event has arrived, the Hellfire Gala. 

The last one was X of Swords and already this event has set itself apart in a few big ways. Some how the issues of the Hellfire Gala both connect more and less than the issues X of Swords did.

The three books out this week certainly tie-in to each other more than most. There are events we’re seeing multiple times from multiple points of view. The interaction between Quentin Quire and Tony Stark is a good example. It also allows the writers and artists to take different looks at it, some delving further by adding more bits of dialogue. 

For instance, Gerry Dugan and Matteo Lolli paint the interaction as humorous and brief. Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara draw it out, make their conversation more antagonistic from the both of them. It makes sense, Quentin Quire is a member of X-Force, so he gets more in-depth screen time so to speak in the X-Force issue.

This is the most we see of it, but I expect it to happen continuously throughout the Hellfire Gala. I am intrigued by this story telling device to say the least. I can’t say I’ve read many comic books that take advantage of the format this way. 

Just Something I Noticed

The cast of X-Force in their Hellfire Gala designs, including Wolverine, Sage, Domino, Beast, Kid Omega, and Professor X.
The worst dressed team.

It’s not totally perfect however. This connectivity does make things a bit more confusing. It’s already led to a plot hole between the Marauders issue and the Hellions issue. It’s nothing terribly important or back-breaking, it’s just a matter of Phoebe’s outfit. In Hellions, Psylocke reveals that Quentin doesn’t like Phoebe’s outfit despite, calling it too ‘Nurse Ratched.’ This doesn’t really make much sense since the Five-in-One, also known as the Stepford Cuckoos, are wearing the same amazing outfit, and suddenly at some point Phoebe changed into something different? 

This is nitpicking, not a big deal at all. I only point it out, because it reminds me of the risks of heavy crossovers like this. They can get out of control and far worse than this, though, the current X-Men line have been pretty good about avoiding plot holes. I have faith, but it just bothered me. I think it bothered me more because the Cuckoos look great and Quentin should appreciate that. Like damn, their designs are great.

The Hellfire Gala Can’t Get Me to Like Hellions

The cast of Marauders in their Hellfire Gala designs, including Pyro, Sebastian Shaw, Banshee, Bishop, and Iceman.
Feels like these guys coordinated outfits, but did so badly.

One thing that’s also really different, and interesting is how this book continues the plot lines of the X-titles. X of Swords basically put most plots on hold, though rather fluidly. This one doesn’t do that. 

Marauders was already leading into the Hellfire Gala naturally, but X-Force brought their Terra Firma plot line to the party. Benjamin Percy has building this up since the start of his run, and to see it take form here is a test of skill. This a big undertaking to make this work with the rest of the titles and I commend the risk.

If it continues to be intertwined with the rest of the story as well as in this issue, we should expect to see multiple storylines start and end by the time this event is over. That’s an amazing feat since events with a bigger premise than a party fail to do half as much.

Though I must warn, this means that if you want to read all of Hellfire Gala, but haven’t been reading all the X-titles, it may be a bit confusing. I’ll admit, I don’t care for the Hellions, and still don’t. This issue was humorous, and my favorite parts are when it focused on other X-Men. I don’t know why, Marvel just can’t make me care about the Hellions. It’s indicative of a problem this event may have where some people will find it middling because of the books they never liked.

I’m curious to see how this goes over with other readers. I don’t know if this ends with a consistent or mixed review from the comic book fandom.

Green Lanterns #3, written by Geoffrey Thorne and drawn by Tom Raney & Marco Santucci

The Green Lanterns who play a big part in this series, John Steward, Hal Jordan, Simon Baz, and Guy Gardener.
These guys know how to coordinate outfits, am I right? I’ll see myself out.

So last issue left us with a de-powered Green Lantern Corp and a possibly dead Simon. It had started off so well, with amazing art by Dexter Soy, and then all came crashing down at the end. 

Is this issue better? No, it’s honestly really not. It’s still running with the depowered Green Lantern’s premise, but it’s really not that interesting so far. Plus, the second story focusing on Sojourner Mullein revealed that not even all the lanterns lost power to their rings, just the interesting ones. 

Sojourner, or Jo, is almost a saving grace. She has her own personality and manages to be likable without being stale, which is a godsend. 

John Stewart on the other hand, feels a bit castrated. At first, he felt like himself, overcoming the chemopath with his willpower, but nothing that follows keeps that energy. John grows uncharacteristically complacent, and strangely forgiving of someone who invaded his mind. He even makes little attempt to find the rest of the corps he was supposed to be leading. 

It’s almost as if Geoffrey Thorne is out to prove that despite showing he can write these characters in-character, he doesn’t want to. I don’t even want to get into the way he reverts Simon’s character development by giving him a gun. It’s a clear sign that Thorn did not read Green Lanterns Rebirth, or doesn’t respect it.

To make matters worse, Dexter Soy isn’t drawing this book anymore either. Sure, he had a respectable beefcake-ness to his characters, but he captured the character beautifully. Neither artist is really capturing the Lanterns as they deserve to be drawn. They feel ugly, and I fear what kind of constructs either artist could possibly draw if they had working rings. 

It’s really so disappointing to see Green Lantern take this heel turn in quality. It’s the only ongoing series with representation for a lot if POC characters right now. Milestone’s relaunch can’t come soon enough.

Batman/Catwoman #5, written by Tom King and drawn by Clay Mann

The cast of Batman/Catwoman, Catwoman, Batman, Batwoman, and the Phantom.
Why the hell does Batman have top-billing?!

This issue dragged a bit more than the last few. As much as I like this series, I gotta be honest and say I don’t know where it’s going. It’s giving me a lot of feelings similar to Tom King’s previous maxiseries, Mister Miracle. It’s an emotional journey that’s less worried with the plot and more about the emotional journey. It would be far from an insane prediction to say this series will read better in trade.

King is spending as much time dissecting Catwoman’s character as he did Batman during his run. Batman’s presence is felt, and he has left a clear mark on characters in this book, but it thankfully never feels like he overshadows anyone. He’s a side character, respectfully, and the title shouldn’t have given him top billing. 

This series is about Catwoman, and dissecting her place in the world, and her thoughts on it. 

My favorite part has to be the fight between Catwoman and Harley Quinn. At first, I feared it was a version of Harley who never escaped Joker, but King only wanted us to think that. It’s a neat little emotional twist to have Harley be upset that she didn’t get to kill Joker. It’s an even neater twist to have Catwoman dissect not just one, but two important people in her life. Her opinion on why Batman and Harley Quinn never killed the Joker puts Catwoman’s character into perspective more than either of them. We see that Catwoman doesn’t think very highly of herself, and that’s quite the sad, yet relatable character fact.

This isn’t suddenly a book that non Tom King fans will enjoy though, but fans of Tom King should.

Clay Mann’s art isn’t too shabby as usual, but thankfully, he toned down the over-sexualization and objectification in this issue. We only got one or two shots that I remember of Catwoman in underwear, which might be a sign he’s getting better (but I doubt it). 

I’m more positive than not on this book, but its certainly not the best issue in the series so far. Maybe on an art front I would say it is.

Commanders in Crisis #9, written by Steven Orlando and drawn by Davide Tinto

The villainess of Commanders in Crisis.

I’ve figured out what I do and don’t like about this series. I’ve wanted to review but I couldn’t quite put into words my feelings about it. This series feels like a Saturday morning cartoon in its tone, yet its talking about big ideas beyond what the tone can handle. It’s conflict is a multiverse ending threat, fit for an event, yet nothing has built up to it.

David Tinto’s art is what creates that cartoon feel. The characters are beautiful colorful, and commonly overdone in shape. It would be fitting if it matched what it was talking about. It paints the bad guys as cartoonish villains as they talk about serious, real problems. There’s not enough nuance to Tinto’s depiction of… really anyone. Basically, while I like his art, it doesn’t fit what the series wants to say.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this series. The characters are diverse, bringing in new perspectives from many walks of life. At the same time, I should know them better. This series, since about the third issue, has been moving non-stop. It only takes a break to show off a couple sex scenes. For the most part, characters don’t talk because they have chemistry, but because Orlando needs to exposition and move along the plot. Issue #9 of Commanders in Crisis is the worst offender of this.

This issue spent so much needless time exposition-ing the same ideas previous issues did. The Individuality Act is some vague isolationist wet dream, but we don’t know what it truly does. We don’t even know the consequences either. We just get vague mentions by characters.

On the other hand, we’re constantly told that empathy as an idea is dead, and the multiverse is dying. Those concepts have been beaten over our heads, but the Individuality Act is barely delved into. 

This book has trouble with pacing, and giving each idea and character room to breath. This series as a whole would have been better suited spending more time doing letting the characters do more hero things before diving into world ending stakes. It has so many great ideas and things to say, but it never gives itself a chance to say anything.

If it just slowed down, and learned to show rather than tell, this series and this issue would be great. Right now, it’s sometimes good at best.

Closing Thoughts on the Hellfire Gala & Batman this week

Batman/Catwoman wasn’t the only bat-title, with Batman: The Adventure Continues Season Two starting this week, the mainline title continuing, and Second Son rounding it out. Bat-fans ate well, but I’ve spent a lot of time talking about all three throughout the year and last year. I want to dive a bit deeper than usual into the Hellfire Gala, and give Commanders in Crisis some spotlight.

I still updated my thoughts on Batman/Catwoman, so some Batman. Its for you if you like Tom King, but it doesn’t change in many ways at all.

And don’t get Green Lantern #3.

It’s true, Green Lantern has been the only place outside of Gotham to explore POC characters in detail. It just absolutely sucks that Thorne is doing so little with them. I wish I had nice things to say about DC’s comics like I did last week.

Basically, if you like Batman or X-Men, you had a good week. If not… I hope you enjoyed the comics I did not read this week.

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