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Mar 26

Hellions #1 annotations

Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

HELLIONS. The original Hellions were Emma Frost’s trainees when she was the White Queen of the Hellfire Club – the New Mutants’ opposite numbers, basically. Most of them were killed in 1991, though they’ve presumably been revived now. The name has been reused several times before. Emplate had a team in Generation X who were called Hellions in solicitations; a version led by King Bedlam showed up in late 90s X-Force; a squad at the X-Men’s school took the name in New X-Men in 2004; and Kade Kilgore’s version of the Hellfire Club had its own Hellions in Wolverine and the X-Men. This team… has no particular connection with any of the above.

This is the first Hellions series, though the New X-Men version had their own miniseries in 2005 (called New X-Men: Hellions).

COVER / PAGE 1. The team.

PAGE 2. Epigraph, attributed to Nightcrawler. Essentially he’s saying that an attempted utopia (like Krakoa) has to find something to do with the bad guys.

PAGES 3-7. The X-Men take down the Hellfire Cult, and Havok maims some of them.

Havok seems to be briefly possessed when he attacks the Cult members, and has no memory of it afterwards.

The X-Men on the mission (as you almost certainly know) are Siryn, Wolverine, Rockslide, Havok and Nightcrawler.

The Hellfire Cult. Anti-mutant thugs from the Fraction/Brubaker run, circa Uncanny X-Men #500. It’s not flagged here, but in the original story they were managed (i.e., manipulated) by Empath. Presumably they were used here because of that link, because otherwise they’re extremely obscure. On the other hand, that story portrays Empath as a self-loathing submissive to the Red Queen, which is quite different from his depiction in this story.

The mutant massacre is the slaughter of the Morlocks by Mr Sinister’s Marauders in the 1980s crossover of the same name. It’s worth mentioning here because Sinister and Scalphunter (of the Marauders) both figure into the story.

PAGES 8-9. Recap page and credits. The story is “Let Them be Snakes” by Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia and David Curiel. The small print reads “Bad news – Hellions – Best of the worst.”

PAGES 10-11. The Quiet Council begin their discussion of what to do with Havok, Wild Child, Nanny, Orphan-Maker, Scalphunter and Empath.

We’ve repeatedly been told that all mutants are welcome on Krakoa, even the lunatic villains. Apocalypse and Sinister are on the Quiet Council, and plenty of regular terrorists or pro-mutant extremists have been shown living happily enough on Krakoa. These characters have apparently been selected as too unstable to integrate into Krakoan society, and/or in need of punishment. It’s kind of a Krakoan Suicide Squad.

We’ll introduce the various characters as we get to them.

PAGES 12-13. Empath makes the other Hellions fight each other for his amusement.

Empath was always presented as by far the most sociopathic of the original Hellions, with his creepy emotion-manipulating powers. Several of the original Hellions have reasonably obvious counterparts on the New Mutants; Empath is Karma. He did have something of a redemption arc later on, where he falls in love with Magma. That storyline involved the retcon that tried to get rid of Nova Roma, however, and when the retcon was reversed, the story blamed Empath for the whole mess – implying that he was faking all the time. The other original Hellions seen here are:

  • Jetstream, the Hellions’ version of Cannonball. His very American dialogue here is a bit out of character (he’s meant to be Moroccan). It’s the first time we’ve seen him since he was resurrected on Krakoa. His (underexplored) back story involved his powers tearing his body apart, and the Hellfire Club turning him into a cyborg in order to fix the problem, earning his loyalty. Presumably he isn’t a cyborg any more.
  • Catseye, the cat girl, is the Hellions’ version of Wolfsbane. She’s traditionally the nice one.
  • Tarot, the redhead, is the Hellions’ version of Mirage, though she conjures up specifically images from tarot cards.
  • Roulette, the blonde, has luck powers; she’s less obviously tied to any of the New Mutants.

The two characters who arrive to break up the fight, if you don’t know, are Glob Herman and Armor.

PAGE 14. Data page on Empath. It’s not clear who’s writing this, though it doesn’t read like Sinister. The basic argument is that because Empath has had the power to control emotions from a very young age, he has never experienced any negative emotional feedback, and so his powers have prevented him from developing normal. In other words, the experience of having these powers has corrupted him and made him a psychopath.

The obvious objection to this reasoning is that the same could also surely apply to any character with psychic powers, and very few of them are like Empath. That’s presumably why we’re told that Empath’s powers emerged at an unusually young age. Note, also, that Empath had no effective control over Emma Frost, who kept him in check to some degree when working with the other original Hellions; Empath certainly wasn’t above interfering with his own teammates, but he didn’t do it incessantly. So you can certainly debate whether this analysis is correct.

PAGES 15-17. Orphan-Maker flies into a rage after being separated from Nanny.

These two weirdos were recurring villains in 1980s X-Factor. Nanny is a mutant scientist who discovered that she was actually working on cyborg technology for the Right. She tried to stop them, got caught, and was turned into the little egg-like cyborg you see here.

This experience drove Nanny completely insane, and she embarked on a scheme to abduct mutant children, kill their parents, and raise them herself. The Orphan-Maker is her prize child, Peter, who she apparently rescued from Mr Sinister. It’s always been unclear whether Peter is an adult with the mind of a child, or a child inside adult-sized armour. There was an implication that his mutant powers were very dangerous indeed and that the armour was designed to arrest his physical development and stop his powers from manifesting.

Nanny’s mutant power seems to be a low-level psychic power to infantilise people; Peter’s powers remain a mystery, if he even has any yet. They’ve rarely been used in recent years, but they were last seen quite recently, in War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1.

PAGES 18-19. Wild Child turns out to be off his medication.

Wild Child was originally an Alpha Flight villain, and he’s been written in wildly inconsistent ways over the years. Mostly he was a sort of mini Sabretooth. His back story involves him being experimented on by the Secret Empire, which is meant to be the reason for his lack of self control. There are also phases where he was more stable and calling himself Wildheart. He was last seen in Deadpool v Gambit #2 in 2016.

PAGES 20-21. The Morlocks attack Scalphunter.

Scalphunter was a member of the Marauders who wiped out most of the Morlocks in the mutant massacre. Unlike most of the Marauders, Scalphunter has a back story, albeit a sketchy one, which involves him having fought in World War II and survived to the present day through his healing powers. He also has some sort of intuitive power to assemble weapons. There have been occasional attempts to hint at him as more redeemable than the other Marauders.

The Morlocks who confront him are (left to right):

  • Erg, the guy with an eyepatch, who was first introduced in Power Pack. He’s one of those long-running recognisable characters who’s never really done very much.
  • Callisto, leader of the Morlocks and a cast member of Marauders.
  • Cybelle, a one-off character who was among the first Morlocks to die in the Mutant Massacre crossover. (She’s the first one to appear, and she’s recognisable by her jewellery.) Evidently she’s been resurrected.
  • Tommy, another one-off character killed in the Mutant Massacre. She’s the multi-coloured one. She too has been resurrected.
  • Piper, the guy in the hat. He can control alligators by playing his pipe, and he died in the Massacre too.
  • Masque, in the shapeless gown. This isn’t what Masque was wearing in Marauders but it’s what he wore at the time of the Massacre.

As we’ll see in the next scene, Scalphunter gets the blame for this attack, but he’s actually just defending himself. He doesn’t attempt to protest his innocence either, though, and there’s a sense that he thinks he deserves it.

PAGES 22-25. Sinister pitches his team.

“The Pit.” Presumably the fate suffered by Sabretooth in House of X #6 – supposedly suspended animation. Cyclops makes clear that he wouldn’t accept this for Havok, which is the closest we’ve ever seen him come to rejecting a decision of the Krakoan authorities.

Sinister’s pitch appeals to the Council’s mutant nationalism. These people are dangerous lunatics, yes, but they’re dangerous because of their mutant powers. And since mutant powers are wonderful and to be celebrated, it must follow that the solution is simply to find the right outlet for these people to be who they are. “If that is how they best express their gifts, who are we to stop them?”

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that this is nonsense. It’s arguably true of Empath. But Wild Child’s mental state is tied up with experimentation by the Secret Empire. Scalphunter’s powers are fairly innocuous as far as they go. Havok is too powerful to blast other humans directly without causing them serious injury, but he’s always worked around that by attacking people indirectly instead. Nanny’s powers are minor and her mental state is the result of torture. And Orphan-Maker’s mutant powers have never even emerged.

PAGE 26. Data page. Somebody provides their second opinion on the Hellions issue. We’re not told who it is, but it might be Moira. Whoever it is, they endorse the plan for somewhat different reasons: if the team is kept to missions where they can’t harm anyone else, maybe putting all the madmen together with help them collectively recover. It’s, er, a theory.

PAGES 27-32. Sinister despatches the Hellions, led by Kwannon, to destroy his old clone farm and deal with the rest of the original Marauders.

Kwannon comes to us from Fallen Angels, where she was already working with Mr Sinister.

The Essex State Home for Foundlings is the orphanage where Cyclops and (for a much shorter time) Havok lived as children. Sinister eventually turned out to be secretly running the orphanage, linked to his former obsession with their family bloodline.

“If this is all about getting your hands on my Peter…” As noted, Peter’s back story does involve Sinister expressing an interest him in the past – though he’s shown no real interest in him since.

The original Marauders are the six people seen in the green screens on page 32. In the left column are Riptide, Prism and Arclight; on the right, Scrambler, Harpoon and Blockbuster. Sinister used to keep cloning replacements for these guys, in a forerunner of the current Krakoan resurrections.

PAGES 33-35. The Goblin Queen torments the Marauders.

The Goblin Queen is Madelyne Pryor – Sinister’s clone of Jean Grey – as she appeared after making her deal with the demon N’Astirh during the 80s Inferno crossover. Note that this isn’t the Goblin Queen from another dimension who appeared in X-Men: Blue (she had horns). This appears to be the original Madelyne Pryor, or at least the version of her that appeared in the 90s (who may have been a copy created by Nate Grey). She was last seen in the Brian Wood X-Men run. We’ve had several references to Inferno in other Hickman-era stories.

PAGES 36-37. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: GOBLIN QUEEN.

Bring on the comments

  1. Andrew says:

    It’s funny you mention the Brubaker/Fraction run. The very late 2000s/Early 2010s strikes me as a very, very strange time for the X-books in that Messiah CompleX looked like the start of finally sorting out the M-Day stuff, then Fraction’s run was full of really odd stuff and strange things that didn’t go anywhere particularly before ultimately Second Coming ended up as an anticlimax.

    Rereading it, it’s clear that a massive amount of it was treading water and that awful, awful Greg Land art where everyone has the creepy dead rictus smiles.

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    Paul> Havok seems to be briefly possessed when he attacks the Cult members, and has no memory of it afterwards.

    The suggestion in interviews is that`the patch Frost did in X-Men Blue, based on Polaris’ memories, to reverse his inversion is failing, and that was Axis Havok re-emerging when he was injured.

  3. Rob says:

    Wasn’t the 90s Madelyne Pryor meant to be a Jean Grey from alternate reality, as revealed in the Warren Ellis run at the end of X-Man?

  4. Nas Who says:

    It’s probably worth noting that the Red Queen who controlled Empath and so also the Hellfire Cult was none other than Madelyn Pryor. Although that version was some kind of demonic resurrection of the original, I think.

    Madelyn who at that point tried to resurrect Kwannon in her original body, and who has a history with twisting Havok’s mind.

    Could it all be linked? Seems likely.

  5. Nas Who says:

    Also, that data page you suspect is by Moira is almost certainly by Kwannon. Not only does it serve as her introduction in this issue, but it’s unlikely Moira would refer to losing a friend on the moon, since Cyclops has no idea she’s even alive.

  6. Michael says:

    This issue made me happy for a few reasons.
    First, of course, is the explicit reveal that the original Hellions are back. I always loved them back in the early days, and the senseless slaughter of the team back in Uncanny 281-282 was a low-point of the era for me (and a reason I started writing fanfic back in my high school/college days.) So just having them back is a satisfying side-effect of the Krakoa concept.

    Second, I’m thrilled that we’re seeing the Morlocks vs Marauders conflict, given the legitimate beef the Morlocks have with the people who murdered them. Tommy, the rainbow-haired one, was pretty much one of the very first casualties of the Massacre, having been used to lead the Marauders back to the Alley (before the Gambit retcon). (An odd bit of trivia: she traveled with a Hellfire Club goon/boyfriend who also got killed off. I’d love to know their backstory together…)

    So even though we don’t get a full throwdown pictured here, I’m glad we’re picking up on threads like this. I can only imagine that Callisto had some say in fast-tracking the resurrection of at least the more prominent victims of the Morlocks from the Massacre, even as Emma clearly fast-tracked the resurrection of her original class of Hellions.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this series develops with the weird cast they’ve lined up. I’d love for it to be long-running as it cycled other mutant misfits in and out, much like early Suicide Squad always brought in a few ringers to shake up the dynamic created by the more stable members of the team.

  7. Chris V says:

    I haven’t read this issue, it’ll be a while before I do, so this may be completely wrong.
    However, Sinister’s breeding pens from Powers of X were referred to as “The Pits”.
    Could that be the reference to The Pit, rather than where they sent Sabretooth?

  8. Ben says:

    Not really a bad comic, but not really anything to keep me hooked either.

    And oh God, what a cast of Morts as the heroes and villains.

    Characters like Nanny and Madeline Pryor deserve to be stuck in the back of the bin.

    I still can’t tell how much the Quiet Council is understood by the writers to be shockingly evil.

    My biggest issue- Havok is set to be thrown into a hell pit without trial for maiming humans. Something we’ve seen the other X-Men do in every book but maybe New Mutants.

  9. Allan M says:

    Minor point, but Nanny and Orphan-Maker were trying to pre-emptively kidnap the mutant babies that the Right were handing over to Nast’irh during Inferno. Who was in league with the Goblin Queen. So Nanny might well have a grudge against Madelyne (depending on how much she knows about what actually happened in Inferno).

  10. YLu says:

    At one point, wasn’t Scalphunter’s only power super-memory, enabling him to remember perfectly where every single one of the hundreds of parts and doohickey on his suit was? Or am I confusing him with some other minor character?

    In any case I think I like that concept better than the generic healing factor (though maybe writers have done interesting things with his longevity. I haven’t read those stories.)

  11. YLu says:

    At one point, wasn’t Scalphunter’s only power super-memory, enabling him to recall perfectly where every part and doohickey on his suit was? Or am I confusing him with some other minor character?

    In any case, I think I like that concept more than the generic healing factor (though maybe writers have done interesting things with his longevity. I haven’t read those stories.)

    Also, a Native American named “Scalphunter”? That honestly strikes me as far worse than that recent New Warriors Snowflake thing.

  12. Chris V says:

    There was also the DC Native American western character named Scalphunter.

  13. YLu says:

    DC’s Scalphunter is actually a white dude raised by Native Americans. Whether that makes it better or worse…

  14. Chris V says:

    I’m pretty sure he had a white mother and Native father, but I might be misremembering.

    Part of his back-story was that he didn’t belong in either world. Natives disliked him for being half-white, while white people disliked him for being half-Native.
    When he went to live in the white person’s world, they called him Scalphunter to mock him.
    Then, he took on that name as his own to take the power away from his mockers.

  15. Chris V says:

    No, I’m wrong, YLu. You’re right.
    He just faced bigotry from both cultures due to being a white boy raised in Kiowa culture.

  16. Gary H says:

    I will always be Team Maddie so happy to see her back, and I hope this leads to her becoming a regular cast member. I would be very surprised if the Havok / Maddie relationship doesn’t get revisited.

  17. wwk5d says:

    “though they’ve presumably been revived now”

    …which we saw confirmed, in this issue.

    I was hoping to like this, but…was kind of underwhelmed. Some of the characters really felt “off”, though I am interested to see what they will do with Scalphunter.

    And the reasons for punishing Havoc made no sense when you have Kitty phasing solid objects into people or Gorgon slicing off people’s limbs. It felt so forced trying to get Havoc included in this group.

    I guess which version of Maddie this is, since as others have mentioned there have been quite a few versions of her. But I guess with Havoc and Sinister as main characters, it’ll be the original recipe version?

  18. Thom H. says:

    The difference with Havok seemed to be that he wasn’t going to stop at maiming. His intent was to kill at least one of the humans until he was physically stopped by Wolverine. So he was dangerously close to stepping over the acceptable line.

    Of course, amputating limbs willy-nilly — or phasing objects into them as Kate does — is also highly dangerous and could lead to death. But the intent seems to be different in those cases.

  19. Evilgus says:

    I’m still disliking the front and centre prominence of Kwannon-as-Psylocke. So much of the character beats still rely on us assuming she has the same murder lust as pre-HOX Betsy-Psylocke, for it to make a lick of sense. I’d be more charitable if Kwannon was a distinct character. Or, if they just explicitly said, Kwannon and Betsy are still a bit of both, only in two bodies. There, easily done. And then have them mind merge or whatever when the commercial market decides which character is more viable (let’s face it, probably ninja thong version Psylocke.)

    Otherwise this new Hellions is vaguely intriguing – fun that they’ve thrown Havok in there. Still needs the Quiet Council to tie themselves in knots to justify having murderers around. These characters gave to be redeemable in some way, to have a justified arc. Or will they just become Sinister’s stooges for whatever civil war we get on Krakoa?

  20. Chris says:

    How long has Mr Sinister talked like this?

  21. Chris V says:

    When Mystique refused to kill the scientist working on the Nimrod project, Xavier said she was betraying Krakoa.
    Mystique then referenced the “murder no human” law.
    At which point Xavier responded, “That doesn’t apply to them.”
    Which gives the idea that those involved with post-humanity are not protected by the laws of Krakoa.

  22. ASV says:

    Sinister’s current voice is a Gillen affectation, as I recall. Not sure when Exodus changed to match.

  23. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Gillen made Sinister a lot more… extra… but in my mind it was Hickman who went full camp (starting back in Secret Wars, where a version of Sinister had a surprising amount of screen time).

  24. sagatwarrior says:

    The whole change in tone for Sinister happened around the time he went all Victorian English and he had several hundreds male clones of himself running around as if they were a hive mind (yet oddly with distinct voices).

    While this seem to be odd group of misfits, I am intrigued to see if they will get around to explaining who Nanny and the Orphan Maker are. They have been bouncing around the Marvel Universe for nearly 40 years without any explanation ( except for their vague powers).

  25. Christian says:

    Nanny was given an origin story in one of her early X-Factor appearances.
    It wasn’t a very good origin story.

  26. Psylocke says:

    @Evilgus, it’s implied that Kwannon and Betsy still do share some sort of psychic connection. Kwannon says something like that she can still feel Betsy psionically. Kwannon also a witness when Betsy was in her body— this is a retcon, of course, but IMO a good one, as it makes for potential in storytelling.

    Kwannon’s also a lifelong assassin, so while she may not have a murder lust, fighting is still mostly what she has always known.

    I personally think the split back into two people was the best thing to happen to Betsy. Both Betsy and Kwannon are my favorites now.

  27. Thomas says:

    As Gary H mentioned it’s probably worth noting that Havok was enthralled as Madelyn’s henchman during inferno after months of flirtation.

  28. Gary H says:

    More than flirtation. They were lovers after a Silvestri scene where she took him to bed in as sexy a seduction scene as the time allowed,

  29. Paul says:

    @sagatwarrior: Nanny’s origin story is in X-Factor #40 (1989). It doesn’t give her real name but otherwise it’s fairly comprehensive. It’s the same issue which establishes that Nanny rescued Orphan-Maker from Sinister, who “would have had him destroyed” because he’s “too potentially dangerous, too uncontrollable, even to be a Marauder.”

    Admittedly, this is the story related by Nanny and Orphan-Maker themselves, and they’re both stark raving mad. So it wouldn’t be too difficult to retcon it away. But subject to that, Nanny’s history is reasonably well settled. Orphan-Maker’s is a dangling plotline and has been for over thirty years.

  30. sagatwarrior says:

    Thanks for the info, and I will be sure to check it out. Its just my interest is piqued by the inclusion of these psychopaths because they really haven’t had the spotlight on them for a while. However, they might be overdoing it with the release of X-Factor coming out later this year (with their some of their cast being psychopaths). The remit for each book differentiate them, but barely.

  31. Si says:

    I always liked Nanny. An intentionally ridiculous look and personality, while she commits absolutely horrendous acts, all the while thinking she was the good guy.

  32. MasterMahan says:

    ”Krakoan Suicide Squad.”

    Let’s review the Suicide Squad checklist.
    We’ve got the quiet guy with guns, the untrustworthy guy who betrays his own teammates, the noncriminal minder who leads them in the field, the big boss who dispatches them to clean up his own messes, and a pair of wacky creepy comic relief characters. Yep, it’s a full Suicide Squad.

  33. Thom H. says:

    Total Suicide Squad concept. You’ve even got Havok as the unstable hero who could go off the deep end at any moment, a la Rick Flag.

    The big difference is that none of them can actually die. They can be thrown in the pit with Sabretooth, which I suppose is a similar sort of threat.

  34. Flinkman says:

    this cannot be the Madelyne Pryor from the Nate Grey/X-Man series, as that Madelyne wound up being an evil Jean Grey from an alternate reality.

    the question is – is this Madelyne retrieved from some other point in X-History (given the classic costume), or is this the resurrected Madelyne from the Brian Wood ‘Sisterhood’ arc? Remember, Storm let her and Selene simply walk away and so she’s still just been out there…somewhere…waiting for a follow-up story. What’s more interesting about that version is she technically isn’t even a Jean Grey clone anymore since her consciousness was placed in the body of Ana Cortes. There was even a panel showing her dying Ana’s dark hair red to drive this home.

    Personally, I hope it’s the latter.

  35. Chris V says:

    This Krakoan set-up would certainly make the Count Vertigo running plot-line from Ostrander’s Suicide Squad even more interesting.

  36. Loz says:

    I got a certain amount of pleasure from reading this, certainly more so than most of the other grim and gritty Hickman-era attempts, although when the extreme of that is ‘Fallen Angels’ that’s hardly surprising. I’ve always liked Nanny, although perhaps more in theory than in practice, she tends to get written for comic relief when I think she should be treated as a lot darker. Didn’t Orphan-Maker have the Legacy Virus? Did anything come of that before it was cured?

  37. Mr. K says:

    Didn’t Scrambler retire to Florida at the end of DEADPOOL VS. GAMBIT (which also tried to redeem him)? Not sure how he ended back with the other Marauders.

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