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Jan 4

Hellions #13-18

Posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

by Zeb Wells, Rogé Antonio, Steven Segovia & Rain Beredo

We’re entering another season break, making it the perfect time to catch up on reviews. And we start with the X-book that probably had the strongest last six months in terms of what it actually delivered on the page – but it isn’t coming back for another run.

And I’m pretty much fine with that, because this feels like a good ending point for Hellions. Not necessarily an ending point for all the characters, some of whom will doubtless go on to other things. But certainly an ending point for the series, since Hellions has a bunch of inherent tensions in the whole premise. Sinister is a blatant lunatic who the team (or the Quiet Council) are only going to tolerate for so long. Psylocke’s only tolerating all this because she’s being blackmailed to get the back-up copy of her daughter back. None of this can go on for ever. At some point it all has to explode – which is pretty much what happens. Whatever the next logical step is for some of these characters, it isn’t Hellions. So fair enough. Eighteen issues seems the right lifespan for the book.

The early issues of Hellions have some grimdark tendencies which don’t do the series any favours. By this point, though, Wells has got the balance right. There’s a lot of black comedy here, but it’s mostly psychological rather than graphic.

Both Rogé Antonio and Steven Segovia play the book as a relatively straight superhero series (which it isn’t), and colourist Rain Beredo takes a similarly bright tone. It’s a much more effective approach than going gritty, since it means the book can do optimism and comedy, and it takes the edge off potentially ultra-bleak characters like the Locus Vile. Unfortunately the final issue is marred by fill-in art from Zé Carlos which takes up most of the issue – it’s by no means awful but it’s far short of the standards set by the regular artists, and means that a dramatically key scene isn’t what you’d want it to be. At least Segovia does the closing pages, to round out the series.

The premise of Hellions was always a little wonky. Notionally, the Hellions were supposed to be mutants whose powers were in some way predisposed to antisocial behaviour. Quite obviously, the team was no such thing – the whole point of Orphan-Maker, in particular, is that he’s been kept in a state of arrested development to prevent his powers from emerging. Rather, the Hellions are a dumping ground for problem mutants who had to be found a place on Krakoa somewhere, because the alternative would jeopardise the amnesty. Nanny, Orphan-Maker, Empath and Wild Child simply aren’t functional in normal society. Havok is, but he’s been sent there as an unknowing sleeper agent. Psylocke is supposed to be the sensible one who can keep them in line.

And Greycrow… well, Greycrow is there because people wrongly believe him to be an irredeemable maniac based on his involvement in the Mutant Massacre, and he’s sufficiently self-loathing that he won’t argue otherwise. No doubt, if any of the other original Marauders had been around, they’d all have wound up in the Hellions, but the first arc went out of its way to establish that the other Marauders are not around. Hellions has rehabbed Greycrow into an entirely usable character: he’s not exactly heroic, but his defining trait is fierce loyalty to the group.

The outcome of the series is all about whether characters succeed in bonding with their teammates or not. The ones who do get the happy ending and move on to some degree from their respective traumas. Psylocke connects with Greycrow and, while her daughter’s back-up is destroyed, it turns out to be something that frees her from Sinister’s control. Greycrow is a well meaning team player throughout and is rewarded by having someone who accepts him. Wild Child is at least motivated to go back on his medication. On the other half of the team, Nanny and Orphan-Maker never really manage to connect with anyone but each other, and head off to the Pit together – but at least they’re together, which is all Peter ultimately cares about. Nanny, for her part, is undone by ignoring him in favour of a misguided obsession with the Right AI. And as for Empath, he remains ironically unable to form any friendships at all, despite having a power that you’d think was perfectly suited to it. He can see people’s emotions but he can’t truly empathise with them, or at least lacks any understanding of how to act on that information.

Then there’s Havok, who sits somewhere in the middle. Havok persistently rejects his place on the Hellions, and not entirely without reason. But he deliberately keeps his distance from everyone but Psylocke, and never truly becomes part of the group. He coexists with them, at best. His outcome is mixed at best. He gets freed from Emma’s manipulations but never fully understands what’s happened to him; he gets Madelyne back because Emma is trying to purge her guilt, but he doesn’t appreciate that it’s a looming disaster. His insistence on trying to re-create a connection with Madelyne instead of with his teammates is ultimately going to go badly wrong for him, and Hellions doesn’t need to play that out to a conclusion for the point to work.

All of that works for me. There are some lovely bits of pacing and plot twists, too – the slow build to what the Right AI was trying to say is beautifully done, and you can look back over the previous issues and see Nanny trying to get it to say something else. Zeta Team don’t actually get to do all that much despite their lengthy introduction, but I think we see what we need to from them.

The most questionable choices relate to Mr Sinister, who used to be an A-list mega-powered villain, but is now verging on comic relief status. There’s a school of thought that argues that the ultra-high-powered Sinister from early appearances should probably be reinterpreted as some sort of psychic trickery, which might be the way to go given what we’re looking at now. He’s a great villain in many ways – completely indifferent to the supposed purpose of the Hellions project, manipulative, self-absorbed, and successful enough in his schemes to avoid coming across as a delusional loser.  Still, there are times when the book pushes a little too far in playing him for comedy – having him literally muzzled in the last issue seems a bit much, when so much of what he does is justified by “well, he’s on the Quiet Council and we need him for resurrection, so he’s untouchable”.

Mostly he works, though, so that’s a minor issue. Hellions is a very strong series built around some seemingly unpromising characters, and a definite high point of the Krakoan era.

Bring on the comments

  1. The Other Michael says:

    The nice thing about Sinister and his obsession with cloning, and his previous history of death and resurrection, is that it’s easy to write off any Early Installment Weirdness or inconsistencies. The cackling razortoothed villain of the early days? A clone. This bumbling, joking scheme? A clone.

    It’s “that was a Doombot” taken to a whole nother level. They could pull out a new Sinister we’ve never seen before, claim he was the true one all along, and then reveal he was also a clone and the real Sinister died decades ago. Or is in suspended animation. Or is a child.

    I rather prefer this current Sinister to the over-the-top original depiction. He’s more fun. And maybe he’s just trying to deflect attention by convincing everyone he’s a bit of an idiot…

    This was a fun book, but I feel a little cheated that we still haven’t learned just what Peter’s powers are that they can’t be unleashed. Are they really worse than Siena Blaze, who risks igniting the atmosphere every time she uses hers, or Huumus Sapien, who kills people at random when he uses his?

  2. Chris V says:

    I get the feeling that Sinister is playing a game and is acting a certain role.
    He is the archetypal trickster figure right now.

    We know that he knows more than he’s letting anyone realize.
    Xavier and Magneto thought they tricked Sinister, but we know that Sinister has been manipulating events from the beginning.
    Xavier thought he mind-wiped Sinister, but that Sinister was promptly murdered and replaced by another Sinister who secretly knows all about Xavier and Magneto’s secret plan.
    He has had years to play with the DNA samples. There’s no way to know exactly how Sinister might have tampered with the DNA.

    Also, with the Sinister Secrets column, Sinister is the only person who knew about Doug Ramsey using Warlock to spy on all the inhabitants of Krakoa.
    So, Sinister is playing the fool, but is probably the most dangerous mastermind on Krakoa.

  3. Ben Johnston says:

    Great series. I’ve followed Zeb Wells onto the new Amazing Spider-Man run, and it’s been fairly good, though not up to Hellions’ level.

    Re: Sinister, it’s interesting that the X-Men have so many examples of villains who have been drastically reinterpreted from their original presentation. Claremont used the Holocaust survivor angle to make Magneto much more sympathetic, Morrison reworked Emma Frost, Gillen’s version of Sinister appears to have stuck. And of course Greycrow in this series (although he’s a much lower profile example).

    Who would be the highest profile X-villains who are still more or less the same characters as they were in their original appearances? Mystique or Sabretooth, maybe?

    Meanwhile other major Marvel villains like Dr Doom, Red Skull, Doc Ock, Kingpin, and Mandarin (who desperately needs a revamp to be usable in 2021) stay more or less the same, often despite serious attempts by writers to rework them. I suppose that Loki is more likable now, probably due to the MCU’s influence.

  4. Ben Johnston says:

    @The Other Michael

    I wonder if we’re going to be seeing Nanny and Orphan-Maker again at some point to tie up that loose end. I like the idea of his powers being something smaller, like the ability to permanently depower other mutants. That would be highly problematic for Krakoa, and could set up some interesting moral questions.

  5. The Other Michael says:

    I think Mystique has both changed and remained relatively the same, in that she’s a shapeshifting mastermind, but she’s also been fleshed out and humanized, especially with her relationship with Destiny finally confirmed on screen.

    Sabretooth, even though he didn’t start out as an X-villain, is pretty consistently himself.

    I’d also say Stryfe has remained consistently the same over the years.

    But yeah, Magneto, Emma, Juggernaut, even Apocalypse have seen some growth and shifts over the years–Magneto stretching back to the ’80s, Emma to the ’90s, Juggernaut with his antihero phase.

    The Shadow King, taken as a psychic entity of possession and corruption, remains the same even through this weird effort to rehabilitate Farouk.

    When it comes to the other big name villains of the MU… Red Skull is by his very nature going to be a fairly straightforward concept incapable of radical change. Kingpin is the same way–his entire strength and concept has him wielding “real world” power as a businessman, crimelord, and political manipulator. He can’t be changed.

    I’d argue that Doctor Octopus, for all his recent backsliding, has still experienced some lasting growth–two steps forward, one step back.

    When you get down to it, it’s a matter of character concepts and which ones -allow- for growth. Magneto’s drive as a mutant supremacist remains constant even as his efforts to protect, preserve, and ensure mutant survival shift. I think the reason why he’s been allowed to grow is because the process started so long ago under a “definitive” writer like Claremont, as opposed to a less noteworthy or impactful successor.

  6. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    A series I dropped after the first issue, but the X of Swords issues impressed me enough I jumped back in and I’m glad I did.

    Along with X-Factor the only two Krakoan books I’ve unreservedly liked, in large part because the characters feel true and human.

    Sucks that Wells and Williams somehow ended up on the X-office chopping block.

    Orphanmaker should shoot an energy beam at people that doesn’t hurt the target but kills their parents no matter where they are in the universe.

    Ben Johnston- Sabertooth started fictional life as an Iron Fist villain so he’s been heavily retooled.

    Personality wise he swings from dumb brute D lister goon to cunning psychopath major threat.

  7. GN says:

    Ben Johnston > I wonder if we’re going to be seeing Nanny and Orphan-Maker again at some point to tie up that loose end.

    I’m fairly sure that they will make an appearance at some point in Sabretooth, since they are down in the Pit with him. Toad might show up in that book as well.

    Actually, getting deeper into it, when the Sabretooth miniseries was announced a few months ago, the writer Victor LaValle said that the five-issue miniseries will lead into another book that he is writing for the X-Office.

    I think this will be similar to what Si Spurrier is doing – the Way of X miniseries set up Nightcrawler’s dilemma and introduced (or re-introduced) a cast of characters, which leads into the upcoming Legion of X (which is presumably an ongoing), where Nightcrawler leads that cast as a team.

    Similarly, Sabretooth might be about Sabretooth meeting all of the exiled mutants in the Pit of Exile, and once the miniseries is over, they team up in a new ongoing book by Victor LaValle. I speculate that this new book might be called ‘Exiles’, in the tradition of ‘Marauders’ and ‘Hellions’, which used pre-existing X-Men terms in a new context as a book title. In this case, instead of being cross-time exiles, the ‘Exiles’ are mutants from the Pit of Exile.

    The cast: Sabretooth, Nanny, Orphan-Maker, Toad + a few other mutants who get exiled in the Sabretooth miniseries. Could be interesting.

    Here’s how I think the cast members of Hellions will be split up in the ‘Destiny of X’ era:

    Mister Sinister – Immortal X-Men
    Psylocke – Marauders
    Nanny, Orphan-Maker – Sabretooth
    Madelyne Pryor – New Mutants

    Greycrow might make cameo appearances in Marauders as Psylocke’s boyfriend, and similarly Havok might appear in New Mutants with Madelyne Pyror.
    I think Empath and Wild Child’s stories are over (for now).

  8. Taibak says:

    One other thing worth mentioning is that Spurrier also managed to turn Kwannon into a viable character in her own right. This is someone whose defining trait prior to this was simply “Not Betsy”. She was only introduced because Fabian Nicieza didn’t understand Psylocke’s storyline and who, let’s be honest, was probably only brought back because the editors were responding to real-world politics. Getting a workable character out of that is seriously impressive.

  9. Miyamoris says:

    Took me a while to pick this up but really enjoyed it. Would never expect a book to make me enjoy Greycrow and Kwannon so much.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Havok’s role in this – sure the main point was being a sleeper agent, but he comes off as unstable and not only when he’s out of control – he did such a 180° from guilt to excitement when Emma told him Madelyne was coming back that was unsettling for me. And Madelyne rightfully pointing out she’s always just an accessory in the narrative of the Summers men? JUst great stuff all around.

  10. Mark coale says:

    I’d say Doom has certainly had a few babyface turns, but aren’t going to stick in the long run. And look at the Cap C list villains who were rehabilitated under Grueneald, but then flipped back later (Batroc to name one).

    I seem to recall even attempts to at least make the Skull a little less one-dimensional. Maybe JMDM’s Cap?

    But given the big two’s strong progressive mindset/agenda (depending on your feelings on the matter), I can’t imagine anyone trying anything “positive” with the Skull in 2022.

  11. Chris V says:

    DeMatteis’ version of the Red Skull was certainly not any more sympathetic than what came beforehand.
    DeMatteis just fleshed out Red Skull’s back-story to make him all the more pathetic.
    He worked for a Jewish shopkeeper as a young man and was treated kindly by the owner’s daughter. She was the first person he felt ever treated him kindly. So, Schmidt decided to rape and murder her. Instead of regretting his actions, this made him feel happy for the first time in his life.
    He worshipped Hitler and wanted to be like him, but always felt he would be inferior to Hitler.
    His characterization was still an irredeemable Nazi monster.

  12. Mark Coale says:

    Duly noted. I don’t think I’ve read those since they came out.

  13. Michael says:

    @Chris V- Yeah, but DeMatteis did have Steve say he couldn’t hate the Skull after hearing his backstory and he did imply that the Skull felt SOMETHING for Sin, which is why he couldn’t kill her.

  14. Chris V says:

    It wasn’t the Red Skull’s motive though. He told Rogers his backstory hoping they Rogers would be so sickened to hear about Red Skull’s history that the two would fight to the death.
    Red Skull was dying and his dying wish was to go out in a blaze of glory fighting Rogers to the death.
    He felt that Rogers was the only person he could relate to as Rogers was the only other person still fighting World War II.
    So, Rogers was making a point that he had moved on and was tired of fighting wars. He wasn’t the mirror-opposite of the Red Skull any longer.
    It was far more about Captain America than Red Skull.

    I think that was DeMatteis trying to turn Steve Rogers in to Jesus.
    It seemed to be part of his aborted plan for Captain America, which Marvel editorial struck down.
    Steve Rogers was going to give up being Cap saying violence hadn’t solved anything during his career and that he was now a pacifist.
    Someone was going to assassinate Rogers for his anti-war speech and Black Crow was going to replace Rogers as the new Captain America.

    Marvel editorial, understandably, disliked a few of DeMatteis’ decisions and forced DeMatteis to rewrite his script for Captain America #300.
    I believe that Rogers saying he couldn’t hate the Red Skull was simply part of DeMatteis’ plan to turn Rogers in to a pacifist in the next issue.

  15. Dave says:

    What did Morrison do with Emma that wasn’t a continuation from Gen X? The diamond body?

  16. Suzene says:

    Uncanny X-Ben:

    IIRC, Wells wasn’t chopped, he had an offer to do Spider-Man and didn’t want to do two monthly comics in addition to his other writing gigs, so he didn’t put in for another tour with the X-Office. Once his work on Spidey is done with, maybe he’ll be back.

    I’m really hoping we see Williams get another book. Editorial did her a disservice with the last issues of X-Factor and ToM, and frankly, anyone who can get me to go from giving negative fucks about Daken to being 100% in favor of him in a relationship with one of my favorite characters is someone whose work I want to see more of.

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