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Oct 4

X-Men: Hellfire Gala

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

“Time Flies When You’re a Mutant”
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: Kris Anka, Russell Dauterman, Matteo Lolli & CF Villa
Colourists: Matt Milla & Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Cory Petit
Design: Tom Muller with Jay Bowen
Associate editor: Lauren Amaro
Senior Editor: Jordan D White

So yeah, this came out ages ago. As in, July. I was thinking at one point that I’d treat it as the first chapter of the next block of Gerry Duggan issues, which is kind of what it is, but it’s also off to the side a bit. So. Let’s just do it now.

The first Hellfire Gala was a line-wide crossover, but an unusual one. It wasn’t unified by a single story; it was all the different books showing what their characters were up to at the same event. There was a big reveal – the terraforming of Mars. There was a secondary reveal – the new X-Men line-up. And there was a cliffhanger – the Scarlet Witch got killed. But it wasn’t a single story, as such. It was different, and it worked quite well.

This time is different. There is no formal crossover, just this one issue. Immortal X-Men ties in to it fairly directly, and for some unfathomable reason Amazing Spider-Man has a direct tie-in that came out several months later. But it’s not a publishing event any more. The big events this time round are the reaction to the general public learning about resurrection (which already happened in X-Men #12) and the announcement of the new X-Men line-up. And a bit with Moira, which is as close as this issue gets to a central plot. But  that’s played mainly as a lead-in to the Spider-Man story.

So it can’t help but feel a little lightweight by comparison to the first one. Perhaps that’s the risk of trying to make this an annual event – you’re inviting comparisons that’ll be tricky to pull off year after year, and you don’t really need to do that. It also kind of lampshades the wonkiness of Marvel time, as the title hints – though that’s probably a minor issue for normal type readers who don’t pay much attention to the timeline.

The issue we get is… less than the sum of its parts. The best bits are assorted character moments – Clea showing up to demand the return of Dr Strange, Firestar feeling uncomfortable because she’s never really been part of the mutant circle, Tony Stark and Reed Richards quietly deciding that they can’t trust the mutants. Scott and Emma finally sharing their respective secrets is a good scene, giving them a bit of their old intimacy. The art tends towards the bland but some of the individual costume designs are impressive – the Spider-Man outfit works, and giving Steve Rogers something colourful but traditional works.

But the larger plot has problems. Is security really so bad that Feilong can just swan in without an invitation? The set-up with Moira and Mary Jane is clunky – the idea is apparently that Moira is communicating through her disembodied hand which is threatening to choke Mary Jane, but how does that dictate what MJ says? The visual is meant to be a threat of violence, but the plot acts like it’s complete control… except when it needs MJ to send a message by tapping in morse. It’s confused and it muddies a neat image.

Then there’s the announcement of the new X-Men team which kind of gets rattled off in a few pages, with people just nominating one another on to the team. There isn’t really the sense of it being a vote, let alone a consensus, and while a bit of groundwork is laid earlier in the issue, it feels abrupt to me. I’m not a huge fan of the public vote gimmick at all, to be honest – I think it undermines the illusion when you let the readers vote on the plot – but the whole sequence feels anticlimactic.

All told, it falls short of the first year – it does what it needs to do to get from A to B, but only occasionally does it really rise above that.

Bring on the comments

  1. GN says:

    I thought this issue was good for what it was, which turned out to be a transition issue between Duggan’s first X-Men arc and his second one.

    The first Gala was a crossover event (probably to sell the concept) but going forward I think these should be treated as X-Men annuals / one-shots since they only affect Duggan’s story (though some other writers did tie-in like Wells with ASM and Gillen with IXM).

    I think Duggan mentioned somewhere that he planned for 3 years of X-Men stories, so I suspect that we have two more Hellfire Galas to come from him.

    Hellfire Gala 2021
    Year 1: X-Men 1-12
    Hellfire Gala 2022
    Year 2: X-Men 13-24 < We are Here
    Hellfire Gala 2023
    Year 3: X-Men 25-36
    Hellfire Gala 2024

    The current iteration of the Krakoa era was said to be ending in mid-2024 (Duggan, Percy, Ewing and Gillen should be wrapping up their stories by then) so we have to wait to see if the next group of X-writer(s) want to continue this idea or not.

    The art was great – Russell Dauterman should come back to do the election sequence every year now that we’ve established a pattern. I liked the Kris Anka sequence as well.

    Also, with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect that some of the extended Tony Stark sequences in this issue – Tony speaking to Feilong, Tony speaking to Reed Richards, Tony speaking to Emma – was stealth set-up for the Iron Man book that Duggan is relaunching after Cantwell’s run ends.

  2. The Other Michael says:

    The way time flows in the Marvel Universe, it can’t have been an annual event. There’s no way an entire year passed for the characters.

    (Except of course in the abstract way in which time passes for all comic book and many cartoon characters, where they can experience multiple seasonal events without a direct acknowledgement of aging or time passing…)

    I wonder if the in universe explanation is that the Hellfire Gala is seasonal. “Join us for our winter celebration…” “You’re invited to our spring fling…”

    But there’s still the feeling of frequent turnover for the X-Men as a result.

  3. GN says:

    To be fair, Duggan was writing his X-Men book (at least in the first year) as if there was a month gap between each issue.

    Hellfire Gala 2021 – June 2022 (Summer Solstice)
    X-Men 1 – July 2021 (few weeks after the Gala)
    X-Men 4 – October 2021 (Halloween issue)
    X-Men 5 – November 2021 (Thanksgiving issue)
    X-Men 6 – December 2021 (Christmas issue)
    X-Men 8 – February 2022 (Valentine’s Day issue)
    X-Men 11+12 – June 2022 (the day before the Gala)
    Hellfire Gala 2022 – June 2022 (Summer Solstice)
    X-Men 13+14 – July 2022 (few days after the Gala)

    Also if you look at Spider-Man, all of the Ben Reilly Beyond stuff + the six month time jump to the Wells run had to have happened between X-Men 1 and HG 2022. So within the story it’s perfectly reasonable to think a year had passed between the Galas.

    I think the way to square this off is to look at the Marvel timeline in two different ways:

    1. Current events happen at the same rate as the story is published (unless the previous issue had cliffhangers).
    2. Events in the past experience a time compression effect as Marvel Time reasserts itself.

    Let’s call this a unique feature of the Marvel universe. I think Al Ewing even had some pseudo-explanation for this phenomenon in Ultimates: the ‘plot gravity’ of the events compresses the timeline without the in-universe characters being aware of it. This compression effect is stronger in present day since more events happen (because more comics are published).

    So for example, Duggan’s X-Men team really did experience a year of time between Galas. However, when they look back at this period of time at some point in the future they will remember it as several weeks instead because the universe had compressed.

  4. YLu says:


    That’s basically how I’ve always viewed Marvel time in my head. The idea of the characters having big, life-imperiling adventures pretty much back-to-back, one right after the other without space between, never feels right to me. Especially for the more grounded characters.

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I remember last year they were saying in interviews that going forward, the Gala won’t be an event but when it happens, other writers will be able to tie into it if they want.

    Fair enough. I suppose there should be something happening at the Gala that the writers would want to do a tie-in. Another team roster shake-up is not that. And neither is ‘more reaction shots on people learning about resurrection’.

    So this oneshot works as a special issue of Duggan’s X-Men and not much else. Even Wells’s tie-in seems more about brigning Spidey and the mutants together before the Dark Web than anything else that’s going on in ASM at the moment. (Though I suppose it does underline the tension between Pete and MJ. But that has been teased several times already).

    Granted, there’s also an X-Men Unlimited story that just wrapped up that’s a tie-in to this Gala, but it has nothing to do with anything that actually happened in the oneshot. To the point where it might just as well be taking place during last year’s Gala (minus the mention of resurrection being public knowledge).

  6. Nu-D says:

    When I was a young reader and really committed to a coherent timeline and continuity, I just inserted X days/weeks/months between any issues which were not immediate continuations from the last, in order to catch up to real time. As YLu said, it never made sense to me that every adventure came straight on the heels of the last. I just figured the boring downtime happened off panel.

    But that was back in the heyday of Marvel continuity, when Al Milgrom was footnoting continuity references and stories published in the same month would reference one another casually (remember the Casket of Ancient Winters?) without explanation other than a “See current issues of Thor.”

    These days I’ve given up on continuity and a coherent timeline. In my mind, each story is a distinct story. It can draw on back story material to make it richer, but it doesn’t need to acknowledge or grapple with every detail of every issue published in the past 50 years. If someone forgets Cyclops’ stint as Erik the Red, well, so what? So long as the story is good I don’t care.

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