MR. SINISTER is missing! Will the Hellions be able to put aside the tensions poised to split the team apart long enough to unravel the mystery? On the upside, at least Sinister found his cape.
Hellions has delivered on the promise of the “Dawn of X” by taking obscure villains and re-contextualizing them not as criminals, but as mutants with powers requiring a more accommodating world. Since this is a superhero book, these characters direct their atypical energies toward high-adrenaline jobs that are low risk for human casualties. While participation on the team is mandatory, the bonds formed between teammates provides a charming amount of levity amidst all of their angst.
The cast has greatly benefited by landing a place on this Zeb Wells written team; Havok grapples with what he represses, Greycrow dabbles in redemption, Empath faces actual consequences for bad behaviour, and each character now has a much higher profile. Yet, the team is also an opportunity that Sinister exploits to further his own insidious agenda. This issue puts Sinister at the mercy of his team that does not want to rescue him from Jason Wyngarde, a particularly tricky mutant for this new status quo. Greycrow, Madelyne Pryor, Empath, Nanny, and Orphan Maker are also tricky mutants that Wells has been well-equipped at writing. Hellions is the book that reminds readers that characters are not off the hook despite this new status quo; Sinister, while a joy to read, is not being redeemed for his heinous crimes here and there are no loyalties to him.
My attention in this issue, like most Hellions issues, goes to Nanny and Orphan Maker. Resurrection from death in Amenth, a world of perpetual war, has given their Cerebro back-ups a harder edge and bigger bite. For Orphan Maker, this means his toddler-like persona housed in a man-sized containment suit has painfully grownup into some more adolescent and pre-pubescent. He goes by “Pete” instead of Peter to spite Nanny, who is generally less nurturing toward him now that she has another orphan secretly in her care. I find it as entertaining as it is upsetting that Nanny and Orphan Maker are experiencing this rift, but my investment in the dynamics between an egg-shaped kidnapper and her weaponized ward speaks volumes about the quality of Wells’ writing and characterizations.
Stephen Segovia’s art has given Hellions a consistent visual identity, and executes comedy and action in equal measure. This issue is no exception as each facial expression and gesture develops the team’s interpersonal relationships. Greycrow and Wild Child, for example, are drawn in conflict with each other that is both intense physically and lighthearted personally; a difficult balance to strike that Segovia always gets perfectly. Every time he draws the team laughing together endears them that much more. Mastermind’s realty warping powers are drawn dynamically and at a pace that sweeps readers into the action that brings them to the end of the issue.
This is the first issue of an arc and it reads as entertainingly as possible while setting up conflict and plot-threads for future issues. There are no real clues or hints as to why Mastermind and Arcade are working together to kidnap Sinister and incapacitate the Hellions, and the impact of the last page is lessoned by solicitations. Like Cameron Hodge in the last two issues, readers wondering what the X-men’s more classic villains are up to will be pleased by Wells’ careful attention to continuity. I am more interested in what plays out in the margins of the main plot: what are the ramifications of Psylocke destroying the Smiley Tech A.I.? What will Havok learn about himself by being on the team? Will Psylocke and Greycrow form a romantic relationship? Will Peter/Pete behave himself? Luckily, issue #9 balances its cast and storylines perfectly.
With Hellions #9, Wells and Segovia guarantee that their cast of oddball mutants have been elevated to break-out stars of the X-Books. As quirky as it is thrilling, as disturbing as it is warm, and as funny as it is punchy, this issue starts a new arc by juggling several on-going plots with a new storyline that brings a classic villain to the Reign of X. With this many balls in the air, the Murderworld circus has officially started!
Hellions #9: Growing Pains
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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