Review by Ian Keogh
Spoilers in review
A chapter of ‘Hellfire Gala’ featured in every mutant series in 2021. Most can be found in the third volumes of individual collections. However, given the connections, the vast cast and ultimate purpose, there’s a justification for presenting the entire story separately, and so it came to pass. First there was the deluxe Red Carpet hardcover volume, but anyone on a tighter budget waiting for the paperback is ill-served by this minimal offering, stripping out everything bar four chapters and packaging them with a reprint. It’s almost an invitation to save money and head instead to a pirate site and read the stories online.
Since almost all of Earth’s mutant population retreated to Krakoa and declared it a sovereign territory, much has been solved, but new problems have arisen. The most pressing are political alliances forming against mutants, a lack of land to keep up with the demand for floral medicines being supplied to the world, and the arrival from space of Krakoa’s other half, the Arakkii. That’s an island packed with alien mutants ill-inclined to co-operate with humanity, nor the inhabitants of Krakoa. The solution is to create a habitable planet, and it seems that between them the mutants and the Arakkii are able to do just that. Emma Frost has a statement to make, and it’s best made boldly and with a large audience, hence the gala.
There’s real spectacle to the middle section, where a handful of mutants pool their powers to make Mars a habitable planet once again. Gerry Duggan conceives the nuts and bolts, Magneto drawing on favours from all and sundry, while Pepe Larraz (sample art) draws the hell out of it. Perhaps there has been a previous story where a planet has been terraformed by superheroes on such a vast scale, but this is mightily impressive even if not original. There are no villains, or at least none who’re a threat here, just page after page of wonder, and that ought to be the case even knowing what’s happening.
Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti’s final chapter concerns the ramifications of mutants in effect claiming an entire planet for themselves. It fosters further distrust on Earth, while the alien races that liaise with S.W.O.R.D. are distinctly unimpressed, long possessing terraforming technology themselves.
This version of Hellfire Gala is seriously flawed. Much of the verbal jousting that occurs in the opening chapters has more relevance to a plot concerning events on Krakoa running through absent chapters and resolved within them, and much of the finale has greater relevance to what Ewing is building in the S.W.O.R.D. title. It does, though, drop one major revelation, and offer a touching moment between Magneto, major mover of the Hellfire Gala, and Scarlet Witch, otherwise unseen.
This selection closes with Chris Claremont and John Bolton’s 1987 Hellfire Club story. It looked strangely smudgy when originally printed, and there’s been no digital cleansing applied, so Bolton’s impeccable art now looks smudgy and exceptionally bright. It’s Claremont bolstering some stories he wrote a decade previously, and establishing the threat of Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost, and as such is a tidy little tale worth revisiting even without it being picked up in Marauders Vol. 4.
All things considered, it may be the Rolls Royce option, but Hellfire Gala: Red Carpet Edition is more satisfactory overall.