The Hellfire Saga Review (Sort of)
By Franco Romualdez
Collecting Wolverine and the X-Men #31-35
WRITTEN BY: Jason Aaron
ARTWORK BY: Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong
COLOR ARTWORK BY: Laura Martin
Comic book storytelling at its finest.
Every so often a series comes around that hits all the right buttons. With every issue, Jason Aaron reminds us that there is a different, more lighthearted side to great storytelling. Wolverine and the X-Men is a book that is simply the best at what it does. The series perfectly capture’s its protagonist’s new lease on life, with the core aspect of the series being how Wolverine’s love for his students and faculty grows as the series progresses. With an embarrassingly deep roster of interesting, compelling, and diverse characters the series is an absolute enjoyment to read.
The series’ latest story arc, the amply named The Hellfire Saga, spectacularly puts an end to the current iteration of the Hellfire Club, who have been a thorn on Logan and his school’s side since the beginning of the series. The arc’s conclusion also adds great plot twists that make it apparent that the comic is still reaching for even greater heights. That’s all I’m going to reveal about the story, since I highly recommend reading the entirety of Wolverine and the X-men from issue #1 onwards. If not for the reasons I have given, but also the one I’m about to give. Instead of the habitual short plot summary followed by a verdict, I will attempt to analyze the importance of stories like The Hellfire Saga, and I will follow my analysis with a final pitch on why Wolverine and the X-Men is a must read.
Stories like The Hellfire Saga are important because they remind us why we all fell in love with comic books in the first place. In a recent interview, Grant Morrison, one of the greatest writers of all time in my opinion (and hopefully yours as well), said something that made me realize that the modern comic landscape is diverging into different sub-categories. Since the Golden Age of comic books each and every era has had a corresponding “theme” that was apparent in the most popular works of the time. For example, the Golden Age of comics saw our heroes go up against the “evil” Nazis and Japs (a certain World War II was going on at the time). Superheroes were in fact originally created as symbols of hope and victory for America’s troops, teens, and children alike. The Silver Age on the other hand saw the emergence of the masked vigilante, and the “Jesus Figure” as the dominant figures of the medium; the mystery and horror books of the past faded into obscurity. The Silver Age introduced us to The Fantastic Four and The Justice League, and super heroism was spreading like wildfire. With the tackling of relevant social issues, The Bronze Age of comics saw the beginning of the evolution of the comic narrative to a more realistic approach. Consequently the Modern Age of comic books saw characters and stories become darker and complex than ever before. This is highlighted by the fact that the other accepted name for the Modern Age is the Dark Age. Currently I think the comic scene is in a transitional stage, but to what exactly?
What was the purpose of the previous paragraph’s brief journey though comic history? Well, it was meant to supplement what Grant Morrison said, which was:
“You just need to buy into these characters and what they are, which is, books. I’m really shocked when people go up to me and are like – this is what Superman would be like if he was real – but he’s never gonna be real, that shit can’t happen. But, he’ real in our heads, and in our heads he represents this, big time stuff. Superman is always gonna be the best we can imagine, the best we can be, the best humanity can think of. Batman is even better because he’s like us. To think if we could go to the gym enough, and if we study some Sherlock Holmes books… We could be like this guy.” (Fatman on Batman ep.44.)
Morrison explains how people have forgotten that comic books were never meant to be a representation of reality. The beauty of comic books is that they show us the lives of impossible people, and take us through impossible circumstances. Through these impossibilities we can somehow understand how good must always prevail over evil. Comic book heroes and their adventures are our modern day myths and legends, and as we know from history, trying to realistically explain mythology never works out well. I’m not saying that realism in comics is wrong, in fact I think it is an amazing use of the art form; the essence of comics should never be “could this happen in real life?” Because no matter how real Batman seems, can anyone really become him? No, we just love thinking that we can. And that is why stories like The Hellfire Saga and series like Wolverine and the X-men are so important. They don’t try to be realistic, and they don’t try to be dark, they simply display the elements that have made comic books the cultural and social phenomenon they are today.
The modern comic landscape is diverging into different sub-categories. There is no dominant thematic theme anymore, but many radically different coexisting ones. Realism, abstraction, comedic, sci-fi, etc; there is no clear-cut mantra that is followed today. That’s why stories like The Hellfire Saga are a must read. Through all the clutter, Wolverine and the X-Men manages to be the best at what it does. What exactly does it do? It combines written word and creative art to deliver a compelling narrative (It’s a comic book people!), and its awesome.
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