Hello from your Hellions pinch-hitter! This was not a title I had previously been reading (sorry to Alex Summers fans) but I’m pleased I nabbed this — despite being made up of characters I’d previously felt pretty neutral about, I’m 100% invested now.
Zeb Wells (writer), Stephen Segovia (artist), David Curiel (colorist), VC’s Ariana Maher (letterer & production)
January 6th, 2021
So! Issue #8 picks up right where #7 left off — the team continues their quest to find Nanny’s ship so she can build a new suit for Orphan-Maker, whose resurrection has been suspended because his power is so volatile that even Xavier described it as a “curse.”
Seems like a simple enough task, even with the tension bubbling within the team regarding their most recent deaths, but I ended up as distraught as Alex at the end of the book! (Spoilers here).
We left our team facing Cameron Hodge (this guy again?) and an army of smiling robots after breaking into The Right’s stronghold. The team splits up, with the newly resurrected (and mysteriously augmented) Nanny and Wild Child off to find her ship and the rest of the team ready to take down the “smileys” (well, Empath runs away).
The robots turn out to be somewhat autonomous but ultimately controlled by Hodge via their link to the “Hodgemind,” but they appear to be right on the cusp of breaking free from that control — we see some robots discussing whether Hodge is actually corrupted code, and they seem confused by the orders to “kill mutant scum,” finding the genetic difference between human and mutant to be arbitrary.
Stephen Segovia continues to favor page-width horizontal panels, which lend themselves to both robot fights and allows for half-page dramatic features. It creates a nice, rhythmic pacing for both the action and Zeb Wells’ dialogue. While this issue is still snappy, it feels heavier than previous issues, more jaded; tough to do with a team that’s nothing but jaded. Segovia also uses the wide frame to create emphatic character beats by dropping out the background to stark white. The play between that and dramatic almost-full page shots framed in by horizontal panels keep the pages interesting, despite the preponderance of brown and orange in David Curiel’s color palate.
As Hodge spirals, he can’t stop pontificating with religious fervor referencing the sacred code that saved him — i.e. his resurrection at the hand of the transmode virus. His link to the virus, and his history with the Phalanx, seems particularly notable now that Warlock is back (sorry, this is definitely gonna be my fixation). And it’s not difficult to see the parallelism between his speech about the Smileys being simultaneously his slaves and his children to the way the Hellions are being manipulated by Sinister.
Hellions is a title actively working to pokes at the ethical dilemmas wrapped around Krakoa like vines — from giving power to Sinister to not resurrecting Madelyne Pryor — and it now pulls in the ultimate edict from Dr. Moira MacTaggert’s many lives. “No AI may flourish under our watch,” Kwannon tells John Greycrow as she ends the nascent Smiley race. The Hesiod Protocol — that AIs can never become self-replicating — might protect mutants in the future, but Alex Summers is stuck witnessing the cruel end to robots who had learned that mutants were not simply near-human, but friends. To him, they could have been a new and better future. While blowing shit up has given some “therapeutic benefit” to a few of the Hellions, their missions seem to take and take from Havok.
Wells manages to make the destruction of these robots is as humorous as it is horrifying, but the horror is what sticks. And he manages to make the end reveal feel the same, a twist in your gut. I can’t wait to read the next one and watch all these threads slowly weave together.