Hellions is one of those great comics where it’s easy to see talented creators levelling up in real time, and gosh, it’s fascinating.
Rain Beredo (Cover Artist), David Curiel (Color Artist), VC’s Ariana Maher (Letterer), Tom Muller (Design), Stephen Segovia (Artist, Cover Artist), Zeb Wells (Writer)
March 3, 2021
I haven’t been on the regular Hellions beat, obviously, but I have been following the title, because it opened with an arc about a favorite of mine, and otherwise features a delightful cast from one of the best X-Men eras (The Outback Era. Fight me.). It’s a complex and thoughtful book, one that takes the time to highlight and correct some character portrayal issues, such as Greycrow, and one that lets some of the weirder elements of X-Men lore shine—for instance, Nanny and Orphan-Maker. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also made a point of featuring some of my favorite X-Men villains, from the team’s Quiet Council overseer, Mr. Sinister, to arcs featuring Cameron Hodge, and now Arcade. There seems to be a conscious effort here to pick some of the most contemptible villains for this book, and I love every second of it.
I love, too, the strange, psychosexual torment of these characters. It too evokes the days of X-Men yore while still managing to be fresh, telling stories built of modern concepts while still taking time for weird mind control plot devices, sudden and violent power exchanges, and yes, plain old menacingly horny scenery. For all of that, though, it doesn’t read like “Zeb Wells doing Claremont,” it reads like Zeb Wells, a person who knows what he’s doing and has a signature style of his own, while still managing to evoke classic ideas. Even as I’m taking in the absolute bizarreness of this issues scenarios, I feel for these characters, because Wells knows how to make those emotional beats ring true. He’s aided along by Ariana Maher’s letters, and I’ve written about her work before. It’s only improved with time; she has a sense of subtlety and precision, and a knack for placement. It’s superlative work.
Of course, writing is nothing without art in comics. I was discussing Stephen Segovia’s work on a podcast episode recently—he also did the art for that Greg Pak X-Treme X-Men book—and what a delight it is to watch an artist hit new milestones in their art. X-Treme was a fun book for its time, with interesting visual design, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Segovia art of today. His figure work has improved, and he’s paired it with an understanding of dynamism that makes every page of this issue feel exciting. David Curiel, the colorist, only adds to this, filling the book with a kind of moody gloom even at the brightest of times. Good color work isn’t just about skintones, after all, it’s about atmosphere, and Curiel is hitting it out of the park.
Arcade’s plot in this book, the ways he goes about it, are a thrill to read. There are some absolutely gruesome things he does here, including some amateur dentistry that just plain made me shudder. This is a terrifying update to a villain who has been at turns menacing and ridiculous, and I can’t wait to see more.