If you are a big fan of the young Hellfire Club and what they have been up to in WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN then you will definitely enjoy reading this latest issue. The comic starts off in the middle of all the action and the focus is on Wolverine and the fact that this young group of evil kids have "finally caught" his attention. In recent issue the students of the Jean Grey School have been gradually leaving the school and joining the Hellfire Club school.
Writer Jason Aaron does a solid job splitting up the story but keeping things organized. There are moments where we are taken to outer space to see what Hank is up to and see whether he has made any progress in curing Broo's condition, and other scenes where Wolverine has gone off to fight the Hellfire Club students, and yet others featuring the Jean Grey School's current team of professors. The issue is organized and is written in a way that is easy to follow. It also feels as if Aaron not only has the individual voices and personalities of these characters down, but he is able to give this big cast of characters their own time on panel -- everyone gets a chance to speak and readers are caught up with everything that has been happening as of late.
Although the pencils fluctuate between different artists and this might bring you out of the story a little bit, the colors and inks keep everything pretty cohesive. The result is generally an overall pretty issue that has vibrant colors which makes this issue easy to read.
One of the big questions I had whilst reading through the latest issue is, why? Why would the Hellfire Club go to such lengths to bring the young mutant students into their school? Do they hope simply to get Logan's attention? Or are they trying to eradicate these students by bringing them into the fold first? What is the end game for all of these characters? It seems rather strange to go to such lengths to recruit students to your school when there is a good chance the students are coming in order to sabotage and get to the bottom of things, not because they are choosing to join the HFC school willingly (as in the case of Idie). If the motives of the villains in this story was clearer I think the story would feel more cohesive.
There are several different artists in this issue and while all of them are pretty good, their styles differ a bit so I did feel as if I was taken out of the story. It was not dramatic, but it did happen at times.
One other problem with this issue is that it feels as if the story is sort of at a stalemate. While we've seen these characters do different things and go to different places, they haven't really evolved in the last few issues and it feels like we are in the same place we were as far back as issue #19. It doesn't really feel like there has been a whole lot of progress made in recent issues as far as pushing the story forward. Are the Hellfire Club kids just bad for the sake of being bad, or is their a reason for all this bad behavior?
I can remember when this was a series I would always look forward to reading each month, but lately it (unfortunately) has not really felt that way. Although Aaron clearly has a handle on all of these characters and how they should work together as a team on his book, it doesn't really feel like they have evolved individually or as a team in several issues. The adversaries have been the same throughout (basically since the beginning of the series), but we haven't really seen an explanation for why they do what they do. What is the purpose of creating their own school and recruiting the Jean Grey students? Also, are these characters (the Jean Grey students) so easily manipulated? This issue certainly reads like these characters aren't given very much credit.
This issue was good, but it wasn't the best issue I have read in this series. I think the comic itself is well balanced and Aaron gives each character a little bit of time in the spotlight -- it does not feel overcrowded. Having said that, I think maybe the big cast of characters has prevented the plot of the story from moving forward very quickly, and I hope that the next issue we get closer to the ultimate goal of the Hellfire Club.