The penultimate chapter of “The Hellfire Saga” involves an all-out brawl between the forces of the Hellfire Academy and the faculty of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in “Wolverine & the X-Men” #34. Jason Aaron brings the fight and the funny to this issue as artist Nick Bradshaw follows in kind.
The battlefield banter is where Aaron really shines through with these characters. He has Wilhelmina providing tips about the reality of herding cats and also delivers chuckle-worthy lines from Kitty Pryde as she coaxes Iceman towards victory with romantic promises. All of this occurs as Krakoas (yes, plural) battle like pawns between the dueling schools. The action whips through the two dozen plus participants in this skirmish, but Aaron gives every character a line, a panel or a full scene to up readers’ anticipation for their favorite teachers or students in “Wolverine & the X-Men” #34. The teachers of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning have minimal panel time compared to the students, who are the focus of this story.
Bradshaw has clearly found a solid style with just the right balance of detail, animation and energy. The comparison has been made to Art Adams, and while there is simply no denying the presence of Adams’ influence, Bradshaw’s work is clearly distinct. He delivers a dynamic range of body types, facial expressions and texture details, showing a mastery of the craft that is ideal for a book with so very much going on. Walden Wong is a commanding fit for Bradshaw and the two blend together so smoothly that I cannot imagine them not continuing to work together. Colorist Laura Martin makes it all bright and happy, even if the drawings on the page are showing Broo ripping into Kade Kilgore’s face or Krakoa devouring Glob Herman.
If the art weren’t so effervescent, the story would be darkly depressing. Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw certainly make a solid creative backbone for “Wolverine & the X-Men” #34. The comic book is filled with little cliffhanger scenes, which means there is still a lot to be resolved in the final chapter of “The Hellfire Saga.” From what I can tell in this issue, Aaron has set everything up for a whirlwind of conclusions next issue.