I’m a huge advocate of the idea that a hero is only as interesting as his villain, and it’s particularly true in something so obvious as superhero comics. As a result, I have no objection to “Wolverine & The X-Men” #16 being devoted entirely to the new Hellfire Club, and more specifically Kade Kilgore. I just wish it was a better and more engaging story.
Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo still turn in a decent comic as they’re a wonderful creative team with an almost flawless collaboration. They never forget to bring the fun, the energy and the attitude to this book. However, this issue has just way too much tell and far too little show. As a result, it’s just boring, except as a frequent visual treat, which is pretty much always true of Bachalo’s art.
Although Aaron’s backstory for Kilgore is acceptable, it’s just not something we haven’t seen before in comics and since we also don’t really care about Kilgore as a villain (or at least I don’t, not yet), it’s really hard to invest this many pages in how he “came to be.” I don’t know if I’ve just become particularly jaded and difficult to impress in my old age, but I didn’t find much of Kilgore’s story shocking or scary or very clever, and that combined with not being emotionally invested in him, means that this book all about him was kind of a snooze fest from page one.
Additionally, the fact that a young innocent looking kid as a stone cold killer has been done to death means that Aaron’s got a lot of obstacles in his way to making the “Kiddie Hellfire Club” work as well as it needs to. So far, I’m not convinced.
To make matters worse, the “Avengers vs. X-Men” crossover has been timed so badly that we’ve got characters in this book that are already months off the playing field. The book feels like a pretty unimportant fill-in, even if it’s beautiful.
Still, Chris Bachalo’s work is exceptional, as always. He gives every single moment just as much attention as the next, whether it be giant robots and explosions or the side of a building. Bachalo also remains one of the absolute best when it comes to acting and character expressions, and those qualities alone elevate this whole book significantly.
It’s probably fair to say that Aaron is playing a long game here. That this smaller standalone issue about one character will set the stage for larger arcs and for getting readers to eventually care about Kilgore or to at least recognize him as a true threat, but for me, it was unsuccessful and thus ends up being a rare miss for this otherwise delightful creative team.