Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wolverine and the X-men #16 - A Childhood Well-Wasted

I've always thought that greedy business people get a bad wrath. Yeah, they're amoral, narcissistic, douche-bags. Yes, they are probably the closest thing we have in the real world to real super-villains outside of North Korea. But they do make vital contributions to the economy. Their ill-gotten blood money pays the salaries of the honest men and women who sell caviar, Hummers, mansions, and breast implants. The wheels of progress would stop turning without them. Even though guys like Sheldon Adleson and the Koch brothers would probably eat a live baby if it meant squeezing more money out of a failing economy, they have their place.

As such, it's really no surprise that we have similar douche-bags in comics. Granted, they do much more than give money to Mitt Romney or pay lobbyists to anally rape the average worker. In comics, if you're an amoral businessman or woman you either need to be investing in death rays or killer robots. In the pages of Wolverine and the X-men and going back to the events of Schism, that's what the new Hellfire Club has been doing. Granted, they're still a bunch of snot nosed kids. And they'll probably only do half the evil shit the Koch brothers do. But they've been finding creative ways to harass the X-men for quite some time now. It's only logical that they would find ways to continue doing so during the events of Avengers vs. X-men.

Now you would think that businesses built around waging war against mutants at a time when Phoenix powered X-men are outlawing war would be a shitty business model, but then again these are still kids. They haven't even experiences shaving, let alone have the necessary skills to adapt their model to something less fucked up. But in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men, they are set to take on the Phoenix Five for a quick buck. Somewhere out there, Gordon Gecko is wiping away tears of pride for these crazy kids.

Wolverine and the X-men #15 takes the Avengers vs. X-men story back a few issues when it was still awesome. It revisits the new Hellfire Club, which has since been overtaken by a bunch of sociopath kids that are only slightly less evil than my classmates in middle school. Now for an event involving Avengers, X-men, and cosmic forces the kid Hellfire Club seems woefully out of place. But Jason Aaron tries to work them into the mix in a way that sounds logical. In the pages of Wolverine and the X-men, the Hellfire Club is revealed to be the main suppliers of sentinel components. Well now that the Phoenix Five have taken over, demand for their services has increased among the paranoid, the bigoted, and the Rick Santorum supporters. So they hold a little seminar for prospective buyers, showing off their latest sentinel tech. They may not be designed for cosmic power, but I'm guessing the buyers don't know that so I doubt the Hellfire Club gives a quarter of a fuck.

Their ability to give so few fucks continues even after the Phoenix Five destroy all their fancy sentinel toys. Cyclops (who hasn't met the kid Hellfire Club yet) first thinks they're just regular kids whose parents dragged them to some shitty business meeting because they couldn't find a sitter. He's obviously a little skeptical when Emma tells them they're the real Hellfire Club and should be killed in ways that the Vatican only wishes were possible. Cyclops, once again proving that he's able to manage the Phoenix Force when the Avengers aren't attacking him, decides not to kill the kids. Yet the kids have the audacity to call him fascist. I'm sorry, but when was it fascist to shut down a business built on selling killing machines specifically designed to destroy an entire race? Them calling Cyclops fascist is like Rush Limbaugh calling the NAACP racist. Yet to their credit or out of sheer madness, the kids don't resist when the Phoenix Five throw them in jail.

But rather than whine for their mommy and daddy or demand a juice box, Kade Kilgore (the Black King) is remarkably comfortable in prison at Rykers Island. He follows the standard prison rules that he probably learned from staying up late and watching softcore porn on Cinemax and goes to beat up the toughest guy he can find. But he's still a fucking kid. All he does is just offer money to anyone who will beat him up for him. For a kid to have balls like this, which probably don't even have hair at this point, it's pretty ridiculous even if it is badass on the surface. The saddest part is that it works. Prisoners in the Marvel universe apparently take crazy kids seriously. Go figure.

From here, the plot pretty much detaches itself completely from the events of Avengers vs. X-men. This may seem kind of random, but given how shitty Avengers vs. X-men #11 turned out that's not a bad thing. Instead, we get a mini-biopic about where Kade Kilgore came from. It's not an unreasonable story to tell. This kid just randomly showed up in Schism, acting like a mini Sebastian Shaw in how he took over the Hellfire Club. It's hard to believe that he's a fucking kid. It would make more sense if he was a Skrull or something MODOK fucked up when trying to recreate the Olson twins. So an explanation on where he came from is definitely warranted even if the timing is a little off.

However, the origin isn't as fancy as it probably should be. Kade isn't some alien kid or some failed genetics experiment. He's just your typical aspiring sociopath, following the traditions of Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez by spending his spare time torturing bugs. Then his father confesses one night that he murdered Kade's mother because she was going to leave him and take his money. Apparently, his father didn't want to emulate Tiger Woods. That inspired Kade to hang out with old military men and learn about killing people. He later paid a mortician to allow him to eviscerate dead bodies. All the while Kade is narrating this as if he's doing a walkthrough for the last Pokemon game. Yet he's still a kid so it's hard to take him too seriously.

As the flashback continues, we get to his first visit to the Hellfire Club. Apparently, his father was a member. Like a lot of rich guys, he liked to spend his time hanging out with his fellow rich douche-bags and bang hookers. For some reason, he brought Kade with him. Again, maybe he was just too cheap to hire a babysitter or something like that, but it's here where Kade set the stage for when he would take over the Hellfire Club. He announced that he would kill his father and take his place. Naturally, the rich douche-bags of the Hellfire Club laughed their ass off. Then Kade shot one of them to let them know he wasn't fucking around. It sounds fucked up, but it does actually fill in a solid blank from Schism. It showed how Kade was able to work his way into the Hellfire Club so quickly. He had already killed his way to the top and his father was none the wiser. Apparently, the Hellfire Club didn't worry too much about him because he was too busy banging hookers and Kade wasn't at an age where beautiful women interested him enough. Maybe he should just stick to Pokemon.

Back in the present, Kade's prison riot creates enough chaos to allow him to make his escape. He meets up with his fellow Hellfire Club playmates. They're also remarkably well-adjusted to prison. Hell, the psychotic girl didn't want to leave because she was enjoying the mindless violence. It actually makes me wish Aaron had time to explore their history as well. Were they just like Kade in that they were born extra psychotic and weren't given enough Ritalin to keep them in check? We don't know. All we know is they get along very well with Kade so we're left to assume they're just as fucked up. And thanks to all their money and connections, they're able to fly out without even paying the prisoners for taking him up on their offer. In fact, he even has some of the prisoners killed. That sounds about right for your typical child psychopath.

Once they escape, they decide to lay low and prepare to make more sentinels. They fully expect the events of Avengers vs. X-men to increase demand for anti-mutant hardware and they're probably right. So armed with money and the gullibility that most adults have towards children, they make their way to Westchester where the Jean Grey Institute resides. It's probably a lot less hostile than Utopia at the moment, but it ensures they'll still be a factor in future X-men stories. It won't make the fact that they're fucking kids any less ridiculous, but it will ensure that giant robots will be around to attack the X-men and that shit is never ridiculous.

Like the Uncanny X-men tie in, I think it's probably a good thing that Jason Aaron hasn't attempted to link his book up with the events of Avengers vs. X-men at this point. That would be like tailgating at a football game where your team has already forfeited.  It defeats the purpose, unless your a Cleveland Browns fan I guess. But unlike Uncanny X-men, this comic fails to be all that compelling despite making an admirable effort. The story surrounding the kid Hellfire Club has been sort of a lingering plot for a while now. It's nice that Aaron decided to address it and it's not entirely unreasonable to do it at a time when mutants are the top dogs with the Phoenix Five. But there's only so much you can do to make a background story about evil kids turned business tyrants tenable.

The connections with Avengers vs. X-men in this story were loose at best and so was the overall premise with Kade Kilgore. He's a crazy kid whose father liked to bang the hookers at the Hellfire Club. That's fine. Who doesn't? But his ability to torture and manipulate without a shred of guilt is a trait shared by many kids and pretty much every single 13-year-old at some point in their lives. Hell, Mitt Romney admitted he used to bully gays at his old school. But he's still a fucking kid. He wasn't possessed by a demon or abducted by aliens. He's just a psychotic kid who for some reason people take seriously. Either pedophilia isn't nearly as scorned in the Marvel universe or business folk are just that fucking gullible. It simply didn't resonate. It didn't make Kade any less ridiculous, nor did it even touch on his fellow psychotic associates.

An issue like Wolverine and the X-men #16 has its place. In the end it's good that Jason Arron made an effort to explore the new kid Hellfire Club. It does actually fill in some of the blanks regarding how this kid managed to weave his way into the Hellfire Club before he triggered the events of Schism. However, you still have to get over the notion that he's still a kid. Maybe my imagination just isn't that twisted enough outside of Korean fetish porn, but I can't bring myself to call this awesome. It's still a decent and well-written story. So for that, I give Wolverine and the X-men #16 a 3 out of 5. If you can buy the notion that kids are devious enough to attain the power of the Hellfire Club, then you'll probably be able to jerk off to this book. But unless you're Jerry Sandusky, you probably won't feel very comfortable doing so. Nuff said!


  1. For some reason your review makes me want to play pokemon again. Now I have two questions for you 1.What Marvel Now title are you most excited for and 2.If you we're writing AvX and trying to have it match Marvel how would it go?

  2. Thanks! I'm glad my reviews can channel your inner pokemon fan. As for your questions, I'm most excited about X-Force and All New X-men. It's been too long since Jean Grey was actually involved in 616. As for how I would write AvX, that shit would take an entire blog post. But I wouldn't be doing the shit Marvel is doing right now. I would try to maintain the two sides and not have the X-men gravel to the Avengers like they did in AvX #11. I would also kill Hope Summers and get Jean Grey involved in some way. But we know Marvel will never do that shit. Thanks again!