Credits: James Robinson (writer), Ladronn (penciler), Juan Vlasco (inker), Comicraft (letters), Gloria Vasquez (colors)
Summary: Tabloid journalist Irene Merryweather is ordered to dig up dirt on Sebastian Shaw, a millionaire who always manages to stay out of the news. Only one of her contacts isn’t afraid to speak to her. While visiting the contact, Irene discovers his body. She races to the Inquiring Eye offices and discovers her coworkers are also dead. She’s chased by Hellfire Club soldiers until she’s rescued by Cable.
Continuity Notes: The story acts as if Shaw’s membership in the Hellfire Club is a big secret, which doesn’t seem right. Shaw’s membership in the criminal Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club is the secret, but not his role in the respected society association.
Review: James Robinson has been on this title for months, but this is his first opportunity to begin telling his own stories. Cable was a rather aimless character by this point, so it looks like Robinson is going the “introduce a normal p.o.v. character” route. This allows the book to turn the focus away from Cable for a while, and bring in another cast member that can see him through the eyes of potential new readers. Irene’s alright as far as those characters go, although I think Robinson overplays her desire to be a Daily Bugle reporter. I get that she’s unhappy as a tabloid journalist and wants to move to a legitimate newspaper, but having her deify a fictional newspaper on every other page is tiresome. I imagine the Daily Bugle’s reputation in the Marvel Universe is more along the lines of “that newspaper with a few good reporters, a decent sports page, and a bizarre obsession with Spider-Man” anyway.
Ladronn becomes the regular artist with this issue, marking the start of a lengthy stint. He sticks around until 1999, when Marvel decides to replace him with Rob Liefeld. Marvel’s decision to replace a Kirby/Moebius artiste with…well, Liefeld, was one of things that drove internet fans crazy in the final days of the Bob Harras era. The critically acclaimed creative team of James Robinson and Ladronn was assembled by editor Mark Powers, around the same time he oversaw the addition of Steve Seagle and Joe Kelly to the main X-books. He also tried to get Warren Ellis to stay onboard Wolverine, despite Ellis publicly announcing he was only doing four issues. Powers was supposed to be the good X-editor. Less than a year later, he was known as a notorious re-writer and general cause of “creative differences” on the X-books. I don’t pretend to know what was really happening behind-the-scenes, but his sudden drop in popularity was interesting.
Hellfire Hunt Part Two - Weary Knights & Shabby Paladins
Credits: James Robinson (writer), Ladronn (penciler), Juan Vlasco & Scott Hanna (inkers), Comicraft (letters), Marie Javins (colors)
Summary: Cable explains to Irene that Shaw’s associate, Donald Pierce, has ordered a hit on both of them. At Cable’s command, a diversion is created in Algeria that lures Pierce away from his Boston home. Cable and Irene infiltrate Pierce’s home, where they’re confronted by Hellfire soldiers and hired gun Paladin. After they’re defeated by Cable, Hellfire agent Taft swallows poison. Cable connects with his dying mind and learns of the “Tomorrow Agenda.” The Hellfire Club wants to kill Apocalypse and harness his power. Pierce’s paranoia that Irene would learn of the plan, and his personal hatred of Cable, lead him to order their deaths.
Continuity Notes: Cable explains to Irene that he first met Pierce years ago in Algeria. With the aid of Iron Man and Nick Fury (maybe it’s Fury, it’s hard to tell), he stopped Pierce from overtaking the country. A narrative caption later claims that Cable was responsible for Pierce’s initial transformation into a cyborg.
Cable reveals to Irene that he has a group of followers called “the Believers” who have pledged to help him save the future. Two of them generate the hologram of Cable in Algeria that distracts Pierce.
Miscellaneous Note: The Statement of Ownership has average yearly sales at 133,041 and the most recent issue selling 117,368 copies.
Review: Robinson continues to develop the Hellfire storyline, while also establishing a new status quo. Cable tells Irene that he wants her to be his chronicler, so that people can learn from his life. In a way, this works as an excuse to keep Irene involved in the storylines. On the other hand, it reinforces the ridiculous “Cable-messiah” nonsense I could never stand. (Yes, Cable, your battles with lower-tier X-villains and that disease that turns you into a cyborg must be chronicled for future generations.) Robinson also continues the character’s proud history of retcons, as we learn he previously teamed up with a few Marvel heroes to fight Pierce sometime in the past. I dislike the way Cable was retroactively inserted into so many characters’ backstories, but this doesn’t really bother me. If he ran into Moira MacTaggert, I guess it makes as much sense for him to encounter Iron Man. Donald Pierce was introduced as a cyborg and I don’t think anyone ever explained how he got that way, so revealing it was Cable isn’t a total cheat.
Seeing Ladronn’s interpretation of the Marvel Universe is fun, and he does a great job with Boston’s architecture. You don’t get the sense he’s just tracing photographs; it seems like he genuinely loves drawing every brick of these buildings. As much as I enjoy Ladronn’s take on Paladin, though, I have no idea why he’s in this story. Charitably, you could say he didn’t know the Hellfire Club is secretly criminal, but I get the sense he’s just a random character Robinson pulled out of the Marvel Handbook.