Wednesday, April 9, 2014

X-MEN: HELLFIRE CLUB #3 - March 2000

For Want of a Soul
Credits:  Ben Raab (writer), Charlie Adlard (artist), Kevin Somers (colors), Jon Babcock (letters)

Summary:  In England, Irene meets with Spitfire and the modern-day Union Jack.  Spitfire reads from the journal of her father, the original Union Jack.  In an entry from 1915, he tells the story of Esau Shaw and his envious brother Jacob.  Esau was ambivalent about joining the Hellfire Club, but Jacob craved the power and struck a deal with Mr. Sinister.  After Sinister granted Jacob shapeshifting powers, Jacob killed his brother and attempted to take his place.  Union Jack foiled his scheme, but was unable to capture Jacob.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Donald Pierce’s ancestor, identified only by his last name, attempts to recruit Esau into the Hellfire Club, based on his belief that a Shaw should always be a member.  
  • The present day scenes also establish Irene Merryweather as a smoker, which I don’t recall from any of her previous appearances (not that this version of Irene looks anything like her past appearances anyway.)

Review:  The flashbacks make it to the twentieth century, as the mystery killers get closer and closer to Irene.  I don’t think Ben Raab has hidden his affection for Union Jack in the past, so it’s not a surprise to see him here, but he thankfully doesn’t feel like a gratuitous guest star.  So far, Raab’s done a good job of taking existing Marvel characters from different time periods and working them into the story naturally.  Cameos in flashback stories can easily become annoying, but Raab’s been able to avoid that trap.  Plus, Charlie Adlard draws a fantastic Union Jack.  

Thematically, Raab advances the concept of desire, and the price a person is willing to pay to get what they want.  (Or to silence whatever insecurities lie within them.)  Irene begins to question if her own ambition to become a famous reporter makes her any better than the fools who have fallen for the Hellfire Club’s trap over the years, a valid point considering that she’s risking everything on a story that she acknowledges could just be forgotten by the next day.  I like the way the drama is escalating from issue to issue, as the flashbacks inch closer to the modern day while the Hellfire Club gets closer to Irene.  The issue ends with Irene unwittingly stepping into a car with a pitchfork logo, a nice cliffhanger setting the stage for the final issue.


Matt said...

I think this was my favorite issue of the series, due to my affection for both Mr. Sinister and Union Jack.

Now that I think about it, I have no recollection of how this series ended. I wonder if that means I was let down by the conclusion?

Anonymous said...

The ending was a let down, in my opinion.
I remember it being Shaw ranting on about what a great man he is for many pages.
It didn't seem like there was any pay-off or any big revelation about the dark secret of the Hellfire Club, which is what I was expecting.

This was also my favourite issue, also due to Sinister.

Jason said...

Yeah, the ending is kind of a non-event, but I still like the miniseries. Fun to read the reviews here! I actually just discovered this a few years ago, because a comic store was selling the set of four issues in discounted package. I figured why not? A pleasant surprise.

I like Raab. I bought his X-Men/Alpha Flight mini too after liking this mini -- and reading the review of X/Alpha on this very site. :) Enjoyed that a lot as well.

(His Union Jack mini with Cassaday is a beautiful thing too. Cassaday's storytelling is so fantastic in that.)

Matt said...

Jason, I agree on Raab. I think he gets a bum rap from fans, mostly because of his lackluster EXCALIBUR run -- I like the guy and even I dropped the series while he was writing it!

(That said, I would've liked to have seen him given a crack at the core X-books around 2000. I'm pretty sure he would've turned in a better showing that Chris Claremont did upon his return.)

I have a post on Raab's UNION JACK series in the queue for my own blog, to go up within the next month or so. It's by far my favorite of the plentiful Raab mini-series from the late nineties.

Jason said...

So did I just luck out on Raab and pick up his best stuff? Union Jack, Hellfire Club, and X-Men/Alpha ... Did he also do a Domino miniseries? I actually liked that one too, although not as much as the above three.

But those four things might be the sum total of my experience with his work.

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