“The X-Men have been winning for a long time. How long did you think the villains were going to leave them alone.” This was the deadly tease X-Men writer Gerry Duggan gave for the 'Fall of X' storyline at New York Comic-Con 2022. This week, we saw just what he was talking about. Fall of X kicked off in Hellfire Gala 2023 #1, which saw a rebirth, and lots of death. This is without a doubt one of the biggest things to happen to the Marvel Universe in years. Duggan was right – the X-Men will never be the same.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Hellfire Gala 2023 #1!
What is the X-Men’s current status quo?
If you haven’t read X-Men in years, or if you’ve never read an X-Men comic period, let’s start off by explaining their current status quo. For years, the X-Men were based in a school for mutants run by Charles Xavier. That’s the setup which has been used in the 20th Century Fox movies and the iconic animated series. However, the X-Men recently went through a change.
Xavier is no longer operating a school; he’s running a whole nation. The X-Men have moved their operations to the living island known as Krakoa, establishing it as a sovereign nation for all mutants. All mutants have a safe haven in Krakoa, which can be accessed via teleportation gateways throughout the globe. Only mutants can enter these gateways, but certain humans can enter, if invited by mutants, and if Krakoa accepts them.
Here's one of the biggest changes – the X-Men have basically cured death. A group of mutants known as the Five (Egg, Hope Summer, Elixir, Tempus, and Proteus) are able to combine their powers to bring fallen mutants back to life. Before mutants go off on dangerous missions, their psychic signature is backed up, similar to the way you back up your hard drive.
When a mutant dies, the Five combine their powers to grow a cloned body in an egg. Once that clone is grown, the deceased have their psychic backup placed in the body. These resurrected mutants are treated as the original person, rather than clones, because their psychic signature (or their “soul”) has been restored. In essence, the resurrection process is similar to respawning in a video game.
However, everything changed during the 2023 Hellfire Gala.
What is the Hellfire Gala?
The Hellfire Gala is an annual celebration held in Krakoa. It’s part cocktail party, and part state dinner. Each year, humans are invited to Krakoa for the elite event, where the mutants unveil Krakoa’s latest innovations. During the event, a new member of the X-Men is announced. This member is chosen by X-Men readers, who submit their votes in an online poll. Polaris was the winner in 2021, and Firestar was selected in 2022.
The first Hellfire Gala was held in 2021, as part of an ongoing storyline that began in Marauders #21. The second Hellfire Gala was depicted in X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1 (2022). Each event contains a turning point for the X-Men, kicking off the next year of storylines. For example, humanity learned about the X-Men’s resurrection technology during the 2022 Hellfire Gala. This led to some backlash from the humans, which resulted in the A.X.E.: Judgement Day storyline.
What happened at the 2023 Hellfire Gala?
Everything hit the fan at the 2023 Hellfire Gala. In fact, it might be the end of Krakoa as a nation. We won’t give away every major moment of the issue, but here are the major takeaways.
- First, the good news. Using their resurrection technology, the X-Men brought Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel back to life. They told the young girl that in addition to being an Inhuman, she’s also a mutant. Welcome back to the land of the living Kamala, because things are about to get crazy.
- A mutant-hating group known as Orchis crashed the Hellfire Gala, along with M.O.D.O.K. and Doctor Stasis. Many X-Men lost their lives during the attack, including founding members Jean Grey and Iceman.
- Doctor Stasis revealed that Orchis had tainted the medications that Krakoa had donated to the rest of the world. Thanks to the poisoned medicines, Orchis can activate a catalyst that will kill all the humans who have it in their system. M.O.D.O.K. and Stasis kill a portion of the humans, to show they mean business. Since the medications came from Krakoa, humanity will blame the mutants for this.
- Orchis told Xavier to use his mental powers to order every mutant to walk into one of the Krakoa gateways, which would lead them off-world. Since Orchis was holding all of humanity hostage, Xavier obeyed. A handful of mutants, such as Wolverine and Emma Frost, were able to resist Xavier’s commands due to their training against psychic attacks.
- After the mutants were sent away, Xavier was unable to find their psychic signatures. He realized that the Krakoan gates had been tampered with, and he had sent 250,000 mutants into a metaphorical meat grinder.
- Orchis killed the remaining humans at the Hellfire Gala, framing the mutants for it. Across the globe, Orchis committed a series of false flag attacks designed to increase mutant hysteria.
Who died at the Hellfire Gala?
Make no mistake, the Hellfire Gala was a bloodbath. Here’s a breakdown of everyone who died.
- Jean Grey
- Lourdes Chantel
- At least 250,000 mutants
- Various humans politicians and civilians
Can any of these mutants be revived? The X-Men have basically cured death, so as long as the Five are around, anything is possible. However, resurrection takes time and resources, and with the X-Men scattered and on the run, it will be harder to do.
Some dead mutants, such as Jean Grey, can be seen on the cover of X-Men #26. Plus, Jean Grey has an upcoming mini-series written by Louise Simonson. Add in the fact that resurrection is Jean’s thing, and it’s safe to say that she’ll probably be returning. The other mutants might not be as lucky though. Remember, Xavier estimates that at least 250,000 mutants were slaughtered. Even if the Five were able to resume their resurrection, there is no way they would be able to get to them all.
How this changes the Marvel Universe
Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest things which has ever happened to the X-Men. The loss of 250,000 is nothing less than genocide. It’s very hard to come back from something like that. Since Xavier was the one who led them through the gates, he will be forced to live with this guilt for the rest of his life. It won’t be easy.
Everything we know about the X-Men has changed. They are no longer a school, or a sovereign nation. They are now fugitives, hiding underground. The X-Men have been hunted by the government for years, but never to this level. Thanks to Orchis and their deadly Stark Sentinels (mutant-hunting Sentinels in Iron Man armor), this might as well be the post-apocalyptic future Days of Future Past promised.
Mutants in the Marvel Universe have always faced prejudice, but now they’ve been framed for multiple murders. Humanity thinks mutants have poisoned their medications. One must wonder how this will affect the X-Men’s relationship with other teams such as the Avengers. Will heroes like Captain America face blowback for being seen with Cyclops?
The 'Fall of X' has begun, and it’s going to be hard for the mutants to pick themselves back up again.
X-Men: Hellfire Gala 2023 #1 is written by Gerry Duggan, with art by Adam Kubert, Luciano Vecchio, Matteo Lolli, Russell Dauterman, Javier Pina, R.B. Silva, Joshua Cassara, Kris Anka, and Pepe Larraz.