Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review # 55: "House of M"

A lot of people hate "House of M." It was a status quo shift that people were uncomfortable with and - unlike many other event comics - it stuck for a long time. The repercussions were felt for eight whole years and you could argue they still are.

However, hate for this series is definitely not universal. It may very well be the most well-executed line-wide crossover Marvel has ever done, keeping the main story confined to a concise, linear eight-issue series with no tie-ins needed to enhance the narrative. "Civil War" and "Fear Itself" had some big holes; "Siege" was half the length; "Secret Invasion" just... wasn't as good. "House of M" starts out strong, and builds and builds to a slam-bang climax before tearing most of the Marvel Universe to shreds.

The Avengers and the X-Men along with the exiled Charles Xavier gather in New York to decide the fate of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. Having killed three of her Avengers teammate while out of her mind, her continued insanity and control over probability threaten to wipe out the entire planet. The two teams reach a conclusion: Wanda must die. Wanda's family, however (which includes Magneto and Quicksilver,) catches wind of their plan, and Scarlet Witch throws a Hail Mary by rewriting reality and giving everyone what they always wanted. What everyone wants is not quite what you would expect, beginning with the subtle change to Spider-Man's life as he wakes up, unaware of what he's just been a part of.

Suddenly, mutants are in charge, humanity has been nearly vanquished (though not by means of death) and Magneto rules the world from his throne in Genosha. The heroes, meanwhile, are blissfully living their own lives unaware of their true past. Cap is an old man, having never been frozen in ice after WWII; Cyclops and Emma Frost are married; Kitty Pryde is a teacher; Beast is without his blue fur; Ms. Marvel is the world's most popular superhero; Storm is royalty. Hell, even Dazzler has her time to shine, hosting the most successful talk show on television.

But, there's a problem: Wolverine, rewritten as this reality's Nick Fury, had a second desire: to remember everything about his life. HE recalls the old universe. By chance, he ends up running into Luke Cage, who has also been enlightened by none other than.... Layla Miller. Yes, the second central character from X-Factor debuts here in her creepy little girl form. Gradually, Layla (through the help of Emma) is able to restore the proper memories of all she finds. Not everyone takes it well, particularly Spider-Man who is driven to sickness after seeing his old life (interpreted in a wonderful two-page spread by Olivier Coipel.) The new Superteam makes its way to Genosha as Magneto hosts a royal gala, there's a massive fight and it ends horribly for the mutant race.

There is so much that I like about "House of M" that I find it difficult deciding where to start. Might as well begin with the characters. With his penning the Avengers revitalization, Spider-Man background and his now-professed love for the X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis nails EVERYONE. Wolverine: perfect. Cyclops: perfect. Daredevil barely says anything and he's perfect. Second, Coipel's art jumps off the page. When the team first storms Genosha and leaps from its makeshift aircraft, it takes your breath away. Third, it's all the little tics. For instance, the selection of Wolverine's alternate reality strike team is completely on the mark. So is Luke Cage's street gang. The same goes for the way Colossus and Captain America are taken out of the equation.

Simply put, this series is the reason I got back into comics. It's also my go-to trade whenever someone asks for a recommendation. No one has handed it back disappointed. "House of M" has some continuity gaps, which makes me understand some of the problems many have with it. However, it is a first-class springboard into both the worlds of the Avengers and the X-Men.

Rating: 9/10

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