As a wise man once said, “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.” Here in Retro Review corner, our unofficial rule of thumb is to look at comic books at least ten years old, and to see what they can tell us about the comics of days gone past. Looking at the top-selling book Marvel Comics put out in 2005, I found a book VERY relevant to the Marvel books of today, for reasons good and not-so… Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of House Of M #1 awaits!
HOUSE OF M #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Olivier Coipel
Inker: Tim Townsend
Colorist: Frank D’Armat
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00
Previously in House Of M: Originally a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver eventually made a face turn and joined The Avengers. She fell in love with The Vision, and used her magical powers to conceive twins sons with him, sons whose nature was later revealed to be artificial. After several years of constant metaphorical beatings, The Witch lost her bearings entirely, using her chaos magic to construct a number of threats that led to the death of several Avengers (including her own husband The Vision) and the team’s dissolution. Now, a new team of Avengers has been assembled, one which has to answer a very difficult question: What can you do with a reality-warping superhuman who has lost her grip on reality?
Professor X has taken her to the nearly-abandoned Island of Genosha (which, to be honest, is a really questionable decision, given that it was the site of a massacre not so long before, and is now a devastated ruin filled with corpses, not the best place to regain your composure) but even his mental powers are unable to reach Wanda and bring her back to reality. This page also shows one of the most infuriating parts of the entire ‘House Of M’ crossover, in that Chris Eliopolous’ lettering leaves the periods at the end of sentences so light as to be invisible, making all word balloons that aren’t shouting or questioning just sort of trail off into nothingness, making for a difficult read. Unable to fix Wanda’s mind, Charles calls a meeting of the X-Men and Avengers, a meeting with a very portentous agenda…
While her friends and fellow heroes gather to decide her fate, Wanda dreams in Genosha, her sleep seemingly induced by Xavier’s mental powers. Leaving the summit, her twin brother uses his speed powers to get to her bedside, hoping for some sign that she is healing. Their father (or perhaps not, given recent events in the pages of ‘Axis’) Magneto arrives to question what Quicksilver is doing there…
Confronted with his son’s accusations, Magneto asks, “What would you have me do?”, before Pietro collapses in a sobbing heap on the floor. It’s an emotional moment made less effective by the darkness of the coloring and the peculiarities of the lettering, but one that still shows us the torment within Magneto watching his daughter suffering while her friends debate her survival. And, amazingly, it *IS* a question of her survival as, back in New York, Emma Frost puts forth her solution to the problem
like Maria of Wanda…
Captain America, it should be noted, just allowed Wolverine onto the Avengers specifically for those situations which might require a lethal solution, and his refusal to accept his murder czar’s take is kind of weird, tonally. The White Queen continues to argue the “death” option, cross-examining Doctor Strange and Professor X about whether they can save her, with both men saying that they don’t currently have any way of doing so. (That, by the way, is another frustrating part of any Bendis book: Guys like Reed Richards, Strange and Xavier are ALWAYS utterly useless in a crisis, but that’s not a unique failing of this book, that’s just one writer’s take on the Marvel Universe.) The teams wonder if they can put the life of one of their own to a vote, leading to the decision to see just how far gone Wanda has become…
Climbing into their ships, the assembled heroes wing their way to Genosha, with the unspoken terrible expectation that they’re literally going to murder a friend and comrade if things are as bad as they seem. When they arrive, though, they find that Quicksilver has lived up to his name, staying one step faster than their assemblage…
Following Emma’s psychic imprint, the heroes make their way to a wrecked church, where they cautiously enter, looking for Magneto and his children. Spider-Man’s spider-sense suddenly goes off…
…and the heroes are engulfed by a wave of
pure plot point energy. Closing his eyes against the bright flash, Spider-Man opens them again to find himself in an entirely different reality.
That, by the way, is his wedding photograph, the memory of the moment where he married his true love, Gwen Stacy. The issue ends with that strange-yet-exciting moment, leading to the other great frustration of this series: None of the individual chapters really stands alone as a full story, a development that absolutely can be blamed on Bendis as a writer. There are a lot of weird parts of this issue, from the choice of characters (inactive Avengers are given short bits of dialogue to explain their presence, but the fact that the issue was plotted and drawn some time before it was presented is evident. (A similar problem plagued ‘Age Of Ultron’, another big Bendis crossover schmageggi.) Still, if I set aside my distaste for the sudden use of Wanda Maximoff as insane, the changing of the rules of magic in the Marvel Universe, and the uselessness of some of the most powerful and senior members of the Marvel Universe, House Of M #1 does serve as a tantalizing setup for the concept of a universe changed from the ground up, and while it’s both short and hard to follow, the strength of art and premise earn it 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. As the top-selling Marvel comic of 2005, it clearly got people’s attention, and kept it long enough to support the belief that the crossover model is the only way to go. Next week: The top-selling DC comic of 2005! It’s… an experience, I’ll tell you that.