Back in June of 2005 I was a fresh-faced high school graduate with nothing on my mind but the beach and my friends and the continuing impending anxiety of starting college. Comics were on the back burner. I was in routine of not reading new books, only graphic novels; however my 14 year old brother was spending all his free time at the comic shop behind our house (J&J comics in Fountain Valley). So of course when House of M started I was blissfully unaware until I came home and found the first few issues on the kitchen table at the end of summer.
At the time I really had no idea how important this book would become. That in 8 years I would be referencing this crossover on a weekly basis and recommending it to new readers as the perfect jumping on point for X-books. But above all else, I had no idea how much I would end up really liking the book.
TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE “HOUSE OF M” or WHY YOU SHOULD (RE)READ IT.
- ADDICTED TO AU. I am a sucker for a well thought out alternate reality. I love them. A lot of people don’t but as someone who has read far too many X-Men books, I can’t be thrown off guard by an altered world. It’s like a puzzle where all these characters you think you know so well are now tucked away in a new layer of history you get to explore and decipher. And wow, House of M really turns things upside down.
- Magneto Family Feels. I am a big fan of Magneto. I like that he isn’t a one dimensional villain and that underneath all of the acts of anti-sapien terrorism is a Holocaust survivor who never wants anyone else to live through what he did. And he’s a babe. Total silver fox. And then there are his kids: Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Polaris. They are all also very beautiful and very tragic in their own ways. He is a shitty dad and he knows it but that doesn’t stop him from trying to be protect his family and watching Quicksilver become feral with desperation to prevent harm against his sister is downright heart-wrenching.
- Moral Implications. This is a reoccurring theme that starts with the Avengers, new and old, meeting up with Charles Xavier about a long-term fix for Scarlet Witch. Due to the recent events of Avengers: Disassembled Wanda’s sanity and control over her powers has come into question and those closest to her feel responsible to take action. Xavier and Wolverine feel like the only way to stop her is by killing her but most of the Avengers are completely opposed to that idea. They are holding out for another resolution. Maybe Doctor Strange can find a mystic cure, maybe they can talk some sense into her, maybe they should just let her created magic babies out of thin air and she’ll just leave everyone alone? Spoiler alert: Mental breakdowns don’t just go away if you wish real hard.
- Foreshadowing. Looking back on it all it is unnerving to find all subtle hints to what the Marvel universe has become. Starting off with a conversation between the House of M versions of Hank Pym and Hank McCoy. Beast is trying to stop Pym from illegally doing research on the mutant gene. He states explicitly that you CAN NOT isolate the gene and that it isn’t one strand of DNA that makes a mutant but millions of them. And then he drops the real bomb, he commiserates with Pym’s growing feeling of impotence. Beast could only imagine how awful it must feel to watch as your species slowly die out. If you haven’t read House of M or anything that came after it then you won’t see the beautiful irony in that scene. But trust me, it’s a doozy.
- Wolverne remembers everything. Wolverine is the key to fixing this world and for once it actually makes sense for him to be the center of the story. All he has ever wanted was the truth, to remember everything about his past. But in this screwed up reality that means he also remembers everything before Scarlet Witch changed the world. He leaves his cushy room on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and searches for someone who can explain why everything is a complete mess. His change is one of my favorites because it’s so simple and that makes it a thousand times more painful. All he has ever truly wanted to know his own past? F*ck. That puts your problems in perspective.
- Be careful what you wish for. Now if everyone was happy then we wouldn’t have an interesting story. But the flipside to getting what you think you want is that it could change everything and make it so much worse. A personal favorite is poor Steve Rogers who has become just a boring old man living in the Bronx. THAT’S ALL HE EVER WANTED? To never have hibernated for decades? God, stab me in the heart why don’t you? And of course then there is Gwen Stacy. Who is not only very much alive but married to Peter Parker and mother to his son. When most of the heroes figure out that this whole life they have memories of is just a sham they become furious. Lots of rage puking and shocked weeping. Seeing how each person turned out really shows a new depth to their character. Old wounds have shiny new scars.
- Should they even bother fixing it? Jessica Drew brings up a strong argument on whether they should try to fix things or not. She rationalizes that if everyone actually got what they wanted then what’s the harm? Maybe things should stay the way they are? Doesn’t this mean that if they hadn’t found out it was all fake then they would all be happy? Everyone disagrees with her but as a reader you are given a front row seat into emotional turmoil at its best. While some might be happier in this world, others are not willing to give up their old lives.
- Wanda’s complete mental breakdown. You don’t see Wanda again until the end but when you do I think it has a huge impact on the story. She isn’t depicted with evil eyes and a menacing cackle, she’s shown as happy and blissfully unaware of the damage she’s caused. All she wanted was to have her babies and be left alone. She doesn’t blame anyone or claim she’s been forced to do anything; she just wanted everyone to be happy too. She wanted the fighting to stop. When she does finally break she still isn’t shown as a villain. You want to help her because she’s just as much a victim of her own mind as she is. As someone who is familiar with mental illness, watching her completely fall apart is a seamless transition, it doesn’t feel forced for the benefit of the story. After years of controlling all that power she finally hit a wall and stopped trying. If you didn’t already read it, I wrote an article about Scarlet Witch a couple weeks ago.
- No more mutants. If this ruins the ending for you then I apologize but, honestly, I feel like what made this story so good wasn’t the last three words that would change the entirety of the Marvel universe but how the story got to that point. Maybe that’s just me, spoilers don’t deter me from getting invested in a story. What I really love about how this crossover ended was that you felt the effects of it. It didn’t get solved neatly and tucked away like it never happened (*ahem Fables Crossover ahem*). There were permanent repercussions and ones I happen to be in full support of. By cutting the mutant population from 2 million to 200 you have suddenly made the X-Men even more important. They are once again a small fraction, a dwindled species that is hated and feared. This makes their bond to each other that much stronger and I love that. I wish more big crossover events held up and made substantial waves instead of fading out of relevance after a few years (*ahem* Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Heroic Age, Fear Itself….)
- Bendis and Coipel. Brian Michael Bendis has been a frontrunner in designing the Marvel universe for over 10 years now and while it used to be an industry inside joke that he could write triple the number books other pros were doing in a month we readers aren’t chuckling anymore. Agent Patrick has also pointed out that Bendis can be a very strong writer but he is far from consistent. I feel like this book came out really at the height of his storytelling. And then there’s Olivier Coipel who I have mentioned numerous times as a showstopper. He has really found his style in recent years and, my god, that style is gorgeous. I am more inclined to pick up a terrible book if he’s doing the art. He manages to capture the anguish (because there is truckloads of it in this story) on every face and he makes splash pages a treat instead of a burden. This was a terrific collaboration.
So now that I have raved about this 8-issue mini-series for, oh I don’t know, 1500 words I hope you can take the time to give it a shot. If you read it when it was new and never looked back or if was something you completely missed and have been on the fence about, I can’t beg you enough to try it. Not to mention after all the shit goes down in this book there are half a dozen other X-Men crossovers that follow that put all this Age of Ultron stuff to shame.