The summer of 2005 was a very interesting time for Marvel Comics. We were a couple of years into the Joe Quesada regime and thankfully several years out from the ‘90s, which on the whole had not been kind to the Marvel Universe. By 2005 the Marvel Universe was in a good place. Grant Morrison had recently wrapped up his epic run on New X-Men and had gracefully handed it off to Joss Whedon and John Cassaday who had launched Astonishing X-Men. The Avengers had barely survived Disassembled and had been reborn as the New Avengers under the guidance of Brian Michael Bendis with what was probably the most eclectic roster since Cap’s Quirky Quartet or the Leather Jacket era of the Late ’90s.Yet to the powers at be their was something missing in the Marvel Universe and it was time for the return of the Event comic. That would soon change once House of M would hit the stands and Marvel would never be the same.
I was reading both Astonishing X-Men and New Avengers at the time so it was a given that I was going to pick up House of M when it was announced. I’d been reading comics for over twenty-five years at the time and had been witness to the first epic crossover events such as Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars. I’d read the subsequent events like the Mutant Massacre, Zero Hour, the X-Tinction Agenda, Secret Wars 2, and even Final Night. But it got to be too much. Both DC and Marvel were having several crossovers and major events each year and the quality of each was declining. The X-Men titles were constantly building to the next event, some were good while others felt forced. DC got into the habit of either killing or maiming their classic heroes. Sometimes the readers were rewarded with a grand event that was worth the price, such as Age of Apocalypse, which was a reality warping hell of a ride. But for every Age of Apocalypse there was a Genesis or Armageddon 2000. So when it was announced that Marvel was going to release a self contained event comic I felt both anticipation and fear as I was wary of what it was going to be. I shouldn’t have been, but I was.
House of M was a reality warping eight-issue mini-series that rewrote the current Marvel Universe for one controlled by Magneto and the House of Magnus. It was a reality where Mutants were the dominant species and held the highest places in society. A mini-series that at the time took Marvel’s two biggest series of the time, the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers, and combined them in an epic story of resistance and heartbreak with dire consequences. It was brilliant and a benchmark that Marvel has been trying to replicate since its release and also sadly birthed the current event laden comic culture that many fans have had enough of.
Brian Michael Bendis and Oliver Coipel, who at the time period were still relatively new to the House of Ideas, created House of M. Bendis was firmly entrenched in his epic run on the Ultimate Spider-Man and had at the time of the event been writing the Avengers (dubbed the New Avengers after Avengers: Disassembled) and was on his way to becoming Marvel’s go to writers as well as an architect of the Marvel Universe. To many Bendis is an acquired taste but for the most part I have always enjoyed his work. I loved his Ultimate Spider-Man run, especially when Stuart Immonen and Sara Pichelli joined him on the title(s). I thought the X-Men under his guidance was an excellent read although I found his Avengers to drone on a bit long, especially when they added Mighty Avengers then relaunched New Avengers with a regular Avengers book. But in 2005 I found his style fresh and new and was enjoying the then new take on the Avengers franchise. I’d been a fan of Oliver Coipel when I had first seen his work on Legion of Superheroes, most notably the Legion Lost book with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. But he raised his game tremendously with House of M as it was simply beautiful. The level of detail in House of M is staggering, especially with all of the redesigns and different interpretations of the classic Marvel pantheon of characters. Coipel has become one of Marvel’s artistic stars and this is where that rise began and his artwork has become a definite draw for me.
House of M began with a simple premise, what should be done with the Scarlett Witch? For those not in the know Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlett Witch, had slowly been dipping into insanity and the further she dipped the more she was losing the grip on her reality warping powers. The beginning of her problems are found in the John Byrne run on Avengers West Coast where he deconstructed the Vision of all emotion and then turned their twins into figments of her powers and never truly existed. Bendis picked up on this theme for Avengers Disassembled where Wanda turned on her team and completely destroyed the team and killed several of her long time allies, including Hawkeye and the Vision. In the post Disassembled world Wanda had been removed from society and was being treated on the devastated Mutant Nation of Genosha by her father, Magneto, and Professor Xavier but her grip on reality was waning. Therefore the X-Men and Avengers needed to decided what to do with her, but before they could decide Wanda granted everyone the world of their dreams but the new world would be a mutant utopia led by the House of Magnus.
From there the mini-series is an action packed tale of restoring the world to the way it should be, even if that meant a return to an unhappier world. Our principle player in establishing the forces needed to combat the House of Magnus is Wolverine, since in his dream world all of his memories are returned to him so he remembers his entire life as well as the way the world is supposed to be. I wasn’t a fan of Wolverine’s memories being restored since I always liked that aspect of the character but it was necessary for the progression of the story. Wolverine spends the next few issues assembling a new hybrid team of Avengers and X-Men. I enjoyed the eclectic group that Wolverine assembles. The assembled resistance is a combination of Avengers and X-Men, both old and new as well as a resurrected Hawkeye who is none to happy to learn of his fate in the real universe. I liked the mixture and make up of this team with two real standouts. One of those was Spider-Man, who is living the life of a famous ‘Mutant’ with his loving wife, Gwen Stacy, as well as his Uncle Ben. His enlightenment to reality was tear jerking since on many levels I just want Peter to have a happy moment in life. The other standout was that Steve Rogers wasn’t on the team as in the House of M he was never frozen and is an aged veteran in no shape to take on a potential world ending threat.
The final act of the event is the confrontation, which is epic to behold. There are so many good character moments that are both enjoyable to long time fans and new fans alike. I personally loved the confrontation between Hawkeye and Wanda, as any fan of the Cap’s quirky quartet era of the Avengers knows that Hawkeye was in love with Wanda for years and then to find out she killed him. The tension was thick in that scene, as was the reveal of who actually instigated the House of Magnus reality and then the final ramification for the mutant race in the main Marvel Universe. It was a well-constructed confrontation and every hero had his or her time to shine. It was paced perfectly and drawn exceptionally.
All in all House of M is one of the most satisfying comics I have read. I was hooked from issue one and enjoyed each issue thereafter, I never got bored and if I find myself going back to it again and again. Yet for as much as I enjoyed the House of M I also blame it for what has come since for House of M is where the current Marvel trend of building to the next event has come from. If you look at it chronologically what started in House of M then continued to Civil War, which went on to Secret Invasion, Siege, Fear Itself, Avengers v. X-Men, Age of Ultron, Infinity, Original Sin, Axis, Secret Wars, the just wrapped Civil War 2 and hopefully concludes with Secret Empire. That list doesn’t even include the X-Men series of events sparked by House of M, which led to the Messiah CompleX, Messiah War, Second Coming, and Schism. I’m not even including the Galactic Events that coincided with these other events but it is safe to say that since House of M Marvel has been in a constant ramp up to the next event. Now I am not saying that the subsequent Events are bad, on the contrary I enjoyed many of them, but it has come to the point where many readers, including myself, are experiencing Event fatigue and are speaking with our wallets. Marvel has promised no more events after Secret Empire for at least 18 months but I am hoping for longer. I’d like to be excited for the next event like I was House of M, not dreading it like many readers are with Secret Empire. I personally find it somewhat fulfilling that the alternate reality of Secret Empire could put a cap on the endless litany of events that began with the alternate reality of the House of M and I am hopefully as satisfied with Secret Empire as I was with the House of M, which was one of the best Events ever printed.