House of X, the Second Coming of Morrison's New X-Men? [X-ual Healing 7-24-19]
So after a long wait, Marvel finally published House of X #1, the first issue of what's set to be a multi-year X-Men run, with the entire line guided by Jonathan Hickman. And the response has been… well, why don't you take a look for yourself. From Marvel's website:
Newsarama: "A towering achievement."
IGN: "Marvel just made the X-Men X-Citing again."
Monkeys Fighting Robots: " HOUSE OF X is the most important X-Men comic in 30 years… The best possible jumping-on point you could ask for."
Comics The Gathering: "A huge contender to be the best book you read all year. It's THAT good."
Inside Pulse: "A grand new status quo that is compelling and intriguing."
ComicBook.com: "It's fascinating, it's well-drawn and well-colored, it has great character moments, and it has direction. But it is not the X-Men as you've ever seen them before."
AiPT!: "A daring, ambitious leap forward for mutantkind that feels like a successor to Morrison while also being utterly unique, building a world truly of the future."
Comic Watch: "This is the beginning of a multifoliate, gorgeously complex story, one which looks like it will change the franchise for many years to come."
Sequential Planet: "House of X #1 is bold and smart. More importantly, it is entertaining and awe-inspiring."
Multiversity Comics: "Hickman, Larraz and Gracia bring Marvel's mutants into a magnificent new era that feels genuinely fresh and exciting."
You Don't Read Comics: "House Of X #1 is pretty much everything X-Men fans could wish for."
Comic Book Revolution: "I highly encourage you to hop aboard House of X #1. If you are a lapsed X-Men reader then I definitely encourage you to give House of X #1 a try. Hickman has something special in store for readers with his plans for the X-Men franchise."
All-Comic: "House of X is the X-Men story fans have been salivating for."
Kabooooom: "Every inch of this issue is intriguing and a sign of good things for the future of the X-Men."
Pop Culture Uncovered: "This is the beginning of an X-Men run you'll only see once in a generation."
High praise… for one @#$%ing issue of a comic where not much actually happens. Let's just think about some of this for a minute. "A towering achievement." "The best book you'll read all year." "The most important X-Men comic in 30 years." "The beginning of an X-Men run you'll only see once in a generation."
Do all of these reviewers have time machines? How the hell can they make these proclamations after reading the first issue of what is effectively a 12-issue prologue? Comic book reviews as a genre are generally fawning, bootlicking affairs with little actual criticism, more an attempt to score a pull quote on the back cover of a trade paperback or a mention on a writer's twitter feed than to provide any actual analysis of what's in the comic. I made fun of this a little bit last year when I pointed out that in a random week with 117 comics release, only 18 of them were ranked below a 7 of 10. In other words, nearly every comic published in any given week is far above average, according to the general consensus of comic book reviews. Which doesn't seem to make sense according to the definition of "average," but whatever. It is what it is.
But even understanding that, the praise for House of X is way over the top. You simply can't call something the most important X-Men comic in 30 years when you have literally no idea how it will turn out. That's madness. What if Hickman totally @#$%s the bed? What if all of this is taking place in the dreams of Unus the Untouchable after eating a bad cheeseburger? Unlikely, sure, but you literally have no idea what this run is going to be like six months from now, let alone two years from now, which seems to be the minimum amount of time Hickman has committed to writing it. It's totally unknown. Get ahold of yourselves, people.
What House of X #1 does have is potential. I'll give it that. It's definitely an interesting concept, it establishes an X-Men status quo that's different than what we're used to, and it's hard to guess what will come next. This -could- be the start of the next great era in X-Men comics. But we simply don't have the perspective to make that judgment yet, and anyone who claims to be able to do so is basing it more on their hopes and desires than on the actual book in their hands.
d is for decompression
One of the most frequent comparisons you'll see in people talking about House of X on social media is between House of X and New X-Men opening arc. The idea is that New X-Men was a radical departure from what X-Men comics had been in the 90s, and that House of X offers a similar departure. But like I've explained, we simply have no way of knowing that after just one issue.
But there are some very big differences between House of X and New X-Men. Most importantly, New X-Men's opening arc, e is for extinction, was three issues, and a lot happened during those three issues. We're introduced to Cassandra Nova, Sentinels wipe out sixteen million mutants on Genosha, Scott and Jean's marriage has trouble, Professor X outs himself as a mutant, and the X-Men get a bold new aesthetic. Furthermore, this occurred in the regular secondary ongoing X-Men title, without a relaunch, without a 12-issue double-sized and double-priced prologue, without canceling all the other X-books and relaunching them all under Morrison's control.
By comparison, House of X and its companion series, Powers of X, will be 12 issues, and they're just the appetizer for the actual X-Men run that will launch in October when the prologue is done. This is comic book decompression at its worse. If you're paying cover price, that will be over $60 dollars just to read the opening salvo of this X-Men run. It cost less than 7 bucks to buy New X-Men #114-116 in 2001, and by the time you were done reading them, the story was well underway, not just getting started.
n is for nostalgia
What's really happening here, ironically, is a strong sense of nostalgia. There are a lot of people who began their X-Men fandom in the 90s, when most X-Men comics were written by Scott Lobdell of all people after Bob Harras drove everyone good out of the X-Offices. It was a dark time, and for them, Morrison's New X-Men was a radical change that made X-Men comics feel urgent again. People reading House of X and immediately taking to the internet to declare it the greatest X-Men comic in 30 years and a spiritual successor to New X-Men are probably experiencing a similar feeling from House of X #1 that they felt when they read New X-Men #114.
In other words, they are experiencing nostalgia and don't know what to make of it. And this makes me happy because my young friends are finally experiencing what has to this point been mostly geared toward fans of Chris Claremont's classic X-Men comics, or even geared toward fans of early 90s X-Men books, like Rob Liefeld's Major X. Welcome to getting old, folks. Time to enjoy the pandering to your wistful desire to recapture your childhood that all entertainment companies will gladly engage in for your money while you live out your golden years waiting to die.
But reserve your judgment on House of X for now.
c is for continuity
While I generally enjoyed House of X #1, I do have one major gripe with it, and that's the fact that it appears to ignore everything that's happened in the X-Men books over the past few years. Characters who were killed are back (though there might be a sinister explanation) and the recent Uncanny X-Men run, along with the X-Men Blue and Gold runs before it, have seemingly no impact on the story. This could change in the coming months and all of that could be masterfully explained, which is why it's impossible to judge a 12-part story on the first part alone. But as it stands now, it seems like House of X and Powers of X have rendered the last few years of X-Books irrelevant, and I dont like it.
To a lot of people, this doesn't matter. There are some who fall under the camp that believes that stories shouldn't be hindered by continuity, or sometimes even characterization, and that these things should bend to suit the story a creative team is trying to tell. I'm not one of those people. I like the ongoing story aspect of comics. I like knowing that characters I'm reading about now are the same ones I was reading about last year, five years ago, or thirty years ago. That's something relatively unique to superhero comic books. I enjoy the way stories from the past affect and inform the stories of today, and I think a truly great writer can make their story work without discarding what came before. I hope that this new era of X-Men finds a way to reconcile with the previous era, but we're just going to have to wait and see.
r is for recap
This is ostensibly a recap column, so what actually happens in House of X? Well, the issue opens with Charles Xavier, now a dude in a skintight black spandex jumpsuit who constantly wears a Cerebro helmet, ushering naked mutants out of pods in what will later be implied is a No-Place, a part of the Krakoan ecosystem that exists outside of Krakoa's consciousness. What is the Krakoan ecosystem, you ask? Well, in House of X, which seems to take place in the very near future, as a lot has happened before the story begins, Charles Xavier has established a new mutant nation on the island of Krakoa, and Krakoa has also been turned into both a supercomputer by Cypher (who has a Warlock arm), manned by Sage, and a network of habitats (Westchester, the Moon, Mars, the Savage Land, Washington DC, Jeruselum, and presumably elsewhere) that create portals for mutants to travel between the habitats and to enter Krakoa. The habitats are created by planting flowers, and these flowers have other benefits as well. In fact, they can be used to create three drugs which, respectively, extend human life by five years, act as super-antibiotics, and cure mental illness. Xavier is offering these drugs to humanity in exchange for world governments recognizing Krakoa as a sovereign nation.
To that end, some major governments have sent ambassadors for a tour of Krakoa, led by Magneto. They're greeted by the Stepford Cuckoos, who are all alive again, which seems to be the case for many previously dead X-Men (unless they are fake X-Men grown from pods like in that first scene). Magneto shows these ambassadors around, though he refuses to take them to the actual island, which is for mutants only. Instead, they end up in the Jeruselum habitat, where the Cuckoos read the ambassadors' minds and reveal that most of them plan to agree to Xavier's terms, even though they are all also undercover agents and not real ambassadors. One of them even has a gun, which Magneto easily dismantles before revealing that they don't really have any choice because mutants are the new gods of Earth now. He also delivers one of the best lines of the book when discovering the one agent with a weapon, and one of the few that appears emotional amidst an otherwise mostly stoic mood: "Some would be offended at a wolf presenting as a sheep, but I have learned hard lessons from your kind– so I know the truth… you are all wolves." You tell 'em, Mags.
In a side-plot, Jean Grey, dressed in her old Marvel girl costume and at least once going by the name "Mrs. Grey" (which is interesting… is she married again? and to whom?), gathers young mutants and brings them through portals to Krakoa. There, they find weirdo spandex Xavier smiling but still giving off a creepy vibe, and also Wolverine, who is frolicking with Children. In another one, Dr. Alia Gregor of AIM, accompanied by Karima Shapandar (who is an Omega Sentinel again), visit a space station made out of a Sentinel head. They are there as part of an organization called ORCHIS, itself made of people from AIM, SHIELD, STRIKE, SWORD, Alpha Flight, HAMMER, ARMOR, and Hydra, as a response to mutants possibly taking over the planet from humans. They are there to execute "doomsday plans," though the specifics are as yet unrevealed.
Finally, in another side-plot, Mystique, Toad, and Sabretooth steal files from a computer in a Damage Control facility and attempt to escape to Krakoa, but they are confronted by the Fantastic Four, who manage to capture Sabretooth after the other two make it through a portal. Cyclops then emerges from the portal and attempts to take Sabretooth into custody, explaining that amnesty is offered to all mutants, even criminals. The Fantastic Four aren't budging, and Cyclops acquiesces and says they'll sort it out another way later. He is friendly to the Fantastic Four, but also leaves with what can be interpreted as a threat, reminding them that there is "family" waiting for Franklin Richards on Krakoa. He also delivers one of the most talked-about lines of the issue: "My family has spend our entire lives being hunted and hated. The world has told me that I was less when I knew I was more. Did you honestly think that we were going to sit around forever and just take it?" Badass.
The issue also contains a lot of backup material that assists in the worldbuilding, and it's clear that every single panel, and every word, is deliberate and meaningful, even if the meaning isn't clear right now. You could dissect this comic for days and you still wouldn't find every little clue. It's very well done, and it has the potential to deliver on its promise to make the X-Men great again.
HOUSE OF X #1 (OF 6)
(W) Jonathan Hickman (A/CA) Pepe Larraz
FACE THE FUTURE! Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (SECRET WARS, AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR) takes the reins of the X-Men universe! Since the release of Uncanny X-Men #1, there have been four seminal moments in the history of the X-Men. Giant-Sized X-Men. X-Men. Age of Apocalypse. New X-Men. Four iconic series that introduced a new era for Marvel's mutants and revolutionized the X-Men. In House of X, Charles Xavier reveals his master plan for mutantkind…one that will bring mutants out of the shadow of mankind and into the light once more.
In Shops: Jul 24, 2019
p is for promise
I understand that this column is probably going to make people pretty mad and that I'm probably going to be subject to lots of nasty subtweets about it. Which is fine. No one likes having their bubble burst. But this is all coming from a place of love. I love the X-Men. I love X-Men fans. Is it silly that you all have lost your minds over a single issue of a comic? Yes, very silly. But that's what loving the X-Men is all about. You want this to be the greatest X-Men run of all time. The X-Men have been shat upon by Marvel for the last decade or more because Fox owned their movie rights and Ike Perlmutter is a petty moron. So of course you're rooting for this to work. I am too. Hickman, and Marvel, have been promoting this as a return to form for the X-Men, the chance for them to reclaim their rightful place of prominence. We want it to succeed. We need it to succeed because if it doesn't, the X-Men might not get another chance to be the number one franchise in comics again.
And House of X absolutely has the potential to accomplish that. The story established here is strange and new and unpredictable, and it's also complex and apparently well thought out, and if it sticks the landing, it could do exactly what it's set out to do. But we're not going to know whether it has, at the very earliest, until House of X and Powers of X have wrapped up, and realistically, not until the whole story is done, which could be years from now.
So let's check back in at least a few months before declaring this the most important X-Men comic ever, okay?
x is for X-ual Healing: Learning to Love (or Hate) the Relaunch Part 1 (of 12)
For the last few weeks, I've been warning you all that when the X-Men line-wide relaunch began, I would also relaunch this column. And what better way to do that (apparently) than with a 12-issue prologue. And so, this is the first part of a 12-part series called "Learning to Love (or Hate) the Relaunch," in which I will grapple with my hatred of relaunches and my love of X-Men comics in an attempt to decide whether this is ultimately a good or bad thing for the X-Books. I don't know if I'll always be able to write 2500 words about a single issue of a comic (because I'm basically winging it, and I have more free time this week due to being ahead of my article quota thanks to Comic-Con), but we'll find out in the next few weeks.
Sworn to sell comics for Marvel executives who feared and hated the fact that Fox owned their movie rights, The Uncanny X-Men suffered great indignities, but thanks to a corporate merger and a line-wide relaunch, the X-Men can finally get back to doing what they do best: being objectively the best franchise in all of comics.
l is for links
Adventures in Poor Taste took the week off from their X-Men Monday column, probably still waiting for the refractory period to end after that gushing House of X #1 review. They'll be back next week.
Over at Xavier Files, the crew there did an admirable job annotating the entire issue, so if you're a super nerd (like me) who wants to dig deep into all the references and clues in House of X #1, that's a great place to start.
There's literally dozens of thinkpieces and reviews and clickbait articles written about House of X from the past week, so just google it and read what you like.
Next week: Powers of X #1, and another Wolverine chapter from Marvel Comics Presents.
Read more X-ual Healing here: