Overview

House of M #8

Review

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House of M #8

Credits

  • Words: Brian Michael Bendis
  • Art: Olivier Coipel
  • Inks: John Dell, Scott Hanna, and Tim Townsend
  • Colors: Frank D?Armata
  • Story Title: House of M- Part 8
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Nov 2, 2005

The white light flashed, and now nothing will be what it once was. When the House of M falls, how many will fall with it?

The newest of days dawns. Laura Miller is late for school. Peter Parker awakes with Mary Jane at his side. And a few heroes meet at Avengers Tower. Some, like Captain America and Iron Man, don’t remember a thing. The others who were there, especially Peter Parker, remember their assault on Genosha, then a blinding white light, and now wonder if everything has returned to normal. Soon, they learn with the whole world that little is normal anymore. Virtually every mutant on the face of the earth has lost the X-gene that gives them their special abilities. But a few are spared—the Astonishing X-Men line-up and Nightcrawler among them. They hunt down a now deposed and powerless Magneto, who has no idea where Wanda and Pietro are, as The Avengers arrive at their ruined mansion to find Hawkeye’s empty costume and quiver. For all the questions, there are only as many answers as there are mutants. In other words, not many. But one of Marvel’s bigger brains is willing to speculate and if he’s right, then what’s coming next will make House of M look like a walk in the park.

I’ve had many problems with House of M. Like almost everything in comics, it seemed hyped to the hilt, a desperate attempt to match the impact and scope of DC’s Infinite Crisis. The pacing through the first six issues drove me nuts, to the extent that I started referring to it as House of D—the "D" for "decompression." And the tie-ins seemed more like alternate-reality vignettes that had little impact on the larger story. But most of all, in contrast to Infinite Crisis, whose ramifications (whatever they will be) I can reasonably hope will be long-lasting and significant, I couldn’t help but think that Marvel was up to marketing gimmickry instead of dramatic storytelling. The Marvel Universe would change for a while, but would eventually revert back to the status quo, with me the reader considerably poorer for having bought a ticket for a ride that ends where I got on.

But with my expectations low, much of the series a drag, and my Marvel 616 cynicism at an all-time high, with House of M #7 and now issue #8, Brian Michael Bendis has, for the moment, convinced me otherwise, and affirmed that he is to Marvel what David Ortiz was to the 2004 Boston Red Sox—the guy who got it done when all seemed lost.

Everything in House of M #8 works, particularly its tone and characterization. As both an earth-shaking resolution and a tragic and somber coda, reading it is like experiencing a family tragedy. What was seems irrevocably lost, what is lies in shambles, and what will be seems more ominous than anyone can seem to comprehend. We grieve for Peter Parker’s loss, grieve even more realizing that he’s lost what he’s wanted most twice now, and wonder if his life, or his marriage, will ever be the same again. Perhaps we grieve for Wolverine as well, either for what he was or what he will be. Now that he remembers his whole life, perhaps the lesson that Peter Parker learned the hardest of ways—that ignorance can indeed be bliss—will come down on him just as hard, especially if anything he remembers has something to do with what’s coming, or even the deep, dark secret Xavier’s been hiding for years. Perhaps for the first time, Magneto deserves our pity, because he’s lost everything after actually meaning well. But with the X-Men’s greatest foe rendered powerless, who or what will step in to talk his place? And Wanda? Even more questions abound. Does she still have her powers? What, if anything, does she remember? Where’s Pietro? Her "children?" Of the mutants who are left with their abilities, why them? And what will she do next?

In tone and content, House of M #8 is a tour de force, but Bendis also deserves praise for how adroitly he manages its scenes. Keeping establishing shots to a minimum, he cuts his scenes hard, entering at the latest moment and exiting at the earliest. The effect is a briskly paced story brimming with information and characterization. But noting this, it’s a shame to think that he sleepwalked through House of M #1 through #6 with #7 and #8 up his sleeve. To be sure, House of M will be a touchstone for years of comics reading to come, but had the first six issues had the energy and muscle of the last two issues, it would have been more than that. It would have been an instant classic.

Olivier Coipel turns in his best issue yet of the series. Previously I’ve found his art disconcerting, his figures too statuesque at times, his heads too huge for such small, fine and sometimes impish features that don’t emote well at all. While some of those stylistic ticks are still there in House of M #8, particularly in many of the male characters, his splash page of Logan remembering it all at once is a masterful depiction of emotional reaction. And his principal female characters are much more naturalistic and fluid. Most impressive in this respect is Emma Frost. He captures it all—the shock, the grief, the sense that she has no idea what to do. Bendis’ script only hints at how she feels. Coipel takes what the script can’t give us, and pushes Emma to the edge without pushing her over. She’s an artist’s dream, and John Cassaday does her best of all, but in his hands she’s still a dream. Coipel makes her real. Real as well is the next to last scene, Magneto in the dust that was once his dreams, not caring what the X-Men will do to him, rendered with as much power as pathos. And as for the closing scene—four pages beginning with Wanda’s blissfully green eye and backing away until the reader has a God’s-eye-view of the whole world—it’s absolutely chilling.

Julie Schwartz once remarked that comics need to be shaken up every decade or so. House of M #8 proves him right.

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