Saturday, March 11, 2006

Review - Comics: House of M

I just reread this comic series recently and I soon rediscovered why I believe this is one of the best mini-series ever made. The great story coupled by the involvement of two of the best teams ever assembled, the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers made this one of the best titles I've read.

The Setting: The story takes place in an alternate Marvel universe where several Avengers (the Vision, Hawkeye and Ant-Man) were killed by one of their own, the Scarlet Witch when she suffered a nervous breakdown after she lost her children. It is also a place where the X-Men founder, Charles Xavier, left the team to rebuild the charred remains of Genosha (the only mutant city) and came to the aid of his long-time friend Magneto, the shamed and outcast father of the Scarlet Witch, to help "cure" his daughter.

The Plot: The story begins with Xavier trying to convince a severly-traumatized Scarlet Witch to control her reality-altering mutant powers. He realized the need to do so because he knew that the Scarlet Witch's power was too dangerous to let loose. However, he also knew that he was powerless to help her. So he left Genosha and called on the Astonishing X-Men (Emma Frost, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Shadowcat and Colossus), the New Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, the Sentry, Spider-Man and Luke Cage), Avengers Reserves (the Wasp, Falcon, Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man) as well as the Mystic, Dr. Strange to decide with him the fate of Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch).

There was a standoff - with the X-Men wanting to eliminate the Scarlet Witch before she poses a bigger threat on one side; and the Avengers wanting another alternative on the other. Both teams claimed that they should have jurisdiction over the matter. The X-Men believed that they should have authority since the Scarlet Witch was a mutant threat. While the Avengers believed that they should decide on the matter because she was part of their team. With the absence of a clear decision, everyone decided to go to Genosha to speak with the Scarlet Witch instead. However, they were all surprised to learn that the Scarlet Witch was moved. Fearing that Magneto took his daughter away, the heroes tried to pursue the fugitives. They closed in on them until Xavier was mysteriously lost and the whole world turned white.

The Twist: The Scarlet Witch used her powers to create a new world where the heroes got what they always wanted. It was a world where mutants were the dominant race, Spider-Man was a happily-married, popular and wealthy wrestler (his Uncle Ben was alive), Captain America was a retired war hero, Tony Stark (Iron Man) was a wealthy businessman (with an alive father), Emma Frost and Scott Summers (Cyclops) were living together, Colossus was a farmer, Shadowcat was a teacher, Ms. Marvel was the most popular superhero, Wonder Man was a celebrity etc.

Unfortunately, Wolverine also got what he always wanted - he got all his memory back. Along with that, he remembered a different world: a world where mutants were hated and feared; where war, violence and famine were more rampant; where the world was in tormoil. Wolverine knew that the world, where he was the head of the most elite force for the House of M (Magnus - Magneto's real name), was a better place - but it wasn't the real one. So he went rogue and tried to reassemble the X-Men and Avengers team that he remembered. He was helped by a powerful child psychic, Layla - a mutant that existed only on the new world but strangely remembered the world Wolverine described. She was instrumental in letting the heroes remember everything.

The Climax: The best part of the series was the face-off between the combined X-Men and Avengers heroes and those of the House of M. Although the heroes were a powerful group, the House of M were no pushovers - there was the Maximoff family (Magneto and his children), Namor the leader of Atlantis, Ororo (Storm) ruler of Africa and Dr. Doom ruler of Latvia among others. The battle sequences were brutal (Cyclops insisted that nobody should hold back). The two sides were evenly matched with nobody in any clear advantage. Concurrently, two important revelations about the story surfaced while all the fighting went on. 1) Xavier, who was presumed dead, was found to be only missing and 2) Magneto didn't convince his daughter to create the mutant-ruling world - it was Quicksilver's (Wanda's twin brother's) idea. When Magneto learned that Quicksilver did this and used his name in the process, he killed his son. This angered Wanda because she believed that Quicksilver only wanted to help her and everyone else in the process. Because of this, Wanda used her powers once again and wished to have no more mutants. Thus the whole world turned white again.

The Ending: The old world was returned to how it was - except that 1) Most of the world's mutants lost their mutant genes. 2) Nobody remembered the events in the world of the House of M except for the X-Men, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. 3) Xavier, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were missing. 4) The repercussions of the lost energy of all mutants were about to unfold.

My Reaction: The story was great since the heroes were willing to let go of the reality created by the Scarlet Witch no matter how great it was. They were willing to die and fight without holding anything back in order to return to a world that's worse than the one that was created for them. Did they do it because it was the unselfish and noble thing to do? Or is it because they just couldn't live a lie? Be it for whatever reason, it epitomized how earth's heroes value integrity and dedication. It showed how these can overcome even their human emotions.

However, I also felt for the Maximoff family because their stories showed how they succombed to their human sides. I felt for Scarlet Witch, a loving mother, who wanted to have a world where her children were alive. I also felt for Quicksilver who was selfish enough to suggest a new world where his sister can be spared from a possible execution. Finally, I felt for Magneto who was proud not to accept the mutant-supreme world (his lifelong dream) that he ruled when he learned that it wasn't real.

I like the way both sides in this series were properly developed. There were several other related titles to the House of M that further showed the altered lives of the heroes from both sides. It's obvious that a lot of work was exerted in creating the intricate stories and how everything came together. I really enjoyed the story and I'm looking forward to the series that follows this one, Decimation. Hopefully it's as good as it's predecessor.

Rating: Starbucks

5 - Starbucks
4 - Seattle's Best
3 - Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
2 - San Francisco Coffee
1 - Kapihan sa Kanto


rmacapobre said...

i will be willing to live a lie just for a while because sometimes, reality sucks.

rmacapobre said...

did you guys hear about JLA? tapos na daw yung series. why? why? do good things have to end so .. abruptly.

rob said...

Man, this sounds like a great epic story. Comics seem to attract the most creative writers.

As a kid I enjoyed the 'imaginary story only' DC titles as anything can happen. Lex Luthor can marry Lois Lane, Superman can die, etc. I think this is why I prefer slightly weird movies where anything goes.

roehl said...

kudos to my cousin jeff for a well written review. being his cousin, i had the privilege of reading his house of m collection. and reading the review made me appreciate the mini-series more. for example, i wasn’t aware that the reason why wolverine was the first among the heroes to realize that the perfect world created by the scarlet witch was a farce was because in a perfect world, he would have all his memories as he always wanted to know who experimented on him and put all that adamantium on him. the memory of the real world, the one untouched by the scarlet witch, was just part of the package.

rob’s idea of inviting jeff to dangerousreviewers was a stroke of genius as jeff represents the current crop of society’s yuppies. did i mention he’s my cousin?

rob said...

Yes I like our well-balanced group and Jeff (aka "You're Out") fills in an essential piece of the puzzle - the young yuppie mindset, hehehe.

I have younger cousins and am always surprised at how different they are from me. They practically grew up with cellphones and computers, all of them use IM, chat, and they also like different kinds of music and tv shows. So it is nice that we have some comics and game reviews for a change.

Another good thing is that Jeff's writing has a certain edginess to it. Somes you need that certain emotional connection to deliver an intense and readable post.

It would be great if Marc Arabe and Jan (aka Johnny Blaze the gaming legend) were to post too.