Review – House Of M
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Olivier Coipel
Inker: Tim Townsend
Colourist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Release Date: June – November 2005
*This review will contain spoilers for House Of M.*
If you haven’t already read the book, please go and do so before reading on.
In this 2005 crossover event storyline, Brian Michael Bendis tackles an age old existential question. If you could have your heart’s desires and any of the great pains or misfortunes of your life reversed, would you take that offer? Even if it meant leaving behind the old reality that made you the person you are today? And if you did discover the truth; that the new idyllic reality you’ve just woken up in is a lie, would you go back and take back the burden of all of the pain and loss and suffering?
I love when comic books attempt to answer deep, resonant questions like these and writers get to use the medium to make the reader wonder how they would handle being put in that situation. Bendis does it fairly well here I think. Following on from the chaotic events of Avengers: Disassembled, House Of M sees Bendis follow up his decimation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, with the decimation of mutant-kind.
With Marvel’s Wandavision series currently streaming, a lot of fans are revisiting this book in anticipation for the show’s finale. Will we get a parallel where instead of wiping out all mutants, Wanda instead births them into the MCU? Nevertheless, the prospective idea of a mutant as powerful as Wanda Maximoff having a mental breakdown is a fascinating one, which could have devastating effects on a world-altering scale for the universe at large.
The way that Bendis presents his ideas here, is much more clearly thought out and less heavy handed than the way that he executed them in Avengers: Disassembled. This is interesting when you consider that Disassembled immediately precedes House of M and both are major event crossover books penned by the same writer. One thing that really stood out to me was the regret that Magneto shows in the early panels of the story. The repentance that he displays for dragging his children into his ultimately futile race-war is striking and as far as I am aware isn’t something that we had ever see him admit up until now.
This sense of regret will eventually carry over to the end of the story and become the main catalyst for the event that would drastically change the dynamic of Marvel comics in the years following this story.
Revisiting the story, I was worried that armed with the knowledge of how the event ended; I would somehow not enjoy the book as much as I did the first time I read through it. Thankfully I was wrong. Having the knowledge of where all of this is going actually makes the whole thing much more devastating and sombre as you work your way through the eight collected issues. The inevitability of it all and how hard the Avengers and X-Men work to try and prevent a catastrophe like this, makes the whole journey seem so bittersweet.
There is a slow build-up of anguish and guilt that mounts within Wanda through the book along with the emotional baggage carried over from prior events which she is still struggling to deal with. All of this leads to Wanda to utter those fateful words and it all works to make the bombshell seem more justifiable, but even more upsetting.
I loved the artwork in House of M upon revisiting it. Olivier Coipel’s pencils, along with Tim Townsend’s inks work together to capture a phenomenal level of detail, which in a story with as much grief and anguish as this one, is definitely required.
Something else that really stood out to me, – and it’s not something that I usually pick up on when looking at comic book art, – was the attention to detail in the character’s costume design. Obviously there are certain aspects of each respective hero’s costume that we have come to expect to be present, but some of the alternate clothing choices within the House of M universe were also really cool to see drawn with such a high level of detail.
The only thing that slightly bothered me in terms of the art was the discrepancy between the cover artwork for each issue and the panels within the issues. Whilst it is very common for a book to use a different artist to draw the covers than the main artist for the book, costume inconsistencies are something hard to ignore, especially from a huge company like Marvel. I realize that this is a very pernickety problem to have, but it is something that I couldn’t help but pick up on and it did bother me enough to bring it up here.
Overall, I am glad that I revisited this book. It is arguably one of Brian Michael Bendis’ best and the fantastic artwork on display compliments the book’s storyline phenomenally. It is also fascinating to see themes like PTSD and existential trauma through the eyes of an ultra-powerful character like Wanda Maximoff. There is a reason why this book is remembered so fondly and I think that it is one of Marvel’s best ever crossover event books.
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