Friday, March 27, 2015

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Oliver Coipel

I originally intended to review all eight issues individually but due to some unforeseen time restraints IRL, I decided to simply post a single official review for its overall collection instead. And let me tell you something: writer Brian Michael Endis and artist Oliver Coipel have composed a formidable and pristine piece of comic book storytelling in the unbelievably catastrophic major event of House of M which had been dubbed ominously as "M-Day." And for a rather distressing reason at that.

M-Day not only affected X-Men's universe but also a great portion of the Marvelverse. Picking up right after the events of Planet X and Avengers Disassembled,  as well as Claremont's Excalibur III, House of M explores the turbulent effects of Wanda Maximoff's degrading mental state as the Scarlet Witch. Something just broke inside the poor woman, and she went on in a blind rampage, killing a few of the Avengers she and her twin brother Pietro (Quicksilver) have been a part of.

Because of this disaster, their father, Magneto, who had been declared officially dead to the world at large but was in truth living with Charles Xavier so they can restore Genosha together (Excalibur III) was forced out of hiding in the shadows so he can whisk her away to safety. He sought Xavier's help to cure her but in the last six months even the world's greatest telepathic mind could not mend what was so broken in Wanda's psyche.

The House of M arc is composed of a grand total of fifty-three issues, crossovering with titles such as The Uncanny X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Cable and Deadpool, Spider-Man, Captain America, to name a few. However, I only decided to touch upon the major eight-issued series which contained this volume and it's been one of the most stressful and exhilarating adventure I've ever had the pleasure of reading!

What was immediately exciting about this story is the fact that the ensemble of cast featured (X-Men, the Avengers, Dr. Strange and other Marvel characters with a direct connection with either group) was gathered together for a strong purpose and whose stories were scattered and sometimes necessarily explored rather well in each issue. Writing-wise, this could have easily been clattered and confusing, but Bendis excellently divided the characters within groups and glossed over the finest details with a concise and cohesive sense of narrative and action without overwhelming the readers nor diluting the importance of these subplots. The build-up and suspense were present issue after issue, leaving readers definitely invested on what will happen next which is something I know is never always a sure route when it comes to crossover events in comics. I believe that House of M excelled in this respect, reeling in readers, weaving them into the fabric of the narrative, and untangling the seams and threads only when there is no other choice for them but to unravel. And it's quite an experience because not only do readers look forward to the climactic confrontations and resolutions, but they are also interested in the way these game-changing events have affected the characters as individuals and as a unit.

Speaking of the latter, there were clear standouts that grabbed my attention with their characterizations for this story: Peter Parker, Emma Frost, Wanda and Pietro, and Hawkeye. These characters were fascinating and a little bit heartbreaking to read about because I felt for them during their experiences during M-Day. Basically, to evade the X-Men and the Avengers, Magneto, Wanda and Pietro hide out in a new reality the Scarlet Witch created where it's the humans who are the minority and the mutants are free to do whatever they want since it's their world now. This means that every character in the Marvelverse had their lives rewritten for them, and it was later revealed that the Scarlet Witch was able to achieve this by combining her powers with Charles Xavier's whose mind she's been connected with for six months now when he was trying to mend her. The only one who seemed to recognize that it was all an illusion was Wolverine, given his overall constitution and the fact that he had been mind-wiped so many times that once he actually remembered all the events in his life in the new world Wanda created, he immediately knew something was not right. He started to seek out the other heroes with the help of this mysterious girl named Layla Miller who can somehow restore memories once she comes in contact with them. Afterwards, a race to confront House of Magnus begins.

It's a widely acceptable notion to believe that it was Magneto who orchestrated all of this. After all, he wanted mutants to rule and govern as the superior species while humankind becomes the secondary citizens of the world in return. Scarlet Witch's new world was the utopia he had always wanted and so once the heroes recovered their memories and discovered the truth, they were livid because everything about this version of reality has Magneto's propaganda written all over it. But by the last two issues, Dr. Strange had a conversation with Wanda herself while she was tending to her imaginary children and he uncovered that it was her twin brother Pietro who had begged her to "cast a spell" on everyone in Marvelverse using her mutant powers of reality-bending. He did it because Pietro had always been so viciously protective of Wanda and seeing that their own estranged father was helpless to stop the X-Men and the Avengers from taking away (or even possibly killing Wanda), he convinces his sister, whose mind is already damaged to begin with, to "give everyone their heart's desire" in a new world she would construct. And so their will be done. Scarlet Witch reached Xavier to tap his powers and unite them with hers.

Forgive me for inserting some Cherik commentary by this part of the review but I think it needs to be said. When Pietro requested that the new world will be able to give everyone's desire, this also includes the accomplishment of their own father's goals, and he is by now the sole ruler of the entire world under the House of M. Magneto is living in a clearly utopic Genosha (a place he and Charles have spent some gruelling time on during Excalibur III). However, it's worth nothing that, in this version of reality, his long-time best friend is dead. That was the price to pay for the ultimate realization of a dream he shared with the said man. And that explains why Erik Lehnsherr actually looks miserable, in spite of getting everything he desired since the beginning; a peaceful world where mutants are the majority while his family is intact. That should be suffice to explain why he was so goddamn infuriated when he found out what Pietro and Wanda did. So my question is--and please, hear this on every level--HOW WOULD ANYONE EXPECT HIM TO LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT CHARLES XAVIER? Add that to the list of reasons why he was angry for what the twins did. Now this is actually a plausible theory, okay? I mean, he did play house with Charles instead of informing his own children that he's not dead. It's a good thing this remains unsaid because that's just going to further piss off Pietro and Wanda. They already feel neglected as it  is and for years by their father. They don't want to hear the fact that he didn't even write, he didn't even call, but rather just straight-up eloped with his boyfriend in Genosha and continued to fake his death. YIKES.

Look at this miserable sack of sad shit. He wanted to rule the world but not without his oldest friend by his side.

Back to more serious matters: it looks like Magneto can still hurt his children worse that he already has which sucks sweaty donkey balls because he had all these heartfelt retrospection in Claremont's Excalibur III where he wants to be a better father and all that. So what the fucking fuckity fuck did you just do, Mags? Look, I get you're mad that Pietro and Wanda seem to think that a world without your boyfriend Chuck is something you desire the most, but it's not like you were ever open about that relationship with them. Also, don't be a fucking hypocrite and scold them for their arrogance because they believe they are better than everyone else. YOU GODDAMN TAUGHT THEM THAT, JERK. Clearly, this will piss off Wanda because it's not like she has any idea that Magneto has undergone some thoughtful changes in his outlook and philosophy during his stay in Gensoha with Charles. So hearing him say bullshit like that made her skin crawl.


FUCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!!!! Consider it a blessing that Charles is not alive to see what you have done, Erik!

So after Wanda resurrects her bro, she has every right to vehemently call out Magneto right there and then:

Driven to despair and already fragile and remorseful, Magneto hammers the last nail on Wanda's proverbial coffin of sanity by murdering her brother in front of her so now she makes this grand proclamation that I believe was only uttered as a whisper but with a level of apathy and reverence that would chill anyone who reads it:

And the Scarlet Witch proceeds to remake the world again, depowering almost every mutant across the world, leaving only a scattered few with their powers still intact, including some of the adult X-Men while the students of Xavier School were not even spared. Even Magneto can't even move a fucking fork. And it serves him right. Wanda's utter decimation of mutantkind made Cassandra Nova and the Sentinels laying Genosha to waste before seem like a practical joke. What Wanda Maximoff did was just...frightening and borne out of sadness and a desperation for love, just as Charles had said in the final issue of Excalibur III. All she and her brother ever wanted was a father and a family where they could be accepted and truly belong to. They tried to find these things with the Avengers and in making the world a better place--but the one person whom they wanted love and affection from the most, their own father, considered to be a terrorist and a hard man through and through, has failed to give them that, and then hurt them in ways that can never heal. And so this is Wanda lashing out for the last time, which also happened to tragically affect everyone else in the process.

At its core, M-Day just proves that the world as we know it can end not with a bang but with a whimper.

An exemplary and well-crafted tale that is briskly paced and shocking, House of M is an enduring comic book you must have on your shelf. I might get around to reading the crossover titles for this arc some time but for now I would like to focus on reading and reviewing the next chapter of this game-changing event, more specifically Deadly Genesis, Messiah Complex and Second Coming volumes. I won't be updating my X-Men reviews this holy week because I'm going on a family trip but I'll also be reading Magneto Testament which is a rather gruesome material about young Erik's time at the Nazi camps which I considered only appropriate to browse after reading this.


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