Current Reviews


House of M #1

Posted: Monday, June 6, 2005
By: Shawn Hill

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Olivier Coipel (p), Tim Townsend (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot: The Astonishing X-men and the New Avengers head for Genosha at the request of the Uncanny X-men (or, in this case, Excalibur, despite the summary page) in the person of Professor X. They’re discussing a final solution to the threat Wanda poses, and hoping they aren’t already too late. It’s a Bendis book, so what do you think?

Comments: A.K.A. “When Wanda’s Glowing Golden Vagina Ate the World.”

This issue begins with a very physical depiction of Wanda in labor. To the point of seeing a little hand emerge, grasping, from between her legs (this is not how babies are born). The imagery is a surreal mix of sunny and horrific. Which side is true?

The first thing Xavier says to her is “Now put it back.” He’s literally referring to the reality she has altered with her birth fantasy, but in relation to the scene it sounds an awful lot like he wants her to shove the horror (helpfully, eye-bleeding zombies from Coipel before the scene is over) back where it came from. The threat of Wanda’s Womb continues from “Disassembled” despite the months that have passed, and it’s worse than the Flames of Faltine ever were.

The emphasis remains on Wanda’s problems as an angry Xavier insists: “You cannot have children, you never could.” Why does he continue to confuse Wanda’s choice of an android mate with an implied charge of being barren, which she isn’t and never has been? It’s her husband that lacks workable sperm, not she that lacks fertile eggs.

Saving Graces: Bringing the Avengers and X-men together to talk about "The Wanda Problem" is a good thing in theory. Bendis keeps them mostly in character for the chat, which is more than he managed for “Chaos.” Emma’s practicality is familiar, as is Logan’s. The moral differences between the hardened X-men and the idealistic Avengers sound reasonable. Tony funding the new team while he disbanded the old team, however, doesn’t and never did. Comments about who quit and who is now uninvited ring hollow. Carol does seem to have retained the forgiveness she offered Wanda in Finale, though.

The art is incredibly strong, with Coipel having definitely come into his own as a high profile penciller. His narrative choices are as clear as can be, his strong guys massive, his smart girls gorgeous and graceful. The arrival of Astonishing is dramatic and makes full use of their newly coherent costumes. And when things get odd at the end of the issue, Coipel makes some intriguing choices, especially on page 21, where he conveys the weirdness of Bendis’s version of Wanda’s power more effectively than Finch did in five issues through interesting compositional choices for Spider-Man as he enters a desecrated church.

But there’s a cold calculation to the plotting that completely abandons the sense of humor Bendis injects into New Avengers, and both stories share the same sense of heroes standing around and talking and wasting time when they should have been acting long ago. This makes the team seem like sentimental fools, jailers and executioners..., I.E. anything but heroes. Dr. Exposition (Strange) is curiously quiet this time out, his role in the story as its apologist presumably discharged (if not successfully). So with all of these talks merely exposition, plot devices and set up for the series, we’re left with only two sincerely emotional scenes to draw us into the story. Both involve Magneto.

When talking to Charles, he’s curiously wearing pajamas..., I.E., he’s seems to be nearly as much a convalescent as Wanda, still reeling from Wolverine’s attack and the Sentinel Holocaust as if Planet X never happened. He’s depressed, guilty, impotent, hardly even the man who whisked Wanda away from the Avengers in full battle gear.

Later, in the strongest sequence in the story, he listens impotently as Quicksilver pleads for his sister’s life. While not quite as sneaky as the reveal that made Wanda the architect of “Chaos,” this is apparently all the setup we’re going to get for “World of M.” Which looks, from the last page, to be a mirror-image of what Wanda might have been doing in “Chaos.” Instead of confronting all the heroes with their worst nightmares, she’s going to make sure all their dreams come true.

However will they be able to kill her if she gives them everything they ever wanted? The selfish heroes will rationalize their way into forgiving her then, right? Well, the glowing elliptical void that eats Peter and the setting of a desecrated church for this dark rebirth should give us some hints.

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