Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Inker: Tim Townsend
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In the wake of the Avengers disassembled story-arc Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch) continues to fall deeper into her psychosis even as her powers slowly unravel the fabric of reality around her. Uncertain of what to do, Charles Xavier summons both her former allies among the Avengers and the X-Men, to determine her fate. But when the heroes arrive on the former mutant sanctuary of Genosha (now a ruined wasteland), Wanda’s powers catapult them all into an alternate reality where things are not as they once were.
There is a misconception in comic books today that everything Brian Michael Bendis touches is pure gold. One has the feeling that the man could take a crap and the corporate big wigs at Marvel could somehow manage to market it as a limited edition mini-series. Here’s a news flash though: BMB (as he’s lovingly known by his fans) is not a comic book demi-God. He’s not going to come down from the mountain and lead legions of comic book fans to the rich fertile lands of superhero utopia. The man can write a decent script to be sure, but he’s hardly going to be remembered as a giant among the western literary canon. No, what Bendis does best (and what perhaps endears him to his many fans) is write pithy dialogue, action packed narratives and lovingly rendered iconic superheroes. He’s hardly reinventing the genre, and in my opinion, there are a hell of a lot better writers working in the industry (i.e. Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Kurt Busiek to name a few). That being said Bendis’ material is always fun to read and while it may not be cutting edge, or mind blowingly original it’s worth picking up as entertaining escapism (which let’s face it, is the reason why a lot of us read comics in the first place).
Which brings us to Bendis’ latest project, the much publicized House of M, a limited series spawned from the pages of New Avengers and Astonishing X-Men. The story picks up following the events of the Avengers disassembled story arc in which a psychotic Scarlet Witch lost control of her reality-altering powers thus leading to the eventual death of several key Avengers and the disbanding of the team. House of M #1 began with a united X-Men/Avengers, discussing the fate of Wanda Maximoff, and heading to Charles Xavier and Magneto’s mutant stronghold of Genosha to discuss the matter. Before they can reach a decision however, the Scarlet Witch’s powers kick into high gear and they are flung into an alternate reality. House of M #2 is really an exploration of this new reality rather than further developing the plot, but it remains interesting none the less. The reader is soon introduced to a world in which mutants are the dominant species and humanity is a subservient and dieing breed. The characters themselves have also dramatically altered, with Spider-Man married to long time love Gwen Stacey, the Beast devoid of his trademark blue hair, Luke Cage a crime boss in New York’s underworld and Magneto and his dynastic House of M, apparently ruling the world. Nothing much happens in this issue in terms of developing the plot, but the issue works well in terms of setting up the now traditional “alternate reality” comic book universe, in the same vein as Marvel’s popular Age of Apocalypse limited series.
Indeed, Marvel seems adept at creating these kind of huge “world shaking” limited series, complete with countless spin-offs, full page advertisements and marketing hoopla, series that essentially come off as straddling the line somewhere between corporate marketing and story telling.
But I’m not here to review Marvel’s ingenious marketing ploys. So the question is: Does the story hold up? It’s certainly entertaining, but as the major blockbuster that Marvel has touted it as, it falls a little short.
Bendis script work is enjoyable as ever, but there is nothing here that is truly remarkable or reads as anything more than a traditional alternate reality story. Similarly, artist Olivier Coipel’s work is engaging but fairly derivative of Marvel’s golden boy penciller David Finch. Of course, at this early stage in the game, it’s hard to tell where the series will develop and Marvel has promised that the series will have lasting repercussions for the Marvel universe, so it is perhaps premature to write the series off as simply a clever marketing gimmick.
No, in the end House of M is an entertaining if not particularly inspiring read. Die hard Avengers or X-Men fans will likely snatch it up in droves, but it remains to be seen if the series will live up to the hype. After all it doesn’t take a mutant telepath to see that Marvel is more concerned with dollar signs than drama.
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