Writer: Brain Michael Bendis
Artists: Oliver Coipel (p), Tim Townsend (i), Frank DíArmata (c)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So, House of M continues. In keeping with the trends of a miniseries which has see-sawed between occasional engaging, exciting alternate-reality superheroics and long periods of fairly dull exposition, this issue improves on the previous one, advancing the plot to some degree by showing Logan and his band of homo sapien resistance fighters unlocking the minds of an assortment of Marvel heroes. This is done as quickly and efficiently as possible, as after youíve seen one mind unlocked (and it was a smart move to start with Peter Parker, and show his complicated soul unravel in more detail than the others in a pretty double-page splash by Coipel) you donít really need to see it again. Still, the issue certainly suffers from the repetitive nature of these awakenings, as whilst itís interesting to see a panel of each of these characters confronted in their House-of-M identities, the process eats into the page count quite considerably. However, an interesting omission from the group comes when the heroes find Captain America, an old soldier and ex-astronaut in this reality, who is deemed worthless in his current elderly state. Whether this is to allow for a freer, more exciting vibe to the story (old man or not, Captain America is the natural leader of the Marvel heroes, and his commanding presence here would likely diminish the loose, "rebel" feel of the group Logan has put together) or to hold him back for a twist entrance into the fray later remains to be seen, but itís an interesting storytelling decision nonetheless.
The art, for an issue which shows an epic gathering of superheroes, is suitably colourful and energetic, and the effects of Laylaís powers are given an effective unsettling colour and blur effect whenever they are used. Coipel captures most of the Marvel personalities very well, and itís to his credit that the captions which show us the awakenings of the heroes seem fairly perfunctory, as the images tell the story perfectly clearly on their own. Iím also warming to the cover art of Esad Ribic - or maybe heís just upping his game - as the regular cover has a nice use of subdued colour and a great spooky feel to it (as long as you can ignore the suggestion that Emma Frost seems to have become some kind of Porn Star in the House of M reality).
Whilst the vast majority of this issue focuses on the process of Layla Miller getting various heroes up-to-speed, space is also devoted at the beginning of the issue to examine her unique nature. As an unheard-of mutant with psychic abilities which are a mystery to Emma Frost, it seems a little too convenient that her appearance in the House of M world has coincided exactly with the mysterious absence of uber-psychic professor Charles Xavier, despite the final page cliffhanger which suggests otherwise. Itís possible that Brian Michael Bendis might be signposting his story twists a little too far in advance, and that keeping a complete sense of mystery around the whereabouts of Xavier for this long has only served to connect his absence to Laylaís sudden appearance. That said, itís a thought which only occurred to me on a second read - and even then, I could be wrong. Still, itís encouraging that Bendis has set up a couple of neat mysteries to tie into the main plot, and that despite some educated guesses from the heroes of the story, the exact nature of why and how this House of M reality was created remains unknown.
A lot will rest on the conclusion of this miniseries, and there are certainly enough elements in motion for Bendis to construct a barnstorming finale. Thereís just a nagging feeling that things are dragging slightly, as after five issues weíve only just gotten to a stage where the heroes know whatís going on and are ready to begin to set things right. Iím enjoying House of M a lot more than I expected to, but it still has some way to go before it really delivers on the promise of its core concept.
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