The Answer-Man’s Quick and Dirty Review
The first issue of Marvel’s complete reboot of the X-men franchise, House of X, is out and it is upsetting the status quo of Marvel’s merry mutants and the Marvel Universe. It’s weird. It’s ominous. It has the scent of something wrong from beginning to end – yet, I was intrigued just the same. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963 as the X-Men and then re-imagined by Chris Claremont in 1975 as the All New, All Different X-men, the mutants of Marvel have gone on to be one of the most successful franchises in comic history.
Without explanation, the entire Marvel Universe is being upended by this series. Marvel is taking a big risk with this project but given the complicated state of mutants in the Marvel Universe, it was inevitable someone would have to do this. Crossing timelines (Days of Future Past, Age of Apocalypse), trans-dimensional stragglers (Bishop, Nate Grey), timeline survivors (Cable, Dark Beast), universal reboots (House of M) or alternative timelines (the All-New X-men, time-lost, younger X-men), out of body experiences (Psylocke) as well as the many deaths of popular or mishandled characters, have all been undone.
Change was necessary, nay, it was inevitable …
House of X is a complete reboot of the X-Men franchise, taking the opportunity to correct many of the more wasteful aspects of the origins of mutants over their history, i.e. Krakoa is now once again alive and capable of incredible mutant abilities of planetary-level gate generation and transportation, acting as a mission center and a transport agent.
The writer, Jonathan Hickman appears to be creating a new sense of racial integrity, removing the previous infighting between Charles Xavier and Magneto, each the respective fathers of their previously opposing views. This first issue asks many questions and offers few answers, but for the first time, the coherence of the mutant viewpoint is presented in stark contrast to previous eras.
Removing the internal strife has created a unified mutant front and the series from this opening book appears to be the inevitable confrontation between Humans who are listed as potentially extinct in the next 20 years and Homo Sapiens Superior, whose capacities are both expanding and now being intelligently, strategically led. Humans are right to be afraid.
Like any major reboot, the goal is to see if there is any possibility for characters who were erased or mishandled, tales which squandered their story potential. (See: Cypher). Already, Krakoa’s revival, the miniaturization of Cerebro, the genetic manipulations of an upright and walking Professor X, seen on the cover, a repentant but still terrifying Magneto as an ambassador for mutant-kind, a return to the worst costume ever for Jean Grey as Marvel Girl, the strong-arm tactics of Xavier vs the world community; all signs of an effort to get back to more linear storytelling, a more focused narrative and to streamline the stories told about Marvel’s mutant community as it is being redefined in this series.
Is it successful?
The story thus far feels like a prelude to an inevitable confrontation. I am hopeful that Hickman will do more than just make it mutants vs terrified but technologically sophisticated Humans who will inevitably create new forms of Sentinels. (But frankly, my comic reading intuition says it will be EXACTLY that.) I am willing to give it time to impress me, though and since they have returned almost every significant mutant to life, the possibility they will have new opportunities to amaze us is a big plus.
In my mind, the biggest selling point of this book is the incredible art by Pepe Larraz and the eye-popping colors of Marte Garcia. Holy cow, the book is a visual feast of dynamic storytelling. I know when the fight scenes arrive, they will be art for the ages.
If I have any reservations for this series, and I don’t really, because as a continuity person, the X-Universe had grown unwieldy and messy. It allowed for crazy creativity at the price of no real continuity amongst the stories, so I feel this reboot is a necessary thing. Unfortunately, there still appears to be a lack of racial inclusiveness since most of the starring mutants and particularly all of the most powerful ones are still racially coded as white.
Yes, you can say they aren’t Human and the convention of applying race to the characters isn’t meaningful, however, I stand by the idea that representation matters. And if your list of the world’s most powerful mutants does not include a greater degree of diversity, who is this fantasy story about oppression really for? I hold that speculative fiction which appropriates the struggle of the oppressed and makes it about white-coded characters is still a form of appropriation.
House of X appears to have the seeds of greatness planted within and our first taste of it, is indeed sweet, with perhaps for me, a slightly bitter aftertaste when I fail to see myself represented in this new world.
Rated 8 out of 10 – A coherent and cohesive return to greatness appears assured. Time will tell.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.