Thursday, November 03, 2005

House Of M

[Note: This post contains spoilers for the House Of M storyline.]

Well, House Of M has finally come to a close. Though it didn't break the internet in half, it certainly generated it's share of discussion and controversy. Little of that discussion tended towards the good: typical Bendis decompression, a new character that exists purely as deus ex machina, tie-in miniseries that couldn't sync up their continuity, regular series that were hijacked, and a general sense that it would all add up to business as usual.

The biggest problem with House Of M was that it was trying to be something it's wasn't. It's hard to separate expectation from reality, and it's harder still to divine intent. I'm not sure how much of the "big crossover" label came from Bendis, and how much came from Marvel marketing and editorial. It got positioned as a big Marvel Universe-changing crossover, and the House Of Ideas' response to Infinite Crisis. As such, it fails miserably: it's affect on the Marvel Universe extends about as far as the edge of the X-Books. It's too slow and too intimate to be compared to DC's crossover initiative, and because of that it seemed other books really felt shoehorned in when they attempted their crossovers. House Of M was telling a complete story where there wasn't room for much else outside those 8 issues, as opposed to Crisis which is intentionally telling it's story across innumerable titles.

Remember the annual X-Book crossovers of the 90's? Mutant Massacre? X-Tinction Agenda? Fatal Attractions? Without the expectations of a standalone mini and all the spin-offs, how would House Of M fared as a revival of that tradition? If this story had simply appeared in issues of New Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, and X-Men? Comparing this against my hazy memories of those crossovers, I'd say that House Of M would have been pretty crackin' good, particularly the Wagnerian passion of the seventh issue. It feels like a classic Chris Claremont X-Men story, where universe-changing events spin wildly out from intimate emotional drama. It still has some massive structural problems: the biggest of which the second issue sets up a number of storylines that end up going exactly nowhere, because the whole thing is resolved by the skin-wearing plot devices of Layla Miller and Wanda Maximoff. Still, this could have been an enjoyable crossover, but it can't support the weight that was placed on it.

If "No More Mutants" is the real result of this, color me underwhelmed. According to Newsarama (among others), the number of remaining mutants will be between 200-300. To my puny little brain, that isn't a noticeable change at all. It goes from the present state of "too many to name" to a smaller "too many to name", but they still inhabit the same headspace of "things to large for me to store in my grey matter". Knock the survivors down to 50, that would work. I know the names of all 50 states (though Arkansas often slips my mind for some reason), and even knew all their capitals at some point. I could learn 50 mutants, and I might even have enough of a grasp that I could recognize when a new one is being introduced or an existing one dies. With a vague "300" it's a big enough number that when it inevitably starts getting ignored, no one outside of Marvel Editorial would know. There are some big changes to recognizable characters in the final issue, but does anyone believe they'll stick? How many times have Xavier and Magneto been taken out of the picture, only to come back the next time a crossover is needed? How many times has this mutant or that lost their powers, only to rediscover them in a time of crisis? Perhaps this time it will be different, but I'll believe it a year or two from now.


Shane Bailey said...

I bet I can name 198 Marvel comic characters.

Mark Fossen said...

All Marvel comics?

Yeah - I could maybe do that. Coulnd't name 198 mutants, though. Probably niether can Marvel.

Kurt said...

Spot on about HOM failing as a crossover event. Given the final outcome I’m not sure why they bothered with any crossover books at all. Okay, I know $$why$$, but in the end it was such a waste of ink.

From a 10,000 foot view it seems a reasonably smart move to reduce the number of mutants to a manageable number. And I’m not really sure it’s necessary the new number be so low that we can all memorize them (which would set the bar at about 12 if you include me in the sampling) but what happens from here forward is important. If Marvel wants X-books to be relevant again they needed to do this but they have to keep their finger in the dike. Sure Xavier and Magneto will be back (I don’t think Magneto was actually affected, my latest prediction is that he was bluffing and still has his powers) but going forward every third new character can’t be a mutant.

Of course I’m probably making one big mistake in that I assumed less mutants = less comic books about mutants. Looking at the post-HOM direction, all roads lead to X-books - and not one of them looks interesting.

Shane Bailey said...

I might be able to name 198 mutants. Not sure. I don't think I want to try though. :)

The way I explained Infinite Crisis and House of M to a friend of mine who only reads the Ultimate Titles, but was thinking about picking them up was:

"They're interesting ideas that will make both companies better in the long run. I'd keep an eye on the books that come out after the events, but the events themselves don't stand on their own very well."

Spencer Carnage said...

You jacked my scan!

Just kidding. Like my good friend Tony said, this would have made a kick ass trilogy.

Mark Fossen said...

Spencer ...

I know I scanned it myself, but your post had probably stuck in my head at some point ... gave me the idea.

Or it was JoeyDaQ repeating "No more mutants" 500 times at Newsarama.