Let\’s Talk About House of M- The Birth of The Modern Marvel Event
With Wandavision coming out around the time of this article running, I was wanting to revisit some key Wanda moments from the past 20 years. That isn’t a lot of comics, sadly. Wanda was used sparingly throughout the Marvel Universe the last couple decades. House of M is the last real Wanda story for five years until Children’s Crusade in 2010. The way Marvel treated the Scarlett Witch in the 2000’s was a shame. She is one of the few Avengers with legit X-men connections and has a story worth talking about. Yet, Marvel largely kept her on the shelf during this decade. No real reason for this other than creators not sure what to do with her given the random power jump she experiences in the Bendis era. She went from being a mutant that had the power of inconvenience (though convenient for the writer) to reality warping. Now, she isn’t even a mutant, but that’s not here nor there today. Darn, Fox.
Wandavision hasn’t released yet as of writing this article, but from what I have picked up from early reviews and previews, House of M is foundational to the central concept of Wandavision—this artificial world of Wanda’s making.
So, where to start with House of M?
House of M
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Oliver Coipel
Inks: Tim Townsend
Colors: Frank D’Armata
First it picks up on the story from Avengers Disassembled with Wanda losing her grip on reality and her powers. This results in an emergency meeting of the X-men and New Avengers to decide Wanda’s fate. This of course doesn’t go that well and instead the two teams insist on going to Wanda on the ruins of Genosha to ask Wanda what she wants. The team arrives to find no one on the island, and everyone is suddenly disappearing until a blinding white light bathes them. The next thing they all know is they wake up the next day in a world dominated and ruled by Mutants.
The world seems to be a Utopia of sorts for the mutants under the rule of Magento and the House of Magnus. The readers are graced to learn what all the various heroes are up to in this new world. For the most part, everyone is very happy. All the heroes seem to have all they have ever wanted. Peter Parker has Gwen Stacy, a son, Uncle Ben, and respect of the world. Scott and Emma are married living their ideal domesticated lives. Kitty Pryde is a teacher in Ohio. Everything seems fine except to Wolverine. He is an Agent of Shield and is constantly called James. He realizes the world isn’t correct and flees SHIELD.
Wolverine joins up with the Human resistance and meets Layla Miller, a young mutant child who knows things. Layla is the only person in the world besides Wolverine (as far as we know) that knows that the world isn’t correct. With Layla’s help the Resistance is able to wake up everyone to realize the truth of the world.
The heroes all team up to attack Magneto to allow Dr. Strange to go in and find Wanda to convince her to revert things back. Additionally, the teams are searching for Xavier as they believe that he is the only one that could help. The team quickly realizes that it wasn’t Magneto that abused his daughter’s state but instead Quicksilver in an abusive, selfish desire. He pushes Wanda to turn the world into everyone’s wish. Magento is livid that his name was used in vain and kills Pietro on the spot.
In her disgust and sadness Wanda decides it is time to end it all. She utters the 3 words that would define the X-men for decade to come. “No More Mutants”.
With that she removes nearly all mutants around the world, and everything reverts back to the way it was. Handful of heroes still remember the House of M, but most don’t. Some rather forget. Reports come in from around the globe, mutants are nearly extinct. The moment is called M-day. The Decimation. Millions of Mutants depowered nearly a million die as a result. It leaves only 198 in its wake. The Endangered Species Era is upon us.
In a rarity for an event, this holds true for quite sometime. It isn\’t until 2019\’s House of X/ Powers of X do we see mutants reach the levels of Pre-Decimation.
There are multiple themes present here in House of M. Some are interesting such as how it presents a mutant utopia—a world where mutants take over the world. Others are dark such as the running theme of agency for Wanda, the people of the world, and more. It is a complex comic.
House of M is very different take on the Alternate timelines that are typically found in superhero books, especially for a story involving X-men. House of M is not a post-apocalyptic dystopia. It is a post-apocalyptic utopia. I normally don’t bring up supplemental material in these articles on Extremely Uncanny as I often want the story to stand on its own, but the nature of House of M made me seek out some more information. The origin of how Magneto rose to power is outlined in the terribly titled Civil War: House of M miniseries. It showcases Magneto’s rise to power and rebuilding of the world for Mutants. It explains some of the odd quirks of the world and is a pretty solid read.
I just find the world in House of M to be interesting. At the time of its publication, positive X-men timelines were rare. As I discussed in my House of X/ Powers of X article, the mutants never win. They are often pushed to dystopia annihilation. We see that in HoX/PoX and numerous other X-events. Heck, Age of Apocalypse shows a mutant villain’s rise to power and how detrimental it was to the world. House of M isn’t that. Not only is it positive. There isn’t any sense of pending doom or conflict. AoA had Apocalypse terrorizing the North American continent and humans in Europe about to unleash Nuclear Holocaust on the world to stop him. Days of Future Past had mutants in concentration camps and the feeling it was all coming undone. None of that is here.
Now, as with most utopias in fiction, House of M is built on the backs of the oppressed in the humans. The book doesn’t attempt to explore too much into human oppression. I am certain it is explored in the tie-ins and side mini-series, but Bendis declines to really explore this topic in the main title. Closest we see is an exchange between Henry McCoy and Hank Pym.
Instead, the heroes are seeking to change the world back for no real solid reason. At least none state beyond this isn’t right. The important part to note here is that it’s the X-men characters that are leading the push to restore the order. It isn’t the oppressed humans. In this universe mutants are the dominant species. It is stated several times that Humans are going extinct within a generation or two. Yet, it isn’t the humans that are demanding a return. It’s the mutants. It is important for this story for them to be the ones to do so. I couldn’t imagine the oppressors demand a return to the status quo being effective. The book even features Jessica Drew questioning their course of action. However, it is immediately shot down by the team.
This world (at least in the main title) seems to be functional and pleasant. No real sense of conflict, yet it is turned upside down and not by the human oppressors. I cannot help but wonder what the intent here was, but it is an interesting one, nonetheless. It is a rare sight in comics.
Wanda’s Lack of Agency
Wanda Maximoff does not have any real agency in this story until the end. You could say she hasn’t had any agency since Avengers Disassembled. Two teams are debating on the fate of her life and she has no say in the matter. Now, a couple of Avengers look to include her voice in the deliberations, but it is tragic that they don’t until that point. Of course, when the meeting was called by Xavier, it is easy to see why they didn’t include Wanda in this. That is one man who doesn’t consider the will of others in his decisions.
When we do hear Wanda’s voice on the matter, it is implied she wishes to die but won’t end her life herself. She knows it must be done but cannot do it. Mental health is brought through this and instead of receiving support she needs; she is treated like a McGuffin by all those that are supposed to help her. Pietro takes advantage of her mental health and browbeats her into altering reality out of his own selfish ploy.
The fear in Wanda\’s eyes in this panel makes it all the more upsetting. Wanda is being forced into doing this and Pietro, her own brother and only person who has consistently been with her, is the own coercing her into the act. He is manipulating someone who is struggling with mental health and knows it. His intentions may be noble in trying to save her life but in doing so he is being not much better than their father, Magneto.
What happens to Wanda is a travesty. The story does drive home Wanda’s lack of agency in the story at multiple times, but it isn’t done well enough. The way Pietro takes advantage of her is indeed sinister and he does face consequences for his actions. Yet, I don’t feel there is enough of Wanda’s voice in this comic. She doesn’t get much in terms of page counts. This holds true from Avengers Disassembled. They try to turn Wanda into some sort of unstable villain, but they don’t give her any time to explain herself. You cannot help but to feel this is because Bendis didn’t feel her character change was strong enough and instead just kept her off panel to avoid having to flesh it all out.
Oliver Coipel is a talented artist and one of my favorites to work at Marvel in the last 20 years. That said there are moments where this wasn’t perfect. Coipel draws characters built like fridges but struggles with head size. It comes off funny in a few panels.
Okay that’s nitpicky but that is the only real knock I have towards the art. Coipel works wonderful with Bendis. The scale and scope of the panels and the character’s acting really sells the tone of the story. Coipel also works well with Bendis and the use of the sprawling two page action spreads. Coipel lays them out in a way that makes it easier for the reader to follow. The letterer Tim Towsend aides in that effort as well.
The art is good. It is early in Coipel’s time at Marvel and his skills refine even better by the time he joins Thor in 2008.
I won’t lie, I enjoyed House of M. The world presented is interesting and the emotional beats of the characters is enthralling. That said, the way it treats Wanda sullies it. They make Wanda one of the greatest mutant villains and she barely has a say in anything. This event is the precursor for the modern Marvel event in terms of structure and pacing. It plays an important role in the history of Marvel with all of its fallout. Not only does it result in Decimation and the entire Endangered Species era of X-men. It results in the fall of the Shi’ar Empire, death of Alpha Flight, bringing back Onslaught (no one asked), and ends up with Ms. Marvel getting a main event push that eventually leads to her becoming Captain Marvel.
If they could have worked Wanda into the story more, it would likely be a good comic and worth routine reading. It has its importance in the overall history of Marvel post-2002. Other than that, I think its best for being a one and done.
This has been Extremely Uncanny.