Advance Review: HOUSE OF M #1


Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Marco Failla
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: August 19, 2015

The ongoing Secret Wars event has provided Marvel with the perfect opportunity to further explore beloved alternate takes on their signature characters. As far as Marvel’s Multiverse (currently condensed down to Battleworld) goes, the House of M reality may be the most important of them all. Now the creative team of Dennis Hopeless and Marco Failla have been tasked to put their twist on The House of Magnus, and a world where mutants rule. If the first issue is any indication the series will move fast and furiously while mixing characters we know from the original event, and newcomers with moderate success.

In 2005 Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel unleashed House of M onto the Marvel Universe, and changed Marvel both on and off the page. In the comics, the event is most known for the line “No More Mutants” that decimated Marvel’s mutants, and changed the course of the X-Men titles for years to come. Behind the scenes the event wasn’t Marvel’s first linewide Summer event, but it was the one that set the template that would be used over the past decade. As it was happening, the series felt larger than life with two of the industries premiere creators spearheading a game changing event. This time around however, House of M isn’t the crossover, but rather only a single cog of Secret Wars. This is where the debut issue of the new mini falters, as the creative team attempts to capture the original’s magic, but they end up cramming way too much into a single issue.

The first issue of House of M has a whole lot going on. Writer Dennis Hopeless brings readers up to speed on the Genosha Domain’s status quo while reintroducing characters from the original event, and introducing a few characters that weren’t around ten years ago. The problem is that there are not enough pages to give characters enough page time, and effectively place all the pieces on the board for the meat of the story. In this issue alone there is Baron Magneto, the three royal siblings, Luke Cage’s resistance, the Red Guard, a younger set of royal twins wrecking havoc around Genosha, Namor, and a fan favorite character from Hopeless’ Avengers Arena. Amongst all of the introductions, or lack thereof, there’s a dream sequence, meetings, political maneuvering, breakfast discussions, a big fight, and a rescue that make sure nothing is given the room to breathe.

Having a limited amount of room to set everything up gives this issue the complete opposite problem than what many readers complained about ten years ago. Whereas the original was often accused of moving too slow, the new series moves way too fast.  It wasn’t until the final page that it became clear what the crux of the series is going to be. It’s actually a development that fits in line with the established characters, and shows that this series has the potential to be really good. That, along with the weaving of newer characters into the world are the highlights of the script. The aforementioned character from Avengers Arena was given the best introduction, and seeing this character out of the context we usually see them is something I’m looking forward to more of.

Artist Marco Failla isn’t a name I’m too familiar with. I’ve seen his work recently on Spider-Man & The X-Men, but that’s about it. I’ve never been blown away by his work, but it has always looked good. The same can be said here, as the art is solid. The amount of characters he had to draw throughout the issue, and the different circumstances the characters find themselves in make the work stand out a bit more, even when it isn’t completely working. The opening pages featuring Magneto, and the fight scene towards the middle of the issue are highlights. The individual character work is strong, and the color work of Matt Wilson is phenomenal throughout. The problem is that the artistic style doesn’t seem to be the proper fit.

I won’t put that on Failla, but rather the editor. If this was just a street level book about Luke Cage’s resistance then Failla’s style would fit just fine. The fight scene with Cage’s group is actually where the art is at its best. It’s on the royal side of the coin that the art fails a bit. Outside of the Magneto flashback/dream sequence at the start of the issue, the pages featuring the royal family fall flat. Although these are all pages with very little action, Failla fails to make them shine like they should. It comes down to his inability to capture the nature of royalty. It might not be fair to compare to Coipel’s work, but it’s inevitable. Coipel excelled at making the characters in The House of Magnus feel majestic while presenting Genosha as a bustling kingdom of which they looked down on from above. That isn’t the case in this opening issue, as there are several panels where the art should have been able to convey this feeling to the readers, but failed to have the desired impact.

The great Matt Wilson attempts to do what Failla wasn’t able to through his color work. Whether it’s the tint of the opening page’s flashback, or on the streets of Genosha, the different shades of purple used throughout the issue screams Magneto. The color work isn’t very subtle, but it works very well, and helps the art out immensely. If the pencil work wasn’t going to convey the power that Magneto wields Wilson was going to do what he could to rectify that with his work. This issue is just another example of why colorists are vital to the operation, and why Wilson is one of the absolute best in the business.

Some readers may not mind the problems I have with the art, and wonder why it’s such a big deal to me. When you take into account what the House of M is, the structure and wish fulfillment aspects of the original it becomes a problem that power isn’t properly conveyed. It’s not often that a comic looks good, but the style just doesn’t fit the story. Sadly, that is the case here. Hopefully as the series picks up in action this becomes less of an issue.

It may seem like I’m being particularly harsh on this issue, but there is a lot to like. Given the amount of characters being juggled, and having to condense a world we were introduced to through a huge event down into a few issues, this could have been a trainwreck. Seeing the Red Guard in action, the interactions between the three Magnus siblings, the introduction of new characters to the House of M world, and the last page all show that there is plenty of potential here. With all of the first issue setup out of the way I’m excited to see where Hopeless takes the story next. Enough so that despite the problems this issue had I’d still recommend the series to both fans of Dennis Hopeless, and fans of the original that have wanted to see more of this world.

The Verdict: 7.0/10

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