House of M: Mutopia X (2006)

 

Quote:
“I can’t do it this time. I can’t raise the dead.”

 

This book collects the Mutopia X mini-series that was written by David Hine a British artist and writer who seems to be more well known for his writing duties these days. He wrote the District X series for Marvel out of which this series is descended. The art was by penciller Lan Medina and inker Alejandro Sicat – a pair of comic book artists from the Philippines who also worked on District X.

Ismael Ortega is a human cop working in Sapien Town. When the Sapien League narrowly fail to assassinate a mutant singer, Ortega is teamed with Lucas Bishop to protect the League’s next suspected target film director Daniel Kaufman. In the course of his duties, Ortega becomes close to Kaufman’s shape changing wife, Lara, prompting retaliation from Kaufman leading to tragedy for Ortega and his family.

This book was OK but given its pedigree – all the creators having worked on the parent title District X – it may have had more resonance for those familiar with that series and the background of the main characters. There is a sub-plot concerning tensions with Ortega and his mutant wife over their daughter who has the chance of awakening her dormant mutant abilities in a rite of transformation. There was an opportunity to explore this more and elevate the story above the average but it was only touched upon and used as a plot device to enable the villainous Kaufman a shot of revenge at Ortega. Ortega himself is not a very sympathetic character in this story and his plight did not touch me as much as it might have done for characters that I have an emotional connection with. So another House of M related title that adds little to the main story.

House of M: Uncanny X-Men (2006)

 

Quote:
“And what is this? I swear, if I’m dead again …!”

 

This book collects Uncanny X-Men 462 – 465. It was written by long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont and pencilled by two of my favourite arists – Alan Davies and Chris Bachalo. I know Claremont’s work from various X-Men books but primarily from the original Excalibur series from the late eighties. Davis also worked on that series as well as the fabulous, Alan Moore penned, D.R. and Quinch from 2000AD. I loved Bachalo’s work on the two Death mini-series on Vertigo as well as Shade, the Changing Man and The Witching Hour – in fact my favourite t-shirt to this day remains one that features a Bacholo image of Death (the only picture that I can find online is in the background of this image).

Captain Britain is swept up into the events of the House of M as this story shows that the actions of the Scarlet Witch on Earth 616 threaten the integrity of the whole omniverse. He is tasked with returning to Earth 616 to try and seal the breach in causality before the whole of the omniverse ceases to be. however once back on Earth 616 he he finds himself happy to play the role given to him by the Scarlet Witch’s changes. It is only through messages transmitted through Meggan and a hunt for fugitives from Magneto that he gets back on track.

This is the first book in the spin-offs from the main story that I have really loved. I think part of it is nostalgia for the original Excalibur series that I liked back in the day – and this story feels like an Excalibur story rather than an X-men story as a lot of the characters and the setting come straight from Excalibur. The other part of it is due my love for the two pencillers’ work who both have two chapters each in this story. The story from Claremont is good but the plot line featuring Juggernaut and Nocturne on the run from a bunch of Magneto’s hunters is left largely unexplained – possibly to be resolved in one of the remaining books. An early splash page shows Captain Britain and Meggan being blasted across the omniverse and shows familiar characters in unfamiliar setting and guises – some of these look intriguing and I wish there was a series that explored some of these further (like a Marvel version of DC’s Elseworlds books).

House of M: Fantastic Four/Iron Man (2006)

 

Quote:
“You just killed those people.”

“No. Not people. Mutants.”

 

This book collects two mini-series related to the House of M crossover event – Fantastic Four: House of M 1 – 3 and Iron Man: House of M 1 – 3. The creative team on the Fantastic Four series are all new to me – it was written by John Layman with pencils by Scott Eaton and inks by Don Hillsman. The Iron Man series was written by Greg Pak, whose work I know from the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk books, and the art was by another unknown to me Pat Lee.

The Fantastic Four story actually stars the Fearsome Four, a mystically powered team led by Victor von Doom with only Ben Grimm as the It surviving Reed Richards space mission to examine cosmic rays. Doom is allowed to rule Latveria under the global mutant superiority but finds himself at the beck and call of Magneto. His vanity will not allow this and he directs his scientific research to the problem of how to rid the world of the House of Magnus and install himself as world ruler only to find his plans scuppered by the one person for whom he has utter contempt.

In the Iron Man story, Tony Stark is a successful entrepreneur and competitor in Sapien Death Match – an arena sport where he battles with other humans in mechanical suits – however he finds himself constantly overshadowed, in all his pursuits, by his father. Searching for Henry Pym, a rogue scientist who was researching the mutant genome while in Stark’s employ, Stark uses a new mechanical suit that he developed in secret. He traces Pym to a hideout of the human resistance but soon finds himself in a battle with a sapien hunting sentinel controlled by his father. When Pym is revealed as a terrorist who has planted a number of devices targeted at mutants only, Stark must decide between being his own man and the future seemingly mapped out for him by his father.

For a world that is supposed to give the heroes their dreams come true neither Victor von Doom or Tony Stark are particularly happy with their lot – though this could be seen as some dormant, nagging sense that something is not right. The stories are both fine in themselves without really adding much to the central story.

Pat Lee’s art in the Iron Man story is quite strange. There is a lot of it that contains sentinels, armoured humans and other mecha and this is all really good but when it comes to the depiction of the people it just does not do it for me.

House of M: The Incredible Hulk (2006)

[ Watching the Dresden Files Currently: Watching the Dresden Files ]

Quote:
“Hulk smash puny paperwork!!!!”

 

Next in my House of M read is this book which collects Incredible Hulk 83 – 87. It was written by Peter David who has got to be the writer most closely associated with the Hulk after Stan Lee. The main story (the first four chapters) was illustrated by Jorge Lucas who is an Argentinean artist whose work I have not come across before but who has had short runs on a variety of Marvel books.

As the story opens, Bruce Banner has been living with an aboriginal tribe finding a means to control the Hulk. Australia us also the country with the most severe mutant administration and hundreds of humans have fled to the outback with the help of AIM. When the authorities invade an aboriginal sacred space to try and round up the humans, the Hulk is unleashed and takes the fight back to Sydney and takes over the country’s administration. But all is not well as Banner uncovers an AIM sponsored project into which human refugees are disappearing.

The story was just OK – given David’s reputation I am guessing that this was probably not one of his best. It didn’t have the depth of the Banner book that I read recently or the over the top abandon of World War Hulk. I wanted more of the relationship between Banner, the Hulk and the beliefs of the Australian Aborigines which was touched on in this story but subsumed by the standard superhuman fare. The tension between Banner and the Hulk was quite well explored in the expectations of the human administration who wanted the occasional appearance of the Hulk to appease the populace and Banner who wanted to keep him under check. The art by Lucas was fine without being spectacular.

House of M (2006)

 

Quote:
“They gave us what we always wanted, and … isn’t there an argument that we deserved to get this? To be happy for once?”

 

I have put The Walking Dead re-read on hold for the moment as I have reached the same point as the TV series mid-season break and I want to se what they do in the series before carrying on in the comics. Instead I am going to read the House of M books as I have collected most of them from one source or another – I am only missing the Excalibur prelude.

House of M was the Marvel crossover event from 2005 and features the New Avengers and the X-men. This book collects the eight part main story and I was looking forward to reading it as the creative team was writer Brian Michael Bendis and penciller Olivier Coipel. I recently read and enjoyed the first New Avengers book that Bendis also wrote in the same era and as an added bonus I loved Coipel’s work on Thor.

The story takes place after the Avengers Disassembled storyline. The Scarlet Witch is being stabilised by Charles Xavier in Genosha but he fears that he can do little to prevent her having another potentially disasterous breakdown. The Avengers – old and new – and the X-men are gathered together to decide the fate of their former team-mate and fellow mutant. But they arrive too late to prevent the Scarlet Witch from rewriting reality and creating a world in which mutants rule over homo sapiens. Wolverine awakes in this new reality but finds that he remembers the original reality too and sets out on a quest to find out what is going on, round up any of the powered human resistance that he can and put things back they way they were if he can.

This is another great book from Bendis that I enjoyed very much. The storyline was interesting as it offered an alternative few of a mutant dominated world where Magneto won his fight to have mutants rule over the human population. The concept of dreams coming true is explored most thoroughly through the experiences of Peter Parker who is put through the emotional wringer by Bendis when he regains his memory of his true life. The weakness of the book is that it is being used as a game changer in the Marvel universe so a lot of questions are left unanswered presumably to be further explored in the individual comic series, especially the mutant ones, after the legacy that the Scarlet Witch leaves behind. But if you can accept that then it is a fine crossover story and well worth a read.

The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us (2006)

 

Quote:
“I think we’ve hit the jackpot.”

 

This book continues the story begun in volume 1 and collects issues 7 – 12 of the ongoing series and the story provides the basis for some of what we have seen, so far, in the second season. Again it was written by Robert Kirkman but this time the art was by Charlie Adlard whose work I know from a number of 2000AD series including Judge Dredd and Armitage.

The group decide to break camp in the wake of events at the end of book 1. Finding a gated community stocked with canned food, they think that their troubles are over for a while but have to run for their lives in the morning when they find that it is overrun with zombies. While out hunting on a rest stop, Rick’s son Carl is shot and taken to a remote farm house for treatment. While Carl is healing, the rest of the group arrive and make camp on the farm. Rick again feels that they have struck it lucky until he finds out about the contents of the barn …

This is another great volume in the series. The drama is heightened in the wake of the killing at the end of book 1 as everyone in the group comes to terms with the deaths. A pattern is established of a period of respite, perceived safety and reflection amongst the group followed by explosive outbursts of violence as the zombies make their presence felt.

Spoilers ahead: for those who have seen the TV series but not read the books (or vice versa) I am going to discuss in the rest of this post some of the differences between the two. So stop reading now if you don’t want to know.

The first half of the book deals with the aftermath of the invasion of zombies into the camp, the shooting of Shane and break up of the camp. On the road the travelers pick up three more survivors, who have yet to appear in the series, one of whom, Tyreese, soon becomes Rick’s closest friend amongst the survivors. This further deepens the difference in the composition of the groups that we follow in the comic compared to the TV series.

Also in the first half of the book, they come across a gated housing community called Wiltshire Estates and narrowly escape from it as they find it infested with zombies. This is a standalone episode that could be inserted into the TV series at any time in the future – it is replaced in the series with the disappearance of and search for Sophia.

The second half of the book deals with the shooting of Carl and the group’s presence on Hershel’s farm. The big surprise to me is the pacing of this in the comic having spent most of the first half of the second season in this location. In the comic the arrival, the revelation of the contents of the barn and the zombie barrel shoot is all done and dusted within 3 issues.The pace is slowed down in the TV series to allow for even more character development than is possible in the comic.

The zombie massacre at the end of the book is handled very differently between the two media and it will be interesting to see where the TV series goes now in the aftermath of this as there is a big change in the traveling group, as a result of events leading up to the massacre, in the comics. Right at the end of the book, after being turfed off the farm by Hershel, they find a prison which they hope they can use as a place of safety – but given their luck with safe havens so far is going to to be wishful thinking.