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).
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.
“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.
Another book from the library and another Fantastic Four collection – this volume collects Ultimate Fantastic Four #21-26. This time it is set in the Marvel Ultimate universe – which seems to be a parallel universe to the normal Marvel universe (haven’t these guys learnt anything from DC’s various multiverse crises?). The Ultimate universe gives creators the chance to play with characters so that they are familiar to readers of the regular but subtly different enough that they can be reinvented.
The first three chapters deal with Reed Richards contacting yet another parallel Earth and connecting with that Earth’s older version of himself. However he crosses dimensions to find himself in a superhero zombie apocalypse version of Earth. He hooks up with the last unchanged superhero – Magneto – who is, ironically, protecting a last pocket of humanity from the zombies. The remaining three chapters tell of the return of Sue and Johnny’s mother from the dead; the discovery and exploration of Atlantis and the release of Namor – with chaos ensuing.
I enjoyed this collection. The Fantastic Four in the Ultimate universe have gone right back to their roots and are portrayed as a young team of heroes again. Mark Millar’s script was action and emotion packed with subtle touches of humour along the way. It did suffer slightly because I was joining the story in the middle of a run and so had to fill in some of the details of the history of character exchanges for myself. However, there was enough in it to make me want to read more of the series.