Sunday, September 14, 2008

Civil War: House of M #1


Writer: Christos N Gage
Artist: Andrea DiVito
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Colourist: Laura Villari
Editor: Bill Rosemann

Yes, the title really is Civil War: House of M. Sometimes I wonder whether the editors at Marvel are playing a secret game of "what's the silliest title we can get commissioned?"

Despite the title, and the logo, this actually has nothing to do with the 2006 Civil War crossover. It's the story of how Magneto rose to power in the House of M world of 2005. Now, the continuity status of all this stuff is a bit vague. As I recall, the idea of House of M was that the Scarlet Witch had altered reality, creating a world with mutants ruling, and Magneto in charge. But it was a central plot point that everyone still had buried memories of the real world. So apparently Wanda didn't actually alter history, she just gave everyone shared false memories. And that means this story is a flashback to events that didn't actually happen, but that everyone in House of M remembered happening. If you get my meaning.

Utterly confusing, isn't it? But apparently the House of M trade paperbacks have done unusually well, which is why Marvel have wheeled out a couple of series like this, long after the fact. And, to be fair, the story of Magneto's rise to power was a fairly major omission from the mythos. If you're going to do "untold tales of the House of M", this is a good candidate.

Writer Christos Gage has opted to cover Magneto's story right from the very beginning. Aside from explaining the back story to new readers, this seems to be intended to set up his three estranged children, who will have to be reunited with him later in the story. As a curious side-effect, this issue contains the first attempt to explain where Lorna Dane came from (because, yes, apparently we're still running with the idea that she's Magneto's daughter). How much of this holds for the mainstream Marvel Universe is anyone's guess, but it does give the book some claim to continuity significance.

That much is original; but roughly the first third of the issue is simply a straight rehash of Magneto's already-familiar origin story. Racing through Magneto's history at high speed, it's a rushed affair, which feels a bit like reading a recap. After covering the conception and loss of four separate children, Gage moves on to introduce Apocalypse, set Magneto up as a rebellious henchman, have him take over the organisation, fend off the Sentinels and declare war on mankind, all in 22 pages. Now, I'm all in favour of packing in the plot, but this is really too quick. The tensions between Magneto and his allies don't have time to build in anything more than a sketchy manner, and he comes across as recklessly impulsive rather than honestly principled. (In fairness, I suspect that's intentional to some extent, but the pacing makes it overshoot the mark.)

Andrea DiVito is, as ever, a solid house-style artist. He tells a clearer story than most, and he's good with emotion, but doesn't quite have the scale for the really big set-pieces. In fairness, though, the pacing of the story doesn't allow much leeway to go over the top with those moments.

Overall, it's a decent enough story, but doesn't offer anything particularly unexpected. Hopefully the pace will ease up a bit over the following four issues, and give things a little more time to breathe.

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