So it has not been a great month here on the nerd farm. First I had the Cold from Hell, then we had a family emergency, and while that was going on, a friend of mine died. And now, our social media has been hacked, and I’ve had to deal with that instead of writing this week’s column. So, yeah. To say that I’m feeling less than motivated to review a bunch of funnybooks in the dwindling time I have left before this week’s deadline… might be an understatement. Still, though… I wanna do SOMEthing. So let’s see if we can’t at least discuss the one comic from last week that everybody’s talking about…
House of X 1
by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz
So, wow. This is some crazy shit.
That’s pages one and two of this book, and… What the hell’s going on there? That’s Charles Xavier in the helmet (or that’s what we’re lead to believe, anyway). And coming out of the pods are… Well, they look an awful lot like the original X-Men, don’t they? But… Uhm…
What the hell’s going on there?!
That’s not a question Jonathan Hickman answers in this issue, of course. That scene isn’t referenced again at all, in fact, and on the next page, events jump back five months to show us how the new X-Men status quo got started.
Oh, by the way, this is the book that sets up Jonathan Hickman’s new X-Men status quo. Because, if you didn’t know, Hickman’s taking over X-Men. And he’s launching his run with two interlocking bi-weekly mini-series that will run into the Fall: House of X (which is about Professor Xavier establishing a new mutant nation on the sentient mutant island of Krakoa), and Powers of X (which is set ten years in the future, and that’s all we know because it doesn’t start until tomorrow).
Anyway. Even if you put that “Pod-Men” scene out of your head (not that you could, really), it’s quite clear from this first issue that this thing simply CANNOT end well. Xavier’s plan is quite public, and quite bold, and it involves getting diplomatic recognition for Krakoa (and, one would assume, eventual membership in the UN). It also involves growing Krakoa habitats in several key locations around the world. Habitats that offer instant transportation between Krakoa proper and… wherever they’ve planted Krakoa flowers. The fact that they’ve already planted such flowers not only on the site of the Xavier school, but also in capital cities like Washington DC and Jerusalem, has made people a trifle uneasy.
Then, of course, there’s the guy Xavier’s put in charge of diplomacy:
Yeah, that’s a red flag right there. And the fact that Hickman chose to put the “Mutants have never started a war” speech in THAT guy’s mouth should tell us all that there’s more going on here than the benevolent surface gloss. Because Magneto has more or less tried to do exactly that, more times than I care to count. And he caps off that rather disingenuous speech by telling the gathered ambassadors, “YOU HAVE NEW GODS NOW.” So I don’t really blame the human governments of the world for being wary. That’s some scary shit.
SO scary that operatives from organizations as disparate as SHIELD, SWORD, AIM, Alpha Flight, and Hydra have joined together in an attempt to defend humanity from Xavier’s New Dream. Their plan involves a giant Sentinel Master Mold floating somewhere out in space, and it’s called…
(click to embiggen)
Ah, you gotta love Jonathan Hickman. Peppering his funnybooks with attractively-designed charts and text that take the place of laborious expository dialogue. I would much rather get this kind of background straight from original documents like these than have them sandwiched into awkward, “nobody-talks-like-that” conversations. There’s a number of these things scattered throughout the issue, and they include maybe my favorite bit of Hickman X-ephemera: the mutant alphabet.
Because, yes, the Krakoan nation has developed its own written language, to further cement the idea of a shared mutant culture. New citizens of Krakoa are taught it telepathically upon arrival. Humans aren’t taught it at all. But it’s also peppered throughout this issue, on the title page, on some of Hickman’s graphic design pages, and in the story itself. Hickman also released a couple of cryptic messages written in the language prior to the book’s release, and all of that has made it possible for some enterprising fans to come up with a key:
I’m not sure who put this one together, but it’s almost complete, and makes sense when I apply it to the text in the issue, so it’s the one I’m going with for now. It’s not absolutely necessary to understand the code, of course. You can read and enjoy the issue without it (I certainly did). But it is an awful lot of fun, and that’s something we could do with a bit more of in our super hero comics
Which is good, because “fun” is the operative word with House of X in general. Not that it’s a light, breezy, jokey read or anything. It’s not. But I was about halfway through the comic (exactly halfway through, now that I look at it) when I just started laughing. Not because anything was funny, but because I was having so damn much fun reading it. This first issue is just great pulpy bullshit, surprising and imaginative and just freaking weird. I mean… There’s A SENTIENT ISLAND and POD PEOPLE and SECRET CODES and A SPACE STATION MADE OUT OF A GIANT ROBOT HEAD!
How can I not love that?