Advanced Review: House of M #1

Note: This is an advanced review of a comic that will be on sale August 19th 

Written by: Dennis Hopeless

Art by: Marco Failla

Publisher: Marvel

For about three years now, House of M has been sitting on my shelf, yet for some reason I’ve never read it. From what I understand, the story featured an alternate reality in which Magneto was the leader of a new mutant empire. It seems very interesting and I will certainly check it out, however unfortunately the same cannot be said of this Secret Wars tie-in/sequel. The story seems to have no real goal or focus and wastes so much potential on padding before finally getting to what the story’s really about right at the end. It feels like a false start, which is disappointing as the elements are here for a good story.

I initially wasn’t sure what to expect so I checked out the solicits for the book, which suggested this story was about a world in which Magneto had conquered all his foes and now is left as a conqueror with nothing to conquer. Furthermore, it suggested potential friction and plotting against him from members of his family. This seemed very intriguing, and after an impressive opening showing Magneto’s struggles to leader I was fully ready for some Game of Thrones-esque political intrigue and some smart writing. However, after this impressive opening the series can’t seem to decide what it wants to do and just sort of staggers around until it hits its page limit.

We cut to a group of insurgents made up of familiar marvel characters who proceed to get into an extended action sequence with familiar x-men characters. The problem is this has no bearing on what the main story seems to want to be about, and after finishing the comic I have no idea what it was doing in there. Furthermore, I had no idea who I should be rooting for so the action falls completely flat. I cared for neither side and therefore the action seemed pointless. During this, we cut back to what’s happening in Magneto’s palace, and aside from some incredibly cringe worthy dialogue (“I thought you hated breakfast?” “I love breakfast!”) they keep showcasing stuff that would be far more interesting to read about and be more relevant to the story. It’s frustrating that Hopeless seems to have so many good ideas for the story and is sitting on so much potential but instead chooses to focus on the most boring part of the world. By the end of the issue, the real threat is made clear, and it’s completely unrelated to about 70% of what we’ve been reading and with proper build-up could’ve made for a super cool issue that tied well into the themes originally set out. Unfortunately, the comic just seems to have a real identity crisis and despite having clearly very interesting things going on, that isn’t what the issue is concerned with showing us.

Thankfully, Failla’s pencils remain very pleasant throughout the story. He manages to make the world feel fundamentally different from the one we’re used to and has a style that manages to be a nice blend between detailed and simplistically fun. His designs for the characters are good too, they look different enough to give you that initial feeling of disorientation as you try to figure out who’s who, but he makes it clear who they are if you look closely. The script also warrants Failla to draw some pretty varied locations and some pretty excellent looking sentinels. Coupled with the gorgeous colours of Matt Wilson, the book looks nicely varied and pleasant to look at even through the story’s tedium.

Overall, there’s some really good story potential and ideas here that could make for a great, smartly written comic. Unfortunately this issue capitalizes on none of that and instead seems to serve no real purpose either to the main Secret Wars narrative or even as a story in and of itself. If you squint hard enough you can see the makings of a good story in there, but this debut issue lacks anything to really get you invested as a reader, whether you’ve read the original House of M or not.