House of M #5

There’s a new young mutant on the scene who might be able to save the world, with the right guidance – thank goodness Xavier’s dead and Emma Frost can actually get some work done in his absence. It’s House of M #5!

hom5Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Olivier Coipel, Tim Townsend, Rick Magyar, Scott Hanna, John Dell
Colourist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Publishing Date: August 2005

Previously: Wolverine, a random girl called Layla, and Emma Frost are living in an alternate reality where everybody is happy. Their mission? To escape this idyllic world and return to their preferred state of perpetual misery.

Man, this is why you don’t ever let the X-Men decide what the plan should be. They haven’t made a correct decision about anything since 1991.

Speaking of! Emma Frost introduces both herself and the premise of the next few issues to Layla Miller, as they stand inside the astral realm. Emma is on headmistress form here, meaning she’s covered up her forearms to look more chaste, and is passively lecturing a child she cares about but isn’t really protecting very much. Bendis writes Emma with an American accent more than the British one she’s meant to be putting on, meaning we get an Emma who is a little less interesting than usual. She almost ticks the boxes, but feels off – like when you watch modern day Muppets now Frank Oz has gone.

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Emma essentially calls Layla a deus ex machina without actually using those words, saying she has powers which are sort of mutant powers but not quite and sort of psychic but not quite and basically what Bendis is saying here is “she’s got ill-defined powers because I might need her to cut out plot holes at the end”. Layla gets off a little bit of sass amongst her confusion, but the pages boil down to: we’re going to use your unexplained powers to wake up everybody else, and then we’ll maybe do something else afterwards. Like I said, this is why you don’t let the X-Men drive the plan.

As a test of this, they use Layla on Scott Summers, who walks through the door wearing a nice red tie. They ping him with the glowy green eyes, Emma Frost in the passenger seat holding onto the steering wheel for Layla. As is always the case, she uses somebody else’s powers more effectively than they can by themselves. Scott tries not to throw up, but throws up – right in front of Luke Cage and Wolverine, who aren’t very impressed. Now on top of everything, they’ve got dry cleaning bills to deal with.

Scott tries to recover from his whole world being rocked, while Emma gets to the core of the matter by asking how come they’re married to one another. Aha! So it wasn’t Emma who got what she wanted here, but Scott? Always a traditionalist, that Cyclops. I wonder if he wanted Emma to wear a suit, or she did? Which of them wished for a world where they cook pop tarts for one another?

Cyclops is also mad at Magneto, and asks if they’ve found Xavier yet. No luck there, so Scott – the second natural leader to be woken up by the team so far, good choices being made by Wolverine – asks who else they can find. There’s no debate here: they’re going to wake people up and wreck things for them. Which leads to the most upsetting scene of the whole event, if you ask me – because their next point of call is to go and find Peter Parker.

Now in this reality, Peter is a famous superhero, his name is known, and he is loved. He’s married to Gwen Stacy, has a son, and Uncle Ben/Aunt May are both alive and happy. He’s having a very nice life, and the one which most fans have wanted for him for decades. If you think about how things are going, what the team need are heroes who are willing to give up the life they have now and return things to how they were – they need the most powerful mystics in the Marvel Universe, like Stephen Strange, and they need the heavy-hitters like Tony Stark. What they don’t really need, in honesty, is having Peter Parker about.

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But they go recruit him anyway, whilst he’s holding his son and going for a walk with the family. He’s also shaved his hair for some reason. They shout out his name, which leads the family to say “did you forget your wallet?” which is an odd response. What’s the connection meant to be there? He turns around, straight into the Emma/Layla combo (Layma?) where they immediately do the green-eyed monster on him. He sees his past, his origin, his enemies, Aunt May, Mary-Jane and his wedding, as well as, in the distance, a snap.

He immediately freaks out – quite rightly, the poor guy – and goes reeling. He turns round as Gwen approaches, and sees a huge, striking flashback to her death in the process. Horrible. Uncle Ben then walks over, and Peter has to deal with that, as well – he races off up a building, and out of sight. It’s so unnecessary and sad, but the whole time Wolverine is making this face like “suck it up, kid” like this is all some kind of hazing process for Peter.

Gwen turns on the heroes, and Emma tells her to go play in the park and “have a nice day”, which I’ll put down to Emma still being a bit out of sorts and not really herself. The supporting characters all walk off, and Luke Cage echoes all out sentiments when he says “that was damn awful.” YES IT WAS, LUKE! SO WHY DID YOU LET IT HAPPEN?! While you’re at it, why not head on over to Gotham City and tell Batman that his parents are dead? Cyclops, being a true leader, delegates the job of calming Peter down, and Logan heads over.

This being a reassuring chat from Logan, it consists primarily of Logan telling him to get over himself. It’s a well done little section, where Peter complains about his luck, how much he’s being forced to take on every single day, and how difficult it actually is to be a superhero. Yes yes Peter, all very difficult I’m sure, just bear in mind you’re talking to a man who has literally murdered the woman he loves over twenty times, murdered half his family, was experimented on for decades, was used as a murder-machine, and has about five dead ex-wives. So you still have a bit of a way to go, really?

Peter decides he wants to kill Magneto and Scarlet Witch for this, which is wildly out of character. I’m going to blame the new hairstyle.

We go round the country for a montage sequence next, where they recruit a series of other heroes to leave their peaceful lives and go join the miserable army heading after Magnus. Kitty, Dr Strange, Iron Man, She-Hulk and Daredevil – all get taken. Ms Marvel is also recruited, which seems harsh given she’s the world’s greatest superhero and she seems to be in the middle of a political endorsement? Their final stop is to go see old Steve Rogers, whom Emma says is of no use whatsoever to them because he’s old. Despite that, Layla still apparently greeneyes him, although we don’t see it hit him and wake him up. So… did she get him, or not?

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Team gathered, Emma discusses the particulars of their situation once more, in case you didn’t get it the five other times the script explicitly spelled out the premise for readers. Everyone seems to agree aside from Hawkeye, the only person to have refused Layla Miller’s buzz. Emma addresses this, leading to Hawkeye yelling at random “What I want is for this mutant to get out of my head!!”, continuing his habit of acting like a complete git during this crossover. Was this a character people particularly wanted to see return? Maybe they should’ve left his exploded jetpack in the ground and brought back Jack of Hearts instead.

Daredevil and Wolverine sense trouble before Hawkeye can go on further anti-mutant tirades, and the Red Guard break in once more. A brief fight looks to be kicking off before Rogue grabs Layla, bringing things to a quick halt. However, Rogue’s gloves are ripped, which means she accidentally touches Layla’s cheek – and she absorbs the powers immediately, using them on the other members of the Guard (and possibly Hawkeye as well). All that hi-tech equipment and you couldn’t afford proper gloves, for shame, Shaw, you cheapskate.

Luke Cage punches Toad whilst he’s trying to recover. Heh.

Mystique is the most upset of the Guard, as it appears her greatest desire is to date Wolverine? Mind you, he won’t be the worst decision she ever makes. Hawkeye, possibly now with full memory of everything, has vanished from the scene, whilst Rogue continues the issue’s out of character racism by yelling “what are you??!! She ain’t human!!” at Layla. Jeez, Rogue. Cyclops calms the situation down, before Ms Marvel asks somebody to give her the next order. Unluckily that man is Wolverine, whose plan is basically “go get Magneto”. Magneto is… the strongest, most powerful figure in the Universe, which was created by his daughter. This… is not a good plan, Wolverine.

On that topic though, we finally get to move forward a little, as we return to Genosha at last. Magneto is still pacing around in his elaborate robe and darling sandals, when his daughter runs over to him. If this was TV, they’d be able to hold this for a second, and trick people into thinking we’re about to see the return of Wanda. We’re not, though, as instead Polaris walks in. She’s wearing an absolutely insane outfit, beads in her hair, across her waist, round her neck – she’s not particularly covering up her crotch, and she’s got huge cleavage in a tiny bikini top. What is this all about, Wanda?!

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It’s quite nice to get to see Polaris have a moment with Magneto, as I’m pretty sure she’s actually the only character in the Marvel Universe nowadays to actually share a bloodline with him. She deserves a moment, even if it’s a weird one like this. She tells him that the guests for the giant party will be showing up shortly – including Doctor Doom – but he’s distracted by something else. Uh-oh. He walks off by himself for a moment, still being really vague and shifty, until we finally see what he’s looking at.

It’s Xavier’s gravestone, a boulder within a memorial garden. “He died so Genosha can live” reads the inscription. Oh dear.

To be continued!

Want to read along with Shelfdust? Pick up the House of M trade through Amazon by clicking the image below – it helps us out, too!

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