House of M #6

There’s a grand ol’ battle about to kick off – but all anybody cares about is what Storm’s going to be wearing. Business as usual, in other terms! Get ready for some splash pages, it’s House of M #6!

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Writer: 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: September 2005

Previously: Somebody made the Scarlet Witch create an alternate world where everything is wonderful and perfect, but Wolverine and the X-Men are here to… save the day? And stop the utopia? By reminding everybody how horrible their lives actually are?

Jessica Drew pilots the heroes onto a nearby helicarrier, using her Red Guard ID (which is Red 5, the callsign of Anakin/Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and I choose to believe she specifically requested). Landing their hot pink (!) plane on deck, they walk unchallenged across the roof of the thing, hidden by Emma Frost’s psychic powers. Apparently she’s simultaneously using 17 different mental tricks on everybody onboard at once, so nobody can see or hear them. A bit freaky, but I bet it’s useful for Black Friday sales.

Noting this display of powers, Cyclops delegates to Emma, asking “what’s the plan?” YOU DIDN’T DECIDE THIS BEFORE YOU GOT ON-DECK?!

The plan is to head to the command deck and fly the entire helicarrier over to Genosha, where they’ll confront Magneto. The reasoning for this is… well, there is no reasoning for this. They all apparently fit into that pink plane, so I have no idea why they’ve now decided to trade up to a much more noticeable SHIELD helicarrier. If they’d had more time, maybe Emma could’ve used 17 mental commands on Galactus and flown him in?

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Scalphunter is in charge of this helicarrier, which in honesty feels like a good use for him. Emma makes him steer across to Genosha, and apparently SHIELD are that lazy that they don’t notice one of their gigantic ships going wildly off course and heading over to Magneto’s homeland. Actually, I keep referring to this as SHIELD, but I don’t think the comic actually names it such once – it just feels more natural for me to go this way. There’s a scene where Bendis uses a load of overheard dialogue (again) to perhaps refer to some of the tie-ins, and definitely to refer to the characters he hasn’t used in the series – Black Widow, Sebastian Shaw, etc.

There’s also a mention of Weapon XXXC, suggesting that the Weapon Plus programme not only continued on after creating Wolverine, Deadpool etc – but has now reached a number which does not actually exist. That’s right! I’m pretty confident that XXXC is not actually a Roman Numeral at all, as it doesn’t fit the numbering system used by those turtle-shielded people. In fairness, Wanda probably never studied Latin while she was being home-schooled by a magic talking cow.

Over in Genosha, the anniversary of the time Magneto stopped racism is being prepared. Magneto, Quicksilver and Polaris all greet Victor Von Doom as he steps off his whizzy plane thing, mask-free and handsome. Again, Coipel knows exactly what he’s doing here. All Doom’s servants have one giant gold breast pin, whilst he gets to wear two. Classic Doom sartorial choice, right there. They pose for photos with the press, and it’s incredibly homoerotic. Did Wanda insert a little bisexuality into Magneto’s alternate timeline? It really feels like it.

Quicksilver – this is our first time seeing him since the alternate timeline, I think? – stands on the sidelines, wearing an uncomfortable-looking tunic that goes right up to his chin. He stares blankly whilst this is all going on, in yet another one of those “something symbolic is happening” moments that never ever work in Brian Michael Bendis comics. It’s like something from Eastenders.

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In the helicarrier’s kitchen, everybody grabs some lunch. They’re still shielded, meaning the guy with a “nubia” wristband has no idea they’re there. What the hell is that all about? Is that a reference to somebody with a name that starts with those letters?

Luke Cage steals a phone from someone and uses it to call his wife, Jessica Jones (apparently he and the rest of his team have all been given the Layla Miller treatment off-panel) who, here, is living with Scott Lang, Ant Man. I think this is a plot point from Alias, or something. He’s sad about this, so at least that makes one superhero whose life isn’t better in the new timeline, eh? Luke Cage vs the World. In these panels, the woman I’ve been calling Felicia Hardy is hanging out with Cloak, so now I’m wondering if she’s meant to be Dagger instead? That headband threw me off!

Spider-Man mopes, as is his whiny wont. What a whiny web-head. Cyclops, sensing a full-on soliloquy about to take place if he isn’t careful, quickly steps in to take leadership duties. You can tell he’s had years of dealing with Wolverine, eh? There’s only so many times you can hear a “woe is me” ramble before you learn how to shut it down. He starts a lengthy speech meant to inspire everyone, but it’s seriously off-putting because he basically tells everybody “fight to kill”. What the hell? This isn’t the sort of thing Cyclops would say!

And, even stranger, not a single person disagrees with him. Sure, Captain America isn’t part of their team, but not a single person in the room thinks “hey, we probably shouldn’t be just mowing everybody down”? If there was ever some reason in the claim that Bendis doesn’t really get superheroes, this would be the page to defend it. There’s some dissent in the room, but it isn’t about the whole killing thing, instead being pointless hypotheticals inserted into the script to make the story seem more interesting than it’s actually proven to be so far.

If you look at this, the sixth issue of the storyline, the entirety of House of M can thus far be rounded down to the first issue, a Layla Miller montage, and two long conversation sequences. It’s not exactly dynamic stuff, this.

Kitty Pryde and Jessica Drew – two of Bendis’ favourite characters, so you know this is the argument he wants readers to listen to – talk down the whole plan. Drew doesn’t even think they should bother changing the world back, because everything’s actually quite nice here. Wolverine responds by saying “one day you’re going to be really embarrassed you said that out loud”. Oh, Wolverine, you’re becoming unbearable again. Gritty cynic Wolverine is all very well and good, but nobody has any time for a Wolverine who just browbeats everybody into submission all the time.

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Spider-Man, upset his moan got interrupted, decides to try and make everything about him once more, by storming off. Instead, Cyclops just ignores his hissy fit and goes back to the plan. Meanwhile, the issue wastes two more pages on… a tannoy announcement for Magneto’s party? I’m starting to get really tired of this particular issue, you guys.

They arrive at Genosha, anyway, and nobody notices except maybe Phantazia, who is one of Magneto’s personal guards. Cyclops throws mud at Emma by saying “they’re going to know something is wrong… I mean, it’s not a bicycle we stole here”. Hey – if you didn’t like the plan, you could’ve just said! I’m unhappy you ditched the awesome pink fighter jet as well, but it’s your fault for not intervening earlier, Scott. Their main plan is to have Emma and Layla find Xavier and use Layla’s powers on him. whilst everybody else launches a suicide attack. Yaaaay.

As they discuss Cyclops’ plan, the issue intersperses the mission with the introduction of the various high-profile guests attending Magneto’s part: Storm, Black Panther, Doom, Genis-Vell etc. If you were wondering if this might be because they’ll play an important role in the final few issues: no. Stephen Strange is sent to Wanda’s bedroom to distract her, which the old perv immediately agrees to, whilst Namor makes his arrival alongside a green squid… woman. I’ll assume this is Marrina, who sometimes decides to look like a green squidwoman if the mood strikes her.

And if YOU had the ability to look like a green squidwoman, don’t try and tell me that YOU wouldn’t sometimes go for it either!

The final arrivals are the House of Magnus, whom everybody bows down to. Quicksilver, Polaris, Magneto… and Scarlet Witch, who hides her face behind some more of those damn beads Polaris seemed so fond of. I’m telling you now, I’m 100% certain Polaris dressed them all today. The two kids are also around, although Vision seems to be out of the picture for some reason. They look creepy as all hell, like they’re about to telepathically force villagers to pitchfork each other at any moment. Brilliantly, Magneto has about five giant medals pinned to his suit, whilst Quicksilver… does not. Coward.

In their moment of triumph, however, comes something in the far distance… something rushing towards Magneto. A sentinel! Now as he’s the, y’know, Master of Magnetism and all that, this doesn’t particularly stop Magneto for a moment, as he stands up and dismantles the head in a mere moment. For some reason, Coipel doesn’t elect to have Magneto’s shirt rip off and reveal his bristling muscles whilst this happens. But! Inside that head? The heroes! It’s sort of a Trojan Horse sort of thing, where they all burst out at once and swarm for the House of Magnus.

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Wolverine is right at the front, along with Carol Danvers, whilst Spider-Man swings out to the side with… his pants hanging out? Embarrassing. Right at the back is Iron Man, wearing a fantastic look of “I have nothing to contribute to this fight scene”. They head into a brief fight scene with Magneto’s guards, who appear to all be members of the Marauders/Acolytes/various other X-Men villain groups. Pyro, and so on, you know.

Cyclops lands on the ground, yells at Magneto (who he last saw murder Jean Grey, as far as I remember) and explodes him with an optic blast. Cripes. With him dead already (anticlimactic!) the magnetically-frozen sentinel crashes into the ground, possibly crushing Polaris and Quicksilver. Blimey, but these Magnuses are dropping like flies here.

Rogue, in one of her classic southern moments, charges straight at Doom and Storm, calling them “shugahs” and stealing some of their power. Even when she’s in maybe five panels, Rogue’s still stealing the entire event.

Over in the interesting half of the plan, Emma, Layla and Cloak sneak into Magneto’s memorial gardens for a potter about. I don’t quite know what drew them to this spot in particular, so I choose to believe it’s Emma’s innate recognition of superior horticulture. They wander around quietly, and Coipel draws this scene with such a sense of held tension that you actually start to care a little about the story again. Emma, however, spots Xavier Rock and starts to panic. Xavier’s dead!

Now, here’s a thing: wouldn’t this be pretty common knowledge for everyone? If Xavier did something (which, by the way, is never explained by Marvel) to help the mutant cause and save the world from a catastrophic event, would it really be kept hidden, secret, so nobody knew about it? I would’ve thought the first thing Magneto would do is broadcast it from the towers, putting Xavier statues everywhere, tell people to wear their eyebrows in Xavier’s style, that sort of thing. But no, apparently not, so this is the first time anybody knows that Xavier is dead.

Except… Cloak, being slightly morbid and simultaneously the star of this series, drops down into the ground and then rises back up, to tell the pair that there’s “no coffin. No body. Just dirt. There’s nothing here”. He says this as though it’s good news, and not that Xavier has just spontaneously vanished from the face of the Earth, but this doesn’t really feel like a step up for the heroes. At any rate, we’ll find out more next issue, ‘cos this is where they choose to end things. Why can’t you end an issue properly, Brian?!

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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