House of M #7

The battle to preserve the House of M is fought – but with dangling plot threads in every direction, which ones will get tied up and which ones are going to get tripped up on? Not to spoil things, but Wanda’s story won’t get concluded until ten years later. It’s House of M #7!

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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

We start off right in the madness of battle, as the heroes continue to assault a photo op in order to try and un-mindwipe the world back into a lovely state of sadness and misery. Luke Cage is on fire, Daredevil is getting his face smushed, and Tony Stark is merrily murdering people with a giant machine gun. I know there’s a little element of ‘nothing matters’ in an alternate reality, but, jeez, Tony. Flying around and messing up her terrific dress, Storm asks what’s going on. “We’re your family” Logan explains, whilst literally slashing someone’s face in half. Convincing argument.

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Rogue, meanwhile is still having a bit of a Southern moment, as she absorbs the power of Dr Doom and, uh, some other dude. The helmet designs of the House of M guards make it really difficult to work out who is who, you guys. Let’s just pretend it’s Captain Universe. Hey! I guess that makes Rogue “Captain Doomiverse” now! Trademark Steve Morris 2017. She explodes off randomly.

At the castle, the understandably confused Magneto kids – including Lorna in a rare moment of dialogue – watch as Wanda’s children lie down on the floor. Wanda then jigsaw dissolves into nothingness, prompting Quicksilver to race off… straight into Captain Doomiverse, who explodes him up and sends him flying. I guarantee Olivier Coipel specifically requested this scene. Away from the violence, however, Dr Strange floats in his lovely astral cloak. He looks about and senses something – perhaps a nearby Taco Bell? – and wanders off to go explore it.

Oh, no, my bad, he’s actually sensed where the real Wanda is – in her opulent bedroom, playing off-brand Duplo with her children. My god, in this world of mutant/human harmony there’s no… there’s no Lego company? I take it all back, this is the worst timeline and I hope the heroes reverse everything as soon as possible. Wanda recognises Dr Strange immediately, which is a little weird, and then says that he was the one who helped her deliver her children. Clearly she’s stuck between these two timelines in her head, so Strange tries to play it as carefully as possible.

Which, for Strange, means directly asking her whether she brought Magneto back to life after he died in New X-Men. Nice play, Strange, very cautious of you to wade directly into that editorial wasteland. Wanda, speaking on behalf of the X-Men line circa 2005, says “you are full of questions. I can’t say I fully understand them”. That’s a mantra which has served Tom Brevoort well on Tumblr in the years to come. One of Wanda’s kids is starting to get salty about these questions, the brat, so Strange changes the subject to, y’know, the war happening outside.

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Wanda takes one look at it and tsks the whole situation, which in honesty is probably the right mindset to have about these sorts of things. The kids start talking about someone else who helped create the House of M universe, which we’re all supposed to think was Magneto – but a flashback conjured up by Wanda for no discernable reason reveals that after their fight in issue one, Quicksilver and Magneto walk away from each other. But then Wanda calls out to her brother. Twist!

The twins talk to each other about the situation, with Wanda fatalistically saying that she’s ready for the Avengers to go kill her. It’s the most lucid she’s been the whole series, and despite everything that Marvel have done to character across the course of this storyline, it does hook the reader a little bit back into her. What then happens is a huge leap in logic, as they go from defeatism to “hey, what if you rewrote the entire universe forever?” within only a few panels. Hey, here’s some thoughts for you two crazy kids:

  • Rewrite reality to erase Wanda’s powers
  • Rewrite reality so Wanda never had powers
  • Rewrite reality to reduce Wanda’s powers to something that male writers can actually deal with

It strikes me as really strange how little agency Wanda really gets to have in this storyline. Everything she does is reflected through male viewpoints, influenced by the men in her life, and with ramifications shown primarily through the secondary male characters. She goes from being a moment away from throwing away her life to going through with some mad toxic plan designed by her brother without any thought for anything else. And sure, that’s how the story means she has to choose – but Bendis had chosen this story from the outset, and he could easily have reframed it any way he wanted. Anyway, I digress.

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Emma Frost is listening in to the conversation psychically, which must be a little weird for Layla Miller and Cloak. They just found out Xavier isn’t dead, and now Emma just stops talking for a solid five minutes? Also, wasn’t Strange being shown a projection of what happened in his mind? Emma must be damn good if she could see through Strange’s eyes and catch up on what’s going on. Emma tells Strange to ask about Xavier, but before he can finish Wanda catches an arrow in the back.

At the Xavier Memorial Garden, Magneto smashes through a wall, completely destroying a delightful arrangement of geraniums, demanding to know what’s going on – so Layla uses his powers and shows him. Ha!

Anyway, the shocking deliverer of the arrow bolt was Hawkeye, stunning everyone. Clint is still pretty upset about the whole thing where he had to kill himself because of Wanda’s magic going awry, and he goes on this giant rant about everything that’s gone on. Again, this doesn’t make too much sense really, but it certainly does help make Hawkeye look like a complete cretin. Wanda simply jigsaws the arrow from her back, to which Hawkeye responds by… notching another arrow.

This is why archers shouldn’t be invited onto superhero teams, you guys.

One of the kids, thankfully, puts an end to the whole thing by jigsawing Hawkeye back into non-existence, which is a blissful relief. For all the big talk at the time about bringing the character back to life, this was hardly the sort of showing which could get anybody interested in reading more about him. See you in a few months as part of a bizarre and uninvolving New Avengers issues, Clint!

Jigsawing Clint seems to mark a turning point for Wanda, with her smile now distinctly upside-down. She’s losing control – in stark contrast to Quicksilver though, who is mowing down all the other heroes outside. Magneto appears, now aware of everything that’s been going on, and he decides the best way forward is to attack Quicksilver. Now wait – so Quicksilver has created a world of peace, and where Magneto not only didn’t skip out on his kids, but was actively a parent to them. This is a place where Magneto gets to see Wanda have a happy family, and even has the ability to talk to Polaris should she ever show up on panel. And it’s a place where Magneto is completely in charge.

And Magneto… is unhappy about this? Is this because Pietro let all the humans live, Mags? Is that why you’re so upset?

So anyway Magneto perfectly rationally murders Quicksilver in front of everybody. Again, what a smart move, well done you. The logic of the issue really falls apart by this stage, but Wanda floats on over to the scene, wiping Magneto’s mouth off his face as she stops by her brother’s dead body. She brings him back to life, which obviously worries Emma Frost because Emma is the only rational person in this whole damn comic.

Wanda then begins her famous speech. You know how it ends. She aims it at Magneto, calling him out for being a negligent father. Her complaint then twists in the editorial wind, as the dialogue moves her very valid complaint about her father through to a complaint about her status as a mutant. She says that Magneto thinks mutants are better than humans, and that’s why mutants deserve to rule the earth – so she gave it to them, but it all went to hell.

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“You’re just this horrible man” she tells him. She calls mutants freaks, and complains about his decision to pick the mutant cause over looking after his kids. She says “no more mutants” and the world explodes.

So. A few things about this.

The twist of her speech doesn’t make sense, obviously, as it suggests that Magneto’s devotion to the mutant cause if what caused all the problems for Wanda, as opposed to her powers simply being so overwhelming that even the finest minds on the planet couldn’t help her. The very finest of them, in fact, being Magneto’s best friend. It’s also strange that she says everything has gone so poorly, because the House of M Universe seemed to genuinely be a pretty great place for all involved. At the cost of one Xavier they have a relative peace between humans and mutants, where Magneto acts as a diplomat bringing peace between countries like Latveria and Wakanda.

The only thing that went wrong was when Layla Miller came about somehow, at which point her magic and NEVER-EXPLAINED powers started reminding people of the world they came from. Within this comic series itself, there is no real indication that the House of M world is a bad place at all, and it really does suggest that Quicksilver’s idea – although unfathomable – has actually worked out quite well for everybody. Heck, Wanda even gets to have the kids she wanted, albeit in a Lego-free environment which may well stunt their creative development.

“No More Mutants” is a phrase invented so Marvel could collapse an issue that they felt they had. They aren’t Wanda’s words, they’re the words of Marvel’s editors, and it finishes the job of removing Wanda’s agency entirely from this story which was centred wholly around her to begin with. It does, however, provide this issue with something which none of the other issues so far can claim: an actual cliffhanger. You finally did it, Brian! You learned how to finish a comic with an interesting final page!

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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