House of M #8

In the wake of the event, the day has been saved – and by that we mean the Avengers are pretty much fine while the X-Men are about to be in for some huge surprises. Marvel editorial’s finest hour? It’s House of M #8!

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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: November 2005

Previously: The Scarlet Witch changed the whole world, and then she changed it again. Rogue absorbed the powers of all the strongest people in creation. That second part isn’t particularly important, but it was pretty great.

This issue is dedicated not to wrapping up the story of the series, so much as it is focused on setting up a load of plot threads that other writers (sometimes years later) are going to be asked to tie up at some point in future. That’s right: it’s time for a helluva lot of decompression, so let’s see if we can stretch this recap out longer than Bendis can stretch out a wordless scene in order to meet a previously-agreed page count.

Firstly, the comic establishes that the world is exactly as it was before, with no more superheroes flying around and everything sunny and calm. In the middle of, I dunno, somewhere, we see Layla Miller wake up in her room, surrounded by photos of various superheroes. Perhaps improbably, this prominently features a big David Finch poster of Moon Knight, who at this point in time is a broken, horrific, murdering vigilante, his mind broken and splintered from reality. She also has a picture of Hulk throwing a car at Spider-Man, so I’m just not sure what we’re meant to think of Layla’s taste in heroes.

She looks out her window and makes a wish. That wish is for Peter David to come and find her.

Peter Parker wakes up next to his wife – Mary Jane Watson – and with his hair back. He clearly remembers everything that’s happened, which I guess is what you’d expect from somebody with luck like him. Mary Jane wakes him up with a pretty funny, sardonic line, but Peter just walks off like “Gwen Stacy was better”. Give it a few years, Peter, and Emma Stone is going to help bring everybody else round to that way of thinking too.

Peter heads to Avengers Tower, where it seems people remember the House of M seemingly at random. She-Hulk, Spider-Woman and Luke Cage know what happened, but Falcon and Iron Man are blank. Which is strange, because if we’re assuming everybody ‘woken up’ by Layla retained their memories, then shouldn’t Stark remember? Last we saw him, he was in Genosha murdering C-List X-Men villains with merry glee. Peter starts freaking out and smashes up Tony’s table. Tony is about to get upset but Luke tells him to let this table go.

Typical Luke Cage, no respect for interior design.

Stephen Strange staggers in at this point, and you can tell he’s in trouble because his cape is all droopy and sad. Aw. He suggests that something terrible has happened, which leads us to Westchester. Because of course it does. Emma Frost wakes up in the back garden of the X-Mansion, which I’m sure is just a regular Sunday afternoon for her, but screams from inside the building draw her inside.

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Kitty is there with a bunch of students – Wind Dancer is lying, collapsed on the ground in front of her, and everybody else is panicked. They go back and forth a lot between each other, but the gist is this: various X-Men characters have lost their powers, and it looks like it’s been decided depending on both their prominence and marketability. Phew, good thing for Marvel that Wanda’s faith in capitalism wasn’t shaken by this whole thing, or they could’ve really been in trouble here.

Nightcrawler goes searching all round the building site for Logan, whose powers literally help him stay alive, and he eventually finds Logan lying outside in the gardens. Which, again, is how I imagine Kurt starts every Sunday morning. Wolverine wakes up and remembers his entire life, it seems. Oh man, somebody commission that as a series! Or wait, maybe don’t.

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Inside, it looks like Tag has also lost his powers, suggesting that Wanda has also made sure to start off by depowering the POC as her main priority. Emma Frost, whose powers we only now realise are still intact, heads to Cerebro to check the worldwide population of mutants, only to realise that they’ve been… decimated. Hey, commission that as a series too! Or….

Emma is crying at this point, which is absolutely 100% solid characterisation for her. The next generation of mutants is her everything, and she’s seeing it wiped away before her eyes. She can’t find Wanda or Xavier’s signatures anywhere either, and if you’re expecting any of this Xavier business to ever get properly explained then you’re clearly new to Marvel comics.

The POC characters continue to be prominently depowered with Dani Moonstar next to lose her mutant status. The X-Men are trying desperately to work out what this actually means, and Marvel will mirror that over the next few months, because it’s hard to realise if they’re meant to be depowered, if they lost the X-Gene entirely, or what’s happened. We also don’t really know why certain characters like Cyclops and Colossus have kept their powers either. Again, if it’s only the characters who were in contact with Layla that get to keep their status from House of M, then that would mean Colossus should’ve lost his powers too.

Iceman comes stumbling out the closet to announce that he’s lost his powers too. For anybody thinking “oh, this disproves your theory about Wanda only depowering POC, Steve” – well, Iceman isn’t actually depowered. He repressed his mutation or something, and he regains his abilities a month or so later in an X-Men comic.

Whilst all this is going on, the Avengers are watching the news. Luke Cage’s hat appears to grow in size every time it reappears. It’s only when the news reporters mention the X-Men that Carol Danvers is like “oh yeah, the X-Men!!”, because the Avengers are crappy allies at the best of times. Even when it turns out that William Stryker is back alive (right?) and declaring this a great victory for humankind, the Avengers don’t at any point think to fly over to Westchester to see if they can help. Not even Carol!

Strange decides that the reason some people remember the events is not because of Layla, but because both he and Emma Frost protected the minds of everybody who was present on the scene while Wanda cast her spell. This, again, does not account for why Iron Man doesn’t remember anything. Strange also can’t find Wanda, and he tells everybody that he’s failed in his job. Well duh! Now maybe go over to Westchester and see if you can help there, maybe?

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Spidey takes this harder and harder, and demands that Strange wipe his mind of everything that happened. Strange says “that’s not how magic works”, which I think Mephisto would disagree with. Luke Cage says they should go to the press about things, which is slightly proactive I guess but still not the most useful thing you could do? Also not something anybody is really going to believe, given the main Avengers like Steve Rogers don’t remember anything.

Iron Man says there’s been reports of somebody at the old mansion site, so the Avengers all – all – head over there. X-Men are literally dead at this point (primarily at the hands of Kyle/Yost) but they’re all checking a disturbance at a condemned wreck. Wandering round, they find Hawkeye’s old costume pinned to the wall, along with his obituary. Captain America smiles. Oh, well that’s all great then. Cheers Cap, great to know you’ll come through for us all in a pinch.

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At Genosha, we see that Magneto has also lost his powers. The Astonishing X-Men appear and rough him up, which seems a little inappropriate given he’s probably going to be on their side over this whole “end of the mutants” deal. Wolverine prepares to kill him, which I guess is understandable for Jean Grey reasons if not House of M reasons. Magneto assures them he doesn’t know where Quicksilver is, or “his daughter”. Plural, you guys! Why does everybody always forget about Lorna?

Anyway, the X-Men decide to leave Magneto in the dust of Genosha, without any powers, as an ironic punishment. Spoilers: I’m pretty sure he regains his powers within a few months.

The issue ends with a voiceover from Hank Pym, for god knows what reasons. He gives a speech to local radio to say that although the mutant thing is pretty bad, the real thing people should worry about is the shift of energy from the planet. According to him, all the energy held by mutants is still out there somewhere, and the planet is in trouble when it comes back.

As he dictates this bizarre summary – trying in the process to shift the story from “Marvel just wrecked the X-Men for decades to come” to “but what does this mean for the Avengers you guys??” we see Wanda, wandering round a local market somewhere in Europe, having a great time. She’s out there, but it looks like she depowered herself.

The issue ends with the line “what will be the reaction?” and Marvel? I’m pretty sure the reaction is an increasing resentment from X-Men fans over the growing shift in priorities from the X-Men characters to the Avengers characters, as the next few years go on. I’ve read House of M before, but it was genuinely surprising to remember that the issue ends with about ten pages of X-Men aftermath and twenty odd pages dedicated to the Avengers.

It’s also strange that the issue ends with a pointed note to readers that the return of Hawkeye is a bigger deal than the decimation of the X-Men. But then, I guess that’s just something people would just have to get used to. Enjoy your new status quo!

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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