Jonathan Hickman has been the architect behind some of the most noteworthy comic book series in recent Marvel history. His run on Fantastic Four, which found him killing off and eventually bringing back Johnny Storm, as well as the creation of the Future Foundation, was one of the First Family’s best runs. His epic Infinity mini-series laid the groundwork for so much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity War and Endgame, while his amazing ‘Time Runs Out” Avengers and New Avengers storylines found Hickman actually destroying the 616 and Ultimate Marvel Universes in grand style. My favourite Marvel work by the author, Secret Wars, came out of those stories and found Doctor Doom in the role of God of a patchwork world made up of various pieces of other universes.
Following the completion of Secret Wars, Hickman took time off from the Marvel U, but he’s back with a plan to make the X-Men the centre point of the Marvel Universe once again. It’s an interesting promotional plan, one that you could argue attempts to negate much of the good work that’s come out of the X-office these last few years, courtesy of excellent writers including Charles Soule and Matthew Rosenberg. However, Jonathan Hickman is the sort of writer that doesn’t do “small,” and his plan for Marvel’s mutants is one designed to reset the status quo and pay off for years to come, hence the hype.
And to be fair, with the release of House of X last week, the hype is definitely warranted.
House of X #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Pepe Larazz
Set for a bi-weekly release (with sister book Power of X hitting stores on off-weeks beginning today), House of X introduces us to a world where the mutant island Kraokoa has become a welcoming habitat for mutants. With a back from the dead Charles Xavier (read up on Charles Soule’s Astonishing X-Men to find out how the Professor returned) leading the charge, mutants have banded together to live apart from man. Or so it appears. Hickman is setting up building blocks here, so not everything is completely clear in this first issue. What we do know is that:
- Magneto is acting as a mutant ambassador and appears aligned with Xavier’s plans
- In exchange for recognition of the mutant state, Xavier will share three “miracle drugs” – one that extends human life by five years, another which prevents diseases of the mind, and the third an adaptive antibiotic
- Governments of the world appear split as to whether they will accept Xavier’s terms
This is heavy and heady stuff, which, coming from Jonathan Hickman is really no surprise. Hickman is a world builder and has been given significant reign to tell this new story. I had to read the first issue of House of X twice to really sink my teeth into it. I certainly got more out of it that second time, as I allowed myself to sit with each page a little longer and digest the details that come from both panels and the written explanations of core concepts (the flowers, Omega Level mutants) that are interspersed throughout the book.
The third time I went back to House of X #1, I read through Hickman’s script that’s included as part of the Director’s Cut Digital Edition. If you have any interest in his creative process, or just want to delve a little deeper into the book, you must pick up this version. Seeing Hickman’s scripting methodology and his suggestions/instructions to artist Pepe Larazz (who does excellent work here) is fascinating stuff. I’m hoping the Director’s Cuts continue with both Power of X and subsequent issues of House of X as well because, like Information Society, I want to know what he’s thinking.
The only aspect of House of X that gives me pause is the question of accessibility. As someone who grew up in the 80s reading Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, I always felt as though those books were easy to comprehend and delve into. Claremont wrote about racism and persecution but couched them in and around action and adventure. While I know times and audiences have changed, I can’t imagine the average 8-year old picking up Hickman’s House of X and being able to make heads or tails of it. Then again, that’s not the audience the book is designed for. I suppose I just wish there was a middle ground.
Ultimately, House of X #1 is an exceptional book, one that reveals itself the more times you read it. It certainly made me excited to keep on reading and see what Jonathan Hickman has up his sleeve next.