Why do you read comics? What is it you’re looking for when you crack open an issue? I think about that a lot lately, especially in this age of the loud complainers out there who seem to get great joy in coming down on any/every medium.
Why do I read comics? For me, it’s always about the story and the skill with which it’s written. As much as I can appreciate the amazing art and artists who create the books I love, I’ve always gravitated to the wordsmith.
I remember the first time I met Brian Michael Bendis; it was the early 2000s at a Fan Expo, he had done what I consider to be the finest run on Daredevil I’ve ever read and had moved on to New Avengers. As I stood in front of him, I mentioned how nervous I was.
“What are you nervous about?” he asked.
“Because you do what I wish I could do,” I responded.
Looking back, that comment was a spur of the moment and not entirely accurate. I don’t think I’ve really ever wished I could write comics. While I did my undergrad in fiction and had always hoped to write novels, as my career progressed I realized that I’d found what I thought I was good at – writing pop culture historical pieces – and also discovered what I wasn’t so good at – hello, fiction. So while I knew I’d never try to write the exploits of four-coloured characters, it didn’t mean I couldn’t be in awe of those that can. Bendis was one example.
Jonathan Hickman is another.
House Of X #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Hickman has been writing the X-Men story for the ages with his Marvel books House of X (HOX) and Powers of X (POX) – a story in two titles. The latest issue of HOX, in particular, delivered some of the most unexpected turns the story could have given us.
In this issue, the X-team of Cyclops, Wolverine, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Archangel, Husk, and M travel to space to shut down a Mother Mold before it comes online and creates Nimrod, the mutant-hating Sentinel that looks to wipe out the majority of the species. The team achieve their goals but at a cost. Namely, all of their deaths.
Yes, even the recently resurrected Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Logan were toasted yet again (and painfully, at that). The cynical and the weary may groan since this is comics and we know at some point, be it next month or next year or five years from now, the characters will be back doing what they do best (even if it isn’t very nice). Where Jonathan Hickman excels in this story is making us, making me care about the deaths that are happening.
These characters, striving for the good of mutantkind, sacrifice themselves and, for the most part, these are not offscreen demises. Hickman goes for broke in this issue, demonstrating that anything could happen to any of our beloved characters. He makes you feel the loss.
In New Mutants #37, published all the way back in March 1986, the Beyonder killed all of the teenage team. Brutally so. I was nine years old and I remember reading the issue and being stunned and horrified at what I’d just seen. I had a reaction throughout my body. The same feeling was there reading HOX #4, though tempered with age and a greater understanding of the medium. Still, my eyes welled up as I came to the conclusion of the book. And it doesn’t matter what happens next (though I will continue to read, of course) because, in that moment, it was all about the emotion that Jonathan Hickman managed to wring out of me.
Why do I read comics? For stories just like this.