The moment we have been waiting for is finally here. Comic fans have been eagerly awaiting House of X #1 ever since Marvel revealed that Jonathan Hickman was returning to resurrect the X- Men franchise. I am beyond excited. I am a long-time X-Men fan. I have been reading the X-Men since the days of the Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Mike Grell. The X-Men were easily my favorite Marvel franchise.
However, over the years, the X-Men franchise has fallen on hard times. The X-Men continuity has become an overly convoluted mess that is impenetrable for new readers. And then Marvel’s decision to replace mutants with the Inhumans only furthered to drive the X-Men franchise into the ground.
I gave up on the X-Men years ago. So, I am excited to finally be getting an X-Men comic once again. I firmly believe that if anyone can successfully resurrect the X-Men franchise it is Jonathan Hickman. My confidence in Hickman is nearly limitless. I fully expect House of X #1 to be a quality read. Let’s go ahead and hit this review!
Words: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Pepe Larraz
Colors: Marte Gracia
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin on Krakoa with Professor Xavier watching Scott Summers and other X-Men being “birthed” from pods from a giant tree. Professor X says, “To me, my X-Men.”
We cut five months ago with Colossus plucking some flowers from Krakoa. We shift to four months ago with Storm planting a Krakoa flower at Westchester, New York. We cut to three months ago with Mystique planting a Krakoa flower on the blue area of the moon. We zip to two months ago with Armor planting a Krakoa flower on Mars. We cut to one month ago with the Beast planting a Krakoa flower in the Savage Land. We cut to three weeks ago with Kitty Pryde planing Kragoa flowers in Washington, DC. We cut to two weeks ago with Krakoa flowers being planted in Jerusalem.
We zip to present day at the Jerusalem Habitat which is a large gateway that has blossomed from the Krakoa flower planted there. We see ambassador’s from the United States, China, and a few other countries appear on the scene. The ambassadors discuss Xavier’s offer to give the countries three miracle drugs made on Krakoa in exchange for the countries all recognizing Krakoa as an independent sovereign nation. The Chinese ambassador is ready to accept Xavier’s offer.
Suddenly, Esme and Sophia step out of the getaway at the Jerusalem Habitat. They welcome the ambassadors into the Jerusalem Habitat. They introduce themselves to the ambassadors. Sophia says that Sophia is her human name and that she is thinking of taking another.
Sophia says that the ambassadors will not be meeting with Xavier today since he is busy elsewhere. Therefore, they will be meeting with Magneto. Magneto then enters the scene.
We cut to a two page explanation of the Flowers of Krakoa. These flowers are used to create three human drugs. Human Drug L extends human life by five years. Human Drug I is a universal antibiotic super drug for humans. Human Drug M is a drug that cures diseases of the mind in humans.
The flowers also create three things for mutants only. The flowers grow Gateways. The flowers grow a gateway to its twin gateway on Krakoa. The flowers create Habitats. The habitat is a self-sustaining environment that is a part of the interconnected consciousness of Krakoa. The flowers also create No-Place. This is a habitat that exists outside the collective consciousness of Krakoa. Krakoa does not know this exists. It is a Krakoan tumor.
We shift to the Greymalkin Habitat. We see Jean Grey leading a young mutant to a gateway. Jean says that only mutants can access the gateways. That even if a mutant brings a human with them voluntarily that the human must ask for permission from Krakoa to use the gateway.
We cut to Cypher and Sage in the center of the interface for the Krakoa gateway system. Cypher created an entire system to manage the traffic of the Krakoan network. Cypher also coded a language that only he and the island of Krakoa can speak. Cypher also created a way to power the network by light and not electricity. Cypher says that Sage needs to bury her cynicism and embrace hope. Cypher says that Professor X has changed the old rules and that they are entering a whole new world.
We see Jean and the young mutant exiting the gateway and entering Krakoa. Jean tells the young mutant that most of the younger mutants live in the habitat near the lagoon. The young mutant then sees Professor X watching Logan playing with some young mutants. Professor X looks at Jean and welcomes her home. Professor X says that they are all safe here.
We get a two page map of Krakoa. Krakoa is located to the east of Southeast Asia. There are twelve areas on Krakoa: House of X, House of M, Arbor Magna, Arena, Akademos Habitat, Transit, The Oracle, The Grove, the Cradle, The Reservoir, The Wild Hunt, and Carousel.
We shift to a spaceship docking with a massive space station built near the Sun. The space station is called the Forge. Erasmus orders Dr. Gregor goes aboard the space station and confirms that the air is good. Dr. Gregor says that the environmental controls must be preprogrammed to support a full crew. Karima joins Dr. Gregor in continuing to tour the Forge.
Dr. Gregor says that as soon as the predictive models forecasted the extent of Xavier’s plans that the Orchis protocols were enacted and the automatic refit of this station began. Dr. Gregor says that after the construction of the station was complete that all the machines were retasked for mining duty on Mercury. That the station needs the resources.
We then see that a massive Sentinel style head forms the middle part of the circular space station.
We get a two-page explanation and schematic of the structure of Orchis. The Orchis Protocol was a doomsday network based on evolutionary research by Dr. Gregor. Orchis recruited asses from A.I.M., S.H.I.E.L.D., S.T.R.I.K.E., S.W.O.R.D., Alpha Flight, H.A.M.M.E.R., A.R.M.O.R., and Hydra. The doomsday plan operated under the premise that there are three areas of concern: Population, Financial, and Territorial. Orchis assets established watchdog programs to observe undetected mutant influence.
That one year ago the population alert was triggered due to a spike in mutant births. Six months ago, the financial alert was triggered when Xavier purchased the seventh-largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Two months ago the territorial alert was triggered when the mutant nation of Krakoa was established. This caused the Orchis protocols to be enacted. Dr. Gregor’s new estimates have mutants replacing humankind on Earth within twenty years.
We shift to Damage Control headquarters in New York. Mystique, Sabertooth, and Toad have broken into the facility. Toad is busy hacking the Damage Control network and downloading some information. Sabertooth beats up a bunch of guards. Mystique is pissed that they have made so much noise and attracted attention since this was supposed to be a covert mission.
Toad downloads the information that they need and the three break out of the side of the building and head toward a Krakoa gateway in Washington Square. Suddenly, Human Torch and the Thing arrive on the scene. The Thing punches Sabertooth.
We cut to Magneto leading the ambassadors into the Hub of the Krakoa network. There are numerous doors leading to gateways all over the Earth. There are signs above each door in a new language that was created by Krakoa. Magneto says that one cannot create a distinct culture without a unique language.
Magneto shows the ambassadors that the Krakoan gateways are all over the Earth and are not limited by the distance, elevation, or environment. One of the ambassadors says that this Krakoan network of gateways is going to be a problem. That it poses a massive military threat.
Magneto says that mutants have never conquered any people or nation. One of the ambassadors asks if they will be going to Krakoa next. Magneto says that mutants are the evolutionary inheritors of the entire Earth. That instead of claiming the Earth that Xavier is offering to let the humans keep it in turn for mutants having a place for themselves. Magneto says that no human will ever be allowed on Krakoa.
We hop back to Johnny and Ben chasing Mystique, Toad, and Sabertooth. Mystique and Toad make it safely through the Krakoan gateway. However, Sabertooth finds himself trapped in an invisible rectangle before he can jump through the gateway. We see that Reed and Sue Richards have arrived on the scene.
Cyclops then steps through the gateway. Cyclops says it is nice to see the Fantastic Four again. Cyclops congratulates Ben on his recent marriage. Cyclops asks if the rest of the Richards family is doing well.
Cyclops then says that he will take Sabretooth off of their hands. Reed asks why they would let Cyclops do that. Cyclops says that Reed knows what amnesty means. Reed counters with the fact that Sabertooth broke numerous laws and injured people. Reed asks if Cyclops is really offering amnesty from that.
Cyclops says that he knows it is upsetting but this is where they are. That new beginnings demand wide berths. Reed replies “Then I think I have a problem with that.” (Oh, shit! What a badass moment from Reed!)
The two men stare at each other in silence. Cyclops then says that he can see they feel strongly about this so they can keep Sabertooth and they can Ella with it another time and in another way.
Sue asks Cyclops what in the world is Xavier thinking with all of the things that he is currently doing. Cyclops responds that his family has spent their entire lives being hunted and hated. Cyclops asks if she expected them to just sit there and take it. Cyclops says that he believes in what Xavier is doing. Cyclops then tells Sue to tell Franklin that he has a family on Krakoa waiting for him. (Oh, damn. Burn.)
We then get a page detailing the definition of an Omega level mutant and which mutants are currently classified as Omega level.
We hop back to the Krakoan habitat in Jerusalem. Magneto asks Sophia to tell him what she has learned. Sophia says that all the “ambassadors” have been given some training in resisting telepathy, but that the training was not enough. Sophia says that the ambassador from Israel is ex-miliary and does not care for anyone here.
Sophia says that all of the other “ambassadors” are spies. That Ma Mingyu is actually the head of the science state office and is eager to agree to their offer. Sophia says that Jean Pierre Kol is part of the private sector pharmaceutical industry and he is eager to agree to Xavier’s terms. That Natalia Vollock is a Red Sky senior operative who would never agree to Xavier’s terms. That Walter Reppion is an agent of S.T.R.I.K.E. who does not care about any of this and is just here to observe and report. Reilly Marshall is an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. and S.W.O.R.D. agent who also has another affiliation but that Marshall is able to fight Sophia’s powers. Marshall tells Sophia to get out of his head. Sophia says that Marshall has a weapon on him. Magneto pulls a gun out of Marshall’s jacket and disassembles it.
Magneto says that it is good that the humans are here as who they really are. That they can go back and tell their masters what they have learned. That Xavier has made them an offer full of love and grace, but that it is an offer written in stone. This is not a negotiation. That this situation is inevitable and that the humans should be grateful at what the mutants are so generously giving them.
Reppion asks Magneto if he knows what he sounds like. Magneto says that he does and that it feels good to finally say it. Vollock asks if Magneto summed them here to threaten them. Magneto answers that a promise is not a threat. Magneto says that he picked Jerusalem as a meeting place because he knows that humans love their symbolism and their religion. Magneto wanted them to understand that humans have new gods now. End of issue.
The Good: It is so damn good to have Jonathan Hickman back at Marvel. Seriously, Marvel has bled so much of their top writing talent and completely failed to create any new big-name writers. Hickman returning to Marvel is an absolute godsend. Marvel needs to thank the comic gods that Hickman did not follow everyone else over to DC.
House of X #1 was an excellent read. This issue gave me vintage Hickman. This was absolutely what I was hoping we would get with this issue. House of X #1 is all about world-building. This is Hickman’s happy place. Only Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison can compete with Hickman at world-building.
I appreciate that Hickman is taking his time with this new beginning for the X-Men franchise. House of X #1 moves at a measured pace. There is no hurried rushing through laying the foundation for this new direction for the X-Men franchise. Hickman moves the story forward patiently and takes his time in setting the stage for this new direction for the X-Men franchise.
Now, that is not to say that the pacing for House of X #1 is meandering or pointless. That is definitely not the case. Hickman has a clear direction in mind with this story. Hickman has a point and purpose to every single scene that he delivers in House of X #1. Every little detail matters. There is no wasted space or time in this issue.
The result is that House of X #1 is a delightfully rich and complex read. Hickman serves up a dense read that is packed full of meticulously crafted scenes. Hickman is like a watchmaker who revels in the painstaking task of handcrafting plot lines full of intricate and complex details. There is so much depth and texture to House of X #1. This makes it so easy for the reader to get completely lost in the story. House of X #1 is certainly an issue that demands multiple readings in order for the reader to properly suck all the marrow out of the bones of this story.
Hickman constantly engages and delights the reader from cover to cover. The sumptuousness of the story and the fully developed three-dimensional world that Hickman constructs engage the reader’s imagination. This story plays with the reader and pulls them deeper and deeper into the story. The technical construction of each scene and the story overall is impressive.
What is particularly enjoyable about House of X #1 is that despite its complexities and details it still remains a surprisingly new reader-friendly story. This is not an easy feat at all. But, it was an absolute requirement. Any relaunch or rebuilding of the X-Men franchise requires such an effort be new reader-friendly. Hickman earns a gold star in this category.
Hickman had to make House of X #1 an easy jumping on point for brand new readers and for lapsed X-Men readers like myself who abandoned this franchise years ago. The reader does not have to have read an X-Men comic before in order to understand what is going on in House of X #1. Hickman gives all the necessary details to the reader in a cogent and clear fashion. It has been a long time since I have read an X-Men comic book and I never felt lost at all at any point during House of X #1.
One genius technique that Hickman employs to make House of X #1 so new reader-friendly is to expertly place several two pages and one-page inserts of information at the appropriate times during this story. These inserts deliver an incredible amount of information to clearly explain the various groups and what exactly is going on in the story. This is how Hickman is able to deliver such a complex story that is amazingly new reader-friendly.
These inserts are appropriately timed during the story when a character first mentions something that would be unknown to the reader. Hickman quickly pauses the narrative and delivers one of these inserts in that situation. This is a cool literary tool to fill in backstory and deliver large amounts of exposition that explains what is going on at this exact point in the story.
The advantage of doing these inserts during the story rather than having them all at the end of the story as extra bonus pages mean that the reader does not have to wonder what the characters are talking about and referencing during the entire story before being given this information. Also, this approach of using inserts during the story is a fantastic way to deliver information to the reader in a more enjoyable fashion rather than attempting to deliver the same information in the form of an exposition dump via pages and pages of dull and boring talking heads.
The two-page insert concerning the flowers of Krakoa was cool and informative. I love this concept of Krakoa as a force of nature that can provide such amazing gifts to both humans and mutants. Hickman is able to take an already established concept like Krakoa and make it even more fascinating and compelling.
I loved the two-page map of Krakoa and the various cities and establishments on the island nation. I have always loved it when an issue has maps, blueprints, or schematics of a headquarters or area. This insert helps new readers to properly place Krakoa on the world map. This insert also helps to convey the cities and facilities that have been constructed on Krakoa and where they are in relation to each other. This is a fun way to further flesh out this new island nation.
The two-page insert explaining Orchis was absolutely fantastic and probably my favorite of all of the various inserts. Hickman does a brilliant job explaining the Orchis protocol, Orchis itself, and the organizational structure of Orchis. I dig organizational charts so Hickman giving us one for Orchis to better describes the hierarchy and the major players and their relation to each other was just fantastic. This is so far more interesting and effective than just delivering this as exposition between talking heads for a page or two.
I am also a huge fan of infographics. Therefore, I loved Hickman’s infographic for Orchis showing the percentages of each different organization that constitutes Orchis as a whole. This was another effective and entertaining way to give the reader a better sense of the organization and people within Orchis.
This insert does a beautiful job of cogently explaining Orchis’ background, their reason for being, and how they were activated. I find Orchis to be an absolutely fantastic creation. Hickman immediately makes me interested in Orchis. This organization is such a cool concept and is so well fleshed out and logical.
I also appreciate the themes of nature that Hickman plays with in creating the two opposing forces of Krakoa and Orchis. Krakoa, being a living island, uses its flowers to create an organic network and biome to create the foundation for the new mutant country and culture. Krakoa also creates this new network to be operated in an environmentally sustainable fashion.
Orchis also has its foundation in nature. Orchis is the new Latin word for the genus of any type of orchid. Orchis is also engaged in creating a new life in space and doing so in an environmentally sustainable fashion. By having both warring factions rooted in nature furthers the basic theme of the conflict of mutant versus human as one firmly rooted in nature.
I also thought that Orchis’ Forge was such a cool looking headquarters. I love the design of the Forge. The entire concept of this space station is fascinating. I am certainly looking forward to learning more about Orchis and the Forge in upcoming issues. Hickman has created something special.
The one-page insert about Damage Control was also excellent. This was such a great way to fully inform the reader about this lesser-known organization. This was also a great way to loop in both Reed Richards and Tony Stark into the story.
I loved the one-page insert concerning the definition of an Omega level mutant and the list of Omega level mutants. Hickman does an excellent job finally clearly and intelligently explaining the term “Omega level mutant.” This is quality education for new readers and long-time readers. The list of Omega level mutants was helpful in reminding the reader which mutants are considered heavy hitters in their power set categories.
I am completely fascinated with Hickman’s Krakoa and Xavier’s plans for mutants. What is so cool and surprising is that Hickman appears to be casting the X-Men as villains. Sympathetic villains, but villains nonetheless. That is an interesting move that I did not see coming.
The villainous vibe of the X-Men was obvious in the scenes between Magneto and the ambassadors. However, it is hard for the reader to feel much sympathy for governments or black ops organizations. So, while Magneto and the mutants seemed villainous, the reader probably felt it hard to not view representatives of governments and black ops organizations as at least equally villainous. In these scenes, there was really no one for the reader to root for.
That was definitely not the case with the scene between the Fantastic Four and Cyclops. This is why I found this scene to be the most important and impactful scene in House of X #1. The Fantastic Four is a group that the reader can easily identify with and believe in wholeheartedly. The Fantastic Four are the good guys. Reed and Sue are compassionate and heroic. Out of all of the characters in this issue, the Fantastic Four are the characters the reader is supposed to align with the most.
Therefore, when Hickman gives us a showdown between Cyclops and Reed this is the moment where Hickman clearly casts the X-Men in the role of the villains. The reader is given the obvious signal to side with the Fantastic Four at this moment. This also sets the stage for future conflicts between the X-Men and various human super-hero teams like the Fantastic Four.
As always, it is pure joy to see Hickman writing the Fantastic Four. Hickman was born to write the Fantastic Four. And absolutely nobody does a better job with Reed Richards than Hickman. In just a matter of a handful of panels, Hickman is able to effectively get Reed over as a total badass. I loved it.
I am fascinated with Hickman’s Professor X. Hickman gives us a Charles Xavier who delivers the outward projection of love and kindness with an undercurrent of something sinister and twisted. This makes Hickman’s Professor X so damn creepy and eerie. Hickman’s Xavier reminds me of a 1970’s cult leader.
Hickman also positions Xavier as the “God” of mutantkind. House of X #1 begins with Xavier “birthing” his X-Men and then beaming down on them with the pride of an all-knowing father. Xavier’s words are followed as if they were the word of God. His decisions and rules are supreme. Hickman having Xavier always wear his Cerebro helmet also helps to convey the feeling that Xavier is something separate from the rest of the mutankind. This gives the vibe that Xavier operates on a different plane.
Hickman effectively gets the reader to become incredibly apprehensive about Xavier. This is so different than the usual portrayal of Xavier as the avuncular and wise leader who engenders near-universal respect. Hickman manages to get the reader to a general sense of discomfort with his version of Xavier. There is something about Hickman’s Xavier that does not feel quite right.
Hickman also does an excellent job writing Magneto’s character in this issue. Magneto is as prideful, hateful, and prejudiced as ever. If Hickman is presenting Xavier as “God” of the mutants then Magneto is Xavier’s Archangel Micheal. Archangel Michael was the general of God’s armies. Michael was also the angel of death. Magneto is clearly Xavier’s general who is tasked with crushing the humans who dare to rebuff Xavier’s offers. The role of Archangel Michael is clearly a role that Magneto relishes. This is emphasized in the final page of this issue when Magneto reveals that he picked Jerusalem for the meeting with the ambassadors to remind them that the humans have new gods now.
The ending to House of X #1 was fantastic. It got the reader eager for the next issue. Hickman manages to end House of X #1 with the reader completely unsure of which side they should support in this upcoming conflict. There is no clear and easy side to chose. The fact that Hickman delivers a story that is full of different shades of gray is what makes the story so damn compelling and engrossing.
Pepe Larraz delivers plenty of solid artwork. Larraz does an excellent job drawing Krakoa’s habitats and network of gateways. The design for the Forge is also well done. Larraz’s art is dynamic and has clean lines that work wonderfully with a mainstream super-hero title.
The Bad: House of X #1 is a slow burn approach. The pacing is quite measured. There is also not much action at all to be found. Some readers may find House of X #1 to be a bit too slow or dull.
Larraz seems to struggle with the faces of the various characters. Often, Larraz simply mails it in then drawing the faces of some of the characters and gives just the most basic sketch of a face. The result is that the male ambassadors are difficult to keep separate from each other. The lack of strong facial expressions also robs the story of some of its emotional impact on the reader.
Overall: House of X #1 was a fantastic start to Hickman’s resurrection of the X-Men franchise. This issue presents the reader with phenomenal world-building, amazing plotting, a complex and engaging story, great character work, and good dialogue. There really is not much more that a reader could ask for in a comic book. And best of all is that Hickman manages to make House of X #1 new reader-friendly!
If you have never read an X-Men comic before due to the ridiculously convoluted continuity then do not fear. I highly encourage you to hop aboard House of X #1. If you are a lapsed X-Men reader then I definitely encourage you to give House of X #1 a try. Hickman has something special in store for readers with his plans for the X-Men franchise.
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