Jonathan Hickman has been the best thing to happen to Marvel in a very long time. Hickman has made the X-Men franchise the must-read franchise in all of Marvel Comics. House of X and Powers of X have been nothing short of brilliant. I am confident that House of X #3 will be another excellent 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. Cyclops reports to Professor X and Magneto. Cyclops says that he has a team of mutants ready to go destroy the Mother Mold. Cyclops says that his team understands and accepts that this mission is dangerous and that they may all die. Cyclops says that he and his team embrace the nature of the mission.
Professor X says that Scott has a brave face but that he can hear the fear in Scott’s mind. Cyclops asks if it is wrong to be afraid or have doubts. Professor X replies that it is not wrong at all. That what matters is Scott’s constant bravery to overcome any fear and to succeed time and time again. This is what makes Professor X so proud of Scott.
Professor X says that he will not allow Scott to die. Magneto says that the righteous can never truly die. That they live on. That their mighty works transform them into immortals. That to die is to be forgotten. And nobody forgets the founder of a nation.
We see Cyclops meeting his team next to a Shi’ar spaceship. The team consists of Cyclops, Wolverine, Angel, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Marvel Girl, Monet, and ??. Cyclops says that their mission is to destroy the Mother Mold before it comes online. That the Mother Mold leads to a technological paradigm shift that creates a Nimrod.
Cyclops says that they will not be taking any Krakoa flowers with them to act as gateways. Angel says that they should take some gateway flowers with them to use as an emergency way to get home. Monet then says that Cyclops does not want to bring the gateway flowers in case their mission is a failure and the humans get access to the gateways and then get access to Krakoa and then see what they are doing here in Karako. Cyclops says that Monet is correct.
Our team boards the Shi’ar plane. Marvel Girl asks Cyclops about what they are going to do with the human crew on the Orchis space station. Marvel Girl says that the humans are scientists and not soldiers. Wolverine counters with the fact that innocent civilians do not create machines to exterminate a species. And that scientists are the reason humans went from sticks to bombs.
We get a one-page informational insert on the Machines and the Sentinel to Nimrod progression. The Sentinel is the first stage. It is non-sentient and non-replicating. Next is the Master Mold. It is a self-aware replicating Sentinel factory capable of making Sentinel drones. Next is the Mother Mold. It is a self-aware replicating Sentinel factory capable of making Master Molds. The Master Molds are incapable of improving beyond its ultimate Sentinel state. A Mother Mold is believed to be capable of producing purely adaptable machines based on Nano-Sentinel technology. Next is the Omega Sentinel. This is a human infected with Nano-Sentinel technology and progressively transforms from human to machine. Next is Nimrod. A Nimrod is a pure Nano-Sentinel construct. It is self-aware and self-replicating and virtually indestructible.
We then get a one-page informational insert detailing the events of Powers of X #3 with Moira learning the point in time when Nimrod is brought online. That Moira is killed by Wolverine. That Moira is reborn. That Moira teams up with Professor X and creates the Sleeping Giant which is a system designed to monitor Nimrod technology thresholds being reached and/or the attempted creation of a Mother Mold. That Sleeping Giant discovers Orchis. That Xavier and Magneto acquire plans for the Orchis Forge which is the home of the Mother Mold. That Cyclops is sent with a team of mutants to destroy the Mother Mold.
We then get a one-page informational insert about Project Achilles. This is the name of a superhuman super-maximum security prison designed to hold a maximum of thirty super-powered criminals. The worst of the worst.
We cut to Project Achilles. We go to a government administrative court. An administrative judge is hearing the case of a criminal being brought to Project Achilles for imprisonment. A.G. Tolliver is handling the prosecution. A poor, bumbling, and beleaguered public defender is tasked with defending the incoming criminal. The Administrative Law Judge says that he is ready to find the criminal guilty and lock them up in Project Achilles.
We then see that the criminal is Sabertooth. Sabertooth trash talks the judge. Sabertooth then sniffs the air and says that he smells jasmine. Sabertooth tells the public defender that he is fired. Suddenly, Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos enter the courtroom. (Hell yeah! Hail to the Queen, baby!) Emma chides one of the Cuckoos to only use their mutant names in front of the humans. The White Queen tells the Judge that Sabertooth is a citizen of the newly created country of Krakoa. That the US State Department has agreed that all citizens of Krakoa will now enjoy diplomatic immunity. White Queen says that Sabertooth shall be released to her now.
The Judge gets angry and says that Sabertooth is a killer. White Queen agrees that Sabertooth is a monster, but that he is their monster. AG Tolliver pulls a gun on White Queen and says that Sabertooth is not leaving. White Queen tells Tolliver that she could use her powers to make Tolliver stick her gun where Tolliver’s last boyfriend was. (Damn!! I just love Emma Frost.) Tolliver lowers her gun. Emma leaves with Sabertooth. White Queen tells Tolliver and the Judge that it is a brave new world and they should get used to it.
We get a one-page informational insert on the Omega Cycle. This is the transformation from human to Omega Sentinel. It is an eight-step transformation from human to Omega Sentinel.
We shift to the Orchis Forge. We see Karima and Doctor Gregor looking at the Mother Mold. Karima says that if they lose control of the Mother Mold then the world may end up with nothing but emotionless machines and not a single pink fleshy bit in sight. Gregor says that Karima makes a fair point. This is why the Forge has a failsafe. If they lose control of the Mother Mold then there are four control collars built into the Forge that can be released and jettison the Mother Mold into the sun.
Erasmus then radios Gregor and says that the X-Men’s Shi’ar spaceship just appeared on their radar. That they have recalled the drones from Mercury, but that they will not get here in time to stop the X-Men. Erasmus says that they will have to fight the X-Men aboard the space ship. Gregor is despondent. Erasmus calls Gregor “My love” and tells her to cheer up. That they are fighting for the survival of their species. Nothing to worry about.
We hop into the Shi’ar spaceship. Nightcrawler is told to teleport into the Orchis Forge and confirm the four locations of the collars holding the Mother Mold in place.
We see Nightcrawler teleporting to the first location. Then the second. Then the third. Then the fourth. The fourth location is where Gregor and Karima are standing. Nightcrawler says hello to Karima and says that she has obviously picked a side in this conflict. Nightcrawler then teleports away.
Gregor radios Erasmus and tells him that the X-Men have a teleporter and that the X-Men are going for the control collars. Erasmus says that the X-Men are going to have to dock in order to deploy an insertion force of any size.
We see the Shi’ar ship docking on the Orchis Forge. Erasmus sees the X-Men’s laser beam cutting hole into the roof of the hangar. Erasmus closes the doors to the hangar. Erasmus tells Gregor that he has bad news. Erasmus says that the X-Men obviously have a plan to take out the space station. That their only chance of survival is to act irrationally. Erasmus sets up a bomb.
Gregor panics and asks what Erasmus is going. Erasmus says simply that he is just doing whatever it takes to build a better world. Erasmus says that he used to joke about it a lot but that he does really wish that they had kids. Gregor screams, “Noooo!!” Erasmus says. “Be strong, love. Don’t let them win.” Erasmus then pushes a button and the bomb explodes. The explosion also destroys the hull of the space station and the X-Men’s Shi’ar spaceship as well.
We then get a one-page informational insert of the Krakoa language. We get the Krakoa alphabet with the analogous English letter for each Krakoan letter. End of issue.
The Good: Wow. Just…wow. House of X #3 was an amazing issue. Just when I think that Hickman can not do any better he goes out and tops himself. Again. House of X #3 was an incredible read. This might be my favorite issue so far between House of X and Powers of X. Hickman constructs an issue that immediately pulls the reader deep into the story and keeps an iron grip on them until the very end. Hickman then punctuates the ending of this issue with a powerful and surprisingly emotional ending.
I keep saying this with each review for the latest issue of House of X and Powers of X, but it bears repeating. Hickman is showing off writing skills that are simply on an entirely different level than most writers in the industry. Seriously. At this point, the only other writers coming close to what Hickman is doing would be Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder. That is it. And both of those gentlemen work for DC.
When looking at the stable of writers that Marvel currently has working for them there is zero doubt that Hickman is far above any of them. And it is not even close. The quality of Hickman’s writing destroys the level of writing that Marvel gives us on so many of their titles. Of course, Marvel is not helping their cause by continuing to hire novelists, opinion columnists, and professors to write their comic books. Marvel needs to find more writers on the level of Jonathan Hickman. And they would be wise to look toward writers who focus on comic books and not simply see comics as a fun little side hobby.
House of X #3 is absolutely brilliant from every standpoint. Hickman delivers an impeccably plotted and paced story. The issue offers another complex and intricate story. The character work and dialogue are wonderful. The ending is stunning and gets the reader eager for the next issue. Hickman manages to deliver the comic book equivalent of a no-hitter in baseball.
The story continues to be incredibly dense. There is so much information packed into each of the numerous plot lines. The reader can easily read House of #3 multiple times and continually pick up little details here and there with each reading. Every panel has a clear purpose. There are no wasted panels. Absolutely everything has a purpose and everything helps to further flesh out the setting or move forward a plotline.
The world-building continues to amaze and impress and House of #3 is no different. Hickman adds layer upon layer of detail to the setting for his X-Men franchise. The richness of the X-Men’s world is amazing. This is what helps make these issue so incredibly immersive.
House of X #3 is the first issue to take place entirely in Year Ten since House of X #1. In fact, House of X #3 is the direct continuation of House of X #1. Hickman has been moving his story in both House of X and Powers of X at a measured pace. House of X #3 moves along at that same controlled pace. There is definitely progress to the story, but it never feels rushed or frenzied. The plotting continues to amaze as Hickman continues to logically connect the dots between all of the various plot lines. Everything evolves in a logical and organic fashion.
House of X #3 is constructed in a simple but elegant three-act format. The First Act is on Krakoa. The Second Act is at Project Achilles. The Third Act is aboard the Orchis Forge. All of it is wrapped up by an impressively crafted hook ending. Hickman is not trying to reinvent the wheel. The magic of his writing is being able to take a simple format and execute it in such an impeccable fashion that results in a story that comes across quite sophisticated.
The First Act offers the reader some amazing character work and dialogue. Hickman displays such a wonderful command for the personalities of Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops. All three men are well fleshed out and true to their core character traits. All three men have well crafted and unique external voices.
Hickman’s Cyclops is an absolute joy to read. I love that we are getting a classically heroic Scott Summers. Hickman understands what makes Cyclops such a great leader and a classic X-Man. I enjoyed that Hickman points out that under Scott’s eternally brave face is fear. This is a fantastic way to humanize a character that often has been portrayed as robotic and a bit white bread. By showing a vulnerable side of Scott, Hickman is able to get the reader to relate to Scott. Everyone lives with fear to some degree or another. What measures the success and greatness of people is their ability to overcome that fear.
Showing that Scott does get afraid helps to humanize him and give him some depth and make him relatable. Then showing how Scott’s bravery allows him to conquer his fear every time and be the hero and leader that earns Professor X’s undying pride is what makes Scott a hero. Hickman understands that a strong character with no weaknesses is a boring character. And it is also a character that does not get the reader invested nor does it make for a good heroic story. This is something that many writers miss. By showing some of Scott’s vulnerabilities Hickman is able to make Scott look even stronger and even more heroic.
Hickman continues to impress with his handling of Xavier’s character. Personally, I am all in with Xavier’s creepy cult leader personality. This type of personality is absolutely consistent with Xavier’s character traits. This also helps to keep this story one that is all about different shades of gray where the reader is left wondering if they should really trust someone as creepy as Professor X.
Hickman also delivers great character work with Magneto. Hickman’s take on Magneto as a zealot who serves as Xavier’s Archangel Michael continues to be entertaining and consistent with Magneto’s core character traits. Magneto’s dialogue about how righteous men never truly die was exactly the type of radical activist and zealot style dialogue that I would expect from him.
Hickman also assembles an excellent team for Cyclops’ mission. There are certainly the X-Men that I would expect would volunteer on a suicide-style mission. The dialogue between the team members is also well crafted. The debate about whether the human scientists were innocent civilians or not was wonderfully written. I liked that Hickman ended the debate with Wolverine making the observation that humans went from sticks to bombs because of scientists. Hickman does a good job showing the duality of science. There is no doubt that science is capable of creating great good. However, science is equally capable of creating great evil.
It is always wonderful seeing an X-Men team with Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Angel all together. It reminds me of the classic Claremont/Cockrum and Claremont/Byrne X-Men teams that I grew up reading. In particular the pairing of Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Those two go together like peanut butter and jelly. I also loved seeing Monet making an appearance. She is such a fantastic character who is a total badass.
The Second Act treats the reader to even more excellent dialogue and character work. Hickman does a fabulous job with Emma Frost’s character. I will admit that I love the White Queen. So, I am naturally inclined to enjoy any scene that she is in. However, Hickman really does impress with his handling of Emma’s character. Emma is properly regal and vicious with a take-no-shit personality. Emma is a character that immediately demands respect and attention the moment she enters a scene. Hickman also gives Emma easily the best line of dialogue that we have gotten thus far during Hickman’s run on the X-Men. Emma telling Tolliver where she was going to make her stick her gun? Damn. That was pure White Queen and totally savage. I loved it!
Hickman also does a fine job writing Sabertooth’s character. Creed is a relatively easy character to write, but that means that writers often just phone it in when writing his character. The result is that Sabertooth can often come across as one-dimensional or more of a caricature of his actual character. That is not the case with Hickman. We get treated to a delightfully primal and vicious Sabertooth. However, Hickman never goes too thick with it and never makes Sabertooth seem too over-the-top or cartoonish. Instead, Hickman gives Sabertooth a genuinely dangerous and animalistic vibe. And to be sure, even in a scene where Sabertooth just stands there in shackles, Hickman makes sure that there is zero doubt that Sabertooth is a total badass.
This scene also does an excellent job forwarding the shift in human/mutant relations with the establishment of Krakoa as a sovereign nation and its citizens receiving diplomatic immunity. This will enable to allow the X-Men to operate in public without the fear of running afoul of law enforcement or the military. Of course, this should also help set up a potential conflict between America’s super-heroes and the mutants at some point in the future. We have already seen a hint of this in House of X #1 between Cyclops and the Fantastic Four.
As much as I loved the First Act and the Second Act, it is the Third Act at the Orchis Forge that just blew me away. The magic of this scene is the completely unexpected and amazing character work with two of the villains: Gregor and Erasmus.
Hickman manages to take two villains and make them humans. Hickman makes Gregor and Erasmus real people with hopes, dreams, and fears just like the rest of us. The most compelling villains are always ones who the reader can understand and relate to on some level. Villains who display the same emotions that the reader has. Just because a character is cast in the role of the “villain” does not mean that they do not have friends or loved ones. It does not mean that they do not see themselves as the hero in the story.
Hickman manages to get the reader invested in both Gregor and Erasmus. In just a few pages, Hickman is able to generate some quality chemistry between the couple. Erasmus’ calm and loving nature toward Gregor shines in each panel. Gregor’s panic and fear over losing that man she loves is palpable. The reader gets so caught up in the emotional moment of Erasmus’ sacrifice that the reader acutely feels Gregor’s loss. This makes this ending so much more emotionally powerful.
Again, Hickman is making it hard for the reader to unilaterally side with one group over another in his story. Hickman makes a compelling case for Gregor and Erasmus’ actions. Hickman then shows the loving bond between the two characters. Hickman makes Erasmus come across as a selfless hero who sacrifices himself for a common good that he believes in despite it meaning he will lose his wife.
Then, on top of all of that, Hickman has Erasmus deliver the line about wishing that he and Gregor did have kids. That was the real gut-punch moment. This is the panel where the reader’s heart breaks. This is the most humanizing moment for our villains. It is absolutely a fantastic moment.
Hickman then ends House of X #3 with a genuinely stunning hook ending. All of our heroes are seemingly killed in a massive explosion. This is the type of hook ending that succeeds in getting the reader chomping at the bit and eager for the next issue.
Hickman continues to treat the reader to plenty of his wonderful Informational pages with House of X #3. The insert about the Machines and the Sentinel to Nimrod progression was fantastic. Again, this is Hickman using these informational inserts to feed the reader more detailing information to help fully flesh out the world that he is constructing for the X-Men.
We also get the one-page informational insert that recaps the events of Powers of X #3 and then leads up to Xavier and Magneto tasking the X-Men with destroying the Mother Mold. So, this insert seems to indicate that when Moira dies in Life Nine that she is resurrected in Life Ten and then we get the events that we have seen in House of X and Powers of X. However, in the infographic of the lives of Moira X, we see that Life Ten is full of things that happen much later in that timeline like the schism between Moira, Xavier, and Magneto. So, it is possible that House of X and Powers of X are taking place early in on Life Ten’s timeline. And that our team of mutants does die at the end of House of X #3 and fail in their mission to destroy the Mother Mold. And, therefore, fail to stop Nimrod from being created. This would indicate that at the end of House of X and Powers of X that Hickman might fast forward to the near the end of Life Ten and have Moira die and then the new X-Men titles will all take place in Moira’s Life Eleven.
Or, it is possible that Life Ten takes place prior to House of X and Powers of X. That in Life Ten, a team of X-Men is sent to stop the Mother Mold and fail. Then the rest of Life Ten unfolds as we see in the infographic. Then Moira dies and we get Live Eleven and the events that we are reading about in House of X and Powers of X. At any rate, we will get more answers to all of this as the story unfolds.
The informational insert on Project Achilles is another excellent example of the effectiveness of this literary tool. These inserts allow Hickman to deliver necessary information to give the reader backstory information that they need for the next scene as well as to further flesh out the story’s setting.
The one-page informational insert about the Omega Cycle was cool. This is just Hickman having fun and filling in more intricate details to his story with these inserts. This page helps to further detail the transformation of a human to an Omega Sentinel. Is there any real need for this information beyond what we already got in the story? No. But, it is this insane level of detail that continues to make Hickman’s X-Men so damn immersive.
Lastly, we get a one-page informational insert detailing the Krakoan alphabet. WIth this page readers can translate Krakoan to English and English to Krakoan. This is awesome! I love extras like this! This reminds me of when we first got the full Interlac-to-English translation guide over in the Legion of Super-Heroes. It made reading the Legion so much more fun since you could then translate all of the Interlac that you would see in the issues. I love stuff like this!
Pepe Larraz delivers some quality artwork in House of X #3. Larraz’s White Queen is fantastic. Emma is properly equal parts sexy, in-control, and intimidating. Larraz’s Sabertooth is also fantastic. Creed is physically imposing. Larraz also does a good job with the facial expressions for most of the characters. Larraz serves up plenty of dramatic panels of the space scenes with the Orchis Forge. All in all, House of X #3 is a dynamic looking issue.
The Bad: I have no criticisms of House of X #3.
Overall: House of X #3 is an absolute joy to read. Jonathan Hickman continues to mesmerize with his exquisitely crafted story. There simply is not another superhero title on the market that offers the reader a better value for their dollar than Hickman’s X-Men. If you like super-hero comic books then you absolutely need to go out and support House of X and Powers of X. Titles written this well deserve strong reader support.
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