House of X and Powers of X continue to be Marvel’s best reads on the market. And it is not even close! Jonathan Hickman is simply on another level all together. There is no doubt in my mind that House of X #4 will be another well-written issue. 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: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Professor X, the Cuckoos, Storm, Beast, Trinary, and Magneto using a combination of Beast’s technology and the psychic abilities of the Cuckoos and Professor X to all combine together to form one mind in order to reach out into space and make contact with Marvel Girl. They succeed in reaching Marvel Girl.
We cut to Marvel Girl on the X-Men’s ship. Marvel Girl is combining her powers with Monet in order to communicate with our eight X-Men on Krakoa. Marvel Girl says that their ship was hit with a bomb and that Archangel and Husk are both dead. (Begin that body count! We knew this was a suicide run.)
Professor X asks if they can complete the mission. Marvel Girl does not think that they can. Cyclops immediately answers that they can finish the mission. That they have to.
Cyclops then has Nightcrawler teleport Cyclops to the first collar release location. Nightcrawler then teleports Wolverine to the second collar release location. Nightcrawler then teleports Mystique to the third collar release location. Nightcrawler then teleports himself to the fourth collar release station. Marvel Girl and Monet stay in the ship to remain in contact with Professor X and the other X-Men in Krakoa.
We cut to Karima and Gregor at one of the collar release locations. Gregor is on the floor weeping over the death of Erasmus. Karima tells Gregor to get up and assume her position in command of the Orchis Forge. Karima says that if Gregor does not get control over herself and take charge then Erasmus’ death will have been for nothing.
Gregor then contacts the bridge. She talks to Captain Moore who has taken over for Erasmus. Gregor tells Moore that the X-Men plan to attack each of the four collar locations and release the collars which will send the Mother Mold into the sun. Moore says he will send troops to each of the collar release locations.
We cut to Wolverine killing all the Orchis guards at one collar release location. We see Wolverine then releasing the collar. We cut to Nightcrawler taking down the guards at another collar release station. Nightcrawler then releases the collar. We cut to Karima telling Gregor that the X-Men have managed to release two of the four collars.
We hop back to Marvel Girl telling Professor X that they have released two of the four collars for the Mother Mold. Suddenly, we see troops boarding the X-Men’s ship. Monet quickly shoves Marvel Girl into an escape pod. Monet says that she will stay behind and fight the soldiers.
Marvel Girl begs Monet to come with her. Marvel Girl says that she needs Monet’s additional power to remain in contact with Professor X. Monet says that Marvel Girl will just have to try harder. Monet then ejects Marvel Girl’s escape pod from the ship. Monet then transforms into her fighting mode and attacks the Orchis soldiers.
We cut to Cyclops taking down the Orchis soldiers at the third collar release location. Cyclops then releases the third collar. Cyclops contacts Mystique and asks if she has released the fourth and final collar. Mystique replies that she got lost, but that she is at the collar release now. We see that Mystique has arrived at the collar release location where Karima and Gregor are standing. Gregor then hits a button that opens a hatch. Mystique then gets sucked into space and dies. (Three X-Men dead!)
Gregor then seals off the fourth collar release location. Gregor says that she is going to leave that fourth collar release location open to space. The vacuum will keep the X-Men out long enough for Gregor to bring the Mother Mold online.
Karima asks if it is wise to bring the Mother Mold online so quickly. That the Mother Mold may not be ready and that the Mother Mold may not be sane. Gregor says that they do not have any other choice. Gregor then pulls out an A.I.M. point-to-point translocator. Gregor smiles and says that she intends to take the fight to the X-Men.
We cut to Marvel Girl telling Professor X that they are almost out of time. That the Mother Mold is about to come online. Professor X tells Marvel Girl and Cyclops to do whatever it takes to stop the Mother Mold from coming online. Scott, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler look through a window to the exterior of the fourth collar. Nightcrawler and Wolverine say that they can get to the fourth collar from the outside. That there is no other way to do it. Cyclops looks down and quietly tells Nightcrawler and Wolverine to go do it.
Wolverine asks Nightcrawler if he thinks there is something waiting for them on the other side. Nightcrawler asks Wolverine if he is worried for his soul. Wolverine replies that he is just wondering what someone like him should suspect. Nightcrawler says that when Wolverine gets to the other side that Nightcrawler will be standing there waiting for him radiant and with open arms. (Oh, man. What an incredible scene.)
Nightcrawler teleports Wolverine into space onto the arm of the last collar that is holding onto the Mother Mold. The heat from the sun immediately incinerates Nightcrawler. (Damn! Four X-Men dead!) Wolverine starts to get incinerated by the sun, too. Wolverine pops his claws and starts hacking away at the fourth arm still holding the Mother Mold to the Orchis Forge. Wolverine destroys the arm and the Mother Mold and Wolverine both fall into the heart of the sun and die. (Five X-Men dead!)
We shift to Cyclops watching everything from a window. Cyclops tells Marvel Girl to tell Professor X that it is done. That it cost them their family. Cyclops says that he is coming back for Marvel Girl now. Suddenly, Cyclops is shot in the back. We see Karima and Gregor standing there. Karima says that she shot Cyclops with an unhealthy dose of nanites that are keeping him from using his mutant powers.
Gregor then says that her husband is dead. That she is not taking any prisoners today. Cyclops tells Marvel Girl that he is sorry and that he is not going to make it. Gregor then shoots Cyclops in the head and kills him. (Six X-Men dead!) Marvel Girl screams out loud.
We then see the Sentinel drones arriving at the Orchis Forge. We see a Sentinel smash into Marvel Girl’s escape pod and kill her. (Seven X-Men dead! And then there were none.) A narrator says that it ends like it always does. With fire and death and the funeral of their children. Every victory is ash and every triumph is defeat.
We slide back to Krakoa. We see Professor X kneeling and crying. The narrator says that they have murdered so many of them that the world has grown used to it. That this is how things are for mutants. The narrator then says, “No more.”
We then get a double-page splash shot of headlines of the Genoshan genocide and headlines of Decimation. We get the number of mutants killed in Genosha. We get the number of mutants depowered by Decimation. We see the words “No more” over and over again. End of issue.
The Good: Good lord. Give me a minute to catch my breath. House of X #4 is the most intense and emotional issue that Hickman has given us up to this point in both House of X and Powers of X. House of X #4 is a visceral story that punches the reader square in the chest. Each page radiates intense emotions that envelop the reader and pull them deeper and deeper into the story. It got to the point where I was gasping for air as we hurtled toward the stunning and sorrowful ending of House of X #4.
Up to this point, Hickman has had several emotional moments. However, the majority of this story has been more of a cerebral read full of high concept world-building. Hickman narrows his vision and focuses the story on a more intimate level with House of X #4. Hickman delivers a tense character-driven story along the lines of the Dirty Dozen. It is a story that delivers truly heroic characters who willingly sacrifice themselves for a greater good.
House of X #4 is excellently plotted and paced. This should be zero surprise. Strong plotting is one of Hickman’s strengths. This issue is a tense read that unfolds in a natural fashion as a growing sense of desperation and hopelessness takes over the reader. As usual, Hickman slides together all of the scenes in a logical fashion.
The pacing in House of X #4 is faster than any of the prior issues of House of X or Powers of X. Hickman has been employing a tempered pace up until this issue. The sudden change of pace with House of X #4 emphasizes the gravity of the X-Men’s mission and the sense of panic and desperation. I like how Hickman is able to deftly massage the pacing of each issue in order to accentuate certain aspects of the overall story and to elicit a certain emotional response from the reader.
I know that we here at the Revolution talk about Hickman being a true wordsmith rather than just a comic book writer. House of X #4 is another example of that. There is true beauty and artistry in Hickman’s writing in several scenes in this issue. The scene between Nightcrawler and Wolverine is one example. The scene where Scott dies is another example. Some writers simply use words to tell a story. Hickman is able to elevate his writing into a form of art.
House of X #4 also delivers by far the most action that we got gotten in either House of X or Powers of X. Hickman loads up this issue with tons of action from cover-to-cover. This is an extremely exciting read that never has a single slow or dull moment at all. Hickman is also able to pull off some excellent psychology with these action scenes. House of X #4 is by no means a brainless action story. Hickman is able to use the action scenes in order to give the reader strong character work. This is far harder than it sounds and something that many writers fail to pull off succesfully.
Let’s talk about the character work in this issue. It is incredible how Hickman is able to deliver an action story that has such strong character work from start to finish. Much like House of X #3, Hickman does an excellent job with Gregor’s character. The reader fully understands that Gregor is the villain in this story. But, the reader cannot help but feel sympathetic to Gregor over her loss of her husband, Erasmus. Gregor’s pain and anger are palpable in every scene that she appears in. This culminates in the powerful scene where Gregor kills Cyclops. The reader is supposed to be shocked and saddened by our hero’s death. Yet, Hickman also makes the reader view Gregor’s actions as totally understandable. Gregor’s desire for vengeance over her husband’s death resonates with the reader.
Hickman also does an excellent job writing our team of X-Men. Even a character like Monet who gets little panel time still receives excellent character work. Monet comes across as a tough warrior who never hesitates in sacrificing herself for the sake of the mission. Hickman is able to pack plenty of character work on Monet in just a few panels.
Hickman also does a nice job with Marvel Girl. Jean’s role in this story is to be the stand-in for the reader inside of this story. Jean’s reactions to watching everything unfold is meant to signal to the reader how we should be reacting to the story.
Cyclops also continues to shine under Hickman’s guidance. Hickman continues to impress me with his understanding of Scott’s character. It is so refreshing to get a well written Cyclops. This is the best version of Cyclops that we have gotten in a very long time. Hickman treats the reader to a properly stoic and heroic Scott Summers. Scott never shirks from his job as a leader even though he knows he is leading his team to their deaths. Scott’s code of honor and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for mutantkind’s greater good is what makes him such a strong character. Hickman gives us a proper John Wayne styled Cyclops which is just how we like him.
However, the best character work was reserved for Nightcrawler and Wolverine. The scene between these two old friends was so powerful and touching. Nightcrawler saying how he would be waiting for Wolverine on the other side got me a bit verklempt. And Hickman delivered that moment with such beautiful language. This was a genuine quiet and tender moment between two close friends before their inevitable deaths.
As usual, Hickman crafts some excellent dialogue. The wonderful dialogue combined with strong character work enabled Hickman to generate quality chemistry between the various characters. The connections between the X-Men feel genuine. This only serves to make the final scene that much more heart-wrenching.
Speaking of final scenes, Hickman delivers a real doozie with House of X #4. This ending tears the reader’s heart in half and makes them ache inside. The sorrow and loss that consume the X-Men is raw. This is an ending that sticks with the reader for quite some time after reading this issue.
Now, we learn something from all of the deaths in House of X #4. We all know that these characters appear in the various new X-Men titles that Marvel has slated to come out after the conclusion of House of X and Powers of X. So, this would indicate that House of X and Powers of X are taking place in Life Ten in the Lives of Moira X chart that we got in Powers of X #3. This would indicate that House of X and Powers of X will conclude with the end of Life Ten. Then Moira will get reborn and everything will get rebooted for Life Eleven and all of our X-Men who died in House of X #4 will be alive once again. Therefore, the new X-Men titles that take place after House of X and Powers of X will all be taking place in Life Eleven.
This makes sense. When Hickman first revealed that Moira’s mutant powers caused her to reboot the world around her it seemed that this would make for an easy and convenient literary tool to reboot the X-Men. Then Hickman gave us the chart of the Many Lives of Moira X and it became even more apparent that this would make for an effective and logical literary device to reboot the X-Men in a manner that did not invalidate or junk everything that came before.
This is the brilliance of Moira as a literary tool. This allows Hickman to reboot the X-Men in an organic manner that folds the new reality of the X-Men into the old continuity. Even better, it never junks the old continuity. What happened in the X-Men’s past is real and absolutely happened. However, by coming up with an intelligent way to logically reboot the X-Men allows Hickman to clean up the X-Men’s horrendous continuity.
And this is absolutely vital. The X-Men’s continuity is so impenetrable to new readers that it is now holding back the franchise from growing and attracting more readers. I am all in for any type of reboot for the X-Men. I fully trust Hickman to pull this off in an intelligent and satisfying manner.
Pepe Larraz delivers plenty of solid artwork. Larraz injects lots of emotion into the story by delivering some excellent facial expressions for the various characters. Of course, Larraz also is able to deliver incredible larger-than-life action scenes, too.
The Bad: I have no criticisms of House of X #4.
Overall: House of X #4 is another phenomenal read. Jonathan Hickman is treating readers to a level of writing that is simply not found in other mainstream super-hero comic books. House of X #4 is absolutely worth every penny of its cover price. If you like super-hero comic books then you definitely need to start reading Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X. If you are a lapsed X-Men fan then now is the time for you to hop aboard Hickman’s story. You will not be disappointed.
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