Review: House Of X #1

House Of X #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman 
Art by Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles 
Edited by Annalise Bissa and Jordan D. White
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: July 24, 2019

(SPOILERS AHEAD! TURN BACK NOW OR BE SPOILED ON HOUSE OF X #1!)

The solicitation for House of X asks the Mutants of the Marvel Universe to “FACE THE FUTURE”. For years, the X-Men have dealt with schisms, annihilation events, characters returning and dying, and in-fighting with each other and likeminded Superhero Groups. Extinction is not a lost or forgotten concept to the X-Men. As the literal next step of Homo sapiens, they are feared and treated differently because they are the people that will eventually dominate the Earth, that’s been the struggle of the X-Men since their adventures began decades ago. There have been moments in the X-Men’s history that turns everything around for them, a moment in the spotlight that reassures our merry band of Mutants that the dream of Charles Xavier is worth it and with House of X…the dream is alive and well.

As the hype surrounding Hickman taking over the X-Men spreads like wildfire, seeing what he does to propel the X-Men and all of Mutantkind to the forefront of the Marvel Universe again, the issue works on a couple of levels showcasing some constant truths about the X-Men corner that we’ve seen time and again. In the wake of potential growth in Mutants across the board, humans seek to destroy them with elevated technology. Hickman throws us into the deep end of his plan save for a chilling cold open that’s two pages of Charles Xavier assuming a Jesus like standing in front of freshly awakening mutants. He’s essentially a creator here, looking at his children coming into full form. Larraz positions Xavier as a man of myth and legend, grinning as he says his famous assembling line with Gracia’s colors capturing the spectacle of it all. If the establishing shot of Xavier, in his all-black suit and metallic X-helmet doesn’t tell you that this new era is going to be weird and mysterious, then nothing will.

Clocking in at more than 50 pages of content makes for a deep dive of a read. No page is wasted and has ample material via Hickman’s usage of charts, graphs, and culture designation, in this case, the Mutants have their own language now and keen-eyed readers will see the language all over the book.

We see small glimpses of Xavier’s plan in action as mutants are seen planting flowers all over varied locations across the Marvel landscape. Each location is radically different in terms of the environment that Larraz renders beautifully by giving each panel just enough space to show the wide scope of where the Mutants are trying to go. From Mars to New York City and everything in between, Gracia’s colors adapt to the location and take into account that foliage, cityscapes, and alien environments are colliding and the colors show that. Dating back from months ago and catching us up to the present, the plants have essentially taken root and with them, Mutants dominance.

Larraz’s art isn’t strictly dedicated to the new world that is unfolding right before our very eyes. Our grand introduction to this new world is seen through the eyes of a tour. It wouldn’t be X-Men without human affairs trying to discover what they have up their sleeve. Larraz keeps the conversational moments broken down to different panels, keeping the conversation rolling and leaves just enough space so it’s not overcrowded and also shows off the character’s individuality as they discuss Xavier’s declaration. The way in which the script calls for Larraz to establish “Habitats” i.e. new floral based locations in place of buildings and otherwise normal buildings flows into the makeup of what we’ve been seeing. Hickman has created a system via plant life that ties into the current happenings of the X-Men and is a sizeable contribution to the Marvel Universe in their own right. As for the covers, plant life is more than just a means to an end but an actual component for how the mutants move and operate now. This particular aspect of Xavier’s plan is just one of the ways that human and mutant relations are expanding and it’ll be interesting to see how it continues if they use the idea elsewhere.

With the promise of a new era being revealed to us, Hickman’s writing continues to be dipped in scientific know-how and informational based pages that firmly defines how these systems and mutants are now able to move and their functions to the story. It’s exciting and makes use of X-Men big and small, really taking hold of their abilities that make sense of these newfound systems keeping this new status quo alive and running. Part of the charm of this debut issue is the utilization of concepts, characters, and ideas that we’ve seen before, depending on how long you’ve been with the X-Men given a new spin. Krakoa, the Living Island is one of these focal points acting as the new nation-state hub for mutant kind. Detailed via Hickman’s signature of graphing and charting larger concepts we’re able to learn the ever-changing law of the land and expands upon the gorgeous lush environments and inviting colors from Larraz and Gracia that usher us into a peaceful place where a smiling Wolverine isn’t out of place.

In the darkness of Space, Hickman is crafting the latest and greatest threat to mutants and in the process harkens back to a sizeable enemy that feels similar to Morrison’s opening arc big bad and also speaks to the desperation of the Marvel Universe when it comes to Mutants as a whole. Whereas Larraz and Gracia presented the title thus far with open spaces and warm colors that bring you into the book. The new threat takes everything about the new world Hickman has built and in turn showed us something far worse just outside of their view. The chapter of this new threat is cold with the base of their machinations being on a Space Station that is hiding something worse. Contained areas not unlike the easygoing nature of the X-Men’s newfound peaceful checkmate on humanity and instead show that the darkness will always be hiding new problems. Gracia inverts his color work here, opting for darkness and heavier inks as this new power structure reveals itself. Hickman gives this new structure an immediate sense of history and urgency thanks to the history of the X-Men and pivotal storylines.

Using the known established history of the Marvel Universe not to reinvent them, but adding to them makes the newly created threat a logical choice in the always evolving mission to keep the mutants at bay. Through some provided background knowledge on the Protocol that’s out to stop Mutants, however, there’s a sense of a tipping point for Earth when it comes to Homo Superior. Referencing a specific event from another run gives greater context to the X-Men’s place in the Marvel Universe and confidently establishes that they are indeed the next step, no matter what.

Elsewhere, the X-Men are slowly uniting on multiple fronts and we see Larraz switch gears into an action-heavy artist that we’ve seen on his time in the X-Corner. Never losing control of the momentum characters have, his art is sleek while also understanding the impact weapons and characters have without the typical sound effect sounds opting to show and not tell. At no point does Larraz lose placing in his action or quieter moments keeping the angles of momentum so nothing is misplaced. Gracia’s colors improve on Larraz’s pencils with his mastery and positioning characters to not get confused with one another making the background work for characters to talk things out and that’s not even mentioning how the colors reflect on characters as we’re treated to just how far and wide their new network reaches.

With one issue from this powerhouse creative team, the X-Men have gone through yet another game-changing shift House of X builds upon what came before, what’s presently available to the Marvel Universe, and molding a bold new path for mutant-kind. Hickman has orchestrated another level of Xavier’s dream that is familiar but also boldly refreshing for this cast of characters. Whether you’re a new fan or seasoned veteran of the X-Men, this issue does a fantastic job of getting you prepared and adjusted for the new status quo, laying the groundwork for what’s to come. It’s a mysterious issue that throws us into the slowly revealed new world and thanks to the art team, the world feels like a curiosity just waiting to be solved and revealed. House of X has everything we’ve come to expect from the X-Men and tinkers with it to discover that they had the ingredients to become the top of the food chain all along. With Hickman’s brand of science fiction giving previous X-Men runs added context to their place in the MU, to the detailed additions to their culture…this is a series that you’re going to want on your pull list.

The Verdict: 10/10

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