Monday, September 8, 2008

Civil War: House of M #1

As with the Age of Apocalypse before it, the temptation of revisiting the land first concocted in the House of M mini-series just over three years ago has finally proven to be too great. In this self-contained mini, we'll return to a time when Magneto was king, the mutants were in charge and nearly every hero on the planet was granted their heart's deepest desires.

In particular, this month we're examining the origins of old man Magnus, at least this reality's version of him, and his unlikely rise from infant Jew in Nazi Germany to beloved king of all modern civilization. Of course, a lot of this is territory that's already been covered several times before. Though the Scarlet Witch significantly rewrote history for a brief time during the original House of M, the vast majority of those alterations were only evident in the present, with her meddling in major past events kept miniscule at best. It was understandable in the grand scheme of things: Wanda could change what she knew and only guess about what she didn't. Even if you have the power to alter the very fabric of our existence, you still need to know the specifics of what you're modifying before anything can actually take effect.

That disconnect is evident almost from the very get-go with this issue. Writer Christos N. Gage makes plenty of ticky-tacky little changes to the status quo, even meddling with the master of magnetism's personal life before Wanda was born. But while he's testing shallow new waters throughout the issue, his storytelling remains very bland and the heart of his story is basically unchanged from the present canon. When Gage faces Magneto with a baseball bat-wielding bigot, out for the blood of a mutant, it's tough to shake the feeling that we've seen it all before. By the time the issue draws to a close, that's a sensation you'll be growing accustomed to. For an alternate reality, this land certainly has a lot in common with the present state of affairs.

I found Andrea Divito's accompanying visuals to be similarly lacking. Perhaps best known for his work on the recent Annihilation crossover, Divito brings a decidedly old school flavor to the book, especially when he's dealt a page filled to the brim with colorful costumes and radiant displays of mutant power. These scenes just aren't impressive, neither in execution nor composition. When a big splash page gives him an opportunity to really impress his readers, he draws yawns instead. His workman-like contributions are technically sound, but lack an emotional punch, a personal touch to draw readers into his work. What's on display here is nothing to get excited about.

Free from the bonds of regular continuity, both creators had a chance to really cut loose here, which makes their failure to do so all the more disappointing. There's really no call for this series at this point: it feels like little more than a return to familiar territory, land that was better suited in the rear view mirror. House of M was a compelling story in 2005, but it was a story with a specific beginning and ending. I can't see further elaboration doing anything more than complicating that. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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