Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Overdue Backstory

Everyone remembers House of M, right? Right?

Before Messiah Complex, One More Day, World War Hulk, Planet Hulk, and Civil War, House of M was the major Marvel event that shook the cosmos and rearranged the entire universe. During the eight-issue series, we saw a number of House of M spin-offs, some good (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four), others not so much (Hulk, Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men). The one thing missing was a House of M rendition of one of the most important teams of all time, the Avengers.

So how do you make a version of the Avengers in the House of M continuity? Steve Rogers never took the Super Soldier serum. Giant Man's a scientist stooge. Thor's still dead. Hulk is... the Hulk. So how's it done? Simple, you tell the story of the B-Team superheros who are the first to meet psychic mutant Layla Miller and set the gears in motion for the downfall of the House of M.

And so we begin with Luke Cage, recently self-removed from prison and walking the neon-lit streets of Times Square with one thing on his mind: revenge. See, his childhood friend set him up and left him to die in prison, and now Cage is back, after being experimented on and subsequently escaping from prison, prepared to rectify that issue. And after he does that, he single-handedly becomes the fastest-rising kingpin of organized crime in New York, one looking out for the dwindling "Sapien" populace. One thing remains true of Cage in this reality: Before he was black and at the bottom of the social ladder, now he's just a homo sapien (not homo sapien "superior") and in the same place. And it doesn't seem he would have it any other way.

About halfway through the first issue of this miniseries it turns from a blaxploitation comic to a sapianploitation comic with the addition of other non-mutant heroes who don't have a place in this new world order. Iron Fist, Moon Knight, The Prowler, Tigra, Misty Knight and Mockingbird (setting up an obvious future Mockingbird death scene) appear, but probably most important of all Cage's new recruits is his first, Hawkeye. As you can guess, this is the first chronological appearance of Hawkeye's "rebirth" after being killed by the Scarlet Witch in "Avengers: Disassembled." Hawkeye is a wonderfully rendered character, angered that "in a world where the girl-next-door shoots lasers from her eyes, people decided skill with a bow didn't mean much," and genuinely wants to prove himself in that world.

And what great writing brought that about! House of M: Avengers may be long overdue, but the writing certainly wasn't shoved out the door unfinished. Christos N. Gage (Authority) is a writer who has impressed me with what little I've seen of him so far. I loved the X-Men miniseries he wrote for World War Hulk and this series looks to be just as good in the script department. If he focused on comics instead of trying to write TV shows and movies like The Breed and Teenage Caveman, he might be up there in the Geoff Johns and Matt Fraction category. I wish I could say the same of the first issue's artwork. The use of shadows in the cover art is a bit much, but not a deal-breaker. Inside, however, is art that ranges from pretty good to pretty pathetic. That it all comes from one artist, Mike Perkins (Captain America) is astounding in and of itself. We usually like Perkins' work, but parts of this issue seem rushed, while others look great set against the mediocrity surrounding them. Perhaps those issues will be settled later in the series.

And I definitely can't wait for the rest of this series to show up on comic store shelves. House of M: Avengers #1 may be well past it's due date, but this was a story that for too long had gone untold, and while I didn't love the first issue, I certainly liked it enough to patiently wait for issue 2, and then the rest of this series to materialize and show Marvel fans what they'd been missing.


Elmo said...

Well, I DID love the first issue, CRACKAH. Cage has more bad-ass lines than in the real Avengers book. And, for a miniseries two years late that supposedly no one wants, we're lucky to have Mike Perkins; he's like a younger, more energetic Steve Epting.

I also loved X-Factor. Fantastic use of Rictor. More proof that Peter David can deliver provided he's given an editorial directive.

Gianni said...

I like Perkins AND Epting on Captain America, but Perkins in this issue is pretty inconsistent by himself. Maybe he needs Epting to help keep focused, I don't know. It's really my only complaint about the book, besides the tardiness.

X-Factor WAS great, it remains my only proof that Peter David can write well (at least until She-Hulk is up and running) and I can't wait to see how Messiah Complex ends up as a whole. Next stop: New X-Men!

Elmo said...

Adjectiveless X-Men is now in my clutches, and what a thing of beauty. The ending was two of the most memorable pages in any X-book in some time.

steve said...

Surely you jest! What about the utterly fantastic, incredible, amazing final five pages of the latest Astonishing X-Men? Having Cyclops telepathically (and non-ironically) utter what used to be Professor X's rallying call, 'To me, my X-Men' was ... well, it was goose-bumpily good!

Elmo said...

Yeah, that was alright- but I don't for the life of me know what that data is doing in your jaded cranium!