Secret Wars has presented a unique opportunity for all of its tie-ins. Rather than mandating a core plot to which every mini-series must relate, it provides a setting that allows for a wide variety of unique superhero tales. In that way, it’s a lot like a previous Marvel event: House of M. So it only seem appropriate that the House of M tie-in takes full advantage of this potential.
The first issue dives right into this domain of Battleworld, presenting a wide cast of characters and a diversity of conflicts in a fast-paced introduction. Writer Dennis Hopeless takes advantage of having a cast and concept that are well known to the target audience. He introduces the core premise in an efficient pair of pages, which also helps readers jump into the mind of Magneto. There is so much happening in House of M #1, that most sequences wind up being plot-driven with characters and circumstances quickly changing on every page. But even amidst all this swirling action, Magneto remains the story’s heart.
It is a balancing act that Hopeless manages well for the most part. Most of House of M #1 is shock and awe. A lot is happening with various rebellions and family turmoil in the king’s home. This leaves most players as archetypes. Luke Cage is a one-note joke, albeit a funny one, and Hawkeye is more plot than man. But while their characters are diminished to talking set-pieces, their antics are thoroughly entertaining. Magneto is the soul of the book, and provides just enough pathos to make us care about what will happen to him. Hopeless taps into an interesting element of the character within the broader history of the Marvel Universe, in that he is someone who has been so defined by his battles that he never expected to actually win.
Artist Marco Failla’s presentation of King Magneto is well designed. He has a broader jaw and larger cheeks than the sharp-faced Magneto many fans have become accustomed to, and it’s an interesting change. This is a man who has been affected by both age and comfort, and it shows in his body and gestures. Failla has a lot of secondary and tertiary characters to play with as well. While many take cues from the original House of M series, others feel unique. Magneto’s children wear a variety of outfits, befitting their elite status.
While Failla’s layouts never exceed being functional, his backgrounds can often provide hidden treasures. Various mutants wandering times square make it worthwhile to pause and soak in the scene. The issue’s big action set pieces also showcases various snapshots of fights occurring beyond those in the foreground. Colorist Matt Wilson helps makes these details more noticeable as well, utilizing a wide spectrum of color schemes in costuming (although Misty Knight’s robotic arm noticeably changes colors halfway through the issue).
House of M#1 is one of the best tie-ins to come from Marvel’s big summer event. Much like Master of Kung Fu and E Is For Extinction, it stands on its own, barely recognizing the rest of the world around its own domain. In turn, its characters and plot can charge forth like a Silver Age Marvel comic, packed with detail on every page. Hopeless, Failla, and Wilson provide readers plenty of material in this solid elseworlds-style adventure.