The X-Men have been through so much in their existence. It’s only natural that a story that reinvents the concept like House of X would explore the meta-textual concept of those tragedies.
Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller explore the X-Men’s worst day.
Cyclops’ team has been devastated by Orchis- Archangel and Husk are dead, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Jean are all severely injured, and Sentinels are on their way. As Xavier and several other X-Men watch via telepathic link on Krakoa, the team has to try to complete their mission. However, Orchis is ready for them…
Right from the beginning of the issue, Hickman sets up the story as an exploration of the tragedy that has defined the X-Men. In the first pages we see details of the greatest tragedies the X-Men and all of mutantkind have faced, as well as those responsible (including staggering numbers attributed to the Scarlet Witch and Bolivar Trask), immediately segueing into the X-Men’s mission going completely FUBAR. It’s wonderfully illustrated by Larraz and Gracia, who portrays the tragedy and desperation of the situation.
As well as a metatextual examination of the cyclical tragedy the X-Men experience, this is a damn good story. The character interactions are perfectly written, including one amazingly emotional sequence between Wolverine and Nightcrawler. The dialogue is based in both their long history, and Larraz and Gracia pace each panel perfectly until the absolutely tragic payoff which leads to their deaths.
And in the end, none of the X-Men survive. It’s a shocking and tragically beautiful moment especially because the majority of the team are the biggest names of the franchise (largely because these are characters who usually have plot armor). It forces us as the reader to take a step back and reflect on what we just read and what it means for the mutant kind. In addition to that, it creates a larger impact for the last few pages as Xavier is forced to relive every tragedy that have befallen mutants and make a single declaration- “NO MORE.”
It’s a hard read, full of pathos and tragedy, but it forces us to examine both the metatext of the situation and the actual text. Yes, we know that Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler will be back, but that actually adds to the impact of the story, since we now need to see how their deaths impact the larger tapestry.
It’s beautifully illustrated, emotionally written, and remains one of the best X-Men stories ever. I’m excited to see what the declaration of “No more” means and what Moira X’s plan is. There’s so many pieces in play and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
House of X #4 is available now from Marvel Comics.