The Great Marvel Stories: House of M, the mutant world of Bendis

The Great Marvel Stories: House of M, the mutant world of Bendis

The Great Marvel Stories

Since their appearance, the Marvel mutants have had to fight to carve out a place within the human community, often also clashing with other superheroes of the House of Ideas. When they were conceived in the early 1960s, the X-Men were supposed to be the metaphor of teenagers who clash with the world, but this nature of theirs has evolved, making them more and more pariahs within society. But what would happen if the mutants finally took over the rest of humanity? A fascinating question that was told by Brian Michael Bendis in House of M, a narrative arc dedicated to the X-Men that upset the mutant world, recently re-released by Panini as part of the Marvel Must Have series.

When Bendis gave alive to his Marvelian worldview, the idea that mutants could become the dominant species on the planet had not yet been fully exploited. If today we are used to seeing mutants dominate the world from their nation on Krakoa, as Hickman tells us starting from the House of X / Power of X cycle, when Bendis took over the reins of the Marvel world in the early years of the new millennium , the situation was very different. But in a similar condition, with the publishing house's desire to shake up its own universe, Bendis took the opportunity to give new energy to this complex heroic unity, finding his vital spark in a mutant: Wanda Maximoff.

House of M: Bendis continues its revolution

Wanda was the link between the two most iconic Marvel formations of the period, Avengers and X-Men. Despite being a mutant, Wanda, after a past as an enemy within the Brotherhood of Mutants, had always been an Avenger and had lived her entire life within the team, between happy events such as marriage to Vision or the dramas of the loss of the his twins. It is precisely this last detail of Wanda's existence, removed from Marvel's continuity through the magic of Agatha Harkness, that becomes the turning point of Bendis's new narrative line, which sees his muse in the unfortunate mutant.

Without Wanda, in fact, what was the Bendis revolution could not have developed. The first step was the Split Avengers, a dividing line between the past and the future of the House of Ideas that surprised (and irritated) part of the Marvel fan base of the period. Bendis was not discouraged, but continued his work of renewal, shifting his attention to the mutants, but always holding on to the Avengers. The writer's idea, in fact, was to make the group of Marvelian heroes more cohesive, to make them interact at multiple levels by making the most of their peculiarities. An intent that would also change the perception of the role of these characters for subsequent authors, who not only had to manage the legacy of Bendis in a sense of continuity, but also in terms of narrative impulses.

Above all, what Bendis intended to do with House of M was to change the narrative dogma inherent in big events involving supertitious teams, which inevitably involves devastating clashes and battles. The narrative frame on which Bendis was modeling his revolution was instead psychological, aimed at delighting readers with muscular and epic clashes, but he did not intend to leave this detail the main role. A decision that Bendis himself clearly specified:

"I have always supported it: violence is not synonymous with plot. If Mary Jane leaves Peter, it's a pivotal event, no one has punched him, but his life has changed. It's all a matter of perceptions: for me it's the character that is synonymous with the plot. When a character experiences an emotionally relevant event, then 'something' is happening ”

Strengthened by this principle, Bendis in House of M decides not to happen that 'something' to just one Marvel character, but to involve everyone the big pieces of the House of Ideas, from the X-Men to the Avengers, without forgetting the urban heroes like Daredevil or Cage. And to make it all the more exciting he stages a first act in which the consequences of Divided Avengers can no longer be ignored: what to do with Wanda Maximoff?

The world of House of M

The architect of the fall of the Avengers, although protected in Genosha by his father Magneto and his brother Pietro and cured by the psychic powers of Charles Xavier, is like a nuclear weapon ready to explode, with its reality-altering powers at the heart of the metahuman community's concerns. A fear that creates a rift between those who would like to eradicate the problem at its root and those who intend to protect Wanda, a decision that is postponed upon arrival on Genosha, where while the heroes find themselves having to face this excruciating dilemma, the incredible happens: the world changes.

Upon awakening, the Avengers, X-Men and the other metahumans find themselves in a totally different reality. Wolverine finds himself an S.H.I.E.L.D. commanded by Sebastian Shaw, Peter Parker lives a happy existence with his wife Gwen and his beloved uncles Mary and Ben, Scott Summer and Emma Frost are married and Stephen Strange is a pisciatra. Above all, the Mutants are not threatened, but have taken control of the world, relegating homo sapiens to a subordinate role. The rise of homo superior longed for by Magneto for years is finally a reality, with all due respect to the utopia of coexistence dreamed of by Xavier, giving life to a domain of the House of Magnus, hence the title: House of M, where the M stands for Magneto. An incredible worldview, in which only two discordant voices are heard: that of Logan, who has memories of the 'real' world, and that of the young mutant Layla Miller, capable of freeing people's true memories. It will be up to them to awaken the heroes and force them to make a choice: to live their dream or return to reality?

With House of M, Bendis doesn't just play with Wanda's powers, but uses them for a broader narrative discourse, giving the characters of the House of Ideas the chance to start a new existence, in which they can finally get what they want. A possibility that presents us with an elderly Steve Rogers, who has finally lived a normal existence, or who reveals to us, if needed, that Parker in the unconscious continues to see Gwen Stacy as the true love of his life. Bendis' intuition, therefore, is to make Wanda the tool with which to overturn the everyday life of Marvel heroes, at the same time realizing their most intimate desires, forcing them to live them, bringing out also often little perceived traits, as for Magneto.

Accustomed to conceiving him as the villain par excellence of the mutant world, Erik becomes a ruler that is anything but ruthless, benevolent and even understanding towards the sapiens minority. A different vision that falls within the conception of Bendis' House of M, which did not want to be a dark story but a moment of reflection, of inner analysis for Marvel superheroes:

"I thought that instead of Magneto who punishes heroes, it would have been more interesting to see him fulfill their innermost desires. "

Occasion, in fact, in which less noble roles emerge, such as the Cage version of the neighborhood boss that we meet in the first pages. Bendis, in fact, does not rely on the principle of the absolutely good hero, but turns to the origins of the characters, takes their essence, what made them super, and transforms this genesis into the cathartic element of House of M. A courageous choice, which gives us moments of great dramatic intensity, such as Peter Parker's 'awakening', and which allows Bendis to press on emotional chords often ignored by other authors, leaving ethically uncomfortable questions to emerge. Problems faced on the main Marvel series, which for the occasion welcomed stories that radically changed the protagonists, such as Tony Stark, who became a sort of technological gladiator for the delight of the mutants, or the New Mutants transformed into the SHIELD rapid intervention team

All portrayed by Olivier Coipel, who despite having to limit the tables with a high adreanlinic rate, has the opportunity to show his skill by working carefully on the emotional portrait of the characters, portraying horror and anger, remorse and doubt, framing the all in a way that, alongside familiar traits, integrated the peculiarities of this new reality. A job that was stimulating for Coipel:

“I like drawing fights, I love them. But even more I love the more emotional scenes, because they require real storytelling. It is not just about drawing, but about telling a story with your drawings. When there are elements of this type in the plot, you can work with emotions and make them shine through on the boards, which is very interesting. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the reasons why I chose this profession "

A statement that is a manifesto of Coipel's work in House of M, in which the emotional construction of the characters, especially on the visual level, it is fundamental.

The legacy of House of M

House of M became one of the fundamental pieces of the renewal path planned by Bendis. The figure of Wanda becomes more and more central, so much so that the writer reserves a line for her in the final act of this narrative arc, which will have a great impact on the Children of the Atom: Enough mutants. Seeing herself used as a tool by everyone, Wanda in fact matures the conviction that mutants are a danger, a cancer for the safety of the world, as she herself has demonstrated with her uncontrolled powers.

With that Angrily scream, Bendis lets Wanda bring the mutants into existence, leaving only 198 mutants still in the world, stripping beloved names like Bobby 'Iceman' Drake or his brother Peter, aka Quicksilver, of their powers. Or by making Wolverine, who has always been marked by his amnesia prior to the events of Weapon X, finally regain his memories. An epochal moment, which marks the beginning of a new era for the X-Men, who have gone from being on the verge of being a recognized social force to the role of an endangered species, with the Xavier School transformed into a sort of hermitage. From this surprising ending other events come to life, such as Decimation, which profoundly marked the life of the mutants between 2005 and 2012, which sees its final chapter in Avengers vs X-Men.

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