Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artwork: Pepe Larraz
Colours: Marte Gracia
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 7th August 2019
I’ll admit, the first five pages of the second issue of Jonathan Hickman’s House of X had my eyes glazing over. The problems I had with the first issue were back in full force. The size and scale of the story felt far too small for an X-Men title, the infographics disrupted the flow of the story and were often filled with heavy amounts of exposition, and the focus was all wrong. I mean, do we really want a Moria MacTaggert centric story?
This perfect storm of problems should end with me giving up on the series altogether, but I’m happy to announce that I’m all-in now. Honestly, if Hickman continues this incredibly high level of storytelling, this might be the beginning of the long-awaited renaissance X-Men fans have been waiting for.
There’s perhaps a concern that I’m singing the praises of this series too early, but Hickman manages to take a seemingly minor character and successfully retcons Moria’s history as a mutant. The fear of discovering her powers and the desperation to find a cure for the X-gene all feel natural, and fall in line with her appearance in countless X-stories over the decades.
Impressively, Hickman strikes a delicate balance between the bombastic and serious situations. Think of this as the ‘Happy Death Day’ of X-Men stories, especially the scenario involving Moria’s second life. We also get a story that involves Moria assassinating the Trask family bloodline. There’s never a sense that the stories are fighting one another but working together to develop the jaw-dropping version of Moria that Hickman has created.
Pepe Larraz’s artwork only serves to elevate this epic story. Not only does Larraz get to faithfully recreate the different eras of the team and several iconic X-Men moments, but his depictions of Moria never betrays the tone of the story – even when she’s in situations that may seem over-the-top or which see her teaming up with some unlikely allies.
Colorist Marte Gracia should get as much recognition as Hickman and Larraz here, because the color choices here manage to accurately represent the previous eras while also maintaining a continuity for the events that take place in the present and future timelines.
Another major achievement in this issue is the urgency Hickman adds to the book with the inclusion of the mutant Destiny. In their conversation, we learn the limits to Moria’s abilities, and the painful motivation Destiny provides becomes the catalyst to set the story and characters down a more aggressive path. A patch which even overlaps with the ‘future’ story in Powers of X, a move which answers the question of how this book could interact with events that happen upwards of 100 to 1,000 years into the future.
From a narrative point of view, Hickman does so much with this story as he puts Moria through the emotional wringer. From the awe and wonder of discovering her powers, to desperately seeking for a cure, to trying to achieve a logical/peaceful solution, to being forced to adopt more militant strategies. And although I may have had some initial reservations about the series, this issue has cleared up a lot of my doubts.
I tend to err on the side of caution with new books, if only because stories this ambitious can go sideways relatively quickly, but Hickman and co. have earned so much good will with this entry that I’ll definitely be seeing this series to the end.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511