"No more mutants."
Of all the phrases we've seen uttered by any character in comics over the last ten years, these three little words have to be the most profound. Published in 2005 and written by Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis, HOUSE OF M is a story that should be at the very top of every Marvel fan's reading list, and for good reason. Aside from the fact that the story is compelling, and the pencils by Olivier Coipel, inks by Tom Townsend and vibrant colors by Frank D'Armata are absolutely breathtaking, HOUSE OF M was the story arc that opened the door for the current state of Marvel's X-Men Universe that we see today. It is the story that paved the way for new characters to exist (like Wiccan and Hope Summers, for example) and led to story arcs like Deadly Genesis, Messiah Complex, Second Coming, Decimation and Children's Crusade. But beyond the fact that it is the essential story that led to Marvel's current landscape, it's simply an amazing story.
Those who are not familiar with HOUSE OF M should absolutely look into reading the story not only because it sets up many of the great stories that followed it, but also because it begs a very fundamental question that still plagues the Marvel Universe: should the Avengers or the Mutants have the power to decide whether or not to contain a character who has a lot of power?
The House of M story arc launches by asking this very question. The story opens with Wanda Maximoff who seems to be falling deeper and deeper into insanity. For those unfamiliar with the character, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) is the daughter of Magneto and sister to Pietro (Quicksilver). She has the ability to alter reality by simply wishing something to be. This power of hers has gone unchecked (which is, in itself, crazy) and the fact that it has gone unchecked for so long is pointed out by Avenger Dr. Stephen Strange. The thing is, the more Wanda uses her powers to alter reality to do her bidding, the more she loses her grasp on reality. The result is, essentially, a ticking time bomb: if Wanda continues to use her powers and fall further into insanity, she will eventually have a nervous breakdown and all she will have to do is wish for everyone to be dead and, well, they would be. Wanda becomes increasingly more difficult to control: so much so that Charles Xavier is forced to drug (where are your medical ethics, Chuck?!) her just to psychically force her to sleep.
Charles realizes early on that he, the most powerful telepath in the world, can no longer contain Wanda's minds. That if she loses control, there is a chance everyone could die. This is where the story's premise comes into play: should they, as Emma says, "put her down" or is it completely unethical to do so, even if there is a chance that she could destroy everything and everyone around her (just look at Genosha!)?
Beyond the moral and ethical premise of this story, is a series of really brilliant moments that are shared between Pietro and his father, Magneto in the first issue. Pietro (Quicksilder) realizes that the Avengers and the X-Men must decide whether or not to kill Scarlet Witch because she is too much of a loose cannon: but is it their right? Beyond that, she is still his sister and he loves her; there must be something Magneto should be able to do. This scene shared between father and son is revisited in issue #7 of HOUSE OF M (arguably the best issue in this arc) and leads to an incredibly profound and emotional series of panels depicting a wedge that literally drives the family apart.
The story is not from too long ago, begs a series of important questions, and it's still really relevant. It also leaves readers wondering who to sympathize with. Is this really all Scarlet Witch's fault, or was she driven into madness because of the decisions her father, Magneto, made? Are his ideologies what drove HOUSE OF M? Did Wanda really have any other choice? The story asks a lot of ethical questions: from whether anyone has the right to preemptively strike in order to contain a possible threat, to whether an individual should be held completely responsible for his or her actions and state of mind and, how much should external influences factor in?
Did you read HOUSE OF M? Did you enjoy it? What are some of your thoughts on the questions posed above, and, do you believe it is essential reading?