House of M vs Infinite Crisis
Of the 2 events, DC's is far more focused and single-minded. I'd imagine that if you're someone who is reading all these mini events that lead to Infinite Crisis, it feels like a lot of puzzle pieces falling into place. If you're not following all the "Countdown" miniseries, Infinite Crisis is like getting only a few puzzle pieces, and only a few of them fit together. Still, the scope of what is happening is not lost on the new reader; it just feels like coming into the Star Wars saga midway into Empire Strikes Back. House of M, on the other hand, is far less focused. It has a singular idea, that the world has changed and many of the heroes are living dream lives, and lets all these individual mini's build on it independently of one another. You can read the main House of M miniseries by itself and feel as though you've got the whole story without reading all the others. If you read every HoM book there is, to use the puzzle analogy again, you've got all these pieces and it's left up to you to put them together, and this is a really hard puzzle.
It's hard to say which storytelling method is better. For the casual fan, I'd say that House of M works better, but for the hardcore fan, Infinite Crisis is a huge payoff. This week, House of M begins to wrap up, while Infinite Crisis begins. Personally, I am a casual fan. I didn't buy any of the Countdown minis, and I didn't buy any of the HoM minis. Only the main miniseries' for me, which is sure to color my reactions to both events. Also, I'm much more of a Marvel guy, I don’t know why, but I tend to gravitate to the Marvel Universe. I know a decent amount about the DC universe, most of which I've picked up through osmosis online. I also never read the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, but I pretty much get the gist of it, and I trust the Geoff Johns' tendency to give an explanation for EVERYTHING will make Infinite Crisis a little easier to take in.
So here's what went down this week:
The first question that comes to mind, in House of M #7, is when's the last time a surprise was actually a surprise? Have we as an audience become so smart, so good at guessing plot outcomes that nothing surprises us anymore? Personally, I can't remember the last time a comic book actually surprised me in a significant way. That's really the big question for us, the readers. Onto the issue.
Issue opens and BOOM, big fight. Really, it's a splash page that lets you know that a battle is happening. As it stands, the fight is pretty meaningless. You can't punch things until the world reverts back to normal, and beating up a bunch of Genoshan guards isn't gonna effect the outcome of the story. The thing with Bendis is that he knows how to script a fight scene, I've seen many very good fight scenes that he scripted, so he's not writing these big chaotic battles to avoid writing a fight scene, he's writing them this way because the real drama of the issue isn't a physical battle but a mental one. But yeah, one wonders if Bendis scripts stories where fights are fairly meaningless to avoid scripting fights. I've got no answer there.
But yeah, the fight is happening, and it goes down like this: After a big splash page, Rogue grabs Genis-Vell and steals his powers, making her all sparkley so she can go off and kick more ass. Over in the magnetic shield that Polaris has put up, Pietro is holding a downed Wanda, but all of a sudden, she literally falls into a million pieces. Tetris pieces, by the looks of it. Pietro takes off running, but gets his ass knocked to the ground by a supercharged Rogue, who just stands there and acts southern.
Before I move to the Doctor Strange scene, I’d like to point out that in the panel where Cyclops tells Nightcrawler to watch people's backs, Cyclops is literally shooting the ground. Is he blind when his beams shoot? Kinda funny.
So, Doctor strange notices a light on, up in one of the towers, and goes to investigate. Because, like, investigating people who leave lights on is WAY more important than the battle at hand. And hey, it's Wanda in there, playing with those damn creepy kids. Wanda recognizes him. It appears that her mind is part in the house of M, and part in the real world. She knows who he is, and knows that he delivered her kids, but doesn't know why he's there. The Wanda that fell apart was a construct, and it seems that she's been making a lot of constructs recently, and it is hinted that the Magneto we've seen recently is a construct as well. Of course, we don't know WHICH one was real and which was made by Wanda, but I prefer to think that Magneto died in New X-men #115, and every Magneto since then was a creation of Wanda's that represented the different sides of Magneto that she knows. Sorta makes sense, right? Of course, this invalidates Grant Morrison's Magneto in Planet X, which I really LIKED, but making him a Magneto that Wanda created is much better than plainly calling him an "imposter" while the "real" Magneto is a nice guy. This way, both Pro-Morrison people and those against Morrison are equally wrong. Magneto really died a while ago, and both nice guy and crazy guy are equally fake.
But anyway, Strange informs her of the fighting outside, and then we learn why things are the way they are. We flashback to HoM #1, the scene between Pietro and Magneto. After Magneto leaves, Wanda wakes up and consoles her brother. She's accepted her fate, but Pietro doesn't want to lose her. He devises a plan. She could use Xavier’s powers and hers, and make the world perfect. She could make the world so everyone would be happy, everyone would have what they want, even Magneto. It's either that or she dies. It wasn't Magneto that set this all in motion, it was Pietro.
Apparently, Doctor Strange is surprised by this revelation. I think he might be the only one. Strange continues the questions that Emma Frost telepathically tells him to ask, but before she can tell him where Xavier is, Wanda takes an arrow to the back. Before Emma can figure out what is going on, Magneto appears before her. Layla does the mind thingee on Magneto, and before we can see what happens, we cut back to the bedroom, where Hawkeye is back, making good on his promise to put an arrow in Wanda. Hawkeye is understandably pissed for, y'know, being dead. Wanda counters with the fact that she DID bring him back, but before any more could be said, that little toothless bastard kid of Wanda’s throws a fit and Hawkeye falls into Tetris pieces, just like the construct of Wanda did earlier. Man, I hate these kids. Wanda keels over, and she's just as crazy as ever. She can't control her powers now, which doesn't sound good.
Back in the battle, Pietro is causing a lot of damage, as evidenced by a lot of speed lines and small panels of heroes getting their heads hit, but then BOOM, Magneto starts yelling and he is pissed. He literally restrains every single hero in pieces of metal, and has them floating, he then brings Pietro up in the center, right in front and starts chewing him out. Magneto is none too pleased with what Pietro has done in his name, and sends these giant balls of scrap metal colliding into Pietro's exposed head. Personally, I love stuff like this, because it really puts on display just how goddamn powerful Magneto is. Of course, Wanda doesn't love stuff like this, because she explodes out of her tower, cancels out Magneto's hold on all the heroes, and literally erases his mouth so he can't tell her to stop. She moves over to the clearly dead Pietro and either restores him to life, or cleans off his corpse, I can't tell which. She then really calls Magneto on all his bullshit. Mostly his arrogance is what she can't stand, and the fact that he chose his quest for mutant superiority over his own kids. She doesn't buy into the idea that mutants are the next step in human evolution, but instead thinks that they're all freaks. And if he believes in mutant superiority so much, well guess what? "No more mutants" Wanda tells him, and things start to light up. Doctor Strange puts up some kind of magical barrier, but even then, the world burns white, and the issue ends.
Personally, I thought it was pretty cool. Pietro being behind it was kind of a "no duh" moment, but really it was 50/50 between him being behind it all or magneto. Really though, Wanda actually takes some blame, because she knew what she was doing. It was a satisfying climax, I thought, and there is still one issue to go. Easily the biggest strength is the family drama aspect of it, and these issues with the children that Magneto abandoned coming to a head. It'll be interesting to see what the specific changes are after the white glow goes away.
Over on the DC side of things, we're thrust into the aftermath of the OMAC, Day of Vengeance, the Rann/Thanagar War, and Villains United minis, as well as various tie-ins from the regular books like JLA. The JLA Watchtower has exploded, tying both IC and HoM as two events that take something Grant Morrison created (and I love) and say "enh, guess not." I'm not bitter though, oh no, I've got the GENIUS of Seven Soldiers to sustain me. Anyway, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman survey the wreckage and basically talk a lot of shit to each other. The Martian Manhunter is "gone" which means he died or got out to whereabouts unknown. Batman has this black box recorder, and while it might reveal who teleported in and blew up the watchtower, it mostly serves to make Batman look like a paranoid crazy person. Superman acts like a man without a dick, while Batman talks down to him. Lemme say this right now: I hate this wishy-washy pussy version of Superman. While I'm not 100% sure how Superman SHOULD act, this version that basically scolds Batman for being over the top crazy rather than DOING anything about it simply isn't my thing. But then Wonder Woman shows up, and she actually kills people now, so Superman directs his scolding energy at her. It's clear why Batman and Superman are there, but it seems like the only reason Wonder Woman showed up was so that scene could happen. Apparently, images of Wonder Woman killing Max Lord have been beamed to every TV on the planet, so everyone in the world knows that Wonder Woman killed some dude in a polo shirt, the context of which is completely up in the air.
Watching this broadcast is Superboy. For the uninformed, Superboy, is a clone of Superman that has DNA from both Superman AND Lex Luthor. Recently, Luthor activated something in Superboy that made him go nuts and beat up the Teen Titans, he's since been afraid to do anything, not trusting the Luthor side of his genes. So there he sits, in the Kent farm, scared to take any action.
Now, throughout this, there is this omnipresent narration from a group of people who appear to be watching everything unfold, and then we SEE these people in shadow, literally watching everything unfold. Can you guess who they are?
Back on earth, in Bludhaven, Nightwing's city of choice, Donna Troy is preparing to take a group of heroes to some other galaxy to fight some.. thing or something. Honestly, the only people I recognize in this scene are Nightwing, Supergirl and Starfire. Starfire simply because she's on the Teen Titans cartoon. I didn't read the Return of Donna Troy mini, so I honestly don't care what she's about to do. I will say though, that Starfire's hair is insane. Nightwing leaps off the building, while meanwhile, some homeless dude turns into an OMAC! He blasts some 3rd rate villain, and then notices Nightwing nearby. The OMAC's directive changes to "truth and justice", whatever that means, and all of a sudden, around a million of them fly up into the sky. I'm guessing that "truth and justice" doesn't mean "kill", because Nightwing looks pretty calm.
Meanwhile, the Rann/Thanagar war is raging, and the only Green Lantern that I give a shit about, Kyle Rayner, sees what appears to be a black hole, but it really isn't. It's a manifestation of... something or other. His ring can't figure it out, and the Guardians can only identify it as a tear in reality. Or something.
Fulfilling the "Day of Vengeance" recap requirement is some giant rock exploding over Gotham City. In maybe the oddest cameo of the year, 2 members of the cast of Gotham Central appear to witness this explosion, and then see Captain Marvel hit the car in front of them, getting knocked out. Apparently, the Spectre has killed the wizard Shazam, and then the rock exploded, and then a bunch of magical creatures fill the streets of Gotham. Again, this makes no sense to me, but I get the general idea of what happened, just not WHY it happened.
Over in... Somewhere else, the Freedom Fighters are investigating where some supervillain meeting went down. Of these guys, I only recognize the Ray and Uncle Sam. Because he's... Uncle Sam. So, they open up this wherehouse door and BOOM, this condor guy takes a shot right through the gut and drops. The Freedom Fighters have discovered the hideout of Luthor's team of villains, the society (of supervillains). Doctor Polaris, Doctor Light, Professor Zoom, Black Adam, Psycho Pirate, Sinestro, Bizarro, and the Cheetah all look pretty impressive and scary and stuff….
But back to the bombed out Watchtower. Superman only SAYS that Wonder Woman will have to answer for what she did, and continues to act like a pussy who’s girlfriend is cheating on him instead of taking any sort of action. This standing and pouting gives MONGUL the perfect opportunity to POUND THE FUCK OUT OF SUPERMAN’S HEAD. Superman goes flying… and we’re back to seeing the Freedom Fighters get their asses kicked. Professor Zoom knocks out damage, and sadly, Phantom Lady gets a spear through her chest… but back to the moon, as Wonder Woman takes her new magical sword and slashes at Mongul, who only gets pissed and knocks her away. He then proceeds to grab Batman, who really can’t do a thing about it besides do an impression of a pirate… but back to the Freedom Fighters getting slaughtered! The Human Bomb learns that Phantom Lady just got impaled, so he freaks the fuck out and blows himself and Doctor Polaris up. Bizarro shows up and, bizarrely, pounds on the Human Bomb until he’s dead.
Quick aside here: How fucking wrong is it to have BIZARRO kill someone? When I think of Bizarro, I think of this big goofy guy who talks funny. Not someone who kills people with his bare hands. That was pretty unsettling for me.
But back to the moon! Superman comes back to pound the shit out of Mongul, and downs him in 3 hits. This gives Wonder Woman the chance to try to fucking KILL him! How fucked up is that? She gets one kill in and all of a sudden she’s the Punisher. Superman stops her, of course, and gives the very lame line “I don’t know who you are anymore”… just like a guy who’s girlfriend is cheating on him. This gives Mongul the chance to run away, far away from the crazy Amazon with the sword.
And finally, the end of the Freedom Fighters. Uncle Sam gets the shit kicked out of him, and the Ray gets dragged away because Luthor “needs” him for something. Sinestro gets the killing blow to Sam, and that’s that.
Back to the moon, where the big three act like teenagers. Superman and Batman are mad that Wonder Woman killed the guy, Batman is mad at both of them because he got his mind wiped, Wonder Woman and Superman are mad at Batman for judging everyone, and Wonder Woman and Batman are mad at Superman for being a pussy. Apparently, Superman is the only person on the planet who isn’t aware of who he is and what he means to people. But NOOOOO, Superman doesn’t want to be in charge of anything, he doesn’t feel it’s his place to inspire anyone, which allows Batman to give the line of the century: “The last time you really inspired anyone… was when you were dead.” And with that, they all go their separate ways, they’ve given up.
This doesn’t sit too well with the 4 mystery people who are watching it all. They feel that they have to save the world now, so the leader starts beating on the screen they were watching everything from; he smashes it down, and reveals himself to be Superman… of Earth 2. Issue ends on that note.
Ok, so what the fuck? Superman of Earth 2? If I wasn’t vaguely aware of what happened in the first Crisis, I’d be totally confused. All you need to know is that Earth 2 Superman is older, and from an Earth a lot like golden age DC, I think. Back in the “pre-crisis” DCU days, there were all these parallel earths, with different versions of the superheroes. These earths were all collapsed together in the crisis, but before it happened, Earth 2 Superman, the original Superboy, Lois Lane Kent, and good guy Alex Luthor escaped into a paradise dimension… and now they’re back.
OK, so which is better? I have to admit that House of M made a lot more sense to me than Infinite Crisis did, but the huge scope of Infinite Crisis beats out House of M by miles. Of course, when your story has Superman and the goddamn Batman (no, not THAT goddamn Batman) as major players, the enormity of the event is inherently larger than anything where Wolverine is a key player. Sorry Marvel, but it’s true. I did enjoy both of them. I do enjoy these epic stories, and I'm not one to get angry with a comic book company because of the storytelling direction they've chosen to take. I don't really think that any of the characters are sacred, nor should they be, and I do respect that they are taking chances with their stories. I do, however, wonder if the rampant killing going on in DC is the right way to go. I'll admit that they do have a LOT of boring characters, but it might be smarter to just leave them in limbo than to have Bizarro beat them to death. Then again, how else are you gonna show that these villains are worth a damn when you have 50 or so years built up of these guys continually getting their asses kicked. They seem kinda toothless if you don't show them winning every once in a while. Infinite Crisis also suffers because the threat isn't made clear in the first issue. You're given this idea that the multiverse is opening up, and you see an army of OMACS and demons and Supervillains, but is that really what this mini is going to be about? All these different threats? Perhaps it being unclear is part of the point. We'll see.
Over on the Marvel side of things, the problem is that nothing is surprising anymore. Every move is telegraphed a mile ahead, and far too many things are reliant upon the X-Corner of the Marvel Universe. Of course, given how things are looking, that corner is going to be a lot smaller in a few months, but really, this is how many events now where the cause originated from mutants? Perhaps that's the nature of the Marvel Universe. All the compelling characters are all so human and earth-bound that they simply aren't convincing in these epic cosmic struggles... and the characters that belong in epic cosmic struggles are all too boring to read about. I mean, I love Daredevil, but I don't think he's the right person to be saving the universe.
That being said, I think both are successes, and I liked both for differing reasons. In the end, I think Infinite Crisis will be the sales leader, simply due to the massive hype and the fact that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are front and center. Still, as a fan, I'm looking forward to each story unfolding, and writing even more about each.