Hanging with the HiX-Men is a series of reviews of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men comics, followed by a spotlight of a specific scene and an eventual analysis of each overall arc once it is concluded. It’s what happens when a longtime X-Men fan has his love for the franchise reinvigorated by a beloved writer who has written some of his favourite comics. With that in mind… Welcome to the HiX-Men, hope you survive the experience.
House of X #3
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Pepe Larraz
Colours by Marte Gracia
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $4.99 USD
Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men run has been an interesting experiment. Hickman has done a great job playing with structure across the two series and having them play off each other. However, House of X #3 does none of that, which isn’t a bad thing. It is a straightforward and linear sequence of events, but it is told very well and is a great comic for the middle act of this story.
Without having to worry about complex structure or setting up things for other series as much after the reveal in Powers of X #3, Hickman is able to tell a straightforward story. After the events of previous issues, the X-Men are determined to stop Orcis from activating their Mother Mold. With no real complexity to the plot, Hickman is able to just write good characters, create an epic tone and escalate his story. With a the threat of the future and the weight of the X-Men’s actions firmly established, this comic is an action comic that isn’t just noise, and a great second act issue, particularly due to a big complication. Throughout, Hickman implements his graphics well for quick bursts of exposition, delivers some solid dialogue — although there sometimes be too much of it — and makes sure the conflict between the X-Men and Orcis is one where neither side is outright altruistic, humanising the Orcis antagonists and including a scene involving Sabretooth and Emma Frost that establishes that Xavier’s mutant nation has enabled some of the worst traits of some mutants to flourish.
Part of what makes this a strong issue is the tone. Hickman has always excelled with building an epic tone and making his stories feel epic, and this issue is no exception. With the basic setup of the issue, of the X-Men going to space to destroy Orcis’ Mother Mould, Hickman uses some excellent narration and dialogue to build up how important the event is. The sci-fi nature of it only helps in this regard and the result is a comic where a precision assault is made to feel like a fight for all of mutantkind — which is fitting, given what we’ve seen in previous issues that shows what will happen should the X-Men fail. However, Xavier’s presence and his almost cult-ish rhetoric carries a creepy atmosphere with it, one that has been consistent throughout Hickman’s run, one only elevated by the way Hickman humanises the members of Orcis themselves.
Pepe Larraz’s pencils are an excellent fit for this issue. His vibrant art fits perfectly with the outer space scenes, with colourist Marte Gracia’s bright colours further emphasising the sci-fi aesthetic of the issue. While Larraz has less opportunity for subtlety this time around, his inks, combined with Gracia’s colours, still create an excellent sense of atmosphere, particularly during scenes with Orcis and Sabretooth. There are some action scenes where the two do some solid work with what little they are given, and Larraz has some fun with layouts when drawing Nightcrawler’s teleportation, in a way that is genuinely fun to read despite how simple it is.
House of X #3 is a great issue for the second act of Hickman’s HoX/PoX saga. The straightforward structure and premise is refreshing after the complexity of previous issues, and is executed beautifully. After issues of set-up and moving his pieces into place, Hickman lets loose with an explosive issue of sci-fi action while never losing sight of the moral ambiguity of Krakoa or his characters.
4/5 – Great
Scene Spotlight: Two Types of Ambiguity
There wasn’t really a stand out particularly stand out moment for me this issue, but one I found of note is Karima and Kurt’s interaction.
The art and layouts are great, with Nightcrawler’s teleportation really well-rendered, using the background to establish the speed and different locations he’s visiting in a seamless way. Having Nightcrawler in-between panels is also an excellent choice in that regard and, combined with his placement as he almost falls down the page to what he’s looking for, creates a sense of fluidity in his movement which is nicely punctuated with the fourth panel’s width.
However, the interaction between Kurt and Karima itself I found a bit… off. While Nightcrawler’s face being covered in shadow and appearing somewhat malevolent may just be to keep with his usual appearance, it could also be to further the moral complexity of the conflict between the X-Men and Orchis. This seems to be the case given the dialogue, which is what I wanted to talk about. I think it’s a well-delivered exchange… except the ellipses. When I initially read this I thought it was Karima stoically rebutting, which is backed up by Larraz’s art.
However, the ellipses make it seem like she misunderstood or was misinformed, which may in fact be the case… which would kind of ruin some of the moral ambiguity of Krakoa, since I think the common theory is that she wasn’t allowed on Krakoa for being a Sentinel. That and the X-Men truly are picking sides and creating barriers. So she has legitimate reasons for working with Orchis without having been lied to.
So while this scene is well-executed, those ellipses mess things up a bit and I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not.
House of X #3 was a refreshing read after the previous issues of Hickman’s run. Nothing against those issues, but this is a more straightforward read and I appreciate that. It’s still not just another X-Men comic, however, and has the Hickman trappings I love. It helps that I read ti after all the Absolute Carnage stuff this week, so a sleek sci-fi comic was nice after the sheer metal of that crossover.
Next week, we get even more House of X along with even more Absolute Carnage, the big meaty comic that is Doomsday Clock, the inconsistent The Green Lantern and a big Legion thing with Legion of Super-Heroes: Millenium. It’s a big time for comics right now, and I’m planning on reviewing a lot so stuff, so hopefully Hanging with the HiX-Men doesn’t slip too hard… though expect it a day later next week, since I’ll be getting my comics on Thursday next week.
Anyway, be here next week for House of X #4!