Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Olivier Coipel
Published by Marvel Comics

House of M is one of those comic book “events”, a re-defining mini-series that promises major changes in its wake (and by strange coincidence, has many tie-in issues among other titles in the Marvel Comic universe so that you have the option to purchase them in order to have the central story fleshed out for you). You know, the sort of marketing stunt that has a way of burning out the casual comics fan when done too often or not handled very well.

The story arises from the events of the “Avengers Dissembled” storyline wherein the Scarlet Witch, daughter of Magneto and member of the Avengers, lost control of her reality altering powers. During her nervous breakdown, she kills several Avengers, including her husband, the Vision before being subdued. Professor X of the X-Men, rebuilding the mutant nation of Genosha, decimated in the war between humans and mutants, has taken her in to attempt to heal her.

Got all that?

House of M can’t help but bring to mind the Onslaught/Age of Apocalypse storyline from the X-Men not too many years ago. Reality gets altered. There’s a quest as our heroes seek to undo things. Reality gets unaltered and most things return to normal with few lasting consequences (and maybe a new book or two get launched with carry over characters). Though we are promised that events from this mini-series will have long lasting impact. We’ll see.

We can’t help but have somewhat high expectations with fan favorite Brian Michael Bendis at the helm. Though he seems to be writing every Marvel Comics book (Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Pulse and pitching in here and there), through House of M, he is taking on the mantle of (re-)focusing and care-taking the Marvel universe of heroes. There are flashes of what Brian Michael Bendis does best. Engaging dialogue. Super hero action tension. Extended bits of exposition (a consequence of such mammoth storylines is that you have to set/explain the rules of the game so that the story has some sort of interior logic).

In an effort to spare his daughter, Magneto has combined Professor X’s mind powers and his daughter’s ability to alter reality to re-create the world. Genosha is restored, with him in place as its leader. The story brings together two teams of heroes, the X-Men and the Avengers, as a lot of our beloved heroes are given the lives they think they truly want only to have to watch them unravel. Spider-Man has his Uncle Ben (the man who taught him that “with great power comes great responsibility” before he died) and his first love, Gwen Stacy restored. Cyclops lives the happy life with Emma Frost (particularly telling is the absence of Jean Grey). Captain America is an old man (not having been in suspended animation during the waning days of World War II). Hawkeye, killed during Avengers Dissembled, is once again among the living.

(This is also why the Ultimate line was started or why DC occasionally resets its entire universe: it gets complicated to tell stories when you have decades worth of continuity to explain or take into consideration.)

Yet the book does have some spiritual connections. This is a book of regrets and reclaiming those moments, those lost chances in life, and live parts of our life over again. We often dream of getting second shots at chapters of our lives to live them the way we think we always wanted to. Life on our terms, for our maximum happiness, not realizing how selfish this is. This points to our secret desires to set ourselves up as our own gods, determiners of our fate, and not realizing that we’re the problem. We all have friends who have lives that aren’t turning out the way they wanted so they decide to solve their problems by moving someplace new and starting over fresh. Then their lives proceed to go to seed all over again, because if the problem is within them, within their interior, and then no matter how far they run, there they are.

Regrets and dreams; we long to be rescued from our past transgressions, from those out of control elements of our lives. Yet, too often, we believe ourselves too far gone, too sinful, too tainted to be loved or accepted. It’s never too late. We can be met where we are, by finding a community, and with their help, become the people we were meant to be. No matter our past and how many mistakes we’ve made. We are never so far gone that we can’t turn our lives around, starting now. The path sounds “easy” (though not really because there are costs and sacrifices to changing our lives around, and we still have the consequences of our choices to date to deal with). However, it starts as simply as asking for and accepting forgiveness (from others and yourself), then going and “sin no more.”

A bit over blown and slowly paced, House of M feels like it could’ve been easily wrapped in six issues. But, a longer story means more Brian Michael Bendis (a fact that I’m sure didn’t escape the publishers and marketing department), and even slightly off his game, that’s better than most stuff out there.