Tag Archives: Pepe Larraz

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House Of X #6

There’s an unwritten rule in superhero comics. Heroes can enjoy a happy ending every now and then. However, it can only go so far. For every happy ending, there must also be a setup for the next conflict. It also can’t be too happy. The struggle can never stop or slow down. More epic battles must follow. Where else will Marvel and their Disney overlords get ideas for new billion-dollar movies?

Sometimes, the happy endings are as short-lived as they are shallow. This is especially true of X-Men comics. Their struggle is more complicated than fighting hordes of Hydra soldiers or battling invading Chitari armies. Sure, they regularly battle killer robots, but the primary source of their problems come from hatred and fear. There’s only so much they can triumph over that. A typical internet comments section is proof of that.

As a result, any victory the X-Men enjoy seems fleeting. Any semblance of a happy ending or true progress comes off as shallow or temporary. That has been my experience, as a lifelong X-Men fan. Then, “House of X #6” comes along and in the span of a single book, those unwritten are bent, broken, and redefined.

Throughout the X-Men’s colorful history, there have been many defining moments. Unfortunately, most of them often involve tragedy, destruction, and decimation. The moments that involve a triumphant, happy ending that feels like real progress in their struggles are few and far between. That only makes “House of X #6” more precious in the grand scheme of things.

This epic, world-building narrative began with a simple proclamation from Charles Xavier. While humanity slept, the world changed. In “House of X #6,” the sheer breadth of that change becomes clear. Xavier doesn’t just announce to the world that things are different. He explains why and how they got to this critical point.

It’s the kind of speech that leaves you anxious, astonished, concerned, and elated, all at the same time. He doesn’t talk around the truth or rely on alternative facts. He lays out clearly what mutants have been through. Even if you haven’t been following the X-Men comics for the past several decades, you get a clear understanding of how they got to this point.

They’ve been bullied, attacked, ignored, and driven to the brink of extinction more than once. They’ve clashed with other superheroes while being held to a different standard. In a world where so many other people have superpowers and aren’t subject to constant killer robot attacks, mutants are seen as a menace.

Now, they’re not just outcasts fighting for their lives and working towards impossible dreams. They’re a full-fledged society. They now have a home in Krakoa, which is now a full-fledged nation. They have their own culture and identity that they’re willing to fight for. These all feel like changes that are exceedingly overdue. Writer Jonathan Hickman finally put it into words while artist Pepe Larraz gave it vibrant visuals.

It’s a beautiful, cathartic moment that X-Men fans of all kinds can appreciate. On top of this momentous announcement, Hickman adds a few more details to the world-building. Now that mutants have their own nation, they have to go about governing it. It’s the kind of detail that tends to get overlooked in most superhero narratives, but it’s those same details that give depth to this emerging status quo.

The government of Krakoa is not overly complicated, but it’s still comprehensive in its vision. Hickman does not skimp on the details. We even get to see how Krakoa handles difficult issues, such as major laws and what to do with those who break them. It’s not quite like watching a mutant version of C-SPAN, but it gets the point across.

This isn’t just mutants consolidating their power. They’re trying to function as a real nation with real connections in the international community. They’re not going to be some isolated enclave. They actually have something to offer the world with the miracle drugs Krakoa produces. However, they’re not treating them as bargaining chips or gifts. They’re real assets with which to create standing in the world.

It’s uncharted territory for mutants. It also opens the door to a new host of complications, but for once, they don’t involve drawing battle lines between humans and mutants. Xavier still seeks peace, but not through impossible dreams anymore.

This is a huge shift for Charles Xavier’s character. It’s a huge shift for the X-Men, as well. They’re not just a team of mutant superheroes anymore. They’re something greater and “House of X #6” is their way of announcing that to the world.

I won’t spoil the many other ways Hickman and Larraz explore this exciting new world. There are plenty of moments that set the stage for a very different kind of struggle with the X-Men. There are also a few hints that they’ll be dealing with a few threats down the line, some more familiar than others. That’s unavoidable, both for superheroes and blossoming nations.

However, I will spoil one critical detail. “House of X #6” gives the X-Men, mutants, and long-time fans a reason to celebrate. It wasn’t that long ago that the X-Men were in a dire state. Marvel was going out of their way marginalized them in favor of propping up the Inhumans. Major characters were being killed off, left and right. Now, in wake of this issue, those dark days feel like distant memories.

The events of “House of X #6” feel like the end of a long, tumultuous period of tribulations and the beginning of a new era. It’s not all doom and gloom, for once. There’s reason to be happy. There’s reason to grab a beer and celebrate. If the X-Men comics were to end with this issue, it would be a damn good ending.

A new world has been built. A new era has arrived for the X-Men. It’s as satisfying as it is overdue. To X-Men fans of all kinds, get some friends, grab a cold beer, and have a party. Hickman has given us a reason to celebrate.

 

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House of X #2

What would you do if you could live your entire life over again with all the memories of your previous life? What if you could do that more than once and come into the world with knowledge and experience equivalent to multiple lives? Movies like “Groundhog Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow” attempted to answer that question in part. Jonathan Hickman tries to answer that question more fully in “House of X #2.”

As someone who has been reading comics for a sizable chunk of his life, I know how rare it is to see a single issue come along that both redefines a character and explores a host of new, exciting concepts. I thought “House of X #1” was one of those once-in-a-decade comics that wasn’t going to be matched for a good long while. I was wrong.

I’m glad I was wrong too because what Hickman accomplishes in “House of X #2” is as remarkable as it is engaging. It doesn’t just give context to the previous events that were revealed in both “House of X #1” and “Powers of X #1.” It completely redefines the entire history of the X-Men.

For a series that includes multiple time travel plots and multiple dystopian timelines, that’s quite an accomplishment. It’s how Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz go about it that makes “House of X #2” so impactful. It begins and ends with how the story rewrites the role of Moira MacTaggart.

It’s not hyperbole to say that this single issue makes Moira the most important character in the history of the X-Men, the mutant race, and their future. For a character who was either a love interest for Charles Xavier or a side-character who often got overshadowed by other mutants, that’s quite an accomplishment.

This is not the same Moira from the “X-Men First Class” movie. This version of Moira is a mutant with a very unique power. It doesn’t involve shooting lasers out of her eyes, reading minds, or shape-shifting. Her power is basically a more complete version of the abilities that Bill Murray and Tom Cruise enjoyed in the aforementioned movies.

In essence, Moira lives her entire life, dies, and is reborn with all her memories and experiences intact. It’s not restricted to a single day. It’s not indefinite, either. Like an old Mario game, she has a limit to the number of lives she can live. What she does with them is up to her. Knowing what happens to mutants, humans, the X-Men, and Charles Xavier informs her choices.

It raises many profound questions about Moira’s role in the history of the X-Men and the Marvel universe in general. It also expands on how Moira came to influence the events of “House of X #1” and “Powers of X #1.”

The story, itself, is built around the multiple lives that Moira has lived. I won’t spoil the details, since this is one of those comics that needs to be read to appreciate the impact. I’ll simply confirm that she tries multiple approaches to averting yet another dystopian future for the X-Men, mutants, and humanity as a whole.

Some of those approaches involve working with Charles Xavier. Others involve actively opposing him. In all the lives leading up to her tenth, there are a few common themes. When two competing species inhabit the same world, there’s bound to be conflict. Efforts to escape or preemptively win that conflict rarely pan out.

Like Phil Connors constantly waking up on Groundhog Day, no matter what he does, Moira keeps hitting a proverbial wall. No matter what she attempts, there doesn’t seem to be a way around this conflict. It’s not until her 10th life that she comes to the realization that leads to “House of X #1.”

It’s hard to overstate how much “House of X #2” changes the overall context of the X-Men comic. Suddenly, Moira MacTaggart is the most influential character in the history of the X-Men, mutants, and everything in between. What she does, why she does it, and how she goes about it changes how we see the past, as well as the present.

The benefits of hindsight make it seem simple, but it isn’t. It also raises a great many questions. If Moira has all this knowledge, why didn’t she use it to achieve more? What made her choose the path that led to the most recent events for the X-Men and the Marvel universe, as a whole? Most of these questions go unanswered, but there are some telling clues that add even more intrigue.

Hickman and Larraz achieve something truly uncanny with “House of X #2.” I know I said the same thing about “House of X #1,” but that comic now has a greater meaning thanks to this one. The stakes for every other X-Men story that unfolds after this has a new meaning as well. Few comics can boast that kind of impact without being written by Jack Kirby, but “House of X #2” is definitely one of them.

Even for those unfamiliar with the convoluted history of the X-Men can appreciate the concepts this comic explores. We see someone who has lived multiple lives, cursed with knowing how things play out for those she cares for. She wants to make that life better for herself and the world as a whole. She’s in a unique position to pursue that change, but it’s fraught with more complications than any “Groundhog Day” rip-off could convey.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House of X #1

Ever comic book fan has been conditioned to revere Wednesdays as New Comic Book Day. It’s basically Christmas every week. However, much like Christmas, not all Wednesdays are equal in terms of the presents they bring. Every now and then, a Wednesday comes along that a certain segment of comic fans come to revere for years to come.

For X-Men fans, this will likely go down as one of those Wednesdays because “House of X #1” is just that astonishing. Every now and then, a book comes along that is presented as a major paradigm shift for the characters, the themes, and the over-arching narrative of a series. In superhero comics, books like that are hyped up at least once a month. Very few deliver on that hype. “House of X #1” is one of those select few.

To say that the X-Men comics needed a book like this is like saying an insomniac needs a good night’s sleep. For years now, going back to the days of “House of M,” both the X-Men and the entire mutant population of the Marvel Universe has been in a constant state of extinction-level crisis. Even when they’re not about to go extinct, they’re caught up in something that has them just one slip-up away from another dytopian future.

In “House of X #1,” writer Jonathan Hickman dares to rebuild the X-Men’s world without first sending them to the brink of extinction. For anyone who has followed X-Men comics for more than two years, this is like a breath of fresh air, a massage, and a chocolate milkshake all rolled into one. It shouldn’t be that radical a concept, but between Hickman’s vision and Pepe Larraz’s beautiful artwork, it sure feels like it.

This bold new world for the X-Men isn’t built around mansions with high-tech jets hidden below the tennis court. You won’t find orbiting asteroids, isolated nations, or island sanctuaries in the middle of San Francisco Bay. This world is more than a nation or sanctuary. It’s a bold new form for Charles Xavier’s dream.

It comes courtesy of Krakoa, a name right out of one of the most iconic X-Men comics of all time. This living island has evolved and Charles Xavier is maximizing its potential with intriguing results. He comes off as more than just a visionary or messianic figure in “House of X #1.” He has a bold new plan for the entire mutant race and it’s big.

By that, I don’t just mean it’s big in terms of goals and scope. This plan is something that changes the way the X-Men operate. It’s not just flying around in X-Jets anymore. It’s not just peaceful protests and confronting bigotry. Charles Xavier is rallying mutants to his cause in a bold new way. He’s also dealing with humans in a new way, as well.

It’s here where “House of X #1” explores some very interesting concepts that take the X-Men into uncharted territory. For much of their history, the X-Men have been either reacting to attacks by their enemies or trying to counter intense hatred and mistrust of mutants. It hasn’t just hindered Xavier’s efforts at peace and understanding. It has kept them isolated and always on the brink.

Rather than simply brace for the worst, Charles Xavier decides to offer something tantalizing to both humans and mutants alike. I won’t spoil too many details. I’ll just say that he puts the X-Men in a unique position, in terms of how the world sees them. It may not win them the love and adulation that the Avengers get, but it does provide some bold incentives.

That’s something that few X-Men comics have ever attempted on this scale. It’s not enough to confront hatred and mistrust. Hickman puts the X-Men in a position to be more diplomatic with the world. They have something to offer the world. Accepting that offer benefits humans and mutants in a tangible, positive way.

Again, that should not be such a radical concept, but Hickman and Larraz present it in a way that feels both novel and vast. It’s not entirely utopian in its potential, but it has the potential to bring positive change to a world and a narrative that needs it.

As a lifelong X-Men fan, “House of X #1” fills me with both curiosity and awe. There’s a lot to love about this bold new world that Hickman and Larraz are building. For once, it’s not just another threat that puts the mutant race on the brink of extinction. There’s a larger effort to do something bigger.

That’s not to say the threats aren’t there. Just as Charles Xavier pursues his bold new vision in “House of X #1,” other visions forged by other characters emerge to present obstacles. Some parts of that vision are new, but there is some familiar imagery that X-Men fans will recognize. It ensures that there will still be plenty of mutant-powered fights in this new world.

At the same time, “House of X #1” creates a clear impression that fighting killer robots will only be a small part of this new vision for the X-Men. There’s so much more going on, both with the characters and with the larger Marvel Universe. After all the upheavals they’ve had over the past 15 years, it finally feels like they have room to grow again.

It’s an exciting time to be an X-Men fan. On top of Kevin Feige confirming that mutants are finally coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hickman and Larraz are taking X-Men in a bold, if not overdue direction in the comics. This sentiment is even captured perfectly in Charles Xavier’s first lines of the book.

“Humans of the planet Earth. While you slept, the world changed.”

Truer words were never spoken. In a world that gets invaded by aliens, Hydra, and renegade gods every other day, that’s saying something.

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The following is a review I wrote for “Extermination #1” for PopMatters. Enjoy!

Tenuous Temporal Deconstruction in “Extermination #1”

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August 16, 2018 · 6:11 pm