House of M and Black Panther #7

House of M was a miniseries in 2005 that took over the Marvel Universe for 8 or so months. The Scarlet Witch got sick and reshaped reality into a world that was governed by her father, Magneto and his "House of Magnus." It changed the lives of every Marvel superhero and touched or created over 10 different titles.

I had the pleasure of reading through the full series (see the full list:, and figured I would spend some time talking about them. Today we're looking at a single issue of Black Panther, along with the complete 8-issue story event.

Read 'em all!
House of M: Fantastic Four
House of M: Spider-Man
House of M: Incredible Hulk
House of M: Black Panther #7 and House of M

Black Panther #7
"Soul Power in the House of M"
by Reginald Hudlin, Trevor Hairsine, et al.

Black Panther #7 happens at some point when Doom is still in control of Latveria, so anytime before the last few issues of House of M: Fantastic Four. The official placemark is between Issues 5 and 6 of the main storyline. I'm really fond of this issue, for the way it dives into the lives of major players of the House of M, and for the way the characters "act" through the art.

And for how bad-ass Black Panther is in this issue. Straight-up, there's a 4-page fight sequence between Black Panther and the assassin sent by Magneto, the mutant Sabretooth, which ends in Black Panther beheading him! On every page, Black Panther fights off his pursuer, and every page, you think he's done, until Sabretooth's healing factor kicks in and you get a new page of hurt. It's my favorite sequence in the issue.

T'Challa, the Black Panther, mails the head back to Magneto, and it's one move in the game of political chess that they play out. I really enjoy the macroscopic view of this political war between Magneto and his appointed rulers, with the microscopic view of the actions that they take, and the romances that arise in the war. Quicksilver professes his love for Storm, both because he truly loves her, but also because his father is intent on breaking up the marriage between her and T'Challa.

The boiling royal tension erupts when Magneto sends Apocalypse to lay siege on T'Challa's kingdom, and the results are glorious with a great twist from Black Bolt. Expertly written, meticulously drawn. Black Panther #7 might just be the best single issue to come out of the House of M.

House of M #'s 1-8
by Brian Bendis, Olivier Coipel, et al.

I wish I could say the same for the storyarc proper. House of M is a lot of an action movie; you don't really get to dwell on characters so much, but you need to move from plot point to plot point. Character A needs to get McGuffin Z in order to save Character/World/Girl B, while killing bad guys X and causing explosions Y. And that's not to say that I don't love action movies; it's just that nothing remarkable happens in the 8 issues that much mattered, other than characters talking about how awesome/terrible/mediocre it is to live in a world ruled by mutants.

You read and read about how strange this role reversal is, how mutants control society now, and wait until you hear what actually happened to the world, in issue 7 or 8, and then, yay, everything's back where it was, mostly. The stuff that's different, well, that's going to tie in to this new story we have for you, told in the next super secret crisis event.

House of M promises you the story of what would happen if mutants ruled the world, and I suppose it delivers, assuming that a story is a connection of plot points. But there isn't any heart in the story that engages the reader. Maybe it's event fatigue, maybe it's my cynicism setting in, maybe it's my 6-year separation from the comic book, but House of M is an art gallery at best, and a shell of a story at worst. This story exists only to tell the other stories told in tangential titles like Black Panther.

As much as I rag on it, here is this sweet two-page splash from Coipel when Spider-Man gets his memories back. Even when he gets a break, he doesn't get a break from the Marvel Universe. . .

If you too would like to read through the House of M series, there are a few series that you can skip, and some one-offs that are surprisingly good. Some surprisingly good one-shots include: Black Panther #7 and Captain America #10, which I previously wrote about collected in the Winter Soldier omni.

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Batman: Dark Victory

 Batman: Dark Victory
Collects the 13-issue miniseries
by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Bemoan all you like about the decline of Jeph Loeb's work on titles such as Ultimatum or Red Hulk, you can't deny the footprint he's had on Batman. So much so that, in the 2014 printing of Dark Victory, the co-writer of the Dark Knight trilogy, David S. Goyer, writes the introduction! This is a direct sequel to Loeb and Sale's previous Batman crime drama, The Long Halloween, so click over there if you haven't read it before.

Like its predecessor, Dark Victory focuses on a series of crimes committed on American Holidays, and this time, the crimes are murders. . . murders of Gotham City Police officials/former officials! After a breakout at Arkham Asylum frees the likes of Freeze, Ivy, Grundy and Two-Face, Batman has to track down who's killing Gotham's finest and leaving what appears to be Harvey Dent's M.O. There are direct follow-ups to The Long Halloween and Dent's suffering, so make sure you read that before you read this.

Themes include the lonesome suffering of Batman, the evolution from organized crime into super-crime reflected in the war between mob bosses and supercriminals, and Batman as detective. It's a little slow-paced to be reading over the course of the year, but it's slightly better to read as a single graphic novel.

I don't think there's much I need to say to convince you to read this. You can always find it at your local library; it's on most of DC's must-read lists and usually makes the top 25 for Batman stories, so I won't expend the effort. Instead, here are several scenes from the book that I enjoyed.

When Batman loses the ally of Harvey Dent in the war against crime, he falls deeper into himself. He spends more and more of himself in fighting crime, and it suffers in his interactions with people he cares about. He just lets Catwoman slap him.

In the few times that you get to see Bruce Wayne, he's late for a Thanksgiving dinner, and this is a dinner that Alfred had arranged for him to have with the flirty, Selina Kyle. They have a huge dinner table separating just the two of them, and it's a small vignette of the affection that she offers.

The colors don't get any stronger than in this frame! When Batman hounds after the escaped Two-Face and finds a light beneath the sewers, in contrast with the dark of the raining night.

Black and white are rarely used in the story, and this might be the only time that it's used so powerfully. You really get a sense of what Batman is dishing out when you read this.

I've never seen the Penguin drawn like this. It's really odd, and I was fixated on it for a bit. His sharp teeth and mouth are exaggerated to look like a watermelon!

Again, I'm cherrypicking a scene where you see Bruce Wayne, and here his face is the main show. It's a sympathetic face that shares the pain of orphan Dick Grayson, and wants to help him recover from the loss of his parents.

In the last action scene of issue 13, some of the criminals run into the Batcave, and Dick has no choice but to reveal himself and defend it! The two of them take on the Joker and Two-Face, and succeed. Afterwards, Batman bombs the cave to seal off the villains' entrance and christens the Boy Wonder, "Robin," after a nickname given to him by his mother.

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Hawkeye Vol. 1 - My Life as a Weapon

Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon
by Fraction, Aja, Pulido, Davis
Collects Hawkeye #'s 1-5 and Young Avengers Presents #6

It took me long enough! Today I read the first of Marvel's indie darlings, the comic that launched a slew of creator-focused, editorial-light titles, Hawkeye.

The first three issues set the scene for Clint Barton as a normal down-to-Earth New Yorker who occasionally has to deal with a criminal Russian landlord, adopting a lucky dog, or a super-criminal heist at a swanky show Uptown. Each of the three issues is a slice of life of Hawkeye when he's not being Hawkeye, and Fraction and Aja tell it with flair. Just look at this sequence when Hawkeye is talking to Kate Bishop, the new Hawkeye! A great visual way to slow down time and expand on the tension of drawing a bow.

It's the next two issues in the paperback that really impress me. It's a two-parter with Javier Pulido pencilling, and here you can see Fraction's sense of humor blow up! He sends Clint off to Madripoor to recover a tape, incriminating Hawkeye as the assassin of a world leader. He could tell it as a straight spy story, but instead makes it humorous.

Javier Pulido is such a wonderful visual storyteller. I wish he had an ongoing! Dig this other piece, near the end of the storyarc, when Clint shoots the office of his captors:

Now, the title is written by Jeff Lemire and it's 3.99. I can't imagine myself paying that much, but always something good to pick up from the library. Because. . . boomerangs.

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