This week on “Previously On,” I review House of X as an entry point for new readers, consider comics that have even come close to Hickman’s X-Men pre-release approval rating, and accidentally steal comics from awesome creators!
Feature Of the Week –
(lightest possible spoilers ahead!)
Where to find: Hickman’s X-Men reading order
Wednesday was the long anticipated release of Jonathan Hickman’s first X-Men comic (with artist Pepe Larraz), and amid the rapturous applause for House of X, I received one pretty consistent question from readers: Can I just jump into House of X #1 as a starting point?
Despite the fact that I have a “Road to Hickman’s X-Men” reading order on CBH (that holds up quite well upon book release!), it’s an interesting question. I’ll weigh both sides of the equation starting with my initial reaction:
Continuity & Plot Details
I think it will help, and add to the experience, if you’re familiar with 1) Hickman’s previous Marvel work (there are specific references) and 2) Morrison’s New X-Men (again, specific references).
With regards to Hickman’s prior Marvel Universe work, I’d recommend Marvel fans read everything from 2008 to 2016 (it’s just excellent), but you absolutely do not have to in order to understand what’s happening in House of X. More than anything these titles establish tone, approach, and how Hickman tells stories. If there’s confusion over House of X #1, I’d expect these books help more at the “style” level than they do at the actual “plot” level.
One of the strongest counterarguments against this line of thinking, though, is the initial fact that you don’t need to know seemingly anything that has happened in X-Men comics beyond 2001. There are characters and allusions from beyond this time, but recent continuity is especially ignored. It might actually be more confusing to go back and read the 22 issues of Uncanny X-Men that lead up to House of X.
So apart from Hickman’s own work in the Marvel Universe, the types of things that come into play in House of X are details that will be familiar to X-fans of the 2000’s. If terms like cerebra, Xorn, Zorn, House of M, the Stepford Cuckoos, and Sol’s Hammer don’t ring any bells, then there’s a layer of background you could conceivably develop from my “Road To” guide. But I won’t disagree, it’s all – at least at this point – background.
Hickman and company – including designer Tom Muller – establish one of the most useful approaches to exposition in recent comics history.
Instead of leaving it to fans to parse out through story, the team utilizes double-page spreads to put the equivalent of encyclopedia files directly in the comic. These helped me tremendously as I navigated House of X in all its glory.
Purely on a construction level, House of X provides an occasionally challenging narrative augmented by very clear charts and explanatory details. It’s exactly what I wanted from a landmark first issue promising a new way of thinking about an immensely popular franchise.
What Do The People Say?
Before writing, I also asked this exact question to the Heralds of Twitter (albeit in excruciatingly confusing syntax), and substantially more voters seem to agree House of X is a genuinely good starting place for new or lapsed readers.
Alright Heralds – for my next column: Is "House of X" a truly good starting place for new/lapsed comics readers? Do you need *any* background?
— Herald of X (@ComicBookHerald) July 25, 2019
43% of voters said House of X is a good starting place for new readers
Only 16% said it’s not
And 41% went with the in-joke reference “You have new gods now,” which I take to mean House of X is all that matters!
Finally, for my money, the launch issue was even better than I expected, and I’ll be documenting all issues in a reading order as they are released.
COMIC BOOK PRESS
TREND: The Hickman Hype Train
I’ve been astounded at the absolute positivity and love towards the potential of a Jonathan Hickman written X-Men saga. Not because I doubt the potential of House of X and Powers of X, but because near universal love on social media is unheard of, and I’ve truly never seen this strong of an approval rating in comics.
It’s no secret that I’m just as excited as anyone, but I still can’t get over the collective consensus. As advance reviews have gotten out it’s been an almost comical chorus of critics trying to out praise each other.
None of this diminishes my own sky high expectations for this new direction for Marvel’s merry mutants. Still, it got me thinking about comics that have approached a similar approval rating – particularly prior to public release. It’s not necessarily a list of comics that everyone loves so much as a list of comics everyone assumed they were going to love based on creative pedigree and topic. A good example from 2019 is Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber on Jimmy Olsen.
In some ways, my historical point of reference here is pretty limited, as I’ve only considered Comic Book Herald a second job since 2015 at the earliest. Nonetheless, I’ve been pulling, and at least thinking about new releases since 2011, so here’s what comes to mind.
It’s a bit difficult to separate the immediate recognition that this was an all time great in the making from the expectation that Tom King and Mitch Gerads would make another all time great (following their collaborative excellence on Sheriff of Babylon).
Nonetheless, Mister Miracle is the capstone of an insane creative run from King, and was without question my favorite comic book released in 2017 and 2018.
Morrison Action Comics (New 52) / Multiversity / The Green Lantern
Anytime Grant Morrison’s name is tied to a DC Universe comic, the hype train reaches new speeds. This makes sense, as Morrison is the living comics creator with the most clout of anyone working in comics today (settle down Moore-heads, I didn’t even say greatest living comics creator).
Like Mister Miracle I’m not sure how much I can separate pre-release from immediate “classic in the making” reactions. Nonetheless, as Brian K. Vaughn’s return to creator-owned comics, Saga was absolutely on fans radars, and quickly proved worth the hype.
I might be rewriting history mildly, but Sex Criminals launched at the height of Matt Fraction’s acclaim from his genre-exploding work on Hawkeye, and close enough to the time Warren Ellis shared Chip Zdarsky’s pitch for Watchmen 2 that I knew this book would be one of the all time funniest comic books.
I’m sure I could be missing plenty, so let me know whose hype you remember in the comments below!
LOVE OF THE WEEK
This week’s comics thing I love begins with love, devolves into shame, and returns to some combination of relief and hilarity.
It all started when I saw the writer and artist of Vault’s new series She Said Destroy, Joe Corallo and Liana Kangas, would be doing an in-store signing at a nearby comic shop in Chicago-land. As a fan of a lot of new Vault books, this seemed like a great opportunity to go talk to some creators. Reading She Said Destroy #1 confirmed this for me, as the series is a really compelling look at a new embattled mythology.
Long story short, I visited with Corallo and Kangas and had a really nice chat about the new series, working with Vault, some inside baseball publisher stories, and how much we all love the writing of Magdalene Visaggio. At the end of our chat, to support their book tour, I bought a signed copy of their She Said Destroy #1 tour variant cover.
It was only when I got home a few hours later (rocking chair shopping for the… well, “win” isn’t quite right) that I realized I had not paid them a dime. I completely forgot to pay.
It’s at this point in the story that I dropped dead of embarrassment, and you now realize you are reading the (impressive) typing of a ghost.
I reached out to the creators that evening with an apology and offer to pay, and they graciously moved right past the face-to-face I so brazenly committed. It’s possible they didn’t even notice, but more likely is they called the police and told everyone in all of the comics industry that the Comic Book Herald guy is a rotten pirate.
Anywho, as penance, it is now my solemn duty to end every “Previously On” column with a suggestion to check out She Said Destroy. Enjoy the comics everybody!