House Of X #3
The X-Men attack the Orchis Initiative in House Of X#3, by writer Jonathan Hickman, artist Pepe Larraz, colorist Marte Gracia, and letterer Clayton Cowles. Hickman builds this one up to a fabulous crescendo, ending on a big cliffhanger.
The X-Men, using the information from Moira X’s ninth life, prepare to send a strike team to the Mother Mold in orbit around the sun. Xavier and Magneto see off Cyclops’ team of Wolverine, Marvel Girl, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Mystique, M, and Husk. They decide not to bring any Krakoan flowers with them, making this almost a suicide mission. At Project Achilles, a supermax prison for the worst supervillains, Sabretooth is about to be arraigned. But the White Queen and two of the Stepford Cuckoos show up, bringing with them diplomatic immunity papers for Sabretooth. At the Mother Mold, the Orchis scientists prepare to activate the Mother Mold when they pick up the X-Men on scanners. Nightcrawler teleports onboard for recon and runs into Karima. He teleports back to the team, and they breach the hull to get in. The human head of security, Erasmus, makes a desperate step to stop them, though.
There’s something very off-putting about the way some of the mutants in the story are acting. Krakoa and its pharmaceuticals have given the mutants power they never had before, and some of them are acting that way. While the White Queen has never been the most humble of mutants, the way she dresses down the judge at the Project Achilles prison is a terrible strategy. It feels like she’s trying to antagonize the humans on purpose. Even though he only has a few lines of dialogue in the book, there’s still something incredibly off with Professor Xavier. Hickman is showing how some of the mutants are reacting to this new sense of power they have in world affairs. It makes a lot of sense, but it also plays into the humans’ fears of mutants. It’s bizarre that suddenly this is how people like Xavier, who while always kind of a shady operator, act. He’s never been this… aloof and grandiose. The White Queen would never provoke an entity of the United States government in this way. Hickman is creating a story where one can see that maybe humanity’s fear of mutants isn’t entirely unjustified. It’s an interesting twist for an X-Men book.
He also uses a conversation between Karima and Doctor Gregor to highlight the danger of the Mother Mold to not just mutants but humanity as well. Basically, Karima says that eventually, as Sentinels get smarter, they’ll realize that mutants come from humans and just nip the whole thing in the bud. Gregor informs her of fail-safes built into the system, but this is still a fascinating little tidbit for Hickman to bring up. It shows that both sides are playing with power that they can’t really comprehend. That they both hold the keys to the destructive future that he’s presented.
The art by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia is excellent, but the linework is a little dark and heavy in places. It hurts the fidelity of the imagery in some areas, making things a bit too dark, cutting down on some of the detail. That said, there are still some great pages, like the one that showcases Sabretooth in restraints in the courtroom. He’s massive and smug, and it gets across his vibe perfectly. Sabretooth is a killer, and this long panel illustrates that perfectly for readers.
House Of X #3 presents a lot of great ideas, showing how both sides in the brewing mutant/human conflict are driving themselves closer to tragedy. The mutants’ newfound power is making some of them hubristic and antagonistic. While humans are playing with technological power that could very well their doom if it goes the wrong way. It’s a great dichotomy, and Hickman lays out in a way that is subtle enough to not seem preachy. The art by Larraz and Gracia is a bit too dark in some places, but they still present some great imagery. While this issue doesn’t have the huge, redefining moments that previous installments of this book or Powers Of X had, it’s still a great comic.