The House of Ideas is celebrating 80 years of publishing with 80 stories in one $9.99 special, Marvel Comics #1000! Does any single issue pack enough content to earn this huge price tag? This week on The Marvel Rundown we are taking a critical look at Marvel’s birthday special!
Plus, back-to-back issues of Powers of X, House of X #3 returns us to the current X-Men timeline, where Cyclops and his team are on a deadly mission to save mutantkind. There’s a spoiler alert for our House of X chat, so consider yourself warned!
Without further ado, here’s The Marvel Rundown.
Marvel Comics #1000
Written by Various
Art by Various
Cover by Alex Ross
Alexander Jones: The much-anticipated issue commemorating The House of Ideas is here! Marvel Comics #1000 is another stepping stone into Marvel’s 80th Anniversary and an issue combining the likes of Howard the Duck with Conan the Barbarian into one comic book. AJ, Chloe, Joe, I can’t wait to hear your takes on this massive new one-shot heralding an important birthday for one of the top publishers in comic books!
Joe Grunenwald: Marvel Comics #1000 is a very strange animal: an 80-plus-page anthology of one-page stories, some that interconnect but most that are relatively standalone. I almost don’t even know where to begin to talk about this book, except to say that, unlike a lot of anthologies we’ve discussed, I thought this one was overall pretty strong.
Jones: I have to agree with you. I was pleasantly surprised to see a relatively focused, 80-plus page one-shot. When the series wasn’t focused around the main plot, it took the time to flesh out important characters and moments in Marvel history. Marvel attempts to chronicle each year of the publisher and include an important first appearance or moment from that specific year. Do you agree that for some of these stories, they kind of stretch that premise to the limit? I think a good example is Iron Man first battling Doctor Doom in 1981; I hardly find that a seminal moment in the publisher’s history even if it could be considered important.
Chloe Maveal: I…actually disagree pretty harshly with it being strong. Al Ewing‘s writing throughout was fabulous as always and the story running consistently was awesome. But it should have been its own stand-alone story. I know what they were trying to do with explaining the history of Marvel for the 80th anniversary, but to me, it felt so much of that history fell short, wasn’t featured, or wasn’t actually built to show the significance of certain events. Or hell, even traded some of the big spotlights for ones that really don’t hold a lot of weight in the grand scheme of things. It just felt disjointed and inconsistent from an editorial standpoint.
AJ Frost: Hey there Marvel Rundown muchachos! Nice to be back after a few weeks away. Chums, this was a beast of an issue to be sure. I was so surprised—pleasantly—by the breadth and depth of the characters featured here, the types of stories included, and the expansive range of creators asked to contribute. Sure, not every story landed, but the intent here was truly admirable. Chloe, I understand your critique about the disjointed nature of this issue. But of course, the history of Marvel itself is primarily piecemeal and made up as it went along.
Grunenwald: I definitely agree with you, Chloe, on it being disjointed. I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if it had been one story, or if Al Ewing had had more of a hand in crafting all of the other disparate parts, as they’re pretty much completely detached from the story he’s telling in what I considered the ‘main’ segments of the issue. I know I was more interested in those segments than in the others. Once I started to think of it as more of an anthology in the style of the actual 1000th issues of Detective Comics or Action Comics, I started to enjoy it more. There are absolutely stories that are better/stronger than others, though.
Jones: Due to the immense amount of stories in the chapter, I hardly think there is anything Marvel can do from making the comic disjointed. I also agree with you Joe in that the issue would have been stronger overall if Ewing would have been able to take center stage and tell one story instead of having to disperse short vignettes where the main plot barely inches forward. This issue is similar to those Action Comics #1000 and Detective Comics #1000 anthologies. I liked this issue more because the concept of the mega-story from Ewing stretched across the nearly full run-time. I felt like there was a reason to read each story.
Grunenwald: The reason I read each story was to see if it ever tied in to the main Ewing thread. Spoiler alert: nope!
Frost: I wonder if y’all think that 1000th issue designation is arbitrary. We can argue the math for the Action Comics and Detective Comics issues. But for this particular anthology, do you feel that Marvel Comics #1000 is earned?
Maveal: I mean…literally not at all. It’s not an actual 1000th issue. It’s not a 1000th Marvel title. If anything I feel like this was Marvel’s jealous younger sibling grab at the success of the actual 1000th issues that we’ve seen from DC. The whole thing wasn’t a bust, as there’s tons of amazing talent seen in the writing and artwork of individual stories. But overall it feels like a quantity over quality collection.
Jones: I agree that the 1,000 designation is silly. Also, it probably could and should be argued that Marvel could have just called this Marvel Comics #1 and made it a special one-shot. Marvel Comics Presents was not picked up with anniversary numbering when it relaunched, which I appreciated. Also, I’m curious to hear what direct stories piqued everyone’s interest. Which chapters did you love or hate?
Grunenwald: Yeah, I understand the intent behind using the #1000 designation, but it just seems weird. I’d wager, if they had just called it an 80th anniversary special, it wouldn’t have sold as well. It wouldn’t have ‘counted’ or something. As for stories that stood out to me, all of the Ewing installments were great from both a writing and an art perspective. I’m very interested in the story that Ewing told, and I hope he gets to follow up on it at some point (I don’t expect much from the forthcoming Marvel Comics #1001). Beyond those, I think the ones that were a little more experimental both visually and storytelling-wise were the ones that jumped out at me.
Frost: I agree with all of you on the numbering front. The one-page stories, such as the Alex Ross Hulk tale, were highlights to me. It was fun seeing all the disparate art styles. In some ways, Marvel Comics #1000 functions not only as a look back on Marvel as a company but about the history of comics as a whole. The opening Golden Age panel which then leads to a more contemporary image was a nice juxtaposition, as well as a reminder of the historical progression of comics in term of craft and form in the ensuing 80 years.
Jones: I think the definitive low-point for me was Worldwide Creative Director of Epic Games Donald Mustard’s story entitled “End of the Day.” It was interesting to see him write and draw a comic, but I think the stinger and crux behind the story was a little obvious. I really liked the writing and art from Brad Meltzer and Julian Totino Tedesco on “We’re Calling Him Ben.” I thought that was a really sweet story with beautiful art. I mean there were quite a few highlights in here that had nothing to do with Ewing’s larger story. The beautiful irreverence of the Ed Brisson-written and Jorge Fornes-illustrated story “The Big Bounce” is another great example. I thought the stories in here were of a higher quality than those recent DC Anniversary one-shots overall, as well, with the exception of tales like “End of the Day.”
Grunenwald: “We’re Calling Him Ben” was a touching story. I also enjoyed Mark Waid‘s and John Cassaday‘s Captain America piece (I hesitate to call it a story — it was more of an essay) for being timely and beautiful to look at. [Editor’s Note: this discussion took place prior to Marvel replacing the text of Waid and Cassaday’s page.] The Elsa Bloodstone tale by Kelly Thompson and Pepe Larraz also made me laugh.
Frost: Was anyone surprised by the inclusion of characters here? Darth Vader and Miracleman? Such great additions!
Maveal: I agree with you, AJ, on enjoying all of different styles of art and storytelling. The ones that stuck out the most to me were the ones that stuck to the more lighthearted feel that Marvel is known for keeping to over the ages — whether that’s through art or scripting. Steve Rude obviously blew my socks off (I’ll be concerned if he ever doesn’t). “We’re Calling Him Ben” was lovely. I particularly loved “She” by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka because it felt very fitting for the here and now of female heroes. And Tom Taylor‘s “Part of Your World” featuring X-23 made me smile all stupid just because it felt like what the entire idea of Marvel was built on.
Grunenwald: Honestly, AJ? I hated that characters like Conan, Darth Vader, and Miracleman were included here. I know the Star Wars property in particular was hugely important to the history of Marvel Comics, so I can understand why it was there, but it also just rubbed me the wrong way. And we’ve waited literal years for new Miracleman work from Gaiman and Buckingham…and they bury it in this book? That infuriated me a little. Purely personal preference, but come on.
Maveal: I’m with Joe on this one. It felt like a further tease for something that’s been promised for ages without any of the payoff. Not to mention that Darth Vader was something promised in the issue since SDCC and then when I saw the page, it was a bit underwhelming for how much of the hype was built around his appearance.
Jones: I agree. Darth Vader and Miracleman did not have a lot to do in the issue. The novelty of Marvel throwing Miracleman and sticking him in here gave me a false sense of hope for the continuation of that book. Still, I want to mention how special it is that we are getting some of this talent on a Marvel book. Neil Gaiman, Mark Buckingham, Marcos Martin, Steve Rude and Chris Claremont are not names that contribute Marvel work weekly anymore. Getting the chance to see my current favorites like Chip Zdarsky paired with people I have been anticipating more work from like Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung is sheer delight. That Jeff Lemire story was breathtaking as well!
Frost: Jeff Lemire can’t be beat at anything these days! I truly enjoyed the “Not Brand Echh!” story and the Dr. Strange story illustrated by Mike Allred.
Jones: I enjoyed Joe Hill‘s and Micheal Allred’s “Dr. Strange: Spin Cycle” story as much as I disliked the “The MJ Memoirs” from J. Scott Campbell, which was another low point for me. There’s a lot of stories in here and not every one is essential.
Grunenwald: Flipping through the issue again, a few more stories stand out to me: the Mary Jane/Gwen Stacy story by Gerry Conway and Greg Land; “Professor Cold Call” by Lord, Miller, Rodriguez, and Lopez; “Armor: Disassemble” by Chip Zdarsky, which hit me surprisingly hard. There’s quite a few really solid stories here. The ones that are weaker, in my opinion, come unsurprisingly from the first-time comic writers. Thankfully they’re only a page each so the bad ones are over quickly.
Frost: Ready to wrap this puppy up?
Jones: I was really excited to see so many quality stories under one roof. I really enjoyed the larger narrative surrounding “The Eternity Mask” from Al Ewing. As you mentioned earlier Joe, there are highs and lows here but stories like “Armor: Disassemble” have stuck with me longer after closing out the book. Chances are the bad stories or ones that you don’t like will be over soon. One-page stories make for a fairly speedy read. “…And the Raider” made me do a fist pump in real life. I’m going with a BUY verdict without any hesitation.
Frost: I’m a BUY as well. No matter the individual quality of the stories, the Marvel Comics #1000 package itself warrants examination and appreciation from comics buyers. More than a curiosity, this book examines Marvel’s legacy while also looking forward.
Maveal: I’m gonna be the contrarian and firmly go with BROWSE on Marvel Comics #1000. For a $10 “key” issue of a comic, I kind of expect more effort for it to not be disjointed and inconsistent. While individual stories certainly shine (both writing and visually) and Al Ewing is, as always, a damn rockstar writer, I can’t justify the price tag or the hype for something that feels like the comic equivalent of a jam band session.
Grunenwald: I’m with Chloe on this one: it’s a BROWSE from me as well. While I do think the good material in this book outweighs the bad, at the end of the day this is a decent-sized commitment both financially and in terms of time just to read the thing. Mileage will definitely vary for people whether it’s worth it or not. That said, if you’re a diehard Marvelite, I think you’re going to love this book.
Final Verdict: Marvel Comics #1000 splits the Rundown crew: Alex and AJ give it a BUY, while Chloe and Joe suggest a BROWSE!
House of X #3
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Pepe Larraz
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design work by Tom Muller
Cover by Pepe Larraz & Marte Gracia
Samantha Puc: After a double header of Powers of X, we’re jumping back to its sister series with House of X #3. This issue finally rounds out the X-Men team and marks the first appearances of major characters like Emma Frost and Nightcrawler. Chloe, did anything about this issue stand out to you in particular?
Chloe Maveal: The whole issue stuck out to be honest. Mostly because it felt like a nice break from the complications of Powers of X, but also it seemed very straight forward in terms of plot (while not being dull in any sense.) Then again, I am absolutely mad for Nightcrawler so maybe I’m biased in terms of how great that whole moment was.
Puc: I am also a Nightcrawler fan, so you’re in good company! I’ll be honest, though: Emma Frost’s appearance was the big highlight for me. It was excellent to see her make such a grand entrance and Jonathan Hickman has a great handle on her voice. I also loved the way Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia rendered her and — I’m assuming — Sophie and Phoebe (sans Esme). None of the mutants are overly-concerned with proper diplomacy at this point, which is a refreshing take on their relationship to humankind.
There’s a lot going on in this issue, but as you noted, it’s pretty straightforward — Cyclops and his assembled team have to destroy the Mother Mold before Nimrod can be created, and they’re using Moira X’s plans from her past life. Even with the perfect plan, though, things still go awry… How did you feel about the ending of this issue, knowing that we’ll jump right into House of X #4 next week?
Maveal: I’m of two minds about it, really. I think having the team seemingly blown up is a great piece of drama that closed off what was already a very tense story. However, in some way or another I’m convinced that it’s either a fluke or nothing permanent. Scott’s talk with Magneto and Xavier at the beginning of the issue made it seem almost like a religious conversation that basically ended with Xavier (in some way probably knowing) that despite the risks, the team cannot die. And the question is still left as to where Nightcrawler is after the explosion so there’s got to be some exposition there. It’s false drama, but its false drama that works.
Puc: I thought back to Scott’s confidence about getting the mission done, no matter the risks. I think it’s possible that the explosion won’t do any actual damage to the team — possibly the cutting was even a divergence from a different means of infiltrating the station. I don’t know! But I agree that the drama is overblown, in a way that still works for the story.
Your comment about the religiosity of Scott’s conversation with Magneto and Xavier is a good point, as well. Obviously religion is a heavy theme in House of X, and the dialogue reflects that. I do wonder about the role of sacrifice and martyrdom in relationship to this issue, given the opening and closing quotes about death and memory, as well as Moira X’s mutant power of reincarnation. Also… are some of these X-Men… pod people?
Maveal: The idea of Krakoa and the society built around it by mutants is very easy to be seen in a religious — or even cult-like — way. It’s a game of “follow the leader for the greater good” which always requires some good characters with a solid martyr complex. Luckily for the story, they got Scott who is historically a textbook martyr for the X-Men. In terms of pod people? I kind of assume so since we saw new mutants being birthed from pods in the first issue of House of X, but also it’s mentioned that there will be casualties. Do you think it’s possible that Xavier is willing to sacrifice the newer people of Krakoa for the greater good? Or maybe willing to sacrifice them knowing they can be brought back with pods? Like, despite them being sacred to mutantkind, this cult-like mentality (regardless of how good it may be in the end) sees them as expendable?
Puc: The DNA charts in Powers of X make me think that perhaps Xavier’s lack of concern about sacrifice is literally, as you said, because he can regrow mutants as needed. This is the new world order: mutants must prevail, no matter the cost. It’s an interesting thing to think about, because it’s such a circular structure of power. And I wonder how much of that Moira has a hand in, versus Xavier or Magneto. Now that we’re halfway through House of X and nearly halfway through HOX/POX, we’re reaching the point where something’s gotta give, right?
Maveal: As morally ambiguous as it seems, Im actually really digging the circular logic behind everything right now. Sacrifice at any cost. Oppressed peoples coming together for the greater good but ultimately still being lead and destroyed by a larger power that they trust. Moira having been a character on the periphery for so long and now she may be the puppet master of everything. Somehow it feels like the culmination of what a lot of X-Men stories have tried to tell over the years but with a lot more “yes, this is literally what it means”. It being halfway through both books just makes me more excited as to what we can expect from the latter half.
Puc: Hickman is rewriting and reconfiguring so much X-Men history and making some really big, bold moves — it’s ballsy, and I respect it. It seems like we’re picking up speed with each issue, which is encouraging and exciting. I like the feeling of racing toward something in a story, and knowing how many titles are in Dawn of X this fall makes the anticipation even greater.
I also want to call out the data pages and documents in this issue, designed by Tom Muller — these pages drive home the progression of the sentinels and just how important it is for the X-Men to stop Nimrod’s formation before it starts. They also reveal that the plans Apocalypse stole for Moira aren’t complete, which actually does hint at Scott’s plan going awry, now that I think about it… The issue title, “Once More Into the Breach,” literally recalls Pacific Rim but also suggests that we have been here before and we may be here again. The circularity is a lot, but somehow, it isn’t boring, which is a feat.
Maveal: “Once more into the breach” as well as the idea of going through something and then being prepared to go through it again ties directly into Moira’s reincarnation powers, too The fun part will be how Hickman decides to break that cycle. You can only go around and around so many times before something flings out.
Puc: Well, she only has a finite number of lives, after all… and she’s nearing the end. I think at this point, my only speculation is, “shit will hit the fan!” I’m surprisingly OK with going along for the ride.
Maveal: If nothing else, it’s undeniable that we’re all on the edge of our seat trying to put together the puzzle.
Puc: Totally. Do you want to draw attention to anything else, or do you want to give a final verdict?
Maveal: I think that’s about it from me. This was a great transitional issue that provided a titillating setup for what we’re about to see for the next few weeks. I’d give this a really solid BUY.
Puc: Absolutely — bring on the rest of this universe-shifting arc! I’m also giving this issue a solid BUY.
Final Verdict: It’s a unanimous BUY from Samantha and Chloe!
Next week: Web of Black Widow #1, Ghost-Spider Annual (2019) #1, and House of X #4! Plus, don’t miss Nick Kazden‘s “HiX-Men Moment of the Week” on Friday.