Well over a decade since its publication, House of M is still one of the biggest, most consequentially cataclysmic Marvel Comics crossover events in recent memory. The storyline brought together the Avengers and X-Men for a reality-altering adventure after the Scarlet Witch completely reshaped the Marvel Universe and rewrote its history. The 2005 event, by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, touched on many of the major Marvel titles at the time, particularly the X-Men related titles.
By the time the dust eventually settled at the end of the event, the Marvel Universe was restored albeit at a tremendous cost to Marvel’s Merry Mutants. Here’s how Marvel built up to the ambitious crossover, what are the most important issues to read tying into the event itself and its far-reaching impact on the Marvel Universe.
Scarlet Witch had been driven into a grief-fueled madness after the loss of her twin sons that she had conceived with Vision. An offhand comment about motherhood from the Wasp and her recent break-up with Captain America made Wanda Maximoff realize that she had the memories of ever having children erased by Agatha Harkness. A desperate Wanda approached Doctor Doom to resurrect her children but, he instead caused her to merge with an omnipotent being who further weakened her mental state.
This came to an explosive climax in Bendis and David Finch’s 2004 comic book crossover Avengers: Disassembled. Scarlet Witch’s augmented magical powers allowed her to send a zombified Jack of Hearts to Avengers Mansion, where he was revealed to be a bomb that tore the team’s headquarters apart as an out-of-control She-Hulk tore apart Vision. After using her powers to make Tony Stark intoxicated during a United Nations appearance, the global organization retracted its funding for the Avengers while a feigned Kree attack on Manhattan resulted in Hawkeye’s death. Doctor Strange ultimately revealed the unstable Scarlet Witch as the responsible party, and Magneto — who believed Wanda to be his daughter at the time — took her with him back to Genosha while a new Avengers lineup rose from the ashes.
Shortly after the New Avengers formed, the 2005 crossover event began with Professor X and Doctor Strange alerting the Avengers and X-Men in a joint meeting that they were both unable to keep Scarlet Witch’s powers at bay and heal her broken mind. While Wolverine resolves to kill her to prevent another disaster on the scale of Avengers: Disassembled, the two teams decide to travel to Genosha to speak with her before they take final, decisive action. Overhearing this, Quicksilver warns Magneto about the coming heroes, which leads to the new reality forming and the event truly taking shape.
Avengers: Disassembled is practically required reading ahead of the event itself, with the four main issues of the short event directly setting up the events of House of M, from the nature of Scarlet Witch’s augmented superpowers and mental instability to why the Avengers would act so proactively to stop her from shaping reality. During the House of M event itself, the core eight-issue series is relatively self-contained, without relying too heavily on its tie-ins. Instead, the tie-in issues expand on the activities of characters appearing throughout, from an aged Captain America who never was frozen at the end of World War II to Spider-Man’s own life posing as a mutant and adored by the general public while maintaining a happy domestic life with Gwen Stacy and their son.
By the event’s conclusion, the Avengers had their memories of the main Marvel Universe restored and confronted Scarlet Witch and Magneto in a furious, epic battle. Overwhelmed, Wanda undoes her machinations with a twist: Approximately 98% of the world’s mutant population loses their powers with no new mutant births in the immediate future, effectively making them an endangered species. The surviving mutants would regroup at the X-Mansion while their enemies, from secret Skrull invaders to extremist hate groups like the Purifiers saw see this as an opportunity to wipe out mutants from the Marvel Universe for good.
This increased desperate battle for the species’ survival would significantly inform the X-Men’s actions through the subsequent crossover events Messiah Complex, Second Coming, Schism and Avengers vs. X-Men across the following full decade as the X-Men made increasingly desperate decisions for the future of their race. And while it is currently unclear how much of House of M and its resulting impact are recalled by the Marvel Universe as a whole, it is clear that Scarlet Witch’s near-extinction of the species still occurred on some level with the citizens of Krakoa seeing her as a reviled figure and traitor to her race on a near-religious level. How this will eventually come to a head has yet to be seen, but House of M remains one of the most influential Marvel Comics crossover events 15 years since its debut.
House of M was one of the most cataclysmic Marvel Comics crossovers even, especially for the X-Men and some fan-favorite Avengers.