So far, Jonathan Hickman’s tenure on Marvel’s X-line has resulted in a major change that keeps all of the X-Men’s history intact but adds an entirely new context with which to look at it. The stakes have been redefined, as the past and future are used to add a new meaning to the present. House of X and Powers of X have been incredibly stylistic and unique compared to pretty much any X-book to come before them, with nonlinear storytelling, alternate lifetimes, and data pages changing the way each issue reads. House of X #3 stands out immediately as Hickman’s first issue writing the X-Men being the X-Men, and it is a joy to read.
The opening scene of the issue is Scott having formed his team to attack Orchis and disable their Mother Mold. It features the first proper team interaction among the X-Men, and Hickman is able to prove his handle on several of these characters’ voices within a single page. Wolverine and Marvel Girl don’t have too many lines in this opening scene, but both of them read refreshingly in character, and the interactions that Cyclops has with the rest of the team are enough to whet one’s appetite and keep readers wanting more.
The standout scene of the issue is Sabretooth’s court hearing in the aftermath of his arrest in House of X #1. Hickman’s sense of humor works perfectly in this scene, as Sabretooth gleefully mouths off to his handlers. The highlight of the scene is Hickman’s first turn at writing Emma Frost, who he writes as delightfully sassy and aloof in the best way. Jonathan Hickman has previously mentioned Emma Frost as one of his favorite mutants of all time, and it really shows in this scene, as he writes her in a way that will please her legion of fans as well as intrigue readers who are less familiar with the character.
The rest of the issue focuses on the X-Men’s assault on Orchis, where Pepe Larraz’s art is able to shine beautifully. Larraz’s depiction of the Orchis base right next to the sun is gorgeous, and every scene in space feels like it is truly larger than life. Gracia’s colors contribute spectacularly to this effect as well, making space feel truly unfamiliar and unwelcoming. Larraz continues to draw each character in a way that truly feels definitive, showing off that he really is one of the best superhero artists working today. This extends to the scenes not in space as well. Sabretooth and Emma are drawn in a way that shows their characterization without needing any dialogue, and the first panel showing Cyclops’ team in detail has them all in poses that depict the attitudes they bring to the table without speaking a word.
Hickman’s X-books have become known for their widespread use of data pages, and this issue is no exception. The data pages in this issue serve to explain some of the developments of the previous issue of Powers of X as well as flesh out some definitions, such as Master Mold and Mother Mold. Hickman also uses the data pages to provide exposition for some of the settings, such as Project Achilles, where Sabretooth’s hearing takes place. Rather than have a character explain where they are, Hickman chooses to use a data page to provide all necessary context to Project Achilles before diving right into it, which helps the flow of the scene immensely. This issue also finally features the full Krakoan to English cipher, after over a month of fans decoding it manually, which allows readers to go back and read prior issues with even more context – something that nearly every issue that Hickman has written so far has done.
House of X #3 provides a taste of what Hickman’s run on X-Men proper will likely be. It’s the first issue to focus on the characters that readers already know, and gives many of them some wonderful chances to shine. It’s a far more straightforward issue than either House of X or Powers of X have been so far, and for longtime X-Fans who have been waiting to see how Hickman will treat the characters they love, it is immensely satisfying. This issue serves as the first “standard” X-Men story in over a month, and Hickman, Larraz, and Garcia have shown that this was worth the wait.