Some comic characters have reached the status of icon. Sometimes a run of particular comic book becomes iconic for its lasting impact on a character’s story. Occasionally, there will even be a single comic issue that stands out above all others because it introduces a character or has a meaningful plot twist or cliffhanger.
Then…on those rare occasions that are like gazing on a pristine white unicorn, we catch a glimpse of a single comic book panel that is so perfect and meaningful that it is fair to say it takes on ‘iconic’ status.
Let’s talk about one of those iconic comic book panels: “No more mutants.” from issue #7 of the House of M event from Marvel comics.
After she became unstable, a group of heroes, including the Avengers and the X-Men, decided Scarlet Witch’s powers were too dangerous. She was out of control. She caused too much damage and death. When it seemed they were going to simply kill her, Quicksilver convinced her to change the world and we saw House of M.
At the end of House of M was when she uttered the words, “NO MORE MUTANTS.” and things haven’t been the same since.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and appearing in House of M 7 in 2005, this single comic book panel immediately rippled through the Marvel Universe and had lasting repercussions for over a decade.
But what made this single comic book panel so lasting?
It shook up two main franchises. This single panel rocked both the Avengers and the X-Men. First, the Avengers had to own the fact that the Scarlet Witch was singularly responsible for the chaos created due to her mental breakdown and loss of control of her powers. (A fact that incidentally did not chasten them during the Avengers vs. X-Men event.)
Then, of course, this single panel was a decade defining moment for the X-Men. Mutants who once numbered in the millions were suddenly depowered, left with only 198. This spawned several storylines:
- A new comic, 198, followed the remaining few, now living as a minority dangerously close to extinction.
- Depowered mutants had fresh storyline hooks, as writers could uncover how they felt and lived after suddenly finding themselves without their powers.
- In a metaphor really on the nose, the character of Hope was created, spinning into new X-Men stories like Messiah Complex and Second Coming, which dealt with the first new mutant births.
- The sudden elimination of numbers forced the X-Men into severe survival mode, exhibited most visibly by a suddenly activist-minded and isolationist Cyclops, who took upon himself the mantle of saving mutants from extinction. This move itself led to a multitude of future storylines, such as Avengers vs. X-Men, Schism, and even those into the present day.
It’s a tight panel. Speaking of just the comic panel itself, the tight focus gives it weight. You see a close-up of just the mouth of a visibly agitated Scarlet Witch, with the only words spoken being “No more mutants.”
Olivier Coipel is a fantastic artist, who rendered the panel well, but it was the lack of extravagance that has helped the panel be so well remembered.
It was an intensely powerful moment. The Scarlet Witch didn’t shout the words, she simply spoke them. She effortlessly wielded incredible power, enough so that it completely shifted the Marvel Universe, all without even raising her voice.
This power wasn’t like the wild, chaotic Dark Phoenix Saga power, nor was it cosmic forces pummeling each other. It was a quiet power, illustrated well in a single panel. It was 3 small words that changed the face of the Marvel Universe.
It was really “not as many mutants.” It was clever storytelling by Marvel. They had created a world with millions of mutants, many of them named and scattered throughout a gazillion titles. It would be easier to understand the popularity of Furbies than it would have been to understand all the mutant characters.
As a storytelling device, this single panel wiped the slate cleaner, taking a lot of the cruft and excess off the board. In doing so, they also introduced a shift in direction that allowed for brand new stories to emerge, such as Utopia and the shift in Cyclops, who became the new Magneto figure.
Rarely does a single comic book panel carry so much weight and single such a pronounced shift in a publishing company. “No more mutants.” has more than earned its status as an iconic comic book panel.
If you haven’t read House of M, or if it’s been a while, give it a look. And keep your eyes open for a single panel that will for once live up to the marketing hype: it will change everything.
Here is a great collected volume of House of M at a good bargain.