Review: Avengers vs. X-Men (March/April Issues)

My sincere apologies for not posting in two weeks, I’ve been insanely busy and am just now winding down in my work load. The next week or so will see a whole new slew of posts I’ve been preparing, so stay tuned!

Avengers vs. X-Men #0

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The Scarlett Witch takes down villain MODOK after some help from Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman. She is coerced into returning to the Avengers Mansion, having been years since her betrayal of the team. Her husband Vision confronts her when she arrives, telling her she is still not welcome there and leaving her in tears. Meanwhile, Hope Summers, the supposed savior of the mutant race, is gradually learning more and more about herself, as well as the deadly Phoenix entity which claimed the life of Scott Summers’ wife Jean Grey. To ensure Hope doesn’t suffer the same fate, Scott takes steps to guide Hope on the right path.

Issue #0 isn’t bad per say, but it’s riddled with clichés about how Hope is this mutant savior, and has to find her way in the world with destiny on her shoulders. There’s a particularly drab sequence where Hope goes renegade for a while and fights several baddies out of her league, a sequence which feels as tired as it is overused. I haven’t really been keeping up with any recent Marvel Comics, so this is my first exposure to this character, but already she’s coming across as a walking, talking teenage stereotype.

And no, this issue isn’t exactly a good jumping on point for new readers, and I’m left to wonder why exactly Marvel has been plugging it as such. There are so many references to past events like the Phoenix Saga and…well, whatever event it was that Scarlet Witch betrayed the Avengers in, that new readers would surely be completely and utterly lost.

Issue #0 ends up being entirely disposable overall. It doesn’t really set up the conflict that brings the Avengers and the X-Men to arms with each other in any significant way, and only fans will really appreciate the added backstory. Kind of a missed opportunity, but at least not one that’s offensively bad.

Not recommended.

Avengers vs. X-Men #1

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The Avengers learn that the Phoenix has returned, and after a brief rescue of Nova’s plummeting spaceship in New York, realize the situation calls for quick and drastic action. In the meantime, Scott Summers/Cyclops pushes Hope hard in a training session and gets a brief flash of the Phoenix from her. Quickly detecting the power surge, the Avengers bring their forces to the mutant school, much to Scott’s displeasure. Captain America confronts Scott and requests he hand Hope over, arguing that the Phoenix is too dangerous and must be stopped at all costs. Scott refuses, saying that Hope is the savior of the mutant race and after the Phoenix, will bring rebirth with it and the repopulation of their people. The two quickly come to blows, christening a war between the two teams.

This is a pretty solid first issue to kick off the event, giving plenty of background into the conflict for newcomers to be able to follow. Marvel has lined up all their heavy-hitting writers and artists for the event – Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita Jr., and more – in an effort to position this as another Civil War-esque event. Sadly, Mark Millar, who scripted the latter event, is more apt to handle big, action-packed, multi-character-arc events like these, whereas Bendis, who scripts this issue, does his best work with more personal, street-level stories like his Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man runs. Still, there’s a good enough exposition here to make me think AvX could still be something special, if not nearly as poignant as Civil War.

In the vein of the latter event, AvX sets up this ideological debate over whether Hope is a threat or a savior. Maybe it’s my personal team preference, but Cyclops’ logic seems a bit backwards…Cap’s just trying to protect people, and Cyclops seems perfectly willing to get people killed on the off chance the Phoenix rebirths the mutant’s numbers. Their conflict just feels a bit forced, like the seeds of the altercation weren’t planted well enough ahead of time. Of course, that’s coming from someone who hasn’t read any of the preceding books building up to the event, nor has any intention of reading most of the tie-in books, so there could be more to this story than what I’m seeing.

I like that there are hints, in dialogue or otherwise, that this event will really bring out the heart of what both of these teams and their respective characters are all about. The X-Men, as an oppressed race of outsiders, secretly bear an unshakable sense of being different, and have this repressed need to handle things on their own and prove themselves as a people, which is sort of what Scott wants to do. The Avengers, on the other hand, take on issues facing the world head-on, feeling it’s their responsibility to help everyone and anyone, even if it means protecting the X-Men from themselves. I have high hopes the upcoming issues will really hit home with those themes.

Recommended.

Avengers vs. X-Men #2

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Picking up directly after the first issue, the X-Men and the Avengers begin their brawl. Cyclops holds his ground, arguing that the Avengers are interfering in their business and always want to control them. Cap and Co. argue that they just want to ensure the safety of the people. Wolverine takes the side of the Avengers, a betrayal which many X-Men take personally. Out in space, Thor, Beast, and more Avengers stumble upon the Phoenix, hurtling towards Earth at a rapid pace.

Things have really dropped off after the first issue. This issue is all about the fight, but it feels so impersonal, so lacking in an “epic” feel. There are far too many characters and individual conflicts here for anything to really hold weight and meaning. So much for not needing tie-ins.

To give the experience some kind of value, there are these omniscient dialogue boxes that try to make each fight seem epic and unprecedented, like so:

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It gets annoying, like the writers couldn’t build up a case for WHY each individual dual is so meaningful, and instead simply wrote in these boxes trying to make the sequence more than what it is.

It’s still a little early to be making Civil War comparisons, but one of the reasons that series worked so well was because each of its characters were relatively fleshed out in the main series. There were plenty of character-defining moments like Spider-Man revealing his identity, that really hit home. Those moments are, thus far, conspicuously absent from AvX.

Not to mention, each warring side in Civil War had a legitimate argument in the classic debate of freedom vs. security. This debate, again, seems overly forced. Haven’t Scott and the X-Men been friends of the Avengers for years? How can the trust they’ve built up over all this time suddenly evaporate just like that? How can Scott just immediately conclude that the Avengers are out to get them?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still intrigued by this premise and definitely want to read more, but there needs to be more going on in terms of story than just, “It’s Avengers fighting the X-Men!” Civil War took a debate relevant to the political climate of the time and turned it into one of the greatest, most effective crossovers of all time. AvX is simply tinkering around with a faux-ideological debate and blowing it up to unnecessary proportions.

If you’re hell-bent on following this event, Issue #2 is still okay and worth checking out, it just doesn’t feel as impactful as it should at this point. Whether it sounds worth checking out or not is entirely up to you.

AVX VS. #1

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In a filling-in of the fight scenes in AvX #2, AvX VS. #1 fleshes out two battle sequences between members of the opposing teams, Iron Man vs. Magneto and Namor vs. The Thing. That’s about it in the way of plot.

The language they use in the promos preceding the “story” here squarely targets a younger audience, glossing the book up with a ridiculous FAQ that actually uses “fightingest” as a word, and generally trying to make the book look like it’s worth buying. “EXPLOSIONS! FIGHTING! BUY OUR BOOK!”…it’s the print equivalent of an action figure commercial.

The truth is, this book lacks any kind of sophistication whatsoever. It’s two long, uninteresting, stylized fight sequences written in the most childish way possible, the kind of thing that writer Jason Aaron excels at, for better or for worse. Aaron places “fun facts” in some of the panels to pass as humor, one of which reads, “Fun Fact: Iron Man likes to exaggerate” after the character makes an obvious exaggeration. Ha?

Take this for what it is: two scenes of beloved Marvel icons duking it out, exchanging cringe-worthy puns and cheesy insults in the process, and written in the kind of way I wrote my own comics when I was ten. For me, this is the most unengaging kind of comic, and I’m completely and totally indifferent to its indulgent mindlessness.

Kids might like it, if only to make them feel superior about their own writing skills, but adults and serious readers need not apply.

Not recommended.

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