Comicscape: AvX Half Time Report (

By:Joel Rickenbach
Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here we are, revisiting the subject of my first Comicscape! column. Why it feels like only 12 weeks ago I started writing for Mania... Anyway, here we are at the half way mark in the Avengers vs X-Men journey. It's been a pretty smooth ride overall. Sure there have been a few pot holes, some unpaved bits and more than one detour leading to nowhere, but the highway is open before us, and I think I can speak for everybody when I say I'm still excited to see what lies at our final destination.
I figure it's a good idea to give my true believers a quick recap of the story thus far: As you may remember, The Phoenix force is headed towards earth once again, and all signs point to it wanting mutant savior, Hope as its new host. The Avengers want Hope under protection until they can deal with the Phoenix, the X-Men believe Hope bonding with the Phoenix will start a mutant rebirth. Captain America shows up at the Mutant haven Utopia, with the Avengers in tow, to try and talk some sense into Cyclops. It doesn't work, and everyone starts kicking everyone's ass. Wolverine, favoring to pull the band-aid off in one swift motion, tries to kill Hope. Unfortunately for the canuck, Hope's manifesting Phoenix powers all but obliterate him. Hope escapes, and the Avengers and X-Men search in all the likely places for her- The Savage Land, Tabula Rasa, Latveria... all of this searching creates all sorts of fun confrontations (See AvX: VS). Captain America and Wolverine disagree about how to handle the Hope situation, so Cap kicks Wolverine out of a plane. No, really. Even though he tried to kill her, Hope comes to Wolverine's rescue, and they make a pact. He helps her get to the Blue Area of the moon, and if she can't handle the Phoenix when it arrives his claws get to go "Snikt". There's some other space shenanigans and double crossing but let's leap forward for sanity's sake. On the Blue Area of the moon (read: breathable oxygen) Hope waits to meet the Phoenix force. The Avengers and X-Men both show up and begin to, what else- tussle. A near-death Thor plummets to the Moon and warns the Phoenix is upon them. Tony Stark shows up with a gigantic Iron Man/Disruptor suit and blasts the Phoenix. Instead of bonding with Hope, the Phoenix is split into five parts that bond with Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik. This newly minted "Phoenix Five" take Hope and return to earth where they start remaking the world in the Phoenix's image. Free energy, food and water for all, and complete disarmament of the world's militaries. Sounds good, right? Well, after a few weeks of peace, love and Phoenix  the White House just isn't buying it. There has to be an ulterior motive, or at the very least such power cannot go unchecked. The Avengers still believe Hope is the key, so they go on a  government-sponsored "rescue" mission to take Hope back from the mutants. It's a valiant attempt, but the Phoenix Five are just too on top of their game. However, before the fur starts flying, The Scarlet Witch swoops in and takes Hope away to parts unknown. This prompts Cyclops to utter the House of M-like phrase "No more Avengers"
The Good:


The Core book- As your direct link into the storyline it's doing an admiral job of being the widescreen epic it should be, and telling a story you don't need the tie-ins to follow. It's not perfect, the writer's distinctive styles and voices all seem mushed together, which can be seen as a good thing, but I wouldn't mind a fresh take every two issues or so. Nothing drastic mind you, but letting these creatives flex their muscles a bit wouldn't hurt. As it stands they are all pretty much toeing the editorial line. John Romita Jr's art also feels a bit rushed at times. Still though, as event books go A vs X is a very entertaining and solid read so far.

AvX: VS- it was an intriguing idea- a book dedicated to the fights, and nothing but the fights. The question was- can the creative teams make it interesting enough to make it worth shelling out $3.99 for a book that will take 5 minutes to read? The answer is, surprisingly, Yes. The VS books don't take themselves completely seriously, and that's a good thing. Each issue is laced with sometimes funny and sometimes odd factoid bubbles that connect with the in-panel action. Example: after Colossus slaps his hands together it says "Latveria will suffer a month long glass shortage due to the force of this blow". The other great thing about VS is something that is oddly rare in comic books these days- Characters using their powers in cool and interesting ways. Whether it's Gambit using his powers to lethally charge up Captain America's suit, or Iron Man using well placed satellites to mimic and counter Magneto's magnetism, there is some really cool stuff going on in this book. Much like the Frontline books of crossover's past, I hope the VS idea is here to stay.


New Avengers- The first tie-in issue has some heavy, and well written drama between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, the subsequent issues have dealt with... Iron Fist? I wasn't sure how this was going to play out, but the quick version is an ancient prophecy about a red headed girl who tamed the Phoenix force (with the help of Leonardo da Vinci!) and became the Iron Fist, only to leave the Earth on an enlightened path. The connections to our present day dilemma are obvious, so Danny Rand, the current Iron Fist, brings Hope to K'un L'un for training. After meditating with the current master Yu-Ti, it is revealed that she must be trained by "The Spider". Spider-Man arrives, but is completely unsure what to do. Hope gets a bit petulant, and Spidey unloads his "With great power comes great responsibility" schtick on her. Those who read last week's column know I lambasted that tried and true adage a bit, but here it works so well it may just be the best moment in the entire A vs X storyline so far.


The Art- Even though I mentioned Romita Jr's art being a bit rushed, he still knocks a lot of the work out of the park. Olivier Coipel's art on A vs X #6 is stunning as always, Mike Deodato's work on New Avengers is breathtaking, Renato Guedes' style brings a wonderful new look to the crossover, and all the artists on the VS books are doing great work rendering the action.

The Bad:



The X-books- They're not terrible, and the "Bad" label is a bit too harsh, but the tie-in stories feel decidedly less than. Because of the mutants' current status in the Marvel U everything feels so insulated compared to the other books. Besides a Red Hulk/Juggernaut-Colossus showdown in Uncanny X-Men, everything else feels un-essential to reading the A vs X storyline.

Avengers and Secret Avengers- Both of these books deal with the contingent of Avengers who take on the suicide mission to try and stop the Phoenix before it gets to earth. This could be a cool idea, but we already know there is no way they will succeed, and both books end up feeling absolutely pointless. I am a giant Brian Michael Bendis fan, and I would go as far as to say he probably hasn't written a truly "bad" issue in his career, but the last 3 issues of Avengers are damn close. Everything that makes him a great writer seems to be missing in these issues- the snappy dialogue, the interesting storytelling angle, the heart. If feels like the book he phoned in while devoting all his attention to the core book and New Avengers. Secret Avengers is a bit better, but also feels completely unnecessary when it wraps up. Maybe it's because they bring the characters into space, or maybe it's because the Kree are boring, either way I would say if you are trying to be frugal with this crossover you can definitely skip these two.

Avengers Academy- Hercules tries to distract the students and refugee mutant children from the war with half-assed Olympics. really?


The Ugly:


Olivier Coipel's Hope- He's an amazing artist, but this is just a head scratcher. If I'm not mistaken, Hope is supposed to be around 17 during this storyline, and In all the other books Hope is a, shall we say, developing young woman, but in A vs X #6 she looks like she's 10. It's jarring to say the least.
So, true believers, are you board with A vs X so far, or have you dropped it like a bad habit?

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