Art by Adam Kubert, John Dell, and Mark Morales
6 issues ago, I came to you my readers, a man disgusted by event fatigue. Well, thanks to a shared train ride with a friend who was picking up the series, what started as a casual “I guess I’ll read it cause I’m bored” book to a “OK, let’s see how they end this damned thing”. And I’ll be frank (and I’ll be Marc too, don’t worry)… AvX is a lesson in the continuing decline of the modern comic book epic. Bloated, predictable, pretty, and ultimately existing solely to drive the next batch of books; a means to other means, never an end. Let’s dissect the still smoldering corpse, shall we?
First off? Super-spoiler alert. Don’t read this review if you’re looking to be surprised. Go read the book. I can wait. But before you do? Trust me, there ain’t no surprises to find. Unless that ‘AR’ technology has something going on that I don’t know about. Anyways… Just as everyone predicted 12 issues ago, Hope gets a hold of the Phoenix. And then she lets it go. As a way to take his final bow, you can see Brian Michael Bendis round out his ultimate Scarlet Witch arc. The once insane chaos magic mutant rights the wrongs she let loose on the 616 back in 2004. “No more Phoenix.” If they can stick to that for the next 10 years? I’ll eat my hat.
Before the ending though, there were 20 or so pages of worthless filler. For a ‘super-sized’ issue, too much of it was wasted on unwanted wizz-bang fight scenes. You would figure after 11 issues of unnecessary fighting (where no real winners ever were declared, because that’d cause too much backlash…) the writers room might take some time to stop all the yelling, and flying, and shooting, and stabbing. You’d think that, but man, would you be wrong. I’ll spare you the details though, because honestly? It’s 4 hours since I read the issue, and I’ve plum forgotten what happened. I think Wolverine stabbed Slim in the face with his claws, but it didn’t do anything. To Cyclops, or Logan. See that? It’s a white flag flapping in the breeze.
A major plot fail here, as reported on several better blogs than my own, comes in our epilogue. Steve Rogers, in his infinite wisdom decides to chastise Scott Summers. Never mind that never once in the last 12 issues worth of series (or countless tie-ins) did Scott of ANY of the Phoenix Force Hyper Mega Force Five do anything wrong. It was only after being repeatedly attacked by the Avengers did any real escalation occur.
Now, the moral divide Bendis and company want you to chew on is simple; does one attempt to prevent disaster, or do you merely wait for the problem to arise before you act? We all know that the Phoenix force is too powerful for any mortal on Earth. It’s easily swayed by strong emotions, and can undo reality. And twice before it yielded a ‘dark’ persona that was nigh-undefeatable. So, was Captain America wrong for trying to stop it from getting to Earth? Depends on where you fall on the debate. Marvel, by the way, loves to create these psuedo-intellectual ethic problems. Civil War anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
By book’s end… Hope has faith, Iron Man does too. The Avengers are gonna get a bit ‘Uncanny’ (hyuck!). Charles Xavier had to bite it, for a fifteenth time. Where there once ‘no more mutants’, there are now many. And yeah, I know ‘no more mutants’ meant ‘OK… 200 mutants.”. And Cyclops is in a ruby quartz prison cell to atone for his sins. Luckily, he barely acknowledges that he did anything wrong, and he gets a nifty new helmet out of the deal. Wolverine gets a new reason to be pouty. I wish I could be a bit more enthusiastic about this kiddos. But the fact of the matter is, this is par for the course for event epilogues. It’s all just moving the pieces around the chess board. It’s not about the story. It’s only about the potential for more stories later. Is this a problem? Choose a side. There’s no winners.
Artistically Kubert and team deliver plenty of sparkles and sharp figure work. People punch and shoot and kick and scream. They emote with near soap-opera level faces. And the colorist bathes every panel in knockout glows, gradients, smoke, dust, and multi-filtered Kirby crackle. If you read not a single word on the page, you could just revel in the hyper-detail and cacophony of action. Is there more to say here about the art? Honestly, no. Kubert works hard to deliver what comic fans expect from a big epic event. Is it memorable? Hardly. Put this book on the shelf (visually, mind you) next to Flashpoint.
So, there you have it. Another epic event placed into the comicsphere. I wish I could say this changed the paradigm. I wish I could say that this took the sour taste out of my mouth over Siege, Dark Reign, Secret Invasion, Civil War, and whatever else I’m missing. As it stands, Avengers vs. X-Men was another bloated epic crossover full of unmemorable fights, yelling, and photoshoppery. It has set up the whole NOW concept, which I am thankful for. But having to slough through 12 issues of a plot that could have been condensed to at LEAST half the page space only proves just what our industry is dealing with. When people look down at us for having a high barrier to entry? This is exactly why they will continue to be right. And it’s why those passive fans will continue to refrain from being a part of our inner fold. Avengers vs. X-Men proved that there’s no real winners, save perhaps for Photoshop.