ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX Round Nine: Peter Parker Piques A Power-Packing Piotr
In the chill of night, at the scene of a crime, like a streak of light you've arrived just in time for the ninth installment of ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX, our unofficial scorecard for Marvel's big summer publishing event, Avengers Vs. X-Men. Your friendly neighborhood Jason Aaron is back behind the wheel of the AvX-Mobile with Adam Kubert and Laura Martin as his Amazing Friends.
The story so far: As Spidey's back-up singers like to say, it's a great big bang up. Five X-Men were given the power of the Phoenix Force and used it to solve the world's problems, but Namor went rogue and waged war on Wakanda. Now Namor has lost his power and the Avengers have retreated to the mystical city of K'un-Lun to train Hope Summers to be the new Phoenix host, and everyone is totally mad at everyone else.
Round nine! Wealth and fame, we've ignored; action is our reward!
Avengers Vs. X-Men #9
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Jason Aaron
Artists: Adam Kubert, John Dell, Laura Martin, Larry Molinar
Opening Score: Avengers 110 / X-Men 200
The action opens "17 hours from now," with now being eight days after the end of the last issue. So, it's about nine days later. We learn from the roster page that some Avengers have been injured and others have been imprisoned between issues. I must say, that's an innovative way to tell the story. Infographics are the new comics! Marvel can do this whole story as a spreadsheet!
The "17 hours from now" opening shows us that events are heading for another punchy confrontation. Colossus is hitting someone very hard. But before we get there, we go back to the present (but not Marvel NOW, guys, Marvel NOW is later) to find that there's already a punchy confrontation and Colossus is already hitting someone very hard, though in this case it's Thor, who can take a few hard punches.
Once again I find I miss the editorial captions that tell you which other comic you should read if you want to see the rest of the story, because I am very much on board for a Colossus/Thor wrassle.
Losing Thor is the latest blow to the Avengers, who seem to be in a state of disarray. They're so disorganized that they haven't even found time to get their injured members out of their costumes and into hospital gowns. Look, they're all fully dressed in bed! They probably still have their boots on! But fair enough; where is anyone ever going to find a spare robe in a mystic temple?
Meanwhile, Tony Stark is staring at his computer and musing, "The Phoenix. Wanda's hex magic. Hope. The Iron Fist. Somehow it all fits together..." Spoiler: He's looking at the planning notes from last year's Marvel writers' retreat. Scroll on, you crazy diamond.
Hope is apparently now an Avenger, making her X-Avenger #5 before it all gets uncannily confusing. (After Beast, Wolverine, Storm and Brian Braddock, nerdy trivia fans! Which is all of you!) (Yes, I'm counting Brian Braddock as an X-Man.) (No, we don't need to make a big deal about it.)
So now that Hope's former persecuted cult of geographically isolated weirdos and pompous paternalists has gone mainstream, she's found a new persecuted cult of geographically isolated weirdos and pompous paternalists to hang out with. Membership comes with a photo ID card, three limited edition HeroClix, a Spider-Man pep talk and a holofoil embossed trapper-keeper. But we only get to see the pep talk.
Ten points to the X-Men for taking out Thor. Ten points to the Avengers for convincing the mutant Patty Hearst to join their K'unlionese Liberation Army. Five points for all the superheroes owning superhero pajamas.
Current Score: Avengers 125 / X-Men 210
Over in Russia, the Rasputin siblings toss Thor in a volcano.
It is at this point that some of the other X-Men wonder if perhaps things have gone too far.
Yes, you heard me right. There are other X-Men! There are other X-Men in this comic! X-Men talking to X-Men! In character! It's very exciting! I think this last happened somewhere around issue #5. And given this brief moment of panel time and a few scraps of dialogue to enjoy, Storm gets straight to the point by noting that there is something rotten in the state of... Siberia, apparently. Good job, team!
Oh, and the volcano thing actually happened too. The X-Men lose ten points for tossing Thor in a volcano, but Storm recoups five points just for being there and rolling her eyes at it. (One assumes. We can't really see what her eyes are doing because they're all white.)
Current Score: Avengers 125 / X-Men 205
The real in-character X-Men moment lasts two panels, then we're off to Ethiopia for a romantic meeting in the blazing hot deserts between Phoenix-Scott and Phoenix-Emma. They talk about how everything is going to hell (as seen in other books, presumably) and how Emma can now read everyone's mind, which seems to have mellowed her out since her Lady MacPhoenix routine with Namor two issues ago. Emma is worried about what the power will do to her. Cyclops does what he does best in difficult situations; he abandons his woman. (Too soon? I can't tell with the Marvel sliding timeline.)
It turns out Emma had good cause to be worried about the corrupting influence of power, as exactly one page later she decides to go around the world killing people who harbor dark secrets. Which is terrible. But also fantastic. Isn't this exactly how you'd expect an amped-up and righteous Emma Frost to behave? In the world of the Phoenix Four, Emma Frost is the bogeyman that bad children are warned about.
Emma gets 15 points for becoming the telepathic Punisher and loses five because what she's doing is very naughty.
Current Score: Avengers 125 / X-Men 215
Over in Wakanda, "or at least what's left of it" (that is coldly glib for a caption, guys), Storm comes to ask her husband for help. And this is where, after being the voice of reason for so long, Black Panther suddenly and unexpectedly goes off the rails. Not only does he not want to talk to Storm, but he has unilaterally annulled their marriage.
Now, let's be clear here: The Storm/Black Panther marriage was built on a flimsy foundation. It made as much sense as Daredevil marrying Mary Jane because they both appeared in issues of Amazing Spider-Man and they both have red hair. But it's pretty well established now, and as a wise Marvel editor once noted, it's difficult for a parent to explain to their child how one of the good guys could get a divorce or an annulment. Yet in the midst of rebuilding his country Black Panther found the time to get his marriage annulled behind his wife's back! Won't somebody think of the children?
The unreported story here is that there's some kind of techno-doucheganic virus going around the Avengers. First it got Cap, then Iron Man, then Thor. Black Panther seemed to be immune, but I guess at that level of exposure even he couldn't hold out forever. Black Panther has fallen. I no longer want to read Black Panther Slaps the Marvel Universe. I want the Marvel Universe to slap Black Panther.
This court orders Black Panther to pay Storm twenty-five points for abandonment.
Current Score: Avengers 100 / X-Men 240
Storm rolls with it. She has Avengers to save, you know? There's business to take care of. She's a superhero. Remember those, guys? Remember superheroes? We're about to find out that one Avenger does.
Captain America leads a retrieval team into the Phoenix Four's volcano base (never a sign of villainy, volcano bases; perfectly reasonable real estate choice). They meet up with Storm and Professor X and discover that, whoops, Illyana put a slice of hell dimension in the volcano, just in case the volcano base thing really was too ambiguous.
The home invasion does not go unnoticed by Illyana and Colossus, who at that moment are debating the finer points of putting crab legs on whales. And suddenly I want to go to Red Lobster. The crustacean-cetaceans are a strange aside that teaches us that having the Phoenix Force has not made Colossus any smarter. But that's OK, Piotr. You're still the pretty one. (Important note: They might actually be scorpion legs, but my jokes don't work if they're scorpion legs.)
The Rasputins come after the Avengers with predictable results -- and an unexpected swerve. Realizing that everyone in the fight is going to get crushed, Spider-Man triggers a rock slide that puts the Avengers and rescued prisoners on the other side of the wall from himself and the Rasputins. He proceeds to get his clock thoroughly cleaned by Colossus.
And it is fantastic. It's a pure hero moment. It's a superhero moment. It's a Spider-Man moment. It's exactly the sort of thing this book needs. Colossus tells Spider-Man not to get back up. Of course he gets back up. He has to get back up to give the prisoners time to escape. He has to get back up because he's Spider-Man.
Storm gets another ten points for finally bringing the two sides together.
Spider-Man gets 100 points for being a superhero.
Current Score: Avengers 200 / X-Men 250
The end of the encounter is sadly a little suspect, with Spider-Man playing on sibling rivalry to get the Rasputins to de-Phoenix each other, but I can just about buy it. Illyana is a brat and Colossus forgot that whales can't survive out of water. (But the problem, Piotr is not breathing; it's weight and heat. The more you know.)
Fun fact: Colossus, aka Piotr Rasputin, has now savagely beaten two of the other Peters in the Marvel Universe: Pete Wisdom and Peter Parker. Now he just has to vanquish Quicksilver and Paste Pot Pete and he will be King of All the Peters.
The most confounding moment in the closing pages is that Professor X manifests a pair of psychic knives that cut through demons. Since when could he do that? And how does he do that without any accompanying caption about how it was the sum totality of his blah-de-blah-blah? Surely that violates some cosmic rule?
By the end of the issue the Avengers have closed the gap to just fifty points. And then Cyclops turns up to remind us that he's still wearing a thong.
And that means another 50 point penalty for the X-Men. Sorry guys, I don't make the rules I totally made up. The X-Men end the round with the same number of points they came in with.
Final Score: Avengers 200 / X-Men 200
MVP: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Which in this case means getting squished.
Analysis: We have a tie. And if the X-Men don't get Cyclops out of that thong, the Avengers are very likely to tear ahead, especially if they follow Spidey's example and decide to be heroes. Kudos to Jason Aaron for putting out one of the strongest issues of the series thus far.
Join us in two weeks to see Black Panther throw sickly puppies at weeping orphans.
Graphics by Dylan Todd.