ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX Round One: Commence Preparations for Rumbling
Marvel's latest big event officially kicked off this week with the release of Avengers vs X-Men #1, a new superhero civil war that pits the publisher's two biggest teams against each other. As a cynic of long-standing I know a marketing-driven stunt comic when I see one, but as a Marvel fan of even longer standing I'm still gleefully excited to see my favorite superheroes punching each other in the face.
It's with a fan's affection for both teams that I'll be recapping the AvX and Versus series for ComicsAlliance - but this is more than just a recap. This is a fight. As the series progresses I'm going to keep score of each team's performance, so that even if the event ends with a team-up to take on a bigger threat, we'll all know who the real winner is. The numbers don't lie, even if I had to make the numbers up.
Who won the first round? Read on to find out.Avengers Vs. X-Men #1
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: John Romita Jr, Scott Hanna, Laura Martin
We open the action either on an alien world or in rural Iowa. The scenery suggests the latter, but the people have heads like jicama, and though I've never been to Iowa, I don't think that's usual. Anyway, it hardly matters; the alien planet, or Iowa, is destroyed by the Phoenix Force.
I'm counting the Phoenix Force as a member of the X-Men, because, well, it used to be a member of the X-Men, but also because Cyclops seems oddly proprietorial about this cosmic force of destruction. I suppose he did used to sleep with it. Some exes are tough to forget, especially ones that wipe out planets of asparagus people (Dark Phoenix Saga) or jicama people (Avengers Vs X-Men). Because the Phoenix Force is an X-Man, this is a rough opening play from the Ol' Blue and Gold. They take a massive ten point penalty for genocide (or Iowacide).
Current Score: Avengers 0 / X-Men -10
The Avengers take control of the field with some old fashioned assembling as a damaged plane - that most generic of superhero dangers - threatens the city, and a crash-landing Nova sears the top off the Chrysler Building. A solid performance by the Avengers, but it's essentially the superhero equivalent of data entry.
Nova is technically an Avenger and should cost them points for his reckless plummeting, even though the opening page team roster cunningly leaves him out. Yet the Avengers do save the day, so I'll give them due credit, though the epic scale of the rescue seems to have mostly been rendered in sand art. What in the hoary hosts is going on here?
Between this and the actual Phoenix pages, colorist Laura Martin must have used up all the yellows and oranges on her computer with this issue.
Current Score: Avengers 5 / X-Men -10
The action moves to Utopia, "Island home of the X-Men. Off the coast of San Francisco." This does not bode well for the X-Men's role in this story. Don't they know that only villains have island bases? And only radical socialist homosexual feminists live anywhere near San Francisco! It's a good thing the Avengers are based in New York, because if the Avengers lived in Real America it would be all too obvious who the bad guys were. Say, aren't there some Fifty States Initiative teams in the Midwest that could take on the San Francisco mutant elites? Or were they vaporized by the Phoenix Force in the opening pages?
Anyway, on Utopia a young woman gets beaten up by her grandfather while a couple of megalomaniacs watch from a balcony. There's your San Francisco values right there. But the young woman is Hope Summers, the supposed mutant messiah and one of the flashpoints of this series. It's not clear to me what qualifies someone for the title of mutant messiah, but I'm sure that will be explained, and not just insisted on by writers who think I'll accept anything if they just repeat it enough.
The X-Men don't save anyone from a falling plane here. They just fight among themselves, and then Hope manifests the Phoenix Force, which should be a dramatic moment except that Marvel has trotted out that motif so often that I've come to expect flaming birds around everyone from Julie Power to Batroc the Leaper. I'll give them two points because John Romita, Jr. remembers to draw Scott 'Slim' Summers looking lean and muscular, rather than giving him "generic Jim Lee body type #1."
Current Score: Avengers 5 / X-Men -8
Next, to the White House, where no-one seems to mind putting the President in the same small room as an alcoholic armed with multiple warheads.
Iron Man tells the President that he has "run the math" fifty ways on the "energy signature" they found on Nova's uniform and it definitely means the Phoenix Force is coming to get them. That's math you can take to the White House! Math, you may recall, was also crucial to the Civil War crossover, when Reed Richards used math to prove that the plot was necessary. Math is for there for those times when having The Watcher turn up and say, "It is so" just doesn't have the narrative authority you need.
I'm going to have to deduct a couple of points from the Avengers here for hyperbole. They seem very sure that the return of the Phoenix Force is a big threat and that intercepting it is a "suicide mission," yet with all their gloomy rhetoric and fancy tech they seem not to have noticed that the Phoenix Force spent several months living on a small island off the coast of Scotland in the person of one Rachel Summers in Excalibur. If the Avengers had intercepted the Phoenix Force back then they would have just got a nice cup of tea and a bit of shortbread, and this whole silly business could have been avoided.
However, the Avengers also gains a point for Iron Man making this face:
Current Score: Avengers 4 / X-Men -8
In a one-page scene Captain America works out that he's in a comic called Avengers Vs X-Men and makes an early bid for Wolverine's loyalty. Sure, there are other characters who are on both teams, but they don't have movie deals, and Cap stands for core American values like franchising opportunities.
Finally, the main event. We've already heard the Avengers' position in this conflict; the Phoenix Force is very dangerous when not surrounded by tartan. Now it's Cyclops' turn to put forward the X-Men's position; the Phoenix is a force for rebirth because... well, I'm not clear on the because. Because he read it on Wikipedia? Cyclops thinks the Phoenix can kickstart the stunted mutant race, but has there ever been evidence of the Phoenix doing anything like that? Citation needed.
Cyclops and Captain America have a chat on the beach. Cyclops is sanctimonious. Cap is patronizing. Neither side comes out of it looking very good, but Cyclops is the one who loses his rag and 'skrazzkoom's the Sentinel of Liberty, so the Avengers pick up a couple of points for that. Fortunately Cap always brings a Helicarrier to an optic blast fight, and that's when you know It Is On.
I assume the rest of the series will just be punching.
Final Score: Avengers 5 / X-Men -8
MVP: Captain America, not just because he was at the center of most of the story, but because he got to stand in front of the President and look cool while Iron Man delivered the geek lines.
Analysis: It's a rough start for the mutants, but we all know that writer Brian Michael Bendis is in the pocket of Big Avenging, so of course he makes those guys look good. Come back in two weeks' time to see if Cyke's guys can mount a comeback.
Graphics by Dylan Todd