ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX Round Seven: Angry Birds
Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep; it's the seventh installment of ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX, our unofficial scorecard for Marvel's big summer publishing event, Avengers Vs. X-Men. In the last issue the X-Men saved the world and looked fabulous doing it, except Cyclops who is a dork who looked like a dork. Now the mutants are more than 250 points ahead, and Matt Fraction returns with new words to join Olivier Coipel's pictures.
The story so far: Punching, punching, punching, punching, Phoenix Force. And then a story happened. The X-Men used the cosmic powers of the Phoenix to feed the hungry, provide clean energy and disarm the nations of the world. The Avengers are nervous about all this and want to put a stop to it, because... I don't know, maybe they're the Thunderbolts now? Either the Avengers have to stop the X-Men or the X-Men have to stop the Avengers, but only one can win, and no way will this end with a new book called Uncanny Avengers! Right? Guys?
Round seven! We're nearer the end than we are the beginning!
Avengers Vs. X-Men #7
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Matt Fraction
Artists: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Laura Martin
Opening Score: Avengers 61 / X-Men 332
Can we talk a bit about Amazing Spider-Man? I saw it Monday night and I loved it. I think I loved it more than I loved The Avengers. I think I loved it more than I loved Spider-Man 2. I think I loved it a lot. It has the most heart of any superhero movie I've seen, thanks in large part to phenomenal lead performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. It has as much joy as the Raimi movies, but more beauty and substance. It's a superhero story that made me really happy.
And then there's AvX.
Well, let's get to it.
Issue #7 opens with the X-Men going to war against the Avengers on their home territory, which with all the flame and high-handedness comes across as a moment of pseudo-villainy, except this whole thing started when the Avengers did the same thing to the X-Men. The Avengers did it because they couldn't trust the X-Men with a powerful mutant teenager, which suggests they've never read the Xavier School's prospectus. The X-Men are doing it because the Avengers are harboring Scarlet Witch, the woman who did more to devastate the mutant race than all other Marvel supervillains put together, which is a bit more reasonable. Oh, and they're doing it because Cyclops and Captain America had a bit of a falling out. Why are mutant daddy and human daddy fighting?
Everyone's a bit of a hypocrite here, which is a problem. Although the X-Men looked messianic last issue, the writers really can't have one side be angels and the other side be devils, and there wouldn't be a fight if everyone was a reasonable, patient and good, so intead everyone has to be selfish, uncompromising and pompous. There's no relief from the jerkishness, and it makes me about as sad as the new Spider-Man movie made me happy. I want someone to be the superhero here!
The hypocrisy gold medal for this issue goes to Emma Frost, who gets snippy about Avengers Academy and its "militarized children." This is a woman who has had so many students die on her watch that the survivors would rather go to a school where Wolverine is the headmaster. Sure, she's expressed regret about past mistakes, but lter this very issue she leads another set of kids into combat. As a guardian, she's maybe one notch ahead of the animals that eat their own young.
Emma also comes off badly for setting Hawkeye on fire, which, sure, I can see how that's a bad thing. Hank Pym, you can set on fire. Hawkeye? He's in the movie, Emma. You can't set Hawkeye on fire. Oh, and Illyana tries to kill the Scarlet Witch, which is also totally bad, you guys. (Unless you're Wolverine.)
The X-Men came into the fight with two goals: get Cap and get the Scarlet Witch and leave with just a crispy archer, so I'm counting this whole thing as an Avengers win, and I'm taking five points off Emma Frost and I'm confiscating her World's Best Teacher mug.
Current Score: Avengers 66 / X-Men 327
Post-fight, the Phoentastic Five have a pow-wow in their white cardboard box room. You know, where they keep the white cardboard boxes. And the villainy.
What's baffling about this scene (apart from the boxes) is that only the 'Nixies are in the room. Storm isn't invited to the meeting. Professor X isn't invited. Havok isn't invited. There's no Iceman, no Psylocke, no Gambit, no-one from the science club and no-one from the school. The other X-Men now only appear in this series as largely silent background goons to throw at equally mute Avengers, while all the decisions are being made by five cosmic guys who couldn't build one reputation for good judgement between them. Since the five are so high on cosmic that they're not entirely in character, it feels a little as though the X-Men have opted out of this storyline. The role of the X-Men is now being played by five baby Dooms, and the rest of the team are content to let this group that's 65% super-villain make all the big decisions.
The Avengers also have a core group doing all its talking, but they're more sensibly convened. Cap is the leader, and Tony Stark and Black Panther are two of the smartest guys in any room. Beast is still hanging around, but apparently his objections last issue mean he's no longer participating. And Henry Pym... well, I'm sure he's very busy. Pym is the scientist who believed there was such a thing as Scientist Supreme. It'll take him a while to live that down.
Iron Man's plan has two stages. One, he's going to grow a new beard (I assume he shaved it off in one of the tie-in books? AvX: Hairline?) Two, something something numbers. He's going to plug some maths into the Phoenix-Tickler Armor and martyr himself for the good of his own ego.
This rightly earns him a mighty slap from Black Panther. Tony calls it a "sucker punch," because he already feels emasculated since losing his beard, but it wasn't a punch, it was a slap. A hilarious slap.
Panther wisely suggests that the Avengers mix some magic into their anti-Phoenix plans, which Tony isn't a fan of, because Tony has never heard of Dr. Strange or K'un Lun or Doctor Doom or Mephisto or Dracula or Black Knight or Asgard or Agatha Harkness or Morgan le Fay or the Scarlet friggin' Witch. Hey, Tony; in the Marvel Universe, even Christopher Hitchens believed in magic.
Panther gets ten points for slapping Tony Stark. The X-Men lose five points for being cliquey Mean Girls.
Current Score: Avengers 76 / X-Men 322
Besides trying to get the Phoenix Force out of the X-Men, the Avengers also decide to take Hope to K'un Lun to prime her to... be the new host of the Phoenix Force? Am I understanding this correctly? They want Hope to be the thing they didn't want her to be during the first six issues? But now it's OK because she's in their house? OK, Emma may have to share that hypocrisy award.
Hey, if the Avengers want to train a young mutant in the use of her phenomenal powers, there's this group that has a lot of experience in that sort of thing. They've even had Phoenixes before. They have an ex-Phoenix right now, who is sort of a relative of Hope's! Come to think of it, her sort-of-grandfather is one of their company as well! And they have a school! A school!
Just don't enroll her in any of Emma Frost's classes, because she'll probably kill her, but apart from that you should totally think about taking Hope to the X-Men and leaving her with them. It's a really good plan.
No, probably not.
Instead, Dr. Strange gives everyone necklaces that will make them look like Scarlet Witch, because having someone with no powers like Sharon Carter dressed to look like the person the Phoenix-powered super-villains want to kill is a really good plan. He's a doctor! Let's see how many more non-powered Avengers we can set on fire before this comic is done, shall we?
In the second big fight of the issue, the Avengers nab their second teen X-Man, Transonic (the good superhero names ran out around 1976), and take her prisoner. This would be a bad thing if it weren't for the fact that the X-Men are apparently busy taking Avengers prisoner left right and centre. (Not in this comic, but over in one of the other books. Prison Avengers.) So, everyone's a hypocrite again! At this point in the crossover I'd really like a third superteam to show up and bang everyone's heads together. Maybe the Fantastic Four? Maybe Earth Force, or Big Hero 6? Even the Normal Osborn Thunderbolts would have some moral high ground at this point.
Towards the end of the issue we reach the breaking point that will plunge the X-Men into villainy when Cyclops says, "We're winning, Namor," and Namor says, "This! Is not! A game!" Consequently, the 'Nix are irreprerably split! While the Avengers smuggle Hope to the colonial branch of Hogwarts, Namor goes rogue and declares war on Wakanda! Everything you know is slightly recalibrated for plot purposes!
Of course, Namor's reponse doesn't make a lot of sense. Cyclops didn't say, "We're scoring a lot of points, Namor," or "This is a home run, Namor," or, "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL, Namor!" He said "we're winning," which is actually a word we use in reference to fights. But Namor's pants are very tight. We'll go with that as an explanation. Whatever the reason, the era of peace-building is over and the X-Men lose 50 points.
Current Score: Avengers 76 / X-Men 272
And Cyclops is still wearing that thong, so the X-Men lose another 50 points.
Current Score: Avengers 76 / X-Men 222
But Namor has really great legs, and he's working it, so the X-Men get ten points back. You go, gills.
Final Score: Avengers 76 / X-Men 232
MVP: Black Panther is the man of the moment because he's been cool, calm and rational throughout, he's considered all sides, and he's the guy who figured out that it might take technology and magic to resolve the current crisis. Frankly, if Panther were in charge of the Avengers I think this whole storyline would have ended in the first issue without a single punch thrown, which is probably why Panther isn't in charge of the Avengers.
Also, he slapped Iron Man.
Analysis: The messianic X-Men are stumbling from their pedestal right on schedule, but the Avengers aren't exactly racing to close the distance. They're still basically acting like over-entitled dicks who own the whole hero thing. If the Avengers are going to get back in the game they need to behave like actual heroes.
Failing that, maybe the X-Men need to act more like villains? Either way, there's a wedge between these teams that will make it really difficult to launch Uncanny Avengers! Not to mention the other mash-up titles: Sensational Cable, West Coast Exiles, Secret Dazzler, Astonishingly Young Avengers, Wolverine Spotlight, Dark-Statix, Generation Academy, Solo Multiple Man, New New Mighty Excalibur, Initiative: First Class, and Force Force.
Next issue: Can we have a whole issue of Black Panther fighting Namor? I would really be OK with that. But they both have to keep monologuing the whole time.