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ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX Round Six: And There Shall Come a Coipel

Color me bad, readers, because I want to six you up. Yes, it’s the sixth installment of ComicsAlliance Vs AvX, our unofficial scorecard for Marvel’s big summer publishing event, Avengers vs. X-Men. The Avengers have led in three rounds; the X-Men have led in two, but have opened up a decent lead. Jonathan Hickman returns as the writer for issue #6, and Olivier Coipel takes over on pencils.

The story so far: The Phoenix Force has been coming to Earth very, very slowly, possibly on a bus in bad traffic. The Avengers don’t like the Phoenix Force, for really very arbitrary reasons. The X-Men do like the Phoenix Force, for equally arbitrary reasons. This meant five issues of punching, plus one spin-off book and several tie-ins that begged the question; does Marvel’s left hand know what its right hook is doing? Now the Phoenix has finally arrived after a wrong turn at Albuquerque and taken five X-Men as its host; Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, Magik, and Darkhawk-in-a-thong.

Round six! Don’t be shy girl, rescue me. Open up your heart and I’ll set you free.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #6
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Laura Martin

Opening Score: Avengers 58 / X-Men 73

Right off the bat it’s not looking good for the Avengers. The X-Men are already ahead, but there are three important early developments to factor in that are only going to increase their lead.

First, there’s the matter of last week’s copy of the other AvX book, AvX. (The emphasis is different. Listen to the way I’m typing it. Different, see?) I gave the Avengers two points apiece for their previous victories in that title, so I have to do the same for the X-Men. The first match-up sees Red Hulk chicken out of a fight he might lose by throwing Juggernaut-powered Colossus and his stupid, stupid hat at Ben Grimm, who is sadly not in those guys’ weight class. Colossus wins. Less predictably, all of Colossus’s thought captions have hammer-and-sickle motifs on them. Hey, Marvel; the communist regime in Russia fell more than 20 years ago! Colossus was, what, three? Six? It’s time to move on, you know?

The other fight in the issue sees Black Widow (also Russian) go up against Colossus’s sister Magik (amazingly, also Russian). These ladies don’t have hammers or sickles on their dialogue, but half of their dialogue is in Russian. I cannot read Russian, so I’m going to assume writer Christopher Yost just pasted in a recipe for latkes, though apparently he found a recipe for latkes that contains the word “Wolverine.”

It’s a Rasputin double for the X-Men as Magik takes down the Widow with the old “stab with a sword” trick, giving the mutants four bonus points.

Current Score: Avengers 58 / X-Men 77

The second big development? The plot for this issue sees the ‘Nix-Men using their cosmic powers to heal the world, make it a better place, et cetera. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of that a bit later, but there’s one immediate dramatic consequence of this change. In the better world that the X-Men have created, everyone is drawn by Olivier Coipel. And that is awesome.

I don’t wish to be harsh on the great John Romita. Jr., but his five issues on this title have not been his best work, possibly because few contemporary comic artists can happily produce five issues in less than three months. Coipel knocks his first issue out of the park, capturing both the epic scale of the event and the little moments of character that make it personal. Sure, his women are all slinky and his men are mostly Mack trucks, but it always works, and I love that his Cyclops is lean, his Wolverine is squat, and his Hope looks like a girl, and he draws the best Iron Man armor, and even makes Jeremy Renner look cute. It’s thanks to Coipel that this issue was by far the best in the series.

And because Coipel’s arrival coincides with the X-Men remaking the world, I’m giving them the credit. Five points for that.

Current Score: Avengers 58 / X-Men 82

The third big development is the introduction to the crossover of the Farmer’s Insurance Avengers.

I’ve mostly been reading this book in digital format, so I don’t know if the Farmer’s Insurance ad has appeared in previous issues, but when a comic opens with a bald man arriving at a reimagined Utopia and the third page sees a bald man addressing costumed heroes at “the university of farmers”, it produces a moment of whiplash. I briefly wondered if the X-Men’s utopian vision actually included a university for farmers, and I’m pretty sure agricultural colleges are not a bold new revolutionary idea.

Marvel, this is terrible ad placement. And I’m blaming the Avengers, because the ad is promoting their movie (which came out over a month ago, and which we’ve all already seen twice). So, the Avengers lose two points.

Current Score: Avengers 56 / X-Men 82

Now, what about the actual comic?

Ten days have passed since the X-Men got a power upgrade, and in that time they’ve set about making everything better. They’re feeding the hungry and giving everyone clean water and free energy, and they’ve disarmed the world’s armies and brought about world peace. Instead of punching people, they’re reasoning with them, and instead of declaring themselves rulers they’re just telling world leaders to stop shooting each other. Everything is better. They’ve even funded all the Kickstarters and taken all the Justin Bieber pictures off the “Popular” tab on Instagram. Emma Frost is going through internet comment threads and making people post apologies for the terrible inane things they’ve said. That’s how much better everything is.

World peace, guys. 300 points.

Current Score: Avengers 56 / X-Men 382

Now, at some point we’re going to learn that everything the X-Men is doing is wrong, because otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. But as of right now it’s hard to fault them. Everything they’re doing looks pretty right. That leaves the Avengers in the awkward position of being petulant and whiney because someone else saved the world. Really, they come out of this issue looking awful. Captain America is muttering suspiciously about the X-Men’s “talk it out” tactics; Iron Man is accusing the X-Men of things they haven’t said because it’s the only way he can win the argument (Iron Man spends a lot of time on internet comment threads); and two of the all-time smartest Avengers, Beast and Black Panther, are calling out their teammates on their bulldoody. While the X-Men are peacefully resolving conflicts, the Avengers are acting like bullies. Cap even leads a home invasion on paradise, and Thor actually punches a kid!

What did Emma Frost do today? Disarm the Sentinel program. What did Thor do today? Punch a kid. Hey, Thor, what’s up, you couldn’t find some baby pandas to smash with your hammer, you giant thunder-douche?

I’d take some more points off the Avengers for this dickery, but really, why kick an Avenger when he’s down? That’s the sort of thing Thor would do.

Current Score: Avengers 56 / X-Men 382

The one thing the Avengers have going for them right now is Scarlet Witch’s vision of the Phoenix Force wiping out one of the earliest iterations of the Avengers. Maybe this means the Phox Force Five are going to wipe out the Avengers by travelling back in time and smother them as baby superheroes. But, see, there are two things to remember about Scarlet Witch: One, she is crazy. Mega crazy. Imaginary-babies-with-a-robot crazy. And two, she has a well-established bias against her fellow mutants. I mean, she wiped out almost the entire race one time. That’s a firm bias. If she says those guys are dangerous, take it with a pinch of salt. Tomorrow she could wipe out all the hamsters because she thinks they’re conspiring to build nukes.

And yet Crazy Wanda, the woman who marries objects and has sock puppets for children, is the most effective Avenger in this issue. She not only causes Cyclops pain, she also persuades the Phoenix Force’s natural host, Hope, to come with her. That could be a game-changer. Alternatively, Wanda could take Hope to an underpass in New Jersey to drink Crystal Light out of a discarded boot with a man whose friends are empty honey bottles shaped like bears. It could go either way.

On the off-chance that putting the future of the species in the hands of a woman who is already one species down in the genocide stakes turns out not to be the greatest idea, the Avengers have a second trump card up their sleeve, though they don’t yet know it. In a K’un Lun cutaway the dad of the guy from Pan’s Labyrinth reveals that Iron Fist is some sort of natural Phoenix repellent. (If he’d seen the way Cyclops treats redheads, he’d know that guy is the natural Phoenix repellent. Hey-yo!)

As everyone knows, iron fists are the opposite of fire birds. It’s as natural as bats and clowns.

Current Score: Avengers 61 / X-Men 382

So, the X-Men are ahead. And if Cyclops follows through on his “no more Avengers” threat, it may be tricky for Earth’s former mightiest heroes to rally. But I’m willing to cut them a break. I’m taking 50 points away from the X-Men just for Cyclops’s thong.

Final Score: Avengers 61 / X-Men 332

MVP: There’s only one person in contention for this issue’s MVP, and it’s not one of the guys who saved the world; it’s the guy who drew it. The page with Colossus stealing warheads while Namor levitates destoyers out of the ocean is maybe one of my all time favourite pages in comics. That alone is enough to make Olivier Coipel my MVP.

Analysis: The Avengers look kind of screwed, right? Don’t worry, I have faith in the X-Men to mess it all up somehow, possibly by accidentally destroying the planet. That would definitely help the Avengers draw level. Also, if “no more Avengers” means they get rid of Stingray, I am going to be super-pissed at the X-Men. I love Stingray! He’s one of my top three favourite Marvel scientists named Walter.

Next issue: More Olivier Coipel. Is it me, or did this event just get a lot more awesome?

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