ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX Round Twelve: Final Fight
This is the twelfth and final installment of ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX, our unofficial scorecard for Marvel's big summer publishing event, Avengers Vs. X-Men. Jason Aaron is your writer, Adam Kubert is your penciller, and I am your humble score-keeper, one last time.
Round twelve! From the shores of Subterranea to the halls of Madripoor...The story so far: In round one the Avengers freaked out at the approach of the Phoenix Force but secured an early lead thanks to Cyclops's hair trigger. The Avengers maintained their lead in round two as the teams fought over custody of Hope Summers, and in round three the lead passed to the X-Men because the Avengers were huge tools. In round four the Phoenix Force almost arrived and the Avengers took back the lead by a point.
Round five saw the Phoenix Force actually arrive, and the Avengers shot it, so the X-Men got the power and the points. In round six the X-Men opened up a massive lead by saving the world, and in round seven and round eight they held on to it despite a slide towards villainy and Namor's war on Wakanda. In round nine Spider-Man stood alone against the Rasputins and brought the score to a tie, and in round ten there was a surprise!dragon and the Avengers surged ahead once more. In round eleven Charles Xavier died for really no good reason and the Avengers held their lead.
The X-Men have taken five rounds, the Avengers have taken five rounds. And now, at last, the story concludes.
Avengers Vs. X-Men #12
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Jason Aaron
Artists: Adam Kubert, John Dell, Mark Morales, Laura Martin, Justin Ponsor
Opening Score: Avengers 231 / X-Men 225
So this is it. After seven months, dozens of tie-ins, and hundreds of shots of superheroes standing around in the background, Marvel's latest summer event is finally over. Presumably nothing will ever be the same again. Some call that hyperbole, I call it entropy.
Before we get to the action from the final issue there's the small matter of the battle book, AvX Versus #6. This issue ties in tightly to the end of AvX, as writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jim Cheung expand on the Scarlet Witch/Hope Summers confrontation that happens in flashback in the big finale. In theory that means two people flinging "probability powers" at each other, but in practice it's mostly a light show.
Can we just go back to calling them hexes and stop talking about probability? "Probability manipulation" sounds like such an algebraic concept. If I can accept mutants with an affinity for weather or technology, an affinity for magic isn't going to break my brain. Guys, I like superheroes. I don't need you to apologize to me for how weird they are.
Hope wins the fight both on snark ("no more nose") and on vim, delivering a well-earned sucker-punch to the jaw of the most awful member of the Magneto family. As we're nearing the end I'm going to award ten points for each victory in Versus #6. Ten points to Hope!
Current Score: Avengers 231 / X-Men 235
The rest of Versus showcases short glimpses of other fights, some of which probably aren't in continuity. I don't think there was really a cut scene where Cap and Cyke threw shade at each other with that vanilla flavor of beige that only two straight white men can bring to the Dozens. I also don't think Dr. Kavita Rao ever had to dodge laserbeam fire from Leonardo Da Vinci. But I am willing to accept that Jarvis threw Toad out of a window.
I'm also willing to believe that Hawkeye has erotic dreams about Spider-Woman grappling suggestively with various X-Women, but I'm not convinced we needed to see it. Hawkeye gets a five point deduction for being low class and making strong women look cheap.
There are wins for Domino, Havok and Iceman (in a great two-pager from Jason Aaron and Ramon Perez), and I'll allow a win for Cap as he seemed to land more snaps in his milquetoast boy scout throwdown. Add in the Jarvis win and that's 30 points to the X-Men and 20 to the Avengers, minus the Hawkeye penalty.
Current Score: Avengers 246 / X-Men 265
Enough ado; let's crack open issue #12.
The book begins with a recap that contextualizes the series as the yin-yang struggle between the chaos of the Scarlet Witch and the order of Hope Summers. Sure, it feels like retroactive window dressing, but nothing gussies up a story quite like the nonsensical application of esoteric Eastern mysticism! If they'd wrapped this up by saying Foggy Nelson represents order and Ms. Lyon represents chaos I think it would have been about as convincing.
But the notion that the Phoenix returned to Earth as a specific response to the discord created by Scarlet Witch's "no more mutants" proclamation makes a lot of sense. In fact it was Cyclops's whole thesis from the outset, but one that he seemed incapable of articulating convincingly, perhaps because he was a crazy zealot with no actual evidence.
The Avengers have now come around to the idea, though it's not clear what convinced them either. I'm going to assume Ms. Lyon appeared to Iron Man in a dream. Certainly Stark has come to accept the existence of mysticism, though as I've noted before, this is a thing that definitely exists in his universe and that he has had extensive exposure to, so he's basically a man coming to terms with the existence of sandwiches. Genius can be so selective.
We're back in K'un-Lun at this point, three days before the end of last issue and its inexplicable "Evil Phoenix has transformed into Dark Phoenix" cliffhanger. (The actual threat is that the Phoenix Force is now concentrated in a single host, but if these guys want to frame it as "The bad guy turned bad," sure, fine, you're the boss, Cap.) I already scored the Witch/Hope fight that happens here, but I'll give Iron Man one extra point for acknowleding reality. He's accepting the things he cannot change. Give that man a sobriety chip.
Current Score: Avengers 247 / X-Men 265
The action catches up to last issue's cliffhanger with Cyclops in his sexy new "peeled thumb" costume as he gazer-beams the combined forces of the X-Men and the Avengers. There should be a name for that combination of the two teams. Something catchy and cool! The Mighty Men! That's a nineteen variant cover idea!
Over at the Jean Grey School the Stepford Cuckoos coordinate the heroes' response to the fallout of Cyclops's transformation, aka one last gratuitous split-the-teams montage. Marvel doesn't provide musical suggestions for these montages, which is a real shame. The obvious choices, depending on your mood, are "Hallelujah" or "Yakety Sax," but I would recommend Sheena Easton's "9 to 5 (Morning Train)."
So Red Hulk gets throttled by Cyclops in San Francisco, Hulk gets punched by Cyclops in Sydney, and Thor gets punched by Cyclops in the Himalayas. (Right in the Himalayas! Take my wife! Try the veal! Boy are my arms tired.) I'm not sure how all of these fights are meant to tie together, or even why any of it is happening given that we must surely have exhausted the tie-in opportunities to expand on these stories by now, but maybe readers are so used to montages that they've forgotten how to read ordinary comics. Sequentials are over. It's all flash cards from here on out.
Two sidenotes from the montage: First, Giant Man appears to be stealing a yacht, proving that you can take the man out of the Yellowjacket costume but you can't take the Yellowjacket out of the man. Second, Gambit and Hawkeye have gone to Paris together. I previously posited that the forthcoming A+X spin-off book should explore unlikely romantic couplings between Avengers and X-Men. I assume that's where this is going. Marvel's new power couple is Hawkbit. You know you want it, Tumblr.
Because all the heavy hitters getting flung across geography are Avengers, I'm giving that team 15 points, minus two for Giantjacket stealing a yacht.
Current Score: Avengers 260 / X-Men 265
Last issue Cyclops was pretty firmly set against burning the world and starting over, but this issue he seems to have come around to the idea, and the Phoenix Force's old genocide itch is acting up again. That means it's time for the last minute save. Nova is dispatched to bring Dark Cyclops down to earth. Nova tells Cap he's a hemisphere away, which surely means he's literally as far away as he could possibly be while still being nominally adjacent to the right planet. But that's close enough for a member of the Bucket Lantern Corps! And can I say that, Nova, I miss the golden bucket, but I assume the blue bucket represents a different emotion. The gold buckets represented "whimsy" or "exuberance," and the blue buckets represent "thirsty" or "bergamot." Those are all emotions, right?
Nova isn't an Avenger, but by the end of the issue he becomes one, so they get ten points for the sass of, "Can't hear you! Too busy kicking your ass!"
Current Score: Avengers 270 / X-Men 265
And the big fight comes to a head the only way it could, with Hope channelling the Scarlet Witch to take Cyclops down. Wanda twin powers: activate.
Cyclops gets a moment of humanity, a moment to say, "oops, my bad," but even with a hallucinatory Jean there to tell him to give up, he doesn't echo the original Phoenix's sacrifice and run out in front of a gun. It falls to Hope to actually punch the Phoenix out of Cyclops. And lo, the the great punching circus that was AvX is brought to a fitting conclusion with one last knuckle sandwich.
But it's not over yet. Hope takes the Phoenix Force into herself and puts out fires and calms the seas and drops rocks on volcanoes, which I think is probably a geologically unsound thing to do. And she comes back in the white and gold Phoenix costume, the costume that typically represents the unification of the light and dark aspects of the power.
(Iron Fist also has a green costume for good, a red costume for bad, and a white costume for ascension, and the Phoenix and Iron Fist costumes are visually very similar. I assume that was addressed somewhere, given the hinted history between the powers of the Phoenix and K'un Lun? My main takeaway is that ascended persons can't risk eating pasta sauce.)
For delivering the final blow to Cyclops and fixing his mistakes, Hope gets 10 points.
Current Score: Avengers 270 / X-Men 275
Then Hope lets the Phoenix Force go, with a little coaxing from the Scarlet Witch. And that decision yields a reward: the dispersing energy rolls back one of Marvel's all time worst editorial edicts: "no more mutants." For your next trick, Hope, use the Captain Universe powers to erase One More Day! And then use the Ultimate Nullifier to get rid of that Rawhide Kid series! And use the Infinity Gems to go back and prevent DC from rebooting its entire universe without the faintest whiff of a coherent long-term plan! (The Infinity Gems are pretty powerful.)
I admit I'm glad we can finally stop pretending to count to 198 when it comes to Marvel's mutants. Eradicating an entire race was a heavy-handed solution to a problem that didn't need fixing. If you're the editor and you think there are too many stories about mutants, just tell your writers to write fewer stories about mutants! Genocide is never the answer.
Ten points to Hope for being the Phoenix host who learned to say "no." But it was Wanda who coached her through it, and the Avengers who got her there, so they get 20 points.
Current Score: Avengers 290 / X-Men 285
The bad news is, Cyclops survived. But he's in prison now, where he can't bore anyone ever again.
The other members of P.E.N.I.S. are on the run, and Colossus is the one I feel sorry for. Emma, Namor and Illyana can all take care of their villainous selves, but Colossus is such a follower that his only period of villainy was in a group called the Acolytes. Apparently Magneto is also on the run, which surprised me given that he played a small role in taking the Phoenix Five down. Then I remembered that, oh yeah, he's Magneto. He should probably always be on the run.
I admit I feel a little bad for Cyclops. Firstly because standard operating procedure for superheroes who get possessed by an all-powerful evil force is that they get told it wasn't their fault, yet no-one is going to give him the benefit of that doubt.
Secondly and more importantly I feel bad for Cyclops because he was right. It turns out Hope actually was the mutant messiah, and it turns out the Phoenix Force really was the way to restore mutantkind. Sure, Cyclops gambled the world on a hunch that he never bothered to back up, but he was right. If the Avengers hadn't come mob-handed to Utopia to take Hope away from her family, and if they hadn't flapped their hands at a cosmic entity that the X-Men had been dealing with for years, this could all have turned out better. Cyclops would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling Avengers.
And Cap clearly understands that he screwed up, because he turns into a whiny brat in the final scene.
Take a seat, Cap. You're embarrassing yourself.
Cyclops was right. The X-Men's messiah restored the mutant race. That's 100 points to the X-Men.
And that's the game.
Final Analysis: I'm sure the official line at Marvel is that the Avengers won. It was the Avengers who were calling the shots at the end, and it was an X-Man that they were fighting. Charles Xavier died, Cyclops went to prison, and several senior X-Men are on the run.
But the restoration of the mutant race has to count as the greatest possible victory for the X-Men, and the Avengers are the ones who have to be restructured to admit an occupying presence. That looks a lot like losing. That looks a lot like saying Captain America got it wrong, and Cyclops got it right.
The winner of AvX is the X-Men.
That's the end. Thanks for following ComicsAlliance vs AvX these past seven months. My thanks to my editor Andy Khouri for indulging me, to Dylan Todd for providing the excellent scorecard graphics, to Marvel for having the good humor to play along, and to you for reading. You've told me repeatedly that I was the best part of this crossover. I agree with you.
Now, if you'll excuse me, Dylan and I have to go screenprint our "Cyclops Was Right" t-shirts.