With so much awesome stuff coming out all the time, sometimes it takes a while to catch up. Maybe you’re reading a big event awhile after it ended. Maybe you just caught a movie everyone was talking about a few months ago. So what? It’s Better Late Than Never.
What do you think was the most memorable part of the war between two of Marvel’s biggest superhero teams? Magneto going on trial? The surprise addition of the Soviet Super-Soldiers? Dr. Druid? Oops, sorry. Wrong miniseries. That was 1987′s The X-Men vs. the Avengers. (And shame on you anyway if you said Dr. Druid.) No, we’re here today to take a look back at 2012′s Avengers Vs. X-Men chart-topping mini. With written duties spread out between five of Marvel’s tippy-toppy guys (Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction & Jonathan Hickman) and pencils by three of their top artists (John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel & Adam Kubert), it was a jam piece of epic punchingness. But how does it read on its own, nearly a year later and separate from all the tie-ins? Eh, it’s a mixed bag.
When I say separate, I mean separate. All I read was the trade, collecting the thirteen issue miniseries and one story from Point One #1. No AR apps, no tie-ins, not even a look back at Kerouac’s Previously In… (All I’d read before this were the Avengers Academy tie-in issues.) First off, the #0 issue did a good job explaining the current status quo of two of the main players, the Scarlet Witch and Hope Summers. With that out of the way, the first issue sets up the original thrust of the series. The Phoenix Force is coming to Earth to most likely take Hope as its host and opinions are divided on what to do. Captain America wants to get her off world so the planet doesn’t get fireballed. Cyclops wants his pseudo-granddaughter to fulfill her supposed role as the mutant messiah and re-power the mutant race. Instead of talking it over like rational adults and leaders, they opt to hash it out with shield-throws and optic blasts, naturally. So nearly the first half of the series pays off its promise of Avengers vs. X-Men, with members from both teams kicking the crap out of each other. Soon the Phoenix Force is split into five fragments and empowers Cyke, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik and Namor, dubbed the Phoenix Five. (Although in my humble opinion, Phoenix Force Five sounds better and is a nice wink to Pulp Fiction.) They start turning the world into a better place, but the Avengers oppose them because the story’s only halfway through. Avengers start falling, X-Men start defecting, and eventually Cyclops ends up the sole host of the Phoenix. He quickly offs Professor X and goes full-on Dark Phoenix, only to get slapped down by the Witch and Hope’s new Iron Fist. Hope gets the Phoenix, fixes most of the stuff Cyke broke, and she and Wanda simultaneously disperse the Phoenix and begin empowering new mutants. Happy endings all around, except for some of the X-Men who remain fugitives for some reason, Cyclops who’s in prison, and Xavier who’s still dead.
Like I said before, Avengers Vs. X-Men is a mixed bag. The premise is okay, but it’s really just a set-up for all the fighting. The title’s actually a little misleading. It’s only Avengers Vs. X-Men for roughly five issues. Then it becomes Avengers Vs. Phoenix Five and finally Avengers & X-Men Vs. Cyclops. Why exactly do the Avengers oppose the Phoenix Five at first? They start out doing pretty decent stuff, only sliding down the morality slope of roasting Hawkeyes later after Earth’s so-called “Mightiest Heroes” keep poking at them. From what I know about the Iron Fist powers, you have to beat up a dragon to claim them; here Hope just appears riding it. How does she later acquire the Iron Fist powers? She used her mutant power mimic ability on the dragon, did she do the same thing later to Danny Rand? The Hulk is introduced in a really nice moment, then proceeds to do nearly nothing. Maybe some of these things were expanded on in the tie-ins, but here they go unexplained. With five writers, it seems like a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen” and no one real voice emerges. The art is consistently good, which is to be expected from such a talented group. Say what you want about JRJR, but the man is a workhorse. Of the three artists, I personally like Coipel the most, which is why I was surprised that two confusing bits cropped up under his pencil, both in #11. In the aforementioned Hulk scene, Cap’s giving an impassioned speech while standing on the edge of a cliff, facing outward. A perspective shift reveals he’s facing Hulk, so where exactly is Green Genes standing? It’s a great scene, but that inconsistency pulled me right out of the moment. Then there’s Xavier’s death. It could be powerful, but I’m not quite sure just exactly how Scott kills him. Obviously the Phoenix Force’s fire is involved, but what killed him? His body looks okay, and we know from the follow-up Uncanny Avengers his brain is intact enough for the Red Skull to steal and use. Again, it’s distracting. Other than those nit-picks it’s entertaining enough for what it is. There’s a pretty great Spider-Man moment and the Zzzax bit was cute. If you like comics where the punching is more important than the story, you’ll probably like it. Avengers Vs. X-Men nets 3.5 out of 5 beer traps.