Okay, I’ll get right to it. Avengers Vs. X-Men is a really good yarn. I have no idea if the next issues in the latest Marvel event will pan out as well as issue #1, but for right now, this is a very nicely put together tale. There is one nagging problem I have with it but, upon reflection, I’m not even sure is a true problem. With Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction behind the story and Bendis penning the actual script, it’d be easy to fall prey to too many cooks in the kitchen. Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 defies that curse by staying focused. This is all about the Phoenix, the most destructive force in the universe, and it’s headed our way.
Bendis is smart in the strategy with issue 1. Unleash the action, build the tension and leave ‘em wanting more. The opening scene is as visceral a comic book experience as I’ve had in a long time. A burst of energy soars through the air, taking the wing off a plane and cutting the top off the Chrysler Building. The way Bendis has the Avengers deal with the problem is nut-kicking awesome. Thor using the hammer to create enough wind to land a crashing plane? Awesome. Spider-Man catching survivors plummeting from the Chrysler Building? Awesome. Iron Man disintegrating the wing before it destroys a building? Awesome. By the time it’s revealed that the energy source was actually Nova, you will be hooked.
Cue Utopia, where Cyclops is training Hope Summers, the first mutant born after Scarlet Witch went wacky and stripped most mutants of their power. Cyclops has a single vision (forgive the pun) for Hope, one that has made him lose all compassion for Hope as a person. When the first blast of the Phoenix comes calling, Cyclops knows what’s in store for Hope. This is where my problem comes in. I’ve always known Cyclops to be calculated, cold and logical. Watching him plan to try and train Hope to control the Phoenix doesn't jive with me. However, I don’t read X-Men all the time, in fact, I haven’t followed it religiously since the last Phoenix story. Perhaps my nagging issue with Cyclops is more a reaction to how he used to be than how he is.
After the first blast of Phoenix power, the Avengers register the energy and the team sets out to put Hope Summers in “protective custody”. Bendis shines here on two fronts. The first is the meeting between Captain America and Wolverine. Bendis really brings out the tension with Wolverine. He knows how Cyclops will react to the Avengers interference and he knows the Avengers won’t stop, which brings us to the second front where Bendis surprised me. The confrontation between Cyclops and Cap is handled beautifully. Both men have a point, both men are shown as determined but not psychotic. When Cyclops lashes out it makes sense, even if it is a little over the top. By the end of Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 the stage has been set for an event series that could make up for the horrific tragedy that was Fear Itself.
John Romita Jr. is on art duties, so clearly it’s brilliant. I could go into the strong lines, the amazing way Romita captures the spirit of comic books in every single panel, or his ability to make the action leap off the page, but why? John Romita Jr. is now and will always be the man. His contribution to Avengers Vs. X-Men is obvious as soon as you open up the comic.
Well done gentlemen. Very well done.