Avengers vs. X-Men #7: Witch War

Scotty Jive and the Phoenix Five are out to shut down the Avengers for good, and only the Scarlet Witch can stop them.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Avengers vs. X-Men #7

The announcement of Marvel NOW makes the ongoing Avengers vs. X-Men saga seem a bit like it's playing out the string, somewhat along the lines of how Flashpoint became Flashpointless during the lead-up to DC's New 52. However, AvX is nowhere near the annoying mess that Flashpoint was, and it's nowhere near the turgid mess that Fear Itself was. Despite having flare-ups of event-book-itis, it's been okay. Perhaps that's just in comparison to how bad it COULD have been, but it's had its moments.

Fear Itself architect Matt Fraction takes the reins for Avengers vs. X-Men #7, as Scotty Jive and the Phoenix Five have made it their mission to ruin the Avengers. Namor wants to kill them all, Emma Frost seems on board with that, Scott just wants to defame them and rebrand them as terrorists against their new Utopian regime – although we've got no sense of what the general populace of the Marvel Universe feels about this X-takeover as yet beyond Cyclops claiming they're beloved. Of course, even when he's center stage, Colossus is relegated to the background as he always seems to be, even though it would be interesting to see how Cyttorak is responding to his avatar of destruction being taken over by another godlike entity – Cain Marko was punished for the Asgardian mess in Fear Itself, after all.

Anyway, as seen last issue, the only threat the Avengers can pose to the Phoenix Five is with the Scarlet Witch, who has apparently regained all the crazy reality-warping powers she gave up at the end of Avengers: The Children's Crusade, which nobody seems to be acknowledging. Then again, since Brian Michael Bendis obliterated Kurt Busiek's detailed explanation of how Wanda's abilities work with Avengers Disassembled by shitting on chaos magic, who knows what her actual power set is anymore?

Captain America and the A-Team are trying to bait Phoenix-Folk into engaging the Witch, in order to gather as much data as they can on how the thing works, and thus, how to fix whatever the hell it was that Tony Stark did to it to divide it so. T'Challa is on board to figure this out as well, and there's a fun moment acknowledging the history of mild tension and disdain between the Armored Avenger and the former King of Wakanda stretching back to the Christopher Priest run on Black Panther. Would T'Challa ever actually bitchslap Tony Stark? No, of course not, but this is an event book. Exaggeration is what these things tend to thrive upon, and we can write it off as 'hey, end of the world stuff here, tensions are high.' I'm much more interested in the possibility that T'Challa will be the one to devise the master plan to defeat the Phoenix, blending science and magic – like he did to defeat Dr. Doom in Doomwar. If they use the phrase "shadow physics" at any point, we'll know they've actually done some homework.

The Avengers' next move is to relocate to the hidden city of K'un L'un, where Lei Kung The Thudnerer is going to train Hope Summers to do the job she wasn't ready for, because now Iron Fist has a connection to the Phoenix – as do the Scarlet Witch's particular energies. Convenient, sure, but again, event book. Meanwhile, Emma Frost conspires with Namor – even swaps spit with him, it seems – to get him to launch a full-on assault on Wakanda, where a young X-lady named Transonic is being held (something you might not catch until you read the issue twice, so insignificant a panel it seems). Thus, more fighting to come.

As often happens with these giant power-level stories, the abilities of these people tend to fluctuate according to what the plot needs. Five people possess the power of the Phoenix and they've reshaped the world in a matter of weeks, but they can't seem to muster the telepathic wherewithal to locate where the Avengers are hiding without confusion and difficulty. Omnipotent or not? Who knows? To what degree do they maintain their original personalities when possessed? Namor actually wants to kill all his former Avengers comrades? How is Cyclops now the calm, level-headed one when he's been a paranoid shit-starter the whole time?

Maybe it's just because it's 2am after a mid-week holiday, maybe it's just because I'm cursed with foreknowledge of upcoming Marvel initiatives that I'm impatient to get to, maybe it's event-book-itis or maybe I'm just too old for this shit, but I'm not really invested in Avengers vs. X-Men. Olivier Coipel does an admirable job on the art duties, but it feels like many panels are just random smatterings of background characters loitering around in various poses cluttering things up to make the story feel bigger, or jam-packed or whatever. Questionable motivations and suspect contrivances make it hard to connect with the story being told, but there are much cooler things happening here than in most summer comic stunts, so we'll take what we can get.

It's just hard to get around Wolverine's line in Avengers Academy. "The adults who oughta know better are actin' like jerks."