Avengers vs. X-Men #1 Review
- Published on Thursday, 05 April 2012 01:00
- Written by Rokk
- Hits: 1168
After all the hype and speculation the moment has arrived. Marvel rolled out their new big event in a hope to blunt the damage done to their sales numbers since DC unleashed the New 52. I have been largely unimpressed with Marvel's big events. They have been nothing more than shallow stories lacking any content and hideously decompressed. Merely a sales gimmick designed to induce readers to buy a bunch of tie-in issues in order to get the "entire" story. Will Avengers v. X-Men be a throwback to the old school Marvel events like Secret Wars that placed more of an emphasis on classic super hero smash 'em up fun and entertainment or will this be another slow and lumbering big event that awkwardly attempts to deliver some political and social commentary in an uninteresting and unoriginal manner? Let's hit this review and find out!
Plot: Jason Aaron, Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Brian Bendis
Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Laura Martin
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Phoenix destroying some planet on its way to Earth. We cut to the Avengers Tower. Iron Man and Protector are engaged in a mindless argument that nobody including the reader cares about. Ms. Marvel arrives on the scene. Suddenly, something that looks like a meteor blasts through the wing of a nearby Boeing 747 and then continues on and smashes into the top of the Empire State Building sheering off the top of the building. The objects then continues on and crashes into the ground.
The Avengers spring into action. Thor rescues the plane and uses his wind powers to safely land it on the ground. Spider-Man uses his webs to keep the broken off top of the Empire State Building from smashing into the ground.
The Avengers then go to where the object impacted into the ground. There they find a badly injured Nova Centurion. The Nova Corps member cryptically whispers "It's...It's coming."
We cut to Utopia where Cyclops has morphed into a psychotic drill sergeant and forces Hope to fight him without her powers. He lays a beat down on her again and again and keeps telling her to try to attack him again. Evidently, Cyclops believes this grueling and insane manner of training is the best way to train young Hope to fight the Humans if she ever loses her powers and to also better enable her to handle the Phoenix Force. (Not sure I follow the logic, but we all did not honestly expect much logic to be employed with this story.)
Magneto comments how psycho and extreme Cyclops is being just to really hammer the plot point home to readers that Cyclops is one extreme individual. (Perhaps Cyclops is just auditioning for a role in the new Xtreme DCU?) During the "training" Hope loses her temper and the Phoenix force flashes out of her body and blasts Cyclops. Everyone is appropriated stunned at what just happened.
We cut to Iron Man and Captain America briefing the President on the fact that the Phoenix Force is on its way to Earth. Suddenly, Iron Man is alerted to the manifestation of the Phoenix Force on Earth. The Avengers must head out to Utopia. But, first Cap swings by Xavier's School for Mutants and asks Wolverine which side is he going to be on? Avengers or X-Men?
We slide over to Captain America meeting with Cyclops. The two engage in a conversation more befitting of two automatons rather than two actual characters. Cap wants Cyclops to give the Avengers Hope. Cyclops refuses to do so stating that Hope is mutantkind's best chance at a rebirth. Cap says he was not asking Cyclops if he would give him Hope. Cyclops says that he knows that. Cyclops then blasts Captain America who blocks it with his shield. Cap then stands up and says "Avengers Assemble." (And you know what that means.)
Scott tells Emma to get Hope and protect her at all costs. Emma says that this should be Hope's choice. Cyclops responds that it is no longer Hope's choice. A stunned Hope looks on and we see the Phoenix Force in her eyes. End of issue.
The Good: Well, that was certainly not an entertaining or exciting beginning to Marvel's latest cash grab big event. Of course, I am not surprised since I kept my expectations low considering that fact that it has been a long time since Marvel delivered a truly exciting big event. Now, this was not an offensive read. In fact, it was simply guilty of being a generic read that will elicit neutral reactions from many readers. Avengers vs. X-Men #1 is the comic book equivalent of eating a rice cake for a snack.
All right, let's satisfy The Revolution's Rule of Positivity. Well, Laura Martin does a nice job with the colors. They are vibrant and pop off of the page. Martin is able to give a rather dull story at least an exciting look. I will admit that I am not much of a fan of Romita's artwork, but the art in general was just fine. Avengers vs X-Men certainly looks like a classic super hero comic book. Romita and Hanna put as much excitement into the issue as they could with such a tepid script. The action scenes, as limited as they were, looked nice.
The Bad: There are two main reasons why Avengers vs. X-Men #1 failed to wow me as much as I was hoping. The first reason is Marvel's own fault for previewing as much of this debut issue as possible. Yes, of course you could talk about the usual defects of a modern comic book. The content is on the thin side. The pacing is slow. The plot progression is minimal. This was certainly a decompressed beginning to this big event.
Even if we had not seen any of the preview materials for this issue there would have still been little to no surprises or plot development. What happened in this issue? The Avengers want Hope and want to stop the Phoenix. The X-Men want Hope and are looking for salvation from the Phoenix. And that is all we got in this issue. So, there was absolutely no new plot development or progression of this story to be found in this issue compared to where we were before this issue began.
And, yes, you could talk about the lack of character work. But, to be honest, that is almost always the case with a big event story. These are supposed to be summer blockbuster stories that are heavy on the over the top action and excitement. These are not supposed to be artsy indie films that focus on character work. So, the fact that the characters in this issue are nothing more than one dimensional cardboard cut-outs slavishly spitting out the writer's dialogue in order to mechanically move the story along and to burn panel time is of absolutely no surprise.
And, sure, you could talk about how Bendis' dialogue is average at best. That all the characters have the same generic external voice. That there is zero chemistry between the characters. But, you knew that coming into this issue. That is how Bendis always writes ensemble titles. Complaining about Bendis' dialogue is a bit like buying a new Volkswagen Beetle and complaining that it cannot beat a Ferrari 458 in a race. You knew that when you made the purchase.
No, one of the two real problems with this issue was that Marvel, in their frantic attempt to convince readers that this big event was going to be amazing, previewed so much of this issue that they spoiled it. The scene with Nova crashing on Earth and warning that the Phoenix was coming? We had already seen it. The scene with Iron Man and Captain America talking to the President and warning him about the Phoenix? Already read it. The scene with Cap talking to Wolverine? Already seen it. The scene with Cyclops meeting with Cap and the X-Men commenting on the meeting? Yup. Also already read it in a preview.
So, what did we actually get that was new in this issue? Well, we saw a plane crash. That was new. We saw Cyclops sparring with Hope. That was new. And we saw Cyclops blast Cap and then Cap assembling the Avengers to his side. That is it. That is not much at all. The meat of the issue and all of the plot development we had already gotten in the previews that Marvel rolled out leading up to this issue. So, if readers feel like Avengers vs. X-Men #1 was a bit lackluster then Marvel really has only themselves to blame.
The second reason that Avengers vs. X-Men #1 failed to impress me was that I felt that Marvel really needed to wow readers with this issue. Marvel has been beaten like a rented mule in the sales charts ever since DC's New 52 rolled out in September. Marvel's reaction to the juggernaut that is the New 52 has been to curl up in the fetal position and cry out "Not in the face! Not in the face!" In February 2012 sales chart, Marvel's highest selling comic was Uncanny X-Men #6 with a pathetic 59,843 copies sold. That is beyond awful. I never thought I would see the day where the best selling Marvel title could not even crack 60,000 copies.
However, Avengers vs. X-Men #1 was Marvel's chance to launch a deadly counter-assault on DC. This was Marvel's chance to steal back some of the buzz on comic book Internet websites that have been overwhelmingly dominated by the New 52 for the past six months. Marvel needed to put readers on notice that while Marvel may have suffered some body blows by DC's New 52, that Marvel was still the champ and that a massive comeback was in the making. It seemed that if Marvel could not deliver a show stopping big event in Avengers vs. X-Men then they may have to fold up their tents and concede all of 2012 to DC and beginning planning a comeback attack for 2013.
Not only that, it has also been years since Marvel rolled out a truly exciting and impressive big event. In fact, Marvel has not done so since Civil War. And the past three big events in Secret Invasion, Siege and Fear Itself have all been lackluster and have garnered diminishing sales numbers with each big event.
If this had been a couple of years ago when Marvel was riding high in the sales charts and crushing DC each and every month then the effort we got in Avengers vs. X-Men #1 would have been enough. However, given everything that has happened to Marvel since September, 2011, Marvel needed a true gem with this issue. Marvel needed to crush a home run with this debut issue and swing the spotlight back to their universe and away from the New 52. They did not achieve that with Avengers vs. X-Men #1.
Yes, this was a solid debut issue. It was right down the middle. There was absolutely nothing awful, terrible or offensive at all about this issue. It was a dependable read. But that is the problem. Marvel served up a Toyota Camry when they needed to deliver a Lamborghini Aventador. Yeah, Camry's are well built, dependable, have all the options and features you would need and a good warranty. But, there is no passion, no exhilaration and no make your hair on the back of your neck stand up type of excitement. Marvel needed to put the comic book industry and the entire readership on notice that Avengers vs. X-Men was going to be something special. That this big event was not going to follow the same direction as Marvel's previous lackluster big events in Secret Invasion, Siege and Fear Itself.
Unfortunately, Avengers vs. X-Men #1 never made me feel that it was something special. This issue failed to engage the reader's emotions. The flatness of the character work and the mechanical progression of the story keeps the reader removed from what is occuring. This issue never gets the reader properly emotionally invested or gets their blood pumping and adrenline racing. Marvel did not deliver a clap of thunder that put everyone on notice that this big event was going to be unlike anything they had delivered since Civil War. To be sure, this issue was not a miss. But, it was not a deliverance of shock and awe that would leave DC quaking in their super hero tights.
As I said before, I am not the biggest fan of Romita's artwork. I simply do not find his style of art to be up to the standard of what I expect in a big event. To me, big events are the flashy blockbuster event of the year. Just like a blockbuster movie demands a huge budget full of gaudy special effects and over the top computer generated graphics, a comic book big event requires an incredibly high level of artwork that is not found on your common monthly title.
Overall: I really wanted Avengers vs. X-Men #1 to be an incredible read. Even though I grew up loving Marvel and DC almost equally, I would have to admit that at my core I am a Marvel guy first. I have dropped all of the DC titles that I was getting after the New 52 reboot. And none of the second and third wave of titles from Warner Brothers has done anything to get me excited about their new universe and line of comics. So, Marvel has become my only outlet for my super hero addiction. Therefore, I wanted to love this big event and have something that would get me excited about super hero comics once again.
I still believe that Avengers vs. X-Men has huge potential. I do think that Marvel has the makings for a blockbuster hit on their hands with this big event. But, they need to seriously crank up the intensity and excitement and deliver some over the top super hero action. I am not too sure that the writers they have tapped are the proper ones for such a task. This collection of writers are most definitely not Marvel's strongest pure super hero writers. I have a feeling that Versus might be the smash hit title that saves this big event. At any rate, hopefully this committee of writers can kick it up several notches and deliver a much more jaw droppingly powerful second issue to this big event.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rokk began his little Blogger blog known as Rokk's Comic Book Revolution on January 24, 2006. One wife and two little boys later he is now the Editor In Chief of the Comic Book Revolution and works with some great fellow comic book fanatics. You can keep up with Rokk and his musings through various formats.