AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 (Marvel, June 2012) Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction = Story. Brian Michael Bendis = Script. John Romita, Jr. = Pencils. Scott Hanna = Inks. Laura Martin = Colors. Chris Eliopoulos = Letters.
So far, these have been beautiful illustrated books to examine. Artist Frank Cho does some of his best recent work in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #0 and is followed in Issue #1 by the very dynamic John Romita, Jr. The art and action/battle panels explode off the page. The story is equally epic. If you enjoy sprawling sagas then you should be reading this series.
The reason for my optimism? . . . . . . . . . . The way this is playing out so far reminds me of the monumental CIVIL WAR epic of some years back. That series had a dramatic impact on Marvel events that followed it and led to some equally great story-telling. I am hoping that AVENGERS VS. X-MEN re-ignites some of that greatness and makes Marvel books more interesting to me again. ( In spite of how it will eventually thin out my wallet.)
SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT
The Phoenix Force is the catalyst for the dispute between the leadership of The Avengers and X-Men teams. To reinforce the seriousness conveyed by Captain America and Iron Man in Issue #0, the opening pages show the massive destruction the Phoenix Force is capable of. In a touching sequence, a father and son await the end together as the Phoenix Force wipes out an unidentified planet as it travels along the path to Earth. It takes place within four pages of fiery wide-screen carnage.
The logo page that shows head shots of the two teams seems rather lop-sided in favor of the Avengers in a 22-to-6 ratio, with both Wolverine and Beast straddling the fine line that separates the two teams. Which side will they take? My gut says they will both side with the X-Men (despite their present membership in Avengers of the New and Secret teams).
Some of the highlights for me in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1 are:
1) The art team ! Romita excels as page after page of his crisp illustration wins me over. The colors by Martin just want to pop off the page. It’s hard for me to pick out a favorite art sequence - - there are so many great moments to marvel at: Nova crashing to earth; Hope unleashing some of the latent Phoenix force already within her as blasting the crap out of Cyclops as Magneto and Emma Frost view the argument with deep concern; Cyclops focused beam that centers on Captain America’s shield and knocks him across two pages; the arrival of the massive S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier to Utopia and the assembled back-up force waiting onboard.
2) Bendis at his best! He keeps the story moving along at a rapid-fire pace but still manages to work in his signature stylings - - the comic asides during moments of high tension, and the “talking heads” expository sequences that impart both deep meaning/explanation and reveal the implications/consequences of what may follow.
3) Surprises! Only a few short paragraphs before I commented that I expected Wolverine and Beast to side with the X-Men. Wrong! - - and I don’t mind admitting it. So Beast joins the group of Avengers heading into space on an apparent “suicide mission” to halt the progress of the Phoenix Force. And in the concluding pages we see Wolverine (who earlier seemed reluctant to support either side because of concerns for his students) among the team ready to air-drop into Utopia and assist Captain America. When the story is not so predictable and the unexpected occurs, my interest is enhanced.
4) We have a classic confrontation here = two sides (represented by Cap and Cyclops) both convinced they are taking the right course of action. It’s going to be either ‘death and destruction” or “rebirth.” One side wants to prevent calamity and defeat the anticipated destructive force. The other side wants to allow it to arrive, find it’s focus, and hopes to control/manage that force for a greater good. Both leaders firm in their convictions and sure of the path forward. Obviously, the readers can see both points of view and agree with most of the major points. For my two cents worth, I think Captain America is the more practical/pragmatic and realistic of the two and knows what needs to be done. Cyclops certainly has noble intentions but too much is riding on his belief that the Phoenix Force can be controlled. It doesn’t even appear that Hope can be controlled and coached. Sorry, Cyclops. I think it’s a pipe dream. I ‘m going along with Cap.
5) Technology augments the comics experience. Marvel has done two different and admirable things here. Each issue contains a code for a download of a free digital copy. (I haven’t done this because the download is valid for one use only, and I plan to purchase an Apple IPad in the next 30 days. I’ll wait until then.) Secondly, they have incorporated throughout the story an AR icon for smart phones. By downloading a free app that will open up additional motion panels when held over the graphic - - comics move even further into the future. (Again, I have to wait to experience this once I get my IPad. My present smart phone is the property of my employer and this type of usage is not permitted.)