AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN - - - ROUND FOUR - - - with spoilers
AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #4 (Marvel, July 2012) Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman, story. Jonathan Hickman, script. John Romita Jr., pencils. Scott Hanna, inks. Laura Martin, colors. Chris Eliopoulos, letters.
So far, the creative team on this series has been pulling off what I did not think was possible at Marvel. Four issues in (plus side journeys) and this story continues to engage, continues to entertain, and continues to amuse. It’s a carefully-crafted blend and a nice and deft balance of humor and seriousness. The light hearted nature is controlled and far removed from coming off as silly (always a danger when too much fun gets introduced). The serious nature of these events is properly conveyed, and done so without traces of heavy-handedness or pomposity. I’m impressed - - and I don’t think it’s simply because I haven’t been wrapped up in a Marvel event for so long that this seems fresh and new to me.
There are a variety of things to appreciate in the Round 4 issue, including:
1) I like the continued inclusion of the logo page with the head-shot icons of each character and which team they are siding with. The surprise this issue is Quicksilver on an Avengers team and Iceman and Angel moving from Wolverine’s school and siding with the X-Men. A nice touch this issue is to show what place/location each character is based. It’s helping to keep track of everybody involved in the current search for Hope and the outer space away mission, etc.
2) In the last issue, Hope escaped from Utopia while the Avengers and X-Men weren’t looking (they were too busy fighting). Research then determines that she is in one of five possible locations and teams from both sides are dispatched to ferret out the true hiding spot. It turns out that all five locations are falsifications. In an earlier time, Marvel might have played out these searches in the main title --- extending the length and number of issues. This time instead they let those five searches play out in the secondary titles for any readers that want to follow it that way. It’s simply not included in the main series, since it just doesn’t impact much on the bigger story. Nowhere in the books does Marvel insist that these side investigations are essential and must be read. They just seem to be providing that option. I appreciate that. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that many of those secondary stories are pretty good reading also.
3) It looks like Logan may be having a change of heart again. No, he doesn’t appear to be jumping over to the X-Men/Cyclops point of view. He still feels that Hope is a threat. He just seems to be softening his position/decision that she must be killed. Hope makes a good argument to persuade him that she may be right because as she says to him = “Well, you should. Because that’s what your school is all about, isn’t it? Making a better world?” . .... “I believe the Phoenix is a thing of destiny – its coming and it can’t be stopped. I believe I’m meant to have it so I can do all the wonderful things that rebirth implies. But just in case you’re right and I’m wrong – in case I can’t control it.. you’re the only person I trust to stop me. But I deserve a chance – I know deep down you do believe that.”
4) It was this very blunt decision/position by Wolverine that got him into trouble/distrust with Captain America and led to his subsequent abandonment. But how did Hope know exactly where to find him? I also appreciate the very clever play on words and images with the “beer trap” that snares Logan. And, there is a nice touch at the end of the issue as Wolverine re-earns that trust with a tip-off that shows he is moving closer to the same opinions and decisions as Captain America.
5) There is an absolutely beautifully depicted conclusion to the outer space confrontation between the Avengers team dispatched there and the Phoenix Force. For three solid pages the outcome is told in images only with no text or captions and it’s a solid piece of work. The usually verbose Thor has no lines whatsoever for the entire issue, but his expressions and body language reveal so much.
6) Things end up on the Moon, and not because everyone wants to be closer to the stars. (Good background music CD while reading this issue - - - The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy performed by NADA SURF).
I’m continuing to use my five-star scale to rate the spin-off and secondary titles in this series = one star for good writing; one star for good art; one star for a well-done stand-alone story that can be enjoyed as is; one star for effectively connecting to the bigger main storyline and either moving that along in an important way or revealing some important background information and/or insight; and one star for making me want to read further and return to this particular title.
AVX: VS #2 of 6 (Marvel, July 2012) Captain America Vs. Gambit = Steve McNiven, writer/pencils. John Dell, inks. Morry Hollowell, colors. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters & production. The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. Colossus = Kieron Gillen, writer. Salvador Larroca, art. Jim Charalampiois, colors. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters & production.
If your primary purpose in picking up the Avengers VS. X-Men series is to be entertained by a rollicking good story, then know that AVX: VS is completely non-essential to the main story, but it is absolutely mandatory fun. When you feature two well-matched combatants, and pair that up with a writer/artist team equipped to fully depict/illustrate the ensuing battle - - we readers are in for a treat!
Gambit vs. Captain America pits arrogance versus determination - -and excessive showmanship and unwarranted confidence versus patience, timing and skills. There’s no need for an excess of dialogue here - - just bring us the action in big panels. No other panel is more satisfying than the concluding blow that determines a clear-cut winner - - I silently cheered! It’s my favorite battle of the AVX: VS mini-series so far.
I was a big fan of the Gambit monthly title in the early 2000’s and was sorry to see it discontinued. The character was fleshed out, developed further, and was depicted as both noble and admirable. After that, it seemed to me that none of the other X-writers were handling the character properly. I got discouraged with the X-books and quit following them as well as the exploits of Gambit.
As much as I like this story by McNiven (and his art is stupendous!) - - I don’t like his depiction of Gambit. Within the first three pages, he refers to Captain America as an “old man” and smugly and incorrectly pronounced “one living legend down for the . . .” The Remy Lebeau I used to enjoy reading about would have respected Steve Rogers and treated the battle with the appropriate caution against an experienced veteran foe rather than the cock-sure off-handed approach he takes here. It’s just a minor complaint and doesn’t detract from the pure enjoyment to be had by reading this story.
The second story is very funny, although the battle is serious and treated as such. There are some great wise-cracks from Spider-Man / Peter Parker, who makes fun of everything and everybody including himself. The art carries everything forward and there are some great battle panels.
I think by the time we get to Issue #6 of this series, I will have had enough. But so far, I’m enjoying the ride immensely. Great fun here!
RATING FOR AVX: VS #2 - - - - - FOUR STARS (Good story, good art. Good stand-alone story. Very encouraging - - who wouldn’t want to read further? But non-essential to the main story.)