Thursday, July 12, 2012

A vs. X cross-overs: I still think Avengers will prevail

 

I think I’ll go back to my stack of AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN cross-over books.  Despite my working off a number of these in my last few blogs - - this is still a good-sized stack.  I don’t want to think what I’ve spent trying to explore this mega-event.  I remember commenting earlier that I appreciated that Marvel wasn’t deliberately trying to include essential elements of the main story in any of the cross-over books.  The idea was that they were there if you wanted to read more, but they would be side-stories that may provide extra detail or background but wouldn’t contain any key moments in the big story.  In spite of that I picked up many of them.  A good story just makes me want to explore further.  Maybe Marvel is finally listening to the general readership and finding a way to present these mega-events without expecting everyone to get all the titles. As long as they include good stories and don’t cheapen up the art teams certain readers will buy enough of the side-line books to help sales numbers.   Everybody is happy.  Maybe. 

Avengers_Vol_4_26_Textless                    avengers27

THE AVENGERS #26 –27 (July + August 2012) Brian Michael Bendis, writer.  Walter Simonson, pencils.  Scott Hanna, inks.  Jason Keith, colors.  VC’s Cory Petit, letters. 

It’s great to see the master Walt Simonson on a regular title.  I’ve always liked his work (and his Thor scripted books also) and his individualistic style with elements that recall the art of Jack Kirby and John Romita, Sr.  The best example of this is the feeling of hopelessness so aptly conveyed by the two-page centerspread in Issue #26 showing a defeated Avengers and Quincarrier adrift in space. 

These two books are linked to events that occur in SECRET AVENGERS #26-28 so it would be very hard to consider this a stand-alone.  It does make a two-part story that could be appreciated without reading the other Avengers title but would leave a lot unexplained. Get these two issues or grab the others as well.  They both contain good stories. 

The Avengers mission to halt the Phoenix Force in space is not successful but does get one small triumph = on a second attempt a piece of the Phoenix “energy” is captured. This could be taken back to Earth for Tony Stark and Hank Pym to study and see if it reveals a weakness in the Phoenix Force. However, the Kree have their eyes on the prize as well and have one of their agents working on the inside to help them capture it.  (Okay, it’s the Protector - - but one glance at the cover and you would have figured that out on your own.)  I’ll just touch on some of the highlights.

A grim-faced Captain America gives the best short explanation of the threat represented by the Phoenix Force heading towards Earth:  “It’s a destructive parasitical force of cosmic proportions that latches on to a biological host . . . It then uses that vessel to lay waste to the surrounding environment.”

The Protector has been dating an Earth girl, Annie. The scene where he says his goodbyes to her is very touching and handled very well by Bendis and Simonson.   It’s ironic that it’s the Protector who devises the method by which the Avengers get their second chance and then he has to steal the prize away. He thought he was protecting both Kree and Earth interests but that’s not the case.

Good story.  Good art.  In spite of that I’m not compelled to keep going. Next issue brings a new story with the Red Hulk featured.  This seems like a place to jump off.  Not a stand-alone. Not essential, just an interesting side story.

RATING FOR THE AVENGERS #26-27 - - - - - TWO STARS 

New Avengers 28

THE NEW AVENGERS #28 (September 2012)  Brian Michael Bendis, writer.  Mike Deodato, artist.  Rain Beredo, color art.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters & production.

We take a break from the training of Hope at K’un Lun and return to Earth where the focus this issue is on Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Hawkeye as they attempt to break out of the X-Men’s prison.  Each have their own schemes and tactics to put into play, and it’s fun to watch it unfold.  Spider-Woman seems to have the best moves. She can be a real bad-ass.  A great moment occurs when Hawkeye thinks she’s a shape-shifter and she refers to a personal part of his anatomy so he realizes it’s really her.

I’m still admiring the recent work of artist Mike Deodato and feel it’s worth picking up this book just to enjoy that.  While a prison setting doesn’t lend itself to the same elaborate mystical background scenery as the last few issues of THE NEW AVENGERS has,  Mike and the art team do some nice work with panel placement, shadows and dark tones here.  I’m reminded a little bit of Paul Gulacy. 

Good story. Good art.  I do want to see what else Bendis and Deodato will do, especially when the preview hints at the Illuminati next issue.  Wow. It’s truly a stand-alone story.  You could read and enjoy this without benefit of any other issue.  Neat!  Of course it’s non-essential.

RATING FOR NEW AVENGERS #28 - - - - - FOUR STARS

AVENGERS ACADEMY #30  (July 2012)  “Protective Services, Part 2”  Christos Gage, writer.  Tom Grummett, penciler.  Cory Hamscher, inker. Chris Sotomayor, colorist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer.

AA 30

One thing I’ve really appreciated about the AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN books is that the majority of them have featured great art teams, and this issue of AVENGERS ACADEMY is no exception.

Within the former West Coast Avengers compound that now serves as the Avengers Academy the mix of super-powered teens includes several mutants.  Because of the impending arrival of the Phoenix Force these mutants have been confined to campus (“protective custody”)  and this is the focus of the conflict here.  Complicating matters is a recently escaped Sebastian Shaw, wandering the grounds somewhere in a mad rage.

There is a great amount of discussion and debate among the teens as to what is right and what side to take that is very interesting to read. Gage does a nice job of presenting all points of view without favoring one over the other.  When a mutant has to stand on the side of the school and help confine other mutants it strains the sense of duty and right and wrong. Further complicating matters is the inclusion of a good Sentinel (best friend and pet of  student Juston) to patrol the perimeter.

RATING FOR AVENGERS ACADEMY #30 - - - THREE STARS (not a stand-alone and not essential)

AVENGERS ACADEMY #32  (August 2012)  “What The Heart Wants, Part 1”  Christos Gage, writer.  Timothy Green II, penciler.  Jeff Huet, inker.  Chris Sotomayor, colorist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer.

AA 32

The staff at Avengers Academy have made a decision to let the young mutant students leave. Juston Seyfert has programmed his bodyguard Sentinel with a new list of priorities, but he can’t seem to erase the original directives to apprehend and destroy mutants.  He has to settle for making it the lowest of priorities.  This doesn’t sit well with remaining mutant X-23 who wants a complete erasure of the unit’s memories and a re-boot.  Juston resists, as he feels that would mean losing his “friend” forever.  X-23 relents, but a bigger problem emerges when Emma Frost shows up with the same thing in mind - - erase/eradicate the Sentinel.

The arguments back and forth are well-said and touching.  Good story. Good art. Not a stand-alone – it’s continued.  And that makes me want to continue.  Still non-essential to the main book.

RATING FOR AVENGERS ACADEMY #32  - - - - - THREE STARS

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