WARNING !!! Spoilers are everywhere, with some crazy-ass speculation that, if it turns out to be accurate, could really spoil your dinner.
AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9 (October 2012) Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman = story. Jason Aaron = script. Adam Kubert = pencils. John Dell = inks. Laura Martin with Larry Molinar = colors. Chris Eliopoulos = letters.
Say what you will about this mega-event and whether or not it really matters in the lengthy Marvel universe saga - - it has always provided a good story. It entertains while offering small insights into some of the characters. Every issue is action-packed, but does not sacrifice the script to the screenplay (I wanted to say panel-play but not everybody would make the connection).
The art has also been consistently good. While I would have preferred to see every single issue illustrated by John Romita, Jr, Adam Kubert also deserves credit for his fine work on the last several issues. As the story gets a little more involved as it moves into the final chapter, the panels need to be a little more compressed in order to get the necessary captions and word-balloons inserted. Kubert just hasn’t had the same bigger-panel allowance as Romita. Who knows? Had the situation been reversed, I might be complimenting Kubert before Romita. Check out the big panel take-down of Thor by Colossus and Magik for some Kubert excellence. What I am enjoying is the use of a horizontal sequence of panels across two pages instead of the standard single page top to bottom approach. It gives it more of a (dare I say it) cinematic feel, but the wider panels also allow the artist to get a little more depiction/action into individual panels.
Spider-Man takes center stage in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9 and doesn’t disappoint. I’m happy to see his character get fleshed out a little more than it usually is in the various “team” books where Spider-Man plays a role. I’m sure that Dan Slott and other writers of the main Spider-Man books are doing a good job at portraying the character of Spider-Man / Peter Parker. But, I never get to see that as I quit reading the Spider-Man titles some years ago. (For mostly economic purposes- - just too darn many books.) In the team books (especially if scripted by Bendis) Spider-Man always seems to be the comedic relief - - cracking jokes and making smart-aleck comments to the amusement and sometimes annoyance of the other team members - - but rarely getting a major role in the outcome of whatever conflict the team is involved in.
Spider-Man steps up big in Issue #9. While he does get the snot beat out of him, he still scores a victory through use of not his physical skills - - but his brain-power. His knowledge of psychology and family dysfunction/competitiveness allows him to make some key observations regarding his attackers that ends up turning the tables on some Phoenix Four members. Tony Stark spends sleepless days/nights wracking his brain for a solution - - - “The Phoenix. Wanda’s Hex Magic. Hope. The Iron Fist. Somehow it all fits together . . . Somehow.” (Perhaps that’s a tip-off / clue for readers as to how this will play out.) But, it’s Spider-Man who, through his problem-solving this issue, may be pointing the finger on the root. Take them down one or two at a time until there is only one Phoenix-powered mutant left to deal with. Sure, they get stronger but it still whittles the numbers down - - and there are still more Avengers left to gang up on the one.
THEORY-TIME: So how is AVENGERS VS. X-MEN going to end? I’m sure there is already speculation/buzz circulating on various comics and fan web sites and blogs. I’ve been avoiding them because I don’t want to be influenced or “spoiled” by what they say. Here’s my theory: While history has shown a link between K’un Lun, redheads, Iron Fist, and the Phoenix force - - the Avengers are going to place less emphasis on training Hope in the mystical city because they simply don’t know how she can defeat the Phoenix and therefore don’t really know what to teach her. (Please notice I did not take advantage of an opportunity to make a bad pun and say the Avengers have “abandoned Hope'”.) Captain America in particular is acting very impatient, in direct contrast to his normal optimistic and patient self - - and he will urge the Avengers to do something, anything sooner rather than later. They will adopt the Spider-Man one-at-a-time approach and focus their efforts on one of the two remaining Phoenix enhanced mutants - - Emma Frost. Why? Because she is the most powerful of the two - - by taking her out next it should be easier to deal with a Phoenix force flowing through Cyclops. (Again – just theory because what happens at the end of Issue #9 would indicate that the Avengers may not get the opportunity to work that plan of attack.
It could play out that they will not get that far because something is going to happen before that battle can occur. There are signs and scenes throughout this issue that reveal that many mutants are having second thoughts about which side is right. Even they can see that the Phoenix Force, while being presently employed primarily as a force for good, has indeed “corrupted” those that it powers. Storm switches sides (again). There is a pivotal scene in Issue #9 where Emma calls for a meeting with Scott - - and he chides her for lacking focus. She tells him that she’s found Hope’s location, and Cyclops leaves in a rush. He took off before she could confide that she’s worried about what she might do next.
As we approach the final rounds in the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN the Marvel “bullpen” of scripters on this title surely realize that they must incorporate some significant outcome into the story in order justify the previous months of mega-crossovers, etc. By now, we have come to expect that - - while at the same time our expectations have been lowered based on previous “event” storylines. . Just as a very promising SECRET INVASION ended up with less than a handful of characters dying and only one of real significance (the Wasp), the Marvel faithful are expecting at least one to fall as AVENGERS VS. X-MEN wraps up.
If you get your monthly comics from ordering through PREVIEWS then you already that know what comes next is MARVEL NOW, with this AVENGERS VS. X-MEN min-series being the trailblazer/pathfinder. It’s been described as what comes “next” or “now” rather than a re-boot of the Marvel Universe along the lines of DC’s NEW 52. What this means is that the Avengers have prevailed and in the new world order both mutants and super-humans have made peace and vowed to work together - - a la the new integrated team books like UNCANNY AVENGERS, etc.
So, who is taking the rap and going down permanently? (Or for a couple years anyway until the standard comic resurrection). I vote for Cyclops. I believe that Emma Frost will interrupt his assault on K’un Lun and try to stop him. In a battle-rage Cyclops will “accidentally” kill her. All the power of the Phoenix Force will flow into him – but instead of corrupting him completely it disorients and fragments his thinking. He is full of this god-like force but has just killed his wife through mis-use of his new powers. He considers anew the righteousness and/or aimlessness of his mission along with thoughts of suicide/punishment for his crime against his own. These distractions allow the Avengers to take him down, and Wolverine finishes it.
Don’t like that outcome? Then consider Plan B. Emma Frost does stop Cyclops. She doesn’t kill him completely (similar to when Namor was stripped of his share of the Phoenix power). However, all the Phoenix Power then flows into Emma Frost. But before she can defeat the Avengers by simply “reaching inside their heads right now and simply turn them off. Just like flicking a switch . . .” the Scarlet Witch steps in and turns that power back against Emma Frost, who then switches herself off.
I think the first outcome is more likely to occur. I also prefer a world with Cyclops more than a world without Emma Frost. Bye, bye Cyclops. See you again in a few years.