Monday, September 24, 2012

Avengers vs. X-Men, Round 11: Sustenance among the spoils

 

WARNING:  THIS ARTICLE GUARANTEED TO CONTAIN SPOILERS. . . . . . . If you are  following these books, then you already have an idea about what is going to happen.  With the advent of the penultimate issue in the mini-series it becomes extremely difficult to write about this storyline without revealing some of the key events.  I doubt very much that at this point some readers are still contemplating whether to jump in.  However,  if you have decided to wait it out and read AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN after it concludes, then read no further than the next two paragraphs.

What has characterized the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN saga and the majority of the many cross-over titles has been a consistent high quality in both story and art, with only a few exceptions.  Those cross-over titles, while connected to the main issue, seemed to focus on entertaining but non-essential sidelights that could be enjoyed solely on their own.  A reader could also concentrate solely on the main title and not need to read any of the other books in order to understand the main story.

In past reviews, I have ranked and rated those sidelight books in order to point a reader towards those most deserving of their time and money.  Despite my previous confession of being ready for this epic to finally end  I sincerely enjoyed every single one of the cross-over books reviewed here.  In short, if you want some good reading pick up these books. 

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AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #11  (November 2012)  Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman = story.  Brian Bendis = script.  Olivier Coipel = pencils.  Mark Morales = inks. Laura Martin = colors.  Chris Eliopoulos = letters.

The art team that I was somewhat critical of last issue takes a break.  Artist Olivier Coipel takes over and does an admirable job.  The art is very dynamic and the colors by Laura Martin really enhance things, taking this to another level. There is more attention paid to backgrounds and skylines, and vivid splashes of yellow, red and orange as if the entire issue is on fire - -  an apt compliment to the inflammatory battles that occur.   I admire the opening page where Captain America stands alone on a rocky outcropping (later cutting back to show the rest of the players) and makes a desperate plea for the Hulk to assist by adding some of his green fire-power to the proceedings.

After the credits, the scenery shifts to Rogue in the foreground of a flaming back-lit field as she makes a plea to Professor Xavier for sanctuary.  Cut back to show Xavier now in the company of a wide group of Avengers and X-Men mingling together. Seems that Xavier has had a change of heart since he used his powers to erase memories of his involvement just one month ago in THE AVENGERS #29.  No matter.  He’s allowed to change his mind.  I certainly understand why, and certainly don’t require three or four pages of Bendis exposition to tell us why. (Although he would do a fine job of it.) 

A battle royale ensues, with big, bold panels and more fiery art.  The centerspread needs no dialogue as the visuals tell it all.  In spite of their sharing the Phoenix Force, Emma Frost and Scott Summers are still just two individuals and the A + X team take it to them.

The final outcome this issue only bears out part of my theory - -  that Scott would take Emma’s power in order to have 100% of the Phoenix Force behind him.  I thought he would kill her, perhaps accidently, and then go crazy from remorse.  Not quite how this plays out.  Oh sure, you could interpret the visuals  and conclude that Emma as well as some others are dead at the end of the issue (also Magneto, Professor X, and finally Wolverine - - who most likely will recover from his burnt toast state of immobility).  But the art is done in that deliberately vague style that creates some doubt and leaves an opening for their recovery and return.   And Scott becomes the Dark Phoenix, with all the “fire and life incarnate – now and forever”.  When first enhanced with the Phoenix Force, Cyclops seemed to have noble intentions to modify the Phoenix powers into a global force for good.  However, it continued to corrupt and influence him to the point where very few readers can muster any empathy for his “cause.”  I’m reminded of several modern day evangelists (pick your own favorite) who show an abundance of compassion for the plight of anyone who follows them, but also display a massive inability to tolerate any viewpoint that is counter to their own - - and react with anger , sometimes violence, and extreme prejudice.

UNCANNY X-MEN #18  (November 2012)  Kieron Gillen, writer.  Ron Garney, artist.  Jason Keith & Morry Hollowell, colorists.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer. 

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I really like the cover to this issue - - reminds me of the movie title “A Kiss Before Dying” - - although that is where the similarities end.  It’s one of my favorite covers of the series.

The credit page blurb gives a “WARNING: Read Avengers VS. X-Men #11 before you read this issue!”  That may help, or just confuse things further.   There is heavy symbolism throughout UNCANNY X-MEN #18 and several cryptic conversations that readers who have been casually following these events may have some trouble fully comprehending. (The dinner with Scott and Emma as well as the chat between Colossus and Magik come to mind).  If you read AVENGERS VS X-MEN #11 you could interpret the visuals as showing what Professor X through his mental abilities allowed Scott/Cyclops to see  - - which was just a desolate landscape and a confrontation between just the two of them, like a gunfight- - - while in reality there was a giant battle going on all around.  The dinner scene may also be how Cyclops, now mentally fragmenting because of the combination of Professor X’s mind control and the Phoenix Force ‘s physical control, attempts to smooth over his violent theft of Emma’s powers by imagining it took place in a less brutal fashion following a quiet dinner together. 

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the big reveal between brother Colossus and sister Magik - - that she led him along as he treated her like an innocent who became tainted by association with hell and demons - - when she was crazy, possessed, and demonic all along.  At least that’s what I think Gillen is trying to convey.  It makes for a captivating and disturbing scene, especially the uncertainty of their last panel together.

AVX: VS #5  (October 2012)  “Hawkeye vs. Angel” by Matt Fraction, writer.  Leinil Francis Yu, penciler. Gerry Alanguilan, inker. Sunny Gho, colorist.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters & production.  “Black Panther vs. Storm”  by Jason Aaron, writer.  Tom Raney, artist. Jim Charalampiois, colorist. VC’s Joe Caramagna, letters & production. 

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I’ve been tempted to quit on this limited series, but I keep picking it up.  Glad I decided to hang around.  While the Captain America vs. Gambit story was my favorite tale - - this is my favorite issue because both stories were great as well as fun (which is what this book is meant to be).  And yes, there is a clear winner (unlike some other issues).

The best art occurs in the Hawkeye/Angel story.  Yu does some of the best stuff I’ve seen from him (he also assisted on the coloring).  His panel placement is both cinematic and very angular, reminding me in places of the style of the late great Gene Colan.   The story is high quality as well.  Who says Hawkeye has to fight fair?  He doesn’t, and he pounds the bloody crap out of a pretty-boy but feathers of death wielding Angel, backed up by Betsy (Psylocke) Braddock who seems written into the story just so she can rescue/save a badly battered Angel. 

The Black Panther vs Storm confrontation could have easily played out across a dinner table (like the War Of The Roses movie, or Uncanny X-Men #18).  Instead each side trades verbal jabs along with the physical pounding.  And both sides receive injuries from both assaults.  This is scripted just like an impassioned argument between disgruntled husband and wife, but for higher stakes. And just like some of those meaningless/senseless battles, there are no clear winners here. Both sides lose/suffer.

NEXT:  Some more picks – NEW AVENGERS #30; WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #16.

7 comments:

  1. I didn't think the ending to #11 was that vague, but I was spoiled by a newspaper headline Wednesday morning. One of the characters you mention is definitively dead.

    "AVENGERS VS. X-MEN" CHARACTER DEATH REVEALED BY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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    1. Thanks for the later reminder on that being a link to the Daily News article. Owwww! I'm going miss that bald guy! Could there be anything worse for a comic book character than to have a major scripter say the character is no longer needed for plot devices or to move the story along? (Although those weren't Bendis' exact words - - I'm reading between the lines). Couldn't he just retire to the used-up superheroes retirement home and get the occasion in-book visit from his former students? Hey, that's a story idea! (I bet it's already been done.) Also, couldn't Bendis' comments about no longer needing to work him into stories also be said about the other guy? He's sure gone through some changes as well. Thanks again for the comments - - it's great to see a little conversation going back and forth here.

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  2. Thanks for the feedback. Let's guess who the dead guy is - - - and I did not see the NY Daily News. It's either Professor X or Magneto, since Wolverine has the healing factor. We saw Prof X on his back with blood coming out of his mouth - - that's just not conclusive enough in the Marvel Universe. Then it must be Magneto. Sad to say. Good character. So is Prof X. Wanna bet we see him again within 12 months?

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  3. Go read the article, Mike. (There's a link in my comment.) It's not intended to be a surprise.

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    1. Ouch! That wasn't my choice. Good thing I confine my gambling to this blog site and don't put any money on the line. (I also responded at longer length to your original comment above.)

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  4. Great review, Mike. I loved Coipel's art and Martin's colors as well. With Coipel I really got a sense of the emotion being conveyed in every scene by individual characters, but I did have some minor concerns as the battle progressed over 1)Having to be told via dialogue a few things that I thought should have been evident in the art, but weren't and 2)With Scott going off alternately like a forest fire or a nuclear bomb, it would have been nicer to get a sense for where people were on the battlefield...you'd go from a mushroom cloud implying total devastation for miles around in one panel, then the next have people standing around going "what happened?" as if it were an inconsequential breeze going by. Minor concerns, tho, the issue looked great and the important things got done right.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, James. Yeah, I noticed those big blasts as well - - sure seems to indicate total devastation. Chalk it up to artistic interpretation, I guess. I just know to look for bodies in obvious positions of death in comic books. If you don't see that then they are probably just stunned. Seems to be the case here. Nothing like some good old ultra-violence, eh?
      Speaking of which, I enjoyed your review of DREDD 3-D the movie. I was going to pass it up but you've convinced me to check it out. Also, I realize I better see it alone. Thanks for the heads-up.

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