SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Avengers vs. X-Men #6

A comic review article by: Chris Kiser, Jamil Scalese, Shawn Hill

 

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Chris: It's Act Two of Avengers vs. X-Men! But since I was sitting on the beach reading Hunger Games novels and pretending that my skin is capable of acquiring pigmentation when the two of you -- along with guest reviewer (Or is that "reviewour"? He is British, you know.) Steve Morris -- covered the last issue, you'll have to indulge me while I give my final word on the five-part frustration that was Act One. Spectacular at being average, AvX thus far had featured an overworked John Romita, Jr., a whole mess of tie-ins and the Red Hulk/Colossus rematch you never knew you didn't want. With a story credited to virtually half the Marvel payroll, the only cliché this book seemed to ignore was that less is sometimes more.

And then I read issue six. With nearly twice the page count and five times the Phoenix hosts, the series' quintet of writers have similarly caught fire and are proving the conventional wisdom wrong. When it comes to this comic, perhaps more actually is more.

Jamil: Welcome back, Chris. I'm glad to see you're still with the crew after Iron Man blasted us with an Interest-Killer beam in issue five of AvX.  That book really had me down on the series, and Marvel's blueprint as a whole. While I knew I would be with you guys (my pals, my desperados) until the bitter end of this sucker, I was not eager to spend around a total of fifty dollars on what amounts to decently drawn fluff. Then, like you Chris, I read issue six, and my faith is now brilliantly restored.  The savior has arrived, and his name is Olivier Coipel. 

Wow. This guy produced some breathtaking imagery for this issue. I think we all agree that we like John Romita Jr, he has some true talent and has thrived in his career on certain books (ahemspidermanahem), but the youngster Coipel blows the vet out of the water. Two weeks ago I complained about the terrible misuse of two-page spreads, but this issue they're gorgeous. The layouts are inspired and renditions of characters are near perfect; I ate every page of this comic up. 

Combined with a powerful script by Hickman "Round 6" felt like an event comic: bold, beautiful and willing to take chances.  

Shawn: This is going to be a love-fest today, guys, I don't have anything to gripe about either. Coipel was around for the beginning of the Disassembling of the Avengers, yet here when Wanda appears she is powerful and decisive. Hickman has never written anything I could understand for 616, or that excited me for Earth 1610 (whither Ultimately Ultimate Ultimates Comics?), yet here turns in the most cosmic, multi-faceted and fascinating script in the series yet. The potential of the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict is well-realized in this issue, because we see the crux of the difficulty exposed: while the mutants tend to hang with each other, the Avengers have had mutant members almost from the start, and loyalties are divided. Alpha-Mutant Wanda acts against Phoenix-Clops in this issue, but on behalf of Hope, and in tandem with the Avengers. Don't even worry about what Pietro or Erik think, there's no time to fit it in. That's complicated, and that's the sort of difficult development we should be seeing regularly between the characters in this series.

We've also got the first real wide-scope narrative, showing not just scores of heroes pounding on each other, but a variety of locales where different but inter-connected things are happening all over the world. That's sort of usually how these big events go, but the first act was too narrowly focused on moving from one clumsy plot-locale to another. The team of writers is starting to reveal how the primal forces of the Marvel universe (Asgard, Iron Fist, Chaos and the Phoenix) are going to play off each other, with their human vessels probably paying the price, and that's some good grounded conflict to explore. I'm always in favor of an epic that drenches itself in Marvel's basic lore. Let's get some Flames of Faltine and some Cyttorak going too!

Chris: Yeah, Coipel pretty much nails it here. There's a sophistication to the panel composition and a true artistry to the visual storytelling the likes of which hadn't been seen in this series prior to now. The new Utopia looks every bit the location of grandeur the characters treat it as being, and the PhoeniX-Men's forays into changing the course of world events generate some iconic images. I'm not sure who designed those new costumes, but they look phenomenal under Coipel's pencil.

That said, despite dubbing myself the Cyclops of this group in an earlier review, I'm not anointing Coipel as the book's Hope-like messiah. David Brothers' challenge to comics criticism be damned, it's the writing on AvX that I see most chiefly drawing me in. Like Shawn said, we finally have an intra-team conflict in this book that resembles something more than a round of action figure playacting. For once, Scott Summers' group occupies a morally defensible position, one that doesn't preclude the Avengers from still acting in -- depending on your perspective -- the right. The X-Men sure seem to be exhibiting great responsibility along with their newfound great power, but it's a lot easier to accept the notion of benevolent interventionism when the flag flying above it is your own.

Jamil: You won't find me disagreeing that the script is by length of miles far superior to any of the previous issues. The Phoenix is actually trying to salvage the Earth instead of the presumed "slash and burn" method? Awesome! Scott Summers is now pretty much the most powerful being on Earth? I'm down! Iron Fist is the key to the solving the whole damn thing? Hell yeah, Marvel!

That's my favorite element of this issue really -- the highlight on bit players and fan favorites. Beast, who I said needed a place in AvX, has a strong and efficient moment establishing his position. Danny Rand is prominent, and a cutaway scene ties into what Bendis is doing over in New Avengers. T'Challa is voicing his opinion, and looking damn fine in a suit. 

Oh, and Wanda, beautiful Wanda. You might be the best part of this issue. But I'll let Shawn talk about that...

Shawn: Well, again, she doesn't appear that much, and she's become a woman of few words. But this is so far from raving like a lunatic or standing in the dark, plotting, that it's a much more interesting usage of the character to me. She's not woman or mother or girlfriend first in this story. But is she mutant, or witch, or Nexus being, or one of the exceptional beings that could have easily become a PhoeniX-Man herself? I'm intrigued, and I also like that T'Challa has his usual awareness of political reality, and just that the story has finally become multi-faceted, at last. I hope the rest of the second act can keep up. 

I said before I was waiting for Hope to speak up and make her own mind known since the start (a sentiment nicely echoed by a very well-written cast of minors in the Avengers Academy tie-ins); but she did that last issue, by rejecting the Phoenix force when it got too close. Now she's a bit off of center field, but not exactly on the bench, either. Things just got more complicated, but not more confusing, in a good way.

Chris: I suppose if there's a gripe I have with this issue, it's that Scarlet Witch feels a bit like a deus ex machina given how sparingly she's been featured in AvX to date. The Architects have served up gobs and gobs of remedial exposition regarding Hope and the Phoenix, yet if I were coming into this as a Marvel noob, I'd be lost as to what her position within this world is. I realize it's not like new readers are showing up on comic shop doorsteps in droves these days, but this series does share half a title with a pretty popular movie that recently came out.

Shawn: Well, to be fair, aren't we all in kind of the same boat as new readers when it comes to the Witch? She wasn't in the movie, and she hasn't been in the comics much since 2003; she's just emerging from ten years of limbo, thanks to Children's Crusade, which shares some art and characters with this series but not much else. The writers are definitely using her as a catalyst for … something they're not ready to reveal yet. So she's got a kind of charisma, but she's basically one more question mark. The nice thing for this issue is that she's a question that makes one actually want an answer. Tantalizing, rather than frustrating, at least so far.

Jamil: I think I enjoyed Scarlet Witch's rescue of Hope for the reasons you guys mentioned. It's intense, enigmatic, promising and begins to deliver on the contract that AvX #0 wrote. "The Crimson Heart" is looking to play a huge part in the second half of this series

I'm glad the Hope/Wanda team-up is finally here; it now feels like the series can finally start. Too many issues were spent punching, whining and kicking Canadians out of planes. In the end I'm a comic fan with simplistic tastes and low standards. Give me some beautiful art and an inventive spin on old concepts and I'm bound to dog-ear the pages after several rereads. 

Well, we all seemed to love this issue, even for slightly different reasons. But alas, this is Avengers vs. X-Men! -- a good installment does not automatically ink the promise of another. Coipel will probably deliver, but who knows what Fraction has in store for "Round 7", after penning the mediocre "Round 5". 

 


 

 

Follow along with Avengers vs. X-Men by checking out the rest of our AvX reviews:

 


 

Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!



 

Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.

 


 

 

Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.

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