SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Avengers vs. X-Men #10A comic review article by: Jamil Scalese, Shawn Hill, Chris Kiser
Jamil: The end is nigh. After eating up much of our spring and summer, Avengers vs. X-Men hit its final sprint, guys, and I'm excited both to see what's in store and to get this thing over with.
Due to promotion, media, the modern age of technology and prying fanboys, we all know what's coming in November: Marvel NOW! Everything is changing, kind of, and Marvel brass heralds AvX as the final chapter of a storyline that started somewhere around Avengers Disassembled and House of M. Is it an appropriate finale to everything that's happened on both sides of Marvel's two major teams? That answer might have to wait until it's all said and done, but for right now it's at least attempting to wrap up the ongoing stories on the X-Men side. I'm not exactly sure Earth's Mightiest Heroes have had a consistent narrative over the same span, at least not collectively.
We all loved last issue, it probably was the best yet, so I'll admit I'm left a little reeling from the lack of development in "Round 10." Sure, we get some important cutscenes, a huge dragon and a Falcon Punch that teleports Cyclops to the moon, but I feel this good -- but hardly very good -- issue is rife with missed opportunity.
Shawn: "Uncanny Avengers?" Is it the Reese's peanut butter cup of comics (all chocolate-y goodness) or is it just the worst oxymoron of 2012? Time will tell, though I guess I like the idea of some form of unity following this period of extreme opposition. I've been all about Lei Kung the Thunderer (not to mention the August Personage in Jade) since I was a wee punk rocker, so I definitely enjoyed Kung Fu Action Hope and her fists of fury! Cyclops had it coming to him, to be sure.
On the other hand, it's sort of a cheat to have Wanda, the wild card for the second half of this series, suddenly have her "chaos touch" powers falter, though. They never really told us why she was an anti-Phoenix force, and now they're none-too-clear on why she isn't. Sure, Cyclops has powered up even further, but much more interesting was seeing both Magneto and Charles chafing, each in their own ways, against the yokes imposed by the Phoenix Five. Seems Scott and Emma have finally worked everyone's last nerve.
Chris: What I'm about to write next might seem more out of character than anything the Architects could ever devise for Scott Summers, but I think I'm about to turn into an AvX apologist and explain away complaints coming from the two of you for once. This is not an imaginary story! Two episodes away from the series finale, our Slugfest hits a dramatic twist!
Shawn: Wow. Cats and dogs are now getting along! Black is white! Mutants are the 1%!
Chris: Plot-wise, I'd say the developments here in "Round 10" were fairly interesting, if not outright clever. For the past several months, the writing team has been teasing various silver bullets that the Avengers might ultimately fire into the heart of the Phoenix Five -- the Scarlet Witch, the magic of K'un Lun, a new Starktech mobile app or something -- and this issue systematically sets each of them up to fail. To answer your question, Shawn, I always considered Wanda's ability to wound the Phoenix as a leftover from her "no more mutants" faux pas, and now that the firebird from outer space is closer to achieving its supposed goal of restoring mutantkind, it has found a way to withstand her particular brand of genetic engineering.
Shawn: Except they haven't really defined her power enough to state that she's got "anti-mutant cooties" coming off her these days. I hope not, she could hurt herself that way! I attribute it more to the dynamic of "chaos" vs. "life-force" (and I guess Iron Fist is Dragon-force Z or something), but actually your version does have a certain resonance.
Chris: Continuing with our theme of role reversal, proper noun Hope is now the common noun hope for the Avengers, completing her transition away from the Cyclops pet messiah that she began the series playing. Those kinds of turns in the story make for decent comics in my book, but what do I know? I happen to think Uncanny Avengers is a pretty snazzy title.
Jamil: I agree, intriguing title, but three books with the prefix Uncanny defeats the purpose of the word. I would have gone with "X-Vengers". (I just killed my comics career with that last sentence, didn't I?)
Chris: If X-Vengers needs an artist, I heard Rob Liefeld just became available.
Jamil: I have applauded the surprise plot moves along the way, and they continued to blossom nicely here, but I think my complaint is one we've had a few times: this event is watered down and filled with fluff. Iron Man has been pondering the Iron Fist/Hope/Scarlet Witch dynamic for what feels like 20 issues, and the obligatory cameos from As and Xs have become a bit monotonous to me.
I'm pretty dumbfounded on Scarlet's whole role. They plaster homegirl on the cover and then give her a few measly lines. Way, waaay back in AvX #0 we seemed to be promised a lot of face time for Hope and Wanda. If I were a new fan I'd have no idea who Scarlet Witch is or what she's about. Hope, on the other hand, completely owns this issue.
Shawn: She's shrouded in mystery, are dark and inarticulate mistress of Chthon, if only she'd ever learned what magic was instead of just doing it intuitively with all her mutant fakery. Somebody someday will know how to write her again, maybe, unless Wonder Man starts haunting her or telling her how bad the Avengers are again and -- what were we talking about? Oh, right, uhm, you guys, get ready for Scott vs. Emma to the death next issue. Talk about a battle of the sexes!
Chris: Yeah, that is what the cover to #11 would suggest, but it isn't quite clear at this point what's going to set that particular lovers' quarrel off. All we know for sure is that only one pair of sexy Phoenix panties will be left standing when it's all said and done. A few issues ago, one might have surmised that Cyke would end up taking a stand against Emma's brewing megalomania, but he's become no less the cartoon villain than she is. While Act Two of this series flirted with moral ambiguity on both sides of the AvX divide, anyone still rooting for X by now ought to be put on a watch list somewhere.
Jamil: I've said from the beginning that Steve's X-Wing column is propagandist material.
Chris: At least Scott gets in that one halfway witty zinger about clobbering time. Emma's display of psychopathy is nothing but ridiculousness as she attempts to set herself up as the X-Men's literal White Queen. I like the tension established by having even Magneto disapprove of Emma's actions, but I think Brubaker and friends could have toned things down and still managed to achieve the same dramatic effect.
Jamil: Undoubtedly, the mutant clan has devolved into the de facto villains. Marvel editorial spins this as a "world-view" thing, that a small nation like the X-Men getting power and changing the world can appeal to a certain demographic. That angle is hard to pull off when the main figures throw tsunamis at cities and brain-crush people in front of their family. Hell, Cannonball is committing war crimes just with his outfit.
I guess I expected a big-time villain (other than the ambiguous Phoenix entity) to step in and absorb some of the antagonist duties, but at the same time I respect the Architects for sticking to the main premise. These two teams have gone at each other's necks repeatedly, with the recent climax of Hope blasting Cyke directly in the trachea. Somehow this formula has kept our attention over double-digit issues. Kudos.
Dealing with plot developments that create tension within the premise, I am loving Charles Xavier taking a stand against the team he created. Prof has been pushed to the background, rendered obsolete during the ascension of Scott Summers, but AvX has given him new life by teaming the Alpha-level mutant with the Avengers. Brian Michael Bendis has been building this in both his Avengers books, and I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing what Xavier and Magneto have planned for Scott and his posse.
Shawn: That has been a definite strength of the series, a happy surprise result of the writing team: the juggling of so many characters. Even if the plots haven't always used them well, they have almost all managed to stay in character, and to act in logical ways that pit them against each other, or forge strange alliances. The writing team has done a pretty good job of coordination. I've actually been slightly disappointed in Bendis' Avengers stories, though. Not because they aren't good little solo stories in their own right, but because they're all sort of limited by foregone conclusions, containing no pivotal plot-points of their own that impact the main series. He's been filling in some of the gaps, but the stakes aren't very high.
Chris: Shawn, you are a gentleman and a scholar, but I couldn't disagree more. AvX has been all about characters acting unrealistically in service of moving the plot where it's supposed to go -- from the overheated tempers of Captain America and Cyclops in issue #1 to the mustache-twirling villainy we see from the two Phoenix hosts here. Even the artists drawing these characters have been affected, as the typically reliable John Romita, Jr. and Adam Kubert have rarely seemed like quite themselves in this series. It's all enough to force Uatu, the Marvel U's paragon of impartiality, to break the Watcher code and step over to one side of the line on this issue's roster page.
Jamil: Ugh! Uatu. I mean I know part of his gimmick is that he's everywhere, but damn is that dude everywhere! Do you ever think that he just might happen to be the worst possible Watcher? "I must not interfere! Oh, wait, do you need help carrying those groceries?"
And I think we mostly agree, Kubert's art for issue ten fits the mold that series as set: solid and not spectacular. This is an action heavy comic, and he does pretty well portraying the chaos and destruction of Cyclops's assault on K'un Lun, but I didn't find myself awing at many of the pages. Again, serviceable, but nowhere close to the level of craftsmanship Stuart Immonen gave us in Fear Itself (which, despite its flaws, was a gorgeous book).
As far as character versus plot, I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't think any of the characters have really gone off into the deep end, they're just being dialed to their personal extremes. Namor, Scott and Emma all have tendencies to be huge jerks, and Steve and Logan can be control freaks from time to time. Even though it's a long series the plot has jumped forward in chunks and our character's actions and motivations have taken those same leaps.
The "strange alliances" are what have really held my interest during the summer. Stemming off an earlier point, and to borrow some sports phraseology, the Thunderer has been the "Sixth Man of the Year" for this series. He's put in some solid minutes coming off Marvel's long bench and offered some real fun moments. And let's face it, brining Hope into the Iron Fist fold is spectacular. With all this attention on the Immortal Weapon I will be flabbergasted if we don't get a new Iron Fist book featuring Hope and Thunderer in the Marvel NOW! wave. I would read the hell out of that!
Shawn: I did kind of relish Uatu's look of distaste in the issue itself, when Cyclops got booted to the moon by Hope. Like Jamil, I saw all those character conflict moments as explicable within the ongoing story. The situation is dire enough to push people too far, or at least that's the premise we're working with. And the Phoenix Five are all basically under-the-influence, so their actions are all suspect.
Meanwhile, Kung Fu Action Hope now has Dragon Breath!
Follow along with Avengers vs. X-Men by checking out the rest of our AvX reviews:
- Avengers vs. X-Men #0
- Avengers vs. X-Men #1
- Avengers vs. X-Men #2
- Avengers vs. X-Men #3
- Avengers vs. X-Men #4
- Avengers vs. X-Men #5
- Avengers vs. X-Men #6
- Avengers vs. X-Men #7
- Avengers vs. X-Men #8
- Avengers vs. X-Men #9
- Avengers vs. X-Men #10
- Avengers vs. X-Men #11
- Avengers vs. X-Men #12
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.
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!