It all begins as a fiery figure falls from the sky toward downtown Manhattan. Stopping this sort of thing is all in a day’s work for The Avengers, but even they are surprised to find the fiery figure is a familiar friend – the hero Nova! He brings a warning of doom from beyond the stars.
The Phoenix – a powerful cosmic being of death and rebirth – has reappeared and is heading straight for Earth, having destroyed numerous other worlds along the way. Naturally this is a source of concern for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The approach of The Phoenix is also a matter of interest for The X-Men, but for entirely different reasons.
With the mutant race reduced from millions to dozens by the actions of former Avenger Scarlet Witch, one could hardly blame Earth’s few remaining mutants for having a bleak outlook on the future. Yet they are hopeful about the approach of The Phoenix and believe it will deliver the rebirth of the mutant race. Why? A vision of the future told them that one of their members – a teenage girl named Hope – will become the savior of the mutant race and that The Phoenix holds the key to their salvation. So begins the epic battle between Marvel Comics’ two biggest superhero teams for the fate of the Earth and all mankind.
Avengers Vs. X-Men suffers from two big problems. The first is that the storyline is largely inaccessible to anyone who is not already familiar with the past five to ten years of Marvel Comics continuity. Worse, what few attempts the writers make to bring new readers up to speed fall flat.
For instance, an opening chapter introduces us to the Scarlet Witch and shows her getting back into crime-fighting after a long absence. This scene offers some good character drama as she confronts her ex-teammates on The Avengers and confirms that she’s no longer trusted by many of them. Yet nothing is said of why Scarlet Witch is hated by the mutant community of Earth until the very last chapter, despite this information having far more baring on the overall plot than why Scarlet Witch is no longer an Avenger.
The other problem with Avengers Vs. X-Men is that it fails to decide precisely what kind of story it’s trying to be. The series boasts six writers in total working across the 15 individual chapters contained within this collected trade paperback. The story might be a cosmic space opera, a conflicted morality play, a complex character study or a good old-fashioned superhero brawl-fest, depending on who is writing any given chapter. Too many cooks spoil the broth? That’s putting it mildly.
Action fans might be pleased by this series if we actually got to see some of one-on-one matches promised by the series’ concept. Yet we see precious little fighting. Most of what action we do see is confined to the background while other characters are talking. Likewise, devout fans will likely be annoyed at how their favorite character’s personalities are twisted to meet the demands of the plot. I’ll admit this may just be my personal bias, but I think there’s something seriously wrong with any story where Captain America expresses a desire to arrest people who haven’t committed a crime just to get them out of the way.
While I do have several issues with the story, I find no fault with the artwork in this volume. How could I with living legends like John Romita Jr, Adam Kubert, and Oliver Coipel on the case? No, whatever flaws Avengers Vs. X-Men has lie in the writing and, while the book looks amazing, it is ultimately a hot mess.
This collection is rated T+ which equates to a 12 and up under Marvel’s rating system. I believe this to be a fair assessment of the book’s content. There’s no sex or sexuality apart from the usual spandex superhero costumes that hide little and reveal much, and the violence is on-par with your average PG-13 summer blockbuster.
Avengers Vs. X-Men
by Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction
Art by Ed McGuinness, Frank Cho, John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel, Adam Kubert
Marvel Comics, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (12+)