Thursday, 19 April 2012

Avengers Vs X-Men #2 review

Last issue was the set-up: Cyclops wants the Phoenix Force to possess Hope Summers, Captain America fears that would bring about the end of the world. The chapter closed with X-Men and Avengers leaders at odds, their team-mates watching from the sidelines.

Well, almost no one's on the sidelines this issue, as dozens of heroes fight one another. Like idiots, they leap headlong into battle, exchanging blows and blasts rather than reasoned arguments. By the end of the issue it's all moot, as the Phoenix has entered Hope, and she's set to confront the Avengers' biggest guns outside the Earth's atmosphere.

And that's pretty much all there is to this instalment, one big fight. Individual confrontations will be expanded upon in other Marvel books, but we see enough here to realise they're probably not worth buying. Namor chats away underwater while fighting the Thing. Iron Man sics 'microscopic telepathic tasers' on Emma Frost. Black Panther and Storm talk marriage guidance.

I'm not making it up. That would be Marvel's 'architects', the brains trust who plot this series; as well as Aaron, there's Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and Jonathan Hickman. All I can say is, should do better. Aaron, bless him, tries to perk things up with a lyrical narration in which he pithily describes the various bouts. So, for example, as Emma thumps Iron Man, it's: 'Organic diamond meets multi-million dollar armour. The most expensive punch in history.' I quite like that. As a repeated device, though, it's wearing, and it doesn't help when typos turn up: 'Marital discord. With hail and lighting [sic] and hurricane-force winds.'

But as I say, points for trying. Aaron does his best with this committee-led carbuncle. The biggest problem is the art. Last issue we had a few off-panels from penciller John Romita Jr, this time, well, it's as if the Joe Kubert School had asked him to provide teaching materials for Rushed Artwork 101. Close-ups, they're great, no problem - the shot of Storm in the panel quoted above, for example, is lovely, packed with power and emotion. But group shots, blimey, 'dodgy' is putting it mildly (click on images to enlarge).
Hawkeye and Daredevil Mini-Mates, Black Widow the voodoo doll, a brigade of Giant Men, lollipop-headed mutants ... Romita and inker Scott Hanna can do so much better than this. As I said, they demonstrate as much in this very issue. Take a look at that panel I mentioned of Storm, and a random shot of Hope, nicely coloured by Laura Martin.
Lovely work, appropriate for the characters and situations - and a far cry from much of the rest of the issue. Is it too much to ask a couple of industry veterans to produce consistent, decent work for a whole issue? This is Marvel's biggest series of the year, but it's full of amateur hour panels. Just how pushed were they drawing this one?

One good thing about the art, mind - it distracted me from noticing the AR flashes on first reading. Is anyone bothering to get out the smartphones and tablets after last issue's 'augmented reality' nonsense?

Two issues in and I'm Avengers all the way. Cyclops hardly helps his case when he comes out with rot like: 'Ugly stepchildren. That's all we've ever been to them. As soon as we get a messiah of our own, they want to swoop in and take her away ...' Well boo-hoo, you nutter. We see just how thick Cyke's head is when it survives a blow from Cap's iron/vibranium/adamantium/uru shield - there's not so much as an 'ouch'.

Well, 'ouch' is the way I feel after paying $3.99 for this dog's breakfast.

And yet ... I think I'll be back in a few weeks for #3. It is rather funny.

10 comments:

  1. As I said in my review, at this point, seeing big names wallop each other is worth the price of admission. Just barely, mind you, Marvel needs to step it up.

    The X-Men really come off badly here, and with so few big X-names on Cyke's side, I don't see how this fight lasts more than an issue.

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    1. Hopefully fascinating plot contrivances will spin things out nicely ... when does Marvel ever let us down?

      Hmmmmm

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  2. Thanks for the review! I'm steering well clear of this. I've been really disappointed with how people seem to be buying this stuff when it's really just another hero vs. hero event which I've read a BILLION times from Marvel.

    Anyhow, I'm putting my money where my mouth is. But it seems I'm in the minority on this one? A lot of the major comic book websites are so excited for this series and there seem to be a TON of orders for this title.

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    1. It's odd, isn't it? Maybe people aren't so much believing the hype as retaining a touching optimism?

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  3. These are Marvel super-heroes. Of COURSE they're going to hit and blast before they try to talk it out. This goes all the way back to the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch; it's what they do! *Grin* Seriously, though: John Romita Jr. has talked of working in what he calls "a deadline style." That may be the source of what you're seeing as very rushed artwork. "Can't take my time, gotta rake in those royalties." I'm sure I'll enjoy his work as I usually do when I see the ish. A fine and perceptive review as always, though.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Joe. I'm seriously unimpressed at the idea of Romita deigning to work in 'a deadline style'. I want a 'fit to print' style - seriously, look at those panels above and tell me Marvel talent scout CB Cebulski wouldn't send any kid presenting them to him as samples, packing.

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  4. I think we should start counting how many blows Cyclops takes. By the end maybe we can blame any irrational behavior on brain damage.

    I'm digging the series so far because it's sort of bubble gum pop fun, mixed with some character development. I definitely didn't go in with much expectation so that helps too.

    Also how do you think it stacks up to Secret Invasion or other recent Marvel events?

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    1. Good idea, David. I suppose the head blows business is one of those suspension of disbelief things. Realistically, Cyke and co would be gibbering idiots after all these years, given all the thumps to the head. Then there are the psychic possessions, breakdowns, time spent dead ...

      I've not been a huge fan of Marvel events of the last decade: Disassembled I flat-out hated, due to such things as Wanda being 'revealed' to have been mad for years and the news that Chaos magic, er, didn't actually exist; House of M was an OK alternate reality story, with the frustrating endpoiint of 'no more mutants' somehow equating to 198; Civil War wasan interesting idea messed up by characters taking unconvincing positions; Secret Invasion could have been amazing but the promise of big reveals wasn't met; Siege was ... apparently unmemorable; and Fear Itself was awful, horribly written in the main book.

      And your good self?

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  5. I agree on all your points. I think Civil War was the only event that was moderately successful. I enjoyed it the most at least. I'm hopeful for A vs. X, partly because it hasn't reared an overly complicated head yet. A lot of the past events become long winded and convoluted. This is Dave from ComiX Weekly by the by.

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  6. I guessed that, honest! Very glad to make your site's acquaintance!

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