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).
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.