While the Avengers Vs X-Men 12-issue series focuses on the different attitudes of the teams to this event, this six-parter provides close-ups of individual bouts limited to just a few panels in the mother book. I wasn't expecting much.
I got Christmas.
Seriously, this comic shows just how great old-fashioned Marvel slam-bang action can be, something I'd forgotten over the past few years of super-extended, would-be cerebral storylines. We get two short features starring four of Marvel's classic characters - Iron Man vs Magneto, and the Thing vs the Sub-Mariner.
The first tussle showcases the resourcefulness of the combatants as they try to gain the upper hand: Iron Man faces Magneto in carbon armour. Magneto lands a building on him. And so on. Each man shows just how much power they can grasp when necessary, tapping into cosmic forces. And when one wins, it's not really because the other has defeated him, leaving room for a foreboding thought that ties back into Avengers Vs X-Men.
The second fight is more a matter of ferocity, with Namor and Ben Grimm using everything they can find undersea to win the day. And while they've fought dozens of times, I can't remember any more entertaining encounters. Every other image could probably win a Panel of the Week nomination, with my favourite seeing Namor discover just what the phrase 'hard cash' can mean (click on image to enlarge).
As with the issue's other fight, who comes out on top is more a matter of accident than design, but a win is called regardless. I hope these results don't set a pattern for the series - I don't mind if the victories are shared evenly, but a clean win for one fighter on the day is what I want. The other guy can always prevail next time.
Niggle apart, the creative teams deserve lots of cake. Jason Aaron perfectly captures a Downey-esque Tony Stark and dignified, weary Magneto, while the appallingly underrated Kathryn Immonen supplies the Thing with the best quips he's had since the heyday of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - it's such a shame that being underwater means Namor can't hear them ... if it were a banter contest Subby would go down on the first page. Mind, while Namor's dialogue is strictly arrogance and bluster, he makes a splendid straight man. And there's no denying his sea-born strength.
Both writers embrace the device of the 'AvX Fun Fact', wry commentaries on the action that remind us we're here for a good time. What's more, they are educational - never mind the distance of Jupiter from Earth, who knew about Magneto's secret talent?
So far as the second tale goes, Stuart Immonen pencils, Wade Von Grawbadger inks, Jim Charalampidis colours and if Marvel isn't deluged with requests for a revival of Ben's old Marvel Two-in-One book I'd be amazed - this is big, beautiful work, with Ben the powerhouse he's meant to be. And their Namor is magnificently imperious. Then there's this big guy who turns up near the end ...
The lettering is by Joe Caramagna throughout, and it's pacy, good-looking work. Given how often I moan about editors (and rightly so!), a tip of the hat to Nick Lowe amd Jordan D White for overseeing a tremendous series opener. OK, it's $3.99 for 20 pages, but that's not their fault. Oh, and the cover is a tad event-generic, a waste given the layout is perfect to spotlight the two fights behind it.
Next issue it's Colossus vs Spider-Man and Captain America vs Gambit. I don't know who the creative teams are, but they've a lot to live up to - even the intro page here is a hoot.