Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Avengers vs X-Men #5 review

The Avengers and the X-Men are fighting on the moon, with Hope Summers the prize. She's plugged into the Phoenix Force, which the former team fears will destroy the Earth and the latter believes will restore Mutantkind. Iron Man and Giant Man create a giant robot to disrupt the Phoenix, as it crosses space on its journey towards Earth. The plan seems to work, with the firebird manifestation of the cosmic force shattered, and the energy spinning outwards to its new host. Or rather, hosts - and Hope isn't among them.

Well, I never saw that one coming. Not the identity of the Phoenix's chosen, but the fact that writer Matt Fraction should produce my favourite issue of this series yet. I've not been bothering with his Marvel work since the terrible Fear Itself series, and his subsequent dismissal of reader complaints about aspects of the story. But he's part of the tag team writing this event series, so gets another chance to impress me.

Which he does, with a briskly efficient narration from Hope in which the girl who believes the Phoenix wants her wonders whether she's akin to the man who pushed the button that dropped the atomic bomb, or the weapon itself. It's an interesting meditation, giving the superhero slugfest a more mythic feel. My favourite line has one character assert; 'Time to evolve tomorrow itself. Beyond everything you've ever imagined.' Something about this piece of dialogue raises my anticipation levels for the rest of this storyline.

I've been critical, negatively so, of penciller John Romita Jr's work on this series, but this time we're nearer his A-game, with the good-looking panels outnumbering the wonky moments. The Transformers-style robot allows Romita to go a little wild, for one, while the final visual of the new hosts reflects the game-changing nature of the moment. Inker Scott Hanna and colourist Laura Martin also deserve praise for their skills in bringing the bombastic. There's an eye-catching cover too, from illustrator Jim Cheung and colourist Justin Ponsor.

The comic's not perfect - I still don't get how Hope can manifest Phoenix energy while the entity is thousands of miles away. And Cyclops still comes off as such a fanatic that it's tough to believe so many X-Men would follow him. But it seems we have to accept these points or there's no story.

We're almost halfway through this 12-issue run and look to be entering the second act. Finally, the Phoenix is here and we'll see whether the right way lies with the Avengers or X-Men - or neither.

11 comments:

  1. Really. I thought this story has gone downhill fast. This issue makes me wonder if I'll continue. Not saying a ton of DC is better, but I can't recall the last great Marvel 'event' series. I guess there's still time for this to get better, but with all the crossovers and tie-ins it seeems like all of this could've happened in the first two issues instead of having to buy five issues already.

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    1. And that's a very fair observation. Marvel just loves to stretch those events out. It's no wonder good value writers such as Jeff Parker and Christos Gage don't get a look in.

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  2. Ugh. When I got to the last page I actually said out loud to myself, 'God, that was awful'. Fraction favors plot over character, changing characters to the story's needs, and while that's less so here than elsewhere I had zero faith going in and was not surprised. It's starting to feel like this series should not have been twelve issues...

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    1. I know what you mean, Steve, but I'm just so happy the bloomin' Phoenix Force has finaly turned up and energy-pooped on someone. Plus, I like Cyke's tweaked costume.

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  3. I'm not sure why you guys are so surprised as to why this book and "event" is so unsatisfactory. This whole project reeked of mediocrity and more in line with the same old crap we've had to suffer through since, what 2005?
    That being said, Avengers vs. X-Men could have been better, and might turn around later, but not if it's following the same track it's been going on so far.

    My big question is when in the hell did Cyclops become so fanatical? The longer this thing goes on, the worse he sounds, truly no different than the Magneto or other traditional X-foes of the past. If the Cyclops of old were to see what he'd become in the future, maybe he would've joined the Phoenix, and killed himself too. Maybe that was too harsh, but he's seriously lost touch with the values and lessons he learned from Xavier. I guess 50 years of fighting the same fight, watching your wife die over and over again, being fused with an old enemy, watching your race dwindle down to 199(not now I guess), and putting up with Prof. Dick will do that to you. God knows it would me. Not too mention all those blows to the head. Maybe he has that concussion syndrome that athletes commonly get:)

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    1. Ach Dale, why aren't you writing these things? I love the notion of a young Cyclops meeting the current day nutter. I'm not sure what Scott's tipping point was, as I don't follow all the X-books, but he certainly got nuttier around the time the X-Men relocated to Utopia/a big ugly rock.

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  4. That seems to be the general consensus Martin. Right around the Messiah Complex into Hope appearing, he's just been written more and more as being mentally unstable. Several X-Men characters have questioned Cyclops's leadership and thinking over the last couple of years, even Magneto himself recently. You know that's a bad sign when even Magneto wonders if you've gone off the deep end. and that was just during Fear Itself! Then the fight between Wolverine and Cyclops(being dragged out for sales), and now this. Perhaps when they inevitably hit the reset button on Scott, and de-jerk him, the X-writers will come up with the possible excuses of what I've listed, and/or Mr.Sinister's influence as well. I still like the possibility of Apocalypse's taint still being present, but that's just me.

    Oh and you made my day reading that first part of your reply Martin:) Good bless you! It might to be fun for a brief while to write them, but it's become more and more like a thankless job, so maybe not.

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    1. I actually thought Sott HAD been de-jerked a few months back, but he quickly slipped back.

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  5. If Slott did, it unnoticed. And yes, it seems he's relapsed in a big way.

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  6. Love your review Martin, as usual. And you know, I really like how you brought up the point about Hope's meditation on the nuclear bomb and the man who pushed the button. That was a great part of the book and I had almost forgot about it due to the ending that overshadowed it... at least in my mind. And it was overshadowed not by the end being as profound but just that it quite frankly shocked me.

    I'm still a fan of the series though, we all knew what it was going to be goin in, it was going to be a slugfest. Now there's more reason to keep fighting. I just hate they were pigeon holed into this kind of story by their own marketing and doing.

    It's not only Scott that has gone nutty, I feel Cap has gone off the deep end as well. Most likely due to the pressure as outline in the beginning of this event with running world security and still not having peace or the rest of the world happy.

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    1. Actually, you're right about Cap seeming off, Mr S, though he does have a few more active characterisations than Scott, who is nutty everywhere.

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