Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Avengers vs X-Men #11 review

The Phoenix Five are now two. Cyclops and Emma Frost share the cosmic power that can shape reality, and while they started out by changing the world for the better, the Phoenix entity is corrupting them. With the aid of brain scrambler supreme Professor Charles Xavier, the united Avengers and X-Men confront them, demanding that Cyclops stand down or be shut down. There's lots of fighting, until Cyclops turns on Emma to steal her power, then blasts Professor X, killing him. With the last shred of the decent Scott Summers apparently gone, Cyclops stands before his former friends as the new Dark Phoenix.

Hands up if you didn't see that one coming. No one? Still, they say it's the journey that matters, not the destination. But this one is bumpier than it should be, as the penultimate issue of Marvel's latest crossover event. 

The opening page is pleasingly teasing, as Captain America spends five wordy panels addressing someone so fearsome, so intimidating, he barely dares plead for their help. Who will stand before us as we turn the page? The Watcher? Galactus? The Celestials?

The Hulk. Snooze. Sure, the Hulk proves useful in bashing Emma Frost over the head, taking her out of the game for, ooh, seconds, but he's just a strongman. The strongest one there is, certainly, but Cyclops or Emma could kill him with a thought. He's no game changer.

Apparently, the entire battle occurs in Cyclops' mind, Professor X having transferred dozens of Avengers and X-Men there with him. Maybe it's a mindscape shared with Emma, as she's there too, but we're not given specifics. Given that Emma is one of the world's most-powerful telepaths even without the Phoenix Force, it makes little sense that she doesn't fight back against Xavier. OK, she's being assaulted by Avengers, sidelined because Cyclops is considered the man in charge, but still, she's sorely mistreated by writer Brian Michael Bendis here. And then she falls before Cyclops' assault like an injured kitten. 

Anyway, we're in Cyclops' mind, the Avengers and X-Men are there, and I have no idea why. Why not divide his attention, attack him on the physical plane while Professor X alone enters his headspace? I can think of no answer other than that a mindscape allows for extra-cool visuals.

Artist Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales certainly give us some striking images, powerfully coloured by Laura Martin, but the storytelling isn't brilliant, with confusing page layouts and panel after panel of non-specific energy blasts. It's pretty clear, though, that one of them kills Professor X, which is no big deal - he's been dead three or four times previously. This week's demise will inspire someone to fight especially well, or take up his dream of humans and mutants living peacefully, or something. Then he'll come back to life.
 
It's not all bad. There's a terrific moment which sees Professor X and Cyclops' relationship snap back to that of teacher and pupil.
But otherwise, this is a pretty poor comic book, all flash and little sense. There's one more issue, so one last chance for Marvel's 'architects', the five writers taking turns at the scripting bat, to impress us. But unless it's a heck of a lot better than this issue, it won't.

20 comments:

  1. Wait now...does Professor X die in the mindscape or the real world? Because you know that ALWAYS makes a difference. I'm sincerely glad I'm not actually purchasing this series and just reading it vicariously through you. Because this is not inspired writing.

    However, Charles saying "Sit down, boy." almost makes me want to ship it. ALMOST.

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    1. Such a good question, Katherine Ann. I'm half expecting someone to point out that it's not a mindscape at all, that Prof X was in Cyclops' mind preventing him from seeing the heroes arrive. Which may well be the case ...

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    2. It just doesn't seem right that the series is ending in the next issue. The plot doesn't seem *ready* to end, if you get what I mean. They're going to have to move pretty damn fast to get the storyline to some kind of satisfying conclusion. Not to mention, I could not be more sick of huge plots that revolve around Scott Summers. I hate to say it, but I really hope they kill him.

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    3. I'd certainly be happy were Marvel to take Cyke off the board for awhile, however they do it. Probably he'll die at the Blue Area of the Moon, a la Jean.

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    4. I love a romantic ending. *swoons*

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  2. I've personally enjoyed the issue in spite of its shortcomings. At the end of the day, it's still more entertaining than most of what DC has been releasing this past year :)

    BMB has been the weakest link in the writing team for this series from the beginning, however.

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  3. Wait, and here I thought, from Avengers #29 (which I only picked up for the Walter Simonson art), that Xavier absolutely positively could not bring himself to fight against any of his former students, no matter how much he disagreed with them, or how much danger the world was in! Oh, silly me, expecting something actually significant to the main story to take place in a crossover issue.

    Sorry about the sarcasm, but the impression that I've gotten is that the majority of the A vs X tie-in issues didn't actually do much to advance the storyline, and all of the really significant events take place within the main miniseries. I really hate when that happens. If you are going to publish literally a few dozen crossover issues, have some significant events take place within them, instead of just treading water.

    Anyway, thanks for reading this so that I didn't have to.

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    1. I never read New Avengers, Ben, it sounds missable. Taken alongside this issue, it's another example of Marvel's inability/unwillingness to coordinate their scripts. Amateurish, contemptuous - which is more likely?

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    2. Before you answer that question, might I direct you to the opening page in Versus where - every issue - the comic actually berates you for even thinking about "plot"? It stops short of saying "just give us OUR money, then sit down and shut up" - but only just.

      I'm not even exaggerating - the comic actually calls you stupid for expecting plot. You are paying it to insult you.

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    3. I don't mind the Vs book not being over-concerned with the ins and outs of the main storyline, but things should make sense within the individual bout chapters. It's just crap, though, that the Avengers Vs X-Men book is so shoddy, story-wise.

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  4. I believe that the one-on-one conversation between Xavier and Cyclops was the thing taking place inside Cyclops' mind, distracting him while the physical battle was going on in the real world. Re-read that first bit with that interpretation in mind, and it all seems clearer. But yeah, Bendis and Coipel do a poor job of storytelling (again).

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    1. Thanks Snell, yup, reading the dialogue again, going in, I get it. But really, it should have been something like, '…you and I, we're in your head' with a transition panel before the spread and some visual change in the setting, and colouring. Aren't mindscapes meant to be swirly and Ditkoesque?

      Am I asking too much?

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  5. Great review.

    I used to love stories where heroes challenge a "near-omnipotent" opponent (I'm thinking Infinity Gauntlet or Korvac Saga), but now I just think, why don't the opponents just blink and obliterate the heroes?

    Also, the idea that they just appear in Summer's head is confusing to say the least. What do they attack with, mental manifestations of their physical powers? Nutty.

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    1. See Snell's insights, immediately above! And thanks.

      I loved the Korvac Saga too.

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  6. Thanks for the review Martin! I've stayed well away from this series, because it just seemed like the same ol' Marvel giant crossover event. And from the looks of things... it is! But I'm guessing I'm in the minority because the AVX books are selling like hotcakes!

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    1. Hi Arvin, you're not going to regret missing this series, but if you have a few quid/dollars/etc spare, consider this week's Uncanny X-Men #18, by Kieron Gillen and Ron Garney, it's a tie-in, and really rather special.

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  7. So the only Phoenix left, is the one who hasn't done anything wrong except in self-defense. The Avengers really don't look good in this series. I'm actually less curious about how Scott is defeated, than I am to see if all the positives changes he caused will just disappear without explanation. The whole growing plants in the desert and renewable energy and whatnot that would change the world forever.

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    1. I'd say Cyclops did something wrong in inviting the Phoenix Force in; there's no one on Earth who knows better what a stupid thing to do that is. He risked the world for his dream.

      I expect the good stuff to disappear in a flash!

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