At the Jean Grey school, Wanda the Scarlet Witch lays flowers at the memorial to Professor Charles Xavier - killed by a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops. Her mental pledge to continue Xavier's dream of humans and mutants peacefully co-existng is interrupted by the X-Man Rogue. Rogue whacks Wanda one, declaring that the witch set in motion the events that led to Xavier's death.
Rogue tries to absorb some of Wanda's hex power, but apparently fails. Something happens though - an attack by a bunch of goofy villains glorying in such names as The Goat-Faced Girl and the Living Wind (fnar). One heroine gets gutted.
The story ends with the mystery villain revealed. It's the Red Skull, and he's eschewing his usual MO of going after such super-maguffins as the Cosmic Cube and Bloodstones, instead extracting 'the most powerful weapon on Earth' - Xavier's brain.
Yuk. that's almost as nasty as the new outfits worn by our heroes. Cap has swapped his regular costume for a bathmat tunic and coal scuttle helmet. Wanda has given up the swimsuit and cape for tight trousers and red raincoat. Havok is wearing a dulled-down version of his Neal Adams look. It's all rather alarming. I realise that the classics will be back eventually, it's just a shame we have to look at these new-for-Marvel-NOW efforts in the meantime.
Other than the outfits, and the awkward-looking cover shot of grumpy heroes, artist John Cassaday does a commendable job, especially in the opening pages; the shots of Avalanche's surgery are fascinatingly grisly, while the scene of Wolverine preparing to give Xavier's eulogy has a quiet power. His work is complemented by the splendid colouring of Laura Martin.
Rick Remender's script is pretty good as he balances backstory and set-up with hints of excitement to come. The team membership could yield interesting dynamics, though the overexposed Wolverine and Cap should be swapped out for, well, anybody - Wonder Man and Beast would be smashing.
Remender doesn't bother having Cap repeat his Avengers Vs X-Men #12 claim that he should have done more to teach the world to sing mutants' praises, likely remembering that Cap led an Avengers that was 50 per cent mutants - one of whom was Wanda - as far back as Avengers #16 (1965). Instead, it's a matter of him just presenting Havok with the idea that he wants 'Avengers and X-Men working together. Setting an example of cooperation.'
We see how this could work as Cap has Havok blast him with a plasma bolt, sending him spinning across the city to the scene of Avalanche's attack. We aren't privy to how Cap survives the landing - perhaps it's those stylish new kneepads.
The one moment I really didn't like was yet another superhero being disembowelled (but not really). It's gotten very boring.
My favourite scene sees Havok visit imprisoned brother Cyclops and tell him how thoroughly he's bungled Xavier's dream of humans and mutants united. Which is fair, though I do feel Cyclops should be cut a little slack for his actions while corrupted by the Phoenix Force.
And best line? Wanda telling Rogue: 'I'm so bored with this martyrdom routine.' Me too, so let's hope this book is indeed more about mutant outreach and less about mutants hiding away from the world and arming themselves. I'm just delighted to be reading an Avengers book by a writer whose characters don't all aspire to Mamethood, one with a track record of ending stories as well as he starts them.
There's a news/advertising page in here, The Assembly, but I didn't manage to read it as IT'S ALL IN SHOUTY UPPER CASE!
As debut issues go, this first Marvel NOW entry is quite entertaining. With just 22 story pages, though, it's not worth $3.99, so if you can hold out for a better-value trade or digital sale, that may be the way to go.