Friday, May 20, 2016

'Avengers vs. X-Men'/'AvX' is another must-read Marvel story

Can you believe we're a week away from the next big summer hit, "X-Men: Apocalypse," coming to theaters?

It's equally hard to fathom that the first trailer for director Bryan Singer's latest installment in the "X-Men" franchise came out five months ago. (Of course, yours truly posted a quote-specific review of that footage. Read it; I'll wait for you -- but come back!) Since mid-December, Singer hasn't release too much more footage, except to basically expand slightly on the teaser trailer footage.

Much like I did with getting pumped for "Captain America: Civil War" -- when I posted nearly 10 Cap-centric op-eds, interviews and retro-reviews leading up to its release date, I'll be doing much the same thing here.

That's right; X will mark the spot with CCC. Over the next week, I'll be posting op-eds and reviews from the original online home of Cary's Comics Craze (which most often doesn't play nice with the Internet) about everyone's favorite mutants. Here's a no-spoiler review of yet another superhero team vs, superhero team storyline, the 2012 AVENGERS VS. X-MEN crossover event.

One last shameless plug before my July 2013 review: Three days ago I posted a review of a so-called "Ultimates" story pitting the Ultimates vs. Avengers, which featured the death of that continuity's Spider-Man. Check it out!

Save your pennies if you haven’t already read the entirety of the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN series because the recent hardback collection is worth every bit of the $75 cover price.

The pages are slightly larger than a comic book, which makes the already jaw-dropping splash pages and two-page spreads pop off the page even more.

The collection includes the meatier 12-issue AVENGERS VS. X-MEN plus the six-issue AvX series.

Each of the first five issues of AvX features two one-on-one fights, which are mentioned or briefly shown in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, but these versions include more details and who “won.” The last issue includes several throwdowns — all of which are one or two pages long, with the exception of the introductory Scarlet Witch vs. Hope Summers bout.

Besides the usual collection of variant covers (which in this case, are admittedly quite sweet looking), there’s the completely unncessary INFINITE COMICS Nos. 1, 6 and 10. After that, there’s a rundown of each battle, which includes what team was victorious after a major battle.

Written by a team of writers (most notably Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron and Ed Brubaker), the storytelling style of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN is surprisingly smooth going from one issue to another.

It’s hard to tell one writer from another, which isn’t easy to do. I only caught Spider-Man saying something knuckleheaded and unecessary to a scene — something I call a Bendis-ism.

Because I kept flipping back to the table of contents to see who wrote or drew which issue, I can say I’m most impressed with Aaron, who wrote four of the stories.

The art is killer, especially John Romita Jr. and Adam Kubert’s. The impressive coloring by Laura Martin makes their artwork truly pop. As I said, the larger pages show off all the art goodness.

In AvX, the art by Kubert (who does Iron Man vs. Magneto), Steve McNiven (Captain America vs. Gambit), Terry Dodson (Black Widow vs. Magik) and Tom Raney (Black Panther vs. Storm) is the most impressive. The remaining is pedestrian and forgettable.

The basic storyline is the Phoenix force returns to Earth to claim the young Summers, whom the X-Men consider mutantkind’s messiah (or at least Scott Summers/Cyclops does) and is destined to be the next incarnation of Phoenix. The Avengers, who want to help the young teenager, see Phoenix as a worldwide threat and when it takes over the X-Men, the Phoenix Force is born.

The situation is ripe with conflict — both philosophical and physical.

As the Phoenix did with Cyclops’ late wife, Jean Grey, the all-powerful cosmic force overwhelms Cyclops and makes him into an unstable, arrogant control freak — and an even bigger threat than the returning Phoenix. (But if you already think of Cyclops as a spineless putz, AVENGERS VS. X-MEN simply will confirm that assertion.)

My biggest complaint is none of the artists — except Reilly Brown in AvX No. 12 — know how to draw Summers as a teenager. She simply looks like Grey. But the story, while covering cosmic consequences, hits all the right emotional beats, tensions and characterizations.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN is a must-read for all Marvel Comics lovers. Grade: A

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