Wednesday, 4 April 2012

New Beginnings - Avengers vs X-Men #0 & 1

Across the Marvel Universe there are some extremely powerful mutants - Franklin Richards, Elixir or Quentin Quire for example - who are known for their extreme power levels. For the mutant world they pose a huge number of possibilities or risks. Something which is epitomised by mutants from the Grey/Summers bloodline. As powerful as they have been though there was always something stronger. A primeval force know in one form as the Phoenix.

In the past Jean Grey has gone so far as dying to try and stop the Phoenix - and even this has failed - so what do you do when this massive entity start making a bee line for earth pushing aside a Nova in the process?

Or how would you react when your species saviour also looks like they are to be the intended vessel?

These are the positions that both the Avengers and the X-Men find themselves in courtesy of Marvel’s Architects. The problem for our heroes is that both sides have very different ideas on what should happen next.

The issue #0 features two stories, one focused on Scarlet Witch and her place in the world following The Children's Crusade, in a tale written by current Avenger's scribe Brian Michael Bendis. The other is written by Jason Aaron and features Hope and Cyclops on Utopia.

Moving onto the first issue, Bendis returns to take the writing reins under the collaborative story. It is in essence setting the scene, making it a jump-on point for any reader. With such a big title, covering a massive roster, it’s not realistically possible to include much depth in all of the characters so you come back to the story itself. This is where Bendis has gone straight in. Action begins from almost the first page, changing from one perspective to another with both the Avengers and the X-Men points of view being explored. The underlying feeling for both camps is that things are getting frayed and both want to take decisive action.

On one side, Cyclops is trying to balance the fate of his race and on the other Captain America is balancing what he sees as the fate of the world. The ultimate question is whether or not the Phoenix force can be contained.

This is all brought to a head when Cap visits Cyclops proposing to place Hope in protective custody. The heated discussion leads to the inevitable battle of the square jaws (thanks to John Romita Jr.) leaving Cap no option but to call for Avengers Assemble! And so it begins.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of Romita’s work but I can respect how much and what he has done in the past. On this occasion he did confuse me a little. There is nothing out of the ordinary for the drawing and it is easily identifiable as his, but one little detail caught my eye and annoyed me. This may be unreasonable of me but I didn’t find him consistent with the MU and himself on occasion. My biggest example of this was Iron Man. In one frame he has a helmet with a flip-up visor and another his armour retracts back into his body to reveal his face. (Stark has shown both in Invincible Iron Man by Fraction and Larocca, so I personally put it down to stylistic choice on the part of JRJr, BF). Call me geeky but it just didn’t look right to me. Hope, as another example, looks like she changes age as well but this is just the artwork.

As an issue it does what it needs to do. It opens the story and sets up a great deal of others. What it does offer is potential. Any number of fights can go either way. I’m also intrigued as to how the writing will be done as you have three different perspectives to write each story from – Avenger, X-man or neutral – so from a creative aspect it has some inherent mystery too.

This could be a really good arc, but also a reason to change line-ups and allegiances considerably, however I’ll only take it completely seriously as a Marvel event when I see a Watcher looking over it all.

Matt Puddy is wondering what comes next...

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