Review: Avengers Vs X-Men #1 – The Message Is Not Everything

This is what you might call a critic-proof book. No matter what I say, enough of you are going to buy this comic. And those who weren’t were probably never going to. Tonight, tomorrow, whenever, it will end up in your comic collection alongside the first issues of Blackest Night, Fear Itself and Schism. So I can pretty much say what I like in the full knowledge it won’t make a blind bit of difference to anyone.

There’s a bit in the first few episodes of the first season of 24 in which some villain ditches a commercial airplane full of passengers which then crashes into the ground killing everyone, as the villain jumps out by parachute, all just so they can deliver a message. I can’t remember the message. What I do remember is that no one in the rest of that 24 hours mentions the fact that a jet has just gone down killing so many, when in our 24 hours it would still have remained the number one news story. In 24 world, it was forgotten in an hour.

That’s what I feel about the first proper issue of Avengers Vs X-Men #1. Now there are some nice bits, from another glimpse of the plant people killed by Phoenix back in the day and Wolverine’s mention of the “mutant community” making it sound suddenly more separate than ever before. But the central thrust of the first part of this issue sees major damage to a major New York monument, and a danger to many lives that seems to get forgotten about once we get to the message being delivered.

And suddenly Obama and the rest of the Cabinet are involved, and everyone’s off to find Phoenix and I’m still sitting here going, “whoa, seriously, what happened to New York, guys?” Despite clearly being written as a post 9/11 event, this time with the Avengers stepping in to save the day, it seems incredibly pre 9-11 in execution, the idea of consequences of the destruction brushed over. I’d like to think this is intentional, but from what I’ve seen so far, I fear not.

Much of the rest of the book is filled with posturing, pointing, and accusations. There’s a whole bunch of Avengers spatting that disappears when they need to come together. Something similar happens with the X-Men too, but a scene with Cyclops training Hope spills adrenaline over into his sparring with Captain America, both verbal and physical. The Hope scene seems to hark back to the likes of X-Men #201, also drawn by John Romita Jr, the Storm/Cyclops danger room takedown, but the interpersonal politics at play then just aren’t here now. It does however give Cyclops momentum to put his foot down to Captain America. They should rename Scott’s superhero ID to Captain Utopia, it might fit rather well.

This is not a good comic. It’s not a bad one either, but for 250,000+ copies , it needed to be better. This is too decompressed to start, with two dimensional characters playing off each other like stereotypes, fitting into position for story purposes. Cyclops has to believe in the Messiah, Captain America has to be the pragmatist. The Avengers are America trying to protect the world in the way they know, The X-Men are Iran, who want their own nuclear weapon. Or Israel who want to survive in a world that has tried to destroy them. Or Ruby Ridge. Or… you get the idea. And despite the series and series of preparation for this, it still feels terribly forced.

But this isn’t how it felt in Avengers Vs X-Men #0, which I really did like. The structure, the reversal of themes and images, it worked well for me. But here, the multilayering seems to have gone, replaced by something more simplistic.

You know, if Cap had said something about having just saved a bunch of people from their sure deaths as a result of the message they received, it might have just swung the table. But no, they have their lines to read. The action figures have to be placed at the correct angles, bugger whether it makes any sense or not. Right now, I’m expecting the spinoff AVX:Versus series to have more depth.

Oh, and Thor, you’ve seen the dragons of Valhalla, the serpents circling the Rainbow Bridge, mighty gods, demons and angels doing their stuff. A glowy whooshy object flying through the sky may be a cause of concern but madness? Really? You must have a really low tolerance for slightly odd things right now. Well, prepared to be amazed because it’s probably all going to go doolally from here on in.

Also the fact that so much of this comic was previewed in all the other Marvel comics, added to the worldless double page spreads, means that this book may whizz past to some, not feeling $3.99 of value. Well, get your or a friend’s iPad or iPhone and point it at this thing. I guarantee that will help make up for it. The AR App is a hoot!

In fact maybe that’s it. Never mind the comic, play with the tech.

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