Review – Avengers Vs X-Men
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by: John Romita Jr, Olivier Coipel, Adam Kubert
Release Date: 2012
Avengers vs X-Men is the definition of an event book. It gives us an epic crossover and a superstar lineup both on the creative side as well as in the 616 storyline itself. Released in 2012, Avengers vs X-Men features some of the biggest artists and writers of the time tackling the biggest characters in the Marvel Universe dealing with one of the biggest ideas in comics- the Phoenix.
The Phoenix is coming and everyone has opinions about it, so begins Avengers vs X-Men. What better device to pivot our beloved heroes against each other than one of the most popular cosmic forces in the 616 universe! Avengers vs X-Men is a culmination of a half dozen events that had been happening in recent years. The biggest influence, being House of M and the actions Scarlet Witch took in that book. You needn’t read those other books to appreciate Avengers vs X-Men though. They do add extra context and appreciations but the writers do their best to fill us in on what happened.
The story is massive. It delivers on the name, Avengers vs X-Men, by giving you a plot that justifies their conflict as well as an abundance of fights that you expect from a book like this. They do a decent job at giving breathing room to a lot of characters, and even spreading out smaller moments for other characters. It’s very fun to watch new relationships get some play, like Hope and Spider-Man, or to see old dynamics come to a head like Xavier and Cyclops. There are legit great character beats hidden in this book, particularly with folks like Spider-Man, Cyclops, and Nova. Spider-Man has a scene that I won’t likely forget.
The Phoenix is one of those things in comics that risks being played out. It’s used and referenced so much that it’s easy to almost cringe in fear when it’s brought up. They tow the line pretty well in using it in Avengers vs X-Men. At some point, after the Phoenix has chosen a host, they do start to lose the thread of why the X-Men are after Hope. There’s a scene where Cyclops is uber-powered and shows up demanding they hand over Hope that made me put down the book and try to remember why. It’s at this point that they’ve transformed the world for better and are only left chasing Avengers. It’s a big event comic though, so I let it go and kept enjoying the ride. I only need so much motivation to watch superheroes beat each other up.
Review – Avengers Vs X-Men continues below
That said, the story does stretch a bit long. If it weren’t for what I imagine is a publisher’s mandate, I could see this as more of an 8-10 issue story. 12 issues left it feeling a little bloated. At points it felt like we were nearing the climax, only to have a couple more issues. However, the climax was a rare feat for a Marvel event. It didn’t feel rushed or wrapped up too cleanly. Satisfying compared to other events of the era, perhaps a result of the superstar lineup of writers.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this story, contained to an X-title instead of a crossover event, might not have been a bit stronger though. It would have had less publisher influence, more focus on the mutant side of the story, and maybe a more organic fit in the history. I wouldn’t have minded a little less defined lines in who chose what sides too, like what we got in Civil War. Less about teams and more about ideology, especially through a 2021 lens, but I guess that would take away from the title of the book.
The book features gorgeous superhero art. Narrowing the selection down for this review got particularly difficult. There’s constantly action scenes packed full of characters or cool moments across multiple panels. It takes full advantage of the comic format as a visual medium, giving the reader page after page of fantastic art. They utilize the crossover nature of an event book like this to fill in the background with other characters or details that make the world feel real. Having multiple artists with different styles telling the story in chunks could have been distracting but ultimately it flows pretty smoothly and I enjoyed the changes in style.
Review – Avengers Vs X-Men continues below
Avengers vs X-Men delivers intimate, close up, character moments as well as the giant, action packed splash pages you expect in a bombastic crossover book. The Phoenix storyline itself lends itself to epic, colorful pages full of fire and screaming faces. We even get some new character designs, as a result of the aforementioned Phoenix and they’re mostly great. From covers to layouts to splashes, the art compliments the story and event pretty brilliantly.
The biggest disappointment with this book is the same with a lot of big hallmark events… it doesn’t mean anything. It has no consequences, it has no staying power. The status quo returns pretty quickly after. It’s not like Crisis where you felt it’s impact for 20 years. The book happens, it spikes sales, then after a few months they erase the effects. Heck, this very book exists to erase the effects of House of M. The Phoenix will come back or all of the improvements to the world by The Phoenix Five will be gone. Cyclops will be a normal part of the team again, despite murdering someone. That makes it hard to sink your teeth into.
So if you want to enjoy this as a fun 12 episode arc of superhero fights, dive in! If you’re hoping for an impactful, important story of why two of the biggest teams in comics would fight… temper your expectations. It doesn’t end up being a big part of history, despite being a well put together book. My frustrations aside, it’s definitely worth a read. It’s a good sampling of Marvel characters with the right amount of info for new readers and homages for lifelong fans. Avengers vs X-Men turns out to be a solid read that goes down really smooth.
If you enjoyed our Review of Avengers Vs X-Men then leave a comment or leave your own rating below.
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