An event so big that literally all of Marvel’s biggest writers had to be a part of it. All of Marvel’s most recognizable characters. A massive force that could potentially tear apart our world. This could have been the event to end all events. Does “Avengers Vs. X-Men” #12 deliver a satisfying conclusion or should we just pack up and head into Marvel NOW?
Warning: there’s some spoilery stuff in here. You’ve already read this thing anyway, right?
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Adam Kubert
– It’s all come down to this! The final battle–as the world burns!
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re aware of the major events of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” #11. Cyclops has become Dark Phoenix and has murdered Professor X for some reason. The opening pages of issue #12 actually do a really great job of summing things up to this point. Aaron very quickly lays out where all of the major players are and the cosmic forces at play between the Phoenix, Hope, and Scarlet Witch. I’ll talk about the major issues with the plot in a little bit, but I do want to give some credit to Aaron. He uses a non-linear timeline that serves to balance the major conflict with Cyclops and scenes that get our main players to where they need to be to finish the fight. He peppers in flashbacks to give weight to the tragedy of what Scott has become by the end of the story. His script does a good job of making Cyclops into a compelling villain and staying true to everyone’s character. Aaron has an uncanny ability to give his characters natural sounding dialogue that fits the character and still manages to get the major exposition across. He may be Marvel’s most talented writer in that way and it does come through in this issue.
But it’s not long before issue #12 reminds the reader just how little has actually happened in the last 11 issues. Sometime in the middle of the fracas, Nova shows up pretty much just to remind us that he was in some earlier issues of AvX. Along those same lines, Scarlet Witch and Hope have to prove to readers why they were the major featured players at the start of this event. It’s actually a deus ex machina that makes everything so neat and tidy that it makes the Phoenix Force seem almost like a joke. At some point, issue #12 feels like the architects needing to run through their checklist of stuff they set up at the beginning of the event, rather than an actual story, to the extent that you wonder whether this “architects event” thing was a bad idea. After all, most of their individual books are far better than this event was.
Another shortcoming of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” has been its inability to decide whether it wants to be a big, flashy popcorn event or another meditation on absolute power corrupting absolutely. That’s not to say that it can’t be both, but these last few issues have lost any sort of balance that the series once had. There is no “fun” to be had in this issue. We spend the entire issue watching Cyclops being subdued by all the Marvel heroes, and then ultimately taken to task for his actions. If the Marvel architects were going for tragedy or a morality play, they missed the opportunity for real consequences. (Unless, you know, we’re really going to have to read another 5 issue miniseries to get those.) No, in issue #12 Captain America just sits Scott down, self-righteously tells him that he sucks, and everyone else just goes back to living their lives. For an event that Marvel has been advertising as the end of over a decade of storylines, written by all of Marvel’s top writers, and featuring the largest scale battle between all their biggest properties it’s really surprising how cleanly this wraps up and how small the impact really seems to be.
“Avengers Vs. X-Men” touched on a lot of cool ideas over the course of 12 issues, but never really gave them the exploration that they deserved. The idea that the Phoenix Five could have gone around and cleaned up the problems of the world is a fascinating one that deserved some consideration. Instead, the architects were more interested in getting on with the explosions and punching. Again, that’s fine, if these little morality bits weren’t popping up all the time and then left hanging. Instead of giving us deep characters who see the world in shades of gray, Cap sits Scott down as yells at him. Cyclops’ character has been sacrificed for giving this story a villain. They don’t even really entertain the idea that this war was everyone’s responsibility and that Scott was manipulated by forces beyond his control, except to pay the idea some shrugged off lip-service. Worse yet, this has been the predictable conclusion that has been telegraphed for months now.
In a happenstance that I can’t find a better word for than “serendipity”, Adam Kubert lends his pencils to the issue that finishes a major event ushering in a relaunched line to reinvigorate Marvel Comics. (You’ll recall that his brother Andy was responsible for the art in “Flashpoint” over at DC.) For traditional superhero cartooning, the Kuberts seem to represent the link from the old guard to the new guard.
Kubert has proven time and again that he can nail whatever script he’s given with strong visual storytelling and a range of emotions and character styles. His work here is as assured as ever. He takes us from epic space-scapes with swirling cosmic forces down to a single tear falling from the eye of a regretful and broken Scott Summers. Some of the most effective moments in the book cover up the flaws of a really unmemorable script; of course we have our scene where an emotional Scott has a vision-quest moment with a flame-engulfed Jean Grey. Kubert gives fresh perspective to emotional baggage that these characters have been dealing with for years by using evocative imagery like this several times over the course of the issue.
And the fight scenes hit hard, too. There are a few pages in the middle that consist solely of our mighty Marvel heroes getting pummeled all over the world. Kubert doesn’t cut corners on the details or rush these panels. It gives the fight a world-spanning feel that, again, the script itself doesn’t really provide. Adam Kubert really is the star of this issue.
If this book excels at anything, it’s putting a capper on the mostly Bendis-led direction that Marvel Comics has been tenting all of their major properties under. From “Secret War” to putting Spider-Man and X-Men on the Avengers, to “House of M” and up until now, the inclusive crossovers of the Marvel Universe had a unified feel to them for better or for worse. Though there will certainly be mention of plot points from these events, fans should expect the world to feel different with Jonathan Hickman and Rick Remender writing the more high-profile books. Although “Avengers Vs. X-Men” feels like the end of an era, there was shockingly little in the 12-issue run itself that can be considered memorable or impactful. Is this an event that is going to be as fondly remembered as “Crisis on Infinite Earths” or “Civil War”? It’s hard to say when there was truly not all that much in the way of consequences.
In a world where we’re lining up the next big event while the previous one still has months to go, does it even matter? After all, it’s only a week until it’s NOW! and this series will just be “then.”
Final Verdict: 5.5 – Go ahead and buy it if you’ve made it this far. Otherwise, let’s just shake it off and move into Marvel NOW!