Review: Avengers vs. X-Men #0A comic review article by: Chris Kiser, Jamil Scalese, Shawn Hill
Chris: Because Marvel and DC never met an event story they didn't want to smother in its crib with superfluous prelude, here we are once again doing that icky, gropey dance with Avengers vs. X-Men. Who needs narrative integrity -- or even logical internal consistency -- when you can nab an extra buck off all those over-eager fans who want to check out where the story really begins? Over the years, this dubious publishing practice has earned us such timeless gems of sequential art as Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Countdown to Final Crisis, Road to Civil War, Road to Flashpoint, Prelude to Schism and Avengers: X-Sanction, just to name way too many. And now, as if that last one wasn't enough to pave the way for the latest tale to end all tales, we've got Avengers vs. X-Men #0.
Hey, kids! This is where the story really, really begins!
Jamil: I'm a sucker. Can't deny that. I've been sapped into too many of these types of nonessential tie-ins and preludes to pretend not to be the exact guy Marvel is targeting with AvX #0. A last-second impulse buy, I grabbed this off the shelf thinking it would supplement a series I will more than likely be reading 12 times over the next half year. Unfortunately, this fell sinfully short of providing me much outside a few pieces of background info on Scarlet Witch and Hope.
I get the never-ending push to bring in new readers and make them comfortable in the layered world of the Marvel universe, but jeez, do we need to rehash simple, generally known facts every single time?
Shawn: Guys, I'm going to be the positive voice of reason here, clearly (and definitely another sucker like Jamil). Nothing shocks me more considering that Bendis is writing the Scarlet Witch section. To give you my context (regardless of marketing tie-ins or any payola opportunities I may covet), as Ray Tate is to Batgirl, I am to Scarlet Witch. So, in recent years, I've been reduced to collecting her only for covers alone (much in the same way I buy any comic with Polaris on the cover; the character may not inspire amazing stories, but that Steranko costume keeps giving as good as the day it was designed). And this issue is a pretty good one, worthy of wall display, a non-salacious Frank Cho cover offering Wanda as some sort of proctectress enshrouding Hope. I take it as a strong hint of where the story might be going.
Summer marketing events, yes, I'm usually around for those. Fear Itself underwhelmed, I suppose, but Siege was pretty good, and this one at least has a sort of high-concept inevitability along the "who'd win" lowest common denominator lines. If they throw some good talent at it and have some interesting twists (hopefully involving making mutants more numerous again, so they'll stop being such whiny martyrs), it could be fun. It also might be the first X-Book I buy since Casey left Legacy.
This issue is important to me because Wanda goes back to Avengers mansion and finds Vision there. And it's really her, not a Doombot, and it's really him (not a copy or junior version). These are vital developments to the Avengers ever being the team I enjoy reading again. And I'm not even horrified by the way Bendis is handling the story, and here's my theory as to why: Bendis' genius is in taking the perceived knowledge of the character at the time he begins writing him or her, and pushing it in one of two directions: towards more realistic, quasi-real-world dilemmas; or taking their powers to extremes of suffering, i.e. the characters either become more human and foible-ridden, or they become more inhuman and cursed.
When Bendis took over the Avengers, they were in a moribund period where the last interesting thing to happen to Wanda (under Geoff Johns) was that she got a little demonic and scary again. He took that angle and pushed it through the stratosphere (or the lowest stratum, if you prefer). It was simplistic. It was obvious. It was crude. But the seeds for where he went had already been planted.
But by now there have been several stories by other writers who saw other potentials for her, as well as many restatements of her origin in various forms. And even Magneto is amongst the good guys. So now he's taking from those influences and making her a viable superhero again. Through his means of having her encounter some fellow Lady Liberators and then be shut down by a righteously angry Vision. He's always got different rules for his girls and his guys, with the women being more forgiving in this case. But one thing Vision has always done well is righteous anger, and that and his tear as he turns away are the most human Vision has ever been from Bendis, open admissions that he has emotions. The tear is even a tacit acknowledgment of an iconic Roy Thomas moment for the character. Could it all be a parody or just a footnote, sure, but judged as a single issue, this one covered a lot of ground for me.
Jamil: Wow, Shawn, you really let it out. I can see where some scenes in the Bendis story were long-awaited and refreshing. Obviously, the Wanda/Vision conversation is overdue, and it did carry a level of surprise for me to see Vision so angry. Actually, I really like where Bendis went with that. Vision angry and bitter? Awesome. Oh wait, he's crying again? Sucks. Sorry, I've seen that robot cry more times the entire Avengers roster combined. Maybe Bendis was harkening back to those iconic scenes, but again, I'm tired of the rehashing of the same refrain over and over.
The clunky exposition just really grated here, particularly in the Bendis half of the story. As I said, I understand the need to get everyone in on the ground floor, but for M.O.D.O.K to refer to her fall from grace as "rumor he heard"... C'mon now. I know heroes and villains probably aren't trading stories down at the local pub, but for a heavy hitter like M.O.D.O.K (and assumingly other big name baddies) to not know what happened to and because of Wanda is just unbelievable. Maybe I need to reread House of M or something
You speak on Scarlet Witch holding an unrivaled place in your heart, so I do respect that you liked parts of the story, but on a similar vein it left a bad taste in my mouth. I really love Carol Danvers, so seeing her show in this story elevated my excitement level. However, Bendis just completely ignored one of my favorite Ms. Marvel moments of his run, and possibly her entire (drama-filled) history: when Carol refuses to forgive Wanda for her actions at the end of Disassembled. Here, she's her biggest defender, and even carries her off at the end of the story as Wanda picks up the pieces of Vision's bombshell rejection. Maybe I missed the part where Carol forgave Wanda, but that seems ridiculously inconsistent to me. Perhaps if the whole story was about Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch with the former taking Vision's place as the angry Avenger, I would have accepted it, but not the way this was written. Felt hollow.
Chris: Jamil, I agree with your assessment of this issue as rather uneventful and heavy on exposition, but my criticism of that differs a bit from yours. You're exactly right that an event like this that aims to cater to new (or at least casual) readers needs to orient them to the landscape of the current continuity, but I don't think Bendis and Aaron actually manage to do that here. Sure, there's lots of talking about "Avengers Disassembled" and House of M and "Messiah Complex," but there isn't much explanation of the events of those stories or why they matter in the context of this one.
So who, then, is this issue ultimately for? It's too much of a stagnant retread for hardcore fans but neither do I see the writers doing anything that's really well-positioned to excite or inform the uninitiated. Of the book's two halves -- Bendis's Scarlet Witch segment that the two of you have already discussed at length and Aaron's spotlight on Hope -- it's the latter that had the most appeal for me. Knowing what I know about recent developments in the X-Franchise, I could enjoy the spirited clash Cyclops and Hope have over his protective instincts and her desire to take care of herself. Once Hope was off to fight that gang of snake villains I don't really care about ever seeing again, though, I was as bored as I was during the Wanda scenes.
Shawn: Ah, the Serpent Squad. Well, at least they weren't the sexed up Roger Corman wannabees of the Ultimate version (which must have been a temptation for Cho). Yes, they were there as a fairly perfunctory obstacle for Hope, whose powers still remain vague to me despite a miniseries of annuals starring her last year and her appearances in X-Men titles. She's a different sort of deus ex machina character to Wanda, actually, both of whom possibly share potential power levels to attract the Phoenix Force, which is all going to be a big part of how this miniseries either entertains or goes horribly awry as it builds up. Having the X-Men come and scoop her up and take her home did little more than introduce her as a potential catalyst for the story, and I didn't even really understand how she fortuitously found herself involved in that random bank robbery in the first place. I'm also really tired of bitter Cyclops.
M.O.D.O.K. was just taunting Wanda, and is as frequently a laughing stock as he is a "heavy hitter," though, certainly one to be so involved in his own arcane plots he may not be up to date on everyone else's. At least he was in Ms. Marvel's series, where he was a regular antagonist. That series may explain Ms. Marvel's change towards Wanda, as her rousing speech against her came when Bendis was trying to build Ms. M. up as a major player (well, they got a 50-issue series out of that, anyway), and in fact the House of M Ms. Marvel was an altogether happier and more successful heroine, illusion or not. She was also present for Children's Crusade, which was all about Wanda beginning to make reparations. Her anger at Wanda's breakdown has had a long time to heal. Carol's always been a hothead.
I'm definitely not saying this was a major comic, full of innovation; it was instead a competent one that gave me some hope (rather than dread) for the tone the impending series may take. Including even the heavy continuity dose. It featured two stars who are each integral to the mythos of their respective franchises, and that both were effective heroines in their stories (while also remaining irritants to some of their fellows) is to me a relatively fresh way of beginning the story.
Jamil: The fact that this starts off focusing on two female mutants with ambiguous power sets does make me think AvX might deliver more than I'm expecting. Still, these things are supposed to excite me for the main series, and all it does is make me wonder if this many-writer approach will end up working out. The tonal shift from Bendis to Aaron is palpable. The Hope story does a superiorly better job of incorporating back story through tight and relevant dialogue, but I still felt it was a little bogged down by the explanations and info drops. At least Cyclops had a couple good lines. (I like bitter Cyclops... is there any other variety?)
With all the different creators I'm wondering how cohesive this thing will end up being over a dozen installments. I'm predicting this will suffer from the same fallacy of Fear Itself, trying to fit grandiose ideas in a digestible package. Avengers fighting X-Men over some rambunctious girl isn't tantalizing enough on its own, so I'm going to need some insane plotting and unexpected twists to propel me through the summer.
Shawn: I think that's where the Phoenix Force comes in, Jamil, as if that hasn't also been done to death. Let's see if they can avoid the Beyonder, incorporate Wanda's new Life Force energy, and also somehow surprise us. But that will be then, and for now, I don't regret spending my $4 on this prequel.
Chris: Ironically, the same thing that bothered me so much about this issue is also what has me still clinging onto hope for a decent series overall. This isn't Avengers vs. X-Men #1, it's #0 -- an ultimately inconsequential prologue with some disappointing Frank Cho art. (For a guy with such a reputation for depicting the female form, why are all his ladies' feet so stumpy and their heads so often looking like they've been pasted onto a mismatched body? Still, he does manage to engineer some dynamic action scenes.)
If next week's formal debut -- the bestselling comic of the year so far -- also fails to deliver a decent hook, then it'll be time to worry. For now, I'm banking on the all-star team of Bendis, Brubaker, Fraction, Hickman and Aaron to get the job done, especially after seeing how good a job the last one did with Schism. See you guys next week, where this story really, really, really better begin.
Follow along with Avengers vs. X-Men by checking out the rest of our AvX reviews:
- Avengers vs. X-Men #0
- Avengers vs. X-Men #1
- Avengers vs. X-Men #2
- Avengers vs. X-Men #3
- Avengers vs. X-Men #4
- Avengers vs. X-Men #5
- Avengers vs. X-Men #6
- Avengers vs. X-Men #7
- Avengers vs. X-Men #8
- Avengers vs. X-Men #9
- Avengers vs. X-Men #10
- Avengers vs. X-Men #11
- Avengers vs. X-Men #12
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.