SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Avengers vs. X-Men #3A comic review article by: Chris Kiser, Jamil Scalese, Shawn Hill
Chris: Okay, it took a few weeks' worth of Slugfests to do it, but I think I've finally figured out how to analogize this three-man review team we've got going in entirely Avengers vs. X-Men terms. As the designated hater and impossible-to-pacify malcontent, I'm the Cyclops of the group, squaring off bi-weekly against Shawn's Captain America, the Avengers loyalist who's always at the ready to defend the company line. That leaves Jamil in the Wolverine role, the guy whose conscience clearly bids him to oppose this series but who, for some reason, keeps giving it a good rating. You know you should be on my side, bro!
So, yeah, I ought to be pretty pleased with myself for coming up with all that, right? There's just one problem, though. I actually kinda liked this issue...
Shawn: No, wait, I want to be Emma! Not that I want to date you, Chris, but she gets all the best lines! Or at least Storm! Maybe Spidey? Oh, well, I could do worse than Cap. It's just … I'm not fully getting his motivations this month. Or, I sort of am, but I don’t really know why he's being so aggressive about it. Or maybe it's Wolverine I don't get (that Jamil/Wolverine pairing is starting to make sense!), because, if all he's really trying to achieve is killing Hope (so that the Phoenix won't kill her? Is that logical? Take no prisoners, man!) then why is he siding with either the Avengers OR the X-Men? Why not go into stealth-ninja mode, and take her down assassin-style? Or why not pretend to make nice with the mutants, since they have all the Cerebruses and –bros and –bras they need. In fact, why not just stay at his own school, where Cerebra is housed? Or does he know better than to trust Rachel, no matter which reality she's from?
Anyway, I liked all the gross recovering-from-being-burned-alive on Logan's part, and I liked the big fight.
Jamil: Thank you, guys. I've been telling people for years: I am Wolverine incarnate. We're both generally good-meaning, misunderstood, rugged man-creatures who have a thing for redheads. Okay, I'm being ridiculous. I don't like redheads.
I'm really loving Logan's role in this event, and a favorite image so far is that raucous cover by Jim Cheung and Laura Martin. This is the best he's been used in a crossover since House of M. I feel like AvX #3 expounded on the positions of the major players and who they are. AvX is addressing our own questions about the stances of Cyclops, Cap and rogue agent Wolverine, but isn't exactly answering them. Captain America doesn't have a solution for Hope, Wolverine is just looking to do what he does best and Cyclops wants to weaponize her or something. They're all kind of wrong in the approach and attitude, but when you have heroes fighting heroes you're going to need some hotheadedness and thin arguments.
The opening comes off odd, with the X-Men surrendering and all. I am not reading any satellite titles, but having a heard a little about Uncanny X-Men and Avengers, I'm guessing that's delved into a little deeper somewhere else. The plot is certainly more energized, which is something I begged for.
Chris: Believe it or not, that declaration of surrender occurred between the pages of not only AvX proper, but all of its seven tie-in books from last month, as well. If you ask me, Marvel really dropped the ball in denying fans that obvious great cliffhanger panel where Cyclops orders his team to stand down and looks the reader straight in the eye to declare, "The X-Men hereby surrender," and all of us go, "WHA---?!?" Not that anyone would have believed it for a second, but it would have made for one of those fun Silver Agey moments in which the star character is shown doing something really nonsensical and weird, and you can't resist reading more just to find out why.
But for all the ways in which this issue is still rough around the edges, the plot really does get moving forward in the way that I've been waiting for since issue #0. My prior comments may have led some folks to believe that I don't like event comics, but the truth is that I've got a pretty serious soft spot for them when they're done well. The faux surrender here gives Cyke's team a chance to distance itself from the Avengers, setting the heroes up for a race against the clock and each other to see who can track down the AWOL Hope before she turns full-on Phoenix. It's the perfect framework for a giant crossover event like this, giving all the various tie-ins a set of legitimate parallel paths to travel down while the main story moves onward. And it's a heck of a lot more entertaining than 20 more pages of mindless slugfesting, our own appropriation of the term notwithstanding.
Shawn: Except that, on the Hope front, the plot stalls (as she just goes deeper into hiding), and we do get seven more pages of a slugfest that maybe should have been in Vs. (to give that series a point), even if it wasn't really a mindless one. Does Cap expect everybody to soldier up? I guess he does, but only when the cause is worth fighting for. He's questioned his government before, and he should be doing so now... honestly, he should be questioning Hope herself. He could have approached her one-on-one, like a person rather than a mission mandate. I agree with Jamil, that's where he, Cyclops and Wolverine are all three erring: they're so worried about the Phoenix, they're leaving no room for Hope herself. But we don't know yet if events will play out along the lines of their best/worst case scenarios or not.
To speak about the art for a second, the only part I didn't like was the coloring. Keeping the Wolverine/Cap conflict in "battle stations" red was overkill, and really undercut some of the impact of their blows, both physical and verbal. I get what Laura Martin was going for, but for me it was too much. The cover, with the red framing their iconic colors, was much better.
Jamil: I agree on the "red alert" color choice by Martin; a bit too much for an already great scene. The Cap/Wolvie brawl is Romita Jr.'s best contribution so far in an already strong performance. The flow of the panels is brilliant. If you just skim over the four page scene everything blends together beautifully and there are no panels where you're left wondering "Huh, how did he get over there?" The fight starts with some thin justification, Cap throwing a punch because Logan "doesn't get it," but in terms of surprise, energy and execution, it's probably the high point for me thus far. Also, was that the most gangster thing Hank Pym has ever done? BIG BOOT.
Chris: Ah, the Captain America/Wolverine fight. Another of this book's brainless throwdowns, slapped onto the cover to grab the attention of all those folks who think the New 52 Justice League is the best thing since Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Marvel's gotta tap into that allowance money market somehow, I suppose.
Just as in the previous two issues, the fight begins without adequately believable provocation, but for some reason it didn't bug me so much this time around. There's an undeniable draw to seeing Cap and Wolvie have a go at it that's lacking when, say, Colossus and Red Hulk come to blows. These are two of the most recognizable characters in all of comicdom, and even the moms dropping the aforementioned target audience off at the shop for the afternoon would know who they are.
It doesn't hurt that Romita draws the sequence so well, in all the ways Jamil mentioned. In fact, the entire issue sees the artist break out of the funk I've accused him of being stuck in since AvX began. It honestly seems like Romita rushed through the first two chapters in order to given himself extra time to focus on this one, but that hardly makes sense. A more rational explanation might be that smaller scenes focused more tightly on a handful of characters are more his forte, and the split up of the teams here allows such moments to happen.
Jamil: It's a shame that Hope's portion is half the size of the entire four-page fight scene. The writers barely advance her story, and instead use her as a device to set up new locales for the As and the Xs to fight (and you give the tie-in titles fodder, as you said, Chris). Why else list places like the Savage Land, Wakanda and Tabula Rasa (Uncanny X-Force shoutout!)? And, for the sake of doing my best Shawn impression: Where's Wanda?! This comic needs some hex-bolts.
Shawn: I'm not really worried about Wanda yet, guys. She's probably going to end up where she always does in these sorts of things. It's going to be like the Celestial Madonna all over again, she'll be locked in a glass tube like a doll, just one of the babe-liscious contenders for whichever mutant power-magnet the Phoenix is drawn to this time. Not that it's ever cared about Wanda before, but maybe House of M caught its attention. I'm just hoping Hope gets to do more than be possessed mindlessly. Not much story there. It seems like even she doesn't know what's in store for her, but unlike all the authority figures bossing her around, she wants to find out.
Jamil: I bet this issue's writer, Ed Brubaker, had a big frowny face when he saw the plot points he was to cover:
- X-Men leave
- Avengers deploy
- CAP/WOLVERINE FIGHT!!!
Brubaker is among the hottest creators in comics, and I'll readily admit I don't read enough from him. His style, dialogue and scripting, is a lot more efficient when compared to his collaborators. Bendis and Aaron focused more in putting together cool character moments, so Brubaker's skill of distilling the characters personalities down to nice terse phrases is a good switch-up from what we've read so far.
Chris: Of the series' five writers, Brubaker is the one that seems like the unlikeliest man for the job. His more overtly superheroey stuff (Secret Avengers, Uncanny X-Men) has generally fallen flat when compared to his crime- and espionage-oriented work (Sleeper, Gotham Central). Somehow, though, he's scripted the most enjoyable issue of Avengers vs. X-Men to date, so what do I know?
Shawn: His "Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire" saga was one of my favorite (and last) times I really enjoyed Uncanny in recent years, and I enjoyed most of his Secret Avengers stuff, too. Even Deadly Genesis had its moments; despite killing Banshee, being a giant retcon and having the rather vapid Vulcan at its center, it introduced characters that moved on to other notable appearances and inspired several miniseries. I think he can really do it all, if he puts his mind to it. Since he's a character writer, dwelling on the emotions of a scene, it makes sense that when Cap and Wolverine are both acting out of fear, Brubaker knows what to do with that. He'd probably do a great Scarecrow arc, if he hasn't already.
Jamil: I think you nailed it. Brubaker is the first writer so far to make the character's actions feel like realistic and organic decisions. Even though the big fight scene at the end is short on dialogue the emotions and stances of those characters are clearer than they ever been. I'm still doubtful on how well the rotating writer thing will work over the whole event, but maybe this is what it's good for, having those creators work on in their zones particular zones of strength. That way we can get the quippy Spider-Man as much as we get the mission-ready Captain America and badass Wolverine.
I liked this issue, but not enough to throw high praise on it. The storyline is getting just a tad more unpredictable but still, not a whole lot happens in issue #3 either. The event's centerpiece, Hope and Phoenix, are still a bit of mystery, and this installment seems to be more about positioning and cleaning up after the first big bout.
Still, Marvel has done its job. I'm pretty excited to keep reading, and this thing is gelling together nicely. A wrong move could easily derail the whole series, but on the same note this is just a few chess moves away from actually being kind of good. Whoa! Did I just say that?
See you in two weeks, guys.
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!
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.
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.