SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Avengers vs. X-Men #5A comic review article by: Shawn Hill, Jamil Scalese, Steve Morris
Shawn: The week we welcome newcomer Steve Morris to our biweekly conventions of rather cognitively dissonant chatting about each issue of Avengers vs. X-Men. He's subbing for Chris Kiser this time out (who has something more sane to do with his time). We need him desperately, since we've actually had a three-week gap to cope with!
This issue puts everyone, the Avengers, the X-Men, their occasional advisors, etc., on the moon. No side plots or further mystery development needed! The Phoenix is near. Hope knows because she feels it! And she's ready! Or is she? Perhaps she must die! Wolverine knows it to be so, because he feels it! Cap wants her contained, pronto! He's hearing what he wants to hear! Why? Because he always does what he feels is right! Cyclops is being a whiny bitch who can't let anyone lighten up for even a second! Why? Because humans have hurt his feelings! It's payback time, humans!
It's an epic emo-fest this month. Shhh, nobody tell Marvel that music is back in a boy-band phase again!
Jamil: I don't know if Chris is taking the week off, or if a husk of him is sitting in an armchair somewhere, his eyes drained of life, fingers clenched around a copy of AvX #5, the life-force sucked out of him. This issue was nearly soul-crushing. Nothing happening, nothing happening... wait, WTF happened? Just a bunch of superheroes on fire, and Tony in his ED-209 armor.
Steve: Speaking of lighting up my world like nobody does, this was the issue where the Phoenix Force finally arrived by Earth - or rather, the Moon, where the core X-Men (minus Storm, Magneto and Pixie) have gathered to fight the core Avengers. The X-Men think Hope is going to restore mutantkind, and, y'know, RE-ESTABLISH EVOLUTION after Scarlet Witch destroyed it on M-Day. The Avengers, on the other hand, think that Phoenix is going to destroy Earth for no apparent reason. And Wolverine just wants to murder Hope because he has some kind of fetish for murdering children or something.
We've still only seen one side of the Phoenix during this event, and that's the destructive side. This is because the writing team have decided that the X-Men are the villains of the story, but it is particularly unfair that nobody is trying to make the fight seem anything like a meeting of minds. The Avengers are the heroes because, y'know, apparently it's now heroic to attack minorities and force your ideals upon them. It seems really dubious for Marvel to have chosen to side against the characters who represent the struggles faced by minorities in society, especially when Thor forced the Phoenix to MURDER A PLANET last issue. But whatever, maybe I'm just biased here.
Shawn: Interesting that you mention Scarlet Witch, because she gets a total of one panel this issue, but it's one that hints at the role she'll be playing later in the series. I've seen hints of those Art Adams alternate covers, and it looks pretty sketchy. Now that we know Hope isn't going to be the sacrificial lamb of this series, does that mean Wanda will be? Again? Surely they can think of something else.
What they did think of, this issue, the next two big-beat plot developments, involved Iron Man building a big machine, and the Phoenix possession finding a group of unexpected targets to transform. What bugs me about the first: Tony always thinks a big machine will solve everything, and JRJR makes this one especially clunkly looking. And concerning the latter, weren't god-like possessions/transformations pretty much the buzzword of last summer's big crossover apocalypse? I admit it's also pretty par for the course for the Claremont X-Men to give major characters ridiculous temporary power-ups from time to time, and I like the particular group of gifted beings at the end of the issue, but it'll be retread city without some surprises in store.
Jamil: The Phoenix Force Five! It's like the Marvel Architects got together and said:
"OK, this Avengers fighting X-Men thing is getting stale, let's up the ante... What's more dangerous than THE PHOENIX?"
"Um, two Phoenix?"
"WRONG. Try five of 'em! BAM! Nuff said, ya'll"
Easily the most exciting part of the issue, and quickly defused by awkward dialogue and funky science. How the hell did that happen? What exactly did Stark shoot at the big firebird?
I was pretty offended by Wanda's one panel appearance. Hope litters every page, but ol' Scarlet is still sitting around her apartment apparently. Her brother told her to get off her ass in issue two!
Steve: It was pretty great to see Tony Stark ruin everything again. Uncanny X-Men -- clearly the best of the AvX tie-in books -- has been busy making it clear that the Avengers' biggest problem is their tendency to interfere and break things. Not only has Captain America interfered in Cyclops' business and caused this whole mess, but now we see Iron Man make things ever messier.
It's making the crossover harder to judge, really, because while the X-Men are being painted as the villains, the Avengers come across as completely inept. Are we supposed to side with the people who the writers seem determine to paint as religious extremists, or the people who repeatedly charge into the melee and make things worse.
Of course we could be siding with Wolverine, I suppose. Can you imagine that there are any readers out there right now who think Wolverine has any semblance of personality or character left? Not only has he gone crawling back to a man who betrayed him, but he's turned his back on every other mutant, every other friend he's had, in order to go on his bizarre mission. Nobody stands by him, and his ultimate plan seems to be to try and murder Hope Summers.
Which is crazy, because HOW CAN HE HAVE FORGOTTEN WHAT A PHOENIX DOES? Phoenixes bring the dead back to life! If he kills Hope, she'd only have been brought back to life anyway. Everybody in this comic is an idiot. And especially Wolverine. Marvel have managed to throw away their most popular character and ruin him over the course of this story. GAH. I'm going to go burn my copies of Get Mystique.
Shawn: Wolverine forgot because he still loves Jean, who died, and he can't let what happened to her happen to anyone else, only, Logan, dude, YOU'RE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO KILL PHOENIX. Go gut Sabretooth again or something you're good at. Where is Magneto to make fun of what a hairy little creep Wolverine is? Oh, well, probably involved in the non-existent Scarlet Witch subplot I suppose. These guys know we've done Dark Witch before, right, they can read the trades just like we can if nothing else.
You guys are making me lean to downgrading my score, for all the flaws you've mentioned: predictable, non-sensical story. Simplistic art with few panels and lots of splash pages. Repetitive moves which is kind of underwhelming for only the fifth issue of a summer-long maxi-series. And the way even the new development reads like Fraction retreading last summer's hallowed ground.
But, I did like the potential of that new development (if any of the affected characters get to use their power-ups individually, and it's not just another red herring, that is), and I also liked Hope begging to be killed when the Phoenix force got too close … she's been only a little more than a deus ex machina thus far, but the fact that she's struggling for agency makes the story more interesting. We really need some more personality from some more of the major players to keep this story happening.
Jamil: Cyke sucks. Cap sucks. Wolvie sucks. No one is in an honorable or favorable position. AvX has flowed at a faster pace than I expected, and I appreciated it for that, but now I just kind of want each of the major players, and hell, most of the minor ones, to sit down and explain what the hell they've been thinking.
I started on the Avengers side, mainly because I'm an X-Hater, but now I'm just on the side of waiting for Deadpool to show up.
Steve: John Romita Jr.'s art has been different with each issue. His style was probably most Romita-esque last issue, but the quality has been strangely variable. His first issue wasn't his best, and the fifth issue is probably the worst, but he seems to be drawing this on a page-by-page basis. Which, uh, is the only way to do it. What I mean is that if he tries to nail a page, he absolutely does that. But if he doesn't have his A-Game, then the page suffers. And this happened throughout every one of his five issues. Random pages are brilliant, and awful, and there's no consistency anywhere. His weakest work is when he has to draw perspective, as he really struggles to keep characters standing in realistic positions to each other. The colouring manages to cover quite a lot of this, thankfully, but his high workload is starting to really show in the quality of his work. If I were him I'd stop working on so many projects at once, and focus more on making each project work. He may be able to rely on his A-List status, but the quality is really starting to dip as of late.
Jamil: Everything just feels so meaningless and generic. There is no cohesiveness. This was my major fear coming in, that all these different creators, despite their respective talent levels, would not be able to pull together something whole. That's exactly what has happened. Each writer has had a different style to this, from being more banter heavy, to using more caption boxes and so on. This episode featured an awkward voiceover by Hope that just felt like a shit-ton of rehash, even despite us complaining previously we needed to get in her head more. As Steve points out, it shows up in the art too. Some of JRJR's work is spectacular here, but most of it is just splash garbage. Yes, when Tony shot Phoenix with the blue light at the red light it was spectacular and huge. We get it. Thank you wasting two pages to get that across to me.
Right now, this thing is a disjointed, bland mess. It just strings together plot points and character moments and has yet to really make me go "Oh hell yeah, Marvel!" The introduction of the Phoenix Five is an interesting development, but really it looks like all it will do is remove five of the best characters from the story and leave them mindless husks.
Oh well, at least it seems the whole Juggerlossus experiment is over. Peter's got his hair back, hooray!
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
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.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.