Friday, March 30, 2012

Avengers vs. X-Men #1 of 12

Writers: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, & Matt Fraction
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Company: Marvel Comics

Okay, let's get this thing out of the way. Let's be honest. Avengers vs. X-Men #0 was a letdown. It felt meandering and if memory serves correctly, you don't want to start your Summer extravaganza with whimper, you want to start it off with a bang. Something the encompasses the blockbuster of movies, something that captures audiences' attentions and is fun. Avengers vs. X-Men #1 is that kind of book. It's the first Marvel crossover that has occurred in the past few years that right out of the gate has my attention. So yes, if you found #0 to be a tedious page turning snore, wipe that from your memory banks and step up to this bright and shiny number one.

I'll tip-toe around major spoilers, because spoiling stories is not what's done here. Instead, we'll talk about the pros and cons of the book, the good and the bad. And yes, it definitely has both. The first great thing about this first issue (and the whole series, one would hope), is that it was written by collective. No, not the Collectors. Though imagine what that mini would be like. Seriously though, it seems that the writers here took a page out of DC's playbook and did this 52 style. Yes, each issue's script has a credited writer, but the overall story was put together by a whole mess of people. Normally, that kind of thing has PROBLEM written all over it, but it's almost as if the writers balance each other out. Each one of these guys, from Bendis to Hickman to Fraction...They all are strong writers who excel at different things. So yes, "BY YOUR POWERS COMBINED," and all that jazz.

That doesn't mean that there are tics showing that aren't bothersome, because there are, but the issue has a surprising sense of flow and direction and ingenuity that was unexpected. The way that this issue begins is a nice homage back to the original Dark Phoenix Saga, while the subsequent scenes do a great job of getting the reader caught up with what's been happening, what might happen with the Phoenix Force returning, and the potential of what will undoubtedly happen when two of the imprint's heavy hitting teams duke it out. Characters aren't bent and molded to fit a certain aspect of the story, they feel like themselves. There're also scenes that feel thought out and allow each character to use their power to be actual superheroes a be effective as an opening salvo to the oncoming event occurs and wreaks some havoc.

One of the biggest things that still gets me is how much time The Avengers spend in what are essentially board rooms. When did this happen? I mean, I can take a guess (Bendis), but doing this kind of thing just puts the bore in boredom. Yes, there is action here, but it's almost as if has become commonplace for them to be the cerebral guys who are spouting off casualty estimates instead of being the powerhouse ACTION team that they are. The X-Men instead are the guys who feel like they got the meat of the story. It's true that Cyclops is slowly becoming more and more like the Drill Sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, but there's a parallel with another mutant that is really hit home in this issue and I enjoyed the comparison. It felt right, especially with what has been done with him over the past few years.

John Romita Jr.'s art finds that nice comfort food zone of goodness. I don't think I can say that this is his best work that I've seen, but it's solid. There are a few scenes that feel rushed and a few where the lines aren't as clean as we're used to, but he does deliver the blockbuster-y stuff in a better way than most other artists. It has that classic comic book feel, which is a feel that we've been missing with the other giant crossovers. Now, this will change. Like the writing, the series will have a rotating art team, each one tackling four issues from the massive story. I'm not sure how that's going to effect the cohesiveness of the tale, but I would imagine that each block will have it's beginning, middle, and end, so we'll just have to see.

In the end, the Phoenix Force is back and we have a first issue that tackles the problem and leaves out the angst. So far, things are looking pretty good.

This is an advance review. Avengers vs. X-Men #1 hits stores Wednesday 4/4/12. Or if your local comic book store is throwing an Avengers vs. X-Men party, then you can snag it a day early on the 3rd at around 8 p.m. local time.

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