Avengers vs X-Men

This year’s Marvel summer event was Avengers vs X-Men, a series of missed opportunities and character derailment. Early interviews with those involved said that this event was supposed to finally lock the X-Men into the proper Marvel Universe instead of in their own bubble of experience. While that mission has certainly been accomplished, the execution certainly could have used some work. This series is probably the ultimate example of a plot driving the characters instead of the other way around.

Explaining the full background of the story is complicated, since some plot threads started 7 years ago in House of M. At the end of this infamous storyline, the Scarlet Witch said, “No more mutants,” and depowered a majority of the mutant population while also ceasing all new mutant births. (Not aborted, mind you. They were still born…just not as mutants.) Cyclops, leader of the entirety of the X-Men after discovering that Charles Xavier had secretly sent his younger brother Vulcan to his death and erased all memory of him, has been hoping beyond hope that this event could be overturned. Then a single mutant was born, who was named Hope. After growing up while time traveling with Cable, Hope was returned to the present day and considered a mutant messiah. At the beginning of AvX, the Phoenix Force was discovered to be returning to Earth, and everyone expected that it would be coming to Hope.

I left a lot of details out, I know, but you should be familiar with comic book storylines. Or you could just look up the individual Wikipedia entries.

Anyway, the first misstep of the story was having Captain America storm Utopia, the home of Cyclops’ group of X-Men, with the Avengers secretly in tow. Everything goes wrong in his attempted conversation with Cyclops, which ends with Cyclops shooting the captain with an optic blast. This is the shot heard ’round the world in the story and starts the fight. This is also a moment clearly driven by plot need rather than actual characterization. Both of these characters have a history of keeping fairly cool heads about everything, but then they turn into outright aggressors.

Supposedly, the story was written in a way such that the readers could choose who was in the right. Marvel attempted this several years ago with their Civil War summer event, in which Captain America and Iron Man divided the superheroes by disagreeing over whether or not heroes should provide the government with their civilian identities. Iron Man won the battle and ultimately revealed that he would be the person in the government keeping track of civilian identities, but he was portrayed as the villain throughout most of the story. Also, the fallout resulted in the death of Captain America (he got better via ridiculous means), the shooting of Aunt May (she got better via ridiculous means), the erasure of Iron Man’s brain (he was able to redownload almost everything, minus the whole Civil War thing), and led almost directly into the year long Dark Reign in which Norman Osborne was named the head of SHIELD and was entitled to the information about the superheroes. But, you know, the reader gets to choose a side.

AvX is supposedly just as neutral as the above event, and it gives the readers ample reason to dislike both teams. The Avengers are too aggressive. Cyclops seems obsessive. Both sides are striking first and asking questions later. Seems perfectly balanced.

Until Iron Man inadvertently splits the Phoenix Force into five parts that end up in Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Magik, and Colossus…

I have to admit, this was one of the cooler ideas in the series…until it wasn’t…

While it is clear that the horrible actions of the characters were mostly a result of the Phoenix, it is hard to consider the hosts separate when clearly their personalities amplified. If you ever wanted to be disappointed in Cyclops, and no one should want to see him as a lesser man, you should see him allow Magik to imprison the Avengers in a pocket of Hell. You should see him attack Emma just to claim the last piece of the Phoenix for himself. You should watch him kill Professor Xavier. (Which was done so poorly, the only reason I knew the guy was dead was because of the news reports – not from having read the story itself!)

The Xavier death needs to be addressed at least a little bit. There was no build-up for it in the least. He was brought into the story an issue before he was killed. There was nothing to emphasize the betrayal or disappointment felt by Cyclops for the many years of Xavier’s being a screw-up. It was something that simply happened. It was clearly an afterthought on the part of the people at Marvel, too – another plot driven decision just to show that Cyclops had crossed the moral event horizon. And then he turned into Dark Phoenix.

Not that it matters anyway, since Xavier hasn’t done much in the comics since he died. Yes, he already died. He was shot in the head four years ago at the end of the story in which baby Hope was introduced. He got better, but there was no reason for him to get better if they were going to kill him again. If Marvel had wanted a death that made sense, added weight to the situation and would have seriously rocked the Marvel Universe, then Dark Phoenix Cyclops should have killed Wolverine. Those of you who actually read comics, let that set in for a while. Imagine what kind of impact that would have made. Of course, Marvel doesn’t allow their most popular characters to die unless it’s in a parallel universe.

What absolutely ruined the story for me is the ending. The Phoenix is driven out of Cyclops and he is taken into SHIELD custody. Captain America lectures Cyclops on how horrible he has been, but Cyclops can only focus on the fact that he was right that the Phoenix would end the curse of “No more mutants.” In Uncanny X-Men #19, which happens concurrently with the final issue of AvX, Cyclops actually gloats about mutants coming back and how he would have done it again – even after being told about how many deaths he has caused.

This goes beyond plot driving character. This is plot derailing a character completely.

I am clearly disappointed with how this story was told, and I recommend people steer clear from buying the comics or the omnibus that will see release next month. Borrow from your friends or the library if you’re curious. However, it leaves me interested in what is to come from the event. Marvel NOW! looks like a more united Marvel Universe, especially with the Uncanny Avengers team featuring Havok. But what good is a more united Marvel Universe without one of the key figures of unity and harmony – Cyclops? Maybe they’ll do something worthwhile with him, but, unless he’s the weird red-suited guy in the solicits, there doesn’t appear to be much of a future for him in the world he always wanted to create.

About Gospel X

Media commentator who tries not to waste time - and often fails

Posted on October 5, 2012, in comics, Marvel, review, science fiction, The Avengers, X-Men and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. In terms of the Marvel NOW! series I am extremely interested in seeing Xavier’s original X-Men interact with their current counterparts. I think you can really flesh out Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman and Angel by having them talk to their past versions (where applicable).

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