Saturday, July 7, 2012

All-New Uncanny Impressions of Avengers vs. X-Men.

As discussed in prior installments, the megacrossover world shaker Avengers vs. X-Men is still in full gear, with the arrival of the Phoenix (and its subsequent fracturing) literally remaking the dynamic of the world as a whole.  Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik and Namor each share a fraction of the Phoenix's infinite energy (call them the Phoenix Five), and rather than prove the Avengers right (that is, destroy the world), they issue a declaration of Pax Utopia. The entire world receives free energy, ample food, clean water, and the annihilation of weapons of mass destruction. All military conflicts come to a halt. Deserts are irrigated. Sentinels are annihilated.  Food is plentiful.  The status quo so firmly established as a matter of course in the Marvel Universe 616 is deviated from strongly, and ably, thanks in no small part to the squad of extremely talented writers collaborating on this particular blockbuster.   

The various tie-in titles do a fairly good service to not upsetting the dynamic of reality and accenting the storyline (unlike, say, the truncated battle sequence depicted in "brawl title" AvX between Captain America and Gambit).  We see Emma Frost come into opposition with Avengers Academy, Rachel Summers (formerly Phoenix in her own right) calling her loyalty to the new world order into question, and Rogue scuffling with Ms. Marvel, who sows the seeds of doubt before being tossed into a Limbo prison.  Magneto serves as a John the Baptist.  Hope Summers trains in a mystical cityspace with the masters of Iron Fist and takes lessons from Spider-Man to prepare for confronting the Phoenix once more.

This twist has taken the Marvel Universe in a new and interesting direction and polarized fans in a fashion that simple slugfests never could.  Do you believe that the Phoenix Five's intentions are as pure as they seem, and that true peace can be established in a world where garishly costumed superhumans shatter concrete with wrist flicks?  Do you agree with the Avengers that such drastic changes always come with a cost, a backlash is inevitable, and that the more these mutants embrace their new powers, the more distant they will become from their core codes of morality?

There is also the notable issue of the Scarlet Witch at hand as well.  Her role in House of M (remaking the entire world to be one where everyone gets their heart's desire in a Magneto-run "utopia") has apparently been redeemed since, well, since for some reason every single Avenger has forgotten how badly she upset them and how dangerous her powers are, and oh yeah, she dismissed an entire race of beings with a fragment of a sentence.  Perhaps it's because she slept with Hawkeye that she gets a free pass.  It could also be that she alone seems capable of taking the Phoenix Five to task, and her connection to the Life Force (as established in Young Avengers: the Children's Crusade) is that common bond with the Phoenix that may prove interesting in the upcoming remaking of reality itself, not just the world, in a recently announced universal relaunch called Marvel: Now!

In more recent issues of the main title, we see the stark divide between the forces and note that the grey area (ha! as in, um, Jean) is vast on both sides.  In the most recent issue, Emma Frost nearly kills Hawkeye in a fit of anger (but don't worry, he's getting his own series soon, plus he'll completely forgive her once they have sex).  Internal strife among the Five will no doubt disassemble them (and Colossus is still the Juggernaut, in case you were curious). Charles Xavier's marginalization continues to expand and contract.  Captain America seems to have a born soldier's need for constant battle, his irrelevance in a world of perpetual peace perhaps an unspoken catalyst to his continually antagonizing the Phoenix Five.  Iron Fist's established ret-conned history with the Phoenix Force will grant him a +5 to his relevance.  Then again, maybe everything that's happened for the past ten-plus years in Marvel is about to be erased.  Or perhaps Hickman will simply set the Avengers out to "solve everything".

In terms of scripting duties, it's very interesting to note the emergent variations of style with each issue, and as every section of the story unfolds, the shift in artists seems fitting to the content.  Marvel, all foibles and wisecracks aside, is clearly bringing their A game.  Regardless of the final outcome, readers that have cared for and enjoyed each of the titular teams involved in this conflict are in capable hands.

What comes next, however, remains to be seen.  After years of established wetworks, continuity and character building, a relaunch (restart? reboot? revamp? remake?) of the Marvel Universe titles (Marvel NOW! NOW! NOW!) may cause fans to cry foul, or even worse, call "mimic", since as most comic readers are well aware, about a year ago the DC Universe erased its elaborately decorated chalkboard and started fresh (but in some spots shaky) with The New 52.

Regardless of outcome, the story continues to be intriguing and this reviewer, for one, will continue to buy it, if only to see where the trail leads.  If the end result proves ridiculous, then the purifying flame of my caustic wit will burn it away.

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