Thanks, Spoiler Alert Pirate! It’s hard to believe, but after twelve long issues of the main Avengers VS X-Men event, six issues of AVX: VS, a zero issue prologue and countless tie-ins, Avengers Vs. X-Men has finally come to an end (unless you count the upcoming issues of AVX: Consequences and A+X of course, because comics). The series up until this point has weathered an uphill feud against convolution and “AVX #12” is no exception, but three simple words have left this reader feeling relieved about the state of Marvel comics: “No. More. Phoenix.”
With the previous issue’s death of Prof. Charles Xavier on everyone’s minds the Avengers and X-Men put aside their differences to prevent Cyclops, now the omnipotent Dark Phoenix, from eviscerating all life on Earth. At the forefront of this battle are Hope and the Scarlet Witch who, despite their overall importance to the plot, have often times struggled to find their place amidst such a large ensemble of characters. In an attempt to draw focus on the pair writer Jason Arron employs a series of flashbacks that shed some light on how Hope and Wanda were initially at odds with each other and also to showcase how only their powers could defeat Cyclops. The problem with these flashbacks is that we already knew from previous issues that Wanda’s magic was the only thing that could hurt the Phoenix, and we already knew Hope had been training with Iron Fist. By the final issue of an event this size the majority of the readership should already be well-versed in the events that came before it. Shoehorning these scenes in completely interrupt the flow of the biggest battle the book had to offer, and the issue suffers for it.
Speaking of shoehorning— wow, does Nova come out of absolutely nowhere. With Scott 30,000 ft above Tibet the Avengers put out the call to any remaining heroes able to bring him back down to Earth, and it’s the new Nova who answers. While I admire the way things came full circle, as Nova was the one who heralded the coming of the Phoenix, it would have been better if he had played a more integral part throughout instead of just popping in because it leaves me wondering why literally anyone else couldn’t have made that save.
Another challenge I faced while reading was that certain scenes simply bubble over with exposition. Case in point: “It’s working! Wanda’s hex blasts are the only thing that truly hurts him. And Hope’s mimicking her power and channeling it into a version of the Iron Fist.”
Why no one said “Yeah, we can clearly see that, Iron Man. What an odd thing to say out loud,” is beyond me. Show, don’t tell.
With Cyclops back on the ground Hope and Wanda made their final play to defeat him. A few hex bolts and oddly placed flashbacks later, the Phoenix Force exited Cyclops and this time found its way to Hope. While at first embracing her new power, flying across the globe and extinguishing the fires Cyclops had set, Hope is soon convinced by Wanda that her destiny was never to host the Phoenix but to be the one that let it go. The two held hands and uttered three simple words, “Deus Ex Machina.” Okay, so maybe they actually said “No More Phoenix.” Same thing. The Phoenix Force shoots across the planet and reverses those other three words Wanda had used way back in House Of M, “No More Mutants.” As a result, there are now at least several thousand mutants in the Marvel Universe. The remaining Phoenix Five, as well as Magneto, are fugitives on the run and Cyclops is imprisoned in a ruby quartz cell. All of this begs the question: Just how powerful is the Scarlet Witch, and if she could more or less wish away the all-powerful Phoenix force this entire time then why did it take a dozen issues to happen?
Finally, is Cyclops really the bad guy in all of this? One argument says the Avengers struck first when they invaded Utopia and demanded that Hope be placed in their custody. The other argument places the blame on Scott, claiming he should have known all along that the Phoenix was too powerful to control. It was the Avengers, though, who created the machine that allowed the Phoenix Force to end up in Scott to begin with, and even Reed Richards pointed out that the Phoenix really was changing the world for the better. Would the cracks have begun to show in characters like Emma and Namor if they hadn’t constantly been pushed by the Avengers, and is this a scenario similar to Shadowland, where Daredevil was possessed by a demon, and thus his actions were forgiven? The multiple layers and what ifs are polarizing, leaving the reader to either feel compelled by the story or feel that it was so convoluted it became nonsensical, without much room inbetween.
Kubert’s artwork is one of the better things about this issue and the sad thing is it’s merely okay, nothing exceptional. There’s several big action moments to go around and they remain solid enough beginning to end. However, it’s the smaller facial expressions that end up getting lost in their wake. There’s one scene in particular that comes to mind in which Cap and Tony happen upon Hope and Wanda during their inevitable “first we fight, then we’re friends” moment (because comics again). With the only two people that stood a chance at defeating Cyclops at each other’s throats and the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, you’d think Cap would have been mildly concerned. Nope. Completely blank faced as he watched with the exception of maybe the slightest smirk. Tony is clearly shocked by what he had chanced upon but Cap’s face looked more like it was indicating he’d stumbled upon a reasonably priced buffet. It’s one of those infinitesimally small things that once noticed can’t be unseen and it takes the reader right out of the story. The issue also had three seperate inkers, once again proving this event was always more concerned with churning out quantity instead of providing quality.
While this event took a number of turns I didn’t prefer AVX’s one saving grace is the breadth of possibilities it opens up that without it wouldn’t have been possible. I am genuinely pumped for the new status quo of human and mutant relations that Uncanny Avengers will explore. I’m curious to see how many titles these new mutants will spread to. I’m excited to see the ramifications this will have on the All New X-Men cast (will Cyclops be visited by a young Scott Summers in prison?) Still, the question remains: How many fans will be satisfied with a 12 issue event that was more about the destination than the journey?