Review: Avengers vs. X-Men #4
Four issues in to Marvel’s big summer event, one thing has become very clear: Avengers vs. X-Men the series is going to speed through the basic plot, leaving all the actual fighting and meaningful character interaction to the tie-ins. While normally I might have a problem with this, I’m happy to say that Avengers vs. X-Men remains a good read in and of itself. I’ve been avoiding the AvX fight series, because I don’t need to spend good money on pages full of punching. And I’ve been buying a few of the regular series tie-ins, especially the X-Men ones. They haven’t exactly matched up perfectly with the main series, but I can live with that.
Four issues in and Avengers vs. X-Men is still good, as far as I’m concerned. The story is moving at a crisp pace, always changing and always giving me something new and exciting to read. Heck, everybody visits the Moon in this issue, for crying out loud!
Comic rating: 4/5: Good.
At the end of last issue, I was worried that we were going to spend several issues with the various teams searching for Hope in the five different locations across the globe. Turns out, those searches were relegated to the tie-ins. We see brief glimpses of each search in this issue, and the fights that occur in those places, but by the end of the issue they’ve found Hope and we move on to the next big part of the story. One could argue that those five separate location visits were just filler or padding, but not the kind we usually get in these big event comics. If the filler lasts less than an issue before moving on to the next exciting event, I’m cool with that. If I wanted to read that filler, I know which tie-in comics to buy.
I’m definitely enjoying the pace of Avengers vs. X-Men. That’s probably it’s strongest element. Part of me wants to give this comic a lower grade because of the lack of depth, but I can honestly say I enjoyed the comic while I was reading it. All in one sitting, I bet the full series is going to be even better. Avengers vs. X-Men isn’t going to have depth and intense character drama. While that might improve things, the series definitely isn’t broke without them.
Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more analysis.
As I said, this book moves fast, and a lot of stuff happens. So let’s get right to it.
We open in Antarctica, where Wolverine was deposited by an angry Captain America last issue. Wolverine wants to kill Hope to keep the Phoenix from possessing her, and Captain America just wants to detain the girl. Question: what makes Wolverine think that the Phoenix won’t simply choose somebody else as the host? Rachel Grey and Quentin Quire, both former hosts, are still on Earth. Rachel is taking part in some of the tie-ins, and Quentin was name-dropped in this very issue. Yet for some reason, Wolverine thinks that the Phoenix will just turn around and not bother with Earth if Hope is killed. The Phoenix is all about rebirth, you know. It would probably have more reason to come to Earth if Hope is killed.
Anyway, Wolverine has killed a polar bear in cold blood and is using it as a coat – though polar bears don’t live in Antarctica. Really writer Johnathan Hickman? Nobody had time to Google that fact? He is crossing the snowy plains when he starts to follow a path of beer cans in the snow – literally.
The beer cans lead him to a plane that has landed nearby to pick him up. It’s Hope! But why would Hope bother to recruit Wolverine? And how did she find him? At the very least, she was smart enough to bring beer.
We cut to outer space, where Thor is the only Avenger left ‘standing’ in the fight against the Phoenix in outer space. He hurls Mjolnir at the mighty fire bird, and that seems to frighten it! Only for the Phoenix to fly to a nearby planet and immediately destroy the entire planet. Much to Thor’s dislike.
Back in Antarctica, Hope takes Wolverine on her ship and explains that her position on this whole issue is the same as Cyclops’. Hope believes that when she is possessed by the Phoenix she can use its power to rekindle the mutant race. Wolverine and Captain America think that when the Phoenix possesses Hope, it will destroy the Earth. Hope asks Wolverine to give her a chance, to open his mind to the possibility that maybe she’s right. And if she’s wrong, well he can always kill her like he killed Jean Grey all those years ago when she was possessed by the Phoenix. So perhaps that’s why she recruited Wolverine. Hope thinks her plan will work, but if it doesn’t, Wolverine can kill her.
Wolverine agrees to give her a chance, then Hope asks him to fly them out of Antarctica. She could really use a nap. She has a destination in mind: they’re going to get a bigger plane.
Cyclops, meanwhile, is hanging out with Emma Frost at a Hellfire Club Safehouse for some reason. I assume this happened in one of the tie-ins, since it’s just the two of them. Emma is relaxing in a nice plush chair, but Cyclops is looking out the window, worried about finding Hope. It seems that they have figured out that Hope built a device that scrambled her mutant genetic signature, which made her appear to be in five places at once. And since she isn’t in any of those places, they need to start from scratch to find her.
Then we get a cameo by one of my favorite characters: Toad! Emma taps into his weak mind at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, and has Toad put on the Cerebra helmet so that she can use it remotely.
I don’t think that’s how Cerebra works. I’m pretty sure you need to be a telepath to use it. Toad may currently be mind-controlled by a telepath, but he himself doesn’t have any kind of psychic power. So what exactly is Cerebra doing to Toad’s mind? Just because Emma is controlling his mind does not put her telepathic powers in Toad and therefore should not connect her to Cerebra.
But whatever. Nitpicking isn’t going to get me anywhere.
Emma uses Cerebra to start scanning the globe, checking in on the various fights out there between the X-Men and the Avengers. There are fights in Wakanda, Tabula Rasa, Latveria, Wundagore Mountain and the Savage Land. I know for a fact that this week’s AvX issue features the fight in Latveria between Spider-Man and Colossusnaut, where Colossus ‘wins’ because Spider-Man runs away; and the fight between Gambit and Captain America in the Savage Land. Cap wins by knocking Gambit out. I don’t know where to find any of the other fights, though I think Namor and the Thing are fighting in Tabula Rasa in this week’s Uncanny X-Men. I haven’t read it yet, but they’re on the cover. Emma also mentions that Black Panther is still fighting his wife Storm. Is this a ‘safe’ way to abolish a marriage that nobody particularly liked?
We only get brief glimpses of these fights, but art by John Romita Jr. looks pretty sharp.
Emma taps into Captain America’s mind, and we witness an exchange between Cap and Tony Stark over the radio. Tony is back at Stark Tower building some kind of anti-Phoenix weapon, and they talk science for a moment. There’s a funny little joke about how Captain America can’t fight Gambit and talk science with Tony at the same time. But basically it’s good to know that the Avengers are doing something besides just blindly trying to find Hope and fighting any X-Man or X-Woman who gets in their way. I’m still not sure how Captain American plans to keep the Phoenix from possessing Hope, even if she’s in his custody.
After knocking out Gambit, Cap gets a mysterious call and then immediately orders the Avengers to retreat from all battlefields. They’ve found Hope! Emma quickly warns Cyclops.
Where is Hope? Why, she and Wolverine have broken into AIM headquarters and are cheerfully killing tons of AIM henchmen. Huzzah! Wolverine lets one of them live to unlock a big AIM rocketship, which Hope and Wolverine promptly use to fly to the moon.
Really? The only place that Hope and Wolverine could find a big rocketship to the moon was AIM headquarters? And they had to kill all those people to get to it? Granted, those people are terrorists and bad guys, but still. I guess the idea is that if Hope is on the moon, she’s less likely to destroy the Earth when possessed by the Phoenix. But wouldn’t destroying the moon still ruin the Earth? Why not fly out to Mars? Or Pluto? That’s not even a planet anymore. Nobody would care if the Phoenix blew up Pluto.
They land on the Blue Area of the Moon, which is a habitable section where the Inhumans once lived. There’s air, so the two of them are free to walk around without space suits. Between this issue and the last one, it seems like we’re just getting a big tour of all the fun locales of the Marvel Universe.
But guess what, the Avengers are on the Moon too!
I love how everybody’s just standing there in a group ON THE MOON!! Like it’s no big deal! They don’t even look like they were lying in wait to ambush Hope. They were just hanging out and waiting for her to land, then just announce themselves. Hope gets made at Wolverine, who reveals that he was the one who tipped off Captain America in the Savage Land. Wolverine didn’t hesitate to turn Hope over to Cap when she took that nap earlier. So much for Hope’s plan! And here I thought she and Wolverine were really bonding.
But wait! The X-Men just teleport to the moon!
Everybody can just fly off to the moon whenever they want! And why does Cyclops only bring his Extinction Team? They mentioned earlier in the issue that faculty from Wolverine’s school are joining his side, and we saw some of them in action. Why not bring everybody to the moon? Why not have a huge brawl of all the superheroes up on the moon? That would be awesome!
Oh I know why, because suddenly Thor crash lands on the moon right next to everybody. That’s some pretty good aim for a god crashing into the moon. But Thor is not alone.
The Phoenix has arrived!
This is what I mean by pacing. We’re only at issue 4 of 12, and already the Phoenix has reached Hope. I had feared that we wouldn’t get to the actual conflict at the heart of this comic until much later. That’s how previous Event Comics have been. I’ve mentioned Secret Invasion before, but man, oh man, did they waste a lot of unnecessary time in the Savage Land or with Nick Fury’s stupid new commandos. Avengers vs. X-Men is surprising me at every turn, and what’s what I like about it. I have no idea what’s going to happen next in this story. Who could have guessed that everybody would find Hope after only two issues, and on the moon of all places! So far, this is an exciting, action-packed tale.
But the biggest complaint holds a lot of weight: this story is only skin deep. There are no emotional character moments, no exciting action beats that aren’t immediately glossed over, and nothing hits with any kind of lasting punch. The Avengers are fighting the X-Men, and vice versa, without any second thought or hesitation. Every single character is gladly jumping into the brawl with no second thoughts. It’s just a big ol’ brawl and everybody’s invited!
That’s not what I read comic books for.
I would love to have real emotional depth, with moments that tug at the heartstrings. I want to see characters pulling their punches because they don’t want to beat up on their friends, or characters going all out because maybe they actively hate their opponent. I want to see Cyclops or Captain America making the hard decisions, or maybe the clever decisions. I want to see the twist that all of this is part of some great con/gamble by Cyclops (or Cap) and the opposing team falls into the trap, like a master moving his chess pieces around the board.
I want more from this comic – but it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting it. And I’m not going to penalize Avengers vs. X-Men because it’s not being written the way I want it to be written, that it’s not doing what I would have done. It’s an entertaining, face-paced story that is keeping me on my toes and offering a few legitimate surprises. If you step back and put too much thought into picking out its flaws, you’re going to have a bad time. I want to have a good time, and Avengers vs. X-Men #4 is a good read.
That’s what I read comic books for.