Review: Avengers vs. X-Men #12
Cyclops was right. About everything. With the final issue of this mega crossover now upon us, I can say with clarity and confidence that Cyclops is the true hero of Avengers vs. X-Men. Oh sure, they want you to believe that Captain America is the real hero. And that Cyclops’ supposed ‘crimes’ are beyond redemption. But I’ve been saying it for a long time now: Marvel was unwilling to just make Cyclops a mustache-twirling bad guy. And this issue finally reveals why. Everything Cyclops set out to do in Avengers vs. X-Men was for good reason, and everything he fought for and people died for, will have been worth it thanks to the surprise ending of this series.
Avengers vs. X-Men #12 was a fantastic and exciting finale! It’s a little muddied with an over reliance on flashbacks, but the story is straightforward and the victory well deserved.
Comic rating: 5/5: Great!
In hindsight, I haven’t really liked most of the big crossovers at Marvel. I didn’t particularly care for Fear Itself last year. Secret Invasion was a dud. Civil War was alright, but Seige was quite dull. Avengers vs. X-Men, however, is one damn fine comic. Hero vs. hero, the fate of the world at stake! And even though the writers never really explored the deeper questions of faith and hope prevalent in the series, it’s still an exciting superhero comic. There were times I was annoyed with the series, and very frustrated at what Marvel was seemingly trying to say. But this issue alleviated all of my worries and frustrations with some solid follow through on Cyclops’ story arc.
Forget Hope, forget the Scarlet Witch, forget Captain America or Wolverine. Cyclops is the true star of this comic. He’s the only character who really grew or changed, who learned something from all of this. He’s the only character man enough to accept responsibility, while Captain America sticks with his petty bravado and arrogance.
This was a marvelous comic, settling all of my disputes in a big, bombastic climax. Although I’m not sure why Iron Man is featured so prominently on the cover. Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review.
We open with a flashback/recap to get everybody up to speed. Tony Stark is recapping the basic premise to the other Avengers, in a scene that is set ’72 hours ago’ while they’re all still in K’un Lun. This is set, I believe, almost immediately after Avengers vs. X-Men #10.
According to Iron Man, this all started way back in House of M, when Scarlet Witch used her chaos magic to declare “No more mutants” and take away almost all the mutant powers in the world. Mutants had been a growing minority numbering in the millions, but through Scarlet Witch’s magic, she turned all of them human, leaving less than 200 mutants left on Earth (most of them X-Men). It is now believed that the Phoenix – which has a history with Earth’s mutants – sensed this seismic change, and set out for Earth to reverse what the Scarlet Witch had done. It was the Phoenix Force that allowed for the birth of Hope, the first mutant to be born after Wanda’s magic whammy. And now the Phoenix itself came to Earth to help mutants.
I don’t think I need to point out that THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT CYCLOPS PREDICTED!!
Back at the start of this series, it was Cyclops’ belief that the Phoenix had come to Earth to restart the mutant race, with Hope’s help. The Avengers thought it was going to destroy the Earth, so they wanted to lock Hope away. And now even Iron Man believes that the Phoenix came to Earth to restart the mutant race. That is the Avengers’ platform now.
Cyclops: 1/ Avengers: 0.
So Iron Man says that the answer to defeating the Phoenix lies with Hope, Scarlet Witch and Iron Fist. He’s going to combine their powers in this wonderful new thing he’s discovered: ‘faith’.
We cut to Scarlet Witch talking with Hope in K’un Lun, trying to encourage her for the fight ahead. But Hope is angry at Scarlet Witch. It was her spell that started this whole mess, that set Cyclops on this path. Scarlet Witch agrees that it’s her fault, and she’ll have to carry that guilt with her. That doesn’t settle Hope any and they come to blows – which is how Captain America and Iron Man find them.
We then cut to the present, where Dark Phoenix Cyclops is laying waste to the Avengers and the X-Men!
The art is pretty damn good in this issue. Adam Kubert does a fantastic job. The action is spectacular, the characters are clearly defined, the expressive emotions are top notch. Cyclops no longer has that bright red thong. No complaints about the art at all.
Over at the Jean Grey School, the Stepford Cuckoos are in Cerebra and are patching everyone together telepathically. The Dark Phoenix power has grown beyond Utopia, and it’s tearing apart the whole world! There are fires and explosions and volcanoes and everything else all over the world! Captain America and some of his team are racing…somewhere…in a Quinjet, and he tells them that he doesn’t have time for an 11th hour speech! They just need to know that the world doesn’t end on their watch!
We then get an international montage as Dark Phoenix races around the world causing damage, and somehow the various heroes are able to keep up. The Hulk crashes into a sidewalk in Sacramento. Spider-Man and Angel save people on a bridge in Beijing. Gambit and Hawkeye fight to save Paris. Thor and the Dark Phoenix battle over the Himalayas. A whole mess of quick action scenes, the kind of stuff we saw earlier in the series. It wasn’t very good then, and isn’t very exciting now.
The Avengers gang up on Dark Phoenix in the Himalayas, but he easily casts them aside as he declares that he’s going to burn the world to cinders and start fresh. And he says that there is no room in his new world for the likes of them.
Iron Man tells Captain America that it’s time for the Hail Mary. Cap gets on the radio and asks if there’s anyone left standing who can hit the Phoenix hard and get him into position?
Nova comes out of nowhere!
That may have actually meant something if it was Ritchie Ryder, instead of whatever new Nova Marvel is trying to push on us. But I’ll just pretend it was Ritchie Ryder, and that he just kicked some major ass!
Though after they crash, Dark Phoenix picks himself right back up, while Nova is knocked out. But now he’s in position for Scarlet Witch and Hope to launch a dual-attack! Thankfully, Iron Man provides a little exposition as to what’s happening: Scarlet Witch’s choas magic is the only thing that hurts the Phoenix. So while she is using it, Hope is mimicking that magic, and focusing it into a version of the Iron Fist, which she learned during her training in K’un Lun.
And then we get a scene that firmly establishes Cyclops as the hero of this comic.
As he does battle with the Avengers, Scarlet Witch and Hope, Cyclops takes over narration for a single page. He explains how all he wanted to do was change the world, so that mutants could use their powers to do more than fight Sentinels, and that his children (Cable and Rachel Grey) didn’t have to be time-traveling freedom fighters. He wanted to usher in an era of peace – and he did! He worked miracles. But then something went off track…
And in the midst of battle, he has a moment of clarity, and the real Cyclops is able to push through the Dark Phoenix.
There it is. The proof that Cyclops is not the one doing this. It’s the Dark Phoenix, and has been all along. It’s just using Cyclops, the way it used Jean Grey to destroy a whole galaxy all those years ago. It’s using Cyclops now. He’s not to blame. With everyone beating on him, the real Cyclops is able to peek through and has enough clarity to know that the Dark Phoenix needs to be stopped.
Cyclops: 2/ Avengers: 0.
But guess who blames Cyclops and only Cyclops in the end? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Cyclops’ brief hold on the Dark Phoenix ends, and the monster once again emerges. He starts to go supernova, shouting and burning to high heavens. But then he gets a visitor…
The spirit of Jean Grey returns to help calm Cyclops and the Dark Phoenix down enough for Hope and the Scarlet Witch to deliver the finishing blow. They blast Cyclops, and the Phoenix Force leaves his body, then it calls to Hope…
We flash back to 71 hours ago, and a pep talk between Captain America and Hope. He tells her that at the start of this conflict, he sent Avengers to Utopia (and started this whole mess) in order to stop the Phoenix from taking Hope as its host. Now Iron Man is telling him that they want the Phoenix to take Hope as a host.
Cyclops: 3/ Avengers: 0.
Hope tells Cap not to try and stop her, and Captain America asks why he should believe in her.
Sure enough, as soon as the Phoenix leaves Cyclops, it possesses Hope. And sure enough, once Hope has the Phoenix, she flies around the world fixing all the damage that the Dark Phoenix caused. She puts out all the fires, repairs the infrastructures, all that good stuff. Hope uses the Phoenix power for good. Which is exactly what Cyclops was training her for at the start of this series. Until the Avengers came and got all up in his face about it.
Cyclops: 4/ Avengers: 0.
Hope then returns to the Avengers and X-Men as the new White Phoenix!
She tells them that this is her destiny, and that she will use the Phoenix power to be the savior of mankind. But then the Scarlet Witch interrupts her. She tells Hope that this is not the why, not the reason Hope was chosen to host the Phoenix. She was chosen because Hope is the only one with the strength to reject the Phoenix. Together, Hope and the Scarlet Witch declare “No more Phoenix,” and they cast the power aside.
We then see the Phoenix flame spreading across the world. What’s it doing, you ask? The Stepford Cuckoos can tell you:
It’s reigniting the mutant race.
So in the end, Hope uses the Phoenix to restart the mutant race.
EXACTLY LIKE CYCLOPS PREDICTED AND WANTED TO DO ALL ALONG!
Cyclops: 1,000,000/ Avengers: 0.
Speaking of Cyclops, he’s arrested and locked up in a ruby quartz prison. Sometime later, Captain America and Wolverine have gone to meet with him and have a sit down discussion about all of this. Cyclops says he barely remembers much, but he knows that he tried to destroy the world and that he killed Professor X. Captain America is particularly snooty about it. But Cyclops doesn’t let that bother him, he mans up and accepts what he did as the Dark Phoenix, even though he wasn’t in control.
We learn that the other members of the PhoeniX-Men are still at large, as well as several other Cyclops supporters, like Magneto. Cyclops tells Captain America to let them be, that he takes full responsibility, even for the stuff that Namor, Magik and the others did on their own. Captain America tells Cyclops he can’t do that, though he does admit that the Phoenix was as much to blame as anyone. Captain America even admits that he’s partially to blame for not doing enough to help mutants in the past.
Cyclops: 1,000,001/ Avengers: 0.
We also get a little tease about Captain America putting together a new mixed Avengers/X-Men superhero team. I’ll definitely be picking up Uncanny Avengers when it comes out later this month.
Let’s dwell on that earlier bit a moment though: Captain America accepting some responsibility. What about responsibility for his other actions? Captain America is the one who led the Avengers into war with the X-Men in the very first issue in order to arrest Hope. But then in this issue, he’s fighting for the Phoenix to possess Hope. Does he apologize to Cyclops for starting the fight? Or for not believing him in the beginning? Of course he doesn’t. Captain America is also the one who wouldn’t stand aside and let the PhoeniX-Men make the world a better place. He had to keep poking them with a stick because he couldn’t admit he was wrong. And all the evil that the PhoeniX-Men did (the attack on Wakanda, the evil Avengers prison) was as a direct result of Cap continually leading the Avengers in attacks on them.
Will Cap accept any responsibility for any of that? Of course not. This is all Cyclops’ fault.
Cyclops tries to see the silver lining in all of this, but the sanctimonious Captain America won’t let him.
Cyclops also points out that the Phoenix restarted the mutant race, so that he was right about that. He was right that the Phoenix didn’t come there to destroy them.
Cyclops: 1,00,002/ Avengers: 0.
Captain America again denies him that small victory by saying that only Cyclops was there to destroy them. Even though, as we’ve already seen in this very issue, it wasn’t Cyclops destroying anything, it was the Dark Phoenix. But Captain America, and everyone else, are still going to blame Cyclops. As if he’s responsible for what the Dark Phoenix did. Even though, as I point out again, Cyclops had perfect control of the Phoenix until Cap and the Avengers started prodding them.
But Cyclops lost the big fight in the end. And history is written by the winners. Captain America is the winner.
There’s a brief scene where Thor invites the new Nova to join the Avengers. But again, I don’t care about him if he’s not Ritchie Ryder.
Cyclops says that change never comes easy, there were always going to be sacrifices. He says that he would change places with Professor X in a heartbeat if he could. Captain America points out that the ends never justify the means.
Cyclops: 1,00,002/ Avengers: 1.
Captain America asks Wolverine if he has anything he wants to add, but Wolverine doesn’t. He’s got a eulogy to give.
So at least we’re spared Wolverine being overly sanctimonious. And thankfully Cyclops doesn’t sink to their level and admit they were right. Because they weren’t.
The issue ends with Cyclops pointing out that, when it comes to the Phoenix, there must first come destruction before the rebirth.
And we see Hope on the old Utopia, which has been fenced off by SHIELD. She says it’s a beautiful day before flying off in her jetpack, while a single rose grows in the ground…for some reason.
And so Avengers vs. X-Men comes to an end. It wasn’t a perfect story, and definitely didn’t need 12 entire issues, but it was a good read. I have been entertained throughout. The art was consistently stellar, the writing was good, and the story was definitely as epic as it should be for such an event. Though I would have liked to have seen a larger focus on the actual changes created in the world. We got one single panel where Cyclops said that the people of the world loved the PhoeniX-Men, but that was it. There was very little exploration of what all of this fighting meant for the world. I guess to make room for more fighting.
The story made some kind of logical sense, as long as you don’t pick it apart too much. The Phoenix was a classic Marvel adversary, and clearly Marvel had been building up to this story for several years, what with the Scarlet Witch and Hope having semi-prominent roles over the years. This made for a nice parallel to House of M, where Wanda took away the mutant powers.
And it does a fine job of setting up Uncanny Avengers and the new Marvel NOW! campaign.
So yeah, this story was exciting, well-drawn, epic and pretty darn cool.
In hindsight, I think I like the complicated question of who is right and who is wrong. Clearly Cyclops is right, but he was made the villain of the story. While the writers didn’t really explore that to any depth, it’s still rather novel that the villain is the one who is right, and that the ‘heroes’ are the aggressors and in the wrong. At least I think that’s how this all played out. The story is written very frustratingly. And maybe that’s because it was written by five different writers, each juggling alternating issues. But parts of it were written with such glaring bias towards Captain America, while the overall story had Cyclops in the right. It just led to some annoying bits here and there.
But now at the end, we know Cyclops was right all along. Even if Captain America refuses to admit it.