Flashpoint: Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 Reviewon October 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm
Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 is a hard book to review because it endeavors to do a whole lot of things all at once. First, it needs to resolve the fact that Dark Phoenix is running around in the body of a petulant dink, and it generally accomplishes that. Second, considering the story was about two linchpins of the Marvel Universe, they had to, pretty much for the first time since the series started by showing Cyclops acting like he was one bad night away from handing the X-Men Nikes, track suits and tainted Kool-Aid, introduce some ambiguity as to who the good guys and the bad guys were, and it accomplishes that damn well.
However, one of the things it needed, and tried, to do, was rehabilitate the Scarlet Witch after the events of Avengers: Disassembled in 2004, when she single-handedly wiped out pretty much all the mutants in the 616. It also needed, given the commitment by Marvel editorial to integrate the X-Men back into the more mainstream, non-mutant based books, to make sure that there were actually X-Men around to add to the Avengers books. And it certainly accomplishes both of those things, but it does it in a strangely unsatisfying way, a way that feels like the decision was made that many of the main events of the past seven or eight years of Marvel stories simply don’t matter. It is the final nail in the events of Disassembled – Hawkeye’s alive again, the Vision’s back, and now the mutants are all returning – and it feels like someone at Marvel, be it Axel Alonso or Joe Quesada or Brian Michael Bendis or Ike Perlmutter, dusted off their hands and said, “There! Now we’re back to 1999!”
We make a lot of jokes here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives about how vehemently Marvel protests that they don’t reboot, but make no mistake: Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 is a reboot. The only question is: it is a good one?
The issue opens wth Cyclops as the sole proprietor of the Phoenix Force, and having gone full Dark Phoenix (it’s similar to Full Retard, only with 90 percent more explosions and unitards that make you look like a veiny cock with a glow-in-the-dark Nightwing logo tattoo). Cyclops has decided that in order to save the village, it has become necessary to destroy it, so he’s raining fire down on the world while simultaneously punching it out with Avengers and X-Men alike (and unless I’m misinterpreting Adam Kubert’s pencils on story page eight, stone murdering Iceman), while Tony Stark works on a plan to send Hope, who has been training with Iron Fist, and Scarlet Witch, whose hex power is the only thing that has injured the Phoenix Force, as a last-ditch attempt to stop Cyclops… although given Cyke’s history, maybe sending some redhead who pretends anything he says is deeper than a urine sample could kill him with a broken heart.
So let’s start with the absolute finest moment of the book: when the Avengers and X-Men are down and all but out, and Captain America needs someone to bring Cyclops back to Earth… and Nova comes blasting in. As a child of the 70s, I have a soft spot for Nova, and while this one isn’t Richard Rider, seeing the character rocket across two pages and say, “I’m a hemisphere away. I’ll be there in a few seconds,” is genuinely thrilling. And Green Lantern knockoff or no, seeing Nova shout, “Can’t hear you! Too busy kicking your ass!” to that weasel shitbag Cyclops was the moment of the book for me. Sure, it all comes straight from Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon rescue from Star Wars, but it is Goddamned good. I haven’t been keeping up with the digital Ultimate Comics stories about Nova since the first issue, but these couple of pages alone make me want to see more of this guy.
All in all, the final battle with and defeat of Cyclops is satisfying, particularly in its ambiguity. In the end, the Phoenix was able to restore and save mutantkind once Hope had control over it. And while the question remains whether Hope would have been able to do what she did with the Phoenix Force had she not undergone additional training by Iron Fist and Scarlet Witch, the fact of the matter is that, in general, that nutsack Cyclops was right. Sure, he was a dildo and the worst kind of irritating and fanatical, quasi-religious true believer, but everything happened the way that he said that it would, minus the world-threatening war that occurred when The Avengers stuck their nose in. It’s an interesting was to close the story that redeems the X-Men and greases the skids for pulling them back into the Marvel Universe proper. It’s well-written and it works… up to a point.
Because the overall final resolution of the story, which returns the number of mutants back to pre-Disassembled numbers, has the effect of wiping out the impact of almost everything that occurred in Marvel’s mutantkind since 2004. House of M, Generation Hope, Avengers: X-Sanction (actually, in retrospect, you can keep that pile of shit), all magically made less impactful by Phoenix just magically making people mutants again. Which is fine, I guess, but it feels like it takes years of character and plot development and just chucks it so that Marvel can shuffle a bunch of X-Men and Avengers together in different books. It almost feels like someone said, “Huh… Bendis is leaving the Avengers books, huh? This is a perfect opportunity to take all the plot he put in place and make things easier! Why, it’ll let us make up a bunch of new mutant heroes that we can throw into a bunch of different books!”
Ultimately, the close of Avengers Vs. X-Men feels like a copout, a way to throw things back to an earlier status quo in the interest of dumping out a bunch of new #1 issues. And while no history has been rewritten, per se, it has certainly been thrown away… and you can call it anything you want, but to me? That’s a reboot. And while time will tell if it leads to good stories, it feels like a backdoor solution to match DC’s success with the New 52. Which, again, is fine, but at least DC had the stones to call a spade a spade and answer to fandom right up front. Doing things this way just feels like a cheapy, backdoor reboot that chucks out inconvenient story history while allowing Marvel to pretend their hands are clean of the reboot stigma on the convention circuit. It’s Spider-Man’s Brand New Day writ larger – and to be fair, written better – but let’s not pretend this isn’t what it is.
Adam Kubert’s art befits an epic story, particularly one that brings us, for all intents and purposes, back to the 90s. His battle scenes are epic in scope, with a widescreen panel layout that maximizes the use of page real estate, and which is actually laid out in ways that are easy to follow, which is often an Achilles’ Heel for this kind of page design. His figures are generally varied, with a mix of big, jacked heroes and smaller guys – again, Nova: God damn – and his faces are expressive. Still and all, there are a million fine detail lines on every face that isn’t attached to a pair of boobs, and a reasonable amount of 90s-style crosshatching. Still, Kubert doesn’t fall to drawing poses rather than action, so everything looks dynamic and exciting. It’s not my favorite art style, but it works well for the epic that this story tries to be.
In the final analysis, Avengers Vs. X-Men is a very successful event story, with an ending that is more nuanced, ambiguous and generally satisfying, in a way that most big events do not - Fear Itself comes to mind. But let’s not pretend that this is anything but a well-written reboot of a large part of the Marvel Universe, throwing out a huge part of the status quo of the past decade of stories in the interest of bumping up readership. Which is not innately a bad thing – Brand New Day was shit, but led to years of damn fun Dan Slott Spider-Man stories, and for the most part, DC’s New 52 has turned out okay – but backdooring it into continuity under the guise of a bid old fight just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a great ending in its own way… only strangely disappointing in what it means.