EDITOR’S NOTE: No more spoilers. Actually, a lot more spoilers.

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?

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m just going to spoil the Earth, like Kane from Kung Fu.

Even if Avengers Vs. X-Men goes the way of such other luminary comics crossover events as Contest of ChampionsAtlantis Attacks, or Heroes Reborn, meaning in order to remember it one needs to find it on Wikipedia, it will have accomplished one thing that no other event in Marvel Comics history has accomplished, and which is long, long overdue.

In issue ten, it showed Cyclops getting the everfucking shit kicked out of him while a baldheaded nerd points and laughs, and the he goes running for his Mommy. Well, not exactly, but close enough to make me giggle myself into a halfway decent erection.

Yes, I hate Cyclops just that much.

Editor’s Note: Does he spoil? Listen bub: he’s got Jack Daniels infected blood!

If you are a Spider-Man fan, you will find Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 to be about the most satisfying issue of the crossover event so far. It hammers home his philosophy of “With great power comes great responsibility” without actually saying the words for a change, it plays to his strengths as a character, and it allows this street-level hero to have a distinct and concrete impact on a cosmic-level story in a way that is true to the character, and satisfying for people who love him.

It also has a marital collapse. And it sets up the savage beating of one of the biggest douchecanoes in modern superhero comics. So there’s not a lot of downside here.

We’ve seen a lot of cool things at San Diego Comic-Con over the past couple of days, but the Marvel Comic Avengers Vs. X-Men panel held this afternoon wasn’t one of them. Iron Man’s new armor from the upcoming Iron Man 3 movie was, so here it is. Get a good look? Good. Now let’s get back to the bad news.

Avengers Vs. X-Men is Marvel’s marquee summer event for 2012, and we are at about the midpoint of the story, and shit is heating up. We’ve got five X-Men possessed by the Phoenix Force, Hope is being trained by Iron Fist’s sensei to learn to repel the Phoenix, Tony Stark is working with Black Panther to find a way to defeat the Phoenix Force with a combination of science and magic, and Spider-Man is getting at least one of the best moments in a comic set in the 616 universe he’s had in years. So while the event isn’t perfect, there’s a lot of fan excitement around the event and what it has in store for us for the rest of the summer.

So it was with a palpable sense of excitement that we filled the third-biggest room at the San Diego Convention Center at 2:45 this afternoon to discover some tidbits about what the Marvel House of Ideas might have coming up for the fans.

Turns out? It’s hats.

One thing I’ve learned over several years of attending the San Diego Comic-Con is that DC Comics panels are more entertaining than Marvel panels. That’s a harsh reality but for me, a true one.

Panels from each company are jam-loaded with hype, and each does its damndest to try and whip the crowd into a screeching nerd frenzy, which is fine; Comic-Con panels aren’t press conferences, they’re public relations exercises that happen to include some pieces of legitimate comics news. And often that news is exciting – Neil Gaiman back on Sandman, anyone? – so I don’t blame either editorial staff for trying to whip the crowd into a slavering geek frenzy. But for me, the difference is that Marvel is just so self-congratulatory about things.

Here’s an example: last year, DC Comics blew up their entire universe and ran a real risk of alienating a huge chunk of their core audience. Instead, the move allowed DC to overtake Marvel in sales for he first time in recent memory, and their sales have reportedly stayed damn solid since then. We have attended no less than five DC panels so far at SDCC, and the biggest pat on the back DC gave themselves was when Bob Wayne opened the New 52 panel yesterday by asking the crowd how many people spent SDCC last year thinking that DC was insane for making the move… and followed up by asking why more people didn’t think that at the time.

Compare that to Marvel, who last year introduced a black / Hispanic Spider-Man. In the Ultimate Universe, which thanks to the recent 616 universe crossover in Spider-Men, is the equivalent of DC’s Earth 2 – a sandbox where Marvel can mess around with characters without it affecting the valuable core titles from which they make movies. Was is a bold move? Sure it was… but compared to blowing up your entire continuity, it’s about the same as comparing dropping a washer slug into a Coke machine to sticking up the Federal Reserve with a dynamite belt: one’s a little easier to walk back if the plan goes sideways.

However, if you listened to the panelists at yesterday’s Marvel Ultimate Universe panel, you’d think they cured the common cold. “This was a big risk,” said Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso, “It was harder for us to kill [Peter Parker] than it was for you guys.” Alonso also said that the new Ultimate Spider-Man was the best work of Brian Michael Bendis’s career, and make no mistake: it’s a pretty good story, albeit utterly decompressed. But the hype was, personally, a little hard to take. My notes from the panel read, “Lot of ‘We’re so awesome and brave’ shit on the panel for killing Peter and having an Afr.-Am. kid as SM. There’s no news here, just fucking hype.”

And then Alonso announced that Ultimate Spider-Man artist David Marquez just signed an exclusive deal with Marvel. And my notes read, “There’s your news, writer prick.”

Editor’s Note: This Sentinel’s Prime Directive: Ruin or spoil all stories about mutants.

Being a cynical and ironic child of the late 1980s / early 90s, there isn’t a reason on Earth why I should like Avengers Academy #32. It is naked and blatant in its attempts to manipulate the reader’s emotions by placing children and their pets in mortal danger from a cold and callous external threat. It blatantly pulls the old E.T. trick of making kids the emotionally satisfying voice of emotional trueness in the face of cold and calculating adult logic and compromise, and it even alludes to the old Old Yeller tearjerker moment when it isn’t obviously humping the corpse of Short Circuit. Truly, a book like this should have me sneering disdainfully while listening to Nirvana on my way to a Richard Linkater film and slacking. Or something like that.

With all that said, it’s now 2012, and the other day I almost got weepy when the Boston Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis. So I don’t know if I’m losing my edge or what, but rather than being turned off by the obvious emotional manipulation going on in this comic book, I found it to be one of the best of the week. So either writer Christos Gage is damn good at what he’s doing, or I am turning into a colossal pussy. Regardless: I liked this book.

Editor’s Note: With great spoilers, comes great douchebaggery. I learned that lesson from my Uncle James. Yup. Good old Uncle James Beam. Died sticking up some old fart at gunpoint.

The final four pages of New Avengers #27 are amongst the most affecting and most emotional of the entirety of the Avengers Vs. X-Men event to date. It humanizes Hope in a way that has been missing in the event in favor of showing her alternate between a willful little whining brat and a cocky willful little whining brat, and it gives Spider-Man not only a logical and effective (if small) role in a cosmic apocalypse that should be completely out of his league, but it distills, in just a few short panels, the essence of the character and what he’s about better than six hours of Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies did. And it is Goddamned gorgeous to look at, besides.

Unfortunately, this is a 20-page story. Which further unfortunately means that what we got here is sixteen pages of decompressed life support for those spectacular closing four pages, that spins out a story conceit based purely on what was probably a simple lack of costume and coloring design communication between John Byrne and Gil Kane back in the mid-70s. On the fortunate end of the equation, those are sixteen pages of decompressed life support written by Brian Michael Bendis, meaning that they are filled with entertaining dialogue and some decent character beats… even while the best part of the book could have been presented as an interlude in the main event’s title.

Editor’s Note: Behold, I teach you the Spoiler! He is this lightning, he is this madness. 

Okay, so Avengers Vs. X-Men #6. Yeah.

Somebody’s read Miracleman.

This book is the spitting image of the end of Alan Moore’s Miracleman run; we’ve got superheroes with the power of Gods, who create a floating fortress above the cities of humanity. They use their powers to end hunger and drought, and make a dramatic statement to the United Nations flatly stating that all human conflict will end by their hand. This is a dead-on reproduction of the events of Miracleman #16, except instead of Warpsmiths we’ve got Phoenixes (Phoeni? Phoenixexces? Whatever.), and since we have Cyclops instead of Miraclemen, we have less detached alienation and 90 percent more colossal douchitude.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #5 is yet another issue of this series where they ramp up the pure, lunatic, schoolyard-level, “You know what would be fuckin’ cool?” ante-upping that has been a signature of this event since day one; I am convinced that if Marvel Editorial had forgotten to put an end number on this series, we would eventually see Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. Defenders Vs. Justice League Vs. Watchmen Vs. Godzilla Vs. Enraged Gunship Jesus.

At times in this series, the pursuit of that adrenaline rush or hormone rush or whatever rush it is that gives twelve-year-olds boners has led to writing that has placed classic characters with well-established behavior patterns in situations where they act like they are loaded on adrenaline or hormones or writing a major summer crossover event. However, this issue’s writer, Matt Fraction, avoids some of the characterization pitfalls from earlier issues by focusing his character work on Iron Man (with whom he is intimately familiar), and by putting his attention to the needs of the plot… which is basically to have superheroes bitch smack each other stupid.

Considering how the past few issues of this series has gone, this is, at least temporarily, an inherently good thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This review constitutes a confirmed extinction-level spoiler.

I don’t have kids myself, but many of my former drinking buddies do, which has in turn made me decide I can never have kids. Because I just can’t talk to them. You ever try talking to a little kid, particularly after they’ve had a shitload of candy? Candy you gave them in the hopes they would take it, go away and stop trying to talk to you?

You can’t make any sense of it; they spin wildly from point to point, with no real logical gristle connecting them, with weird exaggerations that beggar belief to hear (“Wait, wait, little Billy… you’re saying Deathstroke rode his pony… sorry, his My Little Pony… to Cybertron? To fight fucking Voldemort? Who plots your shit, Billy? Rob Liefeld?”). After a while, it starts to hurt the mind to keep track of what’s happening and why, because if you stop and think about it for even a minute, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

In that same vein, if I told you that the plot of a story was, “You know what would be cool? If the Avengers battled the X-Men and Phoenix – no, not some redhead in a green body stocking, but the actual giant flaming bird, like the one from Battle of The Planets – on – get this – the fucking moon,” you would think that you were overhearing a schoolyard monologue by some kid who was on the first step of a road that’s started with Ritalin and will eventually end with methamphetamine extract.

Welcome to Avengers Vs. X-Men #4: where every plot point was written with a prefix of, “And you know what else would be cool?” regardless as to whether it makes any Goddamned sense at all.