Avengers vs. X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis – Graphic Novel Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Avengers vs. X-Men, the trade paperback edition collecting issues #0-12 of the superhero brawl that sees two of Marvel’s main superhero teams clash.
“Given the great potential of the creative team on board this book, not to mention the idea, the actual execution is somewhat flawed.” ~The Founding Fields
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman | Art: John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert | Publisher: Marvel Comics | Collects: Avengers vs. X-Men #0-12
The Avengers and the X-Men – the two most popular super-hero teams in history – go to war! This landmark pop-culture event brings together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Magneto and more in the story that changes them forever!
Avengers vs. X-Men, should, by all accounts, be a success. The writing team behind it is Marvel’s best, Brian Michael Bendis, (All New X-Men), Jason Aaron (Thor: God of Thunder), Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and Jonathan Hickman (Avengers) are currently penning some of the best Marvel comics for Marvel Now! and Ed Brubaker has a pretty strong track record as well, although I am unsure if he is currently writing any Marvel Now! titles. But where did this event go wrong? In a situation that pitted the Avengers and the X-Men, Marvel’s two biggest and most popular superhero teams against each other, this should have been awesome. Yet it was let down by several flaws, including its disappointing artwork, and really obvious plot holes.
You’re probably asking what event could conspire to turn the Avengers and the X-Men against each other. Whilst the seeds have been sown through the disappointing mini-series by Jeph Loeb entitled X-Sanction, and various other series that I haven’t quite got around to reading yet, the main instigator for Avengers vs. X-Men comes with the return of the Phoenix, the all-powerful being that is responsible for the possession and subsequent death of Jean Grey in the Dark Phoenix Saga, which again, is another title that I haven’t read yet but knew what takes place. Whilst I haven’t read a lot of X-Men comics, I’ve read enough about the various stories and histories featuring the Children of the Atom online to know that the Phoenix returning storyline has been done before, and judging by the reception for those books, in a better way. This time round however, the target is seemingly Hope, the first mutant born after the devastation caused by the Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants” claim in House of M.
Of course, the Avengers, specifically Captain America and Iron Man, remember the last time that the Phoenix returned to Earth, and have targeted Hope. But Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men on Utopia, has a belief that the return of Phoenix will help the mutants recover from the destruction, thus sending the two forces on a collision course where there can only be one outcome. WAR!
Avengers vs. X-Men certainly promised to be an interesting matchup. On the Avengers side, you have the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and more. The X-Men boast Cyclops, Storm, a reformed Magneto and more. With such a vast cast of characters, it’s evident that some are going to get more screen-time than others. It’s also interesting to see where Beast and Wolverine’s allegiances lie, as both have served as members of both teams in the past, and Wolverine’s story in particular is interesting to follow.
The artwork, for the most part, is inconsistent. Some of it is brilliant, but other parts not so much, two major characters that I felt weren’t really drawn as well as they could have been were Captain America and Professor X, which was a shame, as given the wealth of talent here, this book had the potential to be superb. It’s billed as a landmark pop-culture event in the blurb, however at times, I was struggling to believe that this was more than just your comic book equivalent of a Summer blockbuster film. Entertaining, fun – but flawed.
Characters do die in Avengers vs. X-Men, and if you’ve been reading comics-related websites and titles like Uncanny Avengers for Marvel Now, then you’ll know who met their fate in this one already. I won’t mention who died, but as they were such a fundamental character to the Marvel Universe, I feel that I should have been made to care about their death more. But I didn’t. It lacked any emotional impact on the reader whatsoever. In fact, the characters themselves were one of the book’s biggest problems, because despite the personalities that they’ve had for several years now, they were virtually non-existent here, and most of the cast are forgettable, and non of the iconic quirks that characters have, such as Spiderman’s sense of humour, are present. Also, in order to kickstart the event, it relies on both Captain America and Cyclops getting centre stage, and being both involved in stupid decisions. You can’t connect to any of the two leaders, and the rest of the cast that had the potential to be much more interesting are overshadowed in favour of Steve Rogers and Scott Summers.
The whole superhero vs. superhero fight has been done before, and better, in the case of Civil War. You’re not getting anything really original in this book, the Phoenix plot has been used before, Scarlet Witch seems like a clichéd plot device, and the Avengers have come to blows with the X-Men in the past, as this link shows us. Whilst it at times feels like a big, fun superhero brawl, the action quickly becomes tiring as you go on. I’ve been reading a lot of comics in the past year or so and I’ve rarely been let down, but It’s safe to say that this is a one of those occasions, and therefore I can only recommend this book if you’re a collector, a die-hard Marvel fan or wanting to see the lead-up to Marvel Now!