Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron & Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Frank Cho, John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel & Adam Kubert
Collects: Avengers vs X-Men #0 – 12
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Ever since House of M, mutants have been an endangered species.
In the blink of an eye, a race that had thousands of members was suddenly shrunk to around a mere 198. On top of that, mutant births stopped occurring.
Facing extinction, the X-Men became more reclusive and militant; their priorities shifted from saving the world to surviving it.
Eventually, however, a girl called Hope triggered the X-Men’s mutant tracing system; Cerebro, when she was born. Various mutant and mutant-hating factions clashed over the chance of recovering the girl, who many grew to see as their new messiah – the chance to recoup their numbers.
Hope was sent into the future with the time-traveller Cable to be trained, while the X-Men found Haven in San Francisco. They would continue to live there for some time, finding it to be one of the few places in America that welcomed their kind, until Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers forced them to create a new base of operation – Utopia, out of the remains of Magneto’s fallen asteroid base, now off the coast of California.
Now functioning as their own nation, the X-Men and many of the world’s mutants were united under one man…
Real Name: Scott Summers
Affiliation: The X-Men
First Appearance: X-Men #1 (September 1963)
When Scott Summers and his younger brother Alex were young, their family was involved in a plane crash. The ensuing crash left the boys without their parents and simultaneously awakened Scott’s mutant power to project energy from his eyes. However, when he and Alex parachuted to safety, Scott suffered a head injury that caused him to permanently lose control of his powers.
Eventually, Scott was found by Charles Xavier, who sought to help him control his powers, and provided him with a ruby-quartz visor, that would hold back the energy, only allowing it to be released at the press of a button. With that, Scott was inducted into Charles’ X-Men, where he met the future love of his life, Jean Grey, and soon ascended to the role of field leader.
Scott’s time as leader of the X-Men would develop him into an expert strategist, as he travelled down the rocky road on the path towards mutant-human equality. Over the years, he has lost many people, including, for a time, his wife. But Scott has always pushed forward, ever the stoic leader, developing the respect of much of the mutant population, including a rivalry with the mutant Wolverine, and a romance with the former mutant villain Emma Frost.
Under Cyclops’ leadership, the mutants contended with Sentinels from the future and anti-mutant hate groups but persevered long enough for Hope and Scott’s son Cable to return. Hope’s return heralded the appearance of five new mutants, but overall, their population still remained under 200.
As the situation grew direr and direr, Cyclops and Wolverine came to blows over the best way to lead their kind, and Wolverine and several other X-Men split away from the X-Nation to return to Westchester, New York, and reopen the school where many of them were trained.
Cyclops, meanwhile, continued to place his faith in Hope, whose training he took up after Cable returned to his own adventures.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
The intergalactic hero Nova crashes to Earth with a dire warning for the Avengers – the Phoenix is returning.
Assembling their full roster, the Avengers descend on Utopia – the island haven of the X-Men – to recover Hope Summers, whom they believe to be the Phoenix’s intended host. However, Cyclops and his X-Men are giving up Hope without a fight, as Cyclops believes that with the powers of the Phoenix, Hope can restore the mutant race.
As the Avengers and the X-Men go to war, Hope tries to find her own way and figure out where her destiny truly lies, but it may all be for nothing, as Iron Man attempts to destroy the Phoenix force, and instead causes it to inhabit not one, but five hosts.
Now, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik and Namor the Sub-Mariner are the Phoenix Five, gods among men. They claim they want to make the Earth a better place. But can they be trusted? And what happens when they learn that their powers grow whenever one of their number falls?
I remember enjoying this the last time I read it, but thinking back, I don’t know how much I enjoyed it because it was actually good, or how much I enjoyed it because it signified the end of an era and the start of something new.
I still enjoy the earlier issues to some extent, straightforward though they are. But as things progress, the problems become more and more evident.
Because re-reading this, a few things stood out to me a whole lot more than before. This is also perhaps in part due to my recent reading of The Dark Phoenix Saga.
There, we saw a story that emphasized how close-knit the X-Men were. They had doubts about Jean Grey’s all-powerful intentions, but they backed her because they loved her and she was one of them. Here, however, despite continuously touting Dark Phoenix as the basis for their actions, the characters seemingly remember none of how the original event played down. Where there was love for Jean, there is hatred for Scott and Emma. Rather than trying to help them relinquish their powers, they’re actively trying to bring them down.
The Avengers also, new to the world of the X-Men and the Phoenix, come off in an unflattering light. Rather than heroes and champions of Earth, they’re petty and paranoid.
Their actions in this comic essentially boil down to bullying Cyclops to the brink of madness, then using it as an excuse to try and beat the crap out of him.
It’s especially egregious if you compare the crimes of the various Phoenix’s.
Jean Grey, as Dark Phoenix, flew into space, consumed a star and killed a planet that was occupied by five billion people. In the aftermath, her teammates fought by her side to the bitter end.
Scott Summers, as Phoenix, improved the world immensely, then was pressured into killing one person, and subsequently lost control. He proceeded to endanger the Earth, yes, but his fellow heroes had already given up on him. Not just the Avengers, but the X-Men too. One even takes the chance to insult him when he’s at his lowest point, and in follow-up comics, Wolverine would often muse about how he might visit him in prison to kill him.
Maybe this is just how things are in a post-Civil War world, but these aren’t the words or actions of heroes (we’ll give Wolverine a pass for obvious), but it reads less like the place characters have evolved to, and more like a concerted effort by the group of writers to pull a character assassination of Cyclops.
It’s even more infuriating because the end of the comic suggests he wasn’t that far off being right. In fact, if the Avengers hadn’t gotten involved, the story would have just skipped to some variation of the epilogue, rendering the whole event pointless. So yeah, this comic is good if you want to see the Avengers being bullies, and the X-Men decide they want to kill one of their own rather than help them.
That’s not to say there’s nothing good about it. A lot of people enjoy this book. It’s big. It’s bombastic. The Phoenix Five makes it a different type of story, that’s for sure. There’s fun to be had here, and there are some standard moments (the Spider-Man focused issue being particularly good).
The rotating art team have their moments, even if their styles don’t gel, and the rotating writing team also have their ups and downs.
It’s definitely not the worst event, but frankly, I’d recommend just skipping this and going straight for Dark Phoenix.
All-in-all, I give Avengers vs X-Men a…
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