After months of lead-ins (exactly what was the point of Avengers X-Sanction??) and ads declaring ‘it’s coming’ at the top of each comic over the title, the first issue of the 12 part epic has arrived (actually issue zero also arrived but both sold out and I only managed to snag a copy of #1).
After all the hooplah, I ask myself was it worth it? And my answer is strangely… yes.
The massive creative team of Brian Michael Bendis (New and un-New Avengers), Matt Fraction (Iron Man and Thor), Jason Aaron (Wolverine and the X-Men), Ed Brubaker (Captain America), and Jonathan Hickman (FF/Fantastic Four) have delivered the package that Marvel has been promising since Avengers Disassembled. They have connected up the various threads and developments that rocked the foundations of the Avengers and threatened the existence of the X-Men in a single event. That, my readers, is quite an accomplishment (and may explain why so many writers were needed).
Scott Summers and Jean Grey were deeply in love. As a pair of awkward teens, they avoided the issue as long as they could, but in the end found each other. Unfortunately, a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix also found Jean during a moment of need and she relented to its offer. The Phoenix is a force of extreme power, both of destruction and rebirth. In the end, it was so dangerous that not even the X-Men could stop her. The entire universe toppled on the brink of annihilation and Jean took her own life to sacrifice herself and defend Scott and the other X-Men from having to kill her.
Scott’s loss was shared with Wolverine, who felt that Jean was the only woman who ever really understood him. The bizarre love triangle (sorry, New Order fans) has continued throughout the comics even when Jean is not present. It remains a sore point between Scott and Wolverine and was instrumental in their ultimate falling out as X-Men and friends.
The Phoenix force (and Jean) have appeared a few times since, each time with catastrophic results. Jean Grey died some time ago at Wolverine’s hand and has not returned. This is significant as she has enjoyed something of a revolving door policy in terms of death.
Over in the Avengers… the Scarlet Witch, driven to madness, assaulted the Avengers with the combined force of every conceivably horrible event they could ever face all at once. Recognizing the cause, Wanda was shut down by magic and psychic means and the threat ended… sort of. So great was the damage that several team members perished and the team dissolved in the aftermath.
However, Magneto had retrieved his daughter and used her to balance the scales between mutant and human kind, resulting in an altered reality where mutants were the dominant species. A strange mutant named Layla Miller awakened the various heroes to their situation and they combined forces to attack Magneto’s citadel and end Wanda once and for all. Before she was killed, she uttered the phrase ‘No More Mutants’ and reduced the mutant population to a mere 198.
Since that time, the Avengers have struggled to regain their place as the dominant force for protection of the planet. They have also dealt with the internal issues of trust and responsibility that have plagued the team and were key in Wanda’s decline into insanity.
Meanwhile, the X-Men have split into two philosophies regarding their future. Cyclops has transformed the island of Utopia from a haven for mutants into a military installation to defend threats to the mutant population. Hope, the first mutant birth since what is now called ‘M-Day,’ is regarded as the key to the future of their population as she has the ability to speed up mutation. Scott also recognizes that she is a likely vessel for the Phoenix force and has taken on the responsibility of training her.
Wolverine has rebuilt the school, but in Jean Grey’s name, and is training the young mutants in learning to use their powers, but not as an army as Cyclops views them. He has also become an Avenger in the intervening years, spreading his loyalties very thinly between the two groups.
The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth. The Avengers have decided to be pro-active rather than reactive as they have in the past and are looking for ways to halt the problem before it starts. Enlisting the aid of Wolverine, Captain America leads a team of Avengers on board a SHIELD helicarrier to Utopia.
In training Hope and pushing her to her limits, Scott has awakened a part of the Phoenix hiding deep within her. Instead of terror, though, he sees potential. Too often have the X-Men been the underdog, hiding from the world and neglected by the superhero community. The Phoenix would make them a force to be reckoned with. So great is Scott’s conviction that it freaks out Magneto, then Captain America arrives.
Captain America makes a few very bad decisions in how he treats Cyclops and the X-Men. Cyclops orders Cap off his island and fires a force beam at the star spangled Avenger. Then… it’s on.
AVX is a simple fisticuffs situation, I get that. It’s a popcorn movie version of a comic book where heroes face off against each other, but it’s also a pay off for several story ideas woven together to present a more sophisticated comic. I was very wary of this story for many reasons but now that it’s here, I couldn’t be happier (ask me how I feel in a few weeks when I realize I’ll be shelling out $8 a month just for the main book!).
AVX is the first of Marvel’s books to feature the AR system that uses smartphones to present additional content. As my phone’s main feature is that it can produce tiny bits of candy, I have no idea what this looks like, but it sounds very interesting and seizes the next gen tech in a new and exciting way.
More as it comes…
Unfortunately, the app isn’t available for use yet and will be released in June… awkward.