Avengers vs X-Men vs Terrible Writing

The first issue of Avengers vs X-Men (or “AvX” as the hip kids say) launched two weeks ago, and my reaction was tepid. The art was fine, and it seemed like it was setting up a conflict with nice potential implications for the universe.

The problem, as Professor Bryan Carr pointed out, is that the central conflict had no room for nuance. The best of the big event books are clever ways of using the superhero framework to comment on something going on in our society. This book didn’t have that gray morality, at least at first blush. Cyclops and his oddly cult-like X-Men followers were content to let the all-powerful destructive Phoenix force come on the off-chance that they can figure out how to use it to their advantage, with absolutely no research or understanding of the force and no reason to believe they could get it under control. The Avengers wanted to prevent the force from ever coming in the first place. The Avengers were very clearly right, and the X-Men were very clearly wrong. Also, kind of uncharacteristically dumb.

But I hoped we’d see some nuance soon. Maybe the X-Men would actually succeed in controlling Phoenix, and then it could become an allegory about whether it’s right for one group to even have that much power at its disposal. It still had potential, so I went into the second issue with reservations, but still some shreds of hope.

Holy gamma rays. I was not mentally prepared for the full-on unrelenting onslaught of stupid in this issue.

AvX #2 is, at its core, several pages of superheroes punching each other. It quickly flips from one superhero scuffle to another, pairing them up the way you might have when you were on the playground. Hulk vs Colossus! Iron Man vs Magneto! Namor vs somebody! This would be fine if the dramatic underpinning worked, but since it doesn’t, it has the stakes of a WWE match. Actually, strike that. Some people enjoy the plots in WWE matches. This is punctuated by gouda-stuffed one-liners and a clunky unseen narrator who seems to be trying desperately to convince us that these fights are important. The issue has one good moment with Spider-Man, but to be fair that’s mostly because Spider-Man.

The issue ends when the exact thing the Avengers warned about happens. That’s it. No surprise, no suspense. Just several pages of superheroes smacking each other around, and then the most predictable scenario occurs. It gave absolutely no indication that the conflict would get more interesting, or that the X-Men would have a valid point on their side, or that it would serve as an allegory for anything more insightful than Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots. But considering this slog is going to limp along for another ten issues, I have to imagine Cyclops will continue to not see how extremely, undeniably wrong he is for at least another eight.

Other quick comic observations. Batman #8 actually got me more interested in the full Night of the Owls plot and had a really fun coda at the end, Wonder Woman #8 continued its spectacularly clever exploration of Greek mythology, and Justice League #8 read like one of the great single-issue team-up stories that Avenging Spider-Man has been doing lately. So overall, a very strong week for DC. Marvel, not so much.

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