So, last week we established that Avengers vs. X-Men #0 was good enough to be approached without cynicism. Not a masterpiece, but a solid, stylish prelude to an event book. But now we’ve reached the moment of truth for the event itself. No more preludes, no more teases, no more promos. It’s Avengers vs. X-Men time.
The Avengers respond to a major impact in New York City and find that Nova has just fallen out of the sky to tell them that something big is on its way from the cosmos. At Utopia, the X-Men’s island sanctuary, Hope Summers is struggling with her place in mutantkind. These two stories collide when it’s revealed that the Phoenix Force is on its way back to Earth, and all signs point to it heading straight for Hope. Cyclops believes that with the power of the Phoenix, Hope could save the mutant species. Captain America believes that she could destroy the world. And the clash begins…
The Avengers vs. X-Men story is credited to an all-star team that includes Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Jason Aaron. You might not like all of those writers, but you have to admit that’s some serious storytelling power crammed into a single limited series. Whether or not they deliver on their combined prestige, though, has yet to be seen. Though it’s billed as “Round 1” of the big clash between superteams, Avengers vs. X-Men #1 is largely just more prelude. Prelude to fighting, though, not prelude to story. The story is there, the premise is in place, the stage is set, and by the end you even get to see some superpowers fired up. It’s a solid set-up, even elegant, but it’s not enough to tell how good the story will end up being. That’s fair, though, because it’s part of the point. After all, they want us to buy issue #2.
Where issue #1 itself is concerned, we have the talents of scripter Bendis and artist John Romita Jr. to consider. I complained last week about Bendis’ dialogue in issue #0, and this week I’m seeing definite improvement. There’s a slight imbalance in his work – he’s better at writing Avengers than he is X-Men, probably because he’s had so much practice with the former at this point – but overall he tells a convincing story without resorting to clumsy background revelations in the middle of scenes. It’s a more tightly constructed story, and Bendis makes that work in his favor.
Romita’s also doing fine work here. I wasn’t too wild about some of his close-ups (something about the way he does Cap’s face just doesn’t work for me, but that’s just due to the way I see Cap, I guess), but in the big moments, when he’s tackling things like the Phoenix Force in full flight and The Avengers trying to catch a crashing plane before it slams into New York City, he’s at the peak of his powers.
As with issue #0, I didn’t find Avengers vs. X-Men #1 to be a thunderous triumph, exactly, but I did find enough entertainment in these pages to warrant buying another issue. And that’s the point, right? You can’t expect these guys to spend their whole wad in Round 1. They’re promising bigger things ahead, and on the strength of this issue I’m more than willing to take the ride with them.