“Wow. Avengers vs. X-Men. So this is really happening.” – Spider-Man
Yes it is. After a prelude and a first issue that was basically just more prelude, the much-hyped battle between the Avengers and the X-Men has finally come to blows. Cyclops threw down the gauntlet last issue and now the two greatest superteams in the Marvel Universe have stopped talking and started punching. So how does this action-heavy issue stand up to all those high expectations?
The SHIELD Helicarrier hovers over the X-Men island of Utopia just moments after Cyclops sent a massive optic blast Captain America’s way. The Avengers want Hope Summers turned over to them before the Phoenix Force consumes her and destroys the world. The X-Men want Hope Summers to stay with them, safe from intervention until the Phoenix Force consumes her and she saves mutantkind. Both Cyclops and Cap are convinced that the other side just doesn’t understand. There’s nowhere to go but a battle.
Jason Aaron takes over scripting duties for this issue, and he doesn’t mess around. By page two Colossus has punched through the floor of the Helicarrier and laid into Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. From there everything descends into a mosaic of superhuman clashes. And just in case you want to keep tabs, here are this issue’s on-page match-ups, with the X-Men on the left and the Avengers on the right.
Colossus vs. Red Hulk
Namor vs. The Thing and Luke Cage
Emma Frost vs. Iron Man
Magneto vs. Iron Man and Quicksilver
Magik vs. Doctor Strange
And, of course, Cyclops vs. Captain America
Don’t get too hung up on winners and losers though. We’ve got a long way to go in this event yet, and Aaron’s not making this issue all about the battle. The action is great, but he manages to pepper all of John Romita Jr.‘s explosive panels with little character moments. Some of these combatants (Wolverine, Colossus) seem to have been itching for this fight, while others (Spider-Man, Storm) are a bit more reluctant. Cyclops and Cap continue to debate their motives for fighting even as they’re beating each other to a pulp. And to Aaron’s eternal credit, the issue doesn’t end with a simple battle pause, but with an event that actually propels the overall story forward. There’s not a lot of story in this issue. What’s happening in these pages seems to all transpire in a matter of minutes, but Aaron refuses to let the glamour of a superhero clash overwhelm whatever it is Team Marvel is working toward here.
As we end issue two, we still don’t have any of those big unpredictable twists we’ve been promised, but we do have a healthy dose of superhero badass. I don’t care if it’s labeled derivative. Maybe it is, but so far it’s also damn fun to read, and the story I’ve seen in two issues is enough to keep me hungry for more.
Stay tuned for issue #3 in two weeks!