Last issue, Avengers vs. X-Men took a massive pivot, ending its first act with a game-changing moment. Issue #6, the halfway point of the story overall, is where that massive paradigm shift has to be dealt with. Last issue the Marvel Architects impressed me by shifting the scope of the story dramatically, and this time around they prove equally impressive by managing to handle the awesome, perhaps uncontrollable power they’ve given this event.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead from last issue. If you haven’t read issue #5, you might not want to move on.
Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, Colossus and Namor now each hold a fifth of the divided Phoenix Force, and together they’re using it to make monumental changes to the world. Their island of Utopia off the coast of California has been transformed into a futuristic wonderland, and they’re traveling the globe turning deserts into farmland and producing unlimited free energy. They’ve basically taken up residence as the rulers of the world.
Cyclops sees it as the realization of a dream he’s fought for since the near-extinction of mutantkind, but there are many who worry that the quintet has gone too far. Charles Xavier pleads with Cyclops to pull back, the nations of the world watch in awe, and the Avengers -particularly Captain America and Wolverine – worry that someday soon the other shoe of this massive cosmic power team will drop. With that in mind, a plan is hatched to seek the help of perhaps the only being on Earth who can help the Avengers understand – and defeat – the Phoenix Five: Hope Summers.
With this issue, Jonathan Hickman becomes the first of the five Marvel Architects to script a second issue of the story, and he doesn’t have an easy task. Last issue, Matt Fraction got to roll out the big reveal that five of the X-Men are now imbued with the power of the Phoenix, and now Hickman’s the one who has to deal with that. The world has quite literally been changed by this revelation, so in a sense Hickman is the first of the five writers to wade into a new landscape, and he handles it masterfully. If you’re a fan of any of his other work, you know Hickman’s the guy to turn to when you need macro-level thinking, and as a result issue #6 is packed with both plot and ambition. By the end, he’s managed to pivot the story yet again, and add some serious emotional punch to the conflict’s new conditions.
This issue also marks the arrival of Olivier Coipel as he takes over from John Romita Jr. as interior artist. I dug Romita’s work on the first batch of issues, but just as Hickman is wading into a new condition for the story, Coipel is wading into a new condition visually. It’s a new world, so a new artist seems appropriate, and Coipiel doesn’t disappoint. His work isn’t quite as rough (in a good way) and crackling with energy as Romita’s is. It’s slicker, more controlled (to me, anyway). It’s the perfect fit for the grandeur of what the Phoenix Force is doing on Earth, and the perfect complement to Hickman’s grand scale scripting.
Though it doesn’t pack the thrill of issue #5, issue #6 manages to keep up the pace set by the closing of the first act, and sets the stage for even bigger things to come. If you were on the fence about this event before, these last two issues should ensure you aren’t anymore.