While Marvel movie audiences await the upcoming Avengers release this May, Marvel Comics has stepped up their big title team-up tradition once more to bring fans the battle of a lifetime. Helmed by heavy-hitting writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction, two of Marvel’s biggest teams have just started going head to head this spring in the crossover event Avengers vs. X-Men and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Ever heard of the Phoenix Force? Well, it’s back and the fate of the Earth is in the balance.
Intrigued? Not sure what I’m talking about? Read on and I’ll give you the skinny. Oh yeah, but be warned — if you’re behind on Marvel comics, there’s going to be some spoilers ahead.
For those of you who don’t know, way back in the day there was an X-Woman named Jean Grey. She got possessed by a cosmic force called the Phoenix, a force of destruction and rebirth that eventually went berserk and started eating whole planets. The X-Men helped subdue it but it took Jean sacrificing her life to end the threat. Sure, she got better (and boy isn’t that a long story) but the fact remains that the Phoenix has always had a hankering for a host and has a particular attachment to mutants. Not long back, Jean Grey died (again) and the Phoenix hasn’t been seen on Earth since.
Cue recent events in Marvel: mutants have been depowered all over the planet due to a wish from the reality-warping Scarlet Witch (read: House of M storyline). The first mutant to be born after that is a little girl named Hope, who is considered to be the mutant messiah, meant to save the mutant race from extinction (read: Messiah Complex storyline). The future soldier Cable raises her in the future and brings her back a well-trained warrior that the X-Men expect will save them someday. Hope looks a lot like Jean Grey, and have hints have been dropped here and there that she has some kind of connection to the Phoenix. Those hints were confirmed in last week’s kick-off issue #0 of Avengers vs. X-Men.
Avengers vs. X-Men #0 highlights the stories of Hope’s first brush with the Phoenix Force and the struggle of the Scarlet Witch to regain the trust of her friends after the events of House of M. These two women lie at the heart of the upcoming battle in Avengers vs. X-Men, as warning reaches the Earth: the Phoenix is coming and everyone pretty much knows that destruction comes with it. As the powers of the world brace for impact, the Avengers decide that Hope is a danger to the world and want to take her into custody. Cyclops, who watched Jean die with more than a little guilt...
...believes that Hope really could be a force of rebirth as opposed to destruction and stands opposed to her being taken into custody. And faster than you can say “Avengers assemble!”...
Oh you can believe it’s on.
No, not like that! (Even though it’s adorable). More like this.
So why is this such a big deal? This crossover has the potential to shake up two teams that have already had major roster changes and events in the last year. The X-Men are just coming off a major split in their team, with Wolverine departing the San Francisco X-Men base of Utopia with half our favorite characters when he got tired of Cyclops treating everyone like weapons (read: Schism storyline). The Avengers, which also includes Wolverine, have had their own issues with shake-ups in SHIELD and Norman Osborn, a split-team with the New Avengers running around and Captain America’s death, resurrection and assuming command of SHIELD (read: lots of stuff). Oh yeah, and then there was the destruction of Asgard (read: Thor) and... well, there’s been a lot going on. So for these two teams to go head to head over the fate of a mutant girl who could destroy the world puts loyalties to the test both on the teams and with Marvel fans.
In the upcoming issues, Avenger will fight X-Man and we’ll see some great grudge matches. Cyclops versus Captain America for who can be more square jawed and uptight. Black Widow versus Psylocke in the battle of the tightest costume. Wolverine versus... well hell, Wolverine’s on both teams, who knows which way he’ll go? But lying in the balance are two red-headed women, Hope and Scarlet Witch, whose powers may hold the key to the whole Phoenix question. How? We’ll have to read to find out.
From a readership perspective, this storyline is as exciting as it gets. Fan favorites lock horns over the fate of the world in classic comic book storytelling the way it hasn’t been in a very long time. Plus, the Phoenix Force is back the way it ought to be — an all-consuming wild card that could help or harm, depending on its human host. All in all, the storyline promises to be a cure for the Avengers movie blues pre- and post- the film drop in May.
And sure, we shouldn’t expect to see this match-up on screen anytime soon, but Marvel proves with this storyline that it can bring the good stuff in the books once again.
Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com