Not long ago, I wrote an introduction to Avengers vs. X-Men, the big storyline hitting the Marvel Universe this summer. The maxi-series has been a massive comic undertaking, pitting the Avengers and the X-Men, two already big casts, against each other in order to determine who will handle the sudden arrival of the Phoenix Force, an all-powerful cosmic firebird of life and death.
So far there have been battles fought, heroes clashing, and ultimately changes happening to the Marvel universe that might be difficult to undo. Now that we’ve hit the halfway point of this huge story arc let’s take a look at what’s happened so far.
(Warning: Spoilers for the current Avengers vs. X-Men storyline!)
The Story So Far
The clash revolves around a character by the name of Hope Summers showing little flare-ups of power from the Phoenix Force, foreshadowing that the all-powerful cosmic force was again focusing on Earth and on mutantkind. With Hope tagged as the possible host of the Phoenix, the Avengers decide it’s in humanity’s best interest to try and contain her so she doesn’t, you know, accidentally go insane and try to destroy a solar system. (Because that happened before, decades ago.)
Hope is an integral part of the dwindling mutant community in the Marvel universe, so the Avengers actions run right into Cyclops (aka Scott Summers), leader of the X-Men and the self-styled leader of mutantkind. Cyclops believes that Hope holds the power to give mutantkind a chance to save their future and change their world. With neither side willing to budge, a fight ensues.
While the X-Men fightt to hold off the Avengers, a whole group of Earth’s Mightiest go into space to try and head off the Phoenix Force as it nears Earth. Hope runs off to hide from the fighting in an attempt to take her future into her own hands, although Wolverine joins her later. The teams battle their way across the globe, fighting against well-known Marvel universe backdrops like Wakanda, the Savage Land, Wundagore, Latveria, and Tabula Rasa, in search of Hope, but don’t find her. In fact, Hope has gone to the moon with Wolverine to return to the place where Jean Grey (as the Phoenix) originally sacrificed herself to save mankind from being consumed by the Force.
Wolverine betrays Hope’s location to the Avengers and the two teams meet up for another epic battle in space. Thor warns that the Phoenix is approaching and Iron Man shoots it with a specially designed canon. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work.
Instead of killing the Phoenix, the canon shatters it into different pieces which implant themselves into five X-Men: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik.
This “Phoenix Five” takes Hope and returns to Earth, where they begin using their power benevolently, ending war and providing free energy, food and water to the world. The Avengers are sure something is going to go horribly wrong due to this drastic change and surmise that taking Hope back from the Phoenix Five will restore some balance to the planet.
The Avengers don’t stand a chance until they are rescued by the Scarlet Witch: The very mutant, and Avenger, responsible for mutantkind’s dwindling numbers. The war between the Avengers and the Phoenix Five (no longer really all the X-Men at all) is now fully on.
After six main issues and loads of tie-ins, there is unfortunately not a whole lot of good to say about this entire storyline. After initial excitement regarding the possibilities involved in seeing the Phoenix, I have to say that I’m utterly underwhelmed by the battle between the Phoenix and the Avengers, which takes place mostly offscreen. (The plot to stop the cosmic entity was an utter joke: Iron Man will shoot it in the face with a canon?)
But most notably meh was the creation of the Phoenix Five out of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik, five characters whose storylines have suffered from circular logic and weak motivations for some time. The recreation of a utopian Earth thanks to the Phoenix Five further muddies the waters about the dangers of the Phoenix Force. Instead of demonstrating the scary power of the Phoenix it just makes the Avengers look overly paranoid and overbearing.
The importance of Hope Summers in all this has also been lost among the pointless battles and various long-winded speeches between Cyclops and Captain America. The fact that an entire comic (AVX VS) was launched beside the actual main comic just to highlight each battle in minute detail proves that this storyline is as much about the punch ’em up battles rather than the overall story arc.
Some of the battles sounded interesting, like pitting Magneto against Iron Man, but overall it’s left me thinking... who cares?
That goes the same for the entire storyline involving Hope Summers being taken away to learn martial arts from Iron Fist. It just all seems forced and contrived.
The other tie-in comics all feel very much the same, as titles like Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Men: Legacy, and Uncanny X-Men all seem like they’re simply putting their normal plots on hiatus to get involved in this protracted story. And protracted is exactly what it feels like. By the time we get to the unfortunately chosen Phoenix Five in issue #5 I felt very unenthused about the choices made so far, especially considering the vast amount of pages dedicated to AVX’s Street Fighter-like tournament of hero battles. Now that Scarlet Witch has finally entered the scene I am interested in seeing what her part she’ll play in resolving the storyline, but her involvement comes as the single bright point to this otherwise underwhelming story.
One interesting bit of character development I can point to has been the evolution of Cyclops as the leader of the X-Men and then the Phoenix Five. While I firmly dislike the entire Phoenix Five aspect of AvX, I love what the story is doing to him both as a character and as a front man for an all-encompassing cosmic entity. By making him come out strongly in defense of the X-Men’s right to oppose the Avengers the story made obvious how far into a stubborn, militaristic stance Cyclops has entrenched himself.
When standing against Captain America, Cyclops sounds more and more like the Magneto of old, sure of his right to do whatever he must for the future of mutantkind. AVX is proving just how radicalized the character has become and that is the single most interesting development for Cyclops since he was written by Joss Whedon. As he displays when he becomes part of the Phoenix Five, this is a man who has lost perspective with everything he had and everything he once was—and that was before he got consumed by a cosmic entity.
What Comes Next?
At this point, we’ve reached the halfway mark of the story. Scarlet Witch seems to be the only thing that can protect Hope and turn back the Phoenix Five from their course of “benevolent” world domination. How will that go?
And what did Cyclops mean when he said that it was time for “no more Avengers”? The last time we heard a statement like this in the Marvel universe, the Scarlet Witch ended up wiping out the vast majority of mutantkind. Will the writers go in a world-wiping direction once again? We can only wait to find out.
Some information has already leaked, thanks in part to San Diego Comic Con, that the events of AvX will introduce some major shake-ups in the Marvel universe, and it’s not hard to see why. A new combined X-Men/Avengers team comic will be written by Brian Michael Bendis and something called MarvelNOW has been hinted at as a possible Marvel Comics reboot following the events.
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.