Review by C.J. Bunce
Last week we reported on the early release of eagerly awaited new series Avengers vs. X-Men. With the first issue upon us of Avengers vs X-Men we get to see Round One of the twelve rounds to be featured over 24 weeks in the main series, with 19 main issues, and 20 other Marvel Comics titles tying in to this AvX event. Here are two checklists to help you keep track (click to enlarge):
Issue #1 starts out with a bang, a big bang, as the Phoenix Force is launched from far away on a trajectory toward Earth. In front of that force hurtling toward our planet is Nova, a character long-feared dead who ends up causing the destruction of the Empire State Building in New York City as he plunges to the Earth’s surface, taking an airliner down with him. The status of any lives taken is unknown, but the Avengers, including Ms. Marvel, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Protector, Black Widow, Beast, Captain Britain, Valkyrie and a few others, do their best to quickly mitigate the losses.
Meanwhile we learn that Cyclops is busy training Hope, who was the focus of the prologue for Avengers vs. X-Men in Issue #0. Hope is understandably frustrated, believing that the Phoenix Force is somehow targeting her, and the X-Men will not help her adequately with answers. Hope carries an energy signature similar to that of the Phoenix Force, and when she gets angry she sets this off, and the blast that is caused tips off the Avengers that they need to take some kind of action.
Captain America and Iron Man meet with the President and the joint chiefs in Washington, DC and explain the nature of the threat.
Captain America enlists the support of Wolverine and heads to the island of Utopia to take Hope into protective custody, but Cyclops has other plans. Cyclops was once in love with Jean Grey, who became part of Phoenix and killed herself trying to contain the immense power of the Phoenix Force years ago. So Cyclops thinks there is some special meaning in the arrival of the Phoenix Force, like it might be a good thing. And there is no way he will release Hope to the Avengers.
The X-Men, including Emma Frost, Magneto, Colossus, and Namor, stand behind Cyclops’s effort to keep Captain America from taking Hope away. Captain America is thrown back by Cyclops’s rays, but he has brought with him a ship full of the Avengers, and as this first issue concludes the first battle is upon us–a fight between the Avengers and the X-Men, over Hope.
This first chapter scripted by Brian Michael Bendis, but created by all the “Marvel Architects”–Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction–is well-paced. The steps that occur are not complicated so there is no confusion and the story is easy to follow. Despite the volume of characters, they, too, are easy to keep track of. I wasn’t dazzled by John Romita, Jr.’s artwork in this issue–everything seems to “just happen” visually with little stylization, and there are no memorable single images that stand out. But neither does the art stand in the way of the story, which has a lot to cram into the single issue page count. All-in-all, so far, so good. I’m reminded of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars limited series from decades ago, where readers get the pleasure of seeing the whole cast of characters in the Marvel Universe all as part of a common cause.
The crazy stand-out of this first issue are the several versions printed, including all these variants, some selling for $175 and up for the 1 in 200 exclusives. Hopefully the hype settles and the coming issues simply take readers on a good ride.
Here is a checklist of the Avengers vs X-Men Issue #1 cover variations for all you completists out there:
Which version did I buy? I got the first issue that Jason Aaron signed, with a note by Jason on the sketch cover version…