Now at Round 7 of the ongoing battle, Avengers vs. X-Men has caught up with the plot foreseen in Avengers vs. X-Men Issue #0 reviewed here 100 days ago. When you think of a title like Avengers vs. X-Men, you think of panel after panel of the Hulk vs. Colossus, Iron Man vs. Emma Frost or Cyclops vs. Captain America and everyone else. It’s what you’d expect for an event series like this, and for the most part it is what has been delivered. But Avengers vs. X-Men Issue #0 was unexpected, a story about the return of the exiled Scarlet Witch and the coming of age of a mutant youngster named Hope, both characters whose paths are in a state of flux. With Issue #7, AvX is now honing in on this initial focus again, raising questions like “How will Scarlet Witch fit back into the Marvel Universe?” “Is Hope really the key to the fate of the Phoenix?” “Is Jean Grey gone for good, or is this all leading up to some kind of return?”
If you haven’t been reading the series, a lot has happened, yet nothing substantial or Earth-shattering to alter any key characters for their own ongoing stories, except the death of Hawkeye (more on that later). The strange, classical, fiery, mythical Phoenix slams into Earth from beyond the stars. This Phoenix Force was supposedly destined for the girl Hope, who is being over-trained for her destiny at the Utopia coastal base by Cyclops’s Scott Summers, doing his best Jillian Michaels impersonation. But you press a kid too far and what do you expect as a result?
The Avengers–including X-Man Wolverine–believe that they must take Hope into their protective custody, thinking that no one entity can be trusted to harness this Phoenix Force and use it for the good of mankind. But Summers won’t hear of it. More and more over the series it seems that his feelings for Jean Grey, killed by the Phoenix years before, are causing him to make poor decisions. He is a poor leader. His actions take all the superheroes farther away from a solution. Ultimately Wolverine’s inside knowledge allows the Avengers to track down Hope. The conflict ends with a face-off on the “blue side” of the Moon.
Iron Man Tony Stark builds powerful “Phoenix Killer” armor that is somehow both effective and a failure in the attempt to ward off the Phoenix Force. Stark’s suit divides the force, and instead of it being absorbed by Hope, five X-Men take it on: Cyclops, Colossus, Magik, Prince Namor and Emma Frost. Now armed with this strange new power, they’re determined to alter the world for the better–at least as they see it. We’re left with Cyclops’s unsettling declaration, “No more Avengers!” He believes the mutants will never be safe without their elimination. And the pursuit continues. The battle is the same as found in countless other stories, fiction and non-fiction–seemingly unlimited power in the possession of a single being or a handful of beings cannot be allowed to continue because it always ends badly.
The frustration that must be felt by readers is that all of these powerful beings, including geniuses like the Beast and Iron Man, cannot sit down and work out a plan. Of course we don’t pull a Marvel Comic to read about mediation of disputes. And so with Issue #7 battle after battle ensues on all parts of the globe. A smoke and mirrors, cat and mouse global chase occurs, hiding Hope, hiding the Scarlet Witch. This includes the Avengers using amulets that allow several people to pose as the Scarlet Witch, in turn causing the X-Men to be unable to find the real Wanda Maximoff. There is also a scene where Hawkeye is fried by the power of the Phoenix and he is dead, and you finally think some stakes have been raised, then Cyclops brings him back to life and it was all a bit of a tease. The story is choppy here–Tony Stark seems out of character, not the typical tough guy but a bit wimpy, including a scene where Black Panther slaps him. It just seems out-of-place (but still a bit funny). The Scarlet Witch’s presence saves the day again–the X-Men really fear her and so we see some real conflict as they back away from her, leaving an opening for Namor to move in to strike.
The various writers and artists at Marvel have put a lot into this series so far and it shows. It’s hard for a reader to get his/her arms around all that’s happening with so many characters in each issue, yet various scenes work well and keep you hanging in there and coming back for more. But there are a number of threads that will need to be tied up in the remaining issues and it continues to be interesting finding out where the story is heading. Is there too much going on? Yes. Too many characters? Yes, the opening pages show a roster of so many and most don’t have any real presence. For all the action occurring, the story is moving pretty slowly forward, and you can only hope the payoff is not saved for the last issue as often happens with highly promoted mini-series.