Review by C.J. Bunce
The world needs more Frank Cho. Frank Cho got me interested in Ms. Marvel and The Mighty Avengers when I hadn’t bought a Marvel comic book in years. And now Frank Cho has caused me to want to read more about the Scarlet Witch, Spider Woman, and a more recent X-Woman named Hope (actually they call her an X-Man, but that doesn’t quite work for me).
I was immediately surprised and pleased when I saw the display for the new prologue to Avengers vs. X-Men, Issue #0, because it is reminiscent of one of Frank Cho’s all-time best covers, that of the Scarlet Witch in the trade edition of Ultimates 3; Who Killed the Scarlet Witch, which I have not managed to pick up yet to read from the back issue stack.
So what I hope is that Avengers vs. X-Men will focus heavily on the focus of this prologue–equal parts redemption of the Scarlet Witch, who betrayed her husband Vision when we last saw her and devastated the mutant community, and the rest about a girl named Hope Summers, the so-called Mutant Messiah, whose story here follows a coming of age, breakaway from the status quo that feels very similar to Batgirl’s journey in DC Comics’ New 52 line-up.
What I thought this issue would cover is a lot of over-the-top brawling between Thor and Hulk and Iron Man and Wolverine, etc. I was very happily surprised that wasn’t the case. Since it does not appear that Frank Cho will be doing all the interiors for the actual AvX series, I just hope I am not disappointed in what comes next.
AvX #0 sold out practically instantly Wednesday across the country but no doubt the reprints will follow soon enough if you missed it. It is a nice standalone issue, and can go firmly on the shelf next to the best of Cho’s Marvel pages. You hear that writers write to the strength of the artists that they partner with, and it seems unlikely that Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron didn’t also follow suit here. This book is chock full of what Cho draws best–not just voluptuous women, but superhero females in action, acting smart, acting tough, being cool in every way. As I mentioned above, that means Scarlet Witch, Hope Summer, and Spider Woman, but it also means Ms. Marvel and Emma Frost make a solid appearance. It also means that Bendis sent Cho a few lay-ups, with some dinosaur-tipped rockets fired at the Scarlet Witch courtesy of M.O.D.O.K. (that’s Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing). I think only Cho could pull that off, and he did it here. If this work is what partially delayed Cho’s Guns & Dinos series, there was a great reason for the diversion, and his fans will be pleased with this latest entry.
There is some alpha and omega, yin and yang going on here, as Hope was the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch turned all the mutants (except 198) into mere mortals. Will these two get to deal with each other in the pages of AvX going forward? I hope so.
In this issue, we had split writing duties, with Jason Aaron taking on the frustration of Hope against the always whiny and wimpy (and often annoying) Cyclops. Brian Michael Bendis wrote the story of Scarlet Witch in her return to Marvel’s pages from a bit of a hiatus. Both writers balance the story well and Cho’s art further keeps the issue cohesive. It would be great if this trio took the reins for the entire series, but that is not the case.
What’s the coolest thing about Hope? Along with having an interesting character voice, she has one of the best powers around–she can mimic the powers of others. I remember thinking this was a great ability when I watched Peter use this power in the Heroes TV series. Hope uses these powers to both use Cyclops’s rays against himself and to take out a motley group of baddies at the end of the book. She also uses the classic head-butt maneuver to good effect in a classic scene found in this issue. Aaron’s writing includes a number of funny and quirky moments for Hope–she is endearing. And you instantly must side with Hope Summers against Scott Summers. It’s the same style of writing that makes Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men successful.
Cho's original cover art is sadly partially obliterated by the AvX logo. Check out the angel in the background. Doesn't it look like the angel from the Fearless series?
Scarlet Witch–Wanda–never looked better (you just know she wears a Beltsville shirt in her down time). She is back but wants to stay away from the Avengers. But Carol Danvers aka Ms. Marvel insists she accompany her and Spider-Woman back to their friends. The result is a long-and-coming encounter with her husband who turns her away, to the anger of Ms. Marvel, but the acceptance of Logan and Tony Stark. Bendis is really good–you really feel bad for Wanda here in a short number of pages, both from the story and Cho’s visual portrayal. And we are left with this prophecy that Hope will have to face the Phoenix… that she senses is coming toward her from far away. Cho shows us that it is not just a prophecy but will be addressed in issues to come.
For AvX, this is a great start, using the powerhouse writing and art trio of Bendis/Aaron/Cho upfront. Hopefully the rest of the creators at Marvel Comics will keep the momentum going as we will find out with the premiere of Issue #1 next week. And more than anything this issue has made me want to catch up on past Cho trade books: Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn, Fear Itself: The Fearless, and The New Avengers.