The big crossover event of the Marvel Universe has finally come to an end. This event has been the culmination of long time X-Men storylines.
7 years ago, Marvel initiated the House of M story where the Scarlett Witch used her magical hex powers to make the world have “No more mutants.” As a result the number of mutants had been reduced to around 300. The rest lost their powers.
In 2008, the Messiah CompleX storyline had the birth of the first mutant child post-House of M. This child was saved by the X-Men and given to the time traveling Cable to raise in the future. She later returns as a young woman, taking the name Hope Summers. Many of the X-Men believe that she is the last chance for Mutantkind, while others believe that she will be the source of great destruction
Then last year the X-Men had a schism. Cyclops took X-Men into a more militant model while Wolverine focused on running the X-Men like a school for youngsters. Hope remained with Cyclops, but has remained frustrated at the expectations placed on her.
But then the Phoenix, the great and powerful cosmic force that is inextricably linked to the X-Men, is found to be returning to earth.
Enter the Avengers. They are tasked with dealing with cosmic level threats, and the coming of the Phoenix sets off all their alarms. And they reach the same conclusion that Cyclops does: The Phoenix is coming for Hope. Just as Jean Grey was the host Phoenix, Cyclops believes that Hope will be that host and bring a resurgence to his species. But seeing as how the Phoenix can go dark and can destroy the Earth instantly, the Avengers are very concerned.
The Avengers enlist the help of Wolverine's X-Men can go to Cyclops' stronghold of Utopia to take Hope into custody.
The big disadvantage of this book is the same that most Marvel events have: it's too long. I don't fault the writing team. Marvel tends to milk the crossovers to the point of exhaustion. They famously over-saturated their market with House of M miniseries that ultimately were pointless. The crossovers in the X-Men and Avengers books as well as the one-on-one fights of “AvX: VS” were not as much of a diversion, but it did feel drawn out. The story could have been told in half the time.
The only other mild complaint is that while the Avengers were given equal time in the book, this always felt like the Avengers were stepping into an X-Men book rather than the two comics' storylines merging into one.
But other than that, this was a surprisingly good book. One of the great joys of the book is that it went in directions that I did not expect. I thought the entire series would be about Cyclops' X-Men fighting Captain America's Avengers over custody of a fugitive Hope. But that is only the first Act. By the end of Act I, the plot changes in a very good way. The Phoenix force arrives, but it does not behave in a way that they expect.
The art is very good, and keeps with the epic tone of the book. There are some awesome visual moments, like when the Hulk is knocked out into the atmosphere in America, and then a few panels later you see him falling back to Earth in Japan.
And while clearly leans against Cyclops, causing the reader to identify more and more with Cap and Wolverine, it does allow Scott Summers to articulate his legitimate grievances with the world. With so few Mutants in the world, the world has been aligned against them, seeing this as their opportunity to eliminate the Mutant threat forever. It is also fascinating to watch the relationship between Cyclops and Magneto deteriorate as the X-Leader becomes more and more like his former enemy in world-view.
As a Catholic, I also enjoyed Tony Stark's explanation of faith. He comes up with an idea to fight the Phoenix, but involves reliance on the mystical forces of Iron Fist's home of K'un L'un. Too often faith is described as something you choose when things don't make any sense, thus saying that faith is irrational. But Tony says that reason can only go so far. Beyond reason the only place that can reach the high truths is faith. What I love most about this explanation is that he does not set up faith as an enemy of reason. This was a refreshing take on the topic in comics.
But the most important point is that the Avengers have not done enough for Mutants. It is an interesting point that was brought up very well in an issue of X-Factor decades ago. Both the X-Men and the Avengers are super-powered heroes, but the X-Men are feared and hated while the Avengers are loved and admired. The Avengers could have used their position to make the lives of Mutants better. This will be the focus on the post- AvX story.
The story is also a story of consequence. I always hated when a large cross-over ended and nothing really changed (I'm looking at you, World War Hulk). But here you can feel the changes happen. The final battle was hard-fought with a very important death. The saddest part for me is the descent of Scott Summers into a quasi-villain state. But the incremental steps that have taken him there have been handled with such care that it feels right and natural.
Avengers vs. X-Men is one of the best Marvel cross-overs in a while. You can skip the tie-in books, but don't miss the main story.
And I can't wait to see what happens next.