Man, Avengers vs X-Men was quite a doozy, eh? I wanted to hate it. First of all, Marvel is getting way too ridiculous with the events. If nothing else, when events drags all these books into them, they have to spend time dealing with the events rather than allowing the characters to exist and grow in the way the book would prefer. For example, when Wolverine and the X-Men spun out of Schism and Regenesis we finally had a neat little slice of life book with some new, young X-Men. We also got to see some old, young X-Men and the evolution of some characters like Kitty Pryde. Ever since AvX we have barely seen the kids. There hasn’t been any more of the fun school stuff. In fact, my favorite X-Men books of late have been Uncanny X-Force and X-Factor which were allowed to continue the stories they started a few years ago. So they’ve had some pretty amazing character growth moments and some incredible drama. But, AvX was a thing so how was it?
While the first act was a little too slow and a little too scattered, things quickly escalated. I truly enjoyed the writers deciding to give the Phoenix Five a benevolent streak. Sure, they’d become dictators, but they weren’t ruthless. In fact, I think the writers were very successful in presenting the argument that, had the Avengers just kept their cool, the world would have remained a utopia. Of course, part of the fun of that word is that utopia means no such place and, of course, the absolute power made them intolerant of those who rose up against them. On top of that, the Phoenix hungered to be whole again so as soon as the Phoenix Five realized each felled member increased the power of those remaining, they began conspiring against each other. There was also the amazing reveal of why Magick had Colossus become Juggernaut-Colossus. It was pretty heart-wrenching.
In this issue we find that once Scott Summer has become the Dark Phoenix he is no longer benevolent – he begins on the path of destruction that is always the Phoenix’s modus operandi; Destruction for rebirth. We also see that Scarlett Witch and Hope have to team up to take him out. Ever since they started teasing Scarlett Witch as being involved in AvX I knew it meant that Marvel Editorial had decided that the Decimation Era of Mutanthood was over. They’d gotten a lot of mileage out of it. It had resulted in the Scott Summers growth arc. He went from the teacher’s pet to kicking Charles out of the school for his deceptions and, as the mutantkind needed a place to be safe, he became more and more radicalized. The comic never gave up a chance to remind you that he was becoming more like Magneto than like Professor X. It worked well for the past eight years or so, but it’s now time to end that and move on to new types of stores. Although, if I may make a quite side-note: even with only 200 mutants nearly every X-Men book in the past two years has focused on the same 20 mutants, so it’s not like they REALLY need more mutants.
WARNING: The rest of this article has spoilers
Of course Scarlett Witch and Hope defeat Scott Summers. And even though Hope temporarily embodies the Phoenix, she uses it to clean up the Scott’s mess and, together with Wanda, undoes the “No More Mutants” spell. This was more or less a foregone conclusion from the time the event started. I knew it and I predicted it. (And so did anyone who’s been reading X-Men comics for the past ten years) Yet, I think this was key to the event being a success in my eyes. Because, in the end, even though Scott Summers is incarcerated and held responsible for what he did, he was right. That’s what comics do best – to have huge events end with everyone winning and everyone losing. Because life is grey. We helped keep Afghanistan from the Soviets and end up accidentally creating Bin Laden. That’s life – sometimes winning is also losing. And so the moment that cemented this book, this event, as one of the greats in my mind is when Scott got to be smug in front of Captain America. He was right – Hope becoming the Phoenix was the key to reviving mutants. (For an even more triumphant moment for him – read Uncanny X-Men #19) Captain America was wrong to stop them. Even Unit admitted this a few months ago in one of the Uncanny X-Men tie-ins. Hope and the Five Lights were supposed to get the Phoenix Force and use it to fix things. Of course, Captain America was acting on the best knowledge he had. And, of course, once Scott and the others got the Phoenix instead of Hope, Captain America had to try and stop them for they were indeed being dictators – even if they were feeding all the hungry and providing free energy.
Now, what of the whole Marvel NOW! that this leads to. Will it be any good? And what of the Bendis book with the 1960s X-Men? Who knows and who cares? All I know is that I was ready for this event to be a huge disappointment and I was sure it would lead to such catastrophic results that I’d end up canceling all my X-Men pulls. But now I’m more captivated. X-Men Legacy, which started out about Professor X dealing with the fallout of being cast out of the X-Men will now be about his son, David. And I could see that as a great book to feature a lot of these new mutants that came about as a result of this book. Also, there might be some fresh blood over at the Jean Grey School. Also, what happens now with the Schism? Without Scott leading the Utopian X-Men, do they all reunite? Does everyone move back to Westchester? I’ll tell you what would be my dream (that is 90% likely not coming true) if they went back to the Claremont era. I don’t mean his style of writing – that is painful to read nowadays no matter how appropriate it was as the time. I mean what if we took the half dozen or so X-men books and restructured them so that we had Blue Team and Gold Team and Green Team and Orange Team so that we could get to experience a ton of new and awesome mutants as well as our favorites from the past 40+ years. Just tell awesome over-arching stories that go from one book to another. Make me want to buy them all. Right now I could just as easily ignore pretty much everything other than Wolverine and the X-Men.
In the end, this event brought me confidence in the Big Two style of story-telling. Sure, Hickman’s been rocking on Fantastic Four and Snyder’s been kicking butt in Batman, but more and more I was starting to feel like all the good stories were in the indie titles. But having finished up Avengers vs X-Men, I’m now more confident in their story-telling abilities. I’m definitely sticking with the X-Men books and may even start checking out the Avengers books (especially with Hickman at the helm). So, job well done Marvel! Job well done!