Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Avengers Vs. X-Men

Avengers Vs. X-Men
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction
Pencils by John Romita, Jr., Oliver Coipel, and Adam Kubert

The other day, the wife and I rented the movie "New Years Eve." It starred Robert Deniro, Michelle Pfieffer, Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker, and a slew of other folks many of us love to see on the tube. It was horrible. So when Avengers Vs. X-Men (AVX) was promoted, I saw all the names of my favorite writers (I stan for Brian Michael Bendis and I believe that Jason Aaron can do no wrong), I pre-ordered it. Pre-ordering comics is something I have never done.

Let me say that on the X-Men/mutant side of the mainstream Marvel Universe, there has been a build up for a story of this magnitude since the conclusion of the House of M. So the events that happened in AVX make sense. On the Avengers side of the mainstream Marvel Universe, there was no build up despite Bendis' awesome writing. AVX seemed like an interruption to all that the things that were going on in the 4 Avengers titles.

While Issue one sets up the story, the subsequent issues fall short. AVX was really all hype. To add insult to injury, Marvel sold a separate series to actually display the battles between the X Men and the Avengers instead of putting them in the actual 12 issue series. It's enough that the readers had to stay up on the 4 Avengers titles and the 4 X Men titles to get the entire thread. I found it unfair that Marvel would do that to it's readers.

While the premise was wonderful, I found the execution to be lackluster. The Phoenix was returning to Earth and Cyclops sees this as an opportunity to use Hope Summers as the catalyst to save the Mutant race. The Avengers see the return of the Phoenix as a problem that needs to be dealt with. Wolverine and the Beast explain Hope to Captain America and the Avengers decide to enlist the aid of Hope and the X Men to contain the Phoenix. Cyclops refuses and fires on Captain America. When issue 2 comes around, it feels as if the reader is missing something. Of course, you have to read the other titles to get the gist of what happened, but the continuity flounders on several occasions.

Later Tony Stark decides to try to break the Phoenix Force into smaller components so that it could be contained but this backfires and it actually enters the bodies of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Illyana Rasputin, and Namor. This is where the story actually gets interesting. Initially, the Avengers decide that the super powered X Men, who are not taking care of the world's problems by using the Phoenix Force, are actually helpful and solved the issue. However, the President of the United States is not comfortable with this and urges the Avengers to do something. While this part of the story is interesting, I have to wonder who Captain America ignores the warnings of Wolverine and the Beast when this is going on and then has a change of heart when the president tells him otherwise. In issues 8 and 9 however, Namor, Colossus, and Rasputin are soundly defeated by the Avengers and the Phoenix Force leaves them and distributes the power between Cyclops and Emma Frost. This is never explained. I found this part of the story to be a missed opportunity.

While I enjoyed the New Avengers K'un Lun/Iron Fist story line of how the Phoenix force visited the earth centuries ago and was defeated by a previous incarnation of the Iron Fist, this story wasn't written well into the actual AVX series. We know that Iron Fist was supposed to train Hope Summers but in what? It's not like they had months or years to train her. While issue 12 ends the series and Cyclops is defeated by Hope Summers and the Scarlet Witch, seeing Captain America interrogate Cyclops while in prison was annoying at the least.

The artwork left much to be desired. It seems as if Romita and Kubert were rushed through the entire process. Their pencils seemed to be unfinished in most areas. Only Coipel's work was flawless. I understand that the AVX is supposed to be an upheaval of the mainstream Marvel Universe and it is supposed to set up new titles such as the Uncanny Avengers and A+X, but I think Marvel could have done more justice by making it a 6 issue limited series. The only real upheaval is that Professor Xavier is killed (although he will come back again). The writers spend little time on so many game changers that should have been explored like the destruction of Wakanda and the "divorce" of T'Challa and Storm. It's those small touches that make a difference.

Look, as readers of comic books, we get it. Comic sales continue to fall and comic book stores continue to close. Many of these crossovers and big events are about selling comics. However, doing this big events every six months seems to dilute the quality of the stories we enjoy. While I think its great that Marvel is canceling some titles that many consider dead weight (you don't need 40 Spider Man titles and 40 Avengers titles), there was probably a better way of doing it. If anything AVX was just as disappointing as Fear Itself. While Siege wasn't great at least the reader only had to purchase the 4 issue series instead of 100 other titles to keep up with the story.  

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Spider Men
Brian Michael Bendis
Sara Pichelli

As much as I love Marvel comics, they do a gang of stuff that I avoid. They also publish a bunch of titles that somehow get lost in the shuffle that are actually great. I remember getting one tweet about Spider Men. It was just a picture of a poster with the mainstream Peter Parker and the Ultimate Spider Man who we know as Miles Morales. It was promoted quickly before the new movie was released this summer. Sure enough, I picked up issue one sometime during June.

We all know that Brian Michael Bendis rocks. His run on the Avengers (and most of the different groups) has been stellar. Sara Pichelli is probably one of the best pencillers in the game (yes, I said it). Her covers are the stuff of legend. Together, their work on the new Ultimate Spider Man is top choice and I hope they stick around with it for at least a few years.

I would be lying if I didn't say I was pretty geeked about Spider Men. Here is a confession: I was never really a big fan of Spider Man. He just didn't speak to me despite being a nerd while living in the projects. I am sure many of you want me to turn in my geek card somewhere. My thing with Spider Man is that he is like Gilligan's Island, his luck is always bad no matter what. I find that to be stupid. I digress.

I do love Miles Morales for several reasons. I love the world Bendis created for him because it does speak to me. I wondered how Bendis was going to mix the two worlds together. Remember in Morales' world, everyone knows that Peter Parker was Spider Man and that he is dead. What I love about the Ultimate Universe is that only the Norse gods come back, everyone else who dies stays dead.

So while Peter Parker beats Mysterio up for the umpteenth time, Parker stumbles upon an trans-dimensional portal that sends him into the Ultimate Universe. Originally, he thinks he is okay until he stumbles upon the Triskelion. Issue #2 has Parker and Morales battling it out. It's an awesome match as Parker unmasks Morales.

Morales brings Parker to Nick Fury. Parker escapes upon learning that the Peter Parker of this dimension is dead and everyone knows who he is. Parker encounters Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. It's an eerie meeting but Bendis pulls it off well. Fury brings in the Ultimates to capture the technology Mysterio has. I have to be honest, I was pretty scared about the entire set up. Bendis pulled it off. The artwork is superb. I wish it was longer than 5 issues. Everything happened pretty quickly. More props to Marvel for providing a free download for each issue. So those that purchase the single issue can have two formats to read it in. While I am not big on dimensional crossovers, Marvel was able to pull this off.