Josh Wilding Reviews: AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1

The first issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men goes on sale in select stores at midnight tonight and in all good comic book shops tomorrow. Does it live up to the hype?! Hit the jump for my take on this action packed opening chapter. [Minor Spoilers Ahead]

Ever since the event was announced last year, the hype surrounding Avengers Vs. X-Men has continued to grow both with fans and in the media. The same can be said for just about all Marvel events of recent years and so it is unfortunate that the past few (Fear Itself being the most recent example) have ended up being completely underwhelming. Thankfully, the first issue of this particular series seems to be a step in the right direction for the publisher. As you may expect, there's not a huge amount which goes on in this opening chapter, but Brian Michael Bendis successfully sets the stage for what's to come and one can only imagine that we are all in for one hell of a ride if they manage to keep the momentum up for the next eleven issues.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 tells new and old fans alike everything they need to know. The premise is a fairly simple one. The Avengers learn of a threat headed towards Earth (the Phoenix Force) and head to Utopia in order to take Hope into "protective custody". As you can probably guess, this doesn't sit well with Cyclops and things rapidly go downhill from there. There's really not a lot more that goes on in this issue, although you needn't worry about it being either a boring or disappointing read. Considering that the event is set to last for twelve issues in comparison to the usual seven or eight, it's a little surprising just how quickly they get to the point in fact. However, whether or not this means there will be more to the series than meets the eye remains to be seen (twelve solid issues of the X-Men and Avengers fighting may be overkill).

Bendis is pretty spot on with his characterisations. The voices he gives each of the characters fits perfectly with what we have come to expect from them and the stark contrast between the two teams is made clear through their individual introductory sequences. At this point, neither side is "the bad guy" (unlike Civil War, which many justifiably argue vilified Tony Stark and his pro-registration team). Who you ultimately end up rooting for in this fight is sure to come down to either which characters you prefer or the events in the book. If it's the latter, you may just find it difficult to decide. At a first glance, Captain America's actions seem too extreme and Cyclops may also be viewed as slightly over the top. Personally, [SPOILER - Highlight Text To Read]I thought the decision to have Cyclops strike the first blow felt entirely justified and in-keeping with how his character has developed in recent years. Between this and Captain America's overly aggressive show of force acting as the spark which lights the fuse,[END SPOILER] everything from Schism to The Children's Crusade end up having a clear influence on the events of the story.

The only problem with this comic is just how light a read it ends up feeling. Bendis' script is packed with great dialogue and some epic action, but far too many scenes (Captain America's meeting with Wolverine for example) feel far too brief and this is more than likely down to the fact that they'll be followed up on in the various tie-in issues. However, this is a minor complaint, especially as it has become such a common occurence in ALL event books these days. It also seems a little odd that the Avengers are all of a sudden so concerned with the return of the Phoenix Force to Earth. Perhaps if the recent events of "The Iron Age" (in which Tony Stark sees Phoenix destroy the Earth) were mentioned or Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 had done a better job of making it a convincing threat, the whole situation would make more sense and the stakes would feel even higher. John Romita Jr.'s artwork is often a divider among comic book fans and his work here is unlikely to change anyone's opinion either way. This is some of his better work, but a few characters do end up looking a bit off here and there. This doesn't really distract from what is a damn good looking comic though.

This is a great first issue in what seems to be a return to form for Marvel events. Whether they can keep this going through another 11 instalments and two more creative teams remains to be seen, but Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 is a must-read for any comic book fan.

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