It’s coming! Well technically it’s already here. But the time we all look forward to has finally arrived. No, I’m not talking about the annual Marvel comic crossover event. I’m talking about the start of a new Major League Baseball season. So to celebrate both the return of baseball, and the start of AvX, my intros will feature a theme, much like my Fear Itself reviews last summer. With a title like Avengers vs. X-Men, it only makes sense to treat this like a baseball game, and we all know mutants love baseball. So I’m going to keep score and assign positions to some of the classic members of the Avengers and X-Men and share the results with you all here. Please feel free to let me know your opinion on which heroes would best fill out your baseball line-up.
Position: Since this is a prologue, I won’t assign an actual position yet, saving that for the main event. But we can use this time to discuss the x-factors in a baseball game. Blown calls by the umpires; a bird in mid-flight being struck by a baseball; fan interference on and off the field, these are all variables in a game of baseball you can’t control. And depending on who you’re rooting for, these random happenings can change your mood and the tide of the game. So who better to represent these unknowns than two of the biggest question marks on both teams: Scarlet Witch and Hope (the Phoenix Force). What role will these two characters play in the event? Will Scarlet Witch undo her “no more mutants” hex, or will Hope somehow reignite the X-gene in all depowered mutants? Will one of these characters have to die for the greater good? Only time will tell how these wildcards will affect our game.
Avengers vs. X-Men #0
The Front Office
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis (Scarlet Witch) & Jason Aaron (Hope)
Artist: Frank Cho
Color Art: Jason Keith
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Frank Cho & Jason Keith
Variant Cover Art: Stephanie Hans
Preseason Summary: The Wakandian Ambassador’s motorcade is proceeding through the streets of Washington, DC. It transports former A.I.M. scientist, Dr. Udaku. M.O.D.O.K. attacks the caravan of vehicles, attempting to exact revenge against the A.I.M. defector. M.O.D.O.K.’s guns misfire, and he is shocked when he is confronted by Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman arrive on the scene to assist their former teammate and friend, Wanda. The three heroes take down M.O.D.O.K.’s A.I.M. squad and Ms. Marvel invites the Scarlet Witch back to Avengers Mansion.
After she initially refused, Wanda agrees to return to the mansion and visit her old “friends.” At Avengers Mansion, the trio is approached by Scarlet’s husband, the Vision. The android bluntly tells his wife that she is no longer welcome among the Avengers. Vision is unable to forgive Wanda for actions she took against him in the past, and tells her to leave. Wanda apologizes and leaves, dejectedly, with Ms. Marvel. Iron Man, Wolverine and the Beast are taken aback by Vision’s rough treatment of Wanda. Vision walks away with a tear running down his cheek.
On the other side of the country, Hope Summers, the mutant messiah, is sneaking off Utopia, the island home of the X-Men. Cyclops confronts Hope and tells her he knows she has been running around at night fighting criminals. Hope demands that Cyclops stop treating her like a child and asks to know everything about the Phoenix. Cyclops ignores her request, placing a hand on her shoulder. Hope turns on Cyclops, mimics his powers, and shoots him with his own optic blasts.
Hope arrives on the scene of a bank robbery; members of the Serpent Society are breaking into the vault. Hope takes down the snake-themed scoundrels by borrowing their powers and delivering vicious head butts. Cyclops and Emma show up to stop Hope from brutally beating Cottonmouth. Hope leaves, telling Cyclops that she is ready for the Phoenix. Back on Utopia, Hope is washing blood from her hands. She looks up at the sky, where far off, the Phoenix Force approaches Earth.
Season Preview: Frank Cho covers the main art duties for this prologue to the regular Avengers vs. X-Men event, and it is beautiful. It’s unfortunate that he isn’t in charge of the whole series. The full page spread of Scarlet Witch is a perfect example of how well Cho captures the characters. He somehow even makes M.O.D.O.K.’s grotesque, giant head-body look good. Cho’s characters are muscular, but not overly so like Mike Deodato’s New Avengers. The only character’s appearance that I’m not fond of in this issue is Cyclops. Cho takes Scott Summers’ “Slim” nickname to the extreme. Cyclops is practically a thin line when viewed from the side. His mask and visor combination also looks a bit awkward. But the theme of Avengers vs. X-Men so far does seem to be, “who can make Cyclops look the worst?”
The brains behind the Avengers vs. X-Men event is a team of Marvel’s most prominent architects: Aaron, Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and Jonathan Hickman. The writing responsibilities for this issue fall to Bendis and Aaron, two writers already familiar with the two parties involved in this feud. I’m not overly thrilled at the idea of a story about the Phoenix Force, but I’m excited to see some conclusions to a few stories that have been laid out over the past several years. Let’s see how Bendis and Aaron handled the lead-in for their respective stories.
Avengers: Bendis is ending his run on the Avengers by revisiting the central character in his Avengers Disassembled story from 2004. I like that Scarlet Witch is trying to return to the heroic life, and I like it even more that she is doing it in Washington, DC. As a native of Northern Virginia, I always get excited when comics show the local monuments, buildings, and streets I see on a frequent basis. It must be how any New Yorker feels reading every other Marvel comic.
It seems hard to believe, but I think it’s crazy that Scarlet Witch has never been an official X-Man. Being more of an X-Men fan, I always assumed Wanda was a team member at some point in her career, but she’s always stuck with the Avengers. I don’t care for M.O.D.O.K. normally, but Bendis’ use of him to fill in the reader about the Scarlet Witch’s history was really effective. This more recent version of M.O.D.O.K., with the bald, exposed scalp and his mechanical limbs, doesn’t really help my opinion of the character however.
Bendis’ writing is much tighter than it has been in the New Avengers comic. It doesn’t seem as though he’s trying to cram as much as he can into the speech bubbles like he normally does. It helps that Bendis doesn’t have to split up the dialogue between a team of eight to ten heroes. His writing also benefits from the fact that he’s recapping his own Avengers story. After reading Avengers Disassembled leading up to this event, I now realize how awkward it was for Vision and Wanda to see each other. What was Ms. Marvel thinking taking her to the mansion? Vision’s rejection of the Scarlet Witch’s return was justified, but still cold-blooded and surprising enough to leave his fellow Avengers speechless. But can an android, like Vision, really cry?
X-Men: Even though Jason Aaron is steering the Wolverine side of the X-Men universe, I don’t mind his Cyclops. The true leader of the X-Men acts calm and reasonable when dealing with Hope, the young, reckless mutant messiah. Their conversation about Hope sneaking off at night showed Cyclops has a little compassion and humor still, something Hope dismisses with her rude behavior. I like that Hope confronts Cyclops about the Phoenix, but why is this something she doesn’t know about already? Shouldn’t the X-Men have a database on all of their adversaries and other encounters with powerful forces like the Phoenix? What was Cable teaching Hope when he raised her in the future? And how does Hope not understand the significance of being the first mutant born since M-Day?
Hope is insufferable in this issue, and not just because she used Cyclops’ own powers against him. Her thought boxes in the form of a journal entry were distracting. Is it really supposed to be her writing in a journal? If so, why would she need to describe Cable as the “bravest man” she’s ever known. Something she has probably written about numerous times already. Even if she is just thinking to herself, this form of exposition to fill in the background story wasn’t nearly as effective as the exchange between M.O.D.O.K. and Scarlet Witch.
Hope’s dialogue and actions when dealing with the Serpent Society were pretty ridiculous too. For instance, when she referred to discovering Bushmaster’s arms weren’t real, she said “did you guys know those arms are cybernetic? I didn’t. Until I cut them off.” I don’t read Generation Hope, so maybe this is how her character normally is, but she seems a bit too aggressive and remorseless to me. The five straight head butts she delivered to Anaconda looked especially barbaric.
What’s with the tough girl attitude, and where does Hope get off thinking she can handle the Phoenix? She’s a teenage girl who can’t even handle taking out a few criminals without nearly murdering them. How does she think she could prevent the Phoenix Force from devouring more planets if she can’t control her own temper? Jean Grey, a more mature, powerful mutant, couldn’t even control the Phoenix. Some of these signs have me really afraid that Cyclops has put all of his eggs in the wrong basket.