…and the hoooome of the mutants! Play ball! It has started, and no time is wasted before tempers flare and tensions between Marvel’s greatest superhero teams get heated. Since this is more of an X-Men story in my opinion, and Captain America brings the fight to Utopia, the X-Men will be the home team in our little game of baseball. So without further ado, let’s introduce our pitchers.
Position: Pitcher. Obviously the leaders of the respective teams will be our starting pitchers. Cyclops and Captain America. This first issue is all about the man on the mound. The one player that is always guaranteed to touch the ball every play. The pitcher controls the pace of the game, and his team can wither or thrive depending on how their pitcher is working. The Avengers and X-Men’s pitchers receive similar results in the first inning, but by different means. Cyclops has some control issues making the first inning a nail-biter for the X-Men, while Captain America is in control for the Avengers and coasts through the bottom of the first.
Avengers vs. X-Men #1
The Front Office
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor
Variant Cover Art: Ryan Stegman
Inning Summary: A father and son from an alien planet watch as the Phoenix Force approaches their world. The cosmic power sweeps over the planet and destroys everything in its path. Back on Earth, several Avengers are hanging out atop Avengers Tower. Their friendly banter is interrupted when an object from space streaks through the New York skyline. The projectile crashes through an airborne plane before striking the Chrysler Building.
Avengers with flight capabilities take off to prevent the wreckage and debris from crashing to the streets. Captain America and a handful of the other Avengers take to the streets. At the center of the crater’s impact zone, they find Sam Alexander, a member of the Intergalactic Nova Corp. Nova warns that “it’s coming,” and passes out.
In accordance with an agreement made with the United States Government after the Skrull Invasion, the Avengers are reporting to the President about the events in New York City. Captain America and Iron Man brief the high-ranking officials on the history of the Phoenix Force, “a destructive, parasitic force of cosmic proportions.” The Avengers are alerted to a flare of energy matching the powers of the Phoenix. The signature is traced back to the mutant island of Utopia.
Before traveling across the country, Captain America visits Wolverine at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Wolverine informs the captain that Cyclops is most likely aware of the situation, and will already be making plans. The leader of the Avengers then asks Wolverine, one of his most trusted lieutenants and a mutant, if he can count on him.
On Utopia, Cyclops is training Hope in hand-to-hand combat. He forbids her to use her powers, but he employs his eye beams against homo-superior’s youthful heroine. Hope fights back, demanding to know why Cyclops is pushing her so hard. From a balcony above, Magneto and Emma Frost are watching. Magneto notes the troubling mood Cyclops appears to be in, before Hope unleashes a fiery blast, causing her trainer to fly backward. Hope is unsure of what she has just done, and Magneto, Emma and Cyclops look at her in amazement.
Cyclops meets with his “Extinction Team” members: Magneto, Emma, Colossus and Namor. He explains his belief that the Phoenix Force returning is a good thing, possibly signaling a rebirth of the mutant race. Some of his teammates express concern with Cyclop’s belief, but they let him speak. The meeting is interrupted when Emma senses the arrival of Captain America on Utopia’s shore.
The leaders of the two most powerful teams in the Marvel Universe come face to face off the coast of the mutant race’s island sanctuary. Emma tells the rest of the X-Men that Captain America is there for Hope and Scott can handle this situation. Namor tells his fellow mutants that he knows the captain, and things are already “ramped up.” Emma telepathically tells Scott that Captain America is not leaving without Hope.
Cyclops tells Captain America that the Phoenix is a mutant concern and the X-Men can handle it. He goes on to ask Captain America why the Avengers are getting involved now, when they haven’t been there for the mutants in the past. Captain America tells Cyclops that he was showing respect for him. Cyclops “respectfully” tells the head of world safety to “get the hell off my island.” Namor declares the gauntlet thrown, and Cyclops unleashes an optic blast, knocking Captain America through the water.
Captain America rallies the Avengers. The Hellicarrier and more than a dozen members of the Avengers – including Wolverine – appear in the skies above Utopia. The X-Men rush to Cyclops side, and the head of the mutant race orders Emma to protect Hope at all costs. The Phoenix Force appears in Hope’s eyes.
Color Commentary: I said it last year and I’ll say it again, I love events. Marvel knows who their marketing to, and I am one of those suckers. A majority of my favorite characters are associated with these two teams, so I’m hoping I will enjoy this event. But it would be nice if Marvel called this event what it really is: The Marvel Universe versus Cyclops. I do not like this dark path the Marvel architects are taking one of my favorite characters down.
The Phoenix Force wastes no time playing that wild card role and wiping out a planet. I didn’t read the Avengers vs. X-Men: Infinite comic which explores Nova’s warning about the Phoenix, but I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything necessary to the main story. It’s also interesting to see how the rest of the Marvel Universe views the Phoenix Force when the Avengers are briefing the President. I’m a little interested in the Secret Avengers tie-in issue but not enough to actually purchase the comic.
The art takes a pretty big step down from the #0 issue. John Romita Jr., who has the potential and history of creating great comic art, is not bringing his best game in this issue. I’m glad that the art will alternate because I would not want Romita on the whole series. He has the same problem in this comic as he did in the beginning of the Avengers’ relaunch in the Heroic Age. His characters’ faces appear flat, and their noses seem to blend into their faces. There’s something about the shape of the bodies and heads that reminds me of characters created by paper-cutouts.
This series also features the launch of Marvel’s Augmented Reality, a service that allows you to scan a page in the comic with your smart phone. Scanning the page will provide you with bonus footage such as different stages of the art process. I tried scanning one or two pages but found it a little awkward to hold my phone at the proper distance. It was also uncomfortable to hold the phone steady over the page or else you’d lose the content. It’s an interesting idea, but I think it could use some refinement.
The Box Score
Batting: The Avengers’ numbers are well represented early on. I don’t like thinking of players as “base cloggers,” but despite their numbers, the Avengers couldn’t get any runs on the board this frame. Their banter in the beginning came off as too childish and a bit awkward, especially when Ms. Marvel showed up. I’m also confused as to how Avengers Tower is still standing, since I thought that building was knocked down during Fear Itself.
It’s nice that the Avengers all jumped to action when Nova crashed into the building and plane, but it seemed like the most inefficient and sloppiest plane rescue in comic book history. What was the point of Thor’s whirlwind? He’s a God, can’t he just carry the plane to the river? And did Iron Man really use a massive energy beam to torch the airplane wing? It seems as though their rescue efforts could have been better coordinated.
Pitching: Captain America is in complete control early on. Steve Rogers has a very effective, working relationship with Tony Stark again, which is nice after the rough journeys the two have been through in recent times. Captain America strategically reaches out to Wolverine for support in the coming struggle. And despite bringing the Avengers as backup in case of a struggle, Captain America still respects Cyclops. I even liked that his “Avengers Assemble” line was quieter than normal and filled with regret.
Batting: Strikeouts – Wolverine (1). The most popular X-Man doesn’t even take the bat off his shoulder to help his one-time teammate. It looks like he and Beast are starting off on the Avengers side, which isn’t too surprising. But why couldn’t Captain America have sent Wolverine to talk to Cyclops first? Instead, Wolverine pretty much throws Cyclops under the bus and lets Captain America bring the Avengers to Cyclops’ doorstep.
Defense: Errors – Cyclops (1). The leader of the X-Men comes off poorly in the beginning. Beating up a teenage girl is just wrong, even if she is a soldier you’re trying to train for an ultimate test. I was concerned about what Cyclops’ fate would be at the end of this event, but if this is how Bendis is going to write him when he takes over the X-Men line, I kind of hope Cyclops does die. You know it’s never a good thing when Magneto is questioning your tactics.
Double play – Namor-Colossus (1). Namor does not seem to be phased by the coming struggle, probably because he has more experience with the Avengers than most X-Men. Even though Colossus’ judgment may be compromised in his current state as the Juggernaut, it’s nice to know that Colossus still has Cyclops’ back. Cyclops will need the heavy-hitter’s support in the upcoming battle.
Pitching: Walks – Cyclops (1). Scott Summers may be losing his mind if Bendis has anything to say about it. Cyclops is sounding more like the fanatical leader of a cult, and doesn’t have the normal cool control you’d expect of the X-Men’s strategic leader. I would love it if this edgier and more antagonistic behavior in Cyclops is revealed to be a result of the piece of the Void that Cyclops trapped in his mind during Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign.
Hit batter – Cyclops (1). I had no problems with Civil War because I could easily support Captain America over Iron Man. During the X-Men’s Schism I was all aboard Team Cyclops. Now, I’m actually presented with a confrontation between two of my favorite characters, and I don’t like it. Cyclops appears way too defensive when talking with Captain America. Making the first move by attacking Captain America was also a really bad decision.
Why couldn’t Cyclops have worked with Captain America? Maybe Cap would have felt better if Cyclops invited the Avengers to tour the X-Men’s high-tech space-age facility which is equipped to handle all sorts of intergalactic and interdimensional threats. However, I do like that Cyclops calls out Captain America’s “experts” as being Wolverine.