Avengers vs. X-Men #4 – Review


Position: Second Baseman. The short and gritty player on the diamond a lot of the times. Some of the best have been known for their determination and willingness to get dirty in order to make a play. For the Avengers, I went with Daredevil, whose radar senses should help him play a solid defense, always keeping track of where the ball and the runners are at all times. He’ll know if he has a chance to throw the guy out on a relay from the outfield, and he’ll be able to sense when a runner on first is getting ready to steal second. And every good lawyer knows stealing is against the law. The X-Men present a problem for me. I had Wolverine, the shortest and most grittiest of dirt dogs on the X-Men. His current actions in the comics though have me pondering whether he has the team’s best interests in mind. It may be time to call in the subs.

Avengers vs. X-Men #4

The Front Office
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Jim Cheung & Laura Martin
Variant Cover Art: Jerome Opena & Dean White

Inning Summary: Wolverine, wrapped in the corpse of a polar bear to keep warm, follows a trail of beer cans inexplicably found in the snow. The path ends where Hope is standing beside a plane. Hope convinces Wolverine to listen to her plan by offering more brews. Inside the jet, Hope lays out her belief that she can control the power of the Phoenix and needs Wolverine’s help and guidance. Wolverine agrees to go along with the plan, and even flies the plane so Hope can get some sleep.

In space, Thor is the only one that remains of the Secret Avengers who confronted the Phoenix Force. He hurls his weapon at the cosmic entity, which retreats to a nearby planet, leaving Thor to watch as it causes unknown damage to the world. Back on Earth, Cyclops and Emma Frost monitor the events transpiring around the globe. Pockets of fighting break out between Avengers and X-Men, but Emma only lingers on the action in the Savage Land, more specifically, Captain America’s location.

Through an ear piece, Captain America is communicating with Tony Stark. Stark is in New York trying to build a Phoenix-killing weapon. Captain America fights with Gambit, who tries to take advantage of the distracted Avenger. Captain America knocks out Gambit and receives an update on Hope’s whereabouts, which Emma is able to telepathically lift from Cap’s mind. Hope and Wolverine are in the process of procuring a space ship from a secret A.I.M. base. Wolverine kills several agents until one cowering scientist agrees to help the duo.

Hope and Wolverine arrive on the Blue Area of the Moon, an artificially created environment located on Earth’s satellite. Hope is able to sense the Phoenix Force more strongly now, but is caught by surprise when the Avengers sneak up on her. Wolverine informed Captain America of Hope’s plans the minute the mutant messiah fell asleep on the plane. The X-Men show up and Cyclops interrupts Wolverine’s preaching with an optic blast to the face. The X-Men refuse to go home without Hope.

However, it may be too late as a feeble Thor comes crashing to the moon’s surface. The Asgardian only points, but Hope ominously warns, “It’s here.” The Avengers and X-Men look on as the Phoenix rises in the skies, lighting up the darkness of space.

*

Color Commentary: This issue doesn’t start off too well. Was the polar bear corpse really necessary? Would someone as unstoppable and unbeatable as Wolverine, famously known for his impressive healing factor, require that much extra warmth? And then the beer can trail left by Hope to lure Wolverine. Is the beer just a cheap set up for a joke about Quentin Quire selling fake ids underneath Wolverine’s nose?

This is the best issue in the series so far, but that’s surprising since so much of what happens in this issue seems as unnecessary as Wolverine’s polar bear jacket. Do Hope and Wolverine really need to break into an A.I.M. facility and murder people in order to steal a space-faring vessel? Space travel is a pretty common occurrence in the Marvel Universe, so is there no other easily accessible shuttle they could find? Is it necessary for Emma to control Toad’s mind in order to use Cerebra? Couldn’t they have used one of the other sympathetic mutants still in the school? And was it necessary to reuse the “we’re going to need a bigger ship” line when it was used in Fear Itself, last summer’s big event. It seems a bit soon to be recycling Jaws references.

There’s actually a lot happening again in this issue, which is probably why I like it more than the last one. This issue also feels like a better starting point for the event. The Phoenix’s approach and the initial altercation between the Avengers and X-Men all could have been covered in a prologue or in the team’s respective comics. It would have been a better lead-in than the AvX #0 issue.

The beginning conversation between Hope and Wolverine was heavy on exposition recapping Hope’s story and connection to the Phoenix. It’s very different from how Brubaker concisely recapped the important events in the previous issue. I feel more time could have been spent filling in the events that transpired in space with the Secret Avengers. I’d like to know how they were all wiped out so easily and what exactly is happening with Thor, his hammer, and that planet. I just can’t afford to follow another series though.

The art looks better, especially the coloring of the first few pages of Wolverine and Hope. I can’t tell what makes that art so much different than the rest, but I would have liked to have seen that style used more frequently in these first four issues. There was a nice break down of the teams on the summary page as well. The organizational chart helps you keep track of where each character is and who they are sparring with.

*

The Box Score

Avengers

Batting: Walk – Iron Man serves a good purpose in this event by being tasked with creating a Phoenix-destroying weapon, although this is a bit similar to his role in Fear Itself as well. The use of scientific jargon by Tony to Cap’s dismay was humorous and reminded me of a scene in the Avengers movie. That being said, Tony only receives a walk since he wasn’t man enough to fight his own battles. As seen in the recent X-Men Legacy, when he sent an empty suit out after the X-Men.

Single – Daredevil and Spider-Man (2) each get a single because taking on a Juggernaut-powered Colossus is no easy task. I also like the snapshot of the trio tangling. A more in depth look at Spider-Man’s clash with this new incarnation of the Juggernaut was featured in AvX Versus #2.

(Spoiler: Spider-Man humorously narrates his Juggernaut strategies out loud, and uses his agility and webs to keep some distance between the mismatched fighters. Colossus warns Spider-Man to give up before the metallic mutant hurts him, eventually gaining the upper hand. A battered Spider-Man defiantly stands his ground, before fleeing with Daredevil when they learn Hope is not at their current location.)

Double – Thing continues his dominance over Namor, clobbering the Sub-Mariner a couple of times in this issue. However, Namor has a few tricks up his sleeve, as explored in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

Sacrifice Fly – Thor knocks in a run when he gives his all to stop the Phoenix Force. Mjolnir has proven to affect the Phoenix in the Avengers comic, and I’m interested to see if they’ll further explore that in the main series.

Pitching: Captain America tries his best to keep track of the various teams of Avengers in the field, including Tony Stark’s secret project back in New York. However, his defenses slip from time to time when the X-Men come out swinging and Gambit gets the drop on him. If Cap isn’t careful, though, the X-Men may be able to avoid his shield smash, a move which he has been overly reliant on so far. He’s used the same move against three separate characters so far in this event. But if the move isn’t broke, why fix it?

This time the shield smash is used against Gambit, the other member of the X-Men I favor. I didn’t like how Cap disrespected Gambit by not giving him his full attention during their fight, despite the Ragin’ Cajun’s fighting prowess and mutant ability. Cap was busy coordinating plans with Tony over his headpiece, which was even carried over into the AvX Versus book for a nice touch. Captain America pays the price though, when Gambit deals a few aces he held up his sleeve in their fight.

(Spoiler: I was not a fan of the Gambit versus Cap match-up going in since Captain America would be the favorite to win, but Steve McNiven at least does a good job of writing Gambit and gives him a few clever moves. Gambit kinetically charged Cap’s shield before slinging it back to its owner. Marvel’s greatest thief also takes advantage of Cap’s chain mail armor, charging the metal in a very risky attack. Unfortunately for Gambit, the resulting explosion incurs Cap’s full attention and wrath. The fight ends shortly thereafter with Cap swiftly taking down Gambit. Sad to see two of my favorite characters fight, but the interaction between the two was well done and satisfying, each having good moments.)

*

X-Men

Batting: Strikeouts – I think it’s time I bench Wolverine (2) from the X-Men’s team. After Hope personally delivered herself to him he was given a golden opportunity to help mutantkind. But instead, Wolverine delivers Hope to the Avengers on a silver platter. Hope is a complete fool for trusting Wolverine. Why would she not seek out Cyclops and the group of heroes that aren’t actively trying to kill or kidnap her?

Walk – Nothing can stop the Juggernaut, so despite the brief tangle with Spider-Man and Daredevil, Colossus keeps on moving. Unfortunately, after taking his walk, the next batter grounds softly into a double play turned by Spidey and DD, halting Colossus’ path, as well as the inning.

Single – Magik (2) and Storm (2) are in the middle of the X-Men’s offensive explosion, once again. Storm is still matched up in a marital feud with Black Panther, which could be another good fight to flesh out in AvX versus at some point. Meanwhile, Magik puts her teleportation skills to good use once again, this time offensively, in order to sneak up on Giant-Man.

Double – Namor’s fight with the Thing doesn’t start off well in this comic, but his recently-made allies in Tabula Rasa prove valuable. Namor’s charisma and strength are in full force during the adversaries’ rematch in Uncanny X-Men. I liked how they snidely referred to each other as either an Avenger or X-Men, acknowledging the others’ new team allegiances. However, Namor’s swagger, and his chance at settling his debt, comes to a grinding halt when one of the X-Men’s new allies’ in Tabula Rasa mistakes the brawl for a mating ritual. Magik then arrives to extract Namor when they learn Hope is on the moon.

Pitching: I like that when the X-Men come to Hope’s defense on the moon, Cyclops gets some payback on Wolverine by hitting him in the face with his optic blast. Cyclops handles the approach to the battles very differently than Captain America. Cyclops relies on telepathically coordinating the attacks from his safe house while searching for Hope. Unlike Cap, Cyclops is not putting himself in the middle of the action, resulting in fewer distractions for his plans. He doesn’t have as much control over the pieces in play, but he’s able to keep an eye on all of the players thanks to his trusty, telepathic partner, Emma Frost, at his side.

I thought Emma narrating the battle scenes for Scott was similar to the narration boxes Aaron used in the second issue. However, in this instance, Hickman’s use was more effective and felt more natural by having Emma speak the dialogue. Emma has an air of grandeur about her anyway, so the words seemed fitting.

*

Rating: Meh, action, art, characterization, story, and writing. 3/5

“Remember that one time during the fight when it looked like you might actually win? No? Me neither.” – Marvel vs. Capcom 3
“Did I mention I beat up Firelord once? No, seriously. Firelord.” – Ultimate Alliance 2
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