Position: Third Base. The hot corner! One of the most pivotal positions in the infield. The third basemen is expected to have solid defensive skills in order to prevent any balls hit down the line from ending up in the outfield. Who better to man the hot corner than the coolest X-Man around, Iceman. Using his powers, Iceman could freeze any line drives before they get past him, and if they do, he could easily just use an ice slide to close the gap between him and the ball. For the Avengers, I went with their most skilled surgeon, since eye-hand coordination is key in both surgery and fielding a baseball. Dr. Strange’s teleportation spells and other abilities could also come in handy when keeping the ball in the infield. (A warning for Spider-Man fans; the webhead does not appear in this issue.)
Avengers vs. X-Men #5
The Front Office
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman
Script: Matt Fraction
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor
Variant Cover Art: Ryan Stegman & Marte Gracia
Inning Summary: The Avengers and X-Men clash once more, this time on the Blue Area of the Moon. The Phoenix Force hangs in the sky, and Hope, its intended host, unleashes a fiery explosion which separates the heroes. Unable to control the powers overwhelming her, Hope pleads with Wolverine to kill her. Wolverine lunges at the girl, but Cyclops saves Hope by shooting his former teammate away from her.
Tony Stark and Hank Pym are away from the action, putting the finishing touches on Tony’s new Phoenix-buster suit. Fights break out across the surface of the moon between Red Hulk and Colossus, Hawkeye and Emma Frost, Black Widow and Magik, Thing and Namor, and of course Wolverine and Cyclops. As the events unfold, powerful and spiritual heroes, such as Professor Xavier and the Scarlet Witch, are affected by the turmoil.
The fighting on the moon comes to a halt as Iron Man flies up to confront the Phoenix in his bulky new suit. Captain America orders Cyclops to stand down and turn over Hope. Cyclops stands his ground again, reiterating his belief that the Phoenix Force will save the mutant race by bonding with Hope. Iron Man attacks the Phoenix and a massive wave of energy explodes out from the cosmic being. When the explosion dies down, the Avengers regroup, left to wonder what happened to the now missing Phoenix.
Captain America and the rest of his team soon discover that instead of destroying the Phoenix, the attack divided its powers and bonded with the five X-Men at the scene. A Phoenix-powered Cyclops addresses the Avengers, telling them that the Phoenix came to change the world in order to make it a better place for everyone. Their treatment of its intended host, Hope, was unacceptable, and the five will do her work until she is ready to accept her destiny. The Phoenix Five take the unconscious Hope, tell the Avengers they can’t stop the future, and fly off towards Earth.
Color Commentary: Godwin’s Law states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” According to Wikipedia, Godwin has argued that the overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. Now, while it’s not necessarily using Hitler or Nazis, I found Hope’s opening comparison of her situation to the guy who dropped the atomic bomb similar to Godwin’s argument. Her comparison just came across as cheap writing since it’s convenient and expected to compare every sort of explosion or bomb to the act of dropping the atomic bomb. It’s admittedly a devastating event which should never be duplicated, but as Godwin says, the overuse of comparisons like this run the risk of reducing the significance of the act and may not always be an accurate comparison.
The use of narration boxes, while used to better effect this time than in issue two, still doesn’t seem to mix well with the rest of this story. This look inside Hope’s head is different from the rest of the arc which has jumped around between several characters. But I still don’t care about Hope and I’m not surprised in the least to see that she is overwhelmed by the power of the Phoenix at the beginning of this story.
I like the idea of exploring what the Phoenix Force means to the rest of the Marvel Universe, and not just to the X-Men. The history of the Phoenix Force is further explored in the pages of New Avengers and Uncanny X-Men so you don’t get the full extent of just how deep the Marvel architects are going with the Phoenix’ past. Giving more background to a somewhat obscure “character” is an intriguing hook for this event.
Powering up the X-Men cements the Phoenix’s connection to the mutants, and also gives the creators a chance to outfit the X-Men in new uniforms. The Phoenix Five’s new look is pretty cool, but unfortunately it gives them a more ominous, threatening vibe. The eerie change in their voices doesn’t help their image either, and the artistic change to their speech bubbles after their transformation helped show this change in the characters.
Apart from their new costumes, I had a few issues with Romita’s art in his final contribution to the event. To begin with, why is Wolverine always the only one to have his flesh burned off when Hope unleashes her Phoenix powers? He’s not much closer to Hope than the rest of the heroes, but for some reason less resilient characters always come out unscathed while Wolverine is charred to a crisp. I am also not a fan of the use of big, fiery explosions in art. The panel always winds up just looking like a kid scribbled on the page.
There wasn’t a lot in the way of action this issue, as it was just another set up for the next AvX Versus comic. There wasn’t anything new with the fight matchups besides bigger combat roles for Magik and Emma.
The Box Score
Batting: The Avengers fall victim to the first 1-2-3 inning of the game. Cyclops’ belief in the Phoenix and his new powers are too much for the Avengers to contain this inning.
Defense: Error – Iron Man (1) sees a lot of action in the field this issue and handles the majority of the defense for the Avengers. The build up to the new Phoenix-buster suit he was creating led to a bit of a letdown when it turned out it just looked like an Autobot. His attempt to contain the Phoenix was a bit misguided though as he made the Avengers’ adversaries tougher.
Pitching: Captain America can’t stop Cyclops’ “madness” and the X-Men put some distance between themselves and the Avengers with the help of the Phoenix. This looks like a benefit for the X-Men, but from Cap’s perspective, possessing the power of the Phoenix probably makes the X-Men a much more dangerous threat.
Batting: The X-Men take advantage of Iron Man’s miscalculation and string together four key hits to pile on the runs.
Single – Namor (1) and Emma (1) each get a hit as members of the new Phoenix Five. Emma’s hit in particular was timely as she pinch hit for the recently-benched Wolverine in order to keep the inning alive.
Double – Colossus (1) and his sister, Magik (1) leg out their hits for extra bases because of their victories in the latest AvX Versus title. Colossus is featured in his third fight outside of the main title, this time it was against the Thing. (Spoiler: Being unstoppable and not requiring air proved useful in the cold vacuum of space beyond the Blue Area of the Moon. Colossus carried the Thing outside of the habitable portion of the lunar environment and got the victory for the X-Men.)
Instead of featuring Magik’s fight with Dr. Strange as I had hoped, the young sorceress’ tango with the Black Widow is expanded upon. Of all the fights so far, this was probably the most frustrating match up because the two combatants spoke only in their native Russian tongue. The only way to translate half their dialogue was to use the Marvel AR Reader, which I had no desire to employ. But the result of the fight required no translation. (Spoiler: Black Widow was able to fend off the demons in Limbo and force Magik to transport the two back to the moon. Magik was still able to secure the victory when she plunges her soulsword into Black Widow’s back.)
Pitching: Cyclops gets a bit of redemption at the end of this issue. The Phoenix Five state that they have come to usher in a new future and make the world a better place. Depending on which side you fall on, this could go a long way in proving that the Phoenix isn’t trying to destroy the world, but help save it and the mutant race.
Decent snap shot issue to end a boring first act and set up the events in act two, AvX Versus #3, and other tie-ins such as Uncanny X-Men.