Liz’s Thoughts on ‘Av.X’, Halfway Through

Well, I was going to write something about experimental comics and exploring the borders of the art form this week, but instead I’m succumbing to my heart’s desire and talking about Av.X instead. This week’s sixth issue marks the halfway point for the big summer crossover, and I would like to talk about why I think Avengers vs. X-men is so great.

Of all of Marvel’s summer crossover events that I’ve read from my vantage point behind the till of a comic shop, this one has received the most varied opinion. The four or five others I’ve had a ringside seat for were either poisonously loathed or enthusiastically liked by my chatty customers and co-workers. Av.X is the first I have observed to have such a strongly divided opinion amongst the many people I speak to regularly about comics.

I’ll do a little devil’s advocating and mention a negative first. More than once when I asked, ‘Why don’t you like it? What’s your problem?’ I heard the words ‘slow-paced’ or ‘drags at first’ in reference to the first few issues. I don’t agree, but I can also admit that the big action happens after some build-up. By the time you get to the fourth issue, things are at a rolling boil and ‘slow-paced’ are two of the last words I’d use to describe it.

I think perhaps the best thing about this event is that it actually feels like a reward for years of attentive readership. Many of the smaller crossovers have been building toward it since the near-eradication of mutants in House of M. Hope’s fate has been a snowballing plot thread since Messiah Complex, with hints of the Phoenix force in full swing since Second Coming. The careful foreshadowing of Scott Summers’ increasing isolation and subsequent mistrust of the Avengers has been going on since the X-men first took up on Utopia.

To my mind, Av.X is the long-awaited payoff at the end of the rainbow, and I’m hoping for some big changes to be wrung out by the end of it. Now with the first big twist having happened (if you don’t know already, hurry up and read issue five), the content and tone of the book has gone from action-packed chase sequences and punch-ups to the onset of a chilling new world order. Cyclops, my personal favourite X-man, is scaring the ever-loving heck out of me, and I am especially worried for his fate.

Scott started to crack like a hairline-fractured egg since the first uttering of the word ‘Phoenix’, and began fixating on Hope, projecting all of the mistakes he’d made with Jean onto her. He became obsessed with the idea of a second chance through Hope, and in doing so set off a chain of events that led to the Phoenix force making an unexpected and dangerous choice about who to land in. The current status quo has positioned Scott first as benevolent dictator, then wrathful, punishing King.

The Avengers, the X-men and the world at large have everything to be afraid of.

I may be conjecturing, but the way things are going and the hints that have been given lead to me to believe we’ve got some epic drama in store. Six issues down, six to go. I’ll be looking forward to every one of them.