ART: Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales
In the last issue of Avengers vs. X-Men, the Phoenix was fractured into five pieces which bonded with Cyclops, Colossus, Magik, Emma Frost, and Namor. I was a bit skeptical as to Marvel's intentions with the 'Phoenix Five' - their appearance seemed to precipitate an even bigger fight between the Avengers and the X-Men. The kind of battle that levels cities.
Instead, Jonathan Hickman brings us into Act II of Avengers vs. X-Men with a somber overview of the new world order. This issue picks up ten days after the confrontation with the Phoenix on the moon. In those days, Cyclops has led the other Phoenix Forcers in reshaping the world into a better place. With the power of gods split between five benevolent beings (the possible exception being Colossus and his Juggernaut power, which hasn't been brought up yet), the X-Men personify the 'rebirth' part of the Phoenix omens, the part where this force can be one for major positive strange.
I'm actually pretty impressed with Marvel's decision to make this turning point one of growth instead of conflict. There's an obligatory stand-off at the issue's end, but it's only real purpose is to start the slow burn to the next big fight.
Avengers vs. X-Men #6 is all about the change being created by the Phoenix Five. Magik and Colossus are fertilizing once barren land, Namor has tamed the Aleutian Trench to provide fresh, clean, free water for the world's people, and Emma Frost has created a machine in the Gobi Desert that provides sustainable, renewable, clean, free energy for all. Oh, and Utopia is now a freaking paradise of technology and peace. Even the Avengers are a bit awe-struck by the X-Men's sheer force of good.
In this issue, Jonathan Hickman had to usher in a second act to the biggest Marvel event of the year, introduce a new status quo for the Marvel Universe, dedicate quality pages to both sides of the conflict, all while pushing the narrative forward. It's a big task and one that Hickman masterfully handles.
The mini-story dealing with the Electric Legion is a gem that sits right in the middle of this issue. The Avengers set out to stop the Legion from a rampage when Colossus shows up and talks it out. With the Phoenix powers, Pyotr just learns to speak Electric and brokers a deal for the Legion to power half of Europe. Iron Fist's disbelief starts a domino effect of disapproval with the Avenger's strategy to stand against the X-Men. Beast and Black Panther both see the Phoenix as a source of good that has only helped and improved the world since arriving. Wolverine, of course, stand by his convictions and Captain America, but many Avengers have begun to doubt.
Again, I want to emphasize the scope of Hickman's job here. Wanda Maximoff arrives at the end as the Avengers execute their covert operation to acquire Hope from Utopia. Cyclops is on the verge of taking out every single Avenger when Wanda's chaotic powers interfere with the Phoenix Force. Obviously, it's a sign that the Phoenix isn't omnipotent - it has a weakness.
And of course, Cyclops declares, "No more Avengers" on the last page, which is what we've been waiting for since Act II's announcement. Here goes nothin'!