Monday, August 20, 2012

AVENGERS vs. X-MEN #10 of 12

STORY: Ed Brubaker
ART: Adam Kubert and John Dell

For the last five months, Avengers vs. X-Men has broken the Marvel universe into two factions (not dissimilar from 2007's Civil War), pitting friends against one another, driving wedges through once-solid relationships, and generally airing dirty laundry from years of rising mutual resentment. In many ways, AvX lives up to it's goal of bookending eight years of stories that started with House of M: it includes all five of Marvel's biggest creators, it focuses on some of the company's most popular franchises, and it's the culmination of a near-decade's worth of events that have compounded upon one another to create the high levels of tension, envy, and mistrust necessary for a major crossover event such as this. Unfortunately, we're getting to the end of the road for Avengers vs. X-Men. As we hit this issue ten, Marvel has already been spilling details for weeks about the upcoming 'Marvel NOW!' initiative that hopes to start a fire under the House of Ideas by bringing fresh voices to accomplished series to not only attract new readers, but also to see how various creators handle different characters and what that means for the future of the Marvel universe. More and more, the focus is shifting away from the fight between Earth's Mightiest Heroes and the Children of the Atom because we know it has to end. It would be silly for Marvel to not plan for the future, but the barrage of advertisements for it's post-AvX world feels like they're leaving their current event behind...the one that's happening right now.

Avengers vs. X-Men is a fun story. It's just that simple. No matter how much nitpicking I do as a journalist, or how much complaining about exact chronological continuity a comic book fan does, crossover events are meant to be fun and at the end of the day, comic book companies sell fun. With that being said, Marvel has it's five biggest writers and some of it's best artists working on this series, so I'm going to fine-tooth-comb this issue. I'll start with the easier stuff.

One of the major problems with a rotating crew of creators is that each of these writers has their own style and voice, and a change of voice from issue to issue can be at best disconcerting and at worst frustrating and unjustifiable. This happens because with unique voice also comes a certain mood and feel of the story, which in turn can affect the pencilling and shading. Ed Brubaker has been writing Captain America in one form or another for the last 10 years. In that time, Steve Rogers has become somewhat reclusive, opting to grimace instead of smile, and undertaking secret assignments more akin to black ops than the battlefront he was used to. And while this worked well for the Sentinel of Liberty, Brubaker's understated style doesn't quite fit with the grand scope of Avengers vs. X-Men. At many points throughout the issue, I found myself somewhat bored, uninterested in why things were happening. It has to do with Brubaker's pacing, more than anything, as this series is meant to be high-speed, or at least quick-moving, yet there's no sense of that in Avengers vs. X-Men #10.

Similarly, a constantly changing creative voice can warp characterization quite quickly if not kept in check. Take Magneto as an example in this issue. Erik Lehnsherr is one of the most brilliant, innovative, driven, motivated, intelligent, powerful mutants on the entire planet, and Brubaker tries to tell us readers that he can't escape Emma Frost. I'm sure some may say he doesn't want to leave Utopia, this series is about fun, but having the Master of Magnetism - no matter how 'good' he's become - bend over for the likes of Frost flies in the face of his years of history. Of course, the absolute power being wielded by Cyclops and Emma Frost has struck fear into the hearts of humans and mutants everywhere, even subduing the most brash of X-Men, such as Cannonball, in a scene that shows how the power of the Phoenix amplifies the host's natural tendencies. Scott's uses his power to bring about peace, not matter what the cost - it's a perverted interpretation of the lessons Charles Xavier taught Scott years ago. Likewise, Emma Frost is vain and egotistical, leading to her monarchial stance and holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to everyone that isn't her (including, I'm gathering from issue 11 promos, Scott). She uses her power less to hurt people and do physical damage, and more to make those she deems lesser-than know their place.

As much as I've enjoyed Adam Kubert's pencilling and John Dell's inking over the past five three issues, Kubert's pencils are starting to show their age. He's been drawing Phoenix Nightwing for a least the past 90 days, and still Scott looks like an old man from time to time due to the overuse of facial lines. Really, I love the Kuberts and their work. Joe Kubert passed this week (R.I.P.), and it was a great loss for the entire comic book community. His sons have done an excellent job over the years maintaining their father's quality, and they look to continue to do so going forward. So it's a little disappointing that this issue feels rushed.

At the end of the day, this is issue ten. It's not the first issue, and it's not the halfway point. It's not even an act change. Very much so, Avengers vs. X-Men #10 is like the prelude to the end. With only two issues left, we know there's got to be a big reveal, a big death, and some choice words for a few of our favorite characters that will leave them reeling in disbelief. Unfortunately, none of those things happened this week.


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