Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AVENGERS vs. X-MEN #9 of 12

STORY: Jason Aaron
ART: Adam Kubert and John Dell

One could argue that reading Avengers vs. X-Men might be pointless now. What with Marvel teasing 'Marvel NOW!' - a soft reboot including new titles, relaunches of current series, and a ton of creator mix-ups - for weeks, why not just wait until October and start fresh? Because this series has finally reached the epic level we were all promised from the start - things are starting to happen that matter and will have lasting consequences.

Marvel is letting their gang of writers play pretty fast and loose with the passage of time in Avengers vs. X-Men, allowing upwards of two weeks to go by between issues, something that sets this series apart from many previous line-wide events. Knowing that this conflict has been going on for more than just a few days makes it all that more palpable - this isn't some skirmish or quick blowout. No, this is a war, in a much better sense than Civil War ever achieved. The premise of the series has grown from niche at best, to an idea that could be a monthly ongoing if it's parameters weren't so strict: Human Superheroes vs. Mutant Overlords! It's a series that could go on for years based simply on humans being the underdogs - as the Avengers have been for four issues now - and the mutants, however benevolent, have a dark fate ahead of them.

Indeed, the growing darkness surrounding the Phoenix Five Four takes precedent in Avengers vs. X-Men #9, as Jason Aaron gives readers a more detailed look into the psyche of each X-Man still wielding part of the Phoenix. Emma Frost, per usual, offers up the most introspective and existential dilemma dealing with her now awe-inspiring psychic powers. With the ability to look into every mind on the planet, she does and realizes that she could end the conflict in a moment using little more than a single thought; with Namor's power transfered to the other four Phoenix's, Emma's power is immeasurably grand. But Emma Frost is no simpleton - she understands the god complex she's undergone and sees that infinite power has brought her nothing but desire to destroy. In Emma's despair, we see the root of the Phoenix's terror, the meaning behind it's destructive tendencies. Would it be too far-fetched to see the original Phoenix, eons ago, attempting to save lives across the universe, only to be met with hostility by those who didn't understand it? Would it then be plausible to imagine that this ancient Phoenix would become sad, then angered by the lack of gratitude and understanding, leading to a rash of violence? We'll have to wait until next issue to find out if Emma succumbs to the pressure.

On the more visceral side of things, Magik and Colossus take center stage as the Avengers mount a rescue operation from the Verkhoyansk Mountains in Siberian. Magik has used her newly heightened powers to integrate a part of Limbo - the demonic dimension she uses to teleport through - into a volcano to act as a prison for the most powerful of Avengers, including Thor, Spider-Woman, and Quicksilver. Captain America leads his team into hell on Earth and is immediately ambushed by Colossus and Magik. After a few chaotic moments, Spider-Man manages to lure the Phoenix's away from the rest of the team rescue the captured Avengers. With his little sister whispering suggestions in his ear, Colossus beats Spider-Man to the point where I found myself questioning if this was the end for Peter Parker, a viable concern considering the upcoming reboot.

Magik starts getting a little too gruesome for Colossus' taste, and the two demigods begin bickering before Peter gets his two cents in. It's quite obvious that Magik has been corrupted by the Phoenix power, her already dark tendencies made even more chilling with the power of a death god. Colossus fears for his sister, and a few choice words from Spider-Man give each mutant a reason to take the other down. Spidey emerges, clinging to life with everything he has, while both Colossus and Magik lay defeated, their celestial power gone.

A major point in this issue is the fallout of the mutant race. After Namor's attack on Wakanda, Black Panther had his marriage to Storm annulled leading to Ororo gathering the other X-Men who've realized that Cyclops and the others have gone insane to stand against with the Avengers against the Phoenix Four. The fact that X-Men are distancing themselves from the Phoenix's was inevitable, but having Storm lead the rebellion is poetic justice. For decades, Storm has stood as a shining example of what most, if not all, X-Men strive to be - an agent of change for good through the use of a mutant ability. Now, it's her time to shine as the beacon of mutant hope against a force that threatens to demolish all life on Earth.

The Avengers now have more support than ever. Unfortunately, Cyclops rips through time and space to get to K'un Lun and take Hope away from Earth's Mightiest Heroes. While most of these issues have ended with cliffhangers, this one seems especially haunting because the writers can't jump forward in time next issue; this is the very moment before a giant brawl that promises to lead into the epic climax.


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