Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AVENGERS vs. X-MEN #11 of 12

STORY: Brian Michael Bendis
ART: Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales

It's emotional gut-punch time! Over the past eight years, Marvel has made it pretty standard to kill off a major character at the end of major events. For Avengers: Disassembled, it was Hawkeye and Ant-Man. During Civil War, it was Captain America, and for Avengers vs. didn't think I'd spoil it this early in the review, did you? No, I'll give that little gem a bit more time.

Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel helm Avengers vs. X-Men #11, bringing the event ever closer to it's conclusion and segue into 'Marvel NOW!' starting in October. Ever since Cyclops and the other four X-Men took control of the Phoenix Force, it's been an obvious downward spiral for the Children of the Atom, and in this issue, that fact becomes all the more apparent once Rogue seeks asylum amongst the Avengers along with the rest of the disenfranchised mutants once loyal to Cyclops. Oh, and Charles Xavier is now in the mix for good. This just got real.

This is an issue filled with emotional and physical confrontations. With a huge new contingent of mutants at their side, as well as Xavier - who explains that he knows "what must be done" - the Avengers lay siege to Utopia, all while Professor X keeps Cyclops occupied in his own head. It's harrowing to see Cyclops, a cosmic god, bending to the will of a mere mutant. Of course, it's not just any mutant, and we get to see Charles Xavier unleash the full extent of his power against Cyclops as a legion of X-Men and Avengers descend upon Emma Frost to keep her occupied. Hell, they even manage to get the Hulk to help out. A lot of these pages are dedicated to the big fight. But Bendis is such an adept writer, he organically balances the fighting with the intervention-style confessionals by the likes of Iceman, (somewhat) Storm, Magneto, and - obviously - Xavier himself. Each one of them has a special connection to Scott Summers, and each has some words for the leader of the X-Men who's become a megalomaniac.

The opening pages of Avengers vs. X-Men #11 show Cyclops and Emma arguing over the fate of the universe, something that doesn't carry a lot of weight at first, but soon becomes the catalyst for Scott's eventual betrayal of Emma and his subsequent power play. It's telling how these two characters can chat about rewriting the universe without questioning why they should. Sure, both want the best for mutantkind, but the strain of the Phoenix obviously has taken away perspective (as seen more eloquently in Avengers vs. X-Men #6 Infinite). By the time Cyclops attacks Emma so he can acquire her power, it's pretty much expected. Bendis foreshadows this inevitability, but then acts like it's a big surprise once it happens. We all knew it would come down to Scott, it just became a question of when.

Scott feels violated. He's moved mountains, saved countless lives, and changed the world for the better, and now all his friends and family stand against him. He is a leader without a nation, a shepherd with no flock. It's a tough position to be in, but with interstellar powers at your fingertips, that grief can turn into suffering pretty quickly. And so it goes, Scott and Charles duke it out. In the end, it's Xavier on the ground and Scott floating above the corpse in a perfectly haunting fashion.

A lot of this issue's merits come from the emotional ramifications of the one of Marvel's Golden Children falling into darkness. Cyclops has been a mainstay in the Marvel universe since he was introduced. He's been in a leadership position throughout most of it, and he's been at odds with Charles Xavier only a handful of times that didn't have nearly the same ramifications as this disagreement. The fact that Charles feels he must force Scott to stop means there could never have been a positive outcome for either party. Scott loses the strongest father in his life, and Charles loses the son he always wished he had. It's beginning to look like no one will win this war. Usually, these mega-events don't have meaningful boundaries (i.e. - death is meaningless, changing alliances, etc.), so I hope Marvel sticks to it's guns for a while and keeps Xavier down. It was a truly shocking moment (though it was expected), and I'd hate for that emotional nuance to be squandered by resurrecting the good Professor.


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