Thursday, April 5, 2012
Avengers vs. X-men #1 - It's Here!
Quit counting to veins on your penis or the strands of hair on your cooch! The wait is finally over! Avengers vs. X-men is here! The beginning of a big comic event is like the emergence of a new strain of potent weed. That first bong it is the most important. If after you take a whiff of that sweet, succulent holy smoke your mind is awash in the kind of awesome that would make a speech by Al Gore entertaining, you know you've got something. That's not to say the first hit will determine how awesome the strain ends up being. Sometimes after a while, the strain loses it's potency or has some unpleasant side-effects. I liken certain strains to Fear Itself, an event that started off so well but fell flat at the end and fucked up my short term memory to the point where I went to the grocery store and forgot to put on my pants. Okay, so Fear Itself wasn't bad enough to make me do anything like that, but you get what I'm saying.
Avengers vs. X-men has been build up to a point where the hype almost becomes inane. This issue has had so many preludes that it Doc Brown himself would think the time-space continuum was unraveling a la Back to the Future 2. Some of them have been awesome, like X-Sanction. Others have been painfully lame, like Avengers vs. X-men #0. Some have been just so-so, like Children's Crusade and Point One. But they've all had their role. They've helped put the right pieces in place and granted, there are a lot of fucking pieces to this story. This shit goes all the way back to House of M, a story at a time when only one state allowed gays to get married. Fuck, has it really been that long? Or am I just high? Well whatever the reason, that event is what made mutants and endangered species and led to the emergence of Hope Summers (aka the most blatant Jean Grey ripoff since Madelyne Pryor and she was a fucking clone). Like other redheads with green eyes, Hope has shown the flares of the Phoenix Force. Now Avengers vs. X-men promises to finally pour rocket fuel on that flame and light a fire under the asses of every Marvel fan on the planet.
Officially, the event began with Avengers vs. X-men #0. As I made abundantly clear in my review, it was a shitty beginning. All it did was remind us of shit that was already established in other stories. It had some redeeming qualities and it probably will tie in with shit in later issues, but on it's own it wasn't very good. It was just another prelude on top of many. Well now we can finally ditch the fucking prelude title and get to the real meat of the story! It's like having to sit through the shitty plot in a porno before getting to the action. I think the collective dicks of every Marvel fan are ready for this and I'm ready to get hammered and review it!
Avengers vs. X-men #1 begins with yet another reminder that the Phoenix is on it's way. We've already known that shit since Point One, but just to emphasize that it's not fucking around it torches yet another hapless alien planet. Why? It's the fucking Phoenix Force! It doesn't need a reason other than maybe it's become just as pissed off about shitty replacement characters like Hope Summers.
While the cosmic parrot is on it's way, things on Earth are as oblivious as always. Then in a scene that's sure to get Fox News riled up in the post 9/11 world, Nova comes crashing down and doing some pretty amazing damage in the process. It forces the Avengers to assemble in their trademark catch phrase to control the damage. It's done in a pretty elaborate way as well. In a superhero comic, it seems pretty menial to do shit like prevent skyscrapers from collapsing and planes from crashing, but putting in that extra detail definitely helps even if some of it is needless.
Even if such details are needless on some levels, the destructive arrival of Nova helps give emphasis to the level of urgency. At this point, the Avengers don't know the Phoenix is coming. They're still not completely aware on some levels because Nova is so roughed up from his impact that he can only repeat what he said in Point One, which is "It's coming." That could mean a lot of things. It could mean a killer cosmic entity is on it's way. It could mean a horse is about to splooge on an illegal animal porn set. But the sheer destruction he caused with his arrival helps make clear to the Avengers that some cosmic level shit is about to go down. It also effectively ties in the events of Point One with this issue, which makes for the kind of seamless coherence that makes babies smile and Planned Parenthood workers cry.
This ominous warning for the Avengers wouldn't be so ominous for the X-men, who have been seeing signs of the Phoenix for quite some time thanks to a red-haired, green-eyed girl NOT named Jean Grey. That girls is Hope Summers, who the Avengers haven't really paid much attention to despite supposedly being the messiah an entire species. But she definitely has the attention of the X-men. After Avengers vs. X-men #0 when she claimed she was ready for the Phoenix, Cyclops decided it was time to start training her one-on-one. By training I mean he pretty much beats the crap out of her. It comes off as abuse that would get most teachers fired (except in Catholic schools). He keeps demanding that she train and dishes out punishment, some of which is pretty fucking unfair. At one point he says she can't use her powers, but he can and he takes full advantage of it. I'm not sure if this is training or just pent up frustration for seeing too many redheads get pussy boners for Wolverine.
Now this is a pretty fucked up scene that the anti-Cyclops crowd will probably jump on like Fox News jumps on every story about a cute blonde girl getting kidnapped. And they aren't entirely wrong. Cyclops is being a dick here. He's beating up a teenage girl that's supposed to be the mutant messiah and not being very nice about it. I'm tempted to do a little Cyclops bashing myself, but then a couple of brain cells that I haven't yet killed kick in and remind me of recent events. Both X-Sanction and Avengers vs. X-men #0 link to this moment. In X-Sanction, Cyclops saw for himself that Hope could manifest the Phoenix and use it to cure Cable of the techno-organic virus. Then in Avengers vs. X-men #0 she fucking blasted him when he was trying to be civil with her AND stole his jet pack! I'm sorry, but when a teenage girl steals your jet pack I'm pretty sure there's a special exception to the Geneva Convention's provisions on disciplining arrogant teenagers. In addition, this girl doesn't know shit about the Phoenix. Yet she thinks she's ready. Since she's someone Cyclops has put all his faith in, it's understandable that he wants to push her to make prove it. He's still a dick, but he's a dick with reason. There's a porno joke somewhere, but I'm enjoying seeing Hope get her ass kicked way too much to put it in writing.
Cyclops keeps attacking, demanding that she do better. She manages to land a few lucky blows, but like any arrogant teenager with only a miniscule willingness to learn she loses her cool and flares another round of Phoenix fire. Now perhaps this was by design. Perhaps this is what Cyclops was trying to do just to see if he could get Hope to show that flare that gave him such a boner when Jean Grey was still alive. Whatever his reason, it worked. Hope is doesn't just flash some Phoenix bling. She knocks Cyclops back and roughs him up in a way that helps balance out the excessive punishment he gave to her. See anti-Cyclops fans? There is a sense of justice in the Marvel universe. Now please keep the bitching and moaning to a minimum.
That flare, however, doesn't go ignored this time (and that's saying a lot since this shit has been flaring up since Second Coming). While Cyclops is testing everyone's stance on capital punishment to teenage girls, Captain America and Iron Man are informing the President of why he should issue an executive order for everyone to shit themselves. They give a brief overview of the Phoenix, explaining the bare basics of what it is. They were able to pick up the energy signature from Nova, who is now in a coma and out cold. Somehow, the presence of a teenage girl that looked and dressed just like Jean Grey wasn't enough. But while they're explaining why this cosmic entity is bad news, their sensors go off and they detect Hope's little temper tantrum on Utopia. So the Avengers leave the president to ponder the collapse of his sphincter while they recruit Wolverine from the Jean Grey Institute for help. Since the events of Schism leave him with little bromance with Cyclops, he joins with his Avengers buddies as they prepare to take on this cosmic parrot.
Now it's worth noting here that the overview of the Phoenix presented by the Avengers was extremely basic. It doesn't even begin to cover all the crazy stories surrounding the Phoenix. They skipped the clones, the Xorn/Magneto imposter, the fixing shit that doesn't work, the part about a fake Jean killing herself on the moon while the real Jean was in a cocoon in Jamaica Bay, and the events of Phoenix Endsong and Warsong. I get that it's more fucked up than Jenna Jameson shooting a porno at a circus, but it's too simple an explanation. I get they don't want to overwhelm the president, but they need to at least try to convey how fucked up this cosmic turkey is.
Whereas the Avengers are intent on stopping it, the X-men have other ideas. After they're done letting Hope cool off, Cyclops has a little chat with Magneto, Emma, Namor, and Colossus. The presence of the Phoenix Force is not to be taken lightly and it's fucked them up in so many ways every time it's come into their lives. However, Cyclops still feels like it's worth taking a risk to assume that the Phoenix is key to undoing the shit done by M-Day. He would be in a position to know. He married the last vessel for the Phoenix so he damn well better know her power as well as he knows Jean's pussy. Yet the notion of using the Phoenix to fix a reality-warping event doesn't sit well even with Magneto, who's usually all for flexing mutant powers like a giant dick. Some may see this as another example of Cyclops being a douche. I think he's not wrong to see the Phoenix as a potential source for rebirth rather than destruction. It's just what the mutant race needs, yet knowing what it did to his wife he should at least have some reservations. Especially if it means Emma reminding him about how she doesn't like redheads that attract cosmic forces because they have a tendency to want to kill her.
They don't get to argue for very long about how their method for using the Phoenix to kick start the mutant race. Captain America arrives on Utopia to confront Cyclops. It starts off civil at first, but it doesn't stay civil. Captain America makes clear that they need to protect the world from the Phoenix and to do that they need to take Hope into custody. Cyclops makes clear that he's not having it. Hope belongs on Utopia. Moreover, the Phoenix may need her to be the savior to the mutant race. Cap is being reasonable. Cyclops is reaffirming that he believes without question that Hope will save mutant kind. Granted, blind faith rarely leads to much good. Just ask any woman that lived under the Taliban. But he makes another good point in saying that the Avengers haven't really done shit for mutants since they became endangered. It's only now when they want to take away their best hope for salvation that they're actually giving a damn.
The tension is apparent. These are both men who are as dedicated as their are ballsy. They have to be when one of them is fucking Emma Frost. It reminds me somewhat of the argument between Cyclops and Wolverine during Schism. They didn't just start beating each other up. There was an honest debate that led to the divide. That debate wasn't as drawn out here, but given how many preludes this series had they can't say much more than they've already said. So when Captain America tells Cyclops that the Avengers taking Hope into custody wasn't a friendly request it happens. Cyclops fires the first shot in the battle between the Avengers vs. the X-men. NOW shit can start to get heavy!
Again, the anti-Cyclops crowd may use this scene to call him a dick again. They could argue he's jumped the gun and just went ape-shit on the Avengers when there was probably a chance that they could have worked together. Well, that might be valid if the shit in X-Sanction didn't happen. Remember that story that only ended a few weeks ago? In that story, Cable revealed to Cyclops that it was because the Avengers took Hope into custody that the whole fucking world got burnt to a crisp. So in addition to not wanting to give up the mutant messiah, he has an entire future to prevent. I know I'm just an impartial drunk here, but that shit is worth striking the first blow against Captain freakin' America.
But Captain America isn't naive enough to come without backup. He shows that he can be a dick as well. He didn't just bring some of his buddies to Utopia to make Cyclops a Godfather style offer. He brought the entire SHIELD Helicarrier with him, fully stocked with the Avengers. That's like showing up at a diplomatic meeting in a nuclear powered tank with a million man army behind you. It sends the wrong message and the X-men receive that message loud and clear. The battle between the X-men and the Avengers is set to begin. The battle lines have been drawn and the shit can finally go down. Unfortunately, we have to wait until the next issue to see some blood. Oh well! That's nothing a few shots of potent heroin can't fix!
So it's here, it's coming, and it's going to be messier than Peter North's bedspread. I admit I was pretty worried after the disappointed showing in Avengers vs. X-men #0. That small part of me that often tells me I can fly off bridges while stoned was also telling me that this event was going to fall flat on it's face like Ryan Leaf's NFL career. But that didn't happen. This issue didn't attempt to just jump right into the Avengers vs. X-men brawl, which is a good thing even if you were hoping to see four pages of Captain America and Cyclops beating the shit out of each other. This issue took time to tie in the events of Point One and establish the threat. Even readers that don't know shit about the Phoenix Force (although let's face it, if you know anything about Marvel or have an internet connection you have no excuse not to know why this cosmic parrot is bad news) can follow along.
The problem I see this issue creating, however, has to do with the rampant anti-Cyclops crowd out there. You know who you are. Don't bother whining at me. I can't help it if you hate somebody who is leader of his own country and is regularly sticking it to Emma Frost. He was portrayed as too much of a dick at times, but if you know what happened in X-Sanction or Avengers vs. X-men #0 you understand why he's being this harsh. The same can be said for his willingness to blast Captain America when he kindly yet menacingly asks him to hand over the mutant messiah that is supposed to be the last salvation for the mutant race. Is Cyclops still a dick? Yeah, he is to a point. However, there's a context here and I don't think that context was adequately revealed.
Perhaps that's part of what makes this issue extra special. It actually makes those preludes I complained about earlier more relevant. If you hadn't read about the events Cyclops and Hope were involved in during Avengers vs. X-men #0 or X-Sanction then you probably would just think Cyclops is being a massive dick towards Hope. If you haven't been following Hope's story since Second Coming, you wouldn't know what a volatile and immature brat she's been. This issue showed how all those events have led to a boiling point of sorts. Now it doesn't excuse for the poor quality of Avengers vs. X-men #0, but it does add some very important context that I know will be lost on some people. It actually gives a reason for Cyclops to do what he did with Hope and Captain America. It also gives Captain America a reason to do what he did in being about as diplomatic as a North Korean envoy. Those reasons are important and if some readers use this as an excuse to bitch and moan, then they have no excuse and I have no sympathy for them.
Avengers vs. X-men #1 brought for me equal amounts of thrills and relief. My heart could finally stop pounding in my chest out of worry that the poor showing in Avengers vs. X-men #0 was going to hurt Avengers vs. X-men #1 (or maybe that's just the meth). Marvel has overhyped big events before and this is by far the biggest event they've had since Civil War. This shit is going to unfold over the course of six months, 12 issues, and a fuck-ton of tie-ins. You couldn't get much bigger if you fueled it entirely with Donald Trump's ego. One issue in and everything is smooth so far. This issue was coherent, setting up both the Avengers and the X-men as adversaries while also showing that the threat posed by the Phoenix is something worth shitting your pants over. As far as first issue goes, this is a good template on how to do it right. Only minor characterization issues keep it from being perfect. That's why I give Avengers vs. X-men #1 a 4.5 out of 5. So the Phoenix is on it's way and the X-men and Avengers are going to beat the living shit out of each other in a desperate effort to do what they think will prevent them from becoming a giant cosmic bar-be-que. I've got my popcorn, my weed, and several bags of Doritos. I'm ready, motherfucker! Let's get ready to rumble and fight over a bratty redhead! Nuff said.