Avengers vs. X-Men #8
Review by Paul Bowler
The Avengers have paid a heavy price for defying the will of the Phoenix Five, with all of their facilities closed down by the X-Men and Hawkeye seriously injured, Cyclops’ declaration of “no more Avengers” looks like it may be about to become a reality. In a bid to give Tony Stark and T’Challa more time to work on his Phoenix Killer, and keep Hope’s presence a secret in Wakanda, the Avengers use hit and run tactics to keep one step ahead of the X-Men. However, their plan to use magical decoys of the Scarlet Witch to confuse the Phoenix Five backfires when Namor battles the real Wanda Maximoff over the Pacific Ocean, and is easily repelled by her powers.
Humiliated by his defeat and the capture of Transonic, Namor is frustrated by Cyclops’ unwillingness to instigate further bloodshed. After a passionate tryst with Emma Frost, Narmor learns that she secretly knows where the Avengers are hiding – but has yet to tell Scott. Namor travels to Wakanda, determined to wipe out the Avengers once and for all, and his attack comes just as Wolverine and Hope are about to depart through Thunderer’s portal to the mystical city of K’un-Lun.
The action comes thick and fast in Avengers vs. X-Men #8 as Namor and his minions begin their assault on Wakanda. After Iron Man and Thunderer follow Wolverine and Hope through the portal to K’un Lun, with Stark urging Cap to use their “secret weapon” before closing the portal to prevent Namor following them, Captain America, Black Panther, and Iron Fist are left to defend T’Challa’s kingdom as a huge tidal wave crashes into the city. Fortunately the rest of the Avengers arrive in time to help defend Wanakda: but even a combined attack by the Red Hulk, Vision, Dr Strange, Thor, and the Thing cannot contain the Phoenix Empowered King of Atlantis. He snaps Red Hulk’s arm like a twig and unleashes a devastating Phoenix blast that leaves the Avengers reeling. Thor fires a volley of lightening, distracting Namor long enough for The Scarlet Witch to strike, and it is her power that ultimately defeats Namor.
Having watched the battle from Utopia the rest of the Phoenix Five arrive by Siege Courageous as Namor’s Phoenix energy seemingly rejects him, tearing itself free of its host, to merge with Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, and Colossus. While the X-Men bask in the glory of their new powers, Captain America uses a teleportation device Stark had given him to open another portal to K’un Lun. The Avengers escape to join the others, leaving the Black Panther alone, his homeland in ruins, as the X-Men hover overhead. But before they can act, Professor X contacts Cyclops telepathically, warning his former students that they must end this madness, or he will do it for them!
Brian Michael Bendis handles AvX #8’s action packed smack down between Namor and the Avengers with ease, with a number of characters jostling for space, he does a fine job of driving the plot as events dictate. This is the Avengers most desperate hour yet, with desperate times calling for desperate measures, and it takes the combined efforts of the mighty Avengers most powerful members to weaken Namor enough for the Scarlet Witch to deal their first decisive victory.
With Adam Kubert on pencils and John Dell’s inks, the ferocity of Namor’s attack on Wakanda is stunningly realized – perfectly capturing the scale of this immense battle. This is the first time we have really got to see the Avengers take on one of the members of the Phoenix Five; the battle is furious and brutal, especially when Namor savagely breaks the Red Hulk’s arm!
The Scarlet Witch is still the Avengers ace in the hole when it comes to fighting the Phoenix Five, Wanda is beginning to play a much more pivotal role as Hope sidelined for much of this issue in K’un Lun, its good to see the Avengers finally gain some ground against the X-Men after being on the ropes for a couple of issues. The fact that the Phoenix Force seemed to reject Namor is perhaps this issues most startling revelation. It certainly make you wonder just who is controlling who when it comes to the Phoenix Force, which makes Scott’s assumption that they can wield this cosmic power and use it to reshape the world something of a misnomer. The Phoenix Force has an insatiable appetite for the raw emotion of its hosts, and its beginning to feels as if it is starting to play the members of the Phoenix Five off against each other.
A thoroughly enjoyable and action packed issue, this issue has a really epic feel to it now that the stake have risen so high. While the Avengers are regrouping in K’un Lun, Avengers vs. X-Men #8 draws to a close with Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, and Colossus facing the telepathic warning form Charles Xavier to cease and desist, or face the consequences. This ultimatum has been a long time coming, but we are left wondering if Professor X’s intervention will mark a significant turning point in the conflict or become a terrible portent of the onslaught to come…
Review by Paul Bowler
After a year that has seen the Batman almost broken by The Court of Owls and their nefarious schemes, Batman #11 brings Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s sensational Night of Owls to a nerve jangling climax as Batman finally confronts Lincoln March in the ruined halls of The Willowwood Home For Children. Having donned a specially designed suit of armour, this self proclaimed Owlman has revealed himself to be Thomas Wayne Jr – the brother Bruce believed had died after being born prematurely in the aftermath of a car crash. Having betrayed The Court of Owls Lincoln March has set his sights on Gotham itself as the ultimate revenge against the “brother” who abandoned him.
Still reeling from Lincoln’s claims, Batman struggles to defend himself as the Owlman slashes away his cape. As their intense struggle sends them crashing through a brick wall Batman launches a line that snags Lincoln’s armour, dragging him over the edge with him, and sending them both tumbling out into the night – but Owlman uses his suits hidden thrusters to break their fall and propel them up into the darkening sky over Gotham. With Batman flailing helplessly in his wake Lincoln March relives his childhood memories as he drags the Dark Knight across the Gotham skyline: smashing Batman into the Crowne Tower, the building that he saw the reflection of Wayne Industries on as he lay paralysed in Willowwood as a child; haunted by the mother whose visits were replaces by the nightmarish presence of the owls. Then Batman is hurtling into the bell tower that marked the brutal demise of Bruce’s parents, finally swooping up over the airport and into the path of a jumbo jet – a cruel reminder of the day Thomas Wayne was taken under the wing of The Court of Owls as Bruce set off to scour the globe in his quest to acquire the training he needed to become the Batman.
As Batman clings onto the edge of the jets engines Lincoln goads his sibling to let go, boasting how he will take Gotham as his own and destroy everything that Bruce Wayne stands for. While his foe basks in his apparent victory, Batman detonates the small explosive he’d planted on the Owlman’s back during their fight. The Owlman disappears in a ball of flame as Batman loses his grip and tumbles into freefall. Using a high velocity Bat-Rope to break his fall, Batman crashes into a skyscraper under construction It is this centrepiece of Bruce Wayne’s Gotham Initiative where Batman and Lincoln March have their final showdown,. Having rigged the building with explosives, Lincoln intends to hold Batman captive as the building is destroyed, using his regenerative powers to survive and emerge from the rubble of Bruce Wayne’s lifelong dream. As the building explodes, Lincoln tells Batman how the Court betrayed him when Bruce returned to Gotham as the Batman, instead of claiming his birthright as they originally planned, they gave Thomas Wayne a new identity - Lincoln March – honing his hatred so that he could one day destroy his brothers legacy. Batman smashes his thumbs into Lincoln’s eyepieces and breaks free, throwing himself down an elevator shaft, leaving Owlman to his fate as the Tower collapses.
As he recovers at Wayne Manor, Bruce gets a visit from Dick Grayson. Together they try to make some sense of recent events, confronting the dark secrets they‘ve uncovered, and making a solemn pledge to be ready for the fateful day when The Court of Owls will return…
My Brothers Keeper provides a fantastic conclusion to The Court of Owls storyline; Scott Snyder has masterfully crafted a magnificent nemesis for Bruce Wayne in the form of Lincoln March. For eleven issues this character has hidden in the wings, using the mystery and intrigue surrounding The Court of Owls as smokescreen, watching and waiting for his moment to strike. Greg Capullo’s awe inspiring art has made Gotham seem more threatening than ever before, almost a character in its own right, and together Capullo and Snyder’s grand opus has shaken the Dark Knights legacy to the core – providing one of the most definitive takes on the character we’ve seen in recent years.
Issue #11 of Batman had an awful lot to live up to, but it manages to deliver in almost every aspect as Snyder dutifully allows the plot that has been bubbling under the Gotham’s surface for the past year to achieve some semblance of clarity for Bamtan, only to leave us with as many questions as it has answers by the stories end. It is all the more remarkable, considering this issue is essentially one long fight sequence between Batman and Owlman, that so much is revealed. In fact Lincoln March’s verbal diatribe against Bruce and his former masters carries most of the plot, right up to, and including, the moment of serendipity where Batman points out that Lincoln should take his own advice – before detonating the explosive on his armour and blowing him out of the sky!
This stylishly choreographed ballet of violence and retribution is brilliantly realized by Capullo’s art, at times you feel like you are watching a blockbuster movie rather than reading a comic book as Batman is sent careering into the buildings that have been the source of Lincoln March’s terrible childhood. Indeed, one of the best moments comes after Batman loses his grip on the jet engine and plummets towards Gotham’s jagged skyline. As he falls Batman remembers how the young Dick Grayson always enjoyed this view of Gotham from the plane, and for one, brief, moment you almost sense that Bruce Wayne is ready to face his own mortality with open arms… and then the city, his city, seems to reach out to him at the last possible moment, snatching his lifeline form the brink of doom to swallow him up in her unforgiving embrace once more.
It almost reiterates the symbiotic relationship Batman shares with Gotham City. In spite of the madness and death they bring to one another, they are intrinsically engrained within each others collective history, and as such perfectly embodies the way Bruce feels about Dick Grayson. Indeed, this moment seems to provide the catalyst for this issues final scene where Dick visits Bruce some time later as he recovers at Wayne Manor. The Court of Owls has taken a heavy toll on their relationship, casting doubts and aspersions where there had only been unflinching loyalty, forcing them to face the unpleasant truths that have been exposed by recent events.
Bruce tells Dick that he always knew his mother had lost a child when she was involved in a car accident, that child had only lived for one day, and he is unflinching in his certainty that his parents would have told him if Thomas had survived. In his search for the truth Bruce has uncovered records from Willowwood that detail the admittance of a John Doe baby only a week after Thomas Wayne Jr died – a child whose mother visited him often. We may never know the identity of the woman who visited the young Lincoln March as he lay in a vegetative state in Willowwood, although Bruce’s mother did indeed visit lots of hospitals with her charity work, nevertheless, Bruce remains convinced that Lincoln March was brainwashed by The Court of Owls into believing he was Thomas Wayne Jr. However, Bruce is forced to concede that he is unable to entirely refute the claims made by Lincoln March, but as no body was found in the wreckage of the Tower, and with no DNA profile available, it leaves the mysterious fate of Thomas Wayne Jr unresolved for now.
With The Court of Owls retreating back into the shadows, the Talon’s cryogenically frozen in Blackgate and the people of Gotham safe once more, the final act of The Night of Owls succeeds in usurping the Courts role in supplanting Dick Grayson’s destiny as a Talon. Bruce now realizes just how vital Dick Grayson is to the sanctity of Gotham, where The Court of Owls wanted Grayson for its own selfish ends; Bruce Wayne saw the honourable selflessness that burned within this young orphan – a kindred spirit destined to give hope in the shadows of Bruce’s dark legacy.
The Fall of the House of Wayne by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Rafel Albuquerque is a perfect complement to The Night of Owls thrilling conclusion. Detailing the aftermath of the “accident”, it sets in motion the chain events that would forge Lincoln March’s hatred for the Wayne family into the razor sharp talons of his own inimitable destiny. As well as providing a fitting coda to the man storyline, The Fall of the House of Wayne showcases Bruce’s relationship with Alfred, with the horrors of the past slowly peeling away the last layers of a haunting event; the scene shifts to the present day as Bruce and Alfred visit the grave of Alfred’s father – Jarvis Pennyworth.
Batman #11 rounds up a fantastic year for The Dark Knight. With the exciting news that the Joker is set to return this Halloween for the start of Snyder’s and Capullo’s next story arc: Death of the Family, I’m sure the critical acclaim that Snyder’s Batman has achieved so far will be nothing next to what is still to come. Snyder and Capullo have made Batman one of the finest titles to come out of DC’s New 52 relaunch, yet as we eagerly await the Joker‘s revenge, I’m sure we – like Batman – will be watching and waiting for the return of The Court of Owls…
Avengers vs. X-Men #7
Review by Paul Bowler
The Phoenix Five have begun to reshape the world at will, creating a stark vision of Xavier’s dream by enforcing their will over the people of Earth – declaring that there will be no more war or violence between Mutant and Man in this Worldwide Pax Utopia. Until now the Avengers have avoided a direct confrontation with Cyclops and his X-Men, but after a meeting with the President they decide to launch a covert attack on Utopia to kidnap Hope – believing her to be the key to the Phoenix Force.
But the plan fails; Cyclops and Emma Frost easily defeat the Avengers. It is then that the Scarlet Witch appears before them, causing Cyclops to recoil in pain at her touch. She tells them of her terrible visions of the future, before gathering Hope and the fallen Avengers to her side, and teleporting them all to safety – leaving a furious Cyclops to make a chilling vow: “No more Avengers…”
Issue #7 of Avengers v X-Men opens as the Phoenix Five begin a campaign to brand the Avengers as a Global Terrorist Network by systematically attacking the Avengers on all fronts: closing down the Mansion, Avengers Tower, and the Avengers Academy. Cyclops is desperate to take Wanda Maximoff out of the equation, she is the biggest threat to the Phoenix Five, and they still blame her for her actions against the X-Men during House of M
Magik and her team of X-Men make the first bid to intercept the Avengers as they struggle to regroup. Soon the Avengers are fighting for their lives until the Vision falls in battle, which spurs the Scarlet Witch to unleash her full power against Magik – leaving the Phoenix Empowered Mutant reeling in agony. Emma Frost uses a Siege Courageous to join the fray, but Wanda has been weakened and her fellow Avengers wounded, leaving Captain America no choice but to call on Dr Strange to pull them out of danger. Hawkeye distracts Emma Frost to buy the Master of the Mystic Arts enough time to casts his spell, but Clint is horrifically burned by the Phoenix Force when Emma attacks him, forcing his team mate’s to abandon him and teleport to safety.
Dr Strange’s spell ferries the Avengers to Wakanda, where they have secretly hidden Hope from the X-Men. Tony Stark and The Black Panther have also been monitoring the battle to try and find some weakness in the Phoenix Force – which he hopes will enable him to make the necessary modifications to his gigantic Phoenix Killer battle suit. While the Avengers learn more about the Phoenix Five from Hope, Cyclops berates his fellow X-Men for harming Hawkeye – ordering that they use their immense power to heal his horrific wounds.
After their briefing with Hope, The Avengers decide to go on the offensive to try and throw the Phoenix Five off balance in a bid to buy Stark and T’Challer more time to work on the Phoenix Killer. Thanks to Hope they now know how much the Phoenix Five fear Wanda Maximoff, so with the help of Dr Strange and his Enchantment of Ikonn (A spell that will create the illusion of disguising one member of each team to look like The Scarlet Witch) they successfully lure the X-Men to New York, The Ukraine, The Artic Circle, and most crucially the Pacific Ocean – where they capture Transonic as the real Scarlet Witch fights Namor and summarily defeats him!
Just as Stark’s analysis of the Phoenix Force and Wanda’s unique energy signature begins to reveal some startling results, and a possible connection between them, Iron First arrives with Lel Kung: The Thunderer of K’Un Lun, who warns them that the Phoenix will consume them and all The Celestial Cities of Heaven if they don’t let him take Hope and train her to face her destiny.
Still smarting from being defeated, and Transonic’s capture, Namor clashes bitterly with Cyclops on Utopia, who refuses to take a more proactive stance against The Avengers. The enraged Ruler of Atlantis later has a secret liaison with Emma Frost, and she reveals that she has already used her telepathy to find The Avengers in Wakanda – and that she hasn’t told Scott…
As the Avengers plan their next move, The Black Panther gets some chilling news from one of his guards that a massive wave has risen up from one of the lakes and is now rushing towards them – with Namor riding it as he prepares to destroy them all!
Matt Fraction has a lot of characters and plot threads to juggle in AvX #7, the story is really starting to have an epic feel to it now, and its great to finally see Wanda cut lose against the Phoenix Five. It is also interesting to see the cracks that are beginning to form amongst the omnipotent X-Men, none of them have the same level of control as Cyclops, with Namor and Emma in particular already beginning to be subverted by the primal nature of being a host for the Phoenix Force. We begin to realize what Hope already sensed what was coming, and her help proves invaluable to The Avengers. Amidst all this frenetic action, Matt Fraction manages to nicely underplay the scene between Tony Stark and T’Challer, where Stark wallows in his own self importance – by apparently preparing to use the Phoenix Killer on a suicide mission against the Phoenix Five -only to be given a swift reality check by The Black Panther!
The action in Avengers vs. X-Men #7 comes thick and fast, providing a real showcase for Olivier Coipel’s artwork, as we are treated to panel after panel of no-hold-bared action between The Avengers and X-Men. Some of the battle scenes between The Scarlet Witch and The Phoenix Five members are truly awe inspiring, and really help amp up the drama and tension – particularly when Hawkeye suffers terrible injuries after attacking Emma Frost.
My only qualm with this issue is the fact that the previous “search for Hope” has now been supplemented with the search for The Scarlet Witch. I hope this will not be the main pot thread for the next few issues, as this second act has shown great potential; and I wouldn’t like to see it become just a globe trotting search for Wanda Maximoff.
Avengers vs. X-Men #7 really sees the series firing on all cylinders, both in terms of storytelling and artistic quality, definitely one of the best issues so far!
Trick or Treat
The Joker to Return for Halloween in Batman #13
The last time we saw the Clown Prince of Crime in Septembers Detective Comics #1 he had apparently had his face ripped off by the Dollmaker. So far the whereabouts of the Joker, and what happened to him, have been something of a mystery. Now at long last DC Comics have revealed that the Joker will indeed return later this year, just in time for Halloween, as part of the next thrilling story arc in Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s Batman
If that wasn’t enough to get Bat-Fans punching the air in excitement, the new story arc that begins in Batman #13 this October has been given the chilling subtitle: Death of the Family. This immediately brings to mind the classic Batman story – A Death in the Family – where the Joker embarked on his most deranged scheme yet, to sell a nuclear weapon to terrorists, while managing to do the unthinkable, and kill Robin (Jason Todd)!
Scott Snyder has touched briefly on the character of the Joker before in The Black Mirror, but after Snyder’s startling Court of Owls & Night of Owls storylines, it is perhaps the next logical step for the Joker to return, as Snyder has often maintained that the Joker is one of his all-time-favourite members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. It has been hinted that Death of the Family will be the biggest and most shocking Joker story to date, with the stakes raised so high that it will put every member of Batman’s Family at risk! The Joker has been absent from Gotham City for almost a year, plotting his revenge, and it seems he has a serious axe to grind with the Dark Knight and his allies. One thing’s for certain, whatever the Joker has planned for them; it’s not going to be pretty.
Capullo’s art for The Court of Owls & Night of Owls story arc has been fantastic. Gotham City has never looked as sumptuously dark and menacing as this before, every panel of Capullo’s work that has charted Batman’s torturous struggle with The Court of Owls has been a visual feast of gothic imagery and psychological horror, and I eagerly await his interpretation of the Dark Knights most deranged adversary. I’m sure that in Snyder’s and Capullo’s capable hands the Joker’s return will be a flesh crawling nightmare, one that may well tear the Bat-Family apart!
Batman #13 goes on sale October 10th
Avengers vs. X-Men #6
Review by Paul Bowler
Still believing that she would be able to control the Phoenix Force, Hope Summers enlisted Wolverine’s help to steal a rocket and intercept the cosmic entity on the blue area of the moon before it reaches Earth. Hope is horrified to find the Avengers already waiting for her on the lunar surface, and is even more shocked to learn that it was Wolverine who betrayed her. Fortunately Emma Frost has telepathically intercepted Wolverine’s intentions with Cerebra, allowing Cyclops and the Extinction Team to teleport and intercept the Avengers on the moon before they can take Hope into custody.
As the Avengers and X-Men slug it out, Iron Man flies into the path of the Phoenix Force in his gigantic Phoenix Killer battle suit, unleashing a volley of powerful disruptor beams that seemingly disperse the Phoenix energies – sending a devastating shockwave over the blue area of the moon that brings the conflict between the two teams to an abrupt end. The Avengers regroup and are horrified to see that the Phoenix Force has somehow been fragmented by Iron Man’s super weapon, and that Cyclops, Magik, Colossus, Namor, and Emma Frost are now possessed with the cosmic energies of the Phoenix itself! The Avengers can offer no resistance and are forced to watch helplessly as the Extinction Team take Hope and fly back to Earth.
The second act of Avengers vs. X-Men begins in earnest as writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Olivier Coipel take the helm of AvX #6, picking up the story some 10 days after the Extinction Team (Or Phoenix Five as they are now known) have returned to Earth. Having rebuilt Utopia as a vast gleaming metropolis, Cyclops, Emma, Namor, Colossus, and Magik have now used the vast power of the Phoenix at their disposal to change the world at will: removing famine and drought from the Horn of Africa and the Taymya Peninsula, drawing new springs of water up from the Aleutian Trench to end water shortages and irrigate crops, and even harnessing a clean and limitless power source in the Gobi Desert to provide free energy for the whole world.
Professor X arrives by shuttle craft at Utopia and is greeted by Magneto. Together they stand in awe of what their former students have created, before Xavier meets with Cyclops to discuss the effects of his actions. The Professor is astounded by what Cyclops and his X-Men have done, he does his best to try and make Scott see how the actions of the Phoenix Five have robbed humanity of its right to choose its own destiny – but he is rebuked by Cyclops who states that what they have done is merely strived to make Xavier’s lifelong dream a reality.
We join the Avengers some days later at Avengers Tower were Captain America receives a communiqué from Iron Fist and his team, who have just been dispatched to deal with The Electric Legion in Helsinki. However, the conflict they were engaged in abruptly cease when Colossus suddenly teleports in from a Siege Courageous and stops the battle by using an electric language to persuade the Legion to function as a power grid for Eastern Europe. Resigned to the Mutants relentless interference in global affairs, Captain America meets with Iron Man, Beast, Wolverine, and the Black Panther to formulate a plan of action. Logan naturally favours a more proactive approach, but Iron Man is reluctant to use the Phoenix Killer again in case it divides the Phoenix Force into even more Mutants. Sickened by what he hears his fellow Avengers planning, the Beast walks out of the meeting in disgust, suddenly no longer sure whether he wants a place on either team anymore.
As Hope struggles to come to terms with her rejection of the Phoenix Force, and the growing alienation Cyclops seems to have towards her, she begins to realise that there can be no reasoning with the Phoenix Five and their desire to reshape the world into a global Utopia. Meanwhile in Kun Lin, Lei Kung demands to see The Book of the Fallen. The elderly keeper brings him the ancient volume, and reads out a transcript of a much earlier account of the Phoenix Force: one where the Crimson Hand and the Iron Fist repelled the Phoenix of Life and Death.
The Avengers meet with the President at the White House after the Phoenix Five have stripped the world of its weapons and appeared before the United Nations; declaring that no more war or violence will be tolerated towards mutant or mankind, and that the world is now Pax Utopia. In a last-ditch attempt to restore some semblance of control, the Avengers make a covert attack on Utopia to capture Hope, but Cyclops and Emma Frost easily fend them off – making short work of even Thor and Iron Man. It is at this moment that the Scarlet Witch enters the fray – having witnessed a vision of the Phoenix vaporizing the original Avengers in the past – teleporting in to whisk Hope and The Avengers to safety. Hope says she wants to leave as Cyclops attempts to stop them by grabbing the Scarlet Witch, but he recoils in pain when his hand burns as he touches Wanda’s arm. The Scarlet Witch teleports everyone away as Cyclops realizes humanity will never accept them; coldly stating that it is time for change: “No more Avengers…”
Writer Jonathan Hickman opens the second act of Avengers vs. X-Men with a character driven opus that perfectly captures the tenuous state of unease that now stands between the people of the world and the Phoenix Five. In the space of a few short weeks Captain America and his fellow Avengers have had to stand idly by and watch as the Phoenix Five imposes its will upon the world. After five issues of relentless combat Hickman really begins to get to the core of the story, placing the characters front and centre, and making us hang on their every word as the global situation grows steadily worse.
One of my favourite scenes this issue is when Hope confronts Cyclops in Utopia. Although Scott says she is free to leave at any time, Hope tries to get him to see reason, that the Phoenix is a force that he can never hope to ever control. Cyclops then seems to taunt Hope with the Phoenix Force, tempting her with its vast power, only to cite her rejection of the cosmic entity as the reason why he deems her unworthy of claiming her birthright. Having been at the centre of the story for so long Hope now finds herself an outcast by those who sought to protect her, leaving her increasingly isolated, and perhaps even a little afraid for her own safety. It’s a marvellously understated scene, one that causes Hope to reassess her role, and which culminates with the young mutant seizing her chance to escape with the Avengers when the Scarlet Witch intervenes.
This issue also delves deep into the legends foretold by the Book of the Fallen. These long-lost legends give significant credence to the reasons why Iron First’s hands burn when he is near any member of the Phoenix Five, and the fact that Cyclops was unable to touch the Scarlet Witch without burning his own hand. Not the most subtle of plot devices I’ll grant you, but with it Hickman further fires the imagination when Wanda has a vision of the original Avengers being destroyed by the Phoenix – an act that Cyclops vows to make a terrifying reality.
For many John Romita Jr‘s artwork has been something of a deal breaker when it comes to Avengers vs. X-Men. Personally I have really enjoyed Romita’s run on AvX, but I think there will be a lot of people who will welcome Olivier Coipel debut on the series. Copiel effortlessly captures the majesty of the gleaming towers of Utopia and the worldwide scope of Pax Utopia. Laura Martin’s colours and Mark Morales inks are a perfect match for Copiel’s work, easily lifting the artwork in this issue of AvX to a whole new level of excellence.
Avengers vs. X-Men #6 delivers a fantastic new direction for the series, giving the characters a fresh impetus, and allows the plot to take some time out to deal with individual stories on a more personal and emotional level.
If that wasn’t enough Avengers & X-Men action for you, the digital version of AvX #6 includes Avengers vs. X-Men Infinites #6 In a Handful of Dust – a brand new tie-in that utilises the full potential of the digital medium. This small, yet insightful little tale by Mark Waid, Yves Bigerel, and Carlo Barberi shows the difficulties Cyclops encounters as he tries to block out the thoughts and feelings of everyone in Utopia. Struggling to screen out the bustling community, Cyclops makes in impromptu visit to the blue area of the Moon, wandering aimlessly until he finds himself in the ruins of the ancient alien city where his first love, Jean Grey, sacrificed her life to prevent herself reverting to Dark Phoenix.
Scott uses the Phoenix Force to recreate Jean’s essence from his own psyche, animating the moon dust where she fell into a physical construct, and together they discuss the true nature of the Phoenix. This story might also give credence to the much rumoured return of Jean Grey herself, as she, more than anyone, understands the true nature of the Phoenix. In a Handful of Dust is a wonderful aside to the overall story, offering a rare chance for Cyclops to cast off the shackles of leadership and express his innermost feelings, as well as providing a showcase for this new format – and enhancing the story with understated flourishes of animation.
Avengers vs. X-Men #6 is by far the best issue in this series to date. The story really seems to be evolving into something much bigger than its original premise, add to this the extra value offer by Infinites #6 and you have a first class package that is shaping up to be one of Marvels best crossover events in recent years.