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Avengers vs. X-Men #5

Review by Paul Bowler

As the battle between the Avengers and X-Men rages all around her on the lunar surface, Hope unleashes a blast of her latent Phoenix power. With both teams momentarily stunned she begs Logan to honour the pact they made in Antarctica, to kill her now before she is overwhelmed by the imminent arrival of the Phoenix Force. Knowing that he might never get another chance, Wolverine launches himself at Hope but his attack is blocked by one of Cyclops optic blasts.

With the preparations for the gargantuan Phoenix Killer complete, Giant Man helps Tony Stark into the massive craft as he engages his Iron Man armour. As he readies the vessel for launch the ferocious battle between the Avengers and X-Men on the moon comes to a head: Red Hulk and Colossus are at each others throats, Namor and The Thing clash bitterly, Emma Frost trades insults with Hawkeye, and Magik takes on the Black Widow – but it is the moment when Wolverine slashes Cyclops with his claws that sees the battle really begin to shift in the Avengers favour.

The effect of the Phoenix Force is now being felt world wide as Stark blasts off  to confront the entity in space, Professor X almost collapses in agony in Spain, while the Scarlet Witch recoils in horror at what her powers enable her to witness. Bleeding profusely from his wounds, Cyclops valiantly stands his ground by Hope’s side, even though his team is now hopelessly outnumbered now that the Avengers ranks have been boosted by the arrival of the Outer Space Away Team.

Stark intercepts the Phoenix Force and fires the Phoenix Killers disruptor beams into the heart of the flaming construct. The Phoenix Force is consumed in a violent explosion that sweeps out across the moons surface, caught off guard; the Avengers quickly succumb to the fiery shockwave. After the dust settles Captain America and his battered team mates are confronted by an astonishing sight – the entire Extinction Team who have been possessed by the Phoenix Force! Unable to offer any opposition, Captain America and his fellow Avengers can only watch helplessly as the cosmic powered X-Men snatch Hope and fly back to Earth.

Matt Fraction takes over writing duties this issue to bring this first act of Avengers vs. X-Men to a close. Instead of concentrating on the all out action that has dominated the series so far, Fraction instead chooses to tell the majority of the story through Hope Summers narration. This is a nice touch by Fraction and enables the writer to really get under the characters skin, something that this series had yet to really achieve. It’s interesting to see the battle play out from this young mutant’s unique perspective, and the way that Hope slowly begins to realize the enormity of the task before her – while comparing herself to a nuclear bomb – is really quite unsettling.

The smaller cast of characters also provides great opportunity for John Romita Jr to round up this first act of this ambitious crossover in style, delivering what is arguably some of his best work on Avengers vs. X-Men so far – all nicely complemented by Scott Hanna’s inks and Laura Martin’s colours. The standout moment this issue has to be the savage fight between Wolverine and Cyclops. It’s their first real confrontation since the events that split the X-Men in the aftermath of the Schism, and it’s one that has been long overdue.

Avengers vs. X-Men really seems to be hitting its stride as this first act comes to an end. This issues shock twist, which sees the catastrophic effects of Stark’s super weapon inadvertently infusing Cyclops Extinction Team with the Phoenix Force, is the perfect impetus the series needs to maintain this momentous storyline into its second act. So far AvX has traded on its big action set-pieces to keep people coming back for more, now it needs to realize its potential, build on its initial success, and deliver a suitably epic finale.

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