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Avengers vs. X-Men #12

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

When Iron Man’s Phoenix Killer super weapon inexplicably divided the Phoenix Force between the X-Men: Cyclops, Colossus, Magik, Emma Frost, and Namor, they became hosts for the imperious cosmic energies. Together they set out to create a better world as The Phoenix Five, but for all their good intentions, they gradually became corrupted by the Phoenix Force. Working together again, The Avengers and X-Men managed to defeat all but Cyclops and Emma Frost, leading to a fatal showdown between Professor X and Cyclops on the shores of Utopia. Confronted by overwhelming odds, Cyclops steals Emma’s Phoenix energies and kills Professor X. Horrified by what he has done; Cyclops surrenders his humanity and becomes The Dark Phoenix…

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 open with a flashback set in K’un Lun, 72 hours before the death of Professor X, as Tony Stark informs Captain America and the assembled members of both teams that they have exhausted every scientific possibility of combating the Phoenix Force. Instead, Stark suggests that  Hope and The Scarlet Witch are the key to defeating the Phoenix Force, and that together they will act as a conduit for their combined knowledge of science and mysticism. Captain America is uncertain that Stark’s plan will work, and his doubts are confirmed when Hope turns on Wanda, blaming her for changing the world with her chaos magic and ruining her life…

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 open with a flashback set in K’un Lun

Meanwhile the battle rages on in the present as Dark Phoenix rises over Utopia and embarks on a wave of destruction across the world. The Cuckoos relay Cyclops path of wanton fury to Captain America with Cerebra as he circles the globe causing tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and fire to rain from the sky. The combined might of The Avengers and The X-Men can do nothing to stop Dark Phoenix, at best they can only help try and save the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, and are helpless to halt Cyclops’ rampage as the world burns around them.

As Cyclops flies into the sky above Tibet, intent of vaporising the world from orbit, Captain America finally orders Stark to put his plan into action. Iron Man puts out a desperate call to anyone who can force Dark Phoenix back down to Earth. Nova responds and smashes Dark Phoenix into a Tibetan mountainside where Hope and The Scarlet Witch are waiting to strike. They attack Cyclops on both fronts, Wanda’s Hex blasts causing Scott unbearable agony while Hope mimics The Scarlet Witche’s powers and channels it into the Chaos Fist. The Avengers renew their assault as Dark Phoenix begins to falter. Scott’s life flashes before his eyes, renewing his rage, but as he prepares to strike back Hope and Wanda use a mystical image of Jean Grey to distract him long enough to draw the Phoenix Power from his body. The Phoenix Force bonds with Hope, transforming her into The While Phoenix. Hope takes off and repairs all the damage done by Dark Phoenix, but before she can be corrupted by the Phoenix energies Wanda persuades Hope to let her help her relinquish the power – thus realizing the prophecies of The Book of the Fallen; transmuting their combined power into a wave of energy that restores the natural order to create new Mutants all over the world once more.

With the crisis over, Captain America visits Cyclops in his Ruby Quarts prison cell as he awaits the trail for his crimes against the world. Both team leaders admit their failings, but Captain America is furious when Scott deems the outcome a New Age for The X-Men and The Avengers. As we learn that the renegade members of the Phoenix Five are now in hiding, the X-Men and Avengers begin to look towards the future: Wanda and Hawkeye discuss Cap’s plans for a new team of Uncanny Avengers, Thor offers Nova the chance to become an Avenger, and on the shores of Utopia a young woman called Hope Summers takes one last look before soaring into the air on a jetpack to greet a brand new day…

Hope turns on Wanda, blaming her the Phoenix’s return

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 sees Jason Aaron bring this seasons Marvel epic to a close with considerable style and flourish, no mean feat after last issues shocking demise of Professor X. Instead of throwing us straight into the final conflict with Dark Phoenix, Jason Aaron interspaces this titanic battle with a number of flashback sequences featuring Hope and The Scarlet Witch. The initial flashback is perhaps the most startling, when Hope turns on The Scarlet Witch, blaming Wanda’s actions during House of M (2005) for instigating the Phoenix’s return – and its attempt to undo the damage that Wanda inflicted on Mutants when she warped reality and declared: “No more Mutants!”

Adam Kurbert and John Dell covey the vast, global scale of Dark Phoenix’s attack on the world with an invigorating layout, all generously interwoven with the flashback sequences. It almost feels like the action is secondary to these small, yet defining character moments for Hope and Wanda. Its great to finally see them taking centre stage, particularly when Captain America makes Hope realizes that even if they defeat Cyclops – she may very well become the greatest threat of all when the Phoenix Force attempts to bond with her once more.

The final battle is a ferocious round-the-world slugfest that sees The Avengers and X-Men barely able to hold their own against Dark Phoenix. It is only when Scott is weakened by the fevered remains of his latent humanity, and The Avengers relentless assault, that Hope and Wanda are able to blindside him with the illusion of Jean Grey. However, when Hope becomes the White Phoenix AvX #12 momentarily reaches for the re-set button – as Hope flies around the world and undoes all the damage that Scott caused as Dark Phoenix. Again, the fleeting moment of clarity comes when Wanda gets Hope to let go of the Phoenix Force, and together they restore the natural order – using the rampaging Phoenix energies to enable Mutants to be born into the world again.

Hope and The Scarlet Witch are waiting to strike

For me, one of the best moments in this entire series comes when Captain America visits Cyclops in his Ruby Quartz prison. Here both leaders admit they have made grave mistakes, but Cap’s misgivings for failing to help Mutants are more than outweighed by Scott’s unwavering belief that his actions helped to make a better world – even though he effectively played Russian Roulette with the fate of the entire planet and killed Professor X.

So, after twelve issues, can Avengers vs. X-Men be declared a success? Well, not quite. It is most certainly better than last years lamentable Fear Itself, but there can be no escaping the inconsistencies apparent in the tone of AvX. After an explosive start it struggled to find itself for a few issues, the advent of the Phoenix Five set the title back on course, and it has steadily built to an exciting finale in AvX #12. Only now, after the dust has settled over the battlefield, can we really judge if AvX has changed the Marvel Universe to any significant degree. It might not be heralded as one of the best Marvel crossovers in recent years, but I feel that it has at least gone some way to living up to all the hype and fan expectations. I for one have enjoyed the series, and have had a great time reviewing each issue, and I like to think that the final page of AvX #12 offers us all a little piece of hope for the future…