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Published: Friday July 13, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday May 30, 2013 MYT 12:49:36 AM

Showdown supreme

AVX #1-6 (of 12) (Marvel,US$3.99 each)

Writers: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction

Artist: John Romita Jr

Marvel’s 2012 main event blow up – Avengers vs X-Men – is definitely a no-brainer in terms of hype and sales. But more importantly, Marvel desperately needs to live up to its House of Ideas reputation. Ironically, despite the success of Avengers and X-Men: First Class at the box office, their comic book adventures have not enjoyed similar fortunes. Hence, AVX is just the tonic needed to reinvigorate the fortunes of both the Avengers and X-Men.

Equivalent to football’s El Clasico, each and every confrontation between both teams are not just crowd-pullers but they also promise a milestone storyline.

In this 12-parter, the classic-in-the-making story concerns the Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity that has already etched a few past comic book landmarks, namely the ‘death’ of Jean Grey, X-Factor’s formation and the bridging of the Marvel-verse and (defunct) Ultraverse.

Despite the hype on AVX, courtesy of its variant covers and collaterals, this is NOT the first limited series featuring both teams. Twenty five years ago, there was an X-men vs Avengers four-parter (written by Roger Stern and illustrated by Marc Silvestri), which focused on Magneto’s trial. With the slugfests between both teams inevitable, what made it an even momentous affair back then was the appearance of the Soviet Super Soldiers, the “closure” to the Leningrad submarine incident and a mention of Singapore.

This time, to take the plot up a notch from the last meeting, AVX is crafted like an ‘X-treme’ X-men vs Avengers team up – boasting non-stop action extending to the spin-offs and crossovers! Elaborating further, the action spans across familiar landmarks on Earth (Wakanda, Latveria, etc) to the outer limits of space and the Blue Area of the Moon. For fanboys/girls with a penchant for comic book history, you are certainly in for a treat!

Obviously to formulate a collaboration of such a magnitude would require a team of talented Marvel scribes – so get the A-grade school out, please.

Phoenix Force’s return to Earth drives the tale. The Phoenix’s “homecoming” generates mixed emotions, with the Avengers deeming it a global threat, while Cyclops prays that it might offer salvation to the minority Mutant community. Diehard X-Men fans would recall the devastation left behind during the classic Dark Phoenix saga and concur with me that Cyclops has lost the plot (after losing his pants to Emma).

Triggered by the appearance of a mutilated Nova, the Avengers take pre-emptive measures in facing the inevitable onslaught. With Hope Summers (now under Cyclops’ tutelage) identified as the potential Phoenix “host”, the Avengers pay Utopia (X-men’s base) a visit but all diplomacy is thrown out the window when Cyclops draws first blood by giving Captain America an optic blast bath!

With the first shot fired, the floodgates are opened as Namor takes on the Thing while Luke Cage, Emma and Magneto team up against Iron Man. There is also the Colossus-Juggernaut tag team in “fast ball special” mode against the Helicarrier, and my personal favourite – Magik and Dr Strange’s showdown in Limbo.

In between, there are umpteenth Cyclops vs Cap (re)matches, but what’s worth a main side event is issue #4’s “handicap match” featuring Wolverine against Cap (and a lurking Goliath).

It isn’t just the sight of adamantium claws screeching against an adamantium shield that grabs the limelight, but the fact that Cap resorts to cheating when losing.

The end result: not only does Wolverine get clobbered but he also gets booted off a jet plane right smack into the Antartic Tundra.

The fight scenes dominate the show here. There is also a spin-off six-parter named AVX: VS, which provides in-depth coverage of the one-on-one battles.

Somewhere between the battles, there is a plot in AVX, albeit it being a shallow one. Not too sure if this is a classic case of too many writers spoiling things, but the first half of this series focuses mainly on slugfests. There is also Hope coming to terms with her role as the Phoenix-host, while we see the heroes trying to neutralise the Phoenix Force and a mild twist happens in issue #5. To add some depth to the plot, you will have to check out the digital-based AVX: Infinite, which provides behind-the-scenes events complementing the regular AVX storyline.

If you have read the AVX prologue (Avengers X-Sanction, where Cable made assassination attempts on several key Avengers members to pre-empt their future plans that will result in Hope’s death), you will have greater appreciation of Hope’s role in the big scheme of things. Sadly, up till issue #6, Hope’s contribution has been akin to a passenger.

Art-wise, John Romita Jr has not been his usual artistic self, probably due to his other work commitments (Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass 2). The quality across AVX is a few notches below his epic World War Hulk and even his lukewarm touches during Thor. At the end of the day, I doubt the fans would be bothered by JR Jr’s drop in form as the characters overshadow everything else.

Hit-Girl #1 (of 5) (ICON, US$2.99) Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: John Romita Jr

Finally, the comic book scene’s youngest femme fatale gets her own title and this five-parter bridges the events of Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2.

Having read the sequel (which ended two months ago), this tale explains Mindy McCrea’s post-crimefighting withdrawal syndrome – as she struggles to live a normal childhood.

To the average Janes out there, hanging out at the mall and keeping up with the Kardashians is as easy as breathing but Mindy’s upbringing has been occupied with survival lessons and killing child abductors. It doesn’t take more than half-a-issue for Mindy to return to crimefighting, paving the way for Kick-Ass to make his entrance as well.

Together, they pay a visit to the Batcave and expand on their pact (Hit-Girl trains Kick-Ass to become a crimefighter, in return Dave teaches Mindy on how to become a normal girl).

Mindy’s challenge in fitting back into society deserves a read and before I forget, Red Mist’s path into the Dark Side also commences here.

> Comics courtesy of Earth 638 (2nd Floor, Kelana Mall, Jalan SS6/12, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor). Hotline: 03-7804 8380, e-mail: earth638@yahoo.com.

Tags / Keywords: Books, Lifestyle

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