Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comic Review -- Avengers X-Sanction #4: Sundown / Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Morry Hollowell

Oh, jeez.  Let's get into the laundry list of issues that I have with this issue, and the mini-series.

What was the point of this cover?  It lies, even as it tells the truth.  Sure, Wolverine and Spider-Man "fight" Cable in this issue, but why are they wearing completely different costumes from the cover?  I'm also none too impressed with the artwork, particularly how Wolverine's claws are sticking out of Cable's knuckles with no blood, no torn or strewn metal, and no reaction from Cable to that.  Underwhelming.

We start with an arguably unnecessary flashback to how Spider-Man and Wolverine realize their comrades are missing, and go off to find them.  Then, back in the present, Wolverine tears into Cable, disarming him of his gun, which Hope takes and fires at Spider-Man.  He dodges, pulls the weapon away from her, and then gets blasted by an annoyed Cyclops, not to be seen for the rest of the conflict.

While Cable struggles with Wolverine, Blaquesmith directs Hope to disarm the bomb Cable has planted on the captured Avengers.  With little time left, she yanks the bomb wiring out, with no harm.  The Avengers come to, and Red Hulk burns out the techno-virus Cable porcupined him with in the previous issue.  Against his own techno-virus and them, Cable stands no chance, and is handily defeated as the virus kills him.  Cap agrees to let Cyclops take Cable to Utopia as long as Cable's technology and weapons remain with the Avengers.

Hope visits Cable in the infirmary, where the techno-virus starts to infect her, but she engulfs both herself and Cable in a vortex of phoenix-shaped flaming energy.  It burns out the virus completely, apparently resurrecting Cable, who is now appears to be free of the techno-virus.  Cyclops and Cable have a conversation on the astral plane sometime soon after, and Cyclops promises Cable he'll protect Hope from the Avengers, if and when they try to attack her.

While I will admit this is the best segment of the story, I'll also qualify it with the realization that it's not saying much for the whole story.  As a setup for the upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men storyline (AvX), it is a success: it sets up the coming conflict between the two groups and teases the fact that this all-out fight will be caused by the return of the Phoenix Force as it seeks out Hope.  But it really doesn't do much more than that, the rest of the story feeling all too much like filler material that gives Cable an excuse to fight the Avengers.  Because, you know... that'll sell comics.

It's not due to any failing of the story plot, which is actually very simple.  It's basically due to poor execution, a sense of glossing over some very important details (Cable's continued ability to keep on going and capture prime superheroes, even as he gets progressively worse; Red Hulk's ability to simply "burn out" the techno-virus), and the feeling that many of these characters, who have such history together, simply ignore or miss out some prime opportunities for characterization and development... even as they bash each other's brains out.  And don't even get me started on Spider-Man's brush-off in this issue.  There's no way he would have stayed out of the fight that long.

Art-wise, things look passable, even good in places.  The 2-page splash featuring Wolverine and Cable joining the battle looked really good, and I think Hope's moment of Phoenix scariness looked appropriately powerful and unsettling.  Scott's reaction to her was right on the money.  I did, however, think the floating heads shot of the Avengers as Hope huddled over Cable's body could have been done differently.

Overall, I'll damn this issue with faint praise, since it's the only one of the whole mini-series that deserves it.  It does try to flesh out Cable's reasons for doing what he does, but the flimsiness of his present actions ruin the narrative too thoroughly for it to be truly saved.  If you can be happy with pure superhero slugfest action, then you might like this series.  If you need a little substance, this issue is really the only one that I feel has any of it.  Recommended.

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