Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Comic Review -- Avengers vs. X-Men #2 / Jason Aaron, John Romita, Jr., Scott Hanna, and Laura Martin

This cover is okay, but it does seem a little crowded this time around.  You've got nearly a dozen people on it, engaged in battle, and with the exception of the characters in the forefront, everyone's a bit overlit from the Phoenix flash coming from Hope Summers in the background.  It's not bad, really, and I can understand the need to convey the grand scale of the battle between the teams, but I think this effort could have come off better.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, so to speak, and the Avengers are engaging the X-Men in hand to hand combat, now that Cyclops has fired on Captain America.  As the battle begins, we see a jumble of match-ups and taunting as friends fight friends, lines are crossed, and relationships are stretched to the breaking point.  By the time the Avengers reach Hope, she has begun to feel the power of the Phoenix Force, and busts her way out of Utopia, leaving the skirmish behind to go and look for the Phoenix Force.  Meanwhile, in outer space, a team of Avengers has reached the approaching cosmic entity, and are preparing to battle it in the hopes of stopping it from reaching Hope.

I've got quite a few problems with this issue, a few of which stem from the previous issue's lead-in to the present.  For instance, Scott starts fighting with Cap out in the water, and the X-Men and the Avengers rush into the fray soon afterwards.  Now we seem to be back just before the fight, where something completely different happens.  Scott's standing with the X-Men, who are now asking him what the hell he's done, while the Avengers, up in the Helicarrier, contemplate the fact that they're about to engage the X-Men.

How the hell is that scene logical in terms of the previously established action?

There's a lot of taunting and smack-talking in this issue between combatants, which I can understand, but there is an undeniable air of awkwardness that comes from it all, as if in an attempt to squeeze as much meaning into each conflict, it all comes out stilted and artificial.  Yes, I know Tony Stark and Emma Frost had a thing some time back, but you don't need to insert that into the dialog.  Just pit the two against each other and let them fight.

Now, I will say that some of the descriptions are engaging, as Aaron puts a perspective on, say, the punch thrown by Emma Frost at Iron Man, or the Mach 5 family reunion between Quicksilver and Magneto, or the marital discord between Storm and Black Panther, complete with hurricane-force winds.  They get a little cheesy and overused at some points, but I do like them a lot more than much of the dialog employed.

I continue to dislike Hope, who continues to vacillate between brashness and idiocy at all the wrong times when she's not swaying to the call of the Phoenix.  By the time she's taken down the friends and allies trying to protect her and Wolverine shows up intent on killing her, I halfway want him to gut the little brat.  This isn't something I fault Aaron's writing for so much as the direction that's been taken with her by committee up to this point.  She's a Mary-Sue character without any redeeming qualities so far, and I have no sympathy or even liking for her at this point.

Finally, there's the art.  I know there are people out there who love John Romita, Jr. and worship the ground he walks on, and under certain circumstances, I'm a fan of his too.  But when it comes to large-scale, wide-ranging epic scenes of battle, I just can't get behind his style.  The art looks too rushed in panels featuring more than three characters at a time, and the overall aesthetic just comes off as too cartoony and awkward. Please, for the sake of reason, find another artist for this story!

Overall, I'm more than a little disappointed by this issue.  It has its good points, but between the clumsily relayed jumble of activities going on, the artwork that leaves much to be desired, and the central character who just oozes unlikability, I'm just not impressed with this one.  I think there's too much crammed into this story, and if the creators could take a less bloated and chaotic approach to the story, it would improve it immensely.

Many of the tie-ins to AvX work very well because they're telling a story, not squeezing an elephant onto a canoe.  It's for that reason that I'll stick with this limited series, but I don't think the main title is all that impressive, so far.

Barely recommended, with serious reservations.

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