Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Comic Review -- Avengers vs. X-Men #4 / Jonathan Hickman, John Romita, Jr., Scott Hanna, and Laura Martin

I know I've been pretty critical of this series, but I must admit I like this cover.  It says, "Get Hope."  We've got the young lass on the run, the Phoenix getting nearer, and two teams full of heroes hot on her trail.  It sells the issue pretty well, and Jim Cheung's pencils here really make it look pretty.

Wolverine, who has done a hilariously admirable job of surviving in the Antarctic since Captain America marooned him there last issue, is picked up by Hope Summers, who tells him he's the only one she trusts to finish her off if she can't control the Phoenix--but, she stipulates, she deserves a chance to try.  Wolverine reluctantly agrees, and as the other teams fight each other while trying to track Hope down, he raids  the A.I.M. Worldworks and helps her secure a shuttle to the moon.  Once there, she is confronted by the Avengers and the X-Men, who threaten to start fighting over her fate once more, until Thor comes careening into their location.  He's been hit hard by the Phoenix Force--which has just appeared to all of them.

It's too late.  For better or worse, the Phoenix is on hand.  If it's gunning for Hope, it will probably get her.

Things finally got a lot more interesting in this issue.  I'm not sure if it's due to Jonathan Hickman's deft handling of the material or if there was an emergency editorial meeting that mandated things actually get more readable, but either way, this issue is a marked improvement over what's come so far.  Hope's seeking out of Wolverine for the reason she ostensibly ran away--that he was willing to kill her--was unexpected, and makes me a little more willing to give the girl a chance in the hero department.  Up until now, she's just been a badly written teen, full of snot and noise at all the wrong times; now, she's shown a real willingness to own up to how big all this Phoenix business is, and I do like that.

The beginning of this issue had me in stitches, for two reasons.  First, seeing that Wolverine killed a polar bear and used it as a gory overcoat was nothing short of hilarious.  And of course, Hope using beer cans as bread crumbs to lure Wolverine to her aircraft was a tension-breaking touch of genius that showed that Hope--along with Hickman--knows how to motivate the tough-talking mutant.  Brilliant.

The montage of fight scenes between the two teams as they work their way around the world in search of Hope felt a little obligatory and really did little to add to the story except remind you to BUY AVX VS FOR THE FULL STORY OF THESE FIGHTS.  While I intend to do so--the writing in the first one was better than the writing I'd seen in the first three issues of this main series--I think it's worth saying that this kind of blatant salesmanship is a little insulting to the reader.  If you want to make these fight scenes important to the main narrative, I'm all for them, but for fate's sake, MAKE THEM RELEVANT.

Finally, there's the artwork.  I don't think I've made any secret that I'm not fond of John Romita, Jr.'s artwork for something this expansive and wide-ranging, so I'll stop crowing as much about it for a while.  I will say there's been some moderate improvement in various scenes, particularly the ones where he's just focused on one or two characters per panel.  I really did like the partially shadowed Wolverine at the A.I.M. base after he's just gotten done slaughtering a bunch of bad guys.  His renditions of Hope are also pretty good in some places as well.  It's like when he's just got a little to concentrate on, he does decent.

Overall, I'd say this issue is worth picking up.  The writing is engaging, the artwork is a little more palatable, and things really appear to be coming to a head.  Highly recommended.

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