Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Comic Review -- AvX: VS #1 / Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert, Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen

While I'm generally not a huge fan of big banners or title logos taking up an inordinate amount of space on a cover, I can actually get behind this one, since it serves as a divider between the two teams.  There's no action here, but rather the calm before the storm as the two teams get ready to fight one another.  Which is, of course, what this issue is all about.  It's certainly cleaner than some of the covers on the main series, and the art by Adam Kubert looks fantastic.  More, please!

Two battles from the pages of Avengers vs. X-Men #2 are elaborated on in this issue, where Iron Man and Magneto fight one another, and Namor takes on Thing in the underwater depths.  Whereas each encounter was hinted at and spans perhaps a few panels in that issue, in here, they're each given a 10-page treatment, replete with dialog, attitude, and a hearty helping of AvX Fun Facts that shed various amounts of information on the match at hand.  At the end of each story, a winner is declared, and presumably they head back into the larger battle at hand.

Now, to be clear, I'm almost always going to choose good storytelling over knock-down, drag-out action with no point.  But I feel I should point out two big factors in why I like this issue so much.  First, if you take an actual look at the storytelling going on over in the main series--where, you know, they're supposed to be doing the actual storytelling--then you know there's not much going on in terms of engaging, enjoyable storytelling and writing.  Second, I've really wanted to see an Avengers-X-Men match-up for some time, and see who could beat who, and under what circumstances.

Neither of the fights depicted here actually ended the way I wanted them to, but that didn't take too much away from the enjoyment of the issue, as there's actually quite a lot on display here.  The fights are very personal, as I imagine personal combat should be between warriors, and much of their individual attitudes shine through the action, lending an engaging and often amusing sense of personality to what easily could have been a straight-up, comparatively bland slug-fest.  I have to congratulate the writers on taking a project with so little on the surface and really making it quite enjoyable.

I laughed through most of the fight between Iron Man and Magneto, as these two, who I don't know to have that much personal enmity toward each other, fight for their side.  We see both personalities quickly--Tony doing a snide little, "Hi, you must not know me!" bit when Magneto realizes his Iron Man suit isn't made of any metal, and Magneto immediately retorting sarcastically about how he could possibly defend himself... as he prepares to drop a 170-ton silo on Tony.  The rest of the fight is a freewheeling and expensive clash of intelligence, experience, and ingenuity that is spectacular in scope yet also believable.

Thing and Namor's fight, on the other hand, was very personal.  I don't even know much about either of these characters, but it came across very quickly that they have a prior history, and that it is not a good one.  I especially liked Thing's dialog in this one, as Ben wasn't able to actually say much underwater--but his thoughts were clever retorts to all of Namor's yammering.  Ben also proves mightily resourceful in what is Namor's natural environment, while Namor himself is the picture of underwater might.

Another nitpick is that these fights do ignore a few important details.  For instance, Luke Cage's proximity to their fight in AvX #2--I mean, he's fighting Namor with Thing--is completely ignored.  He's not in the Thing/Namor fight at all.  Emma Frost was also in close proximity to Magneto and Iron Man when their fight began, and is also completely absent.  I know I deep-sixed the main series for continuity, but they're the ones who are supposed to be handling the good writing.  This series is a slugfest, and doesn't pretend otherwise, so I'll let those details go in the name of enjoying these simple pleasures for what they are.

The artwork in both of these stories is also worthy of praise.  Adam Kubert's splash page of Magneto about to drop a silo on Iron Man is particularly beautiful, and Stuart Immonen makes the underwater fight between Thing and Namor pop with intensity.  Both art teams do an excellent job of making the fights look realistic, three-dimensional and full of action and drama.  If the artwork in the main series were this good, it might distract more from the abysmal storytelling going on over there.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable and engaging read, especially compared to the hodgepodge going on over in the main series.  The artwork was great, and it was nice to see some scope and personality given to these battles.  This is what I wanted to see from AvX, and these VS titles seem to be delivering it.  If you have to choose, ditch the main story and go with this one.  It's honest about what it gives you, and it delivers nicely.  Highly recommended.

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