A lot of people criticized 2012’s Avengers Vs. X-Men, and while it had its share of problems, I think it ultimately did what a major crossover like that is supposed to do: deliver big action beats, good art, and actual major changes to the universe. Two and half years later, we are still feeling the effects of AvX, which saw the death of Charles Xavier at the hands of a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops and led to a splintering of the X-Men teams that still remains, as well as the creation of the X-Men/Avengers hybrid unity squad. AvX also restored mutants to the Marvel universe, and finally resolved the Phoenix/Hope Summers plotlines. Ultimately, it succeeded at what it set out to do. And most importantly, it was actually pretty fun to read, even if it did go on a bit too long.
Marvel is clearly trying to recapture some of that AvX magic (and sales) with Avengers/X-Men: Axis. But judging by this first issue, it all seems a little half baked. The opening sequence is pretty fun, with the Avengers flying in to a Los Angeles overrun with vegetation due to the dastardly plans of C-List villain Plant-Man. All the Avengers are a bit too quippy now, which is fun to read, but if you’re a long time reader like me, you can’t help but wonder: when in the world did Black Widow and the Vision get to be so funny? It’s like they’re all very aware that in another universe, they’re being written by Joss Whedon now, and need to keep up. What should be a routine “kick the bad guy’s ass” mission turns deadly when the Avengers all start fighting among themselves, pretty much for no reason. Clearly they have bigger fish to fry than Plant-Man (although if Marvel ever had the chutzpah to center a big crossover event around Plant-Man, I’d be super impressed) as someone or something out there is bringing out all this aggression.
Things then shift to the decimated island of Genosha, where the Red Skull has set up shop. Most of the story here is a direct continuation of events in Uncanny Avengers, which Remender also writes, and while he does a fairly good job of updating those readers who don’t know Uncanny Avengers, there were still some places where I was confused. Like, when did Havok have a little girl? Magneto killed the Red Skull?? (Not that he didn’t have it coming.) Eventually everything mostly made sense, but as someone who doesn’t regularly pick up Uncanny, it was a little jarring at first.
So when Magneto killed the Red Skull, he creates an even bigger and more dangerous problem; with Red Skull dead, his hate-filled consciousness fuses with the powerful brain of Charles Xavier (which he stole at the start of the first arc of Uncanny Avengers) and becomes the ultra powerful Red Onslaught. If you were around in the ’90s and buying comics, you remember Onslaught was the giant evil psionic being created from the consciousness of Xavier and Magneto together, that was once so evil it sent Captain America and the Avengers to an alternate universe where they were redesigned by Rob Liefeld. That’s some capital “E” evil. So the Red Skull is now an ultra powerful psionic being who can spread his Nazi race hate to every part of the globe, and that’s where the fun begins.
As a basic premise for a crossover event it’s not too bad, although I wonder how they plan to fill so many issues (not to mention spin off books) with this one story. Sadly, my real complaint isn’t the story, it’s the art; what happened to Adam Kubert?? I used to love Adam Kubert’s art, but this issue looks messy at worst, and at best, just kind of phoned in. In some panels, the faces seem to be half drawn, as if he started and then got distracted by something. I’ve always loved all the Kubert family’s art, but this time it’s really not working for me. Great art could have elevated this book a tad, but to me it’s just not Adam Kubert’s best work. At all. Jim Cheung did the cover, and it made me really wish he was on interiors as well.
There are things I really liked about this issue though, mostly in regards to the writing; I’m glad that the long simmering hatred that Rogue has for Scarlet Witch for her actions in House of M seem to finally be over. Considering that Rogue began her career as a criminal and did some awful things herself before being redeemed as an X-Man, I never much bought into the idea that she would hate Wanda Maximoff so much. It’s the Marvel universe for Pete’s sake, who hasn’t been possessed/mind controlled at some point? Glass houses, Rogue. This issue seems to finally resolve that conflict, and I hope it’s for good. Also nice to see Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus come in to help Cyclops, because I’m very tired of the “X-Men all hate Cyclops” thing that’s been going on for two years. Again, he was possessed by the Phoenix, cut him some slack for killing Xavier. Jean Grey killed a whole planet when she was possessed by the Phoenix, and everyone just shrugged their shoulders and moved on and forgave her. Is it because it was a planet full of people who looked like asparagus? Not very forward thinking there, X-Men.
Ultimately, Avengers/X-Men: Axis was just okay, and for right now I’ll wait and see what happens, but unlike the previous Avengers vs X-Men series, I’m not 100% sure I’ll stick it out all the way to the very end to see how it all turns out.