Avengers vs. X-Men #0 & #1 Reviews [Warning: Spoilers]

Tensions in Marvel’s Earth 616 timeline have been building ever since Civil War brought about the schism between The Avengers. As you will learn in our ongoing Marvel 101 opinion pieces, the universe has been plagued with in-fighting and conflicting personalities even before the Skrull invasion and the decimation of the mutant population. Because of the many different conflicts, lines have blurred between villain and hero. No longer are the heroes fighting to save the world from plans of the evil. Now, the villains have chosen sides. With Cyclops and Magneto joined together to rebirth the mutant population, Captain America and Wolverine look to stop the rebirthing process; conflicts between the two groups are imminent.

Avengers Vs. X-men #0 presents to viewers two different stories. In prologue fashion, Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron catch readers up with two of the most critically important characters in the entire universe. Bendis brings Scarlet Witch back from her journey of self-discovery only to be asked by Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel to rejoin The Avengers. Because of Wanda’s (Scarlet Witch’s) past actions, ridding most of the mutant population of their powers and “manipulating” her husband into attacking The Avengers in Avengers Disassembled, Vision is forced to deny her entrance back into the group. The Avengers stand by his decision.

In the second half of #0, Jason Aaron focuses on Hope Summers, the first mutant born after Scarlet Witch’s mutant decimating phrase “No more mutants” was uttered. In an intense moment, Hope and Scott Summers (you may know him as Cyclops, and no, they are not brother and sister) argue over Hope’s importance. Considered the “Mutant Messiah” because of her uncanny birth, she seems wholly at odds with herself and with Scott who sees her as the only saving grace the mutant population has left. The final scene foreshadows the return of the Phoenix Force, a universal entity that represents death and rebirth (as most phoenix’s do). It not only took the life of Jean Grey, but it’s now coming after Hope.

With such an important and serious conflict on its way, the writing could have been slightly better. Aaron’s dialogue seems to fit the tone of #0 more so than Bendis’, but Scarlet Witch’s story is more heart-felt and heartbroken. Art-wise though, there are no complaints. Frank Cho’s style is solid and quite detailed, presenting readers with a comic that is very pleasant to look at.

#0 is a great introduction to Marvel’s “biggest” event but not so good an introduction for new readers intrigued by the idea of war between The Avengers and the X-Men (a recap could have been provided, but that’s why we’re here!). The issue paves a very interesting, but safe path for the mini-series by returning the woman most responsible for the situation the X-Men are currently in, and by providing a detailed look into the current troubled state of the Mutant Messiah, Hope Summers.

6.5 out of 10

The first issue, Round #1, sets an almost perfect tone for the rest of the series. In it, Scott Summers (Cyclops) takes a Magneto-esque stance on the current conflict. He feels that Hope should use the Phoenix Force to their advantage (to help repopulate the mutant population), training her in a torturous fashion to face it and to ultimately control it. His view on the situation seems justified because of the death of his wife, Jean Grey, and because of the decimation of the mutants and their powers.

Meanwhile, back at Avengers headquarters, Captain America and the others (including Wolverine who has separated from the X-Men) learn of the Phoenix Force by way of Nova who crash lands on Earth and slips into a coma. It becomes apparent to the group quite quickly that the entity is headed straight for the Mutant Messiah, Hope Summers. In an effort to bring her into protective custody, Cap and the other Avengers travel to Utopia (island home of the X-Men) to separate her from the others. Cyclops becomes enraged at Captain America’s agenda and blasts him with his optical energy beams, provoking a war that can and will only leave the world in ruin.

Issue #1 gives readers a proper tour of the current cast of characters. Everyone from Magneto to War Machine are present, including Spider-Man and Colossus. It’s action-packed from beginning to end and Bendis’ writing has seemingly improved over the course of only one issue. The artwork isn’t as disciplined as Cho’s was in #0 but Romita’s work is slightly more free, slightly more discordant (especially in the faces), helping to present tone of a world in chaos. My only complaint is that a full battle between the Avengers and the X-Men was not depicted in this issue. I am eagerly awaiting Round 2. Fight!

8.0 out of 10

Saga #1 – Vaughan and Staples

Brian K. Vaughan’s new comic, Saga, (released on March 14th, 2012) is quickly becoming the most talked about series in the world of comics. Not only did it sell out before it was even released, but it’s getting incredible reviews from many different publications. I know Vaughan best as one of the authors who helped Joss Whedon bring Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 to life. After the television show ended at season 7, Whedon decided to continue the series in comic book format, and although Vaughan wasn’t a major player, he wrote an incredible story arc that mainly focused on Faith, Buffy’s anti-nemesis. If that makes any sense… But, I digress.

The first chapter of the saga was brilliant. Without giving too much away, the story thus far focuses on two characters, each from a different species of alien. They have fallen in love and birthed a child even though their respective races are at war. Assassins track the couple as they follow a strange treasure map. Their daughter narrates the story from a future time unknown to us, the readers.

Many science fiction elements such as space travel, robots with televisions for heads, and galactic war help to form the universe while fantastical, magical elements round out the entire idea. I mean, this book has it all – and at only $2.99 for a no-advertisement, 44-page first issue, everyone should be reading it. Good luck finding a first print, though.

Without Fiona Staples, the artist on Saga, the book never would have come to life in the way that it has. With slightly blurry, dynamic backgrounds and highly detailed, stylized foregrounds, Staples truly brings the many zany ideas to life in this galactic love story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet (on a hallucinogenic, of course).

The hype surrounding the series is well deserved. Very well deserved.

9.0 out of 10