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Avengers vs X-Men

I love both the Avengers and the X-Men- but who will come out on top in this epic battle?!

I have been meaning to read this collected edition since last year when I read Uncanny X-Men: Revolution that followed this event book. I kept picking up this series but putting it back down when other graphic novels caught my eye. But when I recently read Mr. and Mrs. X, and I had forgotten that a certain character was dead because of this storyline, I knew I needed to finally make the commitment to finish it.

This story follows House of M, when Scarlet Witch utters “No more mutants!”, thus no mutants have been born in years. When the first mutant child, Hope, is born who has the ability to psychically manipulate and mimic the powers of other mutants, current mutants divide as what to do. When it is discovered that Phoenix, the powerful being that killed Jean Grey, is headed to Earth to possibly consume Hope, the heroes are torn as what to do. What it comes down to is Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, feels that Hope is strong enough to control the Pheonix and will use its power to reignite mutantdom vs Captain America, the Avengers leader, who feels that Hope will become a threat and destroy humanity, thus she needs to be taken down.

So begins the battles- many many of them, as this graphic novel collects twelve chapters to tell the story. When you have such a large cast not everyone can properly get featured and this book follows suit. Some heroes receive small cameos, with one bit of dialogue and then they are just part of the large fighting scenes. But I was pleasantly surprised that Iron Fist had such a large role, plus Nova got a nice part too.

As I don’t wish to spoil the narrative too much, I will limit my summary. When Pheonix arrives, five mutants- Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik- take Hope’s place and all get considerable new powers that they use for improving the world. But we all know that’s not the end of the story. The Pheonix wants Hope and it is she and Scarlet Witch that finally subdue the Pheonix’s dark powers, but not before there is a lot of death and destruction.

There are powerful moments found within the story and some insightful and sometimes snappy dialogue, but it can be a slog to find them. Just as I found Captain Marvel unsufferable in Civil War II, so I found Cyclops. He has some extremely valid points, as mutants really have been persecuted, but I was really hating on him, plus…he’s the one who ends up getting briefly consumed by the Pheonix and doing something terrible.

Overall, the art was strong despite many different artists. While there are some style shifts in the different chapters, there is enough visual consistency when the various stories were pulled together in this collected edition. Although Hope sometimes varies between looking like a teen (which she was) and an older typical female hero hottie. I always enjoyed the crowd or battle scenes as its fun to see how the artists choose to portray everyone in mid-action.

In the large collected edition, there are also some tie-ins:

A vs X: This volume showcases personal battles amidst the war and has a whole slew of authors and artists detail how two connected heroes (or villains) duke it out. There is – Iron Man vs Magneto, Things vs Namor, Captain America vs Gambit, Spider-Man vs Colossus, Black Widow vs Magik, Daredevil vs Psylocke, Thor vs Emma Frost, Hawkeye vs Angel, Black Panther vs Storm, Hope vs Scarlet Witch, Cyclops vs Captain America, AvX: Science Battle, Captain America vs Havok, Red Hulk vs Domino, Toad vs Jarvis, Spider-Woman vs (several) X-Women, Iron Fist vs and Iceman and Squirrel Girl vs Pixie.

This is a motley grouping of short stories (some are only a page long), as some of the fights tie in with the preceding narrative, while others are just for laughs. The only one that I found truly memorable was the poignant Storm vs Black Panther battle because there is no winner as their marriage sadly crumbles because of their differences.

A-Babies vs X-Babies:  Skottie Young is well known for his variant covers of Marvel heroes, so this one-off is funny and good for a single read. On the corner of Fury Dr and Xavier Way is the peaceful neighborhood of Marvelous Meadows. Being tucked into bed is little Steve (Captain America) who is surrounded by his army themed stuffed bears. Wait- Bucky Bear is missing! Peering out the window he sees his neighbor Scott (Cyclops) taunting him with his beloved bear. Steve calls out “Avengers Assemble!” and quickly his team of baby friends has joined him. Scott calls for back up but laments he has no catchy phrase to get them there. Instead, he yells that there is an ice cream truck nearby, and the X-Men babies show up. A battle ensues for the bear between the two teams. There is a cuteness overload as baby representations of all famous Avengers & X-Men duke it out.

Putting this entire book down several times should have been my clue that it wasn’t for me. While I am typically a sucker for these crossover event books, I have reached a fatigue level with the fighting among team members trope. While I found Civil War fresh, this and Civil War II were anything but.

-Nancy

The Vision: Little Better Than A Beast (Volume 2)

The Vision series comes to a close in this second volume, and it brings all the pathos of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Considering my high regard for the first volume Little Worse than a Man and it’s inclusion on my Best Reads of 2017 list, surprisingly it took me a year to pick up and read this second volume. I knew that reading it in one sitting would be best, so the quietly ominous story could have it’s best effect. The conclusion did not disappoint, yet it did have a different feel than the first. The first volume showed how The Vision, a syntheziod, desperately wanted a family and how his creation upended what others considered human behavior. This concluding volume goes back in time and shows The Vision’s rationale for wanting to create a family, and his motives turn out to be a bit complex.

The volume opens with his past relationship with Scarlet Witch and how their unlikely romance resulted in marriage. The marriage deteriorates as Wanda’s delusion of having twin boys takes over (this plot point has always been confusing to me as Wiccan and Speed are now real Young Avengers) and a seemingly innocuous joke between the two builds and carries through to the end. It seems The Vision’s love for Wanda and her wish for family subverts itself in his later wish for the same thing, and how he creates his new wife Virginia.

When we are in present day we see twins Vin and Viv (again a connection to The Vision’s first twins) and Vin’s obsession with quoting some of Shakespeare’s work. A quote from The Merchant of Venice bring volume one and two’s titles into focus, “When he is best he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst he is little better than a beast” and we know that the story is building towards an unhappy climax.

Themes of destiny and intentions are interwoven throughout the narrative, with many of the Avengers coming off negatively, with many injustices heaped upon the Vision family by them. Decisions certain family members make in the name of love or revenge, can be connected to their true humanity vs the shaky moral high-ground that others around them take.

The art in both volumes is excellent.  When The Vision is with his family the panels are precise and clean, with a more sketchy style used when he is out of the house and interacting with others. I believe this a subtle nod to The Vision feeling when he is with his new family he is in control and being less clear when he has to deal with the conflicting motivations of people outside his realm of influence.

This two-volume story is outstanding and really subverts the typical superhero narrative. There are many layers to the story and it touches on important themes such as xenophobia, definitions of humanity and love for family. While I feel the first volume was a bit stronger than this second one, the poignant conclusion is a perfect wrap up, and the team that created it deserves major respect.

-Nancy

Image result for the vision family
Ling, Tom, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh & Jordie Bellaire. The Vision: Little Better Than a Beast. 2016.

House of M

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Bendis, Brian Michael & Oliver Coipel. House of M. 2006.

I haven’t reviewed a Marvel book in awhile, and it feels good to be back!

The book opens with Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, giving birth to her and Vision’s twins who are later retconned to Wiccan and Speed. But this touching scene is destroyed by Professor X who insists that this is not reality and demands that Wanda put the world back to how it originally was, for it is revealed that she killed several Avengers with her reality-warping abilities during a mental breakdown six months prior.

Wanda’s father, Magneto, and Professor X discuss how she is a danger to them all, as her unstable mind has the potential to destroy them all. Some of the Avengers and X-Men meet together secretly to discuss what to do about her, with Emma Frost suggesting that Wanda be killed, while Captain America counsels for other humane options. This cross-over group remains divided, and they decide to travel to see Wanda themselves before they make a final decision. Upon arriving in her father’s kingdom of Genosha, they can not find her, for Wanda’s twin brother Quicksilver had warned his father of the incoming group. As the group explores the area, a white light surrounds them and they disappear.

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We are then introduced to a new reality for all the heroes, in which Wanda supposedly changed everyone’s reality to reflect their secret desires. I have a problem with this. A few I can deal with: Cyclops and Emma are married, Spidey is married to Gwen instead of MJ and has a toddler son, Dazzler is a talk show host, and many of the mutants are celebrities. But there were some glaring mistakes: there should be no Cloak without Dagger and no Luke without Jessica. Kitty Pryde should not be a put upon teacher, Captain America shouldn’t be an old man living in a rundown building in the Bronx (what?!) and downgrading Gambit to a criminal were all bad changes. Plus, why wouldn’t Vision be brought back to life, for he was the Scarlet Witch’s husband and father to the twins?? And where is Professor X? There are too many inconsistencies for me to deal with here.

Wolverine is the first to sense that something is off and investigates. He meets with Luke Cage and crew and meets a mysterious teen named Layla who has abilities to see between different realities and get inside people’s heads. After Layla helps Emma Frost see the truth, Wolverine assembles the group again trying to deal with this problem. They head to crash the party Magnus/Magneto is having, and all hell breaks loose. Doctor Strange tries to reach Wanda and have her restore the old reality, but a semi-incestuous talk she had with Quicksilver is shown as confusing her further.

We end with possibly yet another reality-  and the mutants deal with the fallout from Wanda’s last utterance, “No more mutants!”. What was real? What has changed? Is one reality better than the other? The fade-out sets up a new incoming problem- for now, that many mutants have lost their powers, Sir Isaac Newton’s law is quoted, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. What will be the reaction going forth?  But ultimately, if the Marvel universe doesn’t make sense, or there are inconsistencies to the characters and timelines in this book or others- don’t worry- everything will be scrambled in the Secret Wars,  where basically anything goes on the planet of Battleworld in an alternate universe. (Sigh)

The artwork, was usual Marvel type, with the women drawn better than the weirdly necked men. At times the narrative was hard to follow, for the flow of panels was confusing. Should I read left to right, or start-up and then track downwards? It was inconsistent, and at times I had to backtrack because I was following the oddly broken up panels in the wrong order. The front cover was misleading, with some heroes shown prominently that played little to no part in the story. I have noticed this on other Marvel covers, and I don’t like it.

Despite my criticisms, this was a great Marvel novel and sets up issues and plots that can be addressed in future House of M issues or other Marvel spinoff stories.  When you read it, look for the big themes, don’t get bogged down with little details, as I am apt to do 😉

-Nancy

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Love this House of Magnus look, but why aren’t the twins dressed in finery also, instead of like little Damien’s from The Omen?

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade

Heinberg, Allan & Jessie Cheung. Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. 2012.

 

I am more familiar with the old school character list of the Avengers and X-Men, so I enjoyed getting to know these “Young Avengers”  As new characters were introduced, a brief explanation of who they were and how they were connected to others was part of the text. I liked the idea of Scarlet Witch being the mother of Wiccan and Speed, and the dynamics of Magneto being the grandfather of the twins. But I have a few nitpicks/questions: The adult Avengers make a big deal that the Young Avengers are only teens- well, so was Spider-Man, Ice Man, Rogue and Jubilee when they were introduced as characters. The Vision being the father of the twins was only glossed over, and I needed to check Wiki pages for back story on several of the super heroes and their family relationships to one another to better understand the connections to one another.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The decades of stories with different authors have made the whole Super Hero Universe VERY convoluted. Plus, while I loved seeing so many of the hero’s in this book, at times it was just a token appearance and throw away dialogue-they didn’t really connect into the story at all. The artwork definitely elevated the story, with fresh interpretations of the characters, but yet stayed true to the original versions of them.  All in all, I felt this was a wonderful Avengers book.                                                                                                                                              

-Nancy

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