So, Avengers vs. X-Men is actually just an exercise in turning popular heroes into maniac villains, I guess. That's my takeaway from this issue. I'm not necessarily complaining, because taking the Marvel Universe's two largest teams and warping them into dick-headed bad guys who just want to one-up each other is way more interesting than having them squabble over Hope, but...I'm surprised and maybe a little nervous now that we're moving in this direction. In a conflict where, at first, choosing sides seemed pointless, what's happening now is that choosing sides seems...dangerous. I no longer trust any of these characters, save for Beast, to behave in a way that I would consider right or good, and I find myself rooting for some third party to step in an course correct these assholes. I suppose maybe that'll be Wanda's role. It certainly seemed to be her intention in this issue. Also seems like she's being set up as the true intended host for the Phoenix, which is...fine, if not entirely unexpected.
The point is, from the very start Avengers vs. X-Men could have been named Heroes Behaving Badly, and with issue #6 Jonathan Hickman pushes that concept to new extremes. The X-Men, now, are basically the Hyperclan from Morrison's run on JLA: claiming to be the dawn of a new age of heroism and peace, they force their objectives and opinions on the world through their massive power and the implied threat of force. Or, maybe they more closely resemble the Children of Tomorrow from Hickman's own work on Ultimates. Certainly Cyclops and Ultimate Reed Richards would admire and understand one another. The Avengers, meanwhile, are acting more like children than villains, or maybe villainous children. "Wahhhh! It's not faaaaair! We want to be the ones who win the Phoenix fight. We want to be Earth's mightiest heroes. We did it FIRST!" So they attack the X-Men at home, this time in an overt kidnapping attempt that never even pretends to be diplomatic or peaceful, and predictably get their asses handed to them. Then Scarlet Witch shows up for reasons still undefined, and we get the "No More Avengers" line promised long ago, and delivered in a way that I think is far less dramatic than intended.
I know this all sounds like I didn't like this issue, but that's not the case. I think the second act of this series opened in a bizarre way, but it's far more compelling a story than anything offered in Act 1. And Oliver Coipel elevates the art tremendously from the sketchy sloppiness John Romita, Jr. had been providing. His take on the new Utopia is breathtaking, and he captures the unimaginable power of the Phoenix Five perfectly. Best of all, though, is his Beast, who steals his only scene not just through dialogue but simply by drawing the reader's eye more than anyone else we see. Coipel's Magneto, too, is an imposing figure, and opens the issue with the appropriate level of gravitas.
Despite the strangeness and unlikability of basically the whole cast, Avengers vs. X-Men #6 is a step up in quality on all fronts. The conflict between the two teams now has some clarity of meaning, and even if all they are is two equally stubborn and misguided sides railing against each other, their reasons for doing so have become far more interesting. This shift in story is welcome, as is the accompanying shift in art, and while I wasn't exactly blown away by this issue, it definitely ignited a small fire of hope that this event might not be a total waste after all.