Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pull List Review: Avengers vs. X-Men #8

Certainly living up to the promise of the title, Avengers vs. X-Men #8 is one big, dumb battle between Phoenix Namor and a whole slew of Avengers. Including, once again, Beast, despite the fact that he walked away in this very book just a month ago. Namor is the obvious villain of this conflict, attacking Wakanda for no real reason other than his own insanity and bloodlust. He tries to make the argument that the Avengers brought it on themselves but, come on, Namor. No one is buying that load of crap. And fortunately, he is defeated, although the details of how that goes down are as of yet unexplained. It has something to do with something the Scarlet Witch can do. Presumably her sway over the Phoenix Force is going to be a major reveal down the line, so for now all we know is that she struggles against Namor's power but ultimately takes him down.

And that's fine. I don't expect to be spoon fed every tiny detail right away. It might have been nice, since this issue didn't deal with anything beyond this fight and its fallout, if the most important and dramatically tense moment of the combat made sense to me as a reader, but I can live without it. My bigger complaint is that, at this point, I just don't care. The scale of this fight is epic, but it still feels low-stakes, so I never found myself excited by or even interested in what was going on. We know full well Namor isn't going to succeed in wiping out the Avengers, and there's nothing else going on besides his pig-headed attempt to do so. There aren't any characters to latch onto or follow here because everyone's just pissed off and violent from start to finish, except the rest of the Phoenix Five, who show up at the very end in order to deliver the one important piece of info from the enitre issue: when a member of their group falls, the rest of them absorb that person's share of the Phoenix Force. What "falling" actually means isn't obvious. I assume, again, it has to do with whatever the Scarlet Witch did, because it can't be as simple as, "If you lose any battle you lose your power." Right?

Brian Michael Bendis doesn't do a bad job of writing this massive fight scene, it's just that he has so little to accomplish, story-wise, that the script ends up being a dud. There are one or two cool moments, but not a lot of truly inventive strategies or tricks employed by either side. It's a fairly straightforward one-big-bad-guy-vs.-team-of-heroes slugfest. And that's boring.

Adam Kubert does his best to liven it up on the art side of things, and for the most part he actually succeeds. It's not incredible art, but he handles the most blockbuster moments well: the Avengers falling from the sky en masse to attack Namor, the Phoenix Five becoming the Phoenix Four, even Wanda's appearance, despite the confusion it brought, was fittingly large-scale. The panel where Red Hulk has his arm broken looked silly and sloppy, and there were other, smaller things in the same vein. The Thing never quite looked right or consistent, for example, and Hope just looked bored. But Kubert does maybe the best Captain America I've seen yet in this title, and since he's such a central figure, it was nice to see him done with care and detail.

My interest is rapidly fading, though, in the events of this event. Marvel's obvious disinterest in keeping things logical or consistent makes it hard to allow myself to get invested. I have too many questions and points of confusion before I even start reading this book every other week. Avengers vs. X-Men needs to figure out what it wants to say and where it wants to go, and fast, because if it doesn't turn this mess around soon it'll be too late. Finding flimsy excuses to keep pitting the same characters against each other does not a story make. Hopefully the (wedged in and totally forced) addition of Xavier to the action will add a twist that saves the day. I'm doubtful, but it's all I have to hang onto as we move toward the final act.

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