by KC Carlson
I’m with Wayne Markley, writing here last week about Avengers vs. X-Men (AvX). I haven’t been so engaged with a big crossover for what seems like forever. I wanted last year’s Fear Itself to be great because one of my favorite artists (Stuart Immonen) was drawing it. While that part of the series was swellegent, the story (including many of the tie-ins) was a big disappointment. Flashpoint was almost a complete waste of time for me — I gave up after just a couple of weeks on most of the minis, given that most of them seemed like a pretty tatty farewell to the old continuity (without actually being that). It was obvious to me that, creatively speaking, Flashpoint was just marking time until the relaunch, since many of DC’s big creative guns were not Flashpointing. Instead, they were gearing up their titles for the New 52. Flashpoint seemed to me to be last year’s version of Countdown to Final Crisis — pretending to be relevant to what it was leading into, but ultimately not that at all.
So far, the AvX story has been moving along at hyperspeed, offering up sweeping landscapes of battlezones in the Mighty Marvel manner. The sole new tie-in book, AvX: VS, presents the major one-on-one battles close-up in MarvelVision — and doesn’t take them entirely seriously, with witty banter and laugh-out-loud (and generally useless) “Fun Facts” statistics in the unheralded return of superhero comics footnotes!
I note that the “takes-this-stuff-WAY-too-seriously” fanboy crowd is not always liking this title. I don’t care — I’m loving it! (Although #2 wasn’t quite as much fun as #1…) AvX: VS doesn’t begin to make up for the numbing amount of current, boring, angst-fest superhero titles (from several companies), but it’s certainly a step in the right direction — especially since the Avengers movie showed that you could indeed have it both ways: great fights AND much humor. Whatta concept!
I’m also enjoying some of the great storytelling tricks carried over from another not-so-great Marvel crossover, Secret Invasion. The main thing about SI that I really liked was the long string of mostly one-shot stories revealing new secrets of the Marvel Universe. They clued us in to carefully “planted” hints all over the previous several years of Marvel continuity. Brian Bendis wrote all these “reveal” stories, many of which were illustrated by superstar “fill-in” artists, in the pages of Mighty Avengers and New Avengers, and almost none of them had anything to do with the ongoing Secret Invasion storyline, except providing incredibly useful background for the main event. The same technique is being used on AvX with many of the tie-in series (Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny X-Men) being used to tell tales that mostly fit “in and around” the AvX storyline.
Thus, readers have three levels of storytelling to choose from, depending on their desires (or budgets). The 12-issue AvX tells the core story of the conflict between Marvel’s premiere teams. The six-issue AvX: VS expands on the one-on-one battles that occur throughout the series, many of them fan-favorite match-ups. But they’re not essential for understanding the story. They’re just characters beating the snot out of each other. Finally, the tie-in stories appearing in other regular Marvel titles are telling tales tangential to the core storyline, without actually being about that core story. In other words (and paraphrasing an old slogan), you don’t have to read all the AvX crossovers to understand the story (but it helps).
In addition, events unfolding in Secret Avengers may have a profound effect on the Marvel Universe in general in upcoming months, but they don’t necessarily have all that much to do with the core AvX storyline. (I think. I could be wrong. I’m very bad at predicting the “cosmic” side of the MU. It does, however, look like it will have a lot to do with a new title that’s being launched by Marvel in a month or two.)
I think I know where the story is going. (Over 40 years of reading this stuff, plus editorial skills, gives me the incredibly boring ability to figure out plot twists way in advance of mortal comic readers.) But I don’t mind, as I am very much enjoying the ride. I’m intrigued by the “no more Avengers” teases of late. As much as I love “Cap’s Kookie Quartet” (an old Stan Lee nickname for the team), these days I think there are a few too many Avengers-related teams/titles running around.
Despite how well the various Avengers books sell, I’d very much like to see two major things come out of AvX at the end: 1) the revitalization and simplification of the X-Men titles/concept to regain their status as top team books and 2) the return of the Avengers to one solid core team, not so much an army. That latter one will be a tough call because, as much as I respect the Cap/Iron Man/Thor core trifecta, these days my favorite Avengers group is Luke Cage’s scrappy little Avengers-that-could. How can you not love a team with Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ms. (Captain) Marvel, Ben Grimm, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Daredevil(!), and Cage and family. It may be a little more Defenders than Avengers in style and feel, but with that many regular members of the Marvel Floating Poker Game, how can you go wrong?
KC CARLSON: Makes all his decisions based on poker games. The only reason he keeps writing these lame columns is because of one REALLY bad hand, years ago. Stupid Princess Leia (AA23)…
As always, should you or any of my KC Force be caught or killed, Westfield Comics will disavow any knowledge of my actions.