The official second issue of the Marvel’s comics event of 2012 is here and boy, is it a big one!
Avengers vs X-Men is huge in everything from the amount of action in it’s pages to the creative team behind the project. The list of personnel is truly astonishing, including greats such as Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, New Avengers), Ed Brubaker (Winter Soldier, Captain America), John Romita Jr (Kick-Ass, Uncanny X-Men) and Jonathan Hickman (Fantastic Four, The Manhattan Projects). However, even with good creative teams, these big events have developed a trend of failing to meet expectations.
Brian Bendis’ issue #1 was fairly slow, deliberately building up the tension and motivations for Marvel’s biggest super-teams to fight each other. Now, with Jason Aaron (Wolverine and the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk) taking over for issue #2, the pace rapidly increases with many of the promised hero vs hero fights. For the most part, this is very much an action-heavy ‘popcorn flick’ type of comic book. All hell, officially, breaks loose.
Aaron’s writing is fairly non-distinct, his dialogue often feels obvious and heavy handed with no particular stand out lines from any of the characters. The captions accompanying the action panels add an extra layer, regularly hearkening back to classic Stan Lee style of melodramatic descriptions of superheroes. Much like Civil War (I’m sure many comparisons have been and will be drawn between these two events), the writers seem to have an idea as to which side the reader is supposed to be rooting for. This is most evident in Wolverine who, as a member of both the X-Men and Avengers, has to make a difficult decision on which side to take. He is very much the moral centre of the conflict and his speech bubbles are often like reading your own thoughts as you progress through the book.
The art is as simple and straight forward as the script and John Romita Jr’s work is decent for the most part. However, like many artists, he does seem to lose considerable amounts of detail when dealing with a lot of characters in one panel. With so many members on each team, this becomes more of a problem than usual. His best work is clearly shown in the blows thrown between the heroes, each punch and blast containing a real sense of impact. Unfortunately, the main problem with AvX #2 is that both the storytelling and art feel extremely rushed. This is almost certainly due to the sheer amount of characters and the much-hyped match ups themselves rarely last longer than a single panel at a time. Wolverine alone takes part in a few seemingly completely separate fights in the matter of a few pages and almost every single one of them is a single panel. This makes the issue feel very sporadic, constantly building the reader’s hopes up for intriguing conflicts and then dashing it straight away afterwards. The centrepiece of Cyclops vs Captain America is nice and could really be an interesting read if the writers choose to focus on it.
The final page is the least action packed and actually builds more interest than all the previous 24 pages by showing the missing Avengers preparing to face the Phoenix Force in deep space. I’m certainly interested to how a team of Thor, Beast, Captain Britain, War Machine, Valkyrie, The Vision and Protector will try to stop the Phoenix and it’ll be enough to bring me back in two weeks for issue #3.
Overall, Avengers vs X-Men #2 is a decent book. It has considerable flaws, the rushed fights really are far too shallow, but as it’s only the second issue of a 12 part series, this can be excused to a certain extent. If you’re looking for a fairly bright and brainless superhero book this week, to contrast to the levels of grittiness you’ll see in so many titles today, you’ll probably enjoy this issue.
I think I speak for many readers when I say that I hope this event is able to excel past the first two ‘OK’ issues and build to something that doesn’t fall in to the often too predictable formula of so many major comic book events.