A Tale of Two Events: Avengers vs. X-Men & Night of the Owls

So, the time has arrived when we start talking about this year’s events and I know by now, like it or not, I am going to get caught up in at least a few of them.  I must say, if you asked me a few months ago, I would tell you that I had absolutely no interest, at all, in any large scale event, and, to some extent, I still feel the same way. I now realize that, most of the time, the epic, foundation-changing impact of the big events are just empty promises — which is fine.

I guess my biggest problem with most events was the promise of some character that I care about dying and watching how the rest of the universe would be impacted by the character’s noble sacrifice/useless death. I see enough death and sadness when I turn on the news—I don’t need some wackjob editor killing off a childhood friend. So when I hear about the events that promise some kind of torturous end…I have no interest.  Which would normally mean that any event that promises battle after battle after war after tussle after struggle after fight would pretty much mean I was not gonna check it out.

But, dammit, I can’t help myself with Avengers vs. X-Men.

I have been with the iFanboys long enough now that I have split my brain up into various sections for the staff and the largest chunks, the one with the loudest voices, are obviously Ron, Josh and Conor. I swear, when I pick up a comic and I am not sure what to do about it, inevitably little mini versions of them pop up next to me and give me advice.  So, when I picked up the first issue of AvX, it went a little bit like this:

Me: Ugh. That’s really the name of it? AvX?  Look at that logo.

Ron: Well, there’s an “X” in it, so I’m getting it, of course!

Conor: Sigh. It’s that time of year already? I’ll pick up the first one because someone’s got to.

Josh: You guys are nuts. I’m out.

Now, I am going to read the main series mostly because I can’t help myself, mostly because after the first issue, it’s just so lame that I need to see if it gets any better. Oh, I know, it’s like a summer movie, but when I look at what’s coming out this summer (The Dark Knight Rises, Marvel’s The Avengers), I will just say that summer movies do not have to be lame, mindless battle fests. Yet, this is what we are getting.

Look: I understand that this was set up awhile ago with Hope. I remember when Hope was found, and I remember when Cable picked her up and went to the future..and…well, that’s it. I pretty much dropped everything from that point on. I appreciate that Marvel seemingly planned all this in advance and I kinda wanna just see where it goes to get an idea of the arc.

But honestly, issue #2, which was so meta (Ron mentioned this in the podcast as well), with Spidey saying something to the effect of “Avengers versus X-Men? This is actually happening?” that I just felt kind of ill.

And then my inner Conor was all, “Dude–it’s fun! Why so serious??”

I think that’s the other reason I am buying the book. Because part of me wants to just stop being so damn analytical about this whole thing. And I admit it–I am struggling, and I am annoyed I am struggling. I can’t seem to read the story without being irritated by it. I look at everyone on yet another crashing helicarrier and I think about the people who are going to die in the explosion, I think about the logistics of getting The Avengers on that thing in the first place—did Matt cancel all his cases?–and I just think about how much it will cost to rebuild the Sunset district…like, here’s the thing about Marvel being based in the real world: it can be distracting. Every time Marvel messes up New York or some other major city, I think about what it would be like to live there—because I have. And I think about what a pain in the ass these major battles would be and then I remember that I need to update my renters insurance and then I think about that parking ticket I didn’t pay and then I think about my registration that is $280 that I need to pay…

…yes, that’s how my brain works. Annoying, because comics are supposed to be an escape!

Meanwhile the mini Josh reminds me: See? See what happens when you read these things?

I am not a fan of Avengers vs. X-Men. I find the idea that the Avengers would just start fighting with the X-Men so quickly completely and utterly insulting to the characters and the readers. Captain America would never be so quick to jump into battle and Cyclops has always seemed to be a bit more level headed than what we’ve been seeing so far. It just seems like lazy writing to me and this whole battle seems ridiculously convenient.

Now, lest you think I am too negative, I did want to touch on an event that has kind of snuck up on me: “Night of the Owls.”

As a Batman fan, I have really enjoyed the book for awhile now, and I have really appreciated what Scott Snyder has done to keep one of DC’s oldest titles fresh and legitimately exciting.  There are a few aspects to the event that make it legitimately compelling:

1 – Snyder has added a rich backstory to one of the most important characters in the Batman universe: Gotham City. By talking about the founding families and giving Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s families some historical context, we can enjoy a different, longer view of just how important these characters are to their modern world.

2 – We also see that Bruce Wayne does not know everything about Gotham, but he doesn’t actually realize this until well into the story, which has its roots in Batman: Gates of Gotham and earlier books. This, for me, has been a wonderful revelation, watching Batman come to grips with his hubris, to see his concept of what is true fall apart. By having the main thrust of the event start with this weakened Bruce (physically, mentally, spiritually), it sets a very specific kind of tone.

3 – The struggles here, sure, are physical, with fighting and danger and action, but relationships are being strained as well. Watching Dick and Bruce come to blows, with Dick screaming at Bruce, after all that Bruce had gone through with thinking he had lost Damien—this is emotional stuff.  Raw emotional stakes are for more compelling, for me, than watching Red Hulk and Colossus pound each other, without any fear of actual pain, without any kind of mess they’ll have to clean up.

4 – The event is localized. Not unlike when a earthquake hit Gotham, this is an event that forces us to spend more time with the characters because there are only so many that will be needed for the story. I highly doubt that the rest of the Justice League is going to fight off the Court of Owls, you know? This smaller scope allows Snyder and the rest of the creative team to impact their characters in more personal ways, and their consequences can then play out over a longer period of time.

What was funny about this event is that I really didn’t even know it was coming! I have been so busy and so out of the loop that I wasn’t aware that DC was going to expand the Batman storyline into the other books at all (which I thought was done in kin of a fun way, with the backup story in Batman #8).  This really helped make tie the event to the main narrative in a very smooth and effortless way–of course the other Bat-characters would need to get involved; Bruce got his ass handed to him and he’s going to need help!

Now, okay–these are different events and perhaps comparing them is not fair. Perhaps the Spider-Man Spider Island event would be a better comparison, or perhaps that other Spider-Men event. And, yes, relationships are going to be all topsy-turvy once the dust is settled— you won’t see Captain America and Cyclops at the same party for a while. I dunno. It’s just interesting that the first two big story lines from the big two publishers are so different. Conor commented that Avengers vs. X-Men was like being a kid and making all your action figures fight each other for a Saturday afternoon—and that’s totally fine, that’s totally appropriate and fun, but I must say, aren’t most comic book stories kinda like that?  And it’s not doing much to battle the stereotype that comics are about a bunch of people in tights punching each other.

I dunno. I don’t mean to be so negative and I am certainly aware that I have been spending a lot of time ripping on Marvel. Who knows? Maybe Marvel will surprise us with some deep explorations on the impacts of meaningless violence on the superhuman psyche and how regular mortals, seeing their heroes do nothing but pound each other senseless with a variety of large buildings and monuments will force themselves to ask who truly are the enemies in this modern age?

Eh, whatever. Hulk SMASH!

 


Mike Romo is an actor in LA who grew up refusing to believe that Bill Bixby didn’t really turn into The Hulk. You can reach him through email, visit his facebook page, and follow him on twitter.

 

Comments

  1. As far as how these events affects regular people, Kurt Buisek already made that book. It’s called Astro City and the first arc was explicitly about just that.

    Also; stop being part of the problem! If you’re not interested in it, and you’re not invwsted in either the X-Men or Avengers alredy, there’s zero reason to buy this event. It’s not crossing over into any comic not A or X related, so what’s the point beyond masochism and having something to bitch about online?

    • SmoManCometh SmoManCometh says:

      well, he is writing an article about what makes a good event and what makes a bad event, so he needs to address AVX for that reason.

    • Has nothing to do with my point, but thanks for the comment.

    • Burritoclock Burritoclock says:

      Hmm, the article is called “A Tale of Two Events: Avengers vs. X-Men & Night of the Owls” so how exactly do you write this article without mentioning AvX? It does address your point, it’s just that you like AvX and are therefore taking the criticisms personally when this is an opinion piece to spur dialogue.

      How else do you point out good versus bad without referencing the bad? I hate Transformers 2 with every fiber of my being, I love Fast and Furious 5 with every fiber of my being. It’s purely my opinion, but if I were to try and explain why I liked Fast 5 and hated Transformers 2 I would discuss both, and yes people that like Transformers 2 always get upset and tell me if I hate it so much I shouldn’t have watched it.

    • Again, congratulations on missing my point. I’m not even defending AvX, just pointing out that railing about how much you hate the thing you continue to buy is f’ing retarded. I certainly don’t have a problem with expressing criticism, have at it. Just please, if you’re not a fan of something, don’t continue to vote with your wallet that yiu do like it! Get what you like and save yourself the indigestion!

    • Burritoclock Burritoclock says:

      I get what you are saying, and agree, but what I am saying is that this article is different than someone posting week after week in a specific comics comments about how bad it sucks as they continue to buy it week after week.

      I think this article is different because it is an article and only deals with AvX up to issue 2, which is not an unreasonable number of issues to buy of an event before you come to a decision.

      It’s possible your comment was directed at “the comics community” as a whole and not at the article, which would explain the confusion.

    • BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

      Somebody’s angry.

      I have been buying the AVX crossover and my main reaction is it’s reminded me just how much I hate that many of Marvel’s books are 3.99 – because I’ve read nothing great so far and for 3.99/20 pages, it should be great.

      There are a ton of Marvel characters and stories that I have loved throughout the years, even though I’m a “DC guy.”. I’ve read many X-books and a bunch of Avengers stuff. But this x-over started out well and then kinda turned into a bummer for me. It did make me realize there are some Marvel books I would totally pull (Wolvie & X-Men for one) if they weren’t a buck extra.

  2. I don’t think Romo’s take on AvX is negative just for it’s own sake. The observations are valid:1) Poorly written dialogue, ex: having characters stating the obvious, 2) Captain America and Cyclops picking a senseless fight, and 3) too much rock’em – sock’em is not the most compelling storytelling. On the other hand, the best thing about Batman is how intimate the story has been. The Court of Owls is being told in an interesting way because it goes away from AvX type of story. That’s what keeps me coming back every month to Batman. And I’m trying to hang in there with AvX, but I’m not sure for how long.

  3. AceBathound AceBathound says:

    I’m enjoying AvX because it is so silly. Also enjoying Night of the Owls because it isn’t silly at all. Just my two cents.

    • Burritoclock Burritoclock says:

      That is 3 cents worth of opinion, a great bargain! It’s a good point. Kind of like two of my many favorite movies are Die Hard 4 and Social Network obviously for two very very very separate reasons!

    • AceBathound AceBathound says:

      Exactly. I’m enjoying both “events” for what they are.

  4. I think we’re at a point now, not all but most, where we don’t want many issues of heroes punching each other. Snyder’s event is different because he crafted the story with care and you’re dead on about how this is more about character then it is about the fighting. (Although I’m sure the tie-ins will be more about the punching) Marvel’s best idea of an event is putting their best writers to do a Michael Bay like story. While DC allows their writers to flesh out a story for these individual events. (DC obviously has the same problems with events on a massive scale rather then these specific character events). I bet if this was the other way around, Marvel would make Court of the Owls a 10 issue event that crosses over with their entire universe rather then staying in the Bat books.

  5. Flash923 Flash923 says:

    Well you all knew I could not resist jumping on board on this one, BWAAH-HAHAHAHA-HAHA-HA!! I have been very excited for A V X to come out but keeping my expectations low. I will say so far this maxi-series or event has received a B so far on all of its cross-overs and it’s fight book as well. So we have: A V X=B + CROSSOVERS STILL=B.
    The Court of Owls has been very cool in the pages of The Batman comic itself and now it will cross over into the other Bat comics for this summers DC event?! I really have enjoyed all the other stories going on in all of the other Batbooks without the need of the Court of Owls although I understand why it needs to since the volume of it’s effects through out Gotham can hardly keep continuity if it did not cross-over. So far the first start to the cross-over was Nightwing and it did make his title better since it gave some real action and less time stranded with the slow moving circus story lines.
    So we have: Owls vs Bats and friends= Talons all over the place
    I will admit last years events were a total from the big two a hit and a miss and it left me tired althought this time I think have both come out with a good card for this year and I say I am on board for both.

    K

  6. significarta says:

    Don’t know if I am that eager in my anticipation for the Batman event. I mean I tolerate and allow for the suspension of disbelief in seeing multiple iterations of Bruce Wayne engaged in different life altering predicament in all the different Bat Family books simultaneously, even showing up in I, Vampire while trapped in the Maze of Death in Snyder’s title. Now crossing all these titles will bring into sharp relief the oxymoroness and implausibility of multiple parallel existences of Bruce Wayne in the purportedly localized event.

    • CagedLeo730 says:

      You don’t need to suspend disbelief to know that all of Bruce’s books and cameos are not happening all at the same time. With this crossover, he won’t be appearing in every book since it’s all happening at around the same time. He won’t be in Dark Knight (that will feature Red Robin and a Talon). He won’t be in Batman and Robin (that’ll feature Damien). He will have an appearance in Detective (however the main focus will be Jeremiah Arkham). Any of his appearances in other books won’t be happening that night either.
      I’d understand if you’re a comic newbie, but if you’re a regular reader of shared universes you should be used to this.

  7. Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

    Actually the article pretty much nailed my own feelings with respect to both events. I would love to find AvX as fun as others do, but with the characters acting so stupidly, it just bugs the crap out of me.

    Maybe I’ll get issue three and decide from there… but I’m feeling more and more like I’ll bow out of the remainder.

  8. princegary08 princegary08 says:

    I love love love the court of owls love it. I love it so much i might pick up red hood and the outlaws something i havent done because of what they done to starfire and roy. I love it so much i might pick up batwomen who also seemed to ehh for my taste alltough i love batgirl. Im a huge nightwing fan and having the talon be his great great? grandpa is amazing. but the 6 year old in me loves avx for how much its just you know what xmen **** you it’s time to go. It’s like everone lost there cool at once and it’s fun.

    That being said for AvX all im getting is AvX for court of owls im getting batman nightwing and then some other bat titles.

    • buck2889 buck2889 says:

      Red Hood’s not as bad as people make it sound. I don’t find it to be amazing, but I enjoy Rocafort’s art. Starfire still seems like a bimbo sometimes, but she’s gotten better. I think the next arc explores her backstory some and will hopefully paint her in a better light. Roy… well, it’s better than Rise of Arsenal.

    • princegary08 princegary08 says:

      It’s not the art from what I have seen it’s good I’m mad at it’s the backstory, I miss the teen titan starfire the new one is to whorish for me.

  9. buck2889 buck2889 says:

    Actually, Justice League #8 touched on the Night of the Owls for like 2 pages.

  10. I enjoy both for what they are.

  11. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    I normally enjoy your articles and love many fine points made in this one but had to stop at cap wouldn’t do this and Cyclops wouldn’t do that because if you’ve read any X titles in the last few years you’d know this is exactly where Cyclops head and heart is at, no one mentions the Messiah trilogy (Messiah War,Messiah Complex & Second Coming) which I loved as they ran parallel with the X-force Cyclops put together, a black ops team kept secret even from the rest of the X-men to handle the dirty work and Cables solo run w Hope. Yeah it all dealt with hope but also set the evolution and change for the whole X-verse to come as characters, leading to comments like Magneto telling Cyclops, “you’re starting to sound like me”. Thats enough on X for me and as for Cap, he came to Utopia with diplomatic intentions but wasn’t leaving without Hope, Cyclops is on edge and highly passionate about the issue and attacked 1st, theres the choosing sides and war in motion enough for me right there. Love Batman but gather all I need from Snyders Batman, Batman and Robin and Batwoman which doesn’t even get into court of owls but like what I’ve read and in the end when theres a solid Court of Owls HC, I’ll get that if it looks worth it, I’m not grabbing ten titles to duplicate some of the same material from other titles and am only reading the core AvsX, not the stricly battles one and Secret Avengers cause I dig Remender and Hardman on the book. I might have to grab Avengers #27 though as it looks like Noh-Varr(Protector,stupid name) sides with his Kree people and I’d like to see that, always side with your people. Keep up the good posts Mike. I didn’t finish this one but hope you see something in what I’ve said.