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!