AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #11
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Art by Olivier Coipel & Mark Morales
Colors by Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Jim Cheung, Justin Ponsor, Sara Pichelli, & Adam Kubert
Size: 40 pages
****** SPOILERS ******
It has been said many times that these events are big summer blockbusters; popcorn movies that you can’t expect too much from. And I don’t expect much, believe me. These are the equivalent of a Michael Bay movie, conceived from an idea the equivalent of pabulum and so filled with spectacle that they don’t need to be good to be successful. And that is fine, not everything is for everyone and there is room in the world for big, dumb comics. But can we at least get big dumb comics about superheroes being superheroes?
Notice that “hero” is right there in the word, Superhero. Each generation of creators and editors is supposed to be the curators of these iconic heroes and villains and should not be discarding or undermining the resonance of these characters for the short term benefit of one story or for short-term financial returns. The trouble with these heroes fighting heroes events is that inevitably some of them end up cast as the villains. This is not what these characters are for. It is bad storytelling, in the long run, and bad brand management.
Have you ever noticed that in almost any story you have ever seen the possessed, brain-washed, mind controlled character always is stopped or breaks out of it at just the last minute? There is a reason for that. It is the same reason why most X-fans hate the third X-Men movie so vehemently. The hero can’t be made to do something so terrible as murder the innocent or a friend. That is what makes them a hero and not the same as the rest of us, they find a way to be better than that. It is true that there are other kinds of heroes out there, those more “grim and gritty” types where the rules perhaps are looser. It is also true that the X-Men and Cyclops have been on a grittier path for a long time but there are some moments that can permanently shift a character. Cyclops would seem to have been changed from the one kind of hero, with those certain rules, to another kind of character.
And Professor X …
We all know that death in comics doesn’t last and doesn’t have much lasting meaning in continuity or future stories. The result is that the importance, the drama or meaning has to come from the story of the death itself. The death of a character can be a powerful and worthwhile story, at Marvel you can look to the deaths of Jean Grey (the first time) and Captain Marvel (the first one) as examples of truly powerful stories that are worthy conclusions to the arc of a character. Unfortunately, in AvX we don’t get a worthy, iconic death of an iconic character, we get a plot point.
The real shame of it is that Brian Bendis is capable of doing this right, the death of Ultimate Peter Parker last year shows that. The difference is that when Peter died the story built to that point, earned that moment and the emotions that go with it. In AvX they take a character that has only been in the background of the story, and indeed of comics, and brings him into the center of this issue in order to kill him. In the very least they could have made it memorable or heroic, given us a stirring moment for the character to go out on. Instead there is a great deal of shouting and blasting and posturing, then we get a limp moment that does not service either character involved.
Now the story is not done and the fallout will take some time to be seen. After all, the greatest legacy of the deaths of Gwen Stacy and Bucky were their effects after the fact. So the jury should still be out, there may yet come strong stories from this death. With only one issue left, it is hard to see how AvX will end as a strong story, however.
Again, it is fine if you want to tell big dumb, summer blockbuster comics, just make them fun. The ideas of brother fighting brother or of a great man falling from grace are compelling and worthy stories, but they are also nuanced stories. They require stepping up to the plate to convey emotion and depth of character. No room is left in these events for that kind of sophistication, so why try to tell a story of which your efforts will not be worthy. Surely there is enough talent at these companies to tell fun stories of superheroes being superheroes, saving the world from villains, not from each other. Isn’t that the point of these characters? Don’t we all want some fun back in our comics?
Art: 3 - Good