SPOILER ALERT: THIS REVIEW WITH "SPOILERS" IN THE HEADLINE TWICE WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. FOR REAL, PEOPLE, DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT MASSIVE SPOILERS ON THE END OF AVENGERS VS. X-MEN.AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #12 (of 12)
Written by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Adam Kubert
Published by: Marvel ComicsIn every "event comic" the big promise is that "things will never be the same," "this changes everything," or "a real impact on the [insert publisher/line name here] universe." Some manage to do that without question. Flashpoint ended in the entire DC Universe being rebooted, Artifacts made Jackie Estacado the new creator of the Top Cow Universe, and House of M reduced the mutant population from millions down to about 200. Avengers vs. X-Men definitely changes the Marvel Universe in a big way. From the restart of the Mutant Race to the death of Charles Xavier, from Cyclops interred in prison to Cap starting a new mutant-fueled Avengers team. Oh, and of course there's once again three little words spoken by Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. "No. More. Phoenix." The story itself is laid out pretty much how you might expect. Dark Phoenix Cyclops is laying waste to the entire planet Earth. Iron Fist at one point notes that the ocean itself is on fire. The story jumps back and forth to three days earlier, as Hope and Wanda fight it out then learn to work together, Iron Man levels up with +12 Faith, and Cap worries and scowls a lot; and the present day as the remaining Avengers and X-Men assemble to take down DPC. Nova gets his second big moment as he literally brings Cyclops back down to Earth, Wanda and Hope attack him at the same time, and the Phoenix Force leaves him. It pops right into Hope, who proceeds to fly around the world putting out all the fires (literally). Then, as she and Wanda hold hands and say "No more Phoenix," it explodes in a mess of chaos magic, shoots around the world creating thousands of new mutants, and everyone is pretty happy, aside from Cyclops who is in a thick ruby quartz helmet, shackles, and imprisoned in a ruby quartz jail cell. Kubert's art is pretty spectacular here. He has deeply pained, angry, and eventually joyous faces — and that's just on Hope. As great as the subtle moments are, Kubert's forte is big, bad action, and there's plenty. It's unfortunate that the actual final battle, once Hope and Scarlet Witch join in, doesn't last too long, but the flashbacks to Cyclops's past "This Is Your Life" style are amazing. We get to see classic moments, and Kubert gets to draw Cyclops in his 90s X-men costume: what can go wrong there? Finally, a subtly rendered "surprise" guest appearance as Cyclops gets the Phoenix Force purged from his soul is touching, but maybe a little too subtle; it would've been nice, after all this, to just flat-out show us the lady we've all been dying for. The three inkers (Kubert himself, John Dell, and Mark Morales) keep the art remarkably consistent. The darker coloring and hyper-rendering during the action sequences is a welcome change from the simpler, more facial-expression focused quiet moments. The story, while somewhat predictable to fans of these characters and their past, is enjoyable to read. The big character moments here belong to Iron Man and Nova, one finding faith for the first time (maybe not in a traditional higher power, but at least in powers unexplainable by science) and the other with a moment that mimics how this all began. The symmetry of Nova coming crashing through space, once to herald the coming of the Phoenix and this time to signal its end, was a nice touch. While possibly driven by the desire to push a probable Marvel NOW! Nova series, it was still a subtlety of story telling we don't see a lot in these event comics. The big finish, likewise, finds symmetry to the start of all of this, the start of Bendis's Avengers run. From "No More Mutants" to "No More Phoenix," Scarlet Witch has come full circle, and maybe can have real redemption now. Of course, it's interesting the emphasis that was put on "putting the mutant genie back in the bottle" back then, just to functionally undo it now, but such is comics — nothing lasts forever, just ask Bucky. The epilogue is also worth its own special note. In a interrogation/conversation between Cyclops and Captain America (who drinks coffee out of a Captain America-themed mug), Scott takes full responsibility for all that happened and while he's apologetic for the death and destruction, is very self-satisfied that the Phoenix Force did restart the mutant race. It's disappointing that he's written in such a smug fashion in this instance, with Cap completely unable to admit, hey, maybe if the Avengers hadn't punched first, asked questions never, the X-Men just maybe were right. That lack of balance in the entire latter half of this series is by far the most disappointing part about it, and that includes some massively out-of-character moments throughout. A + X So what about those lasting effects? Well, Magneto, Emma Frost, Namor, and presumable Colossus and Magik are considered Wanted fugitives and on-the-run. Why Magneto is included in that mix isn't entirely clear, since he did actually stand up to both Scott and Emma. Guess they needed an easy way to make him a villain again. There's a hint, thanks to Phoenix, that Nova "doesn't belong," which may simply be talking about his young age and relative newness, or may be something deeper and/or more sinister. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of new mutants around the world, and Captain America, as we know, is forming an Avengers squad with X-Men on it (in addition to the known members of Wolverine, Rogue, and Havok, others like Kitty Pryde, Gambit, Iceman, Beast, Storm, and Hope are shown as possible members), and promising a new level of cooperation between mutants and human heroes. Xavier is well and truly dead, the Phoenix Force is "gone" "forever." And that's a pretty vastly changed Marvel Universe. There are some cheesy moments, some even cheesier dialogue (there is no one in the world that can possibly read that "uncanny" line with a straight face, is there?) and many of the big hits were predicted ahead of time. But I can't help but feel that this story, with all its clichés and bumps along the road, is a fitting "end" to the Bendis-Avengers era. It ties together his entire run, and with a lot of conversation, a little bit of big action, and yes, a dose of cheese, it gives us a new Marvel Universe that's ready for the mutant race to be reborn in a whole new way. Ironic, then, that it ends without Bendis himself scripting (he of course has a few more issues of his actual Avengers titles, but regardless). The issue is predictable but fun, with lots of pretty, pretty art, and can actually be read fairly well as a standalone if you just want your Marvel NOW! lead-in. And so another Marvel Event comes to a close. And on to the next one. Got a comment? 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