Best Shots Extra: AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9, WORLDS' FINEST #4


Avengers vs. X-Men #9

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Adam Kubert, John Dell, Laura Martin and Larry Molinar

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Dear Marvel:

More like this, please.

Avengers vs. X-Men #9 has what the previous eight issues have sorely been missing: heart. Focusing primarily on Spider-Man as the last man standing against not one, but two Phoenix-corrupted X-Men, this comic puts a face on a large-scale conflict, suddenly giving this crossover some real tension and weight.

I think much of this has to do with writer Jason Aaron — if this issue doesn't make him a shoe-in to be the sole writer of the next big Marvel event, I'd be very surprised. Aaron's had a bit of a writer crush on Spider-Man back to his days on Weapon X and Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine, and he shows why he's got such a good handle on Peter Parker right here.

The theme of this book demonstrates how well Aaron gets Peter's appeal as a wisecracking underdog — it doesn't matter how bad things get, Spider-Man will always go down swinging. But to add to that, Aaron also gives a little metatextual not to the more meandering pace of Brian Michael Bendis's Avengers run over the years, which has traditionally featured more talk and less hero-specific action — if you've been waiting for Spider-Man's moment in the sun alongside Earth's Mightiest Heroes, you are in for a tremendous treat.

Adam Kubert's artwork also raises the stakes here in a big way. His loose linework, aided by some thin inks by John Dell, really lends itself well to the big moments, like Colossus and Magik tag-teaming the mighty Thor. You really sense the power behind Kubert's blows, especially when Spider-Man's mask nearly explodes under the force of Colossus's metallic fists. Yet Kubert isn't just a fighter, he knows how to act, too — seeing the defeat on Iron Man's face when he can't solve the problem, or the determination on Cap's when he loses yet another big gun, or the guilt Storm expresses when she meets with her husband, it really gives this comic an emotional boost.

This issue is such an improvement that it would be easy to give it a perfect score, but there are still a few hiccups in the pacing and execution. Storywise, it's still a bit of a shame that the X-Men are so completely villainized, far beyond the lackeyism many creators painted Iron Man with in Civil War. The other thing that drags the story down a bit are the subplots — watching Storm and Black Panther bicker feels more continuity-driven than character-based, while Cyclops and Emma Frost feel more like villains out of Central Casting than flawed, corrupted antagonists.

Macro-story issues aside, I do hope that the Big Two take note on this issue, and make more event books read like this. Jason Aaron has taken all of Marvel's biggest characters and really put them into some hot water, all while hooking in jaded readers with some well-placed humanity and tension. It's obvious who the winners of Avengers vs. X-Men are going to be, but if we can really root for somebody in this series — anybody, really — then the readers are going to be who come out on top.


Worlds' Finest #4

Written by Paul Levitz

Art by George Perez, Scott Koblish, Hi-Fi, Kevin Maguire and Rosemary Cheetham

Lettering by Carlos Mangual

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The first adventure of the Worlds' Finest comes to a conclusion this week, and while it isn't the cleanest victory in the world, like any great partnership, the good moments far outweigh the middling ones. Watching Power Girl and the Huntress brawl and banter is the draw of this energetic book, but it's when we see their personalities take the spotlight that this comic truly shines.

With that in mind, it does take a little while for writer Paul Levitz to warm up, as he rapidly tosses out exposition about Apokolips and the energy-absorbing beastie known as Hakkou. It's a necessary evil, but it also goes on too long. The Huntress and Power Girl fighting Hakkou isn't the interesting part of this story — at least, not at first — but instead pales in comparison to watching Helena Wayne and Karen Starr relax, talk about travel, men, and occasionally knock around some loathsome lotharios.

It's a chemistry thing. Helena and Karen aren't the kind of platonic ideals that, say, Geoff Johns is so good at writing about — Levitz makes them three-dimensional. They're funny, flirty, angsty, mixed-up. Levitz has always favored Power Girl, as she's the more outgoing, bubbly member of the duo, but I really like what he does with Huntress here, showing that she's Catwoman's daughter just as much as Batman's.

The artwork is also a treat to drink in. Kevin Maguire's flashback sequences are worth the price of admission alone — watching Helena gleefully eat a cone of ice cream as she sits on the Italian thugs she just effortless beat up is such a fun character moment, and I love the admiring look he gives Karen as she checks out some of the local... ahem, "architecture." His clean, open figures are so expressive that it's hard not to be taken in.

George Perez, who handles the present-day fight sequence with Hakkou, isn't hard on the eyes, either. It's very much an old-school meets new-school vibe, with his intricate details working very well with the modern redesigns of Helena and Karen's costumes as well as Rosemary Cheetham's colors. (There's also a funny nod to Karen's previous costume, with the window in the chest.) He doesn't quite have some of the more slick moments of composition like he did last issue, but again, Helena and Karen both look good on the page, and so it's not a chore to watch them in action.

The thing that this issue is missing, however, is a larger message, a reason for being. This has affected the pacing some, as the last few issues have all ended very abruptly, leading readers to wonder if they perhaps missed something on their way out. This is a solid introduction to this dynamic duo, but I know that Levitz could have knocked this out of the park even more with a theme behind the Worlds' Finest. Oh well — I guess killer artwork and endearing characterization will have to do instead.

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