Marvel begins their latest mega-crossover today with AvX Issue 0. By now, anyone who has set foot in a comic shop in the last month, browsed a comic message board, or attended a panel at any one of the myriad conventions happening every weekend knows about this event. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are going to stand against what’s left of the mutant race in a battle over one small girl whose destiny is either to save the genetically evolved or destroy the world. But, if you aren’t a Marvel Zombie, you might be wondering how this all came to pass, so here’s a little primer for you.Way back in the mid to late 80s, Wanda Maximoff, a mutant, and the Vision, an android, married and because of her reality warping powers, managed to produce twin sons, William and Thomas. Because this was comics, the babies turned out to be shards of Master Pandemonium’s soul that were held by Mephisto (Marvel’s devil proxy), Wanda grieved, went a little crazy, was brainwashed into forgetting her kids, and basically went the way of nearly every heroine in Marvel, when the creators realize they’ve overpowered their creations and can’t think of a logical way to handle them. (See Phoenix, Sentry, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, etc.) Poor Wanda was just one more casualty of editorial panic… until Avengers Disassembled. Her memory of her children returns… and all chaos breaks loose. Avengers die, Wanda’s twin brother Quicksilver convinces his damaged sister to change the world, House of M (an alternate reality where everyone’s wishes came true in order to hide that it is a false world) happens, and the whole convoluted mess ends with three small words from the lips and powers of our poor insane witch. No… More… Mutants.
That was it. Since 2005, there’s been less than two hundred members of the mutant race. Hundreds of thousands were depowered, co-incidentally almost NONE of the main X characters (I know, crazy, right?), and those remaining began to congregate under Xavier’s banner. Despite several attempts by various anti-mutant factions, and/or evil world dominators, Cyclops lead his people to their new home, the remnants of Asteroid X, raised off the coast of San Francisco and renamed Utopia. But even here, there was no way to restart the deactivated x-gene, and no new mutants were born for a long long time, and those remaining lamented that they were likely the last of their kind… until the birth of the baby named Hope. Entrusted to Cable, Cyclops’s chronologically sliding soldier son, Hope bounced around time for a while, until she grew up into a rather bratty teenager who upon returning to the present time somehow managed to ignite mutant powers in a group of other teens who call themselves the Five Lights. The X-Men have split up since then, during the ridiculously forced Schism, Wolverine and Cyclops coming to physical blows over whether or not the teenagers should be allowed to fight sentinels. Cyke says yes, because after all, he was kicking Magneto’s ass at sixteen, and Logan says no, despite the fact that he was dragging Jubilee and Kitty Pryde all over Japan when they were kids. Well, whatever the reasons, and the logic behind it, the X-Men are split in two, half in Utopia on Scott’s Extinction Team, the other half in New York at the passive aggressively named Jean Grey School.
But something is coming for Hope, and it will bring salvation or destruction. The Phoenix Force is returning, that cosmic entity that turned Jean Grey from Marvel Girl to the Dark Phoenix, a world eater, a game changer, and while the X-Men believe it means the rebirth of their people, the Avengers are terrified that it means the end of the world. Personally, I’m worried about what it means for my bank account, but that’s neither here nor there, is it? You know I am going to pick up every issue. It’s a sickness… a sickness, I tell you!
AvX Issue 0 presents really two stories, both beautifully illustrated by Frank Cho, but written by two very different writers. The first part, by Brian Michael Bendis, chronicles the return of the repowered Scarlet Witch, who is trying to repair the damage she’s done by solo avenging, bringing an attack by Modok to a climax, with the sudden assist by Ms Marvel and Spider-Woman. The ladies convince her to return to the Avenger’s mansion, but once there she is sternly rebuked by her ex-husband The Vision, who she used in her madness to destroy the Avengers. Personally, I felt the Vision to be entirely out of character, and the “turn away to hide his tears” finale to his tirade was pandering and disingenuous. I’ve never been a huge fan of Bendis, anyhow, but hell, at least there was some fighting here, and not just the chitty chat that BMB has become infamous for these past few years. Meanwhile, over in Utopia, Jason Aarons gives us an odd interlude where Hope, after angrily blasting an over protective Cyclops, randomly fights the Serpent Society, taking each one of the snake themed villains down in increasingly violent fashion, until Grandpa Scott’s team comes to take her home. It’s a pointless interlude, and it points out a jarring flaw in Cho’s art. His women? Awesome. His men? Gangly, ugly and strangely devoid of hips.
Ultimately, this issue is what zero issues usually are. Incomplete preludes to larger events, almost entirely without any merit except that it generates buzz, and sales figures. You need the book for completion’s sake but don’t expect the story to start… there’s a long way to go before then, I only hope an already taxed readership has the patience to stick it out until then, but I’m going to tell you, Marvel, you really need to up your game, because this? Not winning us over yet. Not by a long shot.
Have a mainstream book you want reviewed, panned or bitched about? Contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org!