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Avengers vs X-Men Part One (Marvel Graphic…
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Avengers vs X-Men Part One (Marvel Graphic Novel Collection issue 105)

by Brian Michael Bendis

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Recently added byJonArnold

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Idly flicking through my Twitter feed the other day I came across one of the sharper pieces of comics criticism I’d seen for a long while; Seb Patrick thought that we should call the modern age of comics the Cinematic Age as it didn’t feel entirely of a piece with the Miller/Moore/Image ‘modern age’ that began sometime in the mid-80s. The more I thought about it the more it made sense; with Marvel’s move into movies with the first Spider-Man film, the Jemas era at Marvel and the very much film-influenced The Ultimates it feels like comics has been moving closer to cinema in form and presentation; we’re in an age where the Marvel line is built around summer blockbuster events and there’s more of an emphasis than ever on spectacle in the books from the Big Two. That’s an important distinction; the emphasis is on widescreen visuals, the populist, bums-on-seats end of that medium. Alan Moore’s drive to emphasise in his work what comics could do that other media couldn’t seems a grand, futile gesture these days. Evolution of the medium is largely driven by what the mainstream adopts and the current generation of writers and artists have grown up on TV and cinema as much as they did on comics. Moore’s subtleties are a mere ant in the path of a bulldozer. In case you’re in doubt on that, just watch Zack Snyder’s Watchmen for the gruesome details.

Avengers vs. X-Men might well be the peak of this style. The elite Marvel writers brainstormed the event but you could put Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy and Shakespeare in a room to plot this and it’d still end up the comic equivalent of popcorn fodder. It’s supposedly aimed at new readers but fundamentally ends up being Marvel eating its own tail again and resurrecting the Phoenix storyline. The story this time is that Phoenix force is coming to merge with Hope Summers; a tad incestuous in a way but reasonably logical. And, brutally simple, the Avengers want to stop it after what happened last time and the X-Men would rather like it to happen after the mutant population being reduced to almost a rump. That’s fundamentally it; the reasons for a whole lot of heroes smacking the crap out of each other without a villain in sight. Perhaps Civil War has introduced moral uncertainty into the Marvel universe; perhaps they simply realise that people tend to buy the books to follow the heroes and the more heroes there are, the more moolah there is. I know where my money would be in any bet on that. These first issues work as a big, broad storyline painted on a big, broad canvas and well enough as big dumb fun.

Alongside the main story there are reprints of the AvX issues which are for anyone who thinks that the whole point of superhero comics is a big punch-up. Essentially it reduces superheroes to its essence; wrestling for atomic age freaks. Two big punch-ups per issue with a few wry asides and no storyline apart from that. It’s a brief heap of Neanderthal fun but really nothing you haven’t seen a thousand, nay, a million times before. So from this sample of a third of the story it feels appropriate that this will be the last story in the collection; the ultimate example of where superhero comics currently are.

Oh, and I’ll expect the movie in a couple of years. ( )
  JonArnold | Mar 11, 2016 |
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