My appreciation for some super-hero publishers’ event books is no secret. There was a time when my reviews were known as “Critiques on Infinite Earths,” a nod to DC’s landmark 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths, the first big crossover event book. Unfortunately, over the years, the crossover has, for the most part, devolved into a sales gimmick super-hero publishers — mainly Marvel and DC, though smaller publishers have taken their own stabs at the subgenre — trot out to inflate sales on waning titles and boost its bottom line. As a result, it’s become something of a dirty word among discerning comics readers and fans of good super-hero storytelling.
Still, occasionally, some interesting work can be found in such event titles. Marvel’s Civil War started off strong with its exploration of the conflict between personal liberties and security. Secret Invasion followed up on such themes by tapping into Western paranoia over terrorism and growing multicultural diversity. While many of Marvel’s more recent event titles have fizzled in the end, at least they started out being about something.
And so, that brings us to Avengers Versus X-Men.
Marvel’s 2012 tentpole event — unfolding in the main title, other spinoffs and just about every Avengers and X-Men title Marvel publishes, which is quite a few — gets underway in April, but the publisher is in full promotional mode right now and has been for weeks. So far, we don’t really know what the book is about. Some teasers, ranging from preview pages to cover art, would seem to indicate the conflict revolves around the fate of Hope Summers (a character about which I know next to nothing), but really, we don’t know what the plot is behind the event, what the catalyst is that sets things into motion.
All we really know is what we see in the seemingly unending covers depicting various members of the two title teams squaring off against one another. All we really know is what the title of the main event book tells us: Avengers versus X-Men.
So what we know is that Marvel’s next big event is little more than a “Ho’od win?” Internet discussion thread, albeit an expensive one that unfolds in linework and colors rather than ASCII text. Iron Man versus Magneto. Colossus versus the Thing. Cap versus Cyclops. The list goes on. Marvel’s been spewing covers featuring those matchups and more, and the message is clear. Like a bunch of teenage kids in a schoolyard, these covers and Marvel just keep chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” No effort is being made to tell readers a story will unfold.
It’s not surprising, as the publisher’s been headed in this direction. Fear Itself, which underperformed for Marvel, seemed to be little more than the heroes of the Marvel Universe squaring off against twisted, amped-up, Asgardian incarnations of familiar heroes and villains. Superhumans kept finding magic hammers and tearing up the world. It ended with the Worthy versus the Mighty. It was a big fight, and it wasn’t really about anything.
So it looks like we’re going to find out who’d win a fight between Spider-Man and Iceman. Between Rogue and Ms. Marvel. Between the Black Widow and Psylocke. Honestly, I don’t know who’d win, and I don’t care. I think I know who’ll lose, though, and it’s the readers.
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