Avengers Vs. X-Men #0
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Jason Aaron
Artist: Frank Cho
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Cho (regular)/Stephanie Hans & Jim Cheung (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve given Marvel a hard time about the apparent premise (given the title) of this latest crossover event, and I don’t plan to on following the entire run of the central crossover title (or any of the spinoff titles and tie-ins). But I have to admit, I enjoy Frank Cho’s art on occasion, and I wanted to sound off on the book for a review. Now, I don’t usually go for the zero-issue gimmick that so many comics publishers have embraced in the past couple of decades, but given the subject matter in this prologue, I can see why Marvel opted for it this time around. This isn’t the first chapter in Avengers Vs. X-Men. Instead, it serves to introduce two key players that will, I assume, serve as catalysts for the “story.” The art is, as I expected, quite sharp and attractive, and I enjoyed the incorporation of some classic, cheesy (and ultimately inconsequential) villains into this leadup. But overall, the two stories didn’t really seem all that interesting, nor did they provide the strong inductions to the two heroines as was clearly intended.
After emerging from her recent ordeal with Magneto and the Young Avengers relatively restored to her former glory, the Scarlet Witch tries to resume her life as a super-hero by preventing the assassination of a one-time evil scientist by his former boss, M.O.D.O.K. The conflict unfolds almost on the doorstop of the White House, so it understandably attracts some attention from a couple of the Scarlet Witch’s colleagues from the Avengers. They urge her to return to Avengers Mansion with them, but she dreads an inevitably uncomfortable encounter. Meanwhile, Cyclops has learned the so-called mutant messiah Hope Summers has been fighting crime in San Francisco at night, and he warns her she shouldn’t be placing herself at risk. Hope, desperate for answers and to find a role for herself in the world, isn’t in the mood to listen.
One of the reasons Frank Cho is such a popular artist is due to his frequent cheesecake depictions of female characters, and given the focus on feminine heroes in this comic book, it’s easy to understand why Marvel turned to him for the assignment. After reading the comic through the first time, I was left with the impression the cheesecake was toned down and was pleased he didn’t needlessly sexualize the many female characters. I thumbed through the issue once again to ensure it was an accurate impression. He definitely presents the women as voluptuous and buxom, and some have argued Cho’s cover art is meant to evoke the image of a vagina. Though there are some obvious cleavage shots here and there, generally, Cho doesn’t pose the characters in a gratuitous manner. He portrays them as strong women, not two-dimensional playthings. I also thoroughly appreciated his take on M.O.D.O.K., and Cyclops looks a bit lanky, which is fitting, given his historic nickname of “Slim.” the mutant hero isn’t depicted as the typically buff and broad archetype. Furthermore, I rather liked how Cho portrayed Wolverine as being a bit on the ugly side rather than as a perfectly lantern-jawed, dashing-hero type.
Another welcome aspect of this comic book was the value for the price. Unlike many of Marvel’s other $3.99 comics, which feature 20 or 22 pages of story and art, this one boasts a full 30 pages — and none of it feels like filler. This is material from top/popular creators, and the work isn’t light in nature. There’s a certain degree of density to it, so the reader can’t just fly through the comic in a few scant minutes.
According to the credits, writers Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron didn’t team up for this issue; instead, Bendis wrote the Scarlet Witch story and Aaron the Hope Summers story. They’re to be commended for maintaining a fairly consistent tone between the two scripts. They’re clearly meant to mirror one another. Both characters are forced into encounters with people close to them they’ve been hoping to avoid, and both heroines take on colorful, classic Marvel villains. However, if there’s one thing Bendis’ story illustrates, it’s that the Scarlet Witch just doesn’t work as a solo super-hero concept. She was crafted with group dynamics in mind, and it was almost uncomfortable watching her trying to fulfil a heroic role on her own.
The two stories have something else in common, and it’s the biggest liability hindering this comic book. Bendis and Aaron both fail to properly introduce the protagonists to their audience. The very nature of this crossover event title will draw X-Men fans who don’t read Avengers comics and vice-versa, and it’s bound to suck in a few lapsed readers as well. But the scripts are inaccessible. Aaron tells us little about Hope or why she’s seen as a mutant messiah. Bendis’ script seems to assume we know we need to know about Wanda; I know most of it, but I still haven’t read the last issue of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, so I don’t even know how she got from there to here. Bendis doesn’t even spell out what the Scarlet Witch’s powers are in this story. The stories fail to detail who these women are or why they’re important, and as a result, they also fail to give the audience a reason to care about what happens. 6/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.