Avengers vs X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis on first sight seems like one of those colossal successes or tragic failures that Marvel is able to dole out annually in equal measure. It is niether. Instead, it rides the middle rail and is far too often, simply uninteresting. The Avengers are bit players in this tale, which is far more a study in the deconstruction of a superhero. The ruin of Scott Summers.
“…What happened to our people was…it was unnatural. 99% of us stripped of our powers. Fewer than two hundred of our kind left. We’re an endangered species when we were supposed to be the next step in human evolution…”
Deep in space, the superhero Nova is racing towards Earth. He has to warn them, something is coming. A power so great there may be known on Earth that can withstand it. He knows this because this power has come to the Earth before. On Earth, the Avengers face off against M.O.D.O.K. with the help of the recovering Scarlet Witch. But for Wanda the Scarlet Witch, her true battle is with facing up to the horror she has brought about. In her anger and instability, she uttered the words. “…no more mutants…” and in during so altered reality and stripped the mutant race of its powers. The remainder of which Scott Summers and the X-Men have gathered to an island off of San Francisco that he has named, Utopia.
On Utopia, the mutant Hope Summers trains, she has been training for this moment for all her life. Something is coming, and its coming for her.
The Avengers track an energy signal in space and its coming quickly. They know this signal well, for the last time it was on Earth it nearly devastated everything in its path. On Utopia, Scott Summers knows that it is coming as well, he sees it as a possible salvation to mutantkind. A force that can bring them back. Bring back the people that Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, the Avenger took away. Hope Summers feels it as well, she has been waiting for it all her life. She is the Vessel.
Captain America and the Avengers believe that they need to take Hope into protective custody, but what they mean is take her prisoner. Scott Summers and the remaining X-Men know that they must keep safe. Hope believes that when it comes she can control its power and somehow harness it to save her people.
They all wait, for the Phoenix!
There are several parts of this book that are very well done, but you have to get past rather mundane parts to get there. It is grand though, Bendis does not fail on the scale of this story nor does he shy away from it. After the events of M Day and the Scarlet Witch’s attempted genocide of the mutant race, this is the tale of rebirth for the mutant race. So of course it had to contain the Phoenix.
But as I read along in this book, one thing became very clear.
This story would have been just as good, in fact better, without the Avengers.
This is a X-Men story. A tale of two Summers. Hope and Scott. One looking eagerly to the future and her destiny. The other burdened and haunted by the past.
Hope is the future of mutantkind and with the power of the Phoenix, she believes she can undo what the Scarlet Witch has done. Scott is its past. A freedom fighter whose scars and pain from the injustices done to him and his kind have become too much to bear. In the end, he is a man betrayed by a dream. The dream of his mentor Charles Xavier.
For those of us who have read the X-Men comic books for decades and have watched the teenage boy Scott Summers turn into a man; this inevitable end has been a long time in coming. Seriously how much can one mutant be made to bear? Jean Grey. Madelyne Pryor. His son. The many battles and the many loses without any end. Until finally, the Scarlet Witch in her madness, committing genocide on his people and still, no one did anything. Scott just went on. Abandoned by friends, left to protect the rag tag group of mutants he had left. With Emma Frost at his side, could madness be far behind?
The are many moments in this book that make it memorable. Vision finally giving Wanda a piece of his mind and kicking her crazy ass out on the streets. Good for him and all henpecked men across the world. Human and Android alike. Then when Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, tries to butt in, Vision shuts her down like oh snap!! Good for you Vision. You took their shit for way too long.
Captain America, deciding that taking a young teenage girl into custody, against her will, in the veil of protecting her; because trampling on individual freedom is what the emblem of American justice and freedom does, is justified. Hey Cap, didn’t you read Civil War? This is another example of Marvel’s war on the American way of life! Next you know, they’ll try to make Cap a part of Hydra or some lame shit like that.
Thor, the God of Thunder, getting dropped into a volcano. Okay that was pretty cool.
Namor, invading and laying waste to Wakanda. The repercussions of which are felt not only on a global scale but a very personal one. The shredding of whatever chance the marriage between the Black Panther and Storm had of coming back together.
Magneto, seriously, when did he get neutered?
The creation of the Uncanny Avengers, which pretty sucked as much as it sounded like it would.
Scott Summers choking out Emma Frost, because who hasn’t wanted to do that?
But it all really comes back to Scott Summers. He becomes Magneto in philosophy; so much more then his mentor, Charles Xavier. Mankind has gone too far and with the power of the Phoenix in his hands, he finally strikes back. In the end, doing the most horrific thing he could. He murders Charles Xavier.
The book ends with Scott Summers, jailed and imprisoned, being lectured by Captain America which is ironic on far too many levels. Again, this book could have been so much better if it just didn’t include the Avengers.
Just maybe, Wanda, who gets a well deserved ass kicking for M Day.