This week marks the conclusion of the 12-part Avengers VS X-Men crossover, also known as AvX, arguably one of the best summer events that Marvel Comics has put out ever since 2006’s Civil War. While waiting for the jumbo-sized issue #12 to arrive, let’s just take a look back over the past five months since the crossover began in April, and delve into what I believe are the FIVE things AvX got right, especially after the fiasco that was last year’s summer event, Fear Itself. Part One follows after the cut, and Part Two arrives in the next 12 hours.
1. Making the core miniseries standalone
While the core miniseries of Fear Itself unfortunately did little more than serve as advertisements and set-ups for the multitude of companion tie-in books, Marvel has clearly cleaned up its act and now AvX reads perfectly fine on its own. By scheduling it as a 12-part miniseries over six months, it also had a lot more opportunity than Fear Itself to develop a coherent epic. The crucial hurdle to cross in such situations is to make it accessible to fans new and old, regardless of whether they backed the Avengers or the X-Men in the battle. As a long-time Avengers fan myself, I never felt that my limited knowledge of the X-Men currently was a hindrance to enjoying the miniseries. That being said, I’m not sure if the reverse were true – any X-Men fans care to comment?
2. Fully utilising each of the “Marvel Architects” and playing to their strengths.
Previous summer events over the past several years were the work of one sole writer and, with the exception of Matt Fraction’s Fear Itself, that writer was unquestionably Brian Michael Bendis. This year, Marvel decided to tap on the combined creative juices of the “Marvel Architects” group, finally giving them the chance to collectively determine the fate of the Marvel Universe in one definitive stroke. What that’s done, is allowing voices to be distinct, yet finding opportunities to curb each individual writer’s niggling habits, like Bendis’ talking heads or Fraction’s prediliction for the quirky. The result: a more coherent and consistent final product. That being said, the sheer effort of the editors involved is obvious, so kudos to the team led by Tom Brevoort, for maintaining the quality of the product and holding the fort together.
3. Providing enough opportunity for subplots among the tie-ins
Usually with big event books like these, writers of the companion books can sometimes find themselves in a spot. Over a period of six months, your individual books have to decide if they want to tie-in to the main event, stand alone, or find some compromise between the two. Last year, despite the disappointments of Fear Itself, books like Avengers Academy and Journey into Mystery were able to make the most out of the event, while Fear Itself: The Home Front was a pleasant surprise as far as summer event anthology miniseries go. On the other hand, Iron Man 2.0 ran at the top of the list of a substantial number of books that were just better off not being involved.
This time around, a concious effort to limit tie-in stories to only four Avengers and X-Men titles each ensured that writers didn’t have to dredge the bottom of the barrel for story ideas. That of course, didn’t stop Bendis from still writing absolute crap in the main Avengers book, yet simultaneously giving a whole new perspective to the Phoenix by establishing the Iron Fist as its legendary nemesis in New Avengers. Bendis-hate aside, Secret Avengers arguably came out the strongest, doing double duty as it depicted the Avengers team sent to space to encounter the impending Phoenix, while also serving as an unofficial prequel to the new Captain Marvel title. An interesting experiment also came in the form of anthology miniseries AvX: VS, which Newsarama describes as “crazy fight sequences by some of Marvel’s top talents… action-figure combat at its most indulgent”.
We’ve focused quite a bit on the writers in Part 1, but stay tuned to Part 2 for some thoughts on the art!