No new comic series of the week because I bought 14 comics. Also, no review of Astonishing X-Men 51 because the store ran out before I got there … again.
At last, an issue of Avengers vs. X-Men that not only shows potential, but actually uses it. After five issues that moved too fast and relied on tie-ins, this one slows down and focuses on the drama. It takes place sometime after Cyclops, Namor, Emma Frost, Colossus and Magik each gained one fifth of the phoenix force. This issue is mostly about how they’ve been using it. I know I said it looked like things would get stupid in my review of the last issue, but how it turned out was actually cleaver.
Each of the phoenix five is using their portion of the cosmic power to transform the Earth into a utopia. Colossus and Magik are solving world hunger, Namor is solving thirst, Emma Frost is creating limitless, free energy for everyone and Cyclops is rebuilding the mutant home of Utopia into something simply grand. The five of them later outlaw war.
Despite this, the phoenix five are not accountable for everyone. As a leader, Cyclops is showing more than ever that he is taking things too far. While on the surface their image of Earth seems perfect, there is nothing natural about it and they’re answering to nobody. Cyclops is also mistreating Hope, the intended host of the phoenix force.
The Scarlet Witch enters the fray in this issue as a part of an operation by the Avengers. There are also suggestions that the Iron Fist might have something to do with defeating the phoenix five, which is expanded on in this week’s New Avengers (which I don’t have). The last line of the issue is reminiscent of the House of M event and will most likely excite you for the next issue.
The art is fairly good all round. The various phoenix effects look great and the art designs for the changed Earth are impressive.
The free digital copy of this issue also includes Avengers vs. X-Men 6 infinite, which is a great side story about Cyclops and where his head’s at. This alone is worth the $4 for the comic, and it also improves the main issue itself. This issue is an easy recommendation, even if you haven’t been enjoying the event so far.
This issue’s core focus is on Juston and his “pet” sentinel. Juston is a minor character in Avengers Academy. He has a reprogrammed sentinel that, while its mutant hunting directive isn’t deleted, it’s overruled by a number of contradicting directives. Before he joined the Academy, he starred in two “Sentinel” minis. In this issue, Phoenix powered Emma Frost shows up to destroy the sentinel. There’s also lots of focus on X-23 and Henry Pym. At its core this is a great issue. However, it’s not without its problems.
The debate within the issue about the sentinel is very well handled. Different characters have different opinions of the value of AI beings vs. living things. Juston makes a great case for why he should be allowed to keep the sentinel as it is. X-23 makes a great case for why its memory needs to be erased. A quick glance at this Comicbookresources thread even shows a lengthy debate on the subject. Good work there, Christos Gage.
There’s also a great reference to X-23’s solo series which relates perfectly to the sentinel debate and affects her final decision. Henry Pym is handled well here as this issue reminds us that he runs the academy (he’s barely shown up in the last two arcs). While we don’t see too much of the original academy kids in this issue, it does touch on Hazmat’s insecurities.
The art however is very inconsistent. Some panels look fine while others just look lazy. The fading used on the TV screens and the flashbacks look great. Some panels make great use of backgrounds. Facial expressions are well defined for the most part. On the other hand, there are continuity errors in the artwork. X-23’s outfit keeps changing from a full sleeveless shirt to a sports bra, and several tops are somewhere in-between. Also, her eyes are still the wrong colour. I’m starting to wonder if the facility she grew up in gave her the extra power of changing her eye colour at will. Sometimes people’s faces are oddly shaped as well. Its better art than AA usually has, but this series still deserves better.
The book also feels a bit crowded. It suffers a bit because it’s a tie in to Avengers vs. X-Men. In addition to the sentinel debate and X-23’s flashbacks, there’s nearly two full pages of exposition about Avengers vs. X-men 6 that could have easily fit onto the recap page instead. This would have giving the comic more room for the sentinel debate. Henry Pym feels a bit indecisive in this issue, but that’s a minor complaint (don’t know whether that’s normal for him or not). Also, why is Prodigy still there? Didn’t he leave with the X-kids in the last issue? I thought only Loa stayed behind.
This is still a good issue, although it could have been better. If you’re looking for an Avengers vs. X-men tie in that feels important but isn’t absolutely necessary, this is an easy recommendation. If you’re an X-23 fan, this issue is definitely worth it. While there isn’t too much about the original Academy kids, this is still a good comic and you should at least check it out if you’re a long-time reader. Everything you need to know is in the recap page, although I recommend you find the Sentinel mini-series if possible – it’s very good.