My first impression for this issue was that it was “surprisingly good”. After a second glance however, I noticed a few problems. It’s still a decent issue and it’s better than the first act, but it’s probably the least good issue in this series since the first act. There will be spoilers throughout this review – I will both defend this issue’s good/debatable parts and criticize its problems.
This issue is all about Cyclops, now powered with half of the phoenix force, chasing Hope and trying to forcefully bring her home. Hope has always been mistrustful of Cyclops and it’s really showed in this event. It’s also obvious that Cyclops doesn’t have a strong enough mind to control half of the phoenix force as there’s little left of his true personality. His desire to rule through actions has completely taken over and is pumped into overdrive (that might even be an understatement). Same goes for Emma Frost, who is now controlling the minds of the X-Men to force them to stay. The only one recognizing this is Magneto who is extremely resistant to mind control. That part of the issue is perfectly fine.
The fact that Hope is able to hurt phoenix powered Cyclops when most of the Avengers can’t is perfectly fine. From her creation, it was obvious that the phoenix force has some connection with her – maybe her birth was caused by the force directly. Cyclops heading for Emma Frost at the end of the issue is perfectly fine as well – the phoenix force obviously doesn’t want to be split into pieces – it only split because of Iron Man’s failed attempt to stop it. These parts of the issue are perfectly fine.
This series isn’t portraying the X-Men, or even Cyclops, as a villain. From the start, the two sides had very different ideas of what the Phoenix Force was coming to Earth for. The fact that the phoenix force hasn’t destroyed earth yet despite completely overwhelming Cyclops and Emma Frost at this point proves that it’s not here to destroy the planet – thus the X-Men were at least partially right.
However, this issue can be interpreted as portraying the X-Men as villains. It also feels cliché at this point – pretty much every phoenix story is about how power corrupts. Every major story with heroes fighting each other (save for Civil War) has everyone teaming up against the true threat in the end. At ten issues in, this event is starting to drag – perhaps the first act should have been the build up for the event or at least shortened to two issues only. Also, most of the current tie-ins are behind – the last Avengers tie-in took place sometime before issue 7, and Uncanny X-men is still showcasing the phoenix five against Mister Sinister.
What doesn’t make much sense is the way the Avengers try to protect Hope. When they took down Namor in issue 8, all the powerful Avengers attacked him in unison. Here, they’re trying to stop Cyclops one at a time, and Cyclops is far more powerful than Namor was. They can’t even slow Cyclops down, so why are they trying? That’s half of the issue right there; the Avengers are fighting Cyclops in vain, knowing that they don’t stand a chance.
The other problem comes with the Chaos Fist. Toward the end of the issue, hope uses the Scarlet Witch’s chaos power combined with the training she’s had with Iron Fist over the last few issues. While in theory, combining the Scarlet Witches powers with someone else’s is kind of awesome, why does it have to be iron fist’s kung fu training? Yes, I get that in the Avengers tie-ins, they’ve connected Iron Fist to the phoenix force, but it feels like nothing more than a plot device and an excuse to tie the Avengers to the phoenix force.
If it was a combination of Hope’s natural connection to the force and Scarlet’s hex powers, that would be fine. This issue makes a strong suggestion that the phoenix force still wants to be with Hope and not Cyclops or Emma Frost. If the Avengers were giving Hope better training than Cyclops’s brutal, heartless training on Utopia (considering the Avengers have better trained fighters than anyone on Cyclops’s side of the X-Men), that would be fine.
The problem is, not only does Iron Fist’s connection to the phoenix feel forced, but there’s no indication in this issue as to where this “Chaos Fist” could have come from. Considering the Phoenix Force is more of an X-Men thing, it’s quite possible that most X-men fans (including myself) haven’t read these Avengers tie-ins. And where did the dragon come from? This issue has no editor notes to help us figure these things out.
Another question I have is where is Cable? The mini-series about his return suggested that he’d have a major part to play in this event yet he hasn’t even shown up yet. If he does have a part to play, you should at least introduce him before the last two issues, otherwise he’s little more than a Deus Ex Machina. If he’s not in this event, than that mini-series was very misleading and we shouldn’t hold that against AVX.
Besides a few panels where characters look a bit off, the art in this issue is pretty good. There’s a lot of environmental detail and the phoenix glow around Cyclops is very convincing. Facial expressions aren’t amazing, but they portray emotions and reactions well enough. The art is probably the strongest part of the issue.
This issue also has an infinate comic (one you can read online with the free download code included). Besides Iron Man calling the X-Men “Earth’s Mightiest Villains”, the infinate comic is very good and might just save this issue.
It’s hard to say exactly how good this comic is. It’s alright, but it’s not without problems. Without editor notes, it leaves itself far too open to miss-interpretation. The connection between the phoenix force and Iron Fist feels forced, and this issue is very confusing for anyone who hasn’t read the Avengers tie-ins thanks to the total lack of editor notes. Do I still recommend it? Read it and decide for yourself; judging by the comments I’ve read on several websites, this issue seems to be polarizing.