This is the penultimate issue of Avengers vs. X-Men. The final battle of the event has begun. By the end of the issue, the entire phoenix force has united into one host and a major character has been killed. Is this issue worth the four week wait since issue 10? Does this live up to the reputation of the Dark Phoenix Saga?
In short, no. As a comic on its own merits, it isn’t bad. When you factor in everything that’s happened so far in this event and all the various plot threads leading to this point, this comic has serious problems. Everything in this issue is predictable, even the major character death.
The first problem stems from the beginning of this issue. The first six pages are about the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men joining the Avengers. These scenes are handled fairly well. The problem is that while Rogue has a lot of dialogue here, we never even see her again for the rest of the issue. As for the Hulk, he makes one smash and throws Wolverine – that’s it. These six pages feel wasteful knowing how neither the Hulk nor any of these X-Men make any real difference in the battle.
The next two pages feature a conversation between Cyclops and Emma Frost, each possessed with half of the phoenix force. It clearly demonstrates that they’ve both completely lost control of themselves. This scene isn’t bad, but it was handled much better in this week’s Uncanny X-Men 18. Xavier then shows up and tries to convince Cyclops to stop. Something feels off about the way Xavier is talking – he’s dangerously close to contradicting himself.
The rest of the issue is one giant fight scene. A lot happens in this fight yet it’s not terribly difficult to follow. However there are inconsistencies in this fight scene. How can the Scarlett Witch hurt Cyclops here when she couldn’t in the last issue? How was Hawkeye able to shoot Cyclops with a standard arrow? Ignoring these issues, the fight scene is kind of fun.
The art in this issue is great too – easily the best art in the event so far. The fiery power of the phoenix look great, as do all the various effects from different characters’ powers. This is a very colourful issue and every panel looks appealing.
Of course, there’s also the major character death. After Cyclops takes the full power of the phoenix force from Emma Frost, he kills Xavier in a fit of cosmic rage and becomes the dark phoenix. Is this really a surprise considering Xavier has barely appeared in anything over the last year? Not to mention that they revealed Cyclops as the dark phoenix several days ago, spoiling the last few pages of this comic. Also, the last page cliffhanger feels and looks a lot like the last page on Siege 3 (of 4), also written by Brian Michael Bendis.
Cyclops killing the man who pretty much raised him into the man he is today could have had a lot of emotional impact, but here it’s almost ignored. Xavier’s death probably should have happened several years ago. It had much more emotional impact when he was shot in the head at the end of Messiah Complex. Here, it feels like they only brought him back to kill him off. That’s not necessarily a problem with this event though. The true impact of Xavier’s death likely won’t be explored until Gillen’s AVX Consequences mini-series.
This implies another problem with AVX in general. The event is 12 issues long. The last two issues are both extra-long, and that’s not including the tie-ins that expand on important details and the aftermath mini-series. This event is simply too big for its own good. The first act could have been told in build up stories, or summed up with one fight scene on the moon. Also, the Phoenix Five feels too much like The Worthy from last year’s Fear Itself.
One final problem with this issue is the near absence of Hope Summers. She’s been a very important character in this event so far. The entire last issue was Cyclops trying to bring her back to Utopia. In this issue, she just stands around and doesn’t say anything.
If you can ignore this issue’s problems, it’s still kind of fun. That said, anyone who’s tired of AVX won’t like this issue. Fans of Cyclops likely won’t enjoy this issue either. If you’ve been enjoying this event so far, at least read this in stores. AVX 11 isn’t good enough to recommend, but it’s not terrible either.