Friday, June 01, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 09 (Wolverine and the X-Men #11 and X-Men: Legacy #267)

Avengers vs. X-Men has finished its second month, producing 23 comics to date. While reading this week's additional to the event, I noticed something: we haven't seen much of the Avengers' perspective on what's been happening. It seems like all we see of the Avengers comes from the main series, while the Avengers-centric tie-ins tell stories about everything surrounding the main story but never touch on it. Conversely, the X-Men tie-ins all seem to comment directly in some way on the idea of the Avengers and X-Men fighting -- and from the X-Men's perspective. I've previously discussed how Marvel seems to be skewing things to make the Avengers seem less like the good guys and the X-Men seem less like a crazy cult, first by showing the Avengers as facists and, then, as racists. This week, it occurred to me that there's a third way: by simply not presenting them as perspective characters. If much of what we read is from the X-Men's perspective in some way, they seem more sympathetic by default -- the Avengers are made into the Others.

If you break down the 23 Avengers vs. X-Men comics that have come out, seven have been 'neutral' comics (Avengers vs. X-Men and AVX: VS), nine have been 'Avengers' comics (Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, and Avengers Academy), and seven have been 'X-Men' comics (Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, and X-Men: Legacy). The Avengers have more individual series and more tie-ins than the X-Men, yet their presence seems muted. If you actually look at the issues, only two of the Avengers tie-ins have actually seemed to show what's happening in the main narrative (New Avengers #24 and Avengers #25) and those only show brief glimpses, acting more as bridges between their crossover story involving Norman Osborn and Avengers vs. X-Men. The following issues of New Avengers have focused on K'un L'un in the past, while Avengers has begun telling the same story (sort of) as Secret Avengers -- about the team the Avengers sent into space to try to stop the Phoenix Force from ever reaching Earth. Both stories are related to the event, but separated from the core idea of the Avengers fighting the X-Men. Avengers Academy is more closely related, examining the consequences of the Avengers dumping the students from Utopia at the Academy, but, in that story, Christos Gage is more interested in exploring whether or not the X-students should be shunted off like that, imprisoned, and tends to sympathise more with the X-characters. Out of the nine 'Avengers' tie-ins, only two seem to show anything from the conflict between the Avengers and X-Men directly.

The 'X-Men' tie-ins, on the other hand, all address that conflict directly, either by showing characters at Wolverine's school struggle with the decision of fighting or staying at the school, or by showing the fighting directly, making it a gap of seven complete issues to two issues with a scene or two that ties in (and that's being generous to Avengers #25). The two 'neutral' titles tend to divide somewhat evenly in perspective (though AVX: VS currently has the Avengers winning 3-1), so that leaves an event with a strong X-Men perspective and little to no Avengers perspective.

Sorry, 'perspective' may not be the right word -- protagonists? The X-Men are protagonists in more comics where they fight the Avengers than the Avengers are. Hell, since the very outset of the fight at Utopia, we've seen no Avengers tie-in with those characters as protagonists that expands on the fights hinted at in Avengers vs. X-Men. In that respect, the X-Men have slowly been put in the position of being the event's protagonists. While we see the Avengers' perspective in Avengers vs. X-Men, that's always balanced with the X-Men; the tie-ins of events is where characters are given room to breathe and provide an entry point into the plot-heavy main series. And we haven't gotten any of that for the Avengers.

It could simply be that the writers of the Avengers tie-ins have certain stories they want to tell, which don't happen to expand on Avengers vs. X-Men in as direct a fashion as the writers of the X-tie-ins. Brian Michael Bendis writes both Avengers and New Avengers, and is one of the five writers of Avengers vs. X-Men, so he seems to be attempting to tell as broad a story as possible. In some respects, he seems to be attempting to write tie-ins that are less dependent on the main series for this event than the X-writers. But, it is odd that one set of writers is working around Avengers vs. X-Men, while another set is working in it. Is it a coincidence, of different writers having different approaches, or is it an attempt to make the X-Men seem more sympathetic, more like protagonists?

That seems to have been the goal so far and, with upcoming issues seemingly about the X-Men dominating the Avengers ("No more Avengers" being the tagline of choice), it could make for some interesting dramatic tension. Going into this event, the Avengers seemed more in the right and the X-Men like some crazy cult convinced their space god was coming to save them -- but, over the past two months, the X-Men have been our point of view characters in a much larger way, the characters we sympathise with and relate to, turning the Avengers into antagonists. But, if the X-Men suddenly 'won' and became the persecutors, that shift back to the Avengers as protagonists, fighting as underdogs against the X-Men could be a very energetic shift in the story.

And who says tie-ins don't matter?


X-Men: Legacy #267 may be an 'X-Men' tie-in issue and present a fight between X-Men and Avengers from a decidedly X-Man perspective (Rogue is the narrator of the issue), but I'm not sure it actually presents the X-Men as protagonists, particularly Rogue. In fighting the small group of Avengers sent to watch the Jean Grey School and ensure that it stays out of the fight, she decides to use her powers to absorb the powers and minds of She-Hulk, Falcon, and Moon Knight (though, Moon Knight causes it to happen, hoping his multiple personalities will overwhelm her and leave her unable to function). That's a fairly deplorable way for a 'hero' to behave, no? I read that issue, horrified that not only was Rogue doing that, but that her fellow X-Men seemed to have no problem with her doing something so invasion and cruel to people that, at their core, are having a disagreement over whether or not a giant cosmic bird will be a good or bad thing for the planet. It's such an extreme moment, a moment that reminds us that, yes, these characters are, in many ways, deplorable and to be looked down upon. They resort to violence at the drop of a hat, attack one another with the goal of putting each other down despite both groups knowing that the other is filled with (supposedly) good and well-meaning people. It's rather shocking.

So... maybe the X-Men aren't protagonists? Maybe none of these characters are...

Next week: Avengers vs. X-Men #5, Avengers Academy #31, and Uncanny X-Men #13.