Saturday, June 23, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 12 (Avengers vs. X-Men #6, New Avengers #27, Secret Avengers #28, Uncanny X-Men #14, and Avengers Academy #32)

That's what I want to see. Avengers vs. X-Men #6 wasn't perfect and it will only lead to disappointment on my part, of that I'm sure, but... damn, that's what I want to see in my superhero comics. Characters with extraordinary powers using those powers in extraordinary ways beyond just hitting one another. And, let's face it, this has been a story that just wallows in how stunted these characters are, how incapable they are of responding to any sort of disagreement or challenge without punching someone in the face. It's been five issues (and many, many tie-ins) reminding us that these are horrible people that we should pity, because they're trapped in their ugly little world where the solution to every problem is violence. I mean, the logical solution to the argument at the end of issue one would have been the X-Men and Avengers taking Hope off planet, well away from Earth, and waiting to see what happens when the Phoenix arrives, prepared to kill her if things went wrong, but also prepared for the possibility that it would work out fine. It's kind of like that What If? comic Marvel published about Civil War where Captain America and Iron Man stopped for a moment and talked about the problem at hand, and came up with a solution that made everyone happy without all of the fighting and bloodshed. It may have been the most subversive comic Marvel published that year -- and surprisingly so, because it showed just how stupid and pointless that story was and how stupid and awful their 'heroes' are. For much of Avengers vs. X-Men, I've had that on my mind as people who have worked together to save the world suddenly decided they hate each other ("They're racists and facists!" "They're a crazy cult!") And, here, we have some characters actually doing things to make the world better and that's always nice to see.



Except, there's the problem that always crops up in stories where heroes are given extraordinary powers and decide to use them to make the world better: everyone else has a shitfit and decides that they must be stopped. How dare those uppity mutants try to end war?!? How dare they talk to the bad guys instead of crushing their skulls!?! How dare they do anything except fight and fight and fight and fight and fight...

So, of course, they fight. And they just showed up a little. And they'll overreact and prove that, yeah, maybe power corrupts and they need to be stopped. And the lesson at the end of the day is that a real hero shuts up, colours inside of the lines, and doesn't try to actually do anything except punch problems away.

Maybe I'll be wrong. God, I hope I'm wrong. I would love it if I were wrong. Normally, I'm a guy who will fight tooth and nail to prove I'm right, but, this time, let me be wrong. Because, for a big part of this comic, I saw something I love to read about: the actual effect superhumans would have on a world (the flipside of that is the effect a superhuman lifestyle would have on a person leading it). It wasn't revolutionary or new, but it was nice to see, because of the tease that there may be more. I usually only get to see this part of that story before what I predicted above happens. That's why this is the same as other comics where this sort of thing has happened: they all begin the same way and there's a moment where they could do something great... I don't know, man, any comic where the hero talks some bad guys into stopping their destructive behaviour and helping make things better is a comic I want to read and see played out without the usual 'power corrupts so let's keep the status quo' bullshit.

Because there are other conflicts than physical ones. There are other ways to be interesting and exciting than by spilling blood.


In my ongoing thought process of how to order the entire Avengers vs. X-Men event, I guess we now put New Avengers #25-27 after Avengers vs. X-Men #6. Somehow, I didn't see that coming.


Secret Avengers #26-28 is an odd little story within this larger story, isn't it? Beginning as a group of Space Avengers try to stop the Phoenix from progressing, it becomes a story about the Kree bringing back Captain Mar-Vell and brainwashing anyone related to the Kree into thinking that the Phoenix Force coming to their planet is the Best Thing Ever, including Ms. Marvel and Protector, two of the Space Avengers. Bringing back Mar-Vell was another move in this event that seemed like a mix of Civil War and Secret Invasion. In Civil War, Mar-Vell returned, not from the dead, but from the Negative Zone, presumably taken from sometime in the past before he died. Later, it was revealed that he was actually a Skrull posing as Mar-Vell, but the deception was so real that the Skrull couldn't help but act like he was Mar-Vell, going so far as to sacrifice his life in Secret Invasion... seemingly for the sole purpose of showing Noh-Varr that, while carving giant flaming swear words into cities is cool, being a protector of humanity is what's really tops.

Here, he's back again, this time really from the dead. It never really makes sense considering the way that Mar-Vell was viewed by the Kree (a traitor who deserved worse than the painful death he had) until the final issue where we get a lovely speech by the villain (Mar-Vell's nephew) explaining how Mar-Vell brought down his family's name and, now, this guy is getting it back, implying that the idea of using the resurrected Mar-Vell as a pawn just makes it more poetic and fitting. In the end, Mar-Vell sacrifices his life to save the planet from the Phoenix, inspiring Noh-Varr in Avengers #26 to betray the Space Avengers and steal a piece of the Phoenix Force so the Kree can... uh, do what the crazy guy in Secret Avengers #26-28 wanted to do?

Yeah, this story makes no sense when you put it before what Brian Michael Bendis is doing in Avengers, which I've discussed before. Since then, I've wondered which story should take precedence. Which one is 'right' and which one is 'wrong?' My first instinct was to choose Secret Avengers as the 'true' Space Avengers story because it takes place first and it has Mar-Vell. And, well, Bendis has a history of writing comics that contradict other comics, seemingly with little care of what's going on elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, because, fuck you, he's an Architect. But, now, I'm leaning the other way. After all, one of these writers is part of the five-headed beast leading this whole big crossover story event. Surely, those comics should be the ones we pay attention to first and foremost, right? Isn't that the rule of events? The order of importance goes: event series, comics written by event series writer(s), everything else. Seems pretty clearcut to me...

And, I guess, part of me is disappointed with this three-issue story. I read somewhere that Rick Remender reread Jim Starlin's work on Captain Marvel to get the character right and it seems somehow wasted and futile. This is a nothing of a story that seems to set up a premise only to knock it down right away before a big 'heroic' finish that feels hollow given that the hero just came back from the dead and spent most of that time brainwashed. It feels unearned somehow -- more joke than sincere.


I'm not sure if I can put up with Avengers Academy anymore as this event progresses. Look, I get that the kid loves his pet robot, but it can't change. It will always want to destroy all mutants and, now, an extremely powerful mutant has shown up, demanding to destroy it -- or, erase its memory so the part of its programming that demands it destroy all mutants can be eliminated. The kid somehow believes that the robot will overcome that bit of programming and I can understand why. In the Marvel Universe, every robot seems to rise above whatever they were programmed to do, gaining free will, and a desire to have sex with redheads. But, there's something so frustrating in seeing a comic devoted to the idea that leading kids into a fight with a superemely powerful being who's really annoyed when all that's at stake is a formerly genocidal robot is a good idea. Part of me wants to see Emma Frost slaughter everyone except for Hank Pym next issue just so we can have another moment of "Hank Pym is the dumbest genius in comics." But, yeah yeah yeah, little boy loves pet robot, let's all get mushy inside and pretend like that gives him the right to allow a possibly genoicidal robot that, knowing the world he lives in, would kill at least one mutant at some point in the future and have to be destroyed to exist until that time comes. Who the fuck left Hank Pym in charge?

Next week: Wolverine and the X-Men #12 and X-Men: Legacy #269.