Friday, July 20, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 16 (Avengers vs. X-Men #8, Uncanny X-Men #16, and Avengers Academy #33)

Last week, I praised Kaare Andrws for his depiction of the Thor/Emma Frost fight in AVX: VS #4, because it actually built up Frost as threat. She didn't just beat Thor, she got her ass kicked by Thor as hard as we'd ever seen someone get their ass kicked by Thor and it didn't even slow her down. He shattered her -- literally -- and she rained down death from above with the shards of his diamond body before reassembling herself. If you read something like that, you walk away thinking that anyone who gets in Emma Frost's way right now is going to get crushed.

Although Frost looked equally tough in Avengers Academy #33 this week, the Phoenix Five didn't fare as well in the other two Avengers vs. X-Men comics released this week. Or any of them released prior to this. In the rush to turn the Phoenix Five into figures of 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,' everyone forgot the most basic fucking lesson in telling a story:


Up until now, we've been told how powerful the Phoenix Five are. We saw Colossus talk some bad guys out of being bad guys. We've seen them float around and talk in fiery word balloons. We've seen them come up with the brilliant idea to use giant hunks of ice to slowly irrigate dehydrated areas of the planet. But, we've also seen the Scarlet Witch make them cry like babies and the Avengers constantly one step ahead of them. We've been told a lot about how powerful they are and how much better the world is with them in charge. We've seen very little.

This week, we saw Namor ride into a country on a tidal wave, stir up some trouble, and get his ass beat so badly that the Phoenix Force left his shattered, broken body. This week, we saw Sinister take out the entire Phoenix Five with a bunch ideas that seemed like leftover Nextwave jokes.

These guys are meant to be taken seriously why again?

The Namor stuff in Avengers vs. X-Men #8 didn't actually seem much different from a dozen other comics I've read where Namor rides into town on a tidal wave, insults the 'land dwellers,' yells "Imperius Rex!" 49 times, and gets his ass beaten by a bunch of people who were once his friends until his mentally unbalanced mind shifted and he decided that they must die. I swear, every time that Captain America sees Namor and doesn't execute that motherfucker is a time where I have to question how smart he really is. But, the point is, this is supposedly one of the five most powerful beings on the planet and he got beat just like he always does. It may have taken a few more people, but it all happens so fast that none of it sinks in.

Part of the problem is that, up until this point in this story, Namor hasn't looked much different. He fights the Thing and the Thing technically wins, but not in a way where Namor looks weak. Every single time we've seen him so far, he's been a powerhouse that hasn't been taken down. We haven't been shown that the Phoenix Force has made him stronger and more powerful. In Avengers vs. X-Men #8, how much of what he does comes off as genuinely different from what he would do with the Phoenix Force? Maybe that little burst of energy he gives off. Otherwise, it looks like the same Namor as always. So, why should I care?

Over in Uncanny X-Men #16, the Phoenix Five are shown in action together for the first time really and... they get taken down with smug ease by Sinister. Which would be fine if this was simply five members of Cyclops's Extinction Team, but it's not. These are not regular superheroes and it doesn't seem like anyone at Marvel save Kaare Andrews understands that idea.

It's not enough to say that these characters are powerful, to rely upon the idea that the Phoenix Force is powerful -- we need to see it. They need to be built up as big threats before they can be taken down and that simply hasn't happened. Part of it, as I said, is that the X-Men were kept too 'equal' to the Avengers prior to the Phoenix Force arriving. Since the first act was building towards this point, the Avengers should have been more dominant. They should have kicked the shit out of Cyclops, Frost, Namor, Magik, and Colossus in particular. They should have been overwhelmed and made to look pathethic by comparison. And, then, once they had this power, they should have turned the tables in a big visible way -- and, until they're taken down, they should have looked like invincible gods. The Scarlet Witch shouldn't have shown up until issue eight where she arrives and takes down one of the Phoenix Five. That should have been a big, impactful moment.

Instead, it was crazy Namor invading dry land and getting a beatdown. Just like always. Ho hum. Too sad. I don't give a fuck.

Next week: Avengers #28, Wolverine and the X-Men #14, and X-Men: Legacy #270.