Thursday, August 02, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 18 (Avengers vs. X-Men #9)

In many ways, this issue feels like an issue that, somehow, sums up the various external problems that have plagued this event from the beginning. Contradictions, an uneven flow from issue to issue, and a generally predictable path as the Phoenix Five Four Two become more and more corrupt in the most obvious, unsubtle manner possible. Yet, it's a surprisingly engaging read if you ignore all of that stuff and try to take the issue on a single-serving basis. Ignore that anything came before and anything will come after and it's good. It's too bad that that's now how this comic exists, nor how it was meant to exist.

Though, even taken by itself, there are some big problems with this issue. The unsubtle (which should be the official 'buzz word' of this event) way in which Spider-Man tells Hope in a rather repetitive manner that every Avengers gets his or her moment and you just need to wait and take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself... right before opportunity presents itself for Spider-Man. Or, there's the puzzling way that Spider-Man's narration on the first page is somehow taking place at the same time as his narration when the issue catches up to that moment in the future. Somehow, he's thinking two different things at the same time while barely maintaining consciousness and facing a likely death. (Also, he was unconscious at some point?) It's a convenient cheat that's beneath Jason Aaron (who hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire during this event); it's also something that sets this issue apart stylistically from the rest of the Avengers vs. X-Men mini-series, much like Aaron's narraton captions in issue two. He is clearly not even trying write towards a cohesive style, which is either good or bad depending on what you want out of this book and its quintet of writers.

But, also within this issue is Spider-Man doing what he does best: refusing to quit. He stands up and takes a hell of a beating for the sole purpose of making sure his friends get away safely. If you ignore the heavyhanded foreshadowing and the flashforward, it's a strong moment for the character. It may be an obvious attempt to create such a moment, but it's true to the character and is the sort of thing that was required to hammer home just how corrupt and pathethic the X-Men have become. Two of the Phoenix co-hosts can't help but kick the shit out of a guy that one of them beat up before getting Phoenix powers.

I also loved the panel where the Avengers help their Limbo-imprisoned teammates back to K'un L'un and everyone needs help of some kind... except for Luke Cage. The Thing can barely walk, Thor needs to be carried, the rest all lean on a teammate and Luke Cage is leading the way, clearly wondering why they even bothered to escape to K'un L'un, ready to rush back and kick some ass. I don't know if that was in the script or if Adam Kubert just knows that Luke Cage is the fucking man.

If you try to put Avengers vs. X-Men #9 in context, it seems weaker. The Spider-Man/Colussus and Magik fight is a simple retread of the Spider-Man/Colussus fight in AVX: VS #2, but more heavyhanded and forced in its attempt to make Spider-Man look like he doesn't give up, while showing that Colussus and Magik have lost it. It's making the same point we've already seen with the same characters and doesn't add anything new. If Spider-Man was in a hopeless, unwinnable battle against pre-Phoenix Colussus, are things actually worse when he's fighting Phoenix-possessed Colussus and Magik? No. Once you hit 'hopeless and unwinnable,' degree doesn't matter. If we already saw Colussus pound Spider-Man to a pulp and Spider-Man continue to stand up, why should we care now?

The method of Thor's capture by the X-Men also seems somewhat contradictory to what we saw in AVX: VS as the fourth issue had Emma Frost no sell Thor's attempts to beat her up and completely destroyed him. Yet, here, we see that Thor was captured fighting Colussus and Magik. Was this because Emma somehow just walked away, leaving Thor to wake up and go about his business? Or was it because we just needed a scene showing how formidable Colussus and Magik are before Spider-Man stood up and got pounded into the ground? Either way, it adds little (though I almost appreciate the effort to show us the power of the Rasputins) and is another case of scenes in two comics not lining up in this event.


Tony Stark sitting in a dark room, muttering, "The Phoenix. Wanda's hex magic. Hope. The Iron Fist. Somehow it all fits together... Somehow..." In that scene, is he the readers or the writers?


Next week: New Avengers #29.