Avengers vs. X-Men

Avengers vs. X-Men

October 14, 2012

I've been an avid X-Men reader since I first picked up comic books as a kid. While I enjoyed other titles, the X-Men titles are what I've always considered my comic book home. Over the greater part of the past decade, I feel like I've been blessed with an embarrassment of riches as far as the quality of the X-Men stories since House of M.

When Scarlet Witch uttered the infamous phrase "No more mutants", she cast the X-Men (and Marvels mutants in general) back into an era where our heroes were facing an existential threat to their existence. Stories since House of M wisely built on that foundation, sharing an epic tale of the X-Men's journey from their longtime home in Westchester County to their sovereign homeland off the coast of San Francisco (and partially back again). The biggest thing that I respect about the last several years of X-Men storytelling was that the writers placed the characters in a universe with logical consequences and examined some fascinating questions.

The central character of the modern X-Men mythology is Cyclops. From expelling Xavier from the school after the events in "Deadly Genesis" to gathering the 198 post-"Decimation" to migrating the mutant race to Utopia in "Nation X", Scott Summers has been a central figure to the X-Men titles in a way that neither Xavier or Magneto ever managed. When Avengers vs. X-Men begins with Captain America arriving at Utopia to dictate terms in light of the approaching Phoenix, I was "with the X-Men" at the start.

Then something interesting happened. Rather than continue telling a story about mutants resisting a (super)human hegemony, the writers completely pivoted and launched into a tragedy of what happens when the noblest intentions are backed by cosmic force and the intolerance that breeds. After this stunning flip, I found myself in a position I hadn't expected - I was rooting for the Avengers to topple the fascist Pax Utopia. The Phoenix Five's gradual corruption illustrated the peril of the Phoenix Force in a way that even the original Dark Phoenix Saga didn't fully capture. The decimation of the Phoenix Five into the final new Dark Phoenix only highlighted the seduction of that cosmic power until the inevitable finale.

While I highly recommend the entire "Avengers vs. X-Men" storyline, I feel like I need to qualify it by saying that while I was extremely satisfied the writing and the art, my recommendation is largely driven by the structural role that it plays years' worth of storytelling and how well it closes one era of the Marvel Universe and sets the stage for another.

As an X-Men fan, Cyclops' implicit acceptance of the classic Magneto philosophy has been interesting to follow, and AvX did what no X-Men comic has done before - it took that journey and philosophy to its logical conclusion, illustrating the necessity of Xavier's original dream while also demonstrating the dream's dependence on Magneto's mutant-first ethos. Peaceful coexistence would have seen mutants extinct in a post-"House of M" world, but mutant isolationism would see the world extinguished as shown in this storyline. The repudiation of the two core philosophies behind Marvel's mutant books places the X-Men in uncharted territory for the first time since their inception, leading me to speculate that in the new Marvel (NOW!) era, whether the X-Men concept of a mutant-centric superhero team is functionally obsolete (as Uncanny Avengers' premise suggests) or if we'll see a new situation arise that necessitates the need for an explicitly mutant team in the future.