Written By: Jason Aaron
Pencils By: Nick Bradshaw
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: OUT NOW IN STORES & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD (VIA COMIXOLOGY)
Gladiator arrives to rescue his son from the Jean Grey Academy because five Phoenix powered X-Men is a little too much for the Shi’Ar warrior to swallow.
Those of you that read my reviews know that my feelings for Avengers vs. X-Men aren’t at their most positive of late. As far as I’m concerned it’s all fights, squabbling leaders, hollow plot threads and shiny Phoenix pyjamas. As a brief background, the X-Men were my X-Men in the 90s. I know that era gets a mixture of good and bad feeling but from X-Men #1 right up to about when the first X-Men movie hit, the School for Gifted Youngsters couldn’t really put a foot wrong in my eyes. This latest issue of Wolverine and the X-men (a title born out of squabbling leaders – yup more squabbling) is about as close as any X-Men title has got to 90s X-Men in a long time and I really dug it.
Generally speaking all of the monthly individual titles have done a better job at plotting than the main run of AvX has managed. Not all of them have been great but the ones that have skimmed along the outskirts of the whole AvX thing have found some good ways of bringing character to the largely explosive yet hollow inner fighting the main arc has provided. Here we begin with a simply stunning splash page of Guardian and his crew taking the first swing at the Phoenix Five (all provided by great pencils from Nick Bradshaw and popping colour by Guru EFX) but then comes something that 90s X-Men excelled at. Balance, depth and character exploration.
The focus here is Warbird and she is a complicated sort. Wanting to be a perfect Shi’Ar warrior but knowing deep down she is an artist, the story could have come off as quite typical but there’s a real sense that Warbird if fighting her conflicted feelings and is almost oblivious to her softer side being an option. I loved this sort of focus on a side order character. 90s X-Men always seemed to do this with either focused X-team member stories or characters they meet along the way. The almost childlike nature to the bad ass Shi’Ar warrior in many ways is what makes the X-Men so appealing. Generally these kids with their mutant powers are little balls of conflict. Knowing what they could do if they wanted to but fighting to be accepted into the world they’ve been thrust into. It’s basic X-Men stuff but given that all X-titles seem to have been ‘Battle of the Egos’ for what seems like ages now this issue struck me as a breath of fresh mutant air.
Behind the core story, the AvX stuff is all still kicking off between Guardian and the Phoenix lot. However, I wasn’t even down on that in this issue. This fight was bl00dy brutal. Guardian is giving it his all and the five actually give a sense that their power could actually cause some damage. Guardian hasn’t had a hammering like this for a good while. In fact no one in AvX has taken a hammering like this and because of that the visual power of a good fight and the damage it could cause, mixed with a balanced story, everything worked wonders. This all just highlighted the silliness of the ongoing slapping of hands between Avengers and X-Men in the larger parts of this event. The lack of commitment to the ‘versus’ element of the event’s title has been missing but here with X-Men vs. Shi’Ar, ‘versus’ actually meant something again. This felt like a battle and it’s doesn’t end pretty.
I’m pretty sure, it’ll be back to business as usual next month but for the first time in a long time I enjoyed a top billing X-title and quite a bit as well. It had heart, spectacle, a good backstory and an explosive, fast paced event all happening at once. Maybe one day I’ll write an article about how I’d improve the X-Men comics if I got the chance but for now this is a good snapshot of the X-muties going in the right direction.