REVIEW: Avengers – X-Sanction #2 (of 4)

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Or – “Is This An X-Men Vs. Avengers Prelude?  I’m Uncertain…”

The return of Cable to the land of the living has been a tumultuous one, as his future world has crumbled, his daughter is in danger, and he is slowly being consumed by his own injuries…  His vengeance will not be stopped, even if the people he’s getting back at have not yet done the things he’s punishing them for!  Paradox much?

AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #2
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist: Morry Hollowell
Letterer: Comicraft’s A. Deschesne
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Avengers – X-Sanction:  The death of Cable at the end of… Um…  One of those crossover thingies…  was designed to save the life of his adoptive daughter, Hope.  Rumors of Nathan Summers demise, however, were somewhat premature as he teleported back to his future world seconds before he would have expired.  Finding the place even more of a crapsack dystopian nightmare than usual, Nathan swore to use his last hours of life to go back in time and track down the people who caused it all:  The Avengers.  What they did, how it affected Hope, and what he hopes this will do are all still up in the air, but one thing is sure:  If you loved comics in the 1990′s, here’s a book for you!

SECONDS LATER, AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE!

We pick up mere moments after the end of last issue, and I have to tell you, from a purely art-based perspective, this book is fun to look at.  Iron Man opens things up battling the Living Laser, and the Laser hasn’t looked this good (or, honestly, this cartoony) in years!  Their battle is short-lived, as Iron Man notices the same thing Captain America did last issue:  Redwing the falcon circling their battle, as if trying to tell him something.  This seems particularly plot-devicey to me, like a cat leaping through a window at the end of a Friday The 13th movies, and Iron Man sets out to find Captain America.  Apparently, the battle between Cap and Cable last issue took no longer than a couple of minutes, as Cable is still monologuing to Captain America about how his mission is a just and good one, all the while preparing a trap for the next Avengers.  This sequence really only works if you presume that Cable knows EVERYTHING that’s about to happen, down to the minute.  Although he IS a time-traveler, it’s been established that he’s dying of the techno-organic virus thingy that makes half of him metal, and that he has only hours to live.  Would he really have had time to scope out a minor street battle so thoroughly?  Phil Connors took weeks to plan a bank robbery, y’know…

MORE FIGHTY IN YOUR FIGHTY-FIGHTY…

Loeb’s writing is not the reason to read this book, though, as we find when Cable flashes back to the future and remembers a moment with a five-or-six-year-old Hope.  McGuinness delivers a super-cute big-eyed Hope, and the expressions on her face in her few panels is wonderful.  Loeb’s dialogue, on the other hand, is extremely unsubtle and ham-fisted.  “Sometimes I think about how your parents sent you into the future when you were a baby,” muses Hope.  “How hard that must have been.”  Thankfully, the entire issue doesn’t read like that, and Cable even gets in a pretty ingenius couple of moves against Iron Man (Hint: How do you fight something you haven’t even built yet?), ending with Cable at the mercy of the Red Hulk.  There are a couple of interesting lines of dialogue that make me think things are more complicated than we think, chronologically-speaking, and the issue ends with the question of whether Reddy or the T/O virus will get to kill Nathan Dayspring first, but not before Jeph Loeb gives Red Hulk back the snotty overconfidence that initially defined the character.  (To be clear, that’s both a good AND a bad thing.)

THE VERDICT: NOT AT ALL SUBTLE, BUT NOT BAD…

There’s a lot more going for this issue than my review of the first one might have you believe, but when you boil it all down, this series (so far, anyway) has been nothing more than Cable putting the smack-down on a couple of Avengers.  I can appreciate the impetus that would make you read the book, but I just can’t justify the decision to spend 8 bucks (so far) on half-an-issue worth of action and a couple of emotional flashbacks.  More frustrating, though, is that once again we’re going to cover for Marvel’s weakness in villains by pitting hero against hero, when the real problem is the way the villains have been handled.  The Living Laser once gave both Iron Man AND War Machine a run for his money, challenged Quasar on pretty much even ground, but this issue has him taken down in seconds as a preliminary challenge to get Iron Man face-to-face with Cable.  Marvel has plenty of villains worth their salt (certainly more than the eternal quadrangle of Norman Osborn/Magneto/Doctor Doom/Sabretooth) but in order to make them interesting, you have to write something interesting about them!  Which is not to say that Cable turning heel isn’t interesting, but this series hasn’t been willing to fully commit to that notion, either, playing him as a noble anti-hero fighting against all odds.  In other words, Avengers: X-Sanction #2 tries to have it both ways, and gets doubly caught up in it’s own weaknesses, resulting in a run-of-the-mill 2.5 out of 5 stars overall…

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  With Marvel Editorial returning yet again to hero-versus-hero, can you remember the last time that an actual villain was behind the crossover event? (Siege doesn’t count, as Iron Patriot was, ostensibly, a hero himself…)