REVIEW: Avengers Vs. X-Men #11 (of 12)

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Or – “At Least I Don’t Have To Worry About Spoilering You Guys….”

As anyone who reads Marvel’s press releases knows, a long-time member of the Marvel Universe is going to bite the big twinkie this issue, and even the least cynical members of the reading public are thinking, “For how long?”  No matter how you feel about death in comics, though, it COULD be awesome or it could be drek.  Either way, your Major Spoilers revew awaits!

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #11
Writer(s): Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman
Scripter: Brian Bendis
Penciler: Olivier Coipel
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulous
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Avengers Vs. X-Men The Phoenix Force returned to Earth, and was broken into five easy pieces, ordering Cyclops, Magik, Colossus, The White Queen and the Sub-Mariner to hold the chicken between their knees.  Three of the Phoenix Five have fallen in a massive war of attrition against the slowly dwindling numbers of the Mighty Avengers, leaving Cyclops and the White Queen still empowered (in fact, MORE powerful, having re-absorbed the fragments of the other three wielders.)  After seeing Emma Frost’s madness, Magneto called in his oldest friend/enemy, Charles Xavier, to try and talk his first student down off the metaphorical ledge, while Hope Summers channels her own powers into Cyclops’ first actual defeat.  Can Professor X save Cyclops from his own demons?

DON’T BET THE RENT, FAITHFUL SPOILERITES.

In the early going of this series, there were a couple of time-jumps (notably around issue five or so) wherein battles were won and lost off-panel, and the Phoenix Five turned the world into a nearly-perfect utopia (so long as you were a mutant and not the kind of person who would fight them.)  Those kind of missing moments can work for you or against you, and this issue it works against the creators, in my opinion, as the issue opens with two attempts to parley:  One, by Captain America, pulls a founding Avenger back into the fold.  The other, by Rogue, moves a great many mutants out of Cyclops’ camp and into Captain America’s anti-Phoenix army.  While his people defect to the other side, Cyclops has to fight not only his own bad decisions, but the power of The Phoenix, and the duplicitous nature of his lady-friend Emma.  There is a lot of build-up about whether she will turn on him or he will turn on her, but it all ends up for naught as Professsor Xavier arrives to bring his metaphorical child back down to Earth.  Their confrontation ends up being talky and overly-staged for me, although there is a momentary revelation in the middle of the story that creates a very strong visual image, as Xavier shields Cyclops’ mind from the knowledge that Captain America’s forces are already attacking…

“IT’S OUR WORST NIGHTMARE.  IT’S HAPPENING…”

Visually, it’s a pretty stunning second half of the issue, especially Storm’s lighting-powered beatdown on the White Queen, and a confrontation with Magneto that brings his daughter back to his side, something I never thought I’d see.  All in all, though, no matter how strong the individual visuals are, the battle ends up being portrayed as big still splash-pages, denying some of the fun of continuity and follow-through, and the climactic “surprise” at the end of the book falls flat for me.  With Professor Xavier seemingly dead, and Cyclops completely consumed by Dark Phoenix, Wolverine blown to smithereens, and even Iceman calling Scott Summers a jerk, things look very dark, indeed.  Until, of course, one considers that next issue has to wrap this all up, and also the fact that the solicitations for the post-AvX world are pretty clear who wins the conflict.  This issue ends up being a maddening series of still shots, moments that I would love to hear more of (such as Beast realizing that his best friend has gone bye-bye, Hulk’s change of heart, Storm’s battle with the White Queen and more) but only get quick hits on because of the size of the cast (and, possibly, the creative team.

THE BOTTOM LINE:THE INEVITABLE CAN NO LONGER BE POSTPONED.

From the beginning, it was clear that Cyclops was on a slippery slope, that somebody had to be consumed by the madness of the Phoenix, and that the battle pretty much couldn’t have a twist ending like Civil War did.  Now that we’re here, it feels a little bit hollow, although a killer issue #12 with some real consequences might change my opinion of things.  All in all, Marvel’s reveal this morning did a disserve to me, at least, as I spent the issue knowing that Profesor X wouldn’t make it, even as the story itself posited him as the last bastion against the Phoenix.  Avengers Vs. X-Men #11 was less successful than previous issues, with a long stretch of overly talky part and a telegraphed ending, but still did well enough to earn 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Both the art and story work about 75% of the time, for a slightly-above average reading experience…

Rating: ★★★☆☆