Avengers Vs. X-Men #0, a prologue to the upcoming event featuring the world’s greatest mutants going head to head with the world’s great superhero team, is a slam-dunk for generating interest. I’ve had my problems in the past with writer Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron, but in Issue Zero they do what they do incredibly well. The battle lines are drawn without giving too much of the plot away and the final scene will give any comic book fan a slight bit of the chills. While the Avengers may be in on the battle, this event is all about the mutants.
This issue is cut into two separate sections, with Bendis and Aaron handling the writing duties respectively. The first story is the Scarlet Witch, daughter of Magneto and the woman who both slaughtered the Avengers and annihilated the mutant world to almost nothing. Granted, she was under mind control and suffering a nervous breakdown, but she’s still known as the disgraced Avenger. The second deals with Hope Summers, the mutant messiah who may save mutantkind or destroy them.
Bendis is smart enough to open Avengers Vs. X-Men with an attack by M.O.D.O.K.. I say this simply because everything is better when M.O.D.O.K. is involved. Scarlet Witch manages to subdue M.O.D.O.K. with the help of Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman. That’s when things get hairy. A much debated trip to the Avengers Mansion ends with Vision tearing into Scarlet Witch, reducing her to tears. It’s clear that Scarlet’s sins have yet to be forgiven.
Cue the Jason Aaron story. The mutant messiah Hope Summers has been spending her nights beating the hell out of random bad guys. Worried that this new vigilante hobby might get her into trouble, Cyclops confronts Hope. Here’s where Aaron’s lack of experience shows. Instead of allowing events to unfold to tell his story, he crams it with exposition where we learn that the Phoenix is coming for Hope and the possible results of that union scares the mutant crap out of the mutant community.
Aaron, for some reason, always writes Cyclops as an idiot when it comes to communication. His attempt to talk to Hope falls flat and the mutant messiah races off to stop a bank robbery in the most violent way possible. Aaron once again needs to force his “edgy” thing into a story that’s supposed to center on a confused teenager. It’s not that the violence is unwarranted, it just always goes on too long with Aaron at the helm. I will give him kudos about the final panels, they are stunning. Watching the burning Phoenix racing towards the earth is pure comic geek bliss.
The connection between these stories is Scarlet Witch, who wiped out all the mutants, and Hope Summers who brought them back. How will Scarlet’s issues with Avengers and Hope’s impending dance with the Phoenix lead to an epic clash between two superhero groups? No idea, and that’s why Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 works so well. Bendis and Aaron manage to set the scene without giving up any details. I also like how the disgraced Scarlet Witch generates sympathy while the mutant messiah Hope is someone you don’t like right off the bat. Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 is rife with dramatic tension.
Frank Cho’s art is solid, but I don’t think it’s special enough for this event series. While Cho’s lines are strong, his lack of shading and hit-or-miss ability with faces hurts the overall effect. His action is stilted as well. The pencils on their own are fine, but together lack any real movement. An artist with a bit more flair should handle a series as big as Avengers Vs. X-Men. One that can combine realistic characters with over-the-top action. Cho’s so-so art aside, Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 has me more interested in this story than I was in Dark Reign and Civil War combined.
(Story: 5 Art: 3)