In “Avengers vs. X-Men” #11, the moments that the past half-dozen issues have led up to finally happen. So why, then, do they all feel so anti-climactic when Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel serve them up to us?
Part of the problem is that, as almost everyone’s figured out by now, “Avengers vs. X-Men” didn’t need to last twelve issues. There’s simply not enough story material to sustain this many pages, and the end result has been a stretched out, overly-long story. With the whittling down of the number of people possessing the power of the Phoenix from five to two, it’s also made this issue feel that much more inevitable. Indeed, as you read this issue you’ll probably be muttering, “Hurry up and get it over with.”
Next, add in a major character in the Marvel Universe who’s been poking his face up every issue or two in “Avengers vs. X-Men” but has served no story function at all, and who has a major connection to our main antagonist Cyclops, and the “shocking death” isn’t shocking at all. When I say that I saw this coming a mile away, I don’t mean it’s because I’m particularly adept at predicting the future, but rather that I suspect just about every reader pegged this story event. By having it happen at the end of “Avengers vs. X-Men” #11, though, it once again begs the question of why this story is paced the way it is. The repercussions of this character death should be huge, and with only one issue left it makes me suspect that said repercussions will happen in another comic entirely.
There’s one more problem with “Avengers vs. X-Men” #11, and that’s the increasing marginalization of the character of Hope Summers. With her role shrinking more and more each issue, we’re rapidly left with one or two final outcomes. Either she’ll be a major part of the conclusion in which case her sidelining will feel imbalanced, or she’ll have been a red herring all along and both she and her entire purpose up until this moment will feel anticlimactic. I don’t think either option is that appealing as a reader, even as her role right now is to look stunned and shout out a single, “Noooo!” over a character with whom she has little to no connection at all.
So what are we left with at this point? Well, some mostly nice art from Coipel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin. We’ve got lush rolling fields of grain. Crisp portraits of Iceman in his human form. A picture-perfect sunset over the Pacific Ocean. And the gorgeous mesas of the American Southwest are accentuated by the delicate blues and purples of the sky and clouds thanks to Martin. It’s not a perfectly drawn book; Cyclops’ “bird of prey” attack pose looks ludicrous, and occasionally we’ve got a squashed head. But the art is the big attraction here; either for the quieter moments, or even just the big fight between Cyclops & Emma Frost and the rest of the Marvel Universe.
The basic plot of “Avengers vs. X-Men” as a whole isn’t that bad. It’s even slightly fun. But with eleven issues published, there’s simply no way that there’s been eleven issues worth of plot here. It’s not even close. In extending the story to twelve issues, Marvel’s gotten more sales, but sacrificed some storytelling to do so. Financially it’s a great decision for the company, but in the long run I can’t help but think that a more streamlined “Avengers vs. X-Men” could have bought far more goodwill for Marvel instead.