It’s fair to say “Avengers Vs. X-Men” hasn’t been the most well-received event book Marvel has published. A slow, meandering opening coupled with a second act that span off in the wrong direction entirely meant it never quite managed to achieve its intended standing: the grand finale of a story that began in 2004’s “House of M”, when the X-Men and Avengers last found themselves joining forces to face a world-altering threat.
Luckily, the final issue manages to pull the disparate story threads together and deliver a conclusion that, somehow, is satisfying. In part, that’s because it cheats, pretending that previous issues hit story beats that they manifestly didn’t. The issue opens with a recap that doesn’t quite resemble what came before, and a clutch of flashback scenes plug in story elements one suspects should have been made clearer much earlier on. The editorial lurch is self-evident, and jarring — but crucially, it’s one that’s forgivable, because it improves the issue and clears the way for the finale the event deserved.
AvX’s irregularities are almost certainly a consequence of the multi-writer approach, which can be classed as a failed experiment. The tone and pacing has been all over the place, and at least one major plot point fell through the cracks during the switch from act one’s “The Phoenix will restore mutants” story, to act two’s “The Phoenix Five will fix the world” story. It seems as much luck as judgement that the strongest writer, Jason Aaron, is the one who delivers the conclusion, his knack for strong characterization, tight dialogue and precision pacing helping to guide the book home.
Unlike many of Marvel’s recent events, “AvX” has a final issue that works. Unlike “Fear Itself,” it makes sense. Unlike “Siege,” the content doesn’t feel gratuitous. Unlike “Shadowland,” the small moments don’t get lost amongst the big ideas. Unlike “World War Hulk,” it doesn’t lack a coda. For all the flaws in the telling of “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” its final issue is structurally sound.
It’s not just because of Aaron’s writing, either. Kubert’s strong storytelling delivers some of the story’s most memorable images. His ability to distil an entire large-scale incident into a single panel sells you on the idea that this is a truly global happening, something which, in particular, is a difficult technique, and one not every event artist does well. In the past we’ve seen event books rapidly become crowded and messy. “Avengers Vs. X-Men” #12, however else you may criticize it, is clear about what it’s doing.
As for the developments themselves, it’s hard to imagine anyone being completely disappointed with them. The cost of “AvX” has been slimmer than one might have expected — with the death of Professor X feeling like a late, tacked-on addition — but the moments in this issue feel organic and, most importantly, earned by the stories that have come before. It’s not a spoiler to say that Hope, Wanda and Cyclops all get their moment in the spotlight, for better or worse, and there’s no “back to normal” reset button being hit at the end.
There are things about this issue that still don’t work on a micro scale. Aaron’s pet theme of faith crops up and seems to serve little to no purpose in context, while the importance of the Iron Fist isn’t really clear (from this issue, at least). But in general, the issue delivers a strong ending which resolves the story’s ideas and core plot. Where crossovers are concerned, that makes it something of a rarity. It’s not necessarily the finale the previous issues lead to — but it’s probably the finale the creative minds (and fans) were hoping for.