If your problem with the opening issue was that there wasn’t enough Avengers Vs. X-Men in your “Avengers Vs. X-Men” comic, then good news: This second issue is a comic book hero versus hero slugfest the likes of which we haven’t seen since “Civil War.” Jason Aaron and John Romita Jr. choreograph a fight like a pair of kids with access to the world’s biggest action figure toybox and it’s magnificent.
There’s really little more to it than that, but in a genre where the fight scene is an expected part of every issue, you can be forgiven for asking the question: what makes this one so special? The answer is in Jason Aaron’s script. He doesn’t just give us a fight. He turns this into the comic book equivalent of an epic poem, juxtaposing images of friend fighting friend against lyrical narration, to fantastic effect. Omniscient captions have been out of favor for some time, but Aaron knows precisely how to use them, adding gravitas and certainty to what we’re reading. This doesn’t just feel like a fight, it feels like a war.
As an X-Men fan, picking a side to root for in this fight was no difficult task, but it certainly helps the story that (unlike “Civil War,” which struggled to keep the pro-Reg side sympathetic) both camps have equally valid reasons for enforcing their position without looking like villains or bullies. Maybe Cyclops is on a hair trigger and maybe Captain America is too willing to discard his opponents’ concerns, but no-one here looks more irrational than anyone else and once the punches start flying such questions are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter who started it, you just want your side to finish it.
It’s debatable whether Wolverine’s apparent plan of action (as revealed this issue) is one he’d consider so quickly, but considering that he gets nowhere near to enacting it, we can only speculate on what he hoped to achieve. It’s an odd choice (especially given the reason for the schism within the X-Men) but perhaps it’ll become clearer later on. At this point, it’s a small stitch in an otherwise huge tapestry.
As great as Aaron’s script is, it’s Romita’s pencils that truly astonish. Few artists could cram as many characters into a book like this without looking rushed or cluttered and Romita Jr. succeeds almost flawlessly. The clean, superheroic look created by Hanna and Martin’s assistance is miles away from the grimier style Romita’s pencils see on “Kick Ass” and it’s simply a joy to look at. Superhero storytelling at its finest.
Two issues in (or three, if you count the zero issue) it would be nice to see something more from the story — some twist or surprise — but with the book on a bi-weekly schedule, it’s at least maintaining a solid pace. The fight on Utopia isn’t likely to continue after the events of this issue and that means a change of direction is coming one way or the other.
As with any event book, you could pick at its imperfections until they rip open and declare it a failure — but ultimately, when the book is called “Avengers Vs. X-Men” you can’t exactly criticize it for delivering just that. As fun to read as it looks like it was to create.