You would be excused if you mistook “The Itchy & Scratchy Show” theme song from “The Simpsons” as the overall story bible for “Avengers vs. X-Men.” (“We fight! And fight! And fight and fight and fight! Fight fight fight, fight fight fight! The Itchy & Scratchy Show!”) This is, after all, a twelve-issue excuse for the Avengers and the X-Men to fight one another. And viewed strictly with that in mind? It’s not bad.
Ed Brubaker takes the script helm (with Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman all co-plotting along with Brubaker) and the main purpose of this issue appears to be to set up future fights between the X-Men and Avengers. Why else, after all, would the teams need to split up between five different locations that include places like Latveria, the Savage Land or Tabula Rasa? The easy answer is, of course, that all of these places will provide different terrain and local challenges for when several Avengers and X-Men fight one another.
The larger plot at times feels almost swallowed by the bookings of these upcoming engagements. Hope only gets two pages and there’s no real forward movement on her story this issue. Captain America and Iron Man are reprising their, “Which side are you on?” argument, although as they themselves note they’ve helpfully swapped sides when it comes to locking up heroes that have done nothing wrong. The X-Men’s escape from the Avengers at least feels a little bit clever (rather than just punching), but it’s such an obvious ploy that it really just serves to make the Avengers look stupid.
This issue’s actual fight also feels a bit out of character on the part of Captain America; his duel is a little hard to swallow in concept, but once it’s rolling Brubaker does a nice enough job with it. No doubt we’ll get a second tussle later on, but even if we don’t I think it should satisfy readers looking for this particular match-up.
John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna’s art for “Avengers vs. X-Men” #3 is stronger than in the first two issues, perhaps because the book has calmed down a bit in terms of story. The one fight scene on the quinjet looks great; their art reminds me a bit of people like Arthur Adams with the facial expressions and movement and Laura Martin’s bathing the scene in red hues gives it an extra punch. Watching the two combatants throw each other around and attack flows well from one panel to the next, and it’s a good reminder on why Romita Jr. has been such a mainstay of comics over the years.
“Avengers vs. X-Men” #3 is a nice looking comic that ultimately serves as little more than set-up for future fight scenes. If you’re interested in the threat of the Phoenix, I suspect you’re going to have to wait a while. Perhaps tune back in around issue #10? At this point, though, I think most readers are prepared for lots of fight scenes within a larger framework. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re most definitely in luck.