“Avengers Vs. X-Men” #5 is in the unfortunate position of ending one act, advancing to the next and trying to keep the reader’s attention. As such, the issue moves along in fits and starts. There are both compelling scenes and scenes we’ve seen way too much of. There are scenes seemingly sprinkled in merely to seed upcoming issues of the tie-ins, like red skies, except with mutants and Avengers.
We see fights that we’ve already seen a few (dozen?) times over the course of this series and its tie-ins. Some of the fights are rematches; some are simply different angles of the same skirmishes. Whichever the case, the contenders really don’t do much to inspire any new reactions, except for maybe a yawn. As the Phoenix nears the moon and its intended host, the combatants become more ornery and the story becomes a shadow (albeit of a slightly different tint) of “Fear Itself” with the heroes all succumbing to emotional impulses for fuel in their struggles against one another. We’ve seen this before: the fights, the fear and the rage. No compelling arguments have been made in this series to sway the reader to even consider changing allegiance and no arguments are made to that cause in this issue.
What does happen is the arrival of the Phoenix. The final anticipation to arrival occurs over the course of this issue, which by relative duration seems practically breakneck compared to the story so far. There is no debating that the choice of host is a major twist in the plot (and one that has been spoiled all over the place) but the abrupt ending of this issue kills the momentum it works so hard to build up. The conflict doesn’t end, but the conclusion of this issue is certain to shade the outcome of the second act.
That conclusion is brought about thanks to Tony Stark, whose imagination is apparently hampered by the assistance of Hank Pym. The pair assembles a suit of armor that resembles Optimus Prime in an attempt to disrupt the Phoenix force before it can complete the connection. The appearance of that “secret weapon” is a mishmash of geometric shapes that convolutes the action and intention of its operations. The “Disruptor Armor” isn’t the greatest visual of this issue. John Romita, Jr. does deliver some beautiful panels with the flaring oranges and reds provided by Laura Martin. Those panels star the might of the Phoenix, but also obscure a great deal of the characters. After five issues of the same two dozen characters dancing the same waltz, it’s amazing what a little shift in the action and imagery will do.
“Avengers Vs. X-Men” #5 comes in very tired, but the issue buzzes about with the fury of a second wind before completely passing out in sheer exhaustion. Act One of this series is done. The Phoenix has arrived. Hopefully, Act Two has fewer instances where scenes and matchups repeat in a seemingly endless loop. This issue certainly offers hope for improvement, but we’re not even halfway into the series yet. Quite simply, I just don’t know what to make of all of this. It’s not riveting, but it is finally moving.