It’s finally over. And as disparaging as that may sound, my feelings after reading the final issue of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” are more like the feeling you get after carrying a new couch from your rental car into your apartment. It was really exhausting, but I’m glad it’s done and, hey, awesome new couch! The event has only been exhausting in the sense that it feels like the majority of the Marvel comics I’ve been reading for the past six months have been tied up in this one storyline, while every news item about Marvel Comics has been tied up in hype for the future. The most momentous thing to me about the last issue is that we now get to see those promises in action.
This is a curious condition that only plagues the comic book community. I can’t imagine movies teasing their sequels before the first movie has even been released; even adaptations of young adult novels (“The only novels fit for adaptation,” said every producer who likes money) hold off on casting announcements and teaser images until the first film has left theaters. Again, duh, I know that’s because it’s hard to tease a film where literally nothing has been created yet, and the continual nature of comics means that there is always a future issue in production at all times to promote. Also I know that retailers have to order books months in advance, which means that very little can be left as a surprise. But come on, how great of a face-punch would it have been if Marvel had been able to hold off on the Marvel NOW! announcements until this final issue? If this issue was where the Uncanny Avengers concept first debuted and if the final page was followed by ads for all of the new series, my jaw would have fallen all the way to the subway floor. Of course then I would have had to surgically remove my jaw because, you know, subway floor.
So sure, my gut response to “Avengers Vs. X-Men” was lessened because my interest in the event had been surpassed by my interest in seeing John Cassaday draw interiors again and Cannonball become an Avenger. Part of me is nostalgic for those pre-internet days, back when 11-year-old me was absolutely convinced that every X-Men comic had been permanently canceled to be replaced with their “Age of Apocalypse” counterparts. Part of me wishes I could just experience comics independently of the hype machine that bombards my Google Reader, Tumblr and Twitter. Instead, the majority of my parts crave social media with the intensity that I should be craving vegetables or, you know, things that make me healthy. Vegetables do that, right? Yep, I’ve devoted all my brain-space to comics!
My aforementioned brain-space had a few thoughts about “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” because I’m not entirely sure what else my brain-space can think about. I’m not going to turn this into an “Avengers vs. X-Men” bash, because everything I said upon the event’s announcement last December still stands. I’m still over being over event comics. I can fully acknowledge that events may not be meant for me, personally, while also acknowledging that they are a necessity of the industry right now. I kept my expectations accurate, unlike the people who went into “Drive” expecting a loud and aggro “Fast and Furious”-style car movie. I knew “Avengers vs. X-Men” was going to be heavy on action and big moments. I got that. This event was all Vin Diesel and no Ryan Gosling, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you know which dude to expect.
I will give “Avengers vs. X-Men” credit in the most unexpected place, though. Every event promises epic, permanent change, and few of them deliver, usually in one of two ways: there’s the “House of M” way, where only one change is made while the rest of the Marvel Universe moves on unaffected, and there’s the “Secret Invasion” way, where the big change happens and you know there is absolutely no way it will last more than a year. “No more mutants” drastically altered the mutant books while every other Marvel book kept on business-as-usual-ing, and Norman Osborn’s ascension to power was just so crazy it was unsustainable as a new, long-lasting, permanent status quo. The finale of “Avengers vs. X-Men” feels important, all encompassing and permanent. This is where the event has succeeded.
There be spoilers ahead, so you’ve been warned.
The events of this issue set up Marvel’s new flagship book, “Uncanny Avengers,” while closing the chapter on the last seven years worth of Marvel continuity. As questionable as “no more Phoenix” reads, you cannot deny the blatant parallel and symbolism to that phrase. This is Marvel firmly and decisively saying “The End” to the storyline domino effect that was set in motion back in 2005’s “House of M.” I was hoping “Avengers vs. X-Men” would do that, and I’m overjoyed that it did. This issue gives us a sense of finality that isn’t often present in comic books.
That finality wouldn’t mean as much if Marvel NOW! wasn’t happening as a direct follow up. Not only is the seven-year storyline closing, but every other epic run at Marvel is ending too. Not all of them are dependent on “Avengers vs. X-Men,” and I’m not even sure if Marvel intended for the event to come at this time, but this issue read so much better knowing that actual change is coming to the Marvel Universe, for better or for worse, across nearly every one of their big titles in every dark, distant corner of their line. That’s exciting. This isn’t just slapping “Dark Reign” on the cover of comics by the same old creators and calling it change; this is actual, total, line-wide change coming in the wake of an event that sets up a new flagship book. Whatever my personal opinion on “Avengers vs. X-Men,” I can say for certainty that the event has actually accomplished (coincidentally or not) a lasting impact.
I harbor hope that Marvel NOW! means we’ll get a status quo that lasts, not to be disturbed by another sweeping event that changes everything. But I also know that I will probably be writing another article very similar to the one I wrote for “Avengers vs. X-Men” in a few months time when the hype machine gets more coal shoveled into it. But you know, I have no idea what next year’s event will look like. The one-two punch of “Avengers vs. X-Men” and Marvel NOW! are potentially taking us into uncharted territory with new writers setting up shop in different Marvel neighborhoods and with new writers like Cullen Bunn and Dennis Hopeless getting more exposure. Maybe the next event will feel fresh and exciting, like “House of M” felt in 2005.
Or we could just get writers and artists making great comics with no events coming along to derail their momentum, either one is cool.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre show Left Handed Radio: The Sequel Machine. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).