“AVX: VS” #1 sports bumper crop of Marvel’s most talented creators: Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert and no less than two Immonens. It also has a concept that’s razor thin: characters fight. With a set-up like that, the book is practically review-proof. Either you want to see it or you don’t. The question is, if you are buying it, does it deliver on its promise?
Set between the panels of “AVX #2”, “AVX: VS” #1 could be called an example of extreme decompression. Often decried as the scourge of modern comics, decompression describes a single issue’s worth of story stretched over six comics. Here, a single page of story is being made to fit ten, but when those pages are the fights, no-one’s going to complain that not enough happens. The book consists of two ten-page bouts, each dedicated to matching up one X-Man and one Avenger. If you want action, it’s got action. Indeed, it has nothing BUT action.
There’s something inherently entertaining about “AVX: VS” as a concept. The best superhero fights work as exposition and expression in and of themselves, but here it’s all technique, no substance and there’s a certain glee in that. Iron Man and Magneto haven’t had any reason for a legitimate fight in years, so why not make the fight itself their reason for meeting? There isn’t a superhero fan alive that hasn’t wondered who would win if their favorite characters fought. Here, we can get some concrete answers and enjoy the work of some of the company’s best creators at the same time.
Of course, you might not like the answers you get, but to Marvel’s credit they don’t flake out of showing us an actual winner. Whether or not you agree with the eventual victors in these fights (and for what it’s worth, I didn’t in at least one case) they have, at least, honored the contract with the reader. Characters fight. Someone wins. You’ll cheer or jeer as appropriate.
You could question what this contributes to the crossover in a wider sense and the answer is simple: nothing of any importance. Maybe it helps with the sense of scale and it arguably frees up the parent series for more plot, but don’t think you’re going to find any story nuggets tucked away in these pages. It’s completely brainless — attention has been paid to character, motivation and dialogue — but the real joy is in seeing the characters deploy their powers in interesting ways, on an unusual stage, without any interruption.
“AVX: VS” #1 is, in many ways, the comics equivalent of professional wrestling. There are big moments of drama. Memorable images. The occasional shot of dialogue that’ll make you smile. But really, it’s all about seeing who wins the fights, appreciating the techniques of the characters (and creators) and getting invested in the outcome even though it’s of no material consequence. If you like that idea, then you’re going to love this book. If you think it sounds stupid, then 5-star rating or not, you can comfortably skip it.