Marvel kicks off their next big publishing event this week with an oversized “AXIS” first issue that attempts to cram what feels like 4 issues of story into a single comic book. Rick Remender has to set up several dominoes and while the story is foreboding and dark, it’s hampered by shockingly cramped and undynamic art from superstar artist Adam Kubert that leaves the issue feeling like it swings for the fence but only gets the ball to the edge of the infield.
Red Onslaught has been unleashed by Magneto when he murdered the Red Skull and now several members of the X-Men and the Avengers Unity Squad must fight the overgrown beastly menace within the walls of Skull’s mutant internment camps on Genosha. As Havok, Rogue, Cyclops and others face insurmountable odds, the Avengers deal with the second leg of Skull’s plan – a worldwide outbreak of mass hatred that threatens to engulf the rest of the world in conflict. As the two pieces work themselves together on the shores of the mutant island, the full reach of Johann Schmidt’s scheme is revealed, leaving a cadre of Avengers and X-Men alike on the receiving end of a fight they thought they had in the bag.
The scope of this event is far-reaching and to hit all the important points, Remender drops readers into the height of the action immediately. The foot is on the gas throughout this entire story and barely allows a breather for the characters or the reader. There are a few instances where transition scenes or scenes of discovery are assumed between panels in order to pack all the action into these pages. There are moments of levity within the doom, giving characters like Hawkeye, Iron Man, and even Nightcrawler a chance to show off their ability to laugh in the face of extreme danger. Remender does his best to balances these moments out and gives almost every character a chance to show off who they are, an important aspect of a story of this scope. This is a story that he has been building towards for a few years and it has the weight and feel of the culmination of a much larger story.
As a fan of Adam Kubert, I was very disappointed by the cramped and bizarre page layouts in this book. It’s understandable that with a story this big there would be some tough decisions when it comes to what to show. The art winds up feeling rushed in places and takes the drama out of the action. A reality-warping scene where time and space are being bent is turned into what looks like a red paint brush twisted over a razor-thin panel. Facial reaction shots are reduced to a few lines on a loosely drawn head. Deadlines are a mother, to be certain, but this is Marvel’s current “Everything Is Going To Change” tale. Almost every eye in the industry is on this series and it’s surprising this is this opening offering. Many panel shots suck drama from the story as they are laid out; the surprise arrival of rescuing parties, the shocking attack of friends, even the cliffhanger are all presented with the passion of action figures on a living room rug. It’s a disappointing opening to this epic knowing what Kubert is capable of.
“AXIS” #1 cannot be accused of padding story; so much happens here with so many characters that the character chart at the beginning of the book will be of great use to casual readers. Here’s hoping for a bit more inspiration, or a chance for some, in the visual department in the coming issues.