It’s another event centering on Marvel’s two premiere superteams, only now they’re side-by-side instead of face-to-face in “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” #2 by Rick Remender and Adam Kubert. The Red Skull, or Red Onslaught now, has been transformed after recent events in Remender’s “Uncanny Avengers” into the teams’ common foe, reading more liked a pumped-up issue of that series rather than a more significant event installment. This issue doesn’t really bring much of anything new, actually; in fact, it delivers a lot of the same shortcomings seen in past issues of the ongoing series.
There’s little more contained in the issue other than a mishmash of contrivances, odd characterization and painful dialogue stretched out over a decompressed battle sequence that doesn’t advance the story until the very final pages. There’s also the revisitation of well-trodden story ideas, in this case yet another past revelation about Tony Stark that once again makes him into the seeming bad guy. He’s not the central protagonist ala “The Crossing” or “Original Sin: Hulk vs. Iron Man,” but his past is once again revealed to play a very crucial role against both the Avengers and X-Men.
Nova isn’t treated much better, as his actions seem like nothing more than a conveniently placed device intended solely to jeopardize the good guys. As treated by Remender, the character’s ineptitude goes beyond mere rookie inexperience, instead appearing as though it’s his very first, and disastrous, mission as a superhero. Magneto is just plain annoying and seems more focused on getting under Stark’s skin than fighting, and Onslaught seems incapable of spewing anything other than hate-filled and apocalyptic epitaphs. The dialogue between all of them is probably intended as lighthearted banter, but instead just reads mostly as a series of lame and insipid one-liners. (The Wasp actually says, “Good Morning, Buttermilk” at one point.)
Readers are asked to disregard developments from other titles, such as the relationship between Cyclops and many of his fellow mutants that’s been a large part of a storyline crafted elsewhere. Remender tries to give a hastily-crafted alliance of disparate characters a sense of heroic solidarity, but establishes no connection of any kind within the story beyond their being in the same hiding place, making for an emotionally empty showdown between this ragtag group and Onslaught, and greatly diminishing the impact of the surprise ending on the final page.
Kubert at least capably handles the art for the most part, but like Remender, turns in an effort far less worthy than what he’s proven he’s capable of in past works. His Onslaught looks imposing enough, although the addition of octopus tentacles is puzzling. Ditto for his Stark-designed Sentinels, although Kubert doesn’t really provide many opportunities to get a good look at them. Overall, though, much of his inking looks rushed; he disrespects Nova just as Remender does, by practically scribbling through the character’s appearances with seeming indifference.
“Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” #2 misfires badly with poor characterization and an emotionless story that’s only marginally saved by subpar artwork.