Avengers & X-Men: AXIS #4

"Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #4 is all about the inversions as heroes act less heroic and villains are more philanthropic. Rick Remender writes a fine backbone to a one-shot, this issue flails about, not really doing much of anything save for setting the table.

"AXIS" #4 opens the second "chapter" of the event series and is adequately titled "Inversion." In keeping with the concept, the X-Men strut militaristically, FalCaptain America puts on a serious attitude that would make Snap Wilson seem like a Cub Scout and Remender introduces the Hulk's Hulk. Oh, and Tony Stark has a drink. Other than that, "AXIS" #4 gives Carnage a little too much page time and then spends the rest of the issue freeing characters up for rattling sabers and stare down contests.

Yu's art is fine, even dynamic at times, but the story underneath it is trying way too hard to allow Yu's art to really be cool. Yu handles the stare downs and saber-rattling effectively, and even has a few moments to really test his pencils, especially during the Squid's hostage situation. Beyond that, there really isn't a whole lot of action and much of what Yu puts on the pages in "AXIS" #4 could almost be lifted and repurposed as stock art at some point down the line. Inker Gerry Alanguilan keeps the shadows creeping throughout the story, even going so far as to throw a mustache on Jarvis, and Edgar Delgado does his best to keep the colors on model throughout a story that lacks fire.

The inversions are in place, but currently lack any vitality, despite the best efforts of letterer Chris Eliopoulos to throw passion and excitement into the word balloons. Eliopoulos does a good job also providing a wide array of variety in the characters' dialog, from the red and white balloons for Carnage to the balloon-busting shouts of Kluh.

"AXIS" #4 fails to impress, taking a thin concept and coating it with half-finished extensions of its core. This is like the worst bits of "Secret Invasion," "Fear Itself" and "Avengers vs. X-Men" thrown together without any heart in the story, which is especially troublesome considering the spectacular job Remender has done with other books and stories. Some of Remender's previous work had a slower burn to them, eventually paying out and changing worlds, but "AXIS" seems remarkably temporary. It's hard not to imagine the end of this series portraying a bunch of characters sitting bolt upright, shaking their heads and saying, "I just had the strangest dream!" "AXIS" needs to make another turn, quickly, to give readers something to get excited about.

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