Though it can't overcome the series' overarching problems, Rick Remender and Adam Kubert's "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" #7 is an improvement on the last few issues. The story includes enough tension and action to actually keep the reader moving, and Remender narrows his focus effectively to a few key characters. "AXIS" continues to be messy, but here it delivers some action, emotional beats and momentum. (Oh, and did you hear about the retcon?)
In issue #7, "AXIS" switches artists yet again, this time to Adam Kubert, previously seen on issues #1 and #2. Kubert's work, like much of the issue, is a mixed bag. Some of the panels are wonderfully done: Deadpool's rendition of "Get Together" over the battle is perfectly constructed, and Apocalypse's violence is visceral and quaking. However, other panels feel rushed. Backgrounds and battle scenes are both dotted with generic, blobby faces, and even those faces in closer profile can sometimes change shape panel-to-panel. (Quicksilver is perhaps the most affected by this problem.) There are a few strange choices of viewpoint, and prone bodies often look unnatural and odd -- arms flung up, but not looking at rest. These are smaller problems, but they do detract from the overall look and feel.
Colorists Edgar Delgado and Jesus Aburtov hold steady with the series' coloring choices, making Kubert's work feel closer to and Rachel and Terry Dodson's than it might have. While I appreciate the continuity, it does mean the issue has an event-book propensity to shininess. In addition, as with Kubert, a few of their panels can feel rushed. (For instance, all of the villains wear the exact same shade of green). That said, the team does a particularly fine job with Scarlet Witch's magic, making it look electric as it leaves her hands and then hanging a fog of scarlet over those she's attacked. The second-to-last page, easily my favorite in the issue, is also brilliantly amplified with red backgrounds. (Letterer Chris Eliopoulos also does some phenomenal work on this page.)
As far as the script, Remender definitely plays favorites here -- but unlike some of his previous "AXIS" emphases, these pay off. Deadpool and Spider-Man's team-up is super enjoyable, with Spidey's sarcasm serving as a welcome counterpoint to Deadpool's silliness. In addition, Deadpool's confrontation with Apocalypse makes a surprisingly poignant focal point of the plot. Remender is smart to zero in on Evan's devastating transformation, since the entire "Axis" event is predicated on the question of villainy and heroism. I wasn't surprised by that choice. The fact that I found Deadpool's language -- "Dude -- no one liked En Sabah Nur! But everyone loves Evan!" -- so touching, though, was surprising. Altogether, Remender edited his cast down very effectively here.
Then, of course, there is the retcon involving the Maximoff twins. I won't spoil, but Internet forums, not to mention the Anons on Tom Brevoort's Tumblr, are going to be raging and conspiracy theorizing about this for weeks. It's a development that's ripe for some cold corporate synergy, and if that's the direction Marvel ends up taking, it'll be tough to sell as a story-driven editorial decision. X-Men fans, prepare for "AXIS" #7 accordingly.
In sum, "AXIS" is getting better as it moves along. I'm curious to see how it pulls itself out of the bog of the middle issues, and where it will leave the Marvel Universe.