The very first trip my dad ever made to a comic book store--and, in fact, it may have even been the only time he ever took us to a comic shop as kids, as that duty usually fell to my mom--was one Saturday afternoon when John Byrne was appearing at Lone Star Comics in Dallas. The store was fairly crowded, as Byrne was a big draw at the time, and I remember there was a long line snaking through the store. Anyway, we stood in line behind two guys discussing comics--or as my dad put it, "Two grown men arguing over whether the Hulk could ever get mad enough to break through Dr. Doom's force field."
We ended up leaving without ever having met Byrne, as my dad grew impatient and didn't like the answer given to him by the clerk. "He's too busy drawing sketches to sign comics," he said as we left the store. In reality, we were probably only in the store and the line for a very short time, and I'm sure my dad's interpretation of my brother's request to get some of his Fantastic Four issues signed by the creator was that it would be quick 10-minute trip, with us running in to get an autograph and then running back out and getting on with the day.
But the discussion those two fans were having stuck with my dad for years, and the experience became one often repeated at family gatherings or the dinner table. "Remember that time we tried to meet John Byrne? What were those two guys arguing about, whether the Hulk could break Wolverine's claws, or whether he could beat The Thing?" "No, whether he could get mad enough to break through Dr. Doom's force field, ha ha ha." To my brother and me, though, these were serious questions ... could the Hulk break Wolverine's claws if, indeed, Logan ever made him mad enough? We both knew Thor was stronger than Namor, but what if the two fought underwater? Was the Silver Surfer's power cosmic enough to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut? These are the kinds of questions superhero fans, especially when they are kids but sometimes even into adulthood, wonder about. For those fans, Marvel has created the perfect series, AvX: Vs., where heroes stop being polite and start taking swings at each other. If there is an art to creating a compelling slugfist, then Jason Aaron, Kathryn Immonen, Adam Kubert, Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger are your maestros. Here's what a few folks thought about the first issue and the fights contained inside it; my dad, unfortunately, was unavailable for comment on it:
Jesse Schedeen, IGN: "If nothing else, at least no one can accuse Marvel of pretending that Avengers vs. X-Men Versus is something it's not. From the beginning, this lone offshoot of the main Avengers vs. X-Men event has been billed as a purely visceral experience. It aims to flesh out and expand on the numerous character match-ups from the main series. It's about action and visuals first and story a very distant second (if at all). It delivers the spectacle it promises, but whether that spectacle is actually worth $3.99 is very debatable."
Martin Gray, Too Dangerous for a Girl: "While the Avengers Vs X-Men 12-issue series focuses on the different attitudes of the teams to this event, this six-parter provides close-ups of individual bouts limited to just a few panels in the mother book. I wasn't expecting much. I got Christmas."
David Brooke, Adventures in Poor Taste: "Many readers probably see this as a gimmick, mainly because the main event book is mostly fighting anyway. Well not like this. While the main point of Avengers vs. X-Men is the fight, that series is also delving into character conflicts and the impending doom of Earth. Think of this issue as the boss battle at the end of the video game level and it’ll start to make sense."
David Pepose, Newsarama: "Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert are the opening round, pitting the Invincible Iron Man against the master of magnetism himself, Magneto. Aaron delivers some snappy one-liners, but ultimately this is the kind of combat that you'd think about as kids — Iron Man pulls out tricks ranging from carbon armor to hitting Magneto with the force of Jupiter, while Magneto uses some larger-than-life weapons to knock Ol' Shellhead into the stratosphere. Kubert is the real draw here, as he makes each character look imposing and rapid-fire with their strikes. In a lot of ways, Kubert reminds me a little of Steve McNiven in this issue, with some surprisingly clean linework to his characters — at least until the debris starts flying."
Aaron Long, Comicosity: "The second melee is between two characters with some serious history, Namor and Thing. Kathryn and Stuart Immonen bring this brawl to life and I found that as much as I enjoyed the first battle, this one was even better. There is a lot of residual bad blood between these two and it was satisfying to see them just have at it. Kathryn’s choice to have one half of the battle be spoken through Thing’s thoughts kept the contest light and entertaining and her voice for Namor has just the right level of arrogance: extreme. Stuart Immonen’s pencils are solid as always and his work on this story made me long for a parallel universe where he was the third cog in the art machine of Avengers Vs. X-Men with Coipel and Kubert. But alas, I’ll take what I’m given and enjoy this story for what it is: fun."
Andy Hunsaker, Crave Online: "The best moments come from the pre-fight beats - the pauses in the action. Magneto calmly hovering a giant tower chunk over Iron Man's head, or Namor brushing rusty old doubloons off his shoulder before diving into his next strike. Kathryn Immonen shows restraint, as the word 'clobberin' is nowhere to be found in the Thing's dialog despite the book being primarily about the act of clobberin'. Perhaps wisely, she may have considered it redundant. The artists are solid and good with making with the pin-up action shots, and the choreography is decent enough, although not super-exciting."
James Hunt, Comic Book Resources: "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."