When I was younger, I used to read dozens of Star Trek novels. I would check them out of the library, find them at rummage sales, scour bookstore, all to gather more tales of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Each novel could flesh out the lives of the crew and detail their adventures in ways no television show or film ever could. Want the Next Generation crew to meet the original cast in their prime? It could be done! Want to travel to the end of time and space with the Q Continuum? Or the shape-shifting Constable Odo to become a gigantic monster and battle an even larger creature in the middle of Deep Space Nine? Anything was possible in those novels, except change.
Every novel had to put the crew back into their places by the final chapter. The television shows were still airing in the ’90s, so while those novels could go anywhere and do anything, nothing could really change beyond what we saw on TV each week. Commander Riker couldn’t lose a leg in the novels if Jonathan Frakes wasn’t going to be using a prosthetic on the show. Major Kira couldn’t quit her job in one book if Nana Visitor wasn’t leaving Deep Space Nine. While the novelized adventures had all this freedom, they still couldn’t shake the status quo.
Comics work in a similar fashion; the more we change about our heroes, the more they stay the same. It’s a joke by now, but even death can’t irreparably alter their fates. In fact, I’d say the greater the deviation from the norm in comics, the greater pull there is to revert to the original. The X-Men moved out to San Francisco until they headed back to Westchester. Spider-Man was possessed by Doctor Octopus until Peter Parker came back. Steve Rogers was dead until he wasn’t. The Avengers and X-Men were fighting until they weren’t, and now they are again. All things in cycles, all things returning to the center. In a way, change itself becomes a villain for comics as we read along to find out how our heroes will get out of this new change.
Avengers/X-Men: AXIS is a big change at the core level. What makes a hero good and a villain bad has been switched and, for superhero comics, morality means everything. It’s kind of our thing, even in the title of the genre. Because Rick Remender doesn’t do subtlety in his Marvel books, this morality switch threatens all life as we know it and our heroes, now villains, are out to drop gene bombs, demand supremacy and change everything … and that’s why we know they’ll lose.
Technically, we have two events going on at the moment at Marvel: AXIS and the Spider-Verse event which is neatly tied into itself and a few satellite books like Tales of the Spider-Verse and Spider-Woman. There’s actually a higher chance of lasting change happening in those books due to their relatively smaller number, despite the scope of the story being bigger. AXIS, however, includes a variety of characters with a wide span of books between them, from Avengers titles to X-Men to solo series, and yet the only one to really show off its new AXIS styling is Superior Iron Man. I wonder what’s going to happen to that book after next week, when AXIS ends?
AXIS #7 gave us the shocking reveal that Magneto might not be the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (note I say “might,” as the Scarlet Witch’s great curse against her bloodline may not be as straightforward as it appears). Leaving aside all the movie and behind-the-scenes rumors, and concentrating just on the comics, this isn’t the first time Wanda and Pietro’s parentage has come into question. Also, because we probably won’t see the effects her curse has against Wiccan, Speed or even Luna, we can’t guarantee this spell went as far as she said. There is also a shapeshifter on the side of our heroes, so who’s to say that was even really Magneto on the scene to be affected by the curse? This is what comics does to you, folks. Readers can already start reverse engineering plot the moment it happens as a knee-jerk reaction to get back to center.
AXIS #9 comes out on Christmas Eve, with a “shocking climax that promises to crack the Marvel Universe to its very core!” In a way, something must change; the stakes are too crazy, and this event needs to have some relevancy. Readers need to see something different to feel like all those issues meant something more than a dream or an imaginary story. There has to be some redemption for not only our time, but our heroes as well. Once morality returns to the correct axis, our heroes must regain their status lest a lot of books published around this event have a lot of explaining to do. As it is, a lot of characters will endure some interesting fallout in the wake of AXIS; after all, what will happen to Superior Iron Man and Tony Stark falling off the wagon (also holding a populace hostage on an Extremis phone app)?
A character dear to me from the pages of Uncanny X-Force, Evan Sabahnur, is going to have to go through a lot of growth after he has felt what it was like to be Apocalypse, if he even reverts back at all (as Evan was intended to be Apocalypse from the start, this might be him returning to status quo after all). The Maximoff family will hopefully get to see their bombshell played out, perhaps in Magneto’s solo title or in the pages of All-New X-Factor. Maybe even in the upcoming Secret Wars?
Even when the status quo is returned, there are still stories to be told in between then and now, change and familiarity. And thus, serialized comics spin on …
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