Best Comics in May Part 1: The Big Ol' Crossovers

Once a month the amazing staff at 8th Dimension Comics selects a pile of the best new releases for us to peruse and judge. This month we'll feature our usual breakdown, but first let's look at the two big crossover events going on in comics right now.

Avengers vs. X-Men

Let's start of in the Marvel universe, shall we? I've frankly been avoiding covering the battle between the Avengers and the X-Men because, well, it seemed like a ham-fisted excuse to draw a bunch of completely predictable and pointless battle scenes for most of a year. Having taken this month to absorb the story arch across multiple books, I still think that that is 75 percent what it is.

The catalyst of the book is the imminent return of the Phoenix force, which longtime X-Men readers will remember as the cosmically powerfully entity that possessed Jean Grey and drove her to genocidal madness. Only her suicide prevented the Phoenix from taking complete control and ending life in the universe as we know it to pave the way for rebirth.

Now, it's headed for Earth, destroying whole planets in its wake. The popular belief is that Hope Summers, who is considered the mutant messiah having been the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch depowered thousands of Earth's mutants leaving roughly 200 left in the world, is the host that the Phoenix is seeking. Cyclops, who currently leads a West Coast version of the X-men featuring some of the most powerful people on the planet is banking on the Phoenix jumpstarting the mutant race and allowing them to take their next step as the future of human evolution.

Meanwhile, the Avengers see only destruction coming, and seek to take Hope into custody... or kill her. So begins pages and pages of punching. I can see what Marvel is going for here. This is supposed to be all the disagreements and differences between its heroes being worked out in one giant group therapy session, as well as a chance to settle a million games of "Who Would Win in a Fight?" For what it's worth, that aspect of the story is as fin as a Roland Emmerich film. It's particularly fun to watch Wolverine and Captain America go at it.

Still, the character development across the arc is not stellar. It mostly hinges on Hope, and she just isn't that interesting. She's a sweet girl with enormous power in a dangerous situation. That's a great setup for a comic, but it doesn't really work well when you're distracted by every single character in the whole universe fighting around you.

Besides, I don't think the Phoenix is even coming for her anyway. I think the Phoenix is seeking the Scarlet Witch. Overall, it's a somewhat overblown affair that seems to be playing on caricatures of the combatants rather than really exploring them. Only in the tie-in books, particularly Secret Avengers and Wolverine & the X-Men, does true drama shine. Beast owns every inch of whatever book he is featured in, and the tragedy of Brian Braddock's flaws as a hero is something that could definitely be explored in the future for fantastic results.

I'll stand by and see what happens because it will undoubtedly be important, but frankly I'm just wishing Marvel would get it over with.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner