Review by: Walt Kneeland (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Round One
With a warning brought from deep space about the pending arrival of the Phoenix, the Avengers and the X-Men don't quite see eye to eye about what to do with Hope--the likely new host for the Phoenix Force, and come to blows.
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Jim Cheung and Justin Ponsor
Assistant Editor: John Denning
Associate Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Consulting Editor: Nick Lowe
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Published by: Marvel Comics
We open on an alien planet somewhere, just in time to see the Phoenix destroy it...as the cosmic entity then races off on into space toward its next destination. On Earth, the Avengers find themselves in the right place at the right time to meet the current Nova, who has sustained battle damage to bring a message: It's coming.
(They've also cleaned up the mess from Nova's ship taking out a plane en route). Sometime after, we find Cyclops and Hope training--and Cyclops manages to push her to a breaking point where she lashes out in a fairly surprising way. The Avengers brief the government on what they've learned. Once a course of action is decided, they approach the X-Men; Captain America hoping for a simple discussion to solve things. Cyclops insists he knows best, and physical conflict between mutants and Avengers begins.
Story-wise, this seems to sit pretty well within what I'm aware of for the characters involved. I certainly lack plenty of subtle details--there's probably plenty here for the long-time ongoing readers of both the Avengers and the X-Men franchises. But while there are some cameos and "moments" with a number of characters, the main ones--Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Cyclops, Hope, Emma Frost--these I know enough to feel well enough aware of what I need from the start. The characters behave the way I'd expect--that is, they're well "within character," even Headmaster Wolverine. Though multiple writers are involved with the story, it doesn't feel like it--which is good. The main influence of the multiple writers seems to be in the smaller points that get touched on, such as when Wolverine is first approached. Given my recent experience the last several years with Marvel in general, I have no real issue with the story and writing.
Visually, Romita's art works well enough. It conveys what's going on, and the characters don't really look out of character or anything to me. I was taken out of the story a couple of times for thinking how much certain characters look like what I remember of Avengers #1 from a couple years ago (the start of the Heroic Age era). Overall, if you're familiar with Romita's work you know what to expect. I definitely do not like the use of the huge panels and "silent" panels. I'm more a story person, I don't usually enjoy analyzing every detail of the visuals, and I don't here. Especially with the opening sequence, it seemed like things were really "padded" and I'm not sure whether to blame the writing or the art. The full page/double-page stuff with the Phoenix seem like they could be condensed--going so "widescreen action" now doesn't seem to leave much room for "reveal" later. It also makes things feel rushed as I can take in the text and visuals in about the time it takes me to reach for the page to turn to the next.
I was a bit put off by the appearance of this "AR" logo all over the place--it reminded me I'd read something about some "augmented reality" thing Marvel was unleashing with this series, but as I went through the issue, I had no idea where I was supposed to go or what to do with the AR logos. Turned out it was explained a bit at the end--and I bit. Pulled out my smartphone, downloaded the app, and watched a little bit of the "extra content" "unlocked" by doing so. I have to admit I'm not at all impressed--a bit of flash and sound effects for the cover, an introduction from Axel Alonso, some animations showing pencils, inks, and back to covers of the page (the app shows video/animation as if on the page itself--you can even angle the comic and the "AR content" moves appropriately). I don't mind the "extra content" but I'd prefer a list of stuff to tap--"see original art" or "listen to introduction from EIC Axel Alonso," etc. It's more flash than substance--causing more time to be spent with the issue than would be otherwise...but seems to require one to have either an Apple or Droid smartphone, which means that folks who don't will probably be "left out."
The issue is rather prologue-y, but it introduces the major players, including the Phoenix, and sets the conflict into motion, giving characters on both sides reason to fight on one side or the other. Obviously I have yet to see how things play out in terms of tie-in issues and whether I get a good story just in this core series, but for this debut issue I don't feel I've "missed" anything for not reading lead-up material...nor do I really feel any connection in this issue to last week's #0 issue. For being the first of 12 issues (that appear to be biweekly) it carries its piece of weight and I'm much more satisfied than not with what I got for my money. (And I am particularly thankful that a standard cover with Avengers AND X-Men is available, rather than being forced to pick one cover or another with some rare "incentive" cover being the one that shows both groups facing off.)
This issue's not going to be for everyone, but while I see how it's rooted in current continuity, the conflict in general seems to be fairly sudden, so this issue's not a bad point to jump on and see what you think. I enjoyed this despite it being overly cinematic in the beginning, and really have to say that it's a relative rarity lately in being a Marvel comic that I just simply enjoyed, period. In fact, I'm very much looking forward to the next issue, and I'm actually tempted to snag tie-in issues just to get "more" story beyond just the "core" of this central mini-series.