So here we are at the first Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-in issue of Secret Avengers. All previous story lines have been put on hold and the book has been sent to space. If nothing else the whole issue at least shows how powerful the Phoenix Force is.
Rick Remender focuses most of the issue on Beast. His previous experience with the cosmic entity allows him to be in charge of the mission. It’s a wise decision by Remender as it not only makes sense but it at least keeps some continuity to the title, with Beast being a major character of the book. Remender shows us the more serious side to Hank McCoy here and it works wonders for his character. He has witnessed the terrible power of the Phoenix first hand so he treats the mission with the importance it requires. His sleep is filled with nightmares, his waking hours filled with dread and as the mission inevitably fails he is filled with anger which he directs at Captain Britain in the book’s most compelling scene.
Remender is at least pushing forward with his characterizations of his team in this tie-in, as the Beast/Britain interplay will probably have a lasting effect long after AvX has been and gone. But this does lead to somewhat of a lack of depth from the rest of this space-bound team. Vision, War Machine and Valkyrie are little more than cannon fodder here, given only the smallest amounts of dialogue. Thor does better in his drunken appearance but his rousing speech only succeeds in clumsily retreading the dangers of the Phoenix Force which we already know.
As for Ms. Marvel and Protector, they are connected to the book’s other focus: The Kree. The blue-faced aliens have become fanatical in their thinking, as they believe the Phoenix will help them with their ascension. This is the part of the issue that just seems flat. The Kree’s plan is to be reborn by the firebird, into a greater power one would assume. But it is puzzling to yet again dig up Captain Marvel for another event. Presumably this plot point is a precursor to Carol Danvers taking the mantle and therefore will have some impact on the Marvel Universe. But it feels forced into the narrative, even though it has a substantial amount of pages dedicated to it. The final cliffhanger is sigh-inducing stuff as the newly resurrected Captain Marvel seemingly joins forces with Ms. Marvel and Protector to stop the Avengers from interfering with the ascension by any means necessary. The idea that the two Avengers would so easily succumb to some sort of spiritual power emanating from the planet is frankly ludicrous. These Kree moments drag the narrative down rather than exist as integral parts of the Phoenix story line.
Remender is joined by Rento Guedes for this tie-in issue and his art style definitely impresses. Although Gabriel Hardman and Remender weere a match made in heaven, Guedes does a great job filling in. His art is detailed, clear and emotive as he manages to do wonders with the characters. Beast looks great, although one wonders why he no longer looks feline in appearance. Guedes hits all of Beast’s emotional beats, which enhances the script. For the most part, Guedes manages the same feat with the rest of the cast and the fallout from the failed first mission is given more depth thanks to his pencils. However, Guedes does have a tendency to throw in some odd poses for his characters that become distracting. They are small but they do manage to catch the eye. The attack on the Phoenix is well depicted as Guedes manages to convey the weightlessness of space quite well. The Phoenix itself is exactly what is should be, a fiery bird. The design itself hasn’t changed much, but it is such an iconic creature that it doesn’t need a revamp. Guedes gives us the Phoenix and it is as eye catching as ever.
Guedes manages to do a good job in selling Remender’s script, but the Kree angle is ill conceived. Beast gets some focus here, which not only makes sense due to the circumstances but also adds another level to his recent characterization within the book. It is interesting to see him in a leadership position and Remender goes to town with the concept. Overall, the book isn’t a bad read, but it also doesn’t do anything to advance the AvX/Phoenix storyline.