AvX has landed on the doorstep of The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning with mixed results. After the overtly melodramatic moments of last issue this is certainly an improvement, but there are still problems when dealing with the themes that dominate this book.
It is hard to ignore the fact that the mutants have always represented the minorities of society. Whereas Spider-Man connects with the underdog in social circles, the X-Men represent anyone who has ever been different. It is this rapport that has allowed the X-Men to remain relevant and bankable throughout their 49-year history. With this issue, Christos Gage frames his narrative using the idea of persecution that only the X-Men can provide. The perennial martyrs of the unusual are yet again forced to deal with an oppressive force. This time it is in the form of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, as She-Hulk, Falcon and Moon Knight turn up to make sure no trouble is to be had. Clearly representing “The Man,” these three Avengers are characterized as confrontational, aloof and self-important. Gage really lays it on thick as She-Hulk utters, “I saw a monster” and Moon Knight drops the “You People” comment. Of course, Gage has to have Frenzy point out that Moon Knight resembles a certain racist organization. It is all too heavy handed.
It could be argued that the X-Men have taken a beating in this event. The X-titles want to show a sympathetic cause for the mutants, but this veers too closely to being one-sided. The choice of having the volatile and insane Moon Knight turn up is clearly one of plot convenience. This whole event is called Avengers VS X-Men so it is expected that there should be a fight and no need for reasonable discussion. But Gage really forces the issue, as the lead up doesn’t feel at all organic. Moon Knight instantly goes for the throat verbally. She-Hulk seemingly can’t wait to get involved and Falcon is completely incompetent in diffusing the situation. It is all too staged, as the characters are tweaked or heightened so the fight can begin. It is the same complaint Civil War gained as Iron Man seemingly turned vicious. Therefore the X-Men seem like the clear victims, especially when She-Hulk can’t distinguish between mutant students and monsters. Even Frenzy seems justified for being antagonistic as she is standing up for her people in the face of these oppressive Avengers.
The only time Gage succeeds in dealing with his themes is near the beginning as the faculty discusses the situation they are in. It is a bit overwrought in its execution but it delivers at least a more balanced perspective. Using the kids as the crux of the character’s choices allows for some big issues to be addressed, even if Gage has the children wanting to defend themselves. Keeping children out of war is always an interesting concept, which leads to drama and it is nice to see people on both sides. Iceman and Rachel Grey’s choice to aid Cyclops is handled well as it is more in keeping with those characters. In fact all of the faculty get a moment to decide even if some are more substantial than others. The only problem with the X-Men side of the story is that the book is essentially the Rogue show and quite frankly Gage doesn’t do well with his attempts to make her seem conflicted. Again she seems more concerned with herself loosing control and enjoying it than anything else. Gage has yet to demonstrate a clear grasp on Rogue’s character, probably due to the fact that Mike Carey had created such a definitive Rogue that people now expect to see.
Rafa Sandoval continues to deliver serviceable art for the title. But it really doesn’t have any impact. This issue has inconsistencies in its character depictions and Sandoval’s take on their hairstyles are actually distracting. It is amazing that an artist’s main impact on the title is the hair styles of the cast, but that just shows how utterly mediocre the art is despite a stand-out image of Gambit doing some completely out of place acrobatics in a panel where the X-Men first confront the Avengers. On the whole the characters seem to slightly change throughout the issue, as Sandoval can’t decide on waistlines or fighting poses. They are small annoyances, but add to the overall subpar nature of the art.
So with both the art and narrative failing to leave any lasting impression this issue is already firmly placed in the forgettable pile. It does tie in to the AvX event and suffers from the expectations that come with that. Gage ramps up the tension between the sides, which leads to the expected conflict. However, it is so artificially constructed it seems forced rather than organic. He really hammers home the persecution angle and this in turn overplays the idea of the X-Men as victims. As next issue seems to be focused on the fighting, it is a shame that the lead up to the conflict is handled in such a manner. There are moments that work, but on the whole the issue falls down under the weight of Gage’s message.