Avengers vs X-Men #6
Avengers vs. X-Men #6
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plotters: Bendis, Aaron, Hickman, Fraction, and Brubaker
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Olivier Coipel

The first thing I noticed upon picking up Avengers vs. X-Men #6 was that it felt like a meatier book than it's previous chapters. The second thing I noticed was that it retained it's $3.99 price tag despite the increased page count. At a time when extra sized books get marked up to $4.99 with only a couple extra pages, and some bonus material to justify the price increase, it's always appreciated when a company gives extra content without the price jump despite the fact that this is the comics event of the year, and people will buy it regardless of a $1 or $2 increase. So thanks Marvel!

Having only glanced over the solicitations for these books to avoid spoilers, I was under the impression that the writing team was tackling this project in a fixed rotation. Apparently not, as Jonathan Hickman is back at bat after just one issue out of the saddle. Each writer seems to be tackling the chapter their strengths are most suited for and as a result the project has been consistently high quality despite the fact that we have five cooks in the kitchen.

Issue #6 is the most wide scope chapter of Avengers vs. X-Men thus far so it makes sense to hand the reigns over to Jonathan Hickman, a writer whose name is synonymous with wide scope. Not much time has passed since the events of last issue but Hickman quickly shows us that the world is a drastically different place. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Namor, and Magick have been imbued with the power of the Pheonix. And even with the power split five ways, each walks the earth as a nearly omnipotent agent of change.

So far the results have been mostly positive. The X-Men are ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity for man and mutant alike. However while the world is at the moment benefitting from their actions, various governments and Earth's mightiest heroes are understandably jittery about being at the mercy of the Phoenix Five. By issue's end, Captain America executes a daring plan that will have dire consequences for the Avengers.

Olivier Coipel is an artist in whom I've always seen more potential than actual talent in execution. While his lifework is unique and he has always had a great handle on anatomy and design. However his pitfalls have always been his character's emotiveness, and panel layouts, the former remains an issue as sometimes shock or disdain translate as a need to sneeze or gastrointestinal distress, but I am very pleased to report that every other aspect of Coipel's art is in top form in this issue.

The Pheonix five look incredible. They pop off the page with regal intensity, radiating with cosmic fire. He draws stark distinctions between the futuristic paradise that is Utopia to the time lost streets of K'un Lun. The Avengers look haggard and weary, but still iconic and determined. Given that Romita Jr. drew five chapters as opposed to the four I believed were allotted to each artist, I'm curious how many issues Coipel will be drawing. Based on this issue, I welcome an extended stay from him.

Hickman covers a lot of bases this issue with both economy and flair. Every character sounds in character and he does a good job of maintaining a semblance of relatability to Cyclops even as the character steps closer to antagonist status. He opens the book with an unnerving exchange between Cyclops and Professor Xavier (a character whom I hope to see more of before this event is through), and tops it with an even more unsettling conversation between Cyclops and Hope. He truly captures the removal and otherness that comes with possessing such limitless power. Where Hickman truly shines is in his characterization of Captain America, the leader of the opposition, approaching the end of his rope, as he fights a hopeless battle that not all of his soldiers are convinced they should still be fighting. Cap is put in the unenviable position of the guy who has to do something, even though it's clear that there aren't many options left. Hickman subtly shows his fraying confidence and growing desperation, and by the end of the issue we're left with an ill thought out plan of action that is going to have serious repercussions for the team.

I think the biggest takeaway from this issue is just how adept Jonathan Hickman has become as an Architect of the Marvel Universe. He effortlessly juggles a huge cast and incorporates numerous aspects of Marvel lore into the proceedings. I have long suspected that Hickman will be taking the reigns of the Avengers franchise when Bendis leaves this fall, effectively making him the new frontman of Marvel Comics. His work on Fantastic Four showed Hickman's undeniable talent and vision, but his work on this event, and this issue specifically shows he capable of taking on that responsibility. He intricately dances between the macro and the micro weaving poignant character moments amidst the grand plot developments all the while crafting unique and in character voices for his wide cast of characters. With this issue, Hickman has truly declared he is ready for the next big step in his career and I for one could not be more excited.

Grade: A-

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