Avengers vs X-Men #12
Avengers vs. X-Men #12
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Story: Brian Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker
Writer: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Adam Kubert

Big blockbuster events in comics rarely end with shocking surprises. The nature of the events themselves and that of the mainstream comics news cycle almost completely prohibit this. You see, the Big Two generally use the events to set up new status quos for their fictional universes. Changes that come complete with new titles launched, new creators on books, and new characters featured in surprising places.

These changes almost always mean a bump in sales, a bump in sales that is bolstered by heavy promotion that comes at least three months in advance of when the books actually ship (this timeframe exists to give the retailers time to figure out how many books to order). Long before the big event ends, there is usually enough information flying around in ads, promos, and title announcements for fans to suss out how the event will end. So with surprise (usually) taken out of the equation, all that remains is to judge the execution.

The conclusion to Avengers vs. X-Men is no exception to this observation. While there were more than a few surprises in earlier issues, it should come as no surprise that the key to defeating the Phoenix is Hope and Scarlet Witch teaming up to do something vague and undefined with their powers (much like Tony Stark and his Science Bros had been saying all along the way). And while there is a slight twist and a huge status quo shift to what the defeat of the Phoenix means, it's a little disappointing that the key to the Avengers' victory is not more complex than what was suggested several issues ago.

Jason Aaron is given the intimidating challenge of bringing this gigantic miniseries to a close and making the work of five writers feel like a cohesive whole. Certain elements of the issue are less than clear. Particularly I don't understand why Cyclops is flying around the world fighting the Avengers and X-Men, where it is very clear that they are significantly outmatched and there is no need to run. Also Nova's reintroduction, while a cool moment, seems to come a bit out of nowhere since the character disappeared after his introduction in the first issue. And neither Captain America nor Cyclops come off particularly well in the epilogue as the former is portrayed as particularly sanctimonious and the latter comes off as far too unrepentant.

I feel like somewhere along the way, someone realized that Hope and Scarlet Witch had been so sidelined in favor of Captain America, Iron Man, and Cyclops that something had to be done in order to add emotional weight to the final confrontation. Whether or not the Hope and Wanda centric flashbacks that account for a good portion of this issue were planned from the start or not is unclear, but if I had to wager, I'd guess they were a late edition. That said their interactions during the flashbacks and the fight scenes are some of the stronger elements of the issue. Aaron really sells Wanda's remorse, and in one issue really sells me on Hope's character arc, no small feat given that while she started off as a central protagonist, she quickly turned into a MacGuffin.

Adam Kubert had to finish this issue under less than ideal conditions. That said, you would never know it to look at his exquisite pencils. This extra sized issue is a testament to his skill as a visual storyteller. Kubert packs each page with panels and characters but maintains the continuity of choreography and the flow of action. The panel layouts vary from page to page bouncing between traditionally static and experimentally kinetic. The final moments of the fight between Hope and Scarlet With are especially noteworthy as is Nova's entrance to the action.

All in all this is not the most novel conclusion fans might have hoped for, but it is very solidly crafted. Jason Aaron had a lot of beats to hit to satisfactorily wrap up this gigantic miniseries, and you have to give him credit for making sure that each focus character reached the end of the arc that this series set them on. And while the plot felt rushed at times, for the most part, Aaron deftly handled the characterization of a humongous cast of characters.

I think the best thing I can say about this event is that even though I had a rough idea of how the ending would shake out (thanks to the factors described at the beginning of the review) I never once felt fatigued or bored with the events as they unfolded. Yes, certain beats were a bit repetitive and some storylines were rushed to completion at the end, but all in all I thought Avengers vs. X-Men was a highly entertaining and satisfying if not overly deep and critically noteworthy. If big events in comics are the equivalent of a summer popcorn flick, than Avengers vs. X-Men definitely hit its mark delivering big action and big fun.

Grade: B

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