You may be nominally aware that Marvel Comics is currently publishing a Big Comic Book Event (BCBE) wherein the Avengers (think Captain America, Iron Man) assiduously trade punches with the X-Men (Cyclops, Storm) with the clockwork regularity of a daily fiber supplemental. And like most BCBEs, the plot of this 12-part miniseries — which is helpfully titled Avengers Vs. X-Men — fans out over almost every other Marvel superhero comics like a Portuguese man o' war.
The mere existence of Avengers Vs. X-Men isn't surprising. BCBEs move a lot of glossy paper in an era when 97% of your average reader's attention span is devoted to photos of cat wearing bread slices as Renaissance hats. (Why do you think Watchmen is coming back?)
Those flamboyant superpeople may get the young folks doing that Scooby Doo pinwheel-leg run to the multiplex, but when Captain America is printed on a dead tree and saddled with years of history (did you know Cap watched Richard Nixon commit suicide?), the kids go back to sexting and anal beer bonging and not knowing what an encyclopedia is.
But Avengers Vs. X-Men is some next level shit. After Marvel's last BCBE — Fear Itself, a story about Thor fighting the Hulk and some B-list bad guys possessed by olde Norse hammers— sold fine but failed to ignite the fires in people's loins, the publisher streamlined the BCBE to an absolutely genius degree.
It's like they cut all of the superhero deconstruction ballyhoo out of Civil War and replaced it with Red Bull and fortified wine. AvX is either A.) pop perfection; or B.) one of the most profoundly moronic comics I've ever read in my life. I haven't decided which.
Since reviewing single issues of serialized comics can be akin to reviewing daily Mark Trail strips, this is a general overview of the first three issues of Avengers Vs. X-Men and some of the tie-in stories in other comics. Some spoilers ahead.
In a nutshell, the Phoenix Force — that all-powerful cosmic that possessed deceased X-Woman Jean Grey — is caroming back to Earth to either:
1.) Destroy the planet — Wolverine and Captain America are of this mind — or
2.) Usher in a bold new mutant renaissance. Or some woozy notion about cosmic rebirth. The X-Men's leader Cyclops believes this, because the X-Men live in San Francisco now, brah. (NOTE: Professor Xavier has been on the sidelines of the X-Men comics for years now, maintaining a frozen yogurt stand or something.)
Given that 99% of the time the Phoenix leans toward "destroying the Earth" than "improving the public school system" side of the spectrum, we immediately side with the Avengers. Unless you're the kind of reader who really dug those "divine piano player" and "magic Bob Dylan song" story beats from Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica. Cyclops is your guy, then.
So the Avengers (all eleventy-seven of them) hop in their flying battleship and travel to the X-Men's island in the Bay to say, "Hey, can we talk to Hope, your X-teammate? We think that bird on fire on her head is a sign of the apocalypse."
When Captain America lands, he and Cyclops immediately start acting like the Lockhorns. Captain America acts disturbingly upbeat in the face of doomsday — the Marvel Universe faces the end times every other Tuesday, after all — whereas Cyclops uses more Wavy Gravy logic. The Sentinel of Liberty is polite, but because we need an excuse to get to the punching, he optic blasts Cap.
That's simply the first issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men. Now, there's no guarantee the reader will pick up the tie-in titles (like Avengers proper) or previous story lines (like the X-Men arc Second Coming), so the overall effect for this issue is apocalyptic window dressing → lip service to ideological conflict → characters overreact → fisticuffs.
The second issue is more or less the X-Men hitting Avengers, and the third issue is half Captain America and Wolverine (now) fighting, half the superheroes going on a scavenger hunt (where more one-on-one rassling will unfold).
In short, this comic is a sluice for superhero fights, and the inspired part is it unapologetically does not give a fuck. For a cross-medium comparison, it's like if NBC suddenly rebranded themselves wholesale as "The Boobs and Butts Channel." Or as Videodrome! Sure, fights are the selling point of all BCBEs, but Avengers Vs. X-Men pares it down in a way that we haven't seen the 1984 miniseries Secret Wars. And that was written to sell toys.
There are moments of genuine artistry on display. It's fantastic to see Walt Simonson draw Thor in Avengers. Jason Aaron's scripts for Wolverine and the X-Men are immensely fun, and his battle between Magneto and Iron Man in the side series AVX: VS was some rollicking fight porn (Iron Man = Carbon Nanotube Man!) in a smorgasbord of fight porn.
And on this aforementioned mystery smorgasbord, Avengers Vs. X-Men is candy, but it's expensive candy, like truffle-flavored Laffy Taffy. At $48 for 12 core issues at $4 a pop, I feel like an unknown interlocutor should be in the distance chanting "SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!" whenever I buy a copy.