STORY: Matt Fraction
ART: Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales
Getting convoluted, you say? Wrapped up in it’s own hyperbole, you say? Avengers vs. X-Men continues this week – after a stellar sixth issue and opening to Act II – with a huge slam on the brakes. Granted, it would take a lot to one-up Jonathan Hickman’s masterful take on the Phoenix Five’s betterment of Earth, but Matt Fraction not only doesn’t keep the momentum going, he seems to be satisfied with a lot of talking.
Avengers vs. X-Men #7 is very much a filler issue. Wanda Maximoff has been revealed as the Phoenix Five’s one true equal and the Avengers are now basically fugitives on the run. Both of these elements are dragged out over the course of the issue as Fraction decides to tell us how benevolent and awe-inspiring the Phoenix Five have been, and how far the Avengers have fallen out of grace instead of showing us what’s happening. It’s a lot less interesting to hear Cyclops tell his peers that the world loves them than seeing parades being thrown in honor of the Phoenix, or newspaper clippings about their good deeds. Hickman kind of knocked that ball out of the park last issue, but Matt Fraction is supposed to be one of Marvel’s heavy-hitters, but his story falls pretty flat.
Which is all the more frustrating because Wanda Maximoff entering this conflict and siding with the Avengers is a big power play for the series and one that obviously has dire consequences. Since Scarlet Witch really is the only person who can stand up to the Phoenix Five, Fraction takes the extra time to convey this power. When Wanda faces off against Magik, it’s the X-Man that goes down, not the Witch. Fraction glosses over this HUGE plot point just to get to Emma Frost unleashing some rage and burning Clint Barton nearly to death. While I understand the idea of making Clint’s live roast an emotional hinge…MARVEL DID THIS EIGHT YEARS AGO! During the Avengers: Disassembled mini-event, Hawkeye was murdered by the Scarlett Witch when she had a nervous breakdown. Now, with barely any dialogue to give him a personality anyway, Hawkeye is hurt in nearly the exact same fashion: by a magic-wielding maniac with no boundaries.
Is it just me, or does Hawkeye really get the short end of the stick a whole helluva lot? First he’s killed by Wanda, then resurrected – but as the hero Ronin, then he gets his name stolen during Norman Osborne’s control over global defenses before abruptly having his costume changed to more closely resemble his movie counterpart.
Avengers vs. X-Men #7 does a fine job as a bridge issue between more important narrative aspects. Last issue, it was the reintroduction to the world under the leadership of the Phoenix Five and in two weeks, it will be the invasion of Wakanda by Namor and the Atlanteans. For an issue with little substance to spread out over 22 pages, Matt Fraction does the best job be can with the content he’s given. It’s unfortunate that Olivier Coipel’s fantastic penciling couldn’t be more readily employed, but even his ‘neutral’ faces for characters have so much more life in them than some artists’ most emotionally charged heroes.