Avengers vs. X-Men #1: Infinite Review

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Alongside the release of Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr. today, Marvel released a digital-only backup feature--Avengers Vs. X-Men #1: Infinite--by Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen. Driving a wedge between the company's approach to print and digital comics, even insofar as digital and "enhanced" presentation is concerned, by avoiding any interface with the newly-released Marvel AR app for the Waid story, which is more akin to his creator-owned Luther than it is to anything Marvel has released. Of course, this issue is also only 99 cents as opposed to four dollars for the AR-friendly Avengers Vs. X-Men #1. Actually, Waid used most of his best tricks on his free Luther e-comic, available back in March. Here, he's mostly elaborating on similar ideas in terms of how both motion and narration should unfold before the reader. That said, it doesn't yet feel stale or redundant--not only has he been the only major comics writer to do it exactly this way, but opening this story up to space gives it a kind of grand, sweeping, epic feel that Luther just didn't have. That said, my favorite use of the "step-by-step" feature that Waid likes so much was when Nova first sees, and then allows his helmet to identify, The Avengers after crashing to the ground in New York. By and large, the writing in the issue is hit-or-miss. Without an emotional connection to Nova, some of the references and the heavyhanded "please don't you take it from me" stuff is a little overwrought and doesn't resonate. Still, hearing Nova talk about hyperspeed and relativity brings to mind old conversations that Waid had with Wally West, who not only starred in but also narrated virtually every issue of The Flash during Waid's legendary run in the '90s. He ups the ante a bit, talking about how having your brain and body operating at different speeds can be difficult to maintain and hard to live with, which is not just a cool concept but feels almost like it could be the origin story for some cosmic villain. Well-placed concerns over Avengers vs. X-Men #1 being too much of a pre-9/11 story in the way they kind of dismissed the massive property damage to New York and, most notably, the Chrysler Building, when Nova arrived. Seeing it from ground level, with regular folks cowering beneath the destruction, gives the idea that, at a minimum, Waid and Immonen considered the consequences of Bendis' script. Stuart immonen was the perfect choice for this issue--his confident linework and terrific approach to characters in motion is well-suited for characters in motion, and the way he handles drawing "energy" is not only great for The Phoenix and Nova, but is something long-established; his take on the electric-blue Superman was one of the few really good ones we got to see. All in all, this story flies by but seems less choppy than your average action story and less dull than some of the decompressed pablum that crowds Marvel's lineup in recent years, Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 included. Its importance to the overall story, other than being a marketable one-shot, remains to be seen but at a minimum it's worth the 99-cent investment. As an aside, it's worth noting that the ComiXology interface is vastly superior with the Infinite Comics purchase than it is on the throw-in copy at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men. The AvX freebie really is just the story itself, without the presentation that really makes it work when it's read as a separate book--and beyond that, some fans have expressed problems with ComiXology crashing while reading it. Those are the kinds of growing pains that Marvel is experiencing across the board right now--they're also having trouble delivering on the digital coupons they promised readers who bought Avengers vs. X-Men #0 and other "approved" books last week from their app.