Comic book fans, our long national nightmare is over--at least until the inevitable hardcover edition. Avengers vs. X-Men is not a series for which we've had much enthusiasm here at ComicBook.com--it toggled between being brainless and impenetrable, sometimes within the same issue, and had characterization problems that dated all the way back to the opening issue. Writing such a project by committee rarely seems to work and, while Marvel editor Steve Wacker has a history of making it work for him on 52 and Amazing Spider-Man, clearly nobody was listening to his wisdom here because the book was really a mess. But after last month's emotionally-draining #11, which wasn't great but was certainly one of the better issues in the series, it seemed as though the series was set to end on an up note. Let's first do away with something that's been a consistent theme in early reviews for the issue, which steeted on Wednesday: The way Cyclops is being treated by the other characters is not, in itself, particularly surprising or unfair. Many writers and fans have rightly pointed out that characters in comics get mind-controlled all the time, including some who played key roles in Avengers vs. X-Men, and that they don't get nearly the bad rap Scott Summers is getting. Wanda plunged the world into chaos and arguably precipitated these events and many more with her "No more mutants" proclamation. Jean Grey wiped out universes while under the influence of the Phoenix.
And Scott killed Charles Xavier, so he's being treated like public enemy number one, and that rubs some people the wrong way. But it's all a matter of context. In the increasingly "realistic" Marvel Universe, superheroes are something of an extension of traditional law enforcement (so much so that Iron Man fought to force all of his comrades-in-arms to register to be conscripted by the government, if you'll recall). And what happens when somebody kills a cop? Anyone who's ever seen a police show or a film noir knows the answer to that--it's met with overwhelming force. It's also not particularly fair to say that Cyclops was made into a pariah and Jean was not. After all, her own teammates killed her--or did their best to--and when she returned later quite a bit of time had passed. "The Devil made me do it" may not be a great excuse on the day, but once life has returned to its normal rhythm it's harder to justify abuse toward your former friend. Just ask Hal Jordan. In any case, onto the actual issue. The art in Avengers vs. X-Men #12 is good, solid, but it's frankly a bit static. Kubert has taken some unwarranted abuse over the course of this series, which is largely because readers are comparing him to other artists who are really shining on the same title. It's a risk you take when you sign on to do a book like this, I suppose, but it seems wrong-headed, especially when his issues look better than as many other artists's as they look worse than.
All that said, this issue seemed a bit rushed, as if the extra pages and the flashbacks and the creative panel layouts in a few places took all the time and energy Kubert had and he started just inking over his rough layouts rather than finishing the pencils. It's lacking the kinetic quality that usually makes his work pop, which is saying somethen when you consider that a lot of the book is big, widescreen action. Characterization has been a problem throughout the series, but it's pretty strong in this issue, excepting one glaringly ridiculous passage involving where Cyclops ends up at the end of the story. Of course, a big chunk of the issue is a big fight scene, so all you've got to do is keep the killing and non-killing heroes straight, and you're halfway home. Nova's "Can't hear you! Too busy kicking your ass!" was probably the issue's highlight (that or the Easter Egg-like cameo by a newscaster who looks suspiciously like the late Joe Kubert--let's hope other Marvel artists continue to use that guy!), and it drew attention to the fact that while the dialog in this series has been terrible, this issue was a big step up. The big problem this time around was plot. While you don't want to give up your big play early in the series by showing Hope being trained for her role, there are ways to do it that don't feel quite so much like a deus ex machina. The character, touted throughout as the most important person on the planet, has been sitting around doing not much of anything for a good chunk of the series so it would have made some sense to plant some of these seeds along the way, rather than having a story where she seems underused until the moment she's suddenly everything everyone ever hoped she could be. It feels a bit like a cheat--which often (almost always) happens with these big event stories, where the stakes have to be raised so high that there's no believable way to overcome them...but this time it comes at the end of one of the very few readable issues of a very bad series, making the unbelievability of it that much more striking. One last thing: Make better use of the AR function, Marvel. Axel Alonso's teaser of "Can the combined might of The Avengers and the X-Men defeat the Dark Phoenix?" is positioned on the very last page, after the story is already over, while key battle sequences have AR logos that lead only to cute little "What The?" action figure theater. It seems like a simple swap could have been made there.