The opening act of Marvel’s latest event series, Avengers & X-Men: Axis, concludes this week. While to date the story has not been shy about pronouncing its “everything AND the kitchen sink” approach, it really ascends to a whole other level this issue. Functionally, it’s nothing short of a twenty-odd page affirmation to the classic Dr. Peter Venkman-ism espousing “cats and dogs living together… mass hysteria!”. The parallel to the Ghostbusters quote being that “Good News for Bad People” plays exceeding well as comedy delivered in the face of impending doom. Metaphoric feline/canine co-mingling and all.
Although punchy dialogue is effectively peppered throughout (Absorbing Man even makes with the funny), Rick Remender’s script equally satisfies in other ways. This is no mean feat, considering the swelling cast and utter crazypants ginornomity that is the story’s existing backbeat. What works best is his choice of using Deadpool as the reader’s main POV. Without putting too fine a point on it, it really underscores how upside-down and through the looking glass things are right now in the MU. Plus, the interaction between the mouthy merc and Apocalypse clone, Genesis, serves as a nice callback to Remender’s initial Uncanny X-Force arc back in late 2010. However, it’s his one-way bromance with a sidelined Tony Stark that really pulls at the old pathos.
Balancing “the Deadpool show” is the gravitas commanded by the rest of Magneto’s questionable emergency cavalry. While obviously not as refined in “team” tactics, there is still something downright synergistic about this group. Maybe it’s their makeup superficially lending itself to a Secret Wars/ Acts of Vengeance retro-slant but coming into this issue cold, this is indeed an assembly that warrants greater attention. Sure, the marketing machine wins in the immediate, chronicling how the band gets together in a single issue of Magneto’s own solo title, but this is a gathering that could drive its own series, mini or otherwise. Either way, it’s just nice to see the criminally underused Amora the Enchantress getting some well-deserved spotlight.
The issue’s true MVP award has to go to the art team of veteran penciler Leinil Francis Yu and inker Gerry Alanguilan. Given Yu’s project history (Infinity, Secret Invasion, Death of Spider-Man), it’s difficult to imagine any self-respecting Marvel event story living up to the name until he’s had a chance to contribute some of his signature abstract grittiness. Consistently pairing with Alanguilan over the past few years, the duo delivers imagery that is as rock-solid as it is evocatively stylized. Less distinguished, however, is the work of the three color artists. Despite the marquee grab of this talent queue, there isn’t much distinction between whose work is whose. This is surprising as they all typically operate from very diverse palettes yet come together here almost too homogeneously. Not bad, just… bland.
Overall, the only place where any points really come off is in the wrap-up. Once the heroes revive and regain control of the situation, their characterizations all seem to take a hard retrench into super-familiar, if not somewhat tired, roles. Granted, this is a series predicated on hate being used as a mind-control weapon but the firm line that now divides our protagonists comes off as knee-jerk and mechanical. It also doesn’t take into account that the Avengers Unity Squad should have a completely different reaction to seeing the Red Skull’s surprisingly intact body! Again, the entire scene is fraught with ambiguity. Whether or not it’s being used as an in-story plot device or if it’s just an unfortunate creative misstep, more will certainly be known upon the release of future chapters. At the moment, though, it’s just enjoyable to sit back and have Deadpool earworm pop ditties from yesteryear while “Magneto and the Dark Avengers” save the day.
CBH Score: 4 out of 5 stars
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