Marvel’s current event series Avengers & X-Men: Axis has been an uneven affair to date and the most recent issue is no exception. In fact, “End The Line” stands as something of a microcosm survey to the point. While wildly ambitious, writer Rick Remender’s story has had a hard time finding its legs overall. Part of this may be due to his script calling for perpetual erosion that may ultimately prove too self-sabotaging. Part of this may be due to the rotating cast of artists that, despite their collective awesomeness, hasn’t yielded a consistent look for the title. Regardless of the mechanics, the finish is often less than satisfying.
The issue’s greatest credit is veteran artist Adam Kubert. His work on the opening chapters was a subpar outing marked by a rushed scratchiness far from his usual quality. This issue is not only redemptive of his own ability but in many respects, he’s managed to synthesize and incorporate the styles of the intervening artists as well. While naturally complementary to the Dodsons’ cartooniness, there’s now also the textured murkiness of Leinil Yu in Kubert’s characterizations, particularly facial expressions. With only two issues remaining, it’s about time a visual norm can finally be established.
The only high sign of consistency from Remender this go around is his handling of Deadpool. As in previous chapters, Remender’s “Merc with a Mouth” is a delightfully entertaining centerpiece. He also corrects an earlier misstep by successfully pairing the hippy-dippy inverted “Zenpool” with Spider-Man, forcing Peter Parker to play straight-man and clearly delineating what was once a voicing grey area. Remender also displays a great grasp of tone with Apocalypse, bringing the character closer to his ominous 90s heyday than he’s been for a while.
Alternating the zany and intense character moments only goes so far in a special showcase of multitudes and while Remeder effectively keeps the camera moving during the issue’s prime fight scenes, it’s also done in such a breezy manner that it robs the physical drama of any true impact. Blows and banter are exchanged but, with the exception of the Deadpool/ Apocalypse confrontation, none of it feels too particularly consequential.
Along those lines, the issue’s actual moment of greatest importance not only underdelivers but threatens to yank the cart out from beneath the whole affair. This sort of twist spin-off is usually reserved for the final epilogues and really trips up progression with its clumsy placement smack in the third act. Raising more questions than answers and offering little hope in quick resolution within the remaining time, this new development also doubles as a great in-story fix to some rather troublesome marketing issues. Synergistically convenient? Perhaps. Despite the inelegant manner of the news broken, it’s certainly paid its way forward to be a tale examined another day. Too bad it’s being done at the disservice of finishing strong on the current story in progress.
CBH Score: 3 out of 5
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