Sunday, May 26, 2013

Avengers vs. X-Men

Title: Avengers vs. X-Men

ISBN: 9780785165859
Price: $75.00
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2012
Artist: Ed McGuinness, Frank Cho, John Romita, Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert, Stuart Immonen, Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca, Terry Dodson, Brandon Peterson, Kaare Andrews, Leinil Francis Yu, Tom Raney, Jim Cheung, Jim Mahfood, Mike Deodato, Jacob Chabot, Art Adams, Ramón Pérez, Katie Cook, Carlo Barberi, Reilly Brown
Writer: Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, Kathryn Immonen, Steve McNiven, Kieron Gillen, Christopher Yost, Rick Remender, Mike Deodato, Dan Slott
Collects: Avengers Vs. X-Men #0-12, AvX Versus #1-6, Avengers Vs. X-Men Infinite #1, 6, 10

Rating: 4/5

The way I figure it, there are two core groups of people that are entertaining the notion of buying this expensive $75 hardcover collection of Marvel’s latest event comic: those waiting to read it in collected format and those that liked the series enough in single issues to double dip and buy the collected version. While the hardcover Marvel has put together is certainly attractive-looking on a bookshelf, I’m not sure the price can be justified for either party.

Worse, many of the interesting character beats that resulted from the events in AvX wound up being handled in tie-in issues of Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men or other various ongoing titles, which aren’t included in this collection. This means that if you’re reading this collection on its own for the first time, there are a lot of threads introduced that have little-to-no payoff within the book that you’re reading.

It’s not a matter of “getting more” of the story in the tie-ins either; there are some plot points introduced that simply have no bearing on any other events within the series, taking time and space away from elements that could’ve been more fully developed. And with the AvX: VS issues being very much what Marvel promised – a “fight book” – looking for further insight there would be a mistake. That said, there are moments to enjoy here – Spider-Man’s brief moment in the sun in issue #9 or the conclusion of Act One spring to mind.

The best part of this hardcover across the board is in the artwork. From John Romita Jr. to Olivier Coipel to Adam Kubert in the main series to Steve McNiven, Terry Dodson, Stuart Immonen, Jim Mahfood, and so many more in the AvX: VS installments, there is a boatload of stellar art to enjoy here. There are some missteps along the way with JRJR’s missing backgrounds or trouble with group shots and Coipel’s construction of action scenes, but as a whole, this is a pretty collection and basically a who’s who of current Marvel artists. You will run into some problems with artwork being lost in the binding, however, as shown below. That said, this problem occurs far less with word balloons and captions.

The book itself collects AvX #0-12, AvX: VS #1-6, AvX Infinite Comics #1, #6, and #10, as well as the brief Nova portion of Point One #1. None of these are collected in order of occurrence (save for the Nova bit being at the front of the book), so if you want to read, say, AvX #2 and then dive further into those battles in AvX: VS #1, you’ll be flipping between different parts of the hardcover. The covers for each issue are placed in front of their respective content, however.

One extremely notable quirk is the reprinting of the Infinite Comics. If you don’t know, Marvel’s Infinite Comics are built specifically for the digital canvas, using techniques and storytelling methods that are unique to the infinite nature of digital comics. As such, the effect is significantly diminished on the page. Instead of fluid, impactful stories, they become wordy, bland affairs. The punchiness of Mark Waid’s words are still there, but the flow of the story is lost and the imagery loses the kinetic nature it enjoys digitally, instead just becoming obligatory pictures to accompany the words.

The good news is that since the hardcover includes one of Marvel’s free digital copy codes for the Marvel Comics App, you can still read the Infinite Comics the way they were meant to be enjoyed. To their credit, Marvel does make a note of this before the Infinite portion of the hardcover, urging readers to read the digital versions “for the full effect.” And yes, all of the AR stuff is present here as well.

The supplemental content of the hardcover is mostly basic fare with a few standouts. One is the introduction from WWE Superstar CM Punk, who is a noted comic book fan and offers an interesting perspective on the heroes vs. heroes nature of the story. And, as a wrestling fan, I couldn’t help but chuckle that he’s credited by his real named (Phil Brooks) over his ring name. Marvel, breaking kayfabe!

The real prizewinner of bonus content is the artist’s section in the back, in which Romita, Coipel, and Kubert offer detailed accounts of their approach to this project with plenty of sketches and unused panels to go with their insightful commentary. This is above and beyond the usual type of “sketchbook” stuff that typically accompanies collections like this, so I was pleasantly surprised. Other than that, there’s a hasty variant cover gallery and a goofy “score card” of who won what battle throughout the series.

In the end, it’s hard to justify buying this for $75. Sure, you can get it cheaper on Amazon or at a convention, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow considering the overall quality of the series and its lack of self-contained storytelling. Give me an omnibus that includes things like AvX: Consequences and the Uncanny X-Men tie-in issues, and then we can talk.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did purchase 2 copies for the price of one at my LCS during their Christmas sale. I now have both covers and I was interested in the Marvel AR aspect of this trade. Unfortunately, when I tried to download the Marvel AR app, I found that my “smartphone” was not compatible to use it. A huge letdown, but as I’m an avid completest for my collection and appreciate helping my LCS in any way I can, it was worth it to me.

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