Avengers & X- Men: Axis

Su­per­hero sides- swap smack­down

SFX - - Rated / Comics -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

Pub­lisher: Mar­vel Writer: Rick Re­mender Artists: Andy Ku­bert, Leinil Fran­cis Yu, Terry Dod­son, Rachel Dod­son

The suc­cess of the con­tro­ver­sial Su­pe­rior Spi­der- Man sto­ry­line, in which Spidey was taken over by Doc­tor Oc­to­pus, has ob­vi­ously got Mar­vel think­ing: “If we did that with Spidey, why don’t we do it with ev­ery­one?” The re­sult is Avengers & X- Men: Axis, the lat­est splashy event comic to hit the mar­ket, and a saga which proves once again that ex­cess isn’t al­ways a good sto­ry­telling tac­tic.

The pre­lim­i­nary set- up of this nine- is­sue minis­eries is that thanks to a massed bat­tle to stop the Red Skull ( who’s stolen the dead Charles Xavier’s brain and hi­jacked his pow­ers), a des­per­ate spell mounted by the Scar­let Witch and Doc­tor Doom causes re­al­ity to change. Sud­denly, vir­tu­ally all of Mar­vel’s he­roes be­gin em­brac­ing their darker sides, while their vil­lains and ad­ver­saries find them­selves mo­ti­vated to fight for jus­tice.

On the face of it, the se­ries is a po­ten­tially fun way of rev­ers­ing the usual sta­tus quo, but five is­sues in and Rick Re­mender’s script has for­saken an ac­tual story in favour of ran­dom melo­drama and big- scale set­pieces. Su­pe­rior Spi­der- Man worked be­cause it evolved into a smart ex­plo­ration of what it means to be a hero, whereas Axis set­tles for every­body switch­ing almost in­stantly to “Evil mode”, sac­ri­fic­ing any hope of sub­tlety or in­ter­est along the way.

Mat­ters aren’t helped by Axis be­ing the least new- reader- friendly comic Mar­vel has pub­lished in some years. In­stead of be­ing largely self- con­tained, this is ac­tu­ally the cli­max of a story arc that has been run­ning across Re­mender’s two- year stretch on Un­canny Avengers, and also fol­lows up on plot- threads left by the tragic cli­max of 2012’ s Avengers Vs X- Men.

Re­mender then makes things worse by tak­ing three is­sues to prop­erly start the story, kick­ing things off with a 70- page bat­tle se­quence that’s so re­lent­lessly ac­tion- packed it leaves the whole se­ries feel­ing over­bal­anced. Even once the bat­tle is over, the story is pitched at such a fre­netic level it’s like lis­ten­ing to an end­less drum solo, while cer­tain plot de­vices feel like an over- en­thu­si­as­tic five- yearold has grabbed the reins ( es­pe­cially the re­veal of Kluh, an ad­di­tional and dan­ger­ously psy­chotic al­ter- ego for the Hulk).

At the least, the vi­su­als reach a high stan­dard: Andy Ku­bert brings a clear sense of en­ergy and verve to the bat­tle scenes in is­sues one and two, Leinil Fran­cis Yu adds wel­come grit and at­mos­phere in three and four, and Terry and Rachel Dod­son take over with their usual stylish ap­proach in is­sue five. There’s never a point where Axis isn’t im­pres­sive to look at, but while re­cent Mar­vel event comics like In­fin­ity and Orig­i­nal Sin felt like they were gen­uinely am­bi­tious, Axis is a de­mented jum­ble of ideas that’s fail­ing to co­here into a sat­is­fy­ing story. Saxon Bul­lock

Axis will lead into the re­launch of Un­canny Avengers in Jan­uary, with an all- new team mostly com­prised of ex- vil­lains.

Ev­ery­one switches almost in­stantly to “Evil mode”

Pud­dles were Mini Iron Man’s neme­sis.

Red On­slaught: like Red Skull, but with more ten­ta­cles.

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